November 19, 2014

RNC 2018 Straw Poll Lists 33 Possible Candidates

The Republican National Committee recently began an on-line straw poll asking its members which candidate they would like to see. The respondents are to circle any three. The list includes:

  1. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte
  2. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
  3. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton
  4. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
  5. Businessman Herman Cain
  6. Dr. Ben Carson
  7. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
  8. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
  9. Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels
  10. Former CEO Carly Fiona
  11. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
  12. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
  13. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
  14. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
  15. Ohio Gov. John Kasich
  16. New York Rep. Peter King
  17. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez
  18. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
  19. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
  20. Former Rep. Ron Paul
  21. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
  22. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
  23. Texas Gov. Rick Perry
  24. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman
  25. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  26. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
  27. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan
  28. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval
  29. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum
  30. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott
  31. South Dakota Sen. John Thune
  32. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
  33. Former Florida Rep. Allen West

Write-in votes are allowed.

The results have not been published anywhere that I’ve seen, and I don’t particularly wish to sign up just so they can get my email address to spam me. However, if you are inclined to participate, here is the link.

November 12, 2014

A Personal Appraisal of the Early Field

Since some of the other posters from R4’12 seem to be returning (great to see you, Matt and Mark), I thought I might do the same. A good place to start might be with a very preliminary assessment of the field that is shaping up. In order to do that fairly, however, I think I need to first position myself, so that you know from what perspective I’m coming (or, if you prefer, what my biases are).

In the run-up to ’12, I was an ardent Mitch Daniels supporter. After Daniels withdrew, I never really settled on another candidate, though I tried to get hyped up about several, most notably Tim Pawlenty; hell, I even gave Jon Huntsman a look (and then quickly backed away). Eventually, of course, it became obvious that Romney would get the nomination, but I couldn’t work up enthusiasm about him, either, since I was fairly certain he’d lose (admission: there was a point in October where I came around to thinking he might pull it out – wrong again!). However, I was out of the country by then and unable to do anything other than go to the nearest consulate and vote for him).

Which brings us to 2016. I would still support Daniels in a heartbeat, but he seems perfectly happy at Purdue, and getting him to change his mind about subjecting his family to the ugliness that American politics has become is about as likely as the Romney and Palin supporters of R4’12 organizing a ‘Draft Bob Hovic’ movement.

So I’ll have to find someone who can fill the same slot – reformist, executive experience, competence, able to relate to ordinary people, fiscally conservative, socially conservative, and defense-minded.

On those last three points let me add this: our party (and any party that is going to be more than a splinter movement – I’m looking at you, Libertarians) is a coalition. Any candidate that is going to unite a coalition must be acceptable to all major factions. Not that s/he is the favorite of all of them (or any of them). But s/he must not be obnoxious to any of them.

Matt Coulter listed a number of subgroups in his recent (excellent) post, but I’ll be old-fashioned and go with the old ficons, socons, and defcons. The Republican nominee need not be a hard-core deficit hawk, but must not go far in the opposite direction; need not be a culture warrior but must not be pro-choice (or even weakly pro-life); need not be an interventionist, but must not be isolationist. Which means the candidate must be able to thread needles quite nicely.

Oh – and one more qualification: I refuse to support anyone who can’t win.

For an early choice I’m leaning toward Scott Walker. Walker is identified primarily with fiscal and reform issues (especially reining in public employee unions), but his social policy credentials are sufficient that I think my most ardently socon friends would find no problem accepting him (part of why I think this is because he is well to my right on social issues). I know nothing about his defense views (having held only local and state offices, he has not had occasion to take positions on defense). I’ll look forward to seeing what he has to say about defense and foreign policy.

He also comes from a solidly middle-class background (mom a bookkeeper, dad a Baptist minister) and can relate to the suburban and blue-collar people Republicans must get in order to win. He has that Midwestern Nice thing going for him (though it did nothing for Tim Pawlenty). Coupled with his inoffensive (some say ‘bland’ and/or ‘boring’) manner, he (like Daniels) seems able to take strong positions without being offensive to middle-of-the-roaders.

My early second choice is Bobby Jindal, who shares many of Walker’s qualities – a proven record of reform at the state level (including a successful school voucher program), plus strong ficon and socon credibility. In addition, his grasp of policy is legendary, and to be blunt, his skin color is a positive. As with Walker, I know nothing of his defense views, and I’ll be waiting to learn more.

On the negative side, I have a perception of Jindal as being very outspoken on social issues – to the point that it might create problems for him with social moderates (whether or not strongly-held socon positions are a big political negative in a national race is, in my opinion, dependent on words and tone more than the positions themselves). This is just a perception, I admit, and only time will tell. I also think a Midwesterner would be a better choice than a Southerner.

It’s no accident that my two main choices are both governors. I strongly prefer governors for two reasons: 1) If Obama has proven anything, it is that executive experience matters greatly; and 2) I think the anti-Washington mood will continue into 2016, and these two will have little difficulty painting Hillary as an ‘insider’ and contrasting her to themselves.

These are the two I’m most interested in at this point. There’s a long way to go, obviously (at this point last time, Mark Sanford headed my list – but I’d rather not discuss that, thank you), so I retain my option to change at any time.

As for the others, just a few words on why I choose not (for now) to back them.

Mitt Romney – Obviously meets my executive experience criterion, in spades. He totally fails on appealing to blue-collar types and is past his sell-by date. In any case, I’m inclined to think, for now, that he isn’t running.

Mike Huckabee – Another governor who can sell socon positions with a smile, though I think he is so closely identified with social issues that he comes across as a one-issue candidate. His Arkansas record makes ficons like me uneasy, to put it mildly. I can’t support him for that reason, and I think he will have problems with a big enough bloc of Republicans that he’ll be stymied.

Rand Paul – Certainly a better salesman for libertarianism than his father, though that isn’t saying much. (As a libertarian myself, I prayed nightly for Ron Paul to just go away). Unless he starts quickly to moderate his foreign policy views, however, I think he has zero chance of getting the nomination. Also – no executive experience.

Jeb Bush – If only he had a different last name. By all accounts an excellent governor, but … well, let’s put it this way: We have an opportunity to run against a hard-core insider and we are contemplating nominating a Bush? Really?

Marco Rubio – No executive experience. Shot himself in the foot on comprehensive immigration reform, but probably backed away sufficiently that it will be forgiven/forgotten. Probably hasn’t been in Washington long enough to be perceived as being one of them. My problem with him is that I see no reason to support him other than his ethnicity. (We do owe him thanks for ridding the party of Charlie Crist).

Ted Cruz – Another short-term Senator. In addition to having no executive background, the guy is a loose cannon. Heaven only knows what he’d spout on the campaign trail.

Rick Perry — We’ll see if he learned anything from 2012. If he did, he might be worth giving attention to (though I think he’s damaged goods). If he didn’t, we won’t have to wait long for him to be gone.

Chris Christie – “Shut up and sit down!” might go over big in NY/NJ, but it will get real old real fast in the rest of the country. The guy just lacks the temperament for a long national campaign. I’ll never forgive him for embracing Obama right before election day – that finished the guy for me.

