January 15, 2012

The State Newspaper Endorses Huntsman

  8:38 am

He may be last in the polls but Governor Jon Huntsman has received the endorsement of South Carolina’s largest newspaper The State:

Mr. Huntsman is a true conservative, with a record and platform of bold economic reform straight out of the free-market bible, but he’s a realist, whose goal is likewise to get things done. Under his leadership, Utah led the nation in job creation, and the Pew Center on the States ranked it the best-managed state in the nation.

The editorial goes further to say:

We need a president who can work within our poisonous political environment to solve our nation’s problems, not simply score partisan points. Someone who understands that negotiation is essential in a representative democracy, and that there are good ideas across the political spectrum. Someone who has a well-defined set of core values but is not so rigid that he ignores new information and new conditions. Someone who has shown himself to be honest and trustworthy. And competent. Someone whose positions are well-reasoned and based on the world as it is rather than as he pretends it to be. Someone with the temperament and judgment and experience to be taken seriously as the commander in chief and leader of the free world.

We think Mr. Romney could demonstrate those characteristics. Mr. Huntsman already does. And we are proud to endorse him for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

How influential this editorial will be, I’m not sure. But with Huntsman’s campaign in desperate need of some momentum, it certainly can’t hurt.


January 14, 2012

Huntsman Campaign Collapsing?

  12:00 am

BuzzFeed reports that all is not well in the Huntsman Campaign:

Huntsman Exodus Begins

Days after his third place finish in New Hampshire, some Huntsman for President staffers have already left the campaign, while others tell BuzzFeed they wish the former Utah governor would drop out so they could join Mitt Romney’s team.

One top volunteer told BuzzFeed that he was shocked Huntsman didn’t drop out on Tuesday. “I was hoping he would. I don’t want to be disloyal or anything, but he doesn’t have a chance anymore. Once he quits, then I can go work for a winning campaign.”

A current staffer echoed those sentiments, saying Huntsman should have gotten out after New Hampshire to allow those who’ve worked for him to find another job. “We’re not going to quit, but we don’t really want to keep going either.”

I’m taking this report with a grain of salt. First, there are no names mentioned. They are all anonymous. Second, if they are truly despairing and want to join another campaign, then why don’t they? What would be holding them back? Did they sign contracts for the duration? The staffers maybe, but what about the volunteers? Do volunteers have to sign a contract?

Whatever the truth is, there is little doubt that prospects do not look good for Huntsman. He is at the bottom of the pack nationally. Every poll but one since the race began has placed him below five percent. The one that didn’t pegged him at exactly five.

He placed all his eggs in the New Hampshire Primary where he lost badly. Yes, he did manage to get a third place finish there but (a) Mitt Romney more than doubled Huntsman’s votes, and (b) there are only two tickets out of New Hampshire. A distant third place does not cut it.

Now Jon has moved on to South Carolina where polls show him fighting Rick Perry for last place. Rick’s last ditch effort makes some sense as I argued in my earlier post, but Huntsman continuing on does not. He doesn’t fit South Carolina culturally or ideologically. The best he can realistically expect there is a fifth place finish in single digits. He’s not doing any better in Florida, either.

I have always said that the Huntsman campaign really didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was a solution looking for a problem. Well, it makes even less sense now.

Yes, he’s got tons of family money to spend, but sooner or later other members of the family are going to object to him throwing all that good money down a rat hole just so that he can chase his pipe dream.


January 10, 2012

Huntsman Fails to Qualify for Arizona Ballot

  11:50 am

This is getting ridiculously embarrassing:

An underdog presidential contender fails to qualify for the primary ballot in a large, early-voting primary state, prompting questions about the candidate’s organizational prowess and ability to run a competitive campaign past January’s early nominating contests. Sound familiar?

No, it’s not Newt Gingrich in Virginia. It’s Jon Huntsman in Arizona.

