November 19, 2011

Ron Paul’s Opportunity

A confluence of events has the potential to deliver Ron Paul a surprise victory in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses:

Evangelical powerbrokers hosted a secret meeting in Iowa for conservative religious leaders last week to take a second look at some of the candidates who might be a viable alternative to Mitt Romney, Business Insider has learned from sources with knowledge of the event.

According to a source, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul all spoke at the event, which brought together some of Iowa’s most influential evangelical pastors. Organized by the powerful Christian activist David Lane, the two-day conference was a feeble attempt to recapture some of the evangelical energy behind Mike Huckabee’s Iowa caucus win in 2008.

…But a source at the conference told Business Insider that the meetings only confirmed that “evangelicals have lost their cohesion — they don’t trust their leaders.”

With evangelical support split between his lower-tier rivals, however, just a small portion of the Christian vote could be all Paul needs to break his ceiling and become a real contender in the 2012 race.

As an Iowa resident, I can attest to how hard Paul has played in the state, with radio ads blanketing the airwaves and rather large-scale TV ad buys. He has also made active attempts to attract 2008 Mike Huckabee supporters by emphasizing his pro-life and other culturally conservative positions.

When you couple this with the fluid and fractured state of the race, it becomes entirely conceivable that Paul’s well-developed campaign organization and ardent supporters (the latter unmatched by any other candidate) could propel him to a narrow victory in Iowa. That would make things even MORE interesting in this nominating process, which has already confounded a great deal of conventional political wisdom.

November 15, 2011

Young Voters’ Discontent Creates Opportunity for GOP

Yesterday, our favorite publication, the New York Times, released a fascinating article that detailed the disillusionment and disenchantment with President Obama that has overcome young voters since 2008:

Across this state [Nevada] — and in others where young voters were the fuel of the Obama organization, voting for him two to one over John McCain — the enthusiastic engine of the 2008 campaign has run up against the reality of a deadened job market for college students.

Interviews here and across the country suggest that most of his college supporters of 2008 are still inclined to vote for him. But the Obama ground army of 2008 is hardly ready to jump back into the trenches, potentially depriving Mr. Obama of what had been an important force in his victory.

…Mark Triola, who was president of Young Democrats of Nevada in 2008, said at the time, the Democratic organization at U.N.L.V. was about three times as big as the Republican organization. By last year, he said, they were about equal, a trend that students there say has not changed this year.

…Jolie Glaser, a gung-ho supporter of Mr. Obama in 2008 when she attended college at Stanford University, has taken to doing volunteer work for a children’s cancer foundation as she looks for a job in the nonprofit sector. Her enthusiasm for the president has dampened.

“It’s hard to be a passionate follower of him,” she said. “It’s easier to be a thoughtful supporter.”

Sarah Farr, 20, a communications student, could devote endless energy to helping Mr. Obama as a student here four years ago. But now, with graduation approaching in 2013, she said that was the last thing she and her friends who also worked for him were contemplating.

“I don’t have as much enthusiasm this time as I did last time,” Ms. Farr said. “Everybody is just focused on themselves and trying to get through school.”

“I’m scared that the major I’m getting won’t be helpful in the future,” she said. “That terrifies me. I’m terrified that by the time I graduate, there won’t be jobs. That’s very nerve-racking.”

And even those who remain strongly supportive of Mr. Obama here say they see little chance of his winning this state.

Any Republican with an asserted desire to expand the party’s demographic appeal and fold young Americans back into the tent must heed those words. As many political scientists and pundits have argued, voters who adopt a party early typically remain in its corner throughout their lives. I can’t speak to his accuracy, but I’ve heard David Frum claim that it typically takes two presidential elections to solidify voting behavior. If he has correct information, the 2012 election could represent a point of no return for the Republican Party – a monumental inflection point in American political behavior, if I may be so bold. In the last election, young voters went two-for-one for President Obama. Strike one for us. Now, as the NYT article above suggests, these voters may have become up for grabs. If we lose them again in 2012 we may lose them for good.

If I haven’t already made it clear, I’ll just come right out and say it: Republicans ignore this dynamic at their own peril. We either devote ample thought and consideration to what kind of candidate and messaging will bring young Americans over to our side, or we place ourselves at the mercy of demographic trends.

With that in mind, which candidates have the greatest potential appeal to young voters? Research has shown that age has an inverse correlation with a voter’s independent streak. As the NYT article clearly illustrates, young Americans far and away care about the economy and jobs more than the other issues. Therefore, it stands to reason that a candidate with a forward-looking agenda focused on economic growth, income mobility, and expanded opportunity – not a campaign based simply on ideological warfare against those dastardly liberals and squishy moderates – would enjoy the greatest chance of success. Now, the question becomes, who fits those descriptions? I have my thoughts on this matter, but I’d love to hear yours.

November 10, 2011

The Anti-Romney Vote Begins to Coalesce?

The race for the Republican nomination has seen more ups, downs, and overall unpredictability than Rick Perry’s debate performances (okay, sorry to all the Perry backers, but I couldn’t resist). However, one things has remained constant: the prediction that the anti-Romney faction of the party will eventually rally around a candidate and propel him/her to victory.

So far, this has failed to sustainably materialize, for various reasons. However, The Hill reports that it may finally have begun:

A coalition of conservatives is working to organize the disparate groups opposing Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee.

…The group’s website,, launched this week. [Spokesman Ali] Akbar said that although the group is open to becoming a political action committee in the future, right now it is focused on becoming an online gathering place for the anti-Romney movement.

…Akbar hopes the effort will help provide a framework to gather leaders behind the conservative candidate who will eventually become the movement’s preferred option to Romney.

“We’re treading water until this viable candidate presents him- or herself,” Akbar said, suggesting it will happen sometime after Florida’s primary on Jan. 31.

…Erickson is not a part of the anti-Romney coalition, but it has gathered prominent right-wing bloggers such as John Hawkins and Atlas Shrugs’s Pamela Geller, as well as activists working against Romney with opposition campaigns in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

The NotMittRomney coalition is focusing on Iowa first, and eventually Florida. The group is fundraising quietly but has not yet met the required limit to file as a political action committee with the Federal Election Commission. “This is about building a coalition first,” said Akbar.