Paul Ryan – A ficon’s wet dream and one of my ABR options late in the 2012 primary season. On sober reflection, I don’t think a Representative can do it – though he has the advantage of having run a national campaign (losing, but still …). My objection is no executive experience, but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if he were the nominee.

Rick Santorum – He apparently hasn’t figured out that the only reason he did so well in ’12 is that he was the final ABR. If Huckabee gets in, Santorum will be eliminated in Ames, otherwise he might make it to New Hampshire.

Ben Carson – Okay, I’m scraping bottom now. Time to quit.

June 20, 2012

No One Knows, NO ONE

As soon as Mitt Romney had clinched the Republican nomination for president several weeks ago, I wrote a column with my own list of prominent persons who might be considered for vice president. I have been observing and writing for presidential politics long enough to know it was no more that. My list included Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia, and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Soon after that, more lists appeared, many of them including other names. The person I have thought to be the most likely choice, Senator Portman, has appeared on virtually every list, and seems to be the first choice of several observers.

Speculation about a vice presidential choice is one of the most inevitable, and least useful, aspects of a presidential campaign. With the exception of 1956 Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson, only the nominee makes the choice after a highly confidential vetting process (a process heightened after 1972 Democratic nominee Geroge McGovern’s initial choice had to resign from the ticket after public disclosures about his health).  I say “least useful” because so much that is written and said about who will be chosen before the choice is announced is wrong.

Already, we read published speculations that former Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is the new frontrunner, if not the certain choice, to be picked by
2012 presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Senator Portman, these speculations also say, has been eliminated from consideration. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, it is also said, is the second choice, and Governor McDonnell has also been taken off the list. The basis for most of these speculations is that certain politicians have “bonded” with Mr. Romney, and others have not.

It appears, however, that the vetting process has only begun, and that Mr. Romney is only now becoming better acquainted with the men and women he might choose.

Publications and networks, most of which have been hostile to the Republican cause, are breathlessly reporting “unnamed sources” with inside information about who is in and who is out. A recent such report, allegedly from high sources in the Romney campaign, stated that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and a major Romney ally, was not being vetted. Mr. Romney, on the campaign trail, promptly refuted the report, stating that Mr. Rubio was being fully vetted.

My rule of thumb is that ANY report before the official announcement, no matter how high (always anonymous) the sources from which it came, is to be viewed with considerable skepticism. Ninety-plua per cent of such reports, to be blunt, are false. (And those that are true are lucky guesses.)

Only one person knows who the nominee will be (Mr. Romney) and only one other person (Beth Myers, who he placed in charge of the nomination vetting process) knows fully who is being vetted, who is not, and the status of that process. As the date of the announcement approaches, more facts may be known, but the final choice will be a very tightly kept secret. The whole purpose of drawing out the process, other than the practical efficacy of the vetting, is to create suspense, and maintain news interest in the campaign. It is unlikely the final choice will be announced any time soon.

A lot of folks with various connections to the Romney campaign, to the Republican Party, and even to Mr. Romney personally, will be tempted to
parade their self-importance (hiding behind anonymity) to members of the news media by “leaking inside information.” And virtually everyone (myself included) will indulge in speculation about who the final choice will be.

But only Mitt Romney and Beth Myers will really know the facts, and they won’t be revealing anything until the final choice is made.

A little anecdote from the 2008 campaign: I was told by VERY HIGH sources the day before Senator John McCain was to make his vice presidential choice known that it would be then Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Living in Minneapolis, I drove over to the governor’s residence in St. Paul that evening to see if the secret service were now protecting the residence, as they would have to do if Mr. Pawlenty had been chosen. No secret service were visible. In fact, they WERE quite visible that night accompanying Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska (who had been chosen.)

Mr. Pawlenty might be chosen this time, or it might be Mr Portman. It might be someone else. But no one knows who it will be now, and until a few hours before the announcement, no one but Mitt Romney will know.

You don’t have to wait for the fat lady to sing, but it will be a good idea to watch for which vice presidential hopeful is suddenly joined by a small horde of figures with little devices in their ears.


-Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved. Please visit Mr. Casselman’s personal site

April 19, 2012

Veep Poll: The Third Round

The second round of Veep Polling has passed (results here) and we’re moving on to the third round.

If John Thune was selected as Romney’s VP, how content would you be on a scale from 1 to 10 (1=You’d stay home, 10=You’d canvas the country for Romney)?

If Bobby Jindal was selected as Romney’s VP, how content would you be on a scale from 1 to 10 (1=You’d stay home, 10=You’d canvas the country for Romney)?

If Mike Huckabee was selected as Romney’s VP, how content would you be on a scale from 1 to 10 (1=You’d stay home, 10=You’d canvas the country for Romney)?

If Mitch Daniels was selected as Romney’s VP, how content would you be on a scale from 1 to 10 (1=You’d stay home, 10=You’d canvas the country for Romney)?

Example (mine):

John Thune- 5

Bobby Jindal- 10

Mike Huckabee- 6

Mitch Daniels- 8

Note:  I realize that some of you may not be overly familiar with some of these candidates, but please try to provide a response for each, or I will not be able to compile the data.  Lack of familiarity (which would likely lead to average numbers) is a response in of itself.

-Matthew E. Miller can be contacted at

by @ 12:00 pm. Filed under Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Veep Watch

April 18, 2012

February 2, 2012

Results-Oriented Conservatism

Yesterday, Indiana became the first state in the manufacturing belt, what was once called the rust belt, to enact “Right-to-Work” legislation.  Governor Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law immediately following its passage by the state senate.  The RTW law represents another, and perhaps final, jewel in the distinguished crown of results-oriented conservative Governor Mitch Daniels.  It was preceeded by his stellar record of decertifying public-sector unions back in 2005, pro-growth budget and tax reform, and education reform, among others.  Thinking back through my many years in politics, I observed two distinct classes of conservative politicians and political leaders—those who made noise, and those who made a difference.  Occasionally, but not often, the categories overlap.  Mitch Daniels is clearly in the category of “making a difference” and his record as Governor in Indiana stands as tribute.  Hopefully, Governors Walker in Wisconsin and Christie in New Jersey will be as successful as Daniels has been.  Each of them fit squarely in the category of “results-oriented” conservatives who are making a difference.  The GOP, and the country, desperately need more like them.

by @ 7:56 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Chris Christie, Conservatism, Mitch Daniels

January 24, 2012

GOP Response to Obama—A Reminder

A reminder to all of our readers that Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Indiana) will deliver the GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union Address tonight.

As one of several Race regulars who had wanted Daniels to run for president this time, I believe it will be interesting to see his address tonight and to compare it in tone, content, and substance to that of our presidential candidates as well as to Obama.

[Edit] Kavon says: On this topic, here’s the RGA’s new video entitled, “The Veteran”, which promotes Gov. Daniels’ record:

by @ 7:26 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Mitch Daniels, Republican Party

January 19, 2012

Daniels Reconsidering 2012?

The Weekly Standard has obtained what they are told was a draft copy of Daniels’ counter to the President’s State of the Union address. In it, he says that he will reconsider his decision to not run for President.