Huntsman failed to qualify for Arizona’s February 28 presidential preference election after his filing paperwork — which was turned in only two hours before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline — was rejected due to a “notary issue,” according to Secretary of State spokesman Matt Roberts. The Arizona Secretary of State’s office sent a letter to Huntsman’s campaign shortly thereafter informing them that they are “unable to certify” Huntsman as a candidate.

Huntsman’s nomination forms were ruled “incomplete” because they were “missing the candidate’s original notarized signature,” Roberts said. “We are unable to certify him because of that.”

The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of competent leadership. How are we supposed to convince the American people of that when our Presidential candidates can’t even bother to be organized or competent enough to even appear on a ballot for the job they’re seeking?


First New Hampshire Results: Huntsman 2, Romney 2…

  8:28 am

Huntmentum evident in Dixville Notch?

DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. – Voters in the tiny New Hampshire village famed for casting the first ballots in the nation’s first presidential primary found themselves in a tie Tuesday between Republicans Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Nine ballots were cast in New Hampshire’s Dixville Notch just after midnight.

Romney and Huntsman received two votes each. Coming in second with one vote apiece were Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

For the Democrats, President Barack Obama received three votes.

The nine residents who cast their ballots include three registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Four other voters haven’t declared a party.

Dixville Notch is an unincorporated village in northern New Hampshire just below the Canadian border. The town clerk, Rick Erwin, said the nine registered voters make up the entire Dixville Notch population.

Full story here.


January 8, 2012

Poll Analysis: Gallup Tracking Poll

  8:38 pm

Below you can find an article containing all the raw data from the Gallup daily tracking poll. Here, courtesy of Gallup, is the data in graphical form:

Four things are immediately obvious from the above graph:

  1. Gingich’s slide continues with no sign of bottoming out.
  2. Santorum is surging and has just taken over second place from Gingrich.
  3. Romney is also surging. He’s broken through the 30% level. His infamous 25% “ceiling” is looking more and more like a “floor” instead.
  4. Nobody else is doing much of anything. Paul has been gradually improving his numbers, but it is only a little here, a little there. There is no sign of any big movement in his direction, and he is rapidly running out of time.

If Gallup’s numbers can be trusted, it would appear that this has settled down into a four man race: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul. If the trends shown above continue, Gingrich will drop below Paul into fourth place nationally somewhere around Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary. With his expected poor showing in the Granite State, there is little reason to believe any sudden turnaround in his fortunes is imminent.

Another thing to note about Gingrich is that this is a big slide in his national numbers, not just his Iowan numbers. He cannot blame it on the negative ads ran in Iowa.


Poll Analysis: Suffolk Poll New Hampshire Trends *Updated*

  10:56 am

Suffolk University has been conducting a series of daily tracking polls on the New Hampshire Primary since the first of the year. Its makes a good metric to show what has been happening in the Granite State since the voters there have become serious about voting for our nominee this year.

Here are the raw data (minus those who have dropped out):

(1/1) (1/2) (1/3) (1/4) (1/6) (1/7) (1/8)
Gingrich 11 8 9 9 7 10 9
Huntsman 9 9 10 7 7 9 11
Karger 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Paul 15 17 16 14 18 17 20
Perry 2 2 2 1 0 1 1
Roemer 1 1 0 1 1 0 1
Romney 41 43 43 43 41 39 35
Santorum 3 3 5 6 8 9 8
Undecided 16 15 13 16 17 15 15

Here are the data for the major candidates in graphical form:

As can been seen in the chart above, not much is happening in the State of New Hampshire. Mitt Romney continues to have a commanding lead. Ron Paul continues to be second between 15 and 20 percent. Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman are having a modicum of drama determining who will end up third at just under 10%. And Rick Perry has last place sewn up at around 1%. He is down there with the minor candidates Roemer and Karger.

