July 1, 2015

The Primary Calendar: Strategy, Discipline, and Necessity

As we explored here on Race back in November, successful candidates for President generally view the primary calendar as unfolding in three phases:

There’s an old axiom in politics that voters don’t really start paying attention until Labor Day. Understanding that, then, we can roughly divide the primary calendar into three sections: pre-Memorial Day, Memorial Day to Labor Day, and post-Labor Day:

  • Pre-Memorial Day: Use this time to build your campaign team. Put the framework in place, fill it with talent, grease up the machine, and get ready to push the start button. This first phase is when you plant field offices, meet with early backers and surrogates, and most importantly, hire talent. At this early stage, the most important thing to do is build a lasting framework that will carry you through the next year and a half — and which will not require your attention during the crazier, busier seasons to come.
  • Memorial Day to Labor Day: Normal people don’t pay attention to politics during the summer months, so once you have a campaign framework in place take this time to do as many fundraisers as humanly possible. This is your chance to build a warchest with which to dispatch your opponents once the race begins in earnest. Lay low, don’t oversaturate, and fund that campaign.
  • Post-Labor Day: Campaign, campaign, campaign. This is when people start paying attention, so this is when you start introducing yourself to them. Media blitzes, interviews, ad buys, and public campaign stops in early primary and caucus states all start now and do not end until you bow out of or win the race.

These three phases might seem pretty obvious, but they’re not for many candidates. Without a long-term plan like this is place, many candidates will attempt to do all three things (campaign structure, fundraising, and campaigning) all at the same time, ending up doing none of the well. Additionally, many candidates will waste time holding public events and campaigning during the summer months, then enter the post-Labor Day race woefully low on funds (meaning they cannot campaign as much during the most important portion of the race because they will be fundraising) or having peaked too early with no way to continue momentum (see Romney, 2008).

Of course, none of these are hard and fast phases. They bleed together — every candidate will do some fundraisers during each stage, for instance, to keep the coffers from going empty. And media outlets will have dollar signs and ratings charts in their eyes, scheduling primary debates whenever they can throughout the calendar. But as a good general rule of thumb, sketching out a campaign according to that calendar is what leads to a successful nomination attempt.

Since we are in the middle of the second phase right now, it’s a good time to check in and see how our candidates are doing in following this framework. Obviously, with the primary campaign getting started late (by modern standards), phases one and two are blending together for many candidates. But the general principle is the same: do all the behind-the-scenes work before Labor Day, don’t oversaturate during the spring and summer, and then pull back the bow and launch strong in September. Generally speaking, this allows a candidate to peak at the right time and also allows him or her to build a sustainable campaign organization that will withstand the intense fall and winter months.

It also, as we will see front and center in the next week or so, allows them to report strong fundraising numbers when the FEC reports are due (they have to be submitted by July 15, but most candidates will announce their totals before that).

So right now, in other words, candidates should be cramming as many fundraisers into their schedules as possible, meeting with bundlers and donors and financiers, and building their infrastructure behind the scenes. None of that garners headlines or wins news cycles — but that’s the point: it’s not supposed to. Not yet.

It’s also the reason the polls at this stage don’t matter. Oh, sure, everybody says that about the polls early on in campaigns (especially the candidates who are trailing in them), but this year it’s even more true than usual. By this time in 2008 there had already been three debates and millions of dollars of advertising dollars spent. By this time in 2012, we had already seen two debates and a lot of political ads. This year? Zero debates and barely any ads (zero primetime television ads that I’m aware of). There has been no chance on a national stage for these candidates to introduce themselves yet, and no large events to shift the numbers one way or the other outside of individual campaign announcements.

Not all candidates are keeping their heads down and focusing on behind-the-scenes work, though. Many are out campaigning — and some are campaigning way more than others, breaking one of the cardinal rules of the calendar. Of course, some of these candidates with low name recognition (Fiorina, Cruz, Carson, et al) have to campaign in order to get people to start paying attention to them, which is the curse of the lesser known candidate. The calendar is never in their favor. But even some of the more well known candidates are wasting time right now on the campaign trail rather than doing the long, slow work of building the foundation for a successful campaign later on.