Here’s a quote:

But in preparing this response to President Obama, I’ve been struck, even more forcefully than before, just how urgently our federal government needs to be remodeled. In fact, it needs to be remodeled even more dramatically than our state government in Indiana had to be. President Obama has failed to do this in his first term. He would fail to do this in his second term, if he were to win one.

Which raises the question: Is the current crop of Republican presidential candidates up to denying President Obama a second term? And would any of them be up to the necessary remodeling of our if they were to win? Unfortunately, lots of my fellow Republicans have doubts on both scores. A recent poll found that 7 out of 10 Republicans across the nation would like more options to choose from for president.

The candidates for the Republican nomination are my friends. I like and admire them. But I must say I’ve increasingly come to share the doubt that any of them would be likely to win, or would be likely to govern successfully.

So I want to announce tonight that I am open to reconsidering my decision not to seek the presidency in 2012. I have not wanted to run, for family reasons among others. I have hoped someone else would prove up to the task. But my family and I have now decided that country must come first. I am considering joining the race.

But I need to know if you want me to run. I only want to enter the race if you, the people, think I should. So here’s what I propose: None of the candidates currently running has received more than a total of 300,000 votes in the three contests so far. So here’s a test of my viability: If in the next few days I receive more than 300,000 emails, at, asking me to run—then I will take that as a sign that, despite my previous reluctance, I should enter the contest.

If I run, I will be a reluctant candidate, in the sense that I did not plan on seeking this position. But let me assure you of this: if I do run, I will not run a reluctant campaign. I will run full out. I will compete in those primaries where I can still get on the ballot, I will go all out to win at the convention where the nomination will likely be decided, and I will take the fight to President Obama in the fall. If I run, I will run to win—because this country deserves leadership that will fundamentally remodel our government and restore our nation.

Thank you, good night, and God Bless America.

It’s unclear if this is a hoax or what, but it’s interesting. Also, may prove difficult for Daniels, if he were to run, to get on the ballot in many of these states.

Feel free to speculate in the comments section.


-Matt Newman is a conservative blogger from Maryland who blogs at Old Line ElephantPundit League and Tweets far too often.

by @ 2:32 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitch Daniels

October 13, 2011

An Interesting Question

From the Christian Scientist Monitor (emphasis added):

Watching Rick Perry’s debate performance Tuesday night, [the author] (along with many observers in the press) was struck by how itching-to-get-out-of-there uncomfortable he looked. It was like watching someone’s half-hearted attempt to engage in polite conversation at a dinner party he was only attending as a favor to his wife.

Which has led us today to this fundamental question: Does Rick Perry really want to be president? Or, more specifically, might the Texas governor regret his decision to jump into the race?

Tellingly, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered up his reasons for passing on a White House run, he said he’d tried to imagine himself in a hotel room in Des Moines “and it’s 5:30 in the morning and it’s 15 below, and it’s time for me to get up and go shake hands at the meatpacking plant.”

His point? To subject yourself to the true grind of a presidential campaign – with the loss of privacy, the discipline of having to be always on message, the tedium of giving the same speech over and over, and the out-and-out hard work required behind the scenes – you have to really, really want it.

And almost by definition, a candidate who jumps in only after some arm twisting by supporters – as Perry did and Christie did not – probably doesn’t want it that bad.

Last time around, we had Fred Thompson. There was a great clamor for him to get in the race, too, but anyone watching real close could see that his heart just wasn’t in it. So when he finally did jump in, his campaign just slowly withered on the vine.

Perry simply was not ready. Everyone convinced him that all he had to do was show up, swagger a bit, talk real big, sling a few half-truths about Mitt Romney, and the nomination was his. He was in no way ready. And it has blown up in his face. Now he’s stuck with sinking polls, $15 millions in the bank, and seemingly hating every minute of it. Now what?

We’ve had a number of candidates this time around whose supporters did everything they could to convince them to join the race, but were wise enough to know that it wasn’t for them. First, there was Mike Huckabee. He was leading the polls when he let it be known that he was not running this time. Mitch Daniels was another. And let’s not forget Haley Barbour and Jim DeMint. Both of them had supporters begging them to run. Even Jeb Bush got some action.


September 14, 2011

Romney, Perry & Social Security Myths

As we all know, the Romney/Perry/Pundit affair of the last ten days has focused on Social Security. As a member of the Debt-Paying Generation who doubts I will never get back what the government is forcing me to pay in to the program, I would like to take a few moments to get away from the politics of the discussion. The rhetoric aside, there are a number of myths that must be proven wrong if the American people are to make an educated choice in the forthcoming GOP primaries.

1. The program’s worker-to-recipient ratio is solid for some time.

  • Recent Labor Department data shows that while we have over two workers per Social Security recipient, we only have 1.75 private sector workers per recipient. This is important to note since, as the number of public employees grows under both parties, and thus private-sector dollars are recycled from the IRS and Treasury to workers and back again, this disparity will only get worse.


2. We can, as Senate Majority Leader Reid says, wait until the 2030s to tweak Social Security.

  • As James Agresti of Just Facts shows, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has underestimated the expected long-term solvency of the trust fund for a decade now. Additionally, about a month after Kavon co-authored an op-ed on Daily Caller talking about the tax implications of not reforming Social Security and Medicare, the official SSA estimate of the time until the trust fund is unable to fully fund promised benefits was brought from 2037 to 2036.


3. Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.

  • Social Security falls under the Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) definition of a Ponzi scheme. And while the author of the linked piece says the intent to defraud may not exist with Social Security, I would argue that the way the program was set up for failure by Congress while lying about the program’s solvency, and therefore kicking the proverbial can down the road for the sake of re-election, would put anyone else in jail for fraud. Members of Congress, of course, simply get re-elected for doing this.


4. Related, and to take from a USA TODAY editorial, the defense that government legitimacy makes accusations of Ponzi scheme irrelevant.

  • I think this analogy works fairly well in response: “[USA TODAY’S first point fails: a government declaration of legality no more renders a Ponzi scheme a legitimate mode of investment than it renders slavery a legitimate mode of employment.”

“Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today’s young may well get less than they put in).”

5. Social Security doesn’t impact the national debt.

  • In an interview published on Race42012 earlier this year, Mr. Agresti put this myth to rest based upon data he has gathered:

Social Security absolutely has an impact on the national debt. As I wrote [in 2001]…“Social Security in its current form is a tool that politicians can use to drive our country into debt without the public knowing about it. Between 2001 and 2010, the Social Security program is projected to collect 5,502 billion dollars in taxes and spend 4,726 billion dollars on benefits and administrative overhead. This leaves $776 billion in surpluses. If things remain as they are, the law requires that all of this money be loaned to the federal government. Once this money is in the hands of the federal government, it is up for grabs.”

I wrote this back in 2001, and it came to pass just as explained, except for the obvious fact that the surplus was not as great as projected. By law, Social Security surpluses must be loaned to the federal government. Hence, as long as the federal budget is in deficit, any such surpluses become a part of the national debt. This system imposes a double penalty on many taxpayers. For the past few decades, workers have paid more in Social Security taxes than what was needed to pay Social Security benefits. The resultant surpluses were then loaned to the federal government, which, in turn, spent this money. Now that Social Security is paying more in benefits than it collects in taxes, the federal government must pay back the money that it borrowed from Social Security. The irony is that many of the same taxpayers who paid these “surplus” Social Security taxes that were loaned to the federal government are now stuck with the bill of paying back this money to the Social Security program.