There is some movement to report. Mitt appears to be coming down to earth. (The result of Gingrich’s kamikaze attack, perhaps?)  Paul is creeping up to 20%, and Rick Santorum has risen from the bottom where he was once contending with Perry for last place. He is now in the next tier up where he is can be seen duking it out with Gingrich and Huntsman in a three way contest for third place.

There are now only two days left before the New Hampshire Primary. Barring any unforeseen meltdown by Mitt Romney, Mitt should still win the state. Three questions remain:

  1. How big is Mitt’s margin of victory going to be?
  2. Will anybody else manage to overtake Paul for second?
  3. What effect will the results from New Hampshire have on South Carolina only 11 days later?

*Update Note:* When I first wrote this article this morning, Suffolk had not yet released their results for today. When they did, it required some serious rewriting of the post. My apologizes to my readers for any inconvenience.


Poll Analysis: PPP Releases Their Latest South Carolina Poll

  12:16 am

While everyone was watching the debate, PPP released their first post-Iowa poll of South Carolina. I am not going to do a separate post for that poll. Instead, I am going to combine it with the three South Carolinian polls from yesterday to try to get some picture of what’s happening in the Palmetto State.

Rasmussen ARG CNN/Time PPP Average Distance back
Romney 27 31 37 30 31.3 Leader
Santorum 24 24 19 19 21.5 -10
Gingrich 18 24 18 23 20.8 -11
Paul 11 9 12 9 10.3 -21
Perry 5 2 5 5 4.3 -27
Huntsman 2 2 1 4 2.3 -29

In common with the other polls, PPP shows Romney on top with a comfortable but not overwhelming lead.  It differs from the others, however, in that it shows Gingrich second and Santorum third — a swap from what Rasmussen and CNN/TIME show. ARG had them tied.

The combined average of all four polls shows Romney with a double digit lead with exactly two weeks to go before the primary. Santorum and Gingrich are neck and neck fighting for second place. Paul has fourth place all to himself, and Perry and Huntsman are still competing for dead last.



January 6, 2012

Poll Analysis:A Busy Day For Polling South Carolina

  8:41 pm

Three major polling firms released their first polls of South Carolina following the Iowa Caucuses. They were Rasmussen, ARG, and CNN/Time. Here they are side-by-side:

Rasmussen ARG CNN/Time Average Distance back
Romney 27 31 37 31.7 Leader
Santorum 24 24 19 22.3 -9
Gingrich 18 24 18 20.0 -12
Paul 11 9 12 10.7 -21
Perry 5 2 5 4.0 -28
Huntsman 3 2 1 2.0 -30

Romney starts the race for South Carolina with nearly a double digit lead. Santorum and Gingrich are battling for second place with only three points separating these two. Paul is all alone in fourth place more than twenty points behind. And vying for the Red Lantern is Perry and Huntsman — 28 pts and 30 pts respectively behind the leader.



The Problem of the True Believer

  7:29 pm

Daniel Larison criticizes, rightly I think, Jay Cost’s conclusion that conservatives don’t control the Republican Party.  He writes:

It’s true that rank-and-file conservatives in the Republican Party are unrepresented or poorly represented by their national leaders on issues such as trade and immigration, and this is because it’s definitely true that the economic interests of a lot of working- and middle-class conservative Republican voters are neglected by the national party. The electoral record also shows that the relative moderate candidate tends to prevail in the presidential nominating contest, and this is happening again as anyone could have seen that it would. As Cost later acknowledges, the relative moderates eke out nomination victories because there are always so many conservative candidates splitting the much larger conservative vote, which is proof that there are often too many conservative candidates in the mix and not that self-styled conservatives don’t control the party.

There is also always a large number of movement conservative activists and pundits more than willing to embrace the relative moderate as a bold conservative leader on the grounds that he is more electable, which is how George W. Bush and Romney acquired their ill-deserved reputations as conservatives in the first place. When a field has seven reasonably competitive conservative or libertarian candidates and arguably just one moderate (counting Romney as the moderate), it’s no wonder that the one moderate comes out ahead, especially when there are more than a few movement conservatives willing to make the case for him.