The goal of the coalition is not to draw together various anti-Romney efforts under one umbrella but to help them communicate. Grassroots and online organizations proved to be effective in gathering force behind the Tea Party movement in 2009, and the coalition intends to take advantage of tools such as social media, according to Akbar.

This certainly looks like something we should monitor in the coming weeks; after all, less than two months exist until the Iowa Caucuses, so anti-Romney Republicans have little time to spare. The uncertainty regarding Herman Cain’s future, the numerous questions surrounding Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry’s verbal miscues, Michele Bachmann’s recent irrelevance, and the inability of any other candidate to break into the top tier leave plenty of variables in the equation.

However, for the very vocal segment of the GOP that remains steadfastly skeptical or downright hostile toward Mitt, their hopes of (in their mind) saving the party – and the country – from him may very well depend on a large-scale organizing effort like this one.

Stay tuned.

November 6, 2011

House GOP to Advance Balanced Budget Amendment

Politico reports that House Republicans have made it a priority to advance a balanced budget amendment, with a couple variations possible:

There are two options, which the House Republican Conference is mulling Friday morning in a closed meeting. One balanced budget amendment would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, while requiring a two-thirds supermajority for raising taxes. The other is a so-called “clean” balance budget measure, without any super majority limitations for tax increases.

“We’ve been involved in good faith negotiations and discussions with Democrat colleagues and I’m just convinced this is the right policy moving forward,” [Mike] Pence told POLITICO.

Of course, the subtext is that House Democrats have signaled that they wouldn’t help Republicans get to 290 — the number of votes needed to meet the threshold to amend the Constitution.

Pushing this legislation would certainly lend credence to the tough rhetoric Republicans have taken on the deficit since President Obama took office. After all, Democrats frequently allege that while Republicans like to talk tough on the deficit, when they get in power they don’t really do much. A BBA would help counter these claims.

Of course, they’ll face a steeply uphill battle with attracting support. Democrats will not want to place any more pressure to cut spending on themselves, and on the other side of the coin, many Republicans will recognize that a BBA may compel them to vote for tax increases. Still, if the party genuinely believes in balanced budgets, this is a battle worth having.

November 5, 2011

What Makes a Great President?

John Sides, of Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight, penned a fascinating article this week. In it, he describes a recent academic paper examining how recent presidents’ backgrounds influenced their performances in office:

A new paper by political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Arthur Simon provides an answer. Knowing that previous studies such as this one haven’t provided much evidence that experience matters, they improve on these studies in several ways. For one, they focus on “modern” presidents, a category that begins with William McKinley (although similar results would emerge if the analysis had begun with Woodrow Wilson or FDR). This is because the modern presidency is a much different job that the presidency of the 1700s and much of 1800s. Messrs. Uscinski and Simon also expand the measurement of presidential greatness to include not just overall ratings but ratings on specific dimensions from the 2009 C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership. Finally, they develop more precise measures of experience. So rather than simply note whether a president served in the military (most presidents did), they count the numbers of years each president served in both wartime and peacetime.

Perhaps the most consistent predictor of presidential greatness, Messrs. Uscinski and Simon found, is military service. Serving on active duty during both wartime and peacetime, as well as the number of years of service, is associated with higher scores in many domains, including crisis leadership, international relations, and economic management.

Service in the federal government, either the executive or legislature branch, has few apparent effects. It typically matters only in narrower domains. So previous service as a federal administrator is associated, unsurprisingly, with perceived skill as an administrator. And previous service in Congress is associated with higher ratings in terms of relations with Congress.

That said, being an “outsider” is also not typically helpful. Years in public office at various levels (federal, state, local) is not significantly associated with most dimensions of greatness, but when it is, the relationships are almost always positive: experience helps. Moreover, outsiders — those with no federal experience — earn lower ratings on three dimensions.

What about those governors? As it turns out, being a governor does help, but only if you’re a governor of a large state (defined here as states with a larger number of Electoral College votes than the average state). Modern presidents who have served as governor of large states are evaluated more positively on several dimensions, including relations with Congress, public persuasion, moral authority, and a few others.

When reading this kind of analysis, one naturally connects it to the upcoming election. As the researchers argue, military service has a positive correlation (along with years of service) with presidential performance. Of the current Republican candidates, only Ron Paul and Rick Perry served in the armed forces – two years in the Air Force and three in the Air National Guard for Paul and five years in the Air Force for Perry.

Romney, Perry, and Huntsman can lay claim to the administrator skill, with their experience as governors (although, we should note, Romney’s and Perry’s should carry more weight, as they came from more populous states). If you go simply by their resumes, Gingrich, Paul, Santorum, and Bachmann would have better relations with Congress. However, Paul’s and Bachmann’s less-than-impressive histories of spearheading legislation through the parliamentary process create a definite cause for concern.

This paper certainly appears least charitable toward Herman Cain, as he obviously lacks experience as a federal administrator (unless you want to count his chairmanship of the Kansas City Fed) or legislator, and Mr. Sides specifically states that “outsiders” fared poorest in the analysis.

Regardless of the implications for individual candidates in this race, every time we near a presidential election, countless debates rage about qualifications for the office and what makes an effective commander-in-chief. The academic paper cited by Mr. Sides has made a typically murky and subjective field just a little bit clearer.

  10:58 pm 2012 Misc., Presidential History, R4'12 Essential Reads  

October 29, 2011

Obama’s Emerging Campaign Strategy: Us Vs. Them

The Financial Times recently published an interesting article that provided some detail on the overarching theme President Obama’s re-election campaign has begun to adopt:

With the US economy suffering through its deepest slump since the Great Depression, the Obama administration has designed a political strategy to match, with echoes of the campaign rhetoric deployed by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s.

…The White House strategy will make the 2012 election a generational test of the Republican push of the past three decades for cutting taxes, in ways their critics say have been constantly skewed towards the highest earners.