On top of this, because of the tax cut/stimulus agreement brokered by President Obama and the Republicans in December…[T]his law decreases the Social Security payroll tax during 2011 by two percentage points and requires that monies equivalent to the decreased payroll taxes be transferred to the Social Security program from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. Since the general fund is in serious deficit, this money transferred to Social Security must be borrowed, and thus, it adds directly to the national debt.

Unfortunately, in the final analysis, neither Perry nor Romney should earn respect from conservatives for their respective positions on Social Security. To paraphrase Erick Erickson, Romney is suddenly pretending that a) the principled conservative position is to pander to seniors, and b) Social Security needs to be defended as successful and just needs a few tweaks. While tweaking could have been enough 20 years ago— back then, we could have made a few tweaks that would have had significant impacts now, as the long-known demographics catch up to us— it’s certainly not now. 20 years ago we were a few miles into a 100-mile drive, and a few degrees of change would have significantly altered the final destination. A few degrees of change at mile 96 do little to alter the final destination.

On the flip side, while Perry is using the right aggressive language, his recent USA TODAY op-ed held nothing but hard truth platitudes. No solutions, no attempts to raise the discussion beyond “Social Security is a badly-run program.” Sorry, governor- platitudes are worse than tweaks. As inadequate as Romney’s pandering is, at least he offers some ideas that would delay the day of reckoning.

I have yet to choose a candidate to support this time around- Mitch Daniels was my guy- but Romney just eliminated himself from my radar by pandering. Perry, whose views on the death penalty and crony capitalism leave me cautious, has to offer some solutions that will work. If he doesn’t, conservatives may abandon the GOP for its lack of a real conservative candidate, as they did in 2008. This would leave President Obama in power come 2013, and would basically guarantee the Debt-Paying Generation a lifetime of higher taxes, lower or no entitlements and fewer employment opportunities.

by @ 8:00 am. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Republican Party, Rick Perry

August 22, 2011

The Importance of “Upward Mobility” as a GOP Theme

Ryan Streeter is out with a lead editorial in today’s ConservativeHome in which he argues that the candidate who talks about “upward mobility” and not just “jobs and growth” will have the greatest appeal in the election next year.  I could not agree more.  Streeter’s commentary is built around comments made last week on C-SPAN by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana in praise of Rep. Paul Ryan.

Last week on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Mitch Daniels was asked about Paul Ryan. Instead of praising Ryan’s work on entitlements and the deficit, for which Ryan is well-known, Daniels took a different angle and said Ryan would “do whatever it takes to restore upward mobility in this country, to restore the conditions for a stable, broad middle class.”

Of all of the people either running for President or among those who were once seriously considering a bid, Daniels is the only one who talks like this. Had he run for President, he would have been the upward mobility candidate.

While the leading candidates talk about “jobs” and “growth,” Daniels is talking about mobility and the middle class.

It’s not enough to create more jobs if they’re dead-end jobs. It’s not enough to have growth that only benefits the upper 20 percent of American households. Jobs and growth matter in so far as they are part of an opportunity society in which it’s still worth it for everyone, regardless of life’s station, to pursue a dream, aim high, take risks, and have a reasonable expectation that hard work will propel you to a life that is better than your parents enjoyed. The gauge for how we’re doing isn’t the upper middle class, but the middle class itself.

The upward mobility candidate would be the one who says:

  1. Cutting spending and reforming entitlements are necessary but not enough;
  2. Job growth and GDP growth are necessary but not enough;
  3. Accelerating the rise of median income in America (without doing so through redistribution) is the key indicator of how prosperous America really is.

But, as Streeter points out:

For some reason other conservatives have a hard time laying out economic objectives this way. They rightly resist falling into the rhetoric of class warfare while wrongly neglecting to take seriously the very real difference in America between the opportunities enjoyed by the affluent and those available to everyone else.

Oddly, and for whatever reason, the GOP field largely ignores upward mobility. Doing so isn’t even good politics. Independents are much more likely to support a Republican who lays out an appealing program of upward mobility in America than one who focuses mostly on cuts. And Tea Partiers will gladly follow the candidate who is able to demonstrate how limiting the government goes hand-in-hand with a vision for increasing upward mobility in America.

Upward mobility is what people care about. Who hears a mother on the sideline of a soccer field talking about GDP growth? She’s much more likely to be talking about the things she and her husband are doing to help their children get a shot to move up in the world.

The “upward mobility” theme should also have strong appeal among the burgeoning Millennial generation that we have discussed recently on this site.  Read the entire Streeter commentary here.  It is worth noting, btw, that the most recent presidential candidates to emphasize  the importance of creating a political environment where in all Americans have the opportunity to move upward were Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

by @ 11:17 am. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitch Daniels, Republican Party

May 22, 2011

No, Paul Ryan is Not Running for President in 2012

With Mitch Daniels out of the race, a lot of eyes are now turning to Rep. Paul Ryan to fill the void of Republican debt-buster in the GOP presidential field. But Rep. Ryan’s statement to David Gregory this morning on Meet the Press should remove all doubt as to Ryan’s plans to stay out:

Note that Ryan seems to leave the door ajar a little when it comes to opportunities that may present themselves, as Ryan puts it, “way down the road.” It sounds as if Ryan is referring to the possibility of being Number Two on the ticket, or perhaps a 2016 run, as opposed to the 2012 plunge that supporters were hoping he’d take. I mean, come on, “way down the road” is not a June 2011 exploratory committee. Nor is it even a Labor Day 2011 campaign launch. “Way down the road” is, at earliest, a Summer 2012 veep invite.

Let’s face it, folks, the field is pretty much set in stone.

by @ 4:58 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels

Certain So Cons Owe Mitch Daniels an Apology

By now, I’m sure you all have heard the news that Governor Daniels of Indiana is taking himself out of the race for President. As a longtime Daniels supporter, this was very disappointing to me. However, the reason why the Governor chose not to run is completely understandable. Here is a portion of the Governor’s email via Politico

In the end, I was able to resolve every competing consideration but one, but that, the interests and wishes of my family, is the most important consideration of all. If I have disappointed you, I will always be sorry”.

So, the Governor put his family’s reservations over any desire to run for President. As anyone who has run for office or had a family member run for office will tell you, it is a tough experience on a family. Everything everyone in the family does is held under scrutiny and it becomes a rough endurance test both during the campaign and if they win, after the election. Having gone through it myself, I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to have to deal with it.

Now, turning to the so cons. Ever since Governor Daniels suggested that we put social issues on the back-burner until we get our fiscal house in order, many social conservatives have been calling for his blood. “He’s a liberal”, “he wants to put us on the back of the bus”, “he’s a RINO”, all these epithets were hurled at the Indiana Governor. Despite the fact that he signed one of the most profound pieces of education reform in the country, despite the fact that he signed a strong anti-abortion law in Indiana, despite his actual record, so cons just couldn’t get over that one little phrase. Even though Daniels has governed in a way that should please social conservatives, it was his rhetoric, not his record that they latched onto. To me, that shows a certain element of hypocrisy; I always thought that a person’s deeds counted more than their words. Apparently, it didn’t to the loudmouths who try and say they are in charge of the so-con movement.