But neither Cost, nor Larison, get at one of the fundamental reasons there are frequently several relatively conservative candidates: the inability of conservatives to winnow their field.  Conservatives aren’t actually over-represented in GOP fields.  In this cycle, there were 3 relative moderates (Romney, Pawlenty, and Huntsman), 4 relative conservatives (Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, and Cain) and 2 relative oddballs (Gingrich and Paul).  This is a pretty representative sample.  But the establishment has skillfully winnowed the “moderate” field down to one contestant, sending Pawlenty packing early, and ignoring Huntsman entirely.  Conservatives, however, have jumped for every single conservative and one of the oddballs.  Let me suggest 2 ways to explain this phenomenon.

1.)  The Effect of the Invisible Primary. This is essentially the race for money and endorsements.  Candidates who perform well in the invisble primary tend to have success.  So money and endorsements matter, right?  Well, yeah, but I think something more complex is going on.  Establishment candidates compete in the invisible primary- grassroots candidates don’t.  Candidates who compete in the invisible primary, and later stumble, are more likely to be weeded out.   Why should be it the case that Tim Pawlenty should drop out immediately after Ames, despite running 4 points ahead of Rick Santorum and 5 points ahead of Herman Cain?  Isn’t this a little curious?  A little odd?  Both Santorum and Cain competed at Ames, and Santorum devoted as much to the straw poll, relative to his resources, as Pawlenty did.  Sure, Pawlenty would have had a hard time getting noticed when his money dried up, but Santorum didn’t get noticed until 3 days before the first caucus and had no money at all.  And yet it was obvious to an awful lot of people that Pawlenty needed to drop out.  The invisible primary seems to function as a winnowing process for establishment candidates and the grassroots has no equivalent.

2.)  Viability. Viability does not really matter to  the grassroots.  This is not an exaggeration.  Even now, you can head over to RedState and read a dozen Erick Erickson posts since Christmas which have  A.) Called Rick Santorum a pro-life statist and B.) Admitted that Santorum was preferrable to Romney.  Presumably, though I don’t follow his every post, Erick Erickson- along with many other grassroots conservatives- is inclined to support Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Erick Erickson thinks Perry “can still win” and therefore sees his criticism of Santorum as both a good faith effort to expose someone less than ideal and a way of improving Perry’s odds of winning the nomination.  He is, along with many grassroots conservatives, a true believer.  The True Believer may have many superior qualities, but strategic thinking is not among them.

Rick Perry has now been at 5% in SC for 4 straight polls.  He has not been in double digits in South Carolina in 2 and 1/2 months.  The odds of him coming back in the state are objectively quite low and any improvement he makes is bound to come at the expense of Santorum who, the True Believer admits, is preferrable to Romney.  An establishment oriented voter would, at this juncture, abandon Perry and Gingrich, go all-in with Santorum, and hope for the best.  And indeed, establishment oriented voters have done that all year.  There will be no Huntsman surge in NH to mirror the Santorum surge in Iowa.  Establishment Republicans, concerned about electability, do not see Huntsman as viable.  Therefore Huntsman has been cheerfully ignored.  After NH he will have exited the race, while 3 more grassrootsy alternatives continue on fruitlessly.  In ’08, the establishment Giuliani, despite leading in national polls by a gazillion points for an age, was all but abandoned after December and led in just one Florida poll after NH.  Meanwhile, conservatives seemed entirely unable to choose between Romney, Fred, and Huckabee, even as McCain seemed likely to waltz to the nomination.  Establishment candidates are winnowed by the viability test while grassroots candidates are apparently encouraged to stay in forever.

There is no grand establishment conspiracy to consistently foist relatively moderate nominees on the party.  The establishment simply does a better job of winnowing out unlikely nominees, thereby allowing one establishment choice to have free roam of the field.


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