…“In normal circumstances, this pitch might be suicidal. But these are not normal circumstances,” said William Galston of the Brookings Institute.

Mr Galston has been reading the speeches of Franklin Roosevelt’s winning campaign for the 1936 presidential election and finds striking comparisons to the emerging line from Mr Obama.

“Roosevelt wasn’t just saying: ‘I am fighting for you.’ It was: ‘I am fighting against them,’” he said.

…Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in the Republican race to challenge Barack Obama in 2012, has taken to saying that he is standing up for the “middle class” because the rich “can look after themselves”.

For the White House, this is just the terrain that it wants to fight on. “The Republicans want to give the average millionaire a $200,000 tax cut, while the middle class is struggling,” said the White House official.

This certainly should not come as a surprise. With very little positive to show on the domestic front, President Obama’s re-election pitch will essentially boil down to leveraging his still highly positive personal favorability numbers and foreign policy accomplishments to argue that while things haven’t improved much since he took office, they would vastly deteriorate if Republicans had their way.

The looming class warfare from Team Obama has to worry Mitt Romney. Of all the Republicans, the “us vs. them” sentiment would prove most salient against Romney. And while this may infuriate right-of-center individuals, we mustn’t underestimate the effectiveness of soak-the-rich rhetoric; after all, poll after poll has shown that when it comes to reducing the deficit, most Americans would prefer spending cuts (not, however, to their precious entitlements or other programs that directly benefit them) to broad tax increases, but they would prefer even more to hike taxes on upper income earners.

With this in mind, it becomes easy to imagine a campaign platform revolving around ensuring the solvency of entitlements and reducing the deficit by increasing taxes on the wealthy, while maintaining the current rates or even lowering them on middle- and upper-income earners and selectively using American military force to achieve high-priority foreign policy goals, while also ostensibly reducing overseas obligations (read: bringing troops home from Iraq) winning over many of the low-information independents who cast their votes on the basis of subjective opinions of candidates formed from soundbites, stump speeches, and headline-driven news stories.

Contrary to what many Republicans may think, the 2012 election will prove to be far from a walk in the park that any candidate can win. President Obama and his fellow Democrats appear committed to, at the very least, make things excruciatingly difficult for Republican candidates.

  1:56 pm 2012 Misc., Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, R4'12 Essential Reads  

October 14, 2011

Huntsman Campaign Deep in the Red

CNN reports that the Jon Huntsman campaign has exhausted its initial fundraising blitz and fallen deep into debt:

Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign is verging on broke after burning through more than $4 million since the former Utah governor entered the race for the Republican nomination in June.

The Huntsman campaign, which re-trenched last month by laying off staff and moving its national quarters to the must-win primary state of New Hampshire, finished the third fundraising quarter in September with just $327,000 in the bank and $890,000 in debt.

Since joining the race on June 21, Huntsman raised $2.26 million and contributed $2.25 million of his own money to the campaign for a total $4.51 million.

But a campaign official told CNN Friday that they have spent $4.18 million, leaving Huntsman with a paltry war chest as the GOP nomination fights heats up.

However, the campaign still professes reason for hope:

After a rocky summer that saw the departures of a handful of senior campaign advisers, the operation has slimmed down and reduced spending by half since June.

And after an uptick in the polls in New Hampshire –Huntsman’s beachhead in the GOP race– the campaign says they have seen a 240% increase in fundraising since late September.

…Huntsman backers are hoping that television ads will help boost the campaign’s profile both nationally and in the Granite State, the underwhelming fundraising numbers suggest the campaign far from prepared to buy any airtime.

That leaves the task of going on television to “Our Destiny PAC,” a SuperPAC formed by Huntsman supporters to raise and spend unlimited funds on behalf of the candidate.

This looks like do-or-die time for Gov. Huntsman. With his ardent refusals to pony up any more of his personal wealth for his presidential bid, he’ll quite simply have to build on his momentum or close up shop. And while he has recently trended upward in New Hampshire polls, he has three monumental hurdles to overcome: 1. He still has middling personal favorability numbers among Republican voters, 2. Ideologically, he seems fundamentally out-of-step with the current mood of the Republican base, and 3. His tenure as Ambassador to China will – however unfairly – forever saddle him with the Scarlet “O”.

October 12, 2011

Obama Administration Wrestles With Suspected Iranian Assassination Plot

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled Republican nomination discussions to bring you the following:

The Obama administration on Wednesday sought to reconcile what it said was solid evidence of an Iranian plot to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States with a wave of skepticism from some foreign leaders and outside experts.

Senior American officials themselves were struggling to explain why the Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, would orchestrate such a risky attack in so amateurish a manner.

…American officials offered no specific evidence linking the plot to Iran’s most senior leaders. But they said it was inconceivable in Iran’s hierarchy that the leader of the shadowy Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, was not directly involved, and that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not aware of such a plan.

Iran’s leaders marshaled a furious formal rejection Wednesday of the American accusations, calling the case a cynical fabrication meant to vilify Iran and distract Americans from their severe economic problems. A senior member of Iran’s Parliament, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said he had “no doubt this is a new American-Zionist plot to divert the public opinion from the crisis Obama is grappling with.”

If the intelligence regarding this plot proves true, one has to question the rationality and downright sanity of the Iranian government. Why chance drawing international ire and a backlash of retaliation to achieve a goal rooted solely in vengeance and anger?

The Obama administration finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place on this matter. If they begin saber-rattling too loudly, they risk violating the image they have attempted to create around the world – of a group of calm, cool, collected statesmen who understand and take into account the viewpoints and circumstances of all parties. They also expose themselves to the negative ramifications of the intelligence having little or no basis in fact. Conversely, if they take an overly cautious route, they may come off as aloof, inept, and weak. As such, expect to see the President and his officials attempt to straddle the fence on this as long as possible.

  9:19 pm Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, R4'12 Essential Reads  

Lingle to Run for Senate

Republicans received good news yesterday when Linda Lingle, the former Governor of Hawaii, decided to launch a Senate bid:

Republicans have landed their top recruit in the open Hawaii Senate race, with former governor Linda Lingle entering the race and giving the GOP a chance to win in a heavily Democratic state.