Well, Daniels is out of the race, and he’s out because his family doesn’t want to go through the nonsense of a presidential campaign. Here, the Governor is putting the wants and desires of his family over ambition. Is not putting family first one of the biggest tenets of social conservatism? Or are words still all that matter?

The social conservatives who gleefully bashed Governor Daniels over his “truce” comment owe the Governor an apology. I doubt he’ll get it though.

by @ 2:58 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitch Daniels

Tim Pawlenty’s Statement on Mitch Daniels’ Departure

From one governor to another:

“Mitch Daniels is a friend of mine and one of the best governors in the country. While he may not be running, he is an intellectual powerhouse and will continue to play a leading role in the Party’s politics and the Nation’s policies. Mitch and I agree that America’s out-of-control national debt is a threat to our nation’s future, and that the next president must restore fiscal responsibility in Washington, DC. Mary and I wish Cheri and Mitch all the best.”

Maybe it’s my limited experience with politics talking, but I really can’t understand why the Republicans pining for Daniels to enter the race don’t move to Pawlenty. T-Paw arguably has a better record than Daniels on spending – supposedly Mitch’s signature issue, offers a more appealing personal background and story, doesn’t have a history of potentially damning statements on health care and taxes, shows better political instincts, and displays greater interest in the issue most salient to a plurality of voters: jobs.

Other than Daniels’ history in Washington and Ivy League pedigree, why would the establishment display so much more enthusiasm for him than Pawlenty? I just don’t quite get it. Please, someone with more extensive political knowledge, help me understand.

by @ 2:26 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty

Daniels Is Out – More Out Now Than In.

Daniels Truce Turns Into Surrender.

Issuing an official statement by email to followers, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana announced late last night that he is not going to run for President of the United States in 2012.   Sadly, Daniels had become most known for his truce comments and recently discovered older comments he made about avoiding wedge issues.   This will override the fact that he governed as a social conservative.  He was in my top three as a replacement for Mike Huckabee.

In the end he cited his wife’s veto power and his love for her as settling the decision for him.

Keep governing the way you have, sir.  We can use a few more like you.

Pence is out, Huckabee is out, Barbour is out.  (Bush, Jindal, Perry, Christie were never in)

Santorum is in.  Cain is in.  Romney is in.  Johnson is in.  Paul is probably in.  Judge Moore is in.   Bachmann, Huntsman, and Palin are neither in or out.

Pawlenty is in more than anybody.  Gingrich is in it.

Karger is way out.

Did I leave anybody out who should have been in?

Did I leave anybody in who should have been out?





by @ 6:22 am. Filed under Mitch Daniels

May 21, 2011

2012 Candidate Roundup

Most probably already know about this, but Herman Cain has officially announced his candidacy:

“In case you accidentally listen to a skeptic or doubting Thomas out there, just to be clear … I’m running for president of the United States, and I’m not running for second,” he said.

“Let me tell you what the Cain Doctrine would be: We ain’t raising the debt ceiling,” he said, to loud cheers. “We are going to cut cut the spending.”

…Cain has said he supports a strong military, lower taxes, less regulation, a return to the gold standard and he has openly been critical of President Obama’s health care plan.

While I doubt the ultimate viability of a candidate with zero prior political experience, even in this environment of unprecedented levels of anti-Washington sentiment, I must admit that Cain seems almost tailor-made for talk radio-types and much of the Tea Party.

The South Bend Tribune had an interesting write-up on Mitch Daniels, in which they discussed his habit of boarding with his constituents, instead of in hotels, while traveling within Indiana:

Mary said the governor quipped, “Here comes Mitch the Mooch,” upon entering the house.
The Kahls, who described themselves as not very political, had never met Daniels before. That didn’t matter, though. Having him over felt like a low-key visit from a friend, they said.

Daniels and the family sat at the dining room table, eating chips and salsa and chatting until about 11:30 p.m. Ben and Gabe were allowed to stay up past their usual bed times.

They talked about their families, Indiana, garage sales, wrestling, the Kahls’ former home in Iowa. Politics and the presidency never came up.

“It was really easy to talk to him,” Kevin said.

“There were times during the conversation,” Mary added, “when I thought, ‘This is the governor sitting in our dining room.’ He’s just so down to earth.”

Although Daniels clearly avoided discussing the issues during his stay, this report nonetheless shows his impressive skills in retail politics. He’ll need them in the early states, should he choose to run.

And last but not least, Tim Pawlenty has made another noteworthy addition to his Iowa campaign organization:

Prospective presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty announced a key staff addition Friday: Ed Failor Jr., former president of Iowans for Tax Relief.

Failor, of Muscatine, will serve as a senior consultant to Pawlenty’s exploratory team.

Failor recently departed from Iowans for Tax Relief, one of the most powerful political action organizations in Iowa, and, for Republican presidential candidates, a much-sought pool of fiscally focused Iowans.

The article also mentions three other members of Pawlenty’s Iowa inner circle, including Eric Woolson, Mike Huckabee’s Iowa Campaign Manager in 2008.

Despite the relative lack of headlines he has received, T-Paw clearly intends to play for keeps in the Hawkeye State.

May 20, 2011

Nine Campaigns Meet With Iowa GOP to Discuss Ames

So we already knew that six campaigns have committed to playing the Ames game at the straw poll in August:

  • Michelle Bachmann
  • Herman Cain
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Ron Paul
  • Tim Pawlenty
  • Rick Santorum

And we also knew that Huntsman will probably skip the event. But what about Romney? Daniels? Moore?

Well, yesterday nine campaigns sent representatives to a Straw Poll meeting with the Iowa GOP. This meeting was to discuss the rules, the layout, and the process for the actual event on August 13. The six campaigns above were joined by representatives from the following three camps:

  • Fred Karger
  • Roy Moore
  • Mitt Romney

So is Mitt planning to play Ames? If attendance at this meeting is any indication (and at some level, it is), then it would appear so. As interesting as who was there is who wasn’t: Daniels, Johnson, Roemer and Huntsman. One has to wonder if Johnson and Roemer’s hearts are really in this thing anymore. And what Daniels is thinking. Not attending this meeting doesn’t mean that they can’t contest Ames, but it certainly sets them at an unnecessary early disadvantage.

by @ 8:35 am. Filed under Gary Johnson, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Straw Polls

May 19, 2011

Daniels Quietly Starts Up Dormant Fundraising Machine

More Daniels news from the National Journal; looks like the governor’s financial operation is full steam ahead:

Beginning late last year, the two-term Republican flipped the switch on a long-dormant political committee, Aiming Higher, that is qualified to accept donations in unlimited amounts. Since late last year, he has raked in more than $675,000 in contributions from individuals and organizations across the country, including $250,000 from the American Federation for Children, a group that promotes school vouchers. Meanwhile, Daniels’s better-known political fundraising arm, the Aiming Higher PAC, raised $2.2 million last year, when the term-limited Daniels was not on the ballot.