As one data point, let’s consider the state of Iowa. Courtesy of the Des Moines Register, here are the number of events each candidate has held in the Hawkeye State since March (with the number of events broken down by month afterward into Mar/Apr/May/Jun/Jul):

  • Huckabee – 39 events (6/4/9/13/7)
  • Santorum – 39 events (8/9/11/10/1)
  • Jindal – 28 events (1/5/3/5/14)
  • Perry – 24 events (5/5/11/2/1)
  • Cruz – 23 events (5/7/-/8/3)
  • Carson – 22 events (-/-/7/14/1)
  • Paul – 22 events (-/5/9/-/8)
  • Graham – 21 events (4/1/1/9/6)
  • Fiorina – 18 events (2/13/2/1/-)
  • Trump – 14 events (-/5/3/5/1)
  • Walker – 13 events (2/5/3/2/1)
  • Bush – 9 events (3/-/3/2/1)
  • Rubio – 6 events (-/2/-/2/2)
  • Christie – 5 events (1/-/-/4/-)
  • Kasich – 5 events (-/-/-/5/-)
  • Pataki – 2 events (1/-/1/-/-)

As you can see, Huckabee and Santorum have basically been living in Iowa, to the exclusion of ensuring their campaigns will remain viable long term. This communicates their obvious strategy: it’s Iowa or bust for these two with no plan beyond that. Given that they pull 5% and 4% support, respectively, in the latest Iowa poll despite pressing flesh for five months now would seem to indicate that they are headed straight for the bust column. Perry and Carson are in similar spots, with Perry saturating the state in May and Carson camping out there in June. Perry still only gets 4% in Iowa polls, where it looks like Carson’s campaigning is at least paying off with a small boost in support.

I’m more interested in the bottom of the list, however — the candidates who have basically ignored the state. Pataki’s numbers are to be expected, since he’s not going to compete in Iowa anyway, and Kasich and Christie are just now getting into the race. (They both held a number of events in Iowa in June.) But what of the other candidates? Specifically, the Big Three: Bush, Rubio, and Walker. All three have essentially ignored the state, especially in May and June. And all three are showing themselves to be more disciplined candidates than the rest of the field, taking time to do the fundraisers, hirings, and foundational work rather than hitting the campaign trail early. This is obviously tremendous news for Governor Walker; even while basically ignoring the state, he has a solid lead in Iowa. This also offers a glimpse into the Rubio campaign strategy – he’s saving the headlines and campaign appearances for later and focusing on other things right now. If he is indeed being informally advised by Romney and his team, this strategy makes complete sense: it’s the same one Romney used en route to victory in 2012. Bush is, of course, the big question mark: will he invest in Iowa at all during the later stages of the campaign? Or will he write off the state with token appearances and instead focus on New Hampshire?

So, I said all of that to say: it’s early. Disciplined, winning campaigns are doing what disciplined, winning campaigns do. Meanwhile, desperate second- and third-tier campaigns are doing what they do. It won’t be long until the wheat is separated from the chaff, so to speak, and the long-term planning pays off over the short-term quest for headlines.

Nobody really pays attention until Labor Day anyway.

June 29, 2015

NBC to Trump: “YOU’RE FIRED”

Following Univision’s decision not to air the Miss USA pageant, NBCUniversal has ended its business relationship with Donald Trump. Pressure has been building on NBC to dump Trump-related programing ever since the Republican presidential candidate made comments about Mexican immigrants that many viewed as bigoted. Miss USA and Miss Universe will no longer be aired on NBC, and “Celebrity Apprentice”, which is licensed from United Artists Media Group, will likely continue with a new host. From NBC: 

“At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” the company said in a statement. “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.”

I’m no fan of political correctness, not when Rush Limbaugh is the target of boycotts, not when Bill Maher is fired for speaking his mind, but I am willing to make an exception when it comes to Mr. Trump. In an effort to save our party from the embarrassment of having this man on stage with our eventual nominee, I hope Fox News and the RNC follow NBC and keep Trump as far away as possible.

  1:53 pm Donald Trump  

Monday Markets: Consolidation Edition

A week ago we introduced you to PredictWise, the Microsoft Research project that uses futures markets to attempt to predict (among other things) political outcomes. It seems like a good way to start each week by checking in on the PredictWise numbers as a way to gauge the state of the race. So, here’s your first Monday Market update:

The big movement this week was in the consolidation of the Big Three — Bush, Rubio, and Walker. Each of them gained, to the detriment of the other 13 candidates, and currently comprise a whopping 81% of the odds (up from 72% last week). Paul is the biggest loser, but in all actuality the investors currently see the race as the big three and then just everybody else.


Also, don’t miss the updated Candidacy Tracker at the top of the page, now with the final three announcement dates added in.