…Lingle, a two-term governor who left office after the 2010 election, immediately becomes the frontrunner for the GOP nomination by virtue of her fundraising ability and political experience.

However, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves; after all, we’re talking about Hawaii, and Lingle certainly has her share of blemishes:

But she left office with so-so personal approval numbers and appears to enter the race with some work to do in repairing her political brand. Complicating matters is the fact that, for the first time, she will be on the statewide ballot with President Obama, whose roots in the state should make things more difficult for any Republican downballot next year. Obama took 72 percent of the vote in Hawaii in 2008.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Mazie Hirono has secured much of the establishment support, but former congressman Ed Case stands between her and the general election.

…A Hawaii Poll released in May showed Hirono leading Lingle by 22 points, while Case led by 18.

Case’s campaign released a more recent poll that showed him leading Lingle by 10 points, while Hirono trailed her by five. The poll earned Case an unusual rebuke from the national Democratic Party, which doubted its results.

As the article makes clear, Lingle faces an uphill battle. Still, it obviously benefits the GOP to have its strongest possible candidate in the race.

  6:44 am 2012 Misc., R4'12 Essential Reads, Republican Party  

September 28, 2011

Rubio’s VP Edge

Today, the Financial Times published an article delving into the near-unanimous Republican opinion that Marco Rubio deserves the utmost consideration as the eventual nominee’s running mate:

But the party’s leaders and grass roots collectively swoon over the person they believe makes the ideal choice for vice-president, a Florida senator who has been on the national stage for barely a year.

…Since landing in Washington, Mr Rubio has been meticulous in building his brand, initially eschewing the national stage to entrench his state credentials, before stepping out with a series of speeches, focusing largely on foreign policy.

At 40 years old, the son of Cuban exiles is also at work cementing his narrative in his own words, with an announcement on Monday that a memoir is in the works.

The article also provides more background on some of Rubio’s policy positions, for those who have interest. As the author, Richard McGregor, explains, Rubio has made it a priority to distinguish himself on foreign policy, which both enhances and detracts from his viability as a VP nominee.

First, as many have discussed, the widely cited crop of Veep possibilities generally lack foreign policy experience. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, a governor will become the Republican nominee, and as we know, governors do not often have expertise on the issue (with the obvious exception of Jon Huntsman, who clearly has a long way to go to become a front-line contender). Therefore, Rubio offers the benefit of closing this perception gap more than arguably any other top-tier option.

However, the downside revolves around ideology: Rubio has become one of the, if not the most, hawkish voices on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress. With the sentiment in the GOP base taking a turn toward realism and away from neoconservatism since President Obama took office, this could create some headaches for the Republican presidential nominee.

As we saw in 2008, friction can arise both on- and backstage when the individual on the bottom of a presidential ticket disagrees with the headliner’s policy positions and proposals. The current top Republican contenders – Romney, Perry, and Cain – have generally leaned more toward the realist side when addressing foreign policy during this campaign. Again, if one of these individuals (or, for that matter, even other candidates like Huntsman, Christie, Palin, or Bachmann) nabs the nomination, tapping Rubio could create some conflict down the line.

Still, when you consider the Senator’s overall package of charisma, communication skills, personal background, and the ability to utilize big-picture rhetoric and wonky policy specifics to equal effect, Republicans have placed such great faith in Rubio for good reason.

September 27, 2011

Illinois: A Case Study in How NOT to Manage Budgets

A new report from the non-partisan Civic Foundation illustrates yet another example of how not to govern courtesy of my home state of Illinois:

Despite a major income tax increase, the state of Illinois is expected to end the budget year more than $8 billion in the red, according to a report set to be released Monday by a nonpartisan tax watchdog group.

The Civic Federation analysis found that while lawmakers cut spending for state agencies this year, the reductions were offset by higher pension costs and the growing cost of paying back years of increased borrowing to keep Illinois afloat.

…”What we’re seeing is that even after a considerable tax increase and a commitment by the Illinois General Assembly to set expenditures based on revenues, because of the manipulations to under fund Medicaid and the growing debt service and pension contribution costs, the state remains in an unstable and unsustainable fiscal situation,” said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation president.

…Despite the bleak picture, Msall said there was a silver lining this year — lawmakers made the annual pension payment without borrowing money. But Msall said that payment, roughly $4 billion, ate up most of the extra money the January tax increase brought into the state, and the pension systems remain severely underfunded.

So, let’s recap: Illinois elected officials, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, argue in favor of a tax increase as a means to address the state’s mountains of unfunded pension liabilities. The hikes pass, and, lo and behold, while they do generate some additional revenue (aside from making the state even less competitive for businesses), the structural deficit has hardly changed!

If this should sound familiar, that’s because it is. The Illinois government and budget offer plenty of lessons we can apply on a national scale. Indeed, you can substitute “entitlement” for “pension”, “country” for “state”, and “trillion[s] for billion[s]” and have almost the same overall scenario. This provides us with a key insight: that we should look to spending restraint (read: entitlement reform), not tax increases, as the primary means to address our fiscal woes.

As the Land of Lincoln has showed us, you cannot erase red ink without focusing on the true driver of budget gaps. Public pensions act as that for Illinois; for the federal government, entitlements do.

  7:19 pm Economy & Spending, R4'12 Essential Reads  

September 20, 2011

As Hispanics Turn Away from Obama, an Opportunity for the GOP Arises

His his indispensable column The Fix today, Chris Cillizza analyzed President Obama’s declining support among Hispanics:

In recent Gallup polling, his approval rating among Latinos dipped to 48 percent — the lowest mark of his presidency and a significant drop-off from the 60 percent approval among the group he carried as recently as January. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics is now just seven points higher than it is among the general public in Gallup data, a major decline from earlier in his term.

And polling conducted by Resurgent Republic, a conservative-aligned group, shows Obama under-performing his 2008 totals in key swing states with large Hispanic populations.

