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):
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.
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.
With the SCOTUS decision given down that Obamacare subsidies are still protected, here’s some of the responses from the Presidential contenders:
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
The Council for National Policy had a cattle call recently, attended by several hundred ‘movement conservatives’ who were addressed by six contenders. According to the National Journal Cruz was the big winner, and Huckabee the loser.
Read the article for details, but here are a few words on each of the six.
Fiorina gave a strong speech that earned more applause than anyone besides Cruz. She charmed the audience, attendees say, with a trial-run of a line that has recently become a staple of her stump speech—recalling how she was asked whether hormones would affect her decision-making in the Oval Office and then asking, “Ladies, can you think of any time a man’s hormones have affected his decision-making?”
That’s funny. But:
Fiorina had one moment that troubled some in the crowd of social conservatives. She referenced the upcoming Supreme Court ruling that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide and said if that happened, she is prepared to “move on” from the issue and focus on other fights.
Sounds reasonable to me, but that’s probably why CNP doesn’t invite me to their meetings.
Mike Huckabee was commonly described as the biggest loser of the event, not because he gave the worst speech but because he did not meet the lofty expectations set by his many allies in the room.
… the former Arkansas governor gave what several attendees described as a “flat” stump speech that underwhelmed an audience who had heard it all from him before. At one point, he elicited some groans in the room, attendees said, when he told of how he’d left his lucrative job at Fox News to run in 2016 at the request of many people in the room—and then said, half-jokingly, “So you had better support me.”
Marco Rubio’s speech was well received, attendees say …
More interesting than Rubio’s performance, though, considering recent discussions here (and everywhere political junkies gather), is this:
His introduction by John Stemberger raised eyebrows because of Stemberger’s previous alliance with Jeb Bush.
Perry and Jindal
Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal were forgettable, attendees said.
Strange write-up by NJ. Having declared him the winner, about all they mentioned was that he blew an easy question.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has once again found himself connected to a supporter embroiled in a child molestation scandal. From BuzzFeed:
John Perry, a prolific author who co-wrote two books with former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and co-wrote one with Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, was accused of child molestation in two separate lawsuits, BuzzFeed News has found.
A 2012 police investigation of Perry’s alleged offenses found that “the allegations of sexual battery were sustained” but that the statute of limitations had expired.
Last month, Huckabee defended his friends and supporters Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar after it was revealed they attempted to cover-up their son’s molestation of five young girls, including four of his sisters. Will Huckabee be as dismissive of another horrifying crime committed by one of his closest supporters?
It’s time for a change at the top. Jeb Bush has topped each edition of Hotline’s GOP presidential power rankings until now, but we’ve said all along that there was no true frontrunner this primary season, unlike some in the past. Now, a new name takes over the top billing after Bush ran into his first spot of trouble as a presidential campaign possibility explorer— or whatever we’re supposed to call him and his unofficial campaign activities.
Still, there have been no seismic shifts in a Republican race with three tiers that appear to be solidifying. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush look far more likely, as a group, to capture the nomination than anyone else. But another five candidates lurk in the second tier, waiting for their moments ahead of a third tier of seven true long-shot White House hopefuls.
We rank would-be candidates’ chances of winning the Republican nomination based on their individual strengths and weaknesses, political organizations, poll numbers, and other factors. Here’s where the race to win the GOP primaries stands right now:
More info on their reasoning for each ranking at the link. Previous ranking is in parentheses.
1. Scott Walker (Previous: T-2)
2. Marco Rubio (T-2)
3. Jeb Bush (1)
4. Ted Cruz (4)
5. Mike Huckabee (7)
6. Rand Paul (5)
7. John Kasich (8)
8. Chris Christie (7)
9. Rick Perry (9)
10. Ben Carson (14)
11. Carly Fiorina (12)
12. Rick Santorum (10)
13. Lindsey Graham (13)
14. Bobby Jindal (11)
15. George Pataki (–)
Vox Populi, in conjunction with the Daily Caller, asked GOP primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina last weekend whether or not they would consider voting for a bunch of different Republican candidates. Across all three states combined, here were the totals (would consider/would not consider, with the remainder being neutral or don’t know):
- Rubio – 56/19
- Walker – 52/16
- Carson – 48/20
- Huckabee – 46/32
- Cruz – 43/29
- Perry – 40/31
- Paul – 41/33
- Bush – 42/36
- Fiorina – 29/24
- Jindal – 30/27
- Santorum – 34/37
- Kasich – 16/28
- Christie – 30/46
- Graham – 28/45
A few notes before we move on to the individual states: first, this is obviously great news for fans of Senator Rubio and Governor Walker. I am surprised at how high Ben Carson is on this list, though — at +28, he beats everybody except the two frontrunners. At +14, Huckabee has now sunk to match Ted Cruz, both of whom have little to no chance of winning the nomination at this point. Bush continues to poll poorly in these sorts of surveys, with a full 36% of GOP voters saying they would not consider voting for him. That’s the highest of anyone except Santorum, Christie, and Graham — indicating he will have the tiniest margin for error once this campaign starts in earnest. And finally, if you are Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, or Lindsey Graham, why even bother? At least Bush has the establishment money and campaign infrastructure. Those other three have nothing.
In the three earliest states, here are the percentage of voters who would consider voting for a candidate:
- Walker – 64%
- Rubio – 57%
- Huckabee – 57%
- Carson – 54%
- Cruz – 48%
- Rubio – 52%
- Walker – 47%
- Bush – 45%
- Paul – 42%
- Carson – 42%
- Rubio – 57%
- Walker – 49%
- Carson – 48%
- Huckabee – 47%
- Cruz – 42%
Some parting thoughts: Graham doesn’t even register in the top five in his home state. Jeb Bush isn’t in the top five in Iowa or South Carolina, and he only gets considered by 45% of folks in New Hampshire. Those numbers are going to be huge problems for him if he can’t move them before the votes start being cast. Surveys like this make it evident why niche candidates such as Paul and Cruz are’t going to be the nominee (and, to a lesser extent, you can throw Huckabee in that group as well). Finally, Walker and Rubio have the highest ceilings in every state. This thing could easily come down to a contest between the two of them, and I suspect that would be a scenario most Republican primary voters would be okay with. Rubio is the only candidate with a ceiling above 50% in all three states.
Welcome back from Memorial Day Weekend! Here are the latest R4’16 headlines for discussion fodder:
Have at it in the comments — and remember, no personal attacks and no abusive language.
Looking a the Huckabee/Duggars saga entirely from a political viewpoint, Governor Huckabee will be seriously harming the socon cause if he does not withdraw.
If he had any chance of winning (I always thought he was quite a longshot, but others could reasonably disagree, and did so), that chance is now gone. He will be ‘the guy who supports child molesters’ in the public mind (whether that depiction is fair or not) and he will have absolutely no chance to expand his support beyond his current base, which he needed to do to be able to win.
He will however still have hardcore supporters (as demonstrated on comment threads here and, no doubt, elsewhere across the country), and this hard core will vote for him regardless of his likelihood of winning. And every vote cast for Mike Huckabee will be a vote that could have gone to another strongly-committed social conservative candidate who might actually win (e.g., Walker, Rubio, Cruz, or several others).
I am not foolish enough to think that my socon friends will listen to advice from me – they would probably rather slit their wrists. And slitting their wrists, metaphorically speaking, is exactly what they will be doing if they continue to support Mike Huckabee.