June 24, 2015


1.  Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio moves to the top of the rankings, a reflection of his broad popularity and acceptability as both a first and second choice in multiple polls, momentum among the donor and activist classes, and a rising conventional wisdom that he has the best chance to defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.  Both Clinton and the GOP’s own dynastic candidate, Jeb Bush, tailored their first campaign speeches as responses to Rubio’s powerful declaration that “yesterday is over”. The clearest sign of his momentum was offered up by the New York Times, which engaged in a widely ridiculed attempt to smear the senator. Time will tell if the senator can handle the real scrutiny his top tier status will bring, and if he can withstand the upcoming negative onslaught from his fellow Floridian.

2. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush falls from the top spot, despite an expected record-breaking fundraising haul among his allied political action committees. Bush’s campaign shakeup and weak poll numbers have surprised the establishment, who thought he would’ve taken firm command of the race by now. The collapse of his Florida lead over Sen. Marco Rubio just adds to the growing anxiety around a third Bush candidacy. Despite his name identification and family influence, Bush is in a much weaker position than his father and brother ever were, with an alarming number of GOP voters saying than could never support him. Bush will have the resources for a long race, but he is increasingly being viewed as the wrong messenger at the wrong time, something that was best symbolized by the hashtag #NoMoreBushes, which trended nation wide during and after his announcement.

3.  Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker’s numbers have been less consistent than Rubio’s, rising and falling whereas Rubio’s have steadily risen. However, Walker has become the clear frontrunner in Iowa, making him the biggest target of the second and third tier candidates hoping to catch on. The Wisconsin governor is also facing a GOP rebellion at home over his state budget, something he will have to deal with effectively before his campaign launch.

4.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Cruz continues to impress social conservative and Tea Party activists and is closer to becoming their consensus choice than any one else. He lines up better with the activist base than any other candidate, and while purity doesn’t often win, it does give a big boost in early states. With more resources and higher upside than Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum, look for conservative activists to continue their effort to consolidate behind Cruz.

5. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers continue to slide in Iowa and he seems more out of step with his party than ever before. While still polling well in general election match-ups, the Kentucky senator is finding a more hawkish GOP base and reluctant donor class than he anticipated. After all the work he’s done to separate himself from his father, he is quickly starting to occupy the same space in the field.

6.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich continues to frequent the early voting states, and has begun building a campaign infrastructure. The governor will need to improve his standing with the donor class if he is to make it into the top tier, but he certainly has the talent and the record to do just that.

7. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie seems finally poised to jump into the race, and some would say he waited to long. Maybe four years too long. His current New Jersey polling is bad and Bush has absorbed a sizable chunk of his fundraising base. However, his talent on the stump and in debates should not be underestimated.

8. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

The former business executive is making up for a lack of political experience with excellent performances on the stump and in interviews. Buzz for her long-shot bid, and her contrast with Clinton, continues to grow.

9.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

It was an awful month for the former Fox News host. Another molestation scandal, a bizarre declaration that gay marriage would criminalize Christianity, and a dismissive position on the racist symbolism of the Confederate flag. There seems to be no niche issue that Huckabee won’t immediately dive into with the most cringe-inducing position possible. Not surprisingly, his numbers have begun to slide, both nationally and in Iowa.

10.  Bobby Jindal  Governor of Louisiana

Gov. Jindal begins his campaign at the back of the pack, but his experience and knowledge of the issues gives him the edge over the also-rans at the bottom of the polls. If he can get himself into the main debates, he could make some noise.

Honorable Mention:  Rick Perry,  Ben Carson

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump


June 20, 2015

Only One Serious Candidate Away

Although there are clear signs in the polls that Hillary Clinton’s hitherto massive lead for the Democratic nomination is fading, she is still on a direct path for her party’s nod. But she is one serious Democratic candidate away from seeing that lead truly challenged and overtaken in the primaries and caucuses ahead.

In spite of her name recognition, fundraising and gender (all distinct advantages in 2016), most Republican strategists I know hope that she will be the Democratic nominee next year against the eventual Republican nominee.

Why is that?

It is because of the fact that she is a very poor campaigner, inherently secretive and journalist-avoiding, and tied to a unendingly controversial story about her own record and and that of her husband.

While the Republicans have a natural advantage in 2016 after eight years of President Obama and his left-turning policies, there is no guarantee that their nominee will win.