In Florida, where Obama won 57 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, 48 percent of Hispanics say he deserves a second term. Ditto in New Mexico, where Obama carried Latinos with 69 percent but now sees just 58 percent of that voting bloc willing to say he should be reelected. (Worth noting: In Colorado, Obama’s numbers have held steady among Hispanics.)

However, Cillizza also notes that Republicans cannot simply assume this will lead to gains in their support from Hispanic voters:

Obama allies insist that stories about defections within his base are overblown, noting that although Hispanics may not be happy with everything the president has done (or, more accurately, not done) they will support him when he is matched against his GOP rival, who will almost certainly take positions that are anathema to most Latinos.

Joel Benenson, Obama’s lead pollster, pointed to an August tracking poll from ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions that showed that 72 percent of Hispanic voters said Republicans either “didn’t care” or were “hostile” to the Hispanic community as evidence that Obama’s number is likely to improve once Republicans pick their nominee.

I consider this absolutely key to the next election (not to mention elections down the road); in order to make real headway into the Democratic Party’s considerable advantage among Latinos, Republicans must soften their tone toward them. Now, this need not necessitate amnesty or even comprehensive immigration reform appearing in the next GOP platform; in actuality, it concerns tone.

As the poll cited in the excerpt shows, Hispanics apparently shy away from the GOP not strictly because of policy differences but because of the heated and sometimes angry rhetoric many in the party employ when addressing immigration makes the party seem “hostile” to Latinos.

As history has shown, Republican candidates, even of the presidential variety, need not resign themselves to less than 40% of the Hispanic vote. For all his faults, President Bush did understand the importance of Hispanic outreach, and the results showed. And for some sense of just how far the party has come, take a look at this clip from a 1980 primary debate between Presidents Reagan and Bush 41:
So, you had both candidates employing positive, compassionate, inclusive language and the modern commander-in-chief most revered in Republican circles openly suggesting a guest worker program. What happens nowadays when a presidential candidate tries to adopt the same rhetorical approach? They get raked across the coals:

Can we really blame Latinos for perceiving Republicans as “hostile” to them when they see things like this? The opportunity to expand our tent exists. We just need to do what it takes.

September 18, 2011

GOP Steps Up Outreach to Young Voters

With President Obama’s approval among young voters dipping to all-time lows, the Republican Party – most notably, the College Republican National Committee – has sensed an opportunity to take back some of the support it has ceded to Democrats in the last two decades:

The young people in the ad look dissatisfied and pouty. Barack Obama’s voice and the words “winning the future,” from one of his old campaign speeches, echo in the background.

“You’re LOSING my future,” says one young man.

The ad, which has aired during sportscasts, reality TV shows and late-night comedy programs popular with younger people, was produced for the College Republican National Committee. It is an attempt to play on the fears that haunt college students, that they won’t find jobs and will be living with less than their parents did.

Their fears aren’t exclusive to their generation. But given that it seems to taken hold in a voting bloc that helped elect Obama with a wave of hope and change, there could be an opening for Republicans, unless the president vbnbcan find a way to get young people fired up again.

For those who wish to view the ad the article mentioned, here it is:

You’ll notice that not once does the ad mention social issues. I would consider this a very wise strategy, as most young voters have bought into the false characterization of the GOP the media has created – of an organization concerned first and foremost with imposing a socially conservative agenda driven by faith, not rational thought, on an unobliging populace (in short, the culture wars taken to an extreme). Now, that may qualify as a slight exaggeration, but it does capture the general viewpoint of young voters. By couching its appeal to young Americans in fiscal and economic concerns, the party can broaden its ranks without abandoning the socially conservative tenets of its platform and thus antagonizing a vital component of its coalition.

September 16, 2011

Haley and HPV Vaccines

CNN reports that another prominent politician – one who will award one of the most highly sought-after endorsements of the 2012 election cycle – has supported HPV vaccines in the past:

As the debate over Texas Gov. Rick Perry mandating the HPV vaccine continues between Republican presidential candidates, a woman whose endorsement is coveted by all them, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has her own complicated history on the issue.

In 2007, shortly before Perry issued an executive order requiring that schoolgirls be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV, that causes most cervical cancers, Haley was throwing her support behind a similar bill in South Carolina. At the time she was in her second term as a state representative.

State Rep. Joan Brady introduced the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act in South Carolina, and the Republican corralled more than 60 legislators, including Haley, to sponsor the bill. Unlike the executive order for which Perry is taking heat, this legislative mandate did not include a provision for parents to opt out of inoculating their daughters.

Within months, fierce opposition mounted, and legislative records back up accounts from sources who recall sponsors “dropping like flies” before a unanimous vote killed the bill on April 18, 2007.

…State Rep. Kris Crawford, a physician who led the debate to discredit the policy resulting in the bill’s demise, said even though Haley voted against the bill like everybody else he wondered why she didn’t remove herself as a bill sponsor if she opposed the mandate.

Now, do I take this as a signal that Haley favors Perry for the nomination? Absolutely not. However, intellectual honesty mandates (pun most certainly intended) that we acknowledge that more elected officials than Perry have past dealings with this issue.

For the record, I don’t see Haley making an endorsement until after at least New Hampshire. With so much influence over the nominating process, she would risk too much by going out on a limb and backing a candidate who has not proven they can win one of the first two contests. A much more prudent strategy would involve gambling that she could play a Charlie Crist-like role, waiting long enough to push a certain individual over the top in a close race.

September 15, 2011

Historical Support for Perry’s Candidacy?

Today, Nate Silver’s had an interesting article (not written by Silver himself) about how the Tea Party may influence, and even decide, the Republican nominee:

In The Party Decides, the political scientists Martin Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller argue that one thing is likely to make political parties nominate a centrist: losing. Specifically, the longer a party is out of power—that is, the more presidential elections it has lost in a row—the more likely it will nominate a moderate candidate. Parties that have been out of the White House for only a short time are more willing to nominate a candidate closer to the ideological pole.

…For example, in 1984 and again in 2004 the Democratic Party had been out of office for only one term. The party nominated Walter Mondale and John Kerry, respectively. But in 1992, having been out of office for 12 years, they nominated Bill Clinton, who was probably more centrist than Mr. Mondale or Mr. Kerry.