According to a new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the haul puts Daniels ahead of every other potential presidential candidate when it came to fundraising from state-level PACs. Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came close; his state PACs raised a combined $1.6 million. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s state PACs raised $337,000.


by @ 5:10 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels to Headline NRSC Event

First the Tennessee GOP event, now this.  He’s getting closer to launching what could soon become the front-running campaign for the GOP nomination.

“Mitch Daniels is expected to be the special guest at a National Republican Senatorial Committee event in Washington next week, just as he’s deciding whether to run for president…”

UPDATE: Daniels discusses Iowa, New Hampshire, and campaign staff hires.

by @ 1:44 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels

Daniels: We Need to Avoid “Wedge” Issues

Jen Rubin points to a Daniels 2009 video, where he opines about the necessity of avoiding wedge issues.


At one point Daniels says, “The whole concept of a wedge issue should be foreign to us if we really want to come back.”  Coming off a very bad year, it is no great surprise that one of the party’s few electoral successes laid out a blue-print for a comeback.  Nor is it much of surprise that the blue-print was conciliatory, not retaliatory.  But this speech, coming before the truce comments, points to the Daniels style and, if his actions since are any indication, it’s a style he seems incapable of jettisoning.  The real Mitch Daniels is conservative but not rigidly- or even ideologically- so and preternaturally averse to conflict.  In a state setting, where folks care more about keeping the trains running then they do about bombast, this is a decided asset.  At the national level, it looks like a fatal flaw.  Here’s how Redstate’s Leon Wolf reacts:

I am not really sure what is wrong with Mitch Daniels. Two years ago, you would not have found a bigger Mitch Daniels booster in the United States than yours truly. He had bucked national trends to win an landslide re-election and was doing all the right things to demonstrate administrative competence, which is something our party badly needed to demonstrate after the last two years of the Bush administration…

So, as Republicans were gearing up for their biggest electoral victories in 16 years by fighting Obama and the Democrats tooth and nail on every aspect of their agenda, Mitch Daniels was telling everyone that the way to victory was to forget what a wedge issue even was, and just be nice so that people will like us again. Since then, Daniels has demonstrated that having a political tin ear in his case is a congenital defect rather than an isolated occurrence, telling social conservatives repeatedly to get to the back of the bus and indicating that he would pick Condi Rice – widely vilified as a miserable SecState by Republicans of all stripes – as his VP.

Mitch Daniels, by all accounts, was a very good governor of Indiana. By all those same accounts, he is very bad at understanding what it takes to build a coalition that could win a national election. In another candidate, this shortcoming would not necessarily be fatal. But let us face facts: Mitch Daniels is short, bald, and boring, and he is running against the Central Casting President…

Mitch Daniels has shown, again and again, that he has no understanding of how to build such [a political]  army. Thankfully for the GOP, the people he is now busy alienating at every opportunity will be able to prevent him from having the opportunity to lose in a landslide to Obama.


by @ 1:18 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels

Poll Watch:Suffock University National vs. Obama Poll

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center released a national poll yesterday of the current crop of 2012 GOP hopefuls. The horse race numbers were published on Race4. The vs. Obama numbers were not. Here they are:


Obama Hopeful Margin vs. Obama Margin vs. Generic
Romney 46 43 -3 6
Gingrich 52 38 -14 -5
Pawlenty 47 31 -16 -7
Daniels 48 30 -18 -9
Bachmann 50 30 -20 -11
Generic Republican 46 37 -9 0

Clearly this poll shows that Mitt Romney is the current frontrunner. He is the only hopeful that actually does better against Obama than a generic Republican.

It will be interesting to watch these numbers evolve over the next few weeks as the withdrawals of both Huckabee and Trump filter through the consciences of the voters.

Obama Hopeful Margin vs. Obama Margin vs. Generic
Romney 46 43 -3 6
Gingrich 52 38 -14 -5
Pawlenty 47 31 -16 -7
Daniels 48 30 -18 -9
Bachman 50 30 -20 -11
Generic 46 37 -9 0

May 18, 2011

Will They or Won’t They? Would-be Candidate Round-up

Lots of rumors and coyness on the part of would-be candidates seem to be floating around the political world today. First, Red State’s Erick Erickson continues to stand by the intelligence he gathered earlier this week that suggested a Daniels run was in the works:

In the next couple of weeks Mitch Daniels will announce he is running for President. I know, he is denying he has made up his mind. On Monday night I put on twitter that my sources are telling me a decision has been made. The next day, Daniels denied that.

But three people who know Daniels well are telling me his mind is made up and his wife is at peace with the decision. They could be reading tea leaves, but they tell me their certainty goes beyond that.

Erickson also dismissed the rumors of a run by Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

Rick Perry is not running for the Presidency.

There is a lot of buzz about what Perry has recently said, but he is not running. His key people are helping Newt. Behind the scenes, many have been pestering him, but he has been swatting them away.

Rick Perry is not running for President of the United States. The buzz is related to the continuing disappointment of many conservatives about the current crop of candidates and the wishful thinking of many.

But he’s not running.

Erickson does suggest that Perry could be talked into running should conservative angst about the field remain high as we head into primary season. I tend to believe that a Perry candidacy would be a high-risk, high-reward proposition. On one hand, Perry is, on paper, a candidate who could appeal to Southerners, evangelicals, and conservatives who want their slab of meat rare, but who also has the policy chops and a decade of governance to appeal to swing voters. But the flip side of that is that Perry has the potential to remind swing voters of George W. Bush, all while being dismissed by a RINO by the base for all the heterodoxies that likely lie in a decade of governance. Personally, I’m sticking with the boring CPA from Indiana.

But that’s not all. It also appears that the vacuum for a socially moderate national security hawk may finally be filled as well:

Rep. Peter King, whose national profile has climbed as head of the U.S. House Homeland Security panel, is leaving the door open for a possible presidential bid.

The New York congressman, responding to a powerful hometown Republican’s suggestion that he run for president, said he was taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Let’s see what happens,” King told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This is something out of the blue. It is a great honor, but right now I am focused on getting re-elected to the House next year.”

The fact that King is leaning towards a run probably means that Giuliani has privately ruled one out.

by @ 6:11 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani

May 17, 2011

The Importance of the Ames Straw Poll

With Mike Huckabee out of the race, the field for the GOP is almost set. While we wait for the last few contenders to jump in or stay out, the focus will now shift to the first big test of the Republican race; the annual Ames Straw Poll. A little over 3 months away, Ames is always an important event; it caused at least 4 candidates to drop out in 1999 and solidified George W. Bush as the heavy favorite for the nomination (ironically though, he beat Steve Forbes by less than Romney beat Huckabee, but I digress). In 1995, it showed Bob Dole’s weakness when he exactly tied Phil Gramm, and in 2007, Ames signaled the rise of Mike Huckabee and would catapult him to a victory in Iowa. So, with history in mind, looking forward to the 2011 Straw Poll, there are a few key indicators that’ll come out of Ames.