In 2014, conservatives swept to a landslide mid-term election by recruiting mostly talented fresh faces, especially for close senate races. The GOP gained 9 seats and control of the U.S. senate. While on paper the Democrats have a significant mathematical advantage for senate races in 2016, their failure to recruit new talent so far, but to depend on past losing candidates, has made their effort to take back control problematic.

Mrs. Clinton is obviously not wearing well on the campaign trail. Repeated political facelifts are providing only temporary boosts to her campaign.

There are at least three significant Democrats who could provide a fresh face, and a serious candidacy for the presidency in 2016. They are Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In addition, if he ran for the Democratic nomination, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be formidable. There are also some less well-known liberals who might emerge as formidable in 2016 if they ran. All indications so far are that none of them is yet willing to enter the Democratic nomination contest, but this reluctance could evaporate if Mrs. Clinton continues to fade.

The Republicans will have a very visible and open contest for their nomination. Just as the left has its Bernie Sanders, the right has its Donald Trump.

But only the Republicans, so far, have a true “team of rivals.”

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

June 19, 2015

Trump Still Has Not Filed Paperwork to be a Candidate

The Donald announced he was running for President almost four days ago. Nobody thought he’d actually do it. But wait — what if he still actually hasn’t done it?

A candidate technically has two weeks from their announcement to file a Form 2, or Statement of Candidacy, to become a legal candidate in the primary campaign. So Trump still has 10 days to submit his — but every other candidate (besides Rick Perry) filed their paperwork the same day as their announcement. Given the skepticism surrounding Trump’s run in the first place, folks are now asking anew: was this all just another publicity stunt? The FEC requires a much more detailed (and verifiable) disclosure of wealth report than the two-page version Trump presented during his announcement. For that reason alone, most people thought Trump wouldn’t run. Is it possible that he wasn’t ever really planning to run after all? Or is it is just taking him and his team a little while longer to get their ducks in a row?

It is quickly becoming a hot topic on social media:

What do you say? What’s the over/under on when, if ever, Trump actually enters the Race 4 2016?

  3:21 pm Donald Trump  

June 18, 2015

Trump Circus Won’t Hurt the GOP

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination and the circus officially began.

No doubt, the Republican establishment would’ve preferred that this circus would take place on the other side – or that it would once again end before it begins. But the doomsday warnings of pundits like Chuck Todd and Phillip Klein are way overblown.

By the time the 2016 general election race will be underway, the former Trump candidacy will be anything from an irrelevancy to a net positive for the GOP and its nominee.

Trump’s wealth, name ID and colorful nature will earn him lots of media attention as long as he’s in the race, and also, embarrassingly, prime space on the GOP debate stage. The Donald will likely resonate – to quote Rush Limbaugh – with some angry, populist segment of the primary electorate that can be convinced that he isn’t a self serving politician and that he says what he thinks. No doubt, some GOP voters will love his tough talk and wild accusations such as that the majority of immigrants are criminals and have other “problems.”

Nevertheless, despite the valiant efforts of the Democrats and their cohorts, Trump’s shenanigans won’t do lasting damage to the GOP, as did the wacky things said by people like Todd Akin.

Unlike Akin and company, Donald Trump has never been nominated by the GOP for as much as a town council seat, and never will be. He never had and never will have support from the party establishment. It’s hard to know just how badly Trump will fare in the primaries, but it’s safe to say that he’ll be soundly rejected by GOP voters, despite all his noise and early pockets of support.

Some are warning that Trump may do as well as Ross Perot did in a one-time fluke, but, in 2012, Trump dropped like a rock in the polls the more he was in the spotlight. At the end of the day, GOP primary voters have soundly rejected even far more credible out-of-the-mainstream presidential candidates in recent years.  Based on his track record, l wouldn’t be surprised if Trump drops out before the first votes are cast once he realizes he’ll lose big.

Will a candidate who never won a GOP nomination, and was soundly rejected by the GOP establishment and voters, reflect negatively on the party in the eyes of swing voters?


If Ron Paul – a longtime GOP congressman who did relatively well in the primaries and caucuses – wasn’t an albatross on the necks of John McCain and Mitt Romney, Donald Trump won’t be an albatross on anyone – let alone many months after he’s out of the race. No swing voter thought that Ron Paul represented the GOP, and they won’t think that Trump does either.

Should Trump remain in the race for the early states, he may actually do the mainstream GOP a big favor. Voters attracted to his harsh rhetoric on President Obama, immigration, trade and other red meat issues would’ve supported another strident candidate in lieu of Mr. Trump.