Of course, this evidence hardly portends that Rick Perry will win and Mitt Romney will lose. But it does suggest that 2012 could be a year in which the GOP does, to quote Mr. Cohen and colleagues, “test the limits of voter tolerance” by nominating a candidate like Mr. Perry.

Judging by the some of the public representations of the mood of the party grassroots – callers into prominent talk radio programs, audience reactions at the candidate debates, and even some of the commenters on this site – most Republicans do seem to favor nominating a candidate of the more unabashedly conservative variety this time around.

Indeed, other pundits, like our own DaveG, have postulated that concerns about electability will take a back seat to the sheer enthusiasm and passion of the base, which, in the event of a loss next year, would pave the way for a more mainstream nominee – someone like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, or Mitch Daniels – in 2016, all of which would support John Sides’ contention.

September 8, 2011

The Debt-Paying Generation Has the Most to Lose If America Doesn’t Start Creating Jobs

Yesterday, Conserative Home published an op-ed by former Race42012 contributor Dustin Siggins and me.  I initially posted this yesterday but then figured it made much more sense to wait until today, so we had time to discuss and process last night’s debate.  Without further ado:

With President Obama making a major speech about jobs this week, and the House GOP, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman putting forth their own plans in response, it appears employment will finally be on the forefront of the public debate. This year’s often vitriol-filled discussions of the United States’ bleak fiscal future, despite their intensive media coverage, have overlooked a stark reality: millions of Americans still sit out of work. Paul Krugman gets a rare cheer for a recent column in which he hammered Washington for replacing leadership with gamesmanship.

Let’s be clear: the national debt is the greatest issue facing America. However, to achieve long-lasting success, any plan to balance the budget must encourage job growth. A growing economy will do a great deal to shrink the deficit as it increases tax revenues, and it will enable more Americans to provide for themselves, control their own financial destinies and avoid government dependency. This especially matters to the 115 million Americans aged 5-30, who will become the Debt-Paying Generation (DPG) if our national debt continues to skyrocket.

With some ideas already on the table, and others still being hammered into actual plans, here are some proposals our leadership and potential leaders should embrace:

  • Eliminate all tax loopholes and simplify the tax structure. Americans spent 6.1 billion hours and over $160 billion (equivalent to about 40 hours and over $1,000 per working American) complying with just the personal and corporate income tax code in 2010. Certainly, under a flat tax or the FairTax, taxpayers could redeploy these resources in productive activities that would expand the economic pie and thus increase tax revenues. Furthermore, such reforms would eliminate or at least shrink the IRS, taking up to a $13 billion dollar bite out of the deficit.
  • Eliminate all subsidies from the government to private companies. The energy industries, for example, received direct subsidies of $37.2 billion in 2010, all at the expense of the American taxpayer— and some at the expense of the poor in this and other countries. Total corporate welfare totaled $92 billion in 2009. These and other subsidies only distort markets, essentially taking productive dollars out of the private sector and redistributing them at the whims of politicians and government bureaucrats.
  • Utilize all of America’s energy resources without prejudice. Essentially, get the government out of the way and let each form of energy- from nuclear to oil to hydro to ethanol- stand on its own merits. This will create hundreds of thousands of new high-skill, well-paying, long-lasting jobs in the nuclear and oil industries alone. Additionally, allowing equal competition would create a smaller regulatory bureaucracy in Washington, and eliminate many of the above-mentioned subsidies. This would save the taxpayers money and increase tax revenues, creating a two-fold deficit reduction effect.
  • Cut regulations with an axe. The size of the Federal Register, the official record of federal regulations, swelled to nearly 80,000 pages during the Bush administration. To name but a few egregious current examples:
  1. The infamous light bulb law, which effectively bans standard incandescent bulbs, has already begun to drive jobs and capital overseas. It also restricts the choices free, law-abiding Americans can make regarding their energy options.
  2. According to a 30-year veteran of business ownership interviewed for this piece, the minimum wage is a significant job-killer. Instead of helping low-skill workers, it actually crowds them out of the job market by making their cost to an employer more expensive than the benefit to an employer.
  3. “Richard Gale,” a general contractor and member of the Debt-Paying Generation, told us a series of 2010 EPA lead regulations impose significant costs on his business. Formal estimates of the impact on businesses vary, but according to “Richard,” the “cost of training, licensing, lead testing and extensive precautionary measures make the cost of contracting services prohibitive to the customer,” and thus deprive “Richard” of approximately $20,000 in lost annual revenue.
  4. Myriad rules and restrictions on energy projects caused a natural gas pipeline, which stretches from Opal, Wyoming to Malin, Oregon, to finish four months late and 23% over budget.

Ours is the longest-lasting recession in several generations, and it is likely to continue for some time— despite the influx of government debt over the last 4 years. At the current pace of job creation vs. debt creation, the Debt-Paying Generation is in serious trouble: according to August 2010 Bureau of Labor Studies statistics, 16-24 year olds have an unemployment rate of over 20%. An entire subsection of young people is losing the opportunities necessary to garner job skills, grow their retirement savings and purchase their first home. And while the spending cuts we recommend won’t balance the budget, they represent a serious down payment that will grant politicians a little more time to tackle the “big four” expenses of our federal government: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and national defense.

It heartens us to see influential public figures finally returning their collective focus to unemployment. Now, we challenge them to take matters one step further and offer credible proposals on how to get America back on the path to recovery.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Let us know what you think!

  10:00 am Economy & Spending, Misc., R4'12 Essential Reads  

September 6, 2011

Is Rick Perry Electable?

Aaron Blake, of the Washington Post, set out to answer that question today, using some polling data we’ve seen released since Rick Perry threw his 10-gallon hat in the 2012 ring:

In recent weeks, national polls from Gallup, Quinnipiac University and CNN have all shown Romney faring at least a few points better than Perry. And the same dynamic has been borne out in polling taken in Florida and Pennsylvania – two states that could be very important in the 2012 general election.