1.)    How much of a front-runner is Mitt Romney: Right now, Romney is the front-runner for the nomination; his very impressive money bomb from yesterday was testament to that. Ames will be a test of both Romney’s front-runner status, as well as give us an insight into what kind of effort Romney is going to put into Iowa. Ames will be a double-edged sword for Romney; on the one hand, Romney’s front-runner status will raise certain expectations for him. On the other hand, Romney’s win last time in Ames is not played up nearly as much as his eventual loss. Finally, a big win by Romney could do for him what it did for George W. Bush; make him the undisputed front-runner.

2.)    The other members of the Fairfax Four: This will be a big test for Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitch Daniels, especially Pawlenty and Daniels. As Midwesterner Governors, both Pawlenty and Daniels should be able to appeal to Iowans better than say, Huntsman and Romney. Both Governors need to do reasonably well, at least ending in the top five, if they don’t want to be crucified by the media for failing to meet expectations. A strong showing by either or both should propel them closer to front-runner Romney. Even more than that, this will be one of the first chances the nation at large will get to see them. It is very, very hard to change a first impression, and a flub would wound the candidate who did poorly. Out of the Fairfax Four, Ambassador Jon Huntsman has the least to lose in Iowa, since he is not expected to do well in the Hawkeye State anyways, so clever playing of the expectations game could really help the Ambassador.

3.)    What about the So-Cons: Perhaps the most asked question following Mike Huckabee’s withdrawal from the race is: who gets the so-con vote? Ames will be a great way of taking the temperature of Iowa’s restless so-cons. The second-tier candidates, including Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann all have strong appeal to the social conservative wing of the GOP. If one of them breaks through, they might repeat the success of Mike Huckabee. Further, if one of these candidates breaks through and becomes the so-con candidate, they’ll squeeze out some of the second-tier candidates and narrow the field.

4.)    Who withdraws after Ames: The last two Ames events have helped weed out some of the weaker candidates. Tommy Thompson (hopefully Wisconsin’s next Senator) was out after Ames, and Sam Brownback didn’t last much longer either. In 2000, four major candidates: Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle, Elizabeth Dole and Pat Buchanan fell by the wayside after Ames. I do not doubt that at least one candidate will be out after Ames this time too. My own prediction is Gingrich (if he’s still in the race) and maybe Santorum.

 As you can see, we have a lot of questions surrounding the Ames Straw Poll. One question though should already be answered: is Ames important? Given history, I’d say the obvious answer is a definite yes. Stay tuned for August 13th, no matter the results, it’ll be a very interesting show.

May 16, 2011

Daniels In?

Red State Editor Erick Erickson is hearing that Gov. Mitch Daniels will take the plunge into the presidential field.

As Matt Drudge would say, I’m certain this story is developing hard. For Erickson to put his reputation on the line like this makes me suspect that the scoop is in fact valid.

If Daniels is in, that almost certainly means Ryan and Christie are out, and that the search for an establishment candidate will come to an end (i.e., no late entries by Jeb Bush or Rick Perry). It also means that the doors to the field will slam shut, with only Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin still able to slip in at will.

by @ 7:27 pm. Filed under Mitch Daniels

SNL: Republican Ad

Since this video automatically starts, click below to view it.


May 15, 2011

What a Huck-less Race Means

Huckabee has (quite gracefully) bowed out of the Republican primary race – so where does that leave things moving forward? What does a Huck-less race mean for the rest of our competitors?

To start with, I think it more or less guarantees that our nominee will be one of the Fantastic Four: Romney, Daniels, Pawlenty, or Huntsman. In fact, the Intrade investors are currently giving that notion a 70% chance of becoming reality. There’s a huge dropoff after Daniels, at 11 points, and the second tier candidates who clock in around 5 points. So these four are where the action is going to be.

Secondly, I think it means Romney will have a more difficult time nabbing the nomination. With Huck in the race, Romney was never expected to win or do well in Iowa or South Carolina. His eyes were set on NH, NV, and FL as his must-win states. Plus, Mitt was able to write off some disappointing numbers in the south by pointing to Huck’s favorite son status there. Now, with no Huck (and no southern governor at all outside of Roemer!), Mitt will be expected to improve in his weakest region. Finally, with Huck in the race the anti-Mitt vote was splintered between other technocrats and Huckabee. With no first-tier social conservative in the race any longer, the anti-Mitt vote is more likely to coalesce around one of the other technocrats (such as Pawlenty, most likely, who has the ability to gain traction in the evangelical community). Mitt will need to adjust his strategy accordingly if he hopes to win this thing now.

Thirdly, as alluded to above, there is a huge gaping hole in the GOP field right now for a first-tier social conservative candidate. This is not to say Romney, Huntsman, Pawlenty, and Daniels are not social conservatives, just that their primary identity is not seen as members of the evangelical voting base. This means a candidate like Cain or Bachmann or Santorum, who would have been relegated to second or third tier status had Huck stayed in the race, now have a large opening to become a major player in this race. Huck’s exit might even pump some life into Gingrich’s flailing young campaign.

Fourth, dovetailing with that point, is that this would be the best possible outcome for Mitt at this juncture. A Cain or a Bachmann still do not have a realistic path to the nomination, but they might have a realistic path to victory in the Iowa caucuses. If a candidate like Cain, Bachmann, or Santorum win Iowa, Romney will still be able to secure the nomination. If, however, the social conservative vote goes to Pawlenty, Daniels, or Huntsman and they end up winning Iowa, they could very well end up winning the nomination. At this point, Mitt has got to be hoping Bachmann throws her hat in the ring, because from my perspective she represents the most viable second tier candidate with a chance of winning Iowa.

And finally, here’s what I expect to see in the polls over the next few months: Romney will initially benefit the most from Huckabee’s exit and many polls will show him with leads in most of the early states. However, that lead will fade (and perhaps eventually disappear) as the name ID of the other three Fantastic Four (Fab Four?) rise. So my advice to Romney supporters is this: don’t get excited about leads in these earliest post-Huck polls that will be released soon. In a couple months, we’ll be looking at a whole new ball game as voters acquaint themselves with the choices for the anti-Romney candidate.

Those are the five major impacts I see caused by Huck dropping out of this race. Any other prognosticators out there want to put their predictions down on record?

May 14, 2011

Huckabee and the Fairfax Four

If indeed Huckabee announces that he won’t be running for President (and I’m still not convinced) we may soon be able to test the elite thesis that only one of the “serious” candidates (Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels, and Huntsman) can possibly win the nomination.  Here’s why.  A month ago, Nate Silver wrote a much cited article dividing the Republican field into the Fairfax Five and the Factional Five.  The Fairfax Five was the four “serious” candidates I mentioned above + Barbour (who is not running).  The Factional Five were Palin, Bachmann, Trump, Gingrich, and Paul.  He noted, at the time, that the Factional Five were polling better than the Fairfax Five.  At that time, the Factional Five were netting 44% of the primary vote, on average, while the Fairfax Five were netting 22% of the vote.  The state of affairs today, without Barbour, is scarcely any better for the “serious” candidates.  In RCP’s poll average, the Factional Five clock in at 42.8% while the Fairfax Four are at around 24.2 (Huntsman doesn’t register so I’m putting him at 1%).