I haven’t seen any polling data on this yet, but it’s probable that Trump would disproportionately siphon off voters from candidates like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, perhaps even Rand Paul. These are all far saner and more credible candidates that the GOP establishment prefers would not win the nomination, or even be seen by swing voters as the face of the party. If Trump’s dollars and flamboyance minimize the traction these candidates would gain, the establishment wing – Jeb, Rubio, Walker and co. –will be a lot stronger.

In the interim, let’s all sit back and enjoy the entertainment.

Simon Blum is a freelance journalist and marketing copywriter. Follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.

  6:00 am Donald Trump, Republican Party  

June 17, 2015

On Donald Trump 2016

In 2011, I wrote a piece on Donald Trump which I’ll link here. Now that he’s actually running for President, I feel I need to revisit that piece and my current opinion on this man.

People will point out a lot of things to like about Trump, but frankly – I see none. On his business experience, I’ll just quote myself from 2011:

Donald Trump has an odd history as a businessman at best, ranging from numerous bankruptcies and an attempt to use the economic recession as an “Act of God” to allow himself to not repay a loan. It’s sketchy at best and extremely unethical at worst.

No, I’m not kidding; he really did try to get out of paying a loan to an international bank by suing to claim the economic recession of 2008 was an “Act of God.” He also sued in Scotland to prevent windmills from being built near his Scottish golf resort claiming the government made decisions on windmills behind closed doors to “limit his human rights.” Anyone who honestly believes these things is clearly ridiculous and I would argue unfit to run any business, let alone be President.

Also, as Michelle Malkin pointed out in 2011 – Trump has made an empire off using eminent domain in excess. He has led efforts to abuse the government’s ability to steal people’s property for better “public use” to promote and push his businesses. That’s unethical and quite frankly, the opposite of conservative.

Secondly – in the past, Donald Trump has donated excessively to Democratic politicians. Examples? Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy. Wait a second, let’s back up a second – that’s right – Trump donated to Hillary Clinton. How exactly is he going to be able to realistically criticize someone who he actively supported enough to give her money? Good question.

He’s also advocated for birtherism. Doubling down on it over and over and over again. Jay Caruso of Pocket Full of Liberty said it better than me on the topic:

His absurd descent into birtherism – and not just the passé, “Well, it’s possible the birth certificate is not real” type of birtherism, but the “Obama was born in Kenya/The birth certificate is a fraud/The illuminati are part of this” type – is just as credible as the belief that an alien ship landed in Roswell, NM in the 50?s.

Granted, the birther craziness was actually started by Hillary Clinton supporters, but it has been adopted by people with such personal hatred for Obama that they’d believe any accusation against him. They’ve taken it to a whole new level. For the most part, these people were marginalized within the conservative movement and the GOP. But Trump used his platform to attempt to give it legitimacy.

He’s also supported some wacky positions. Examples? How about a ridiculous 14.25% tax on overall wealth of an individual? How about a 25% tax on all Chinese imports? Both would be a huge detriment to our economy, quite frankly.

Trump has flirted with running for President before – actually taking a step in to the Reform Party nominating process during 2000 with an incredibly liberal platform. He, at one point, felt Oprah Winfrey would be the perfect running mate.

Donald Trump is a joke of a candidate and, frankly, I pray the American public sees that as well. He should not on the stage with serious candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, or Rand Paul. They deserve to be treated with more respect than that. Sadly, if the first debate were today – he meets the requirements. Heaven help us if he actually gets anywhere in the primary.


-Matthew Newman is an engineer and blogger who also writes at Old Line Elephant and Red Maryland. Follow Newman on Twitter @mdmrn.

  6:00 am 2016, Donald Trump, Opinion  

June 16, 2015

Common Sense, Trumped

This morning, Donald Trump did what everybody thought and/or hoped he wouldn’t do: announced he is officially running for President. In typical Trump fashion, he let loose with some real zingers during his announcement speech, including:

“I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

“People say you don’t like China. No, I love them… I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to someone from China. Am I supposed to dislike them? … I beat China all the time.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people who have lots of problems, [including] drugs and being rapists.”

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

Sigh. You can’t say The Donald isn’t honest, at least. I don’t even want to say “grab the popcorn” at this point, because it is rather uncouth to eat popcorn during a train wreck.

  11:28 am Donald Trump  

June 15, 2015

Join The Community

Sponsored Ad

Recent Posts

Sponsored Ad