Even though Perry has lower name ID than Romney, the AP-Gfk poll showed that more voters either feel “very favorably” or “very unfavorably” towards Perry than Romney. Even though 69 percent of people knew Perry well enough to rate him, nearly half of those people – 33 percent – felt strongly enough to rate him either very favorably or very unfavorably. For Romney, 80 percent know him well, but only 25 percent have more extreme opinions of him. For Perry, 21 percent of people already feel very unfavorably towards him, compared to 16 percent for the better-known Romney.

A new Politico/George Washington University Poll out today shows the same thing.

…Quinnipiac showed Romney leading Obama by six points among independents, while Perry trailed by two. And while Romney and Perry have similar unfavorable ratings among independents, Romney’s favorability (39 percent) is twice as high as Perry’s (19 percent).

The situation is the same with college-educated voters, who give Romney a 44 to 31 split on favorable-unfavorable ratings, but Perry a negative 22 to 34 split.

The Franklin and Marshall College poll in Pennsylvania offered similar findings in regards to independents and educated voters. In that poll, Romney led Obama 47 percent to 34 percent among those making more than $75,000 a year, while Perry trailed Obama by four.

…For now, the limited polling we’ve seen endorses the contention that Perry is more polarizing and may have problems with more educated and affluent voters, who tend to come from the suburbs.

But this picture is still very incomplete.

This data predictably worries those (in the interest of full disclosure, I count myself among this group) who worry that Perry would, as Sean Trende’s analysis has suggested, move the Republican Party in a more rural direction, away from many of the emerging demographics in the country (most notably, the creative class and young voters).

Up to this point, many who have offered this argument have relied on subjective interpretations of Perry’s and Romney’s respective cultural positioning and orientation. However, now, as Blake has shown, some concrete evidence exists to support the connection.

As Blake also notes, the picture could change in the future. However, Perry seems to intimately understand that his candidacy depends on the intense frustration and discontent (indignation, as Perry himself has put it) personified by the Tea Party. Therefore, it would shock me to see him change tactics and adopt a more nuanced, technocratic, policy-focused approach to his campaign.

An Electoral College Update from Larry Sabato

Renowned political scientist and election analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia is out with an update on his assessment of the 2012 election. I find it hard to disagree with his current analysis, although I might be inclined to raise the odds a bit on Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, depending on the GOP ticket and the tone and character of the campaign.
Rather than comment further, read Sabato’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal here.

September 5, 2011

Why Romney May Not Win the Nomination

Mitt Romney’s speech at a Tea Party Express event in Concord, New Hampshire, may have provided a telling illustration of the fundamental political dynamics that may prevent him from fighting off Rick Perry for the Republican nomination:

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in search of elusive tea party mojo, he didn’t find it here at a small Tea Party Express rally, where a few dozen conservatives sat in lawn chairs and argued about Romney’s conservative bona fides.

…Romney’s supporters couldn’t have been more out of place at an event festooned with characters such as former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and the blunt symbols of the tea party movement — images of one stick figure shooting another under the heading “socialism” and of an automatic weapon with the legend, “Come and Get It.”

Romney’s supporters hail from a different Republican Party, said Bill Gordon, a retired software engineer from Lowden, who dressed his poodle in a blue Romney shirt.

“I want somebody’s who’s in the center who can pull people together from both sides,” he said. “We’ll tear this country apart if we swing all the way the other way — we already swung all the way left.”

The event reflected some tension inside the tea party movement, with the Tea Party Express — a PAC organized by a California GOP consultant — taking heat from other local groups over the decision to allow Romney to speak to the group.

“He’s all right,” said Tom Homer, a tea party member and retired postal worker who was among the few who hadn’t come to the rally with fixed views on Romney. “But yet, he’s Establishment.”

Despite early polls that showed Romney drawing a majority of the Tea Party’s support (which presumably came about because of his high name recognition), the activists that comprise the Tea Party and the Republican base simply may not view Mitt as “one of them”. The last quote in the above excerpt demonstrates this.

Many in the Tea Party don’t seem to believe that Romney understands their concerns and frustrations with the current state of American politics. They feel shut out by both political parties (hence, the frequent criticisms of the Republican establishment). They also fear Romney may pay lip service to their desire to drastically reduce the size and scope of the government but then simply continue the status quo if he becomes President. Stated differently, they feel he doesn’t reciprocate their intense, visceral outrage with Washington.

Perry, on the other hand, survived his recent re-election battle and has emerged as the new frontrunner specifically because he has mastered the art of speaking the Tea Party’s language. And that simple reality may end up propelling him to the Republican nomination.

September 1, 2011

Romney Picks Up New Hampshire Endorsement

Today, the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives threw his weight behind Mitt Romney:

D.J. Bettencourt, the outspoken conservative majority leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, has decided to endorse Mitt Romney as the candidate who has “the absolute best chance at winning back the White House.”
Continue Reading

“My criteria, from the very beginning, was to select a candidate who was the most conservative candidate, who gave us the absolute best chance at winning back the White House. And I came to the conclusion that that was Gov. Romney,” Bettencourt told POLITICO. “I was very much attracted to his executive experience, both as governor of Massachusetts and running the Olympics.”

The 27-year-old Bettencourt is a prominent face in the younger generation of New Hampshire GOP leaders. His endorsement could help Romney shore up support on the right in a state where he is already strong.

Bettencourt had warm words for Romney’s chief Republican rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but said he ultimately felt Romney was a better fit for both the political moment and the responsibilities of the presidency.

…Bettencourt said he doesn’t believe there’s “any question” that Romney remains the prohibitive favorite in the Granite State.

If you read the rest of the Politico article, you’ll see Bettencourt defend Romney’s gubernatorial record as “plenty conservative”.

While this doesn’t necessarily represent groundbreaking news, it does suggest that Mitt maintains strong establishment support in New Hampshire. Furthermore, Bettencourt’s conservative credentials will help bolster Romney’s support among the base in the state.

As many have discussed ad nauseum, Romney needs a decisive victory in New Hampshire to ward off Rick Perry or whoever else becomes his top challenger by the time of the state’s primary.

August 30, 2011

Romney, Perry, and Competence

While many in the Race community may not hold David Frum in high regard, yesterday he penned an eye-opening analysis of the emerging Romney vs. Perry dogfight for the Republican nomination:

When choosing a candidate for president, it’s important not to lose sight of the “for president” part. American history is replete with examples of very attractive candidates who did not cut the mustard in the office. Isn’t that the fundamental Republican critique of Barack Obama? Great candidate, bad executive.

…If you were running a competence primary today, how would you rate Rick Perry as a candidate? Some might say: he must be good, look at all those jobs they are creating in Texas. They were creating a lot of jobs in Texas in 1998 too – yet George W. Bush still managed to disappoint as a national leader.

The question you want to ask is: how does the candidate manage?

Does he absorb and process information intelligently? Does he have a good sense for distinguishing truth from flim-flam? Does he surround himself with capable people? Does he demand results and enforce accountability? How does he react to (inevitable) failures?

By these criteria, Romney shows the makings of a successful president. Rick Perry – not so much.

Frum makes some excellent points here. We Republicans often lament that the American public (especially young voters) will never view us as “the cool, hip party”, and I would largely agree, as perceptions of “coolness” often coincide with social/moral permissiveness and adherence to societal trends, both of which fundamentally clash with conservatism on some level or another.

With that in mind, what “competitive advantage” (to use a well-known business term) can the GOP hope to establish? I would argue that ideology alone simply won’t cut it. If it did, we would see more empirical support for the theory espoused by the talk radio crowd – that if Republicans just articulate conservative principles clearly enough, they’ll win over enough of the public to dominate elections and policy debates. In reality, the Republicans who rely almost exclusively on ideological purity (see: Angle, Sharron, and O’Donnell, Christine) often lose out to those who apply conservative principles to the issues of the day with credible, persuasive campaign platforms (see: McDonnell, Bob, Rubio, Marco, et al.). In short, most voters don’t so much care exactly how conservative or liberal candidates are; they care about how the candidates will address the issues affecting them.

I’ll also offer another hypothesis: that Republicans need to regain the competency advantage they previously held. Historically, voters trusted the GOP to govern more effectively and efficiently than Democrats. The high-profile struggles of the Bush administration – namely, Iraq and Katrina – erased that advantage and actually flipped it to the Dems, as many have attributed the economic growth and historically aberrant lack of military conflict of the Clinton years to the 42nd President’s skill in office.

In sum, barring some unforeseen upheavals in the American political landscape, the Democratic Party will always attract voters most concerned with idealistic crusades for environmentalism, absolute social equality, and a pacifistic foreign policy. To combat that, the GOP must win back the individuals more attuned to the less romantic but at least as essential realities of governing, managing tradeoffs, and steering the ship of state. In a Romney vs. Perry matchup under these terms, Mitt would almost certainly come out ahead. However, time will tell if enough of the Republican electorate views the future of the party in this light. As of now, it appears unlikely.

August 27, 2011

Douthat to Romney: Don’t Panic

Ross Douthat, of Grand New Party and New York Times fame, counsels Mitt Romney to avoid overreacting to Rick Perry’s recent rise to the top of the Republican primary polls:

The first primary isn’t for four months — an eternity in politics. Perry has been exposed to the national spotlight for all of two weeks. He hasn’t shared a stage with the other candidates yet, hasn’t spent much time on the trail, hasn’t had to wed the vision of his candidacy to the more perishable reality of a campaign. In the next round of debates, Michele Bachmann and the lesser right-wing contenders will have every incentive to attack Perry, because he’s siphoning away their kind of voter. If Sarah Palin gets into the race (which I still doubt), she’ll have to take the fight to Perry as well. Meanwhile, unless Jon Huntsman starts getting traction, Romney doesn’t have to worry about any of the rival candidates making a play for his core supporters. (If Perry is the only plausible alternative, the Massachusetts governor has the moderate-East Coast vote locked up.) And once it becomes clear that Chris Christie (alas!) isn’t riding over the hill to save them, he can probably count on a steady drumbeat of favorable press from a movement-conservative establishment that’s heretofore been keeping him at arm’s length. So why not wait and see a little bit, let Perry have his moment in the sun, and save his punches for the months when more voters start to pay attention?

I think Douthat makes good sense. Perry backers like to cite the fact that he has never lost an election as evidence that his history and record will hold up to scrutiny. However, the national stage of a presidential campaign shines a brighter light on a candidate’s weaknesses than a statewide run. Time will tell if Perry and his much-heralded record can withstand the barrage of negative attacks that will inevitably come his way in the near future.

August 25, 2011

Romney Unleashes on Town Hall Heckler

Continuing his series of impassioned defenses of himself and his proposals, today Mitt Romney had a confrontation with a town hall attendee in New Hampshire:
I don’t purport to know if Romney has actively tried to show more emotion like this on the campaign trail this year or if it has just “happened”, but these outbursts may help to address his chief weakness in the primaries: the “enthusiasm gap”.

After all, Mitt’s new top competitor, Rick Perry, largely owes his rise in the polls to his ability to connect with the base on an emotional, visceral level. If Romney can evoke at least some of this kind of reaction from primary voters with these shows of passion, it will certainly enhance his chances of outlasting the rest of the field.

August 24, 2011

Obama Is Irresponsible and Unpatriotic

When Obama took office, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion.

Since then, it has risen to $14.6 trillion.

That is irresponsible and unpatriotic of the President. But don’t just take my word for it…

And to top it off, Obama complained about Bush adding $4 trillion in debt over eight years. Our current commander-in-chief has achieved that feat in less than half the time!

We all know how much Obama loves calling the actions of his administration “unprecedented”. Well, he can add this to the list.

  9:48 pm Barack Obama, Economy & Spending, R4'12 Essential Reads  

August 22, 2011

Daily Roundup

In addition to Paul Ryan declining a presidential run once and for all, today produced various other news stories regarding 2012.

First and foremost, Jason Chaffetz has decided against running for the Senate:

Saying that the