The curious ingredient in the primary, as Nate Silver noted, was Mike Huckabee.  Despised by the practical Republican elites and the conservative opinionmakers alike, Huckabee fit neatly in neither group.  So what happens if Huckabee’s not running?  Those of us inclined to favor the Fairfax Four have been entirely too blithe about our chances and strangely dismissive of a group of candidates who seem to command the loyalities of a plurality of Republican voters.  Still, with Huckabee in the race or maybe in the race or sort of in the race, we had good reasons for hope.  The Fairfax Four, while polling pretty anemically, are likely to have better organizations and more money.  The Fairfax Four are also, to a very great degree, interchangeable.  Even if there’s a plurality or even a majority of the party that pines for a non-traditional nominee, there seems to be no great consensus on what that nominee should like ideologically.  If Pawlenty and Daniels start to fade, it is a fair better than all or nearly all of their support will migrate towards either Huntsman or Romney (likely whichever one is in front).  It seems far less likely that one of Paul’s supporters might look at the state of the race in November ’11, note that Paul doesn’t seem to be able to get above 8 or 9%, and strategically vote for another Factional Candidate.  In other words, to a certain extent, the Factional Five belong to different factions.

Huckabee’s exit (or potential exit) complicates things considerably.  Because while it’s true that the Factional Five are not as ideologically and temperamentally homogenuous as the Fairfax Four, they nonetheless have some overlap.  Palin collapsed and Trump sprung up to supplant her.  Trump is collapsing and, suddenly, Gingrich is in double digits again, while a potentially new Factional member- Herman Cain- has received considerable buzz which may soon show up in polls.  We’re in a game of whack of mole.  And this means Huckabee matters.  This means that in a head-to-head matchup between a Fairfax candidate and a Factional candidate, much will depend on the Huckabee supporters.  Are they mostly casual Republicans who know Huckabee as the funny guy with the TV show (more likely to tilt towards the Fairfax candidates when given a choice) or are they largely evangelical, blue-collar conservatives (more likely to tilt towards the Factional candidates)?   Or are they some combination thereof?  Elite opinion insists that the sensible Republican party would never, ever, nominate one of the Factional candidates- but so far, elite opinion is not borne out by the numbers.  The Factional Five are doing very, very well.  When one of their number falters, another seems to fill the void.  At some point there will be a Factional primary and a Fairfax primary, with most of the supporters of both camps gravitating towards the strongest of their number.  If the Fairfax Four pick someone ill-situated to court the Huckabee supporters- if Bachmann is more appealing to the average Huckabee supporter than Daniels or Romney or Huntsman or Pawlenty- elite opinion will have proven itself to be disastrously wrong.

May 13, 2011

Lowry: Romney the New McCain

Rich Lowry sees some similarities between the two men:

How could Romney still win? The same implausible, by-the-skin-of-his-teeth way John McCain did in 2008. His situation is comparable to McCain’s in some crucial respects: a weak next-in-line candidate who got caught out on a position that had some conservative support but became a big loser as the party shifted right on it (the individual mandate in Romney’s case, immigration in McCain’s). After blowing up his primary campaign, McCain basically cried uncle and slowly recovered. Romney, in contrast, has now foolishly cast defending his Massachusetts mandate as a matter of personal integrity–making eventual retreat much harder. Nonetheless, Romney could still prevail if none of the other candidates attain critical mass and everything breaks exactly right for him. It’s not a comfortable path to the nomination by any means and it looks harder after his speech this week than before, but it’s not an impossibility.

It has long been my belief that the reason the next-in-line candidate often seems to garner the nomination is due to the “Regular Republicans,” that is, folks that don’t read political blogs, don’t listen to talk radio or even watch much cable news, but who self-identify as Republican and who faithfully vote Republican during every election cycle. Most of these Regular Republicans are probably middle class Americans who aren’t very political, and who simply want a government that keeps their taxes low, makes the trains run on time, doesn’t prevent them from lighting up when they go to the neighborhood bar, and keeps criminals off the streets so that they don’t get mugged on the way home. All things being equal, it’s been the Republican Party, and not the Democratic Party, that’s been the party of those sorts of “average Joe” concerns over the last few decades.

The Regular Republicans voted for such firebrands as Nixon, Dole, and McCain. It’s likely that they will be a stealth yet significant force in the coming Republican primaries as well. But will they go to Romney? That’s the million dollar question. The Regular Republicans made a last minute jump to McCain last time, as Romney and Huck tore each other apart, and as Giuliani seemed to get lost somewhere in Florida, leaving McCain as the last seemingly normal Republican candidate for president still looking and sounding, well, normal. Their mass was far greater than the conservative mainstream of the party, largely because the conservative meat in the middle of the party was divided between Romney and Huckabee.

But this time around, candidates like Daniels, Pawlenty, and perhaps even Huntsman will have at least as much of an appeal to the Regular Republicans as Romney, and if the conservative punditocracy is any indication, these candidates will best Romney amongst mainstream conservative voters. So even if the Regular Republicans don’t really care about this whole RomneyCare debate (that’s what Lowry is implying, I think), it’s not as if they’ll only have one candidate to get behind as they did in 2008. It seems the only way Romney wins is if he pulls a McCain, and consolidates the Regular Republicans while T-Paw and Mitch fight over the conservative middle of the party. That doesn’t seem likely, but it is possible I suppose. I should note that Lowry was one of the few pundits who saw McCain’s comeback on the horizon in late 2007.

by @ 10:34 pm. Filed under Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty

The Ticket?

After last night’s Indiana GOP dinner, Daniels gave a frank answer to his student supporters:

Daniels accepted an invitation from those 55 students to meet at a spacious bar several blocks away after the event; he sipped Woodford Reserve bourbon as he asked them about their own lives and families. In return, they asked him who he might like to tap as his vice presidential nominee if he runs.

Hypothetically, he told them, he’d like to pick Condoleezza Rice.


by @ 10:54 am. Filed under Mitch Daniels

GOP Big Money Going to Romney, Pawlenty, and Huntsman

Bob Perry is a GOP fund raising machine and one of the biggest donors of recent history. In 2010, he gave more money than any other GOP donor to groups like American Crossroads – outside groups instrumental to the GOP midterm victories. In 2004, he was the top dollar donor to the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. In 2008, he supported Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries.

And now, he has thrown his considerable fiscal resources behind Tim Pawlenty.

The Wall Street Journal goes on to note that the top GOP fund raisers, known as bundlers, are essentially lining up behind three competitors at the moment — Romney, Pawlenty, and Huntsman.

This helps explain why Pawlenty, even with a disappointing debate performance and low (but slowly improving) poll numbers is considered a first-tier contender. It also gives some insight into why investors are so bullish on Huntsman’s chances at the moment. And finally, it illustrates the troubled frontrunner status Romney currently enjoys.

When you add this to the rumors that Daniels has inherited the Bush empire’s big money network, it’s quite easy to see a top tier of candidates consisting of Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Daniels – with everyone else relegated to sideshow or distraction status.

We’ll see when the Q2 numbers are released in the beginning of July where the money actually went, but for now it seems the field is beginning to clear and crystallize around these four serious candidates.

by @ 8:51 am. Filed under Fundraising, Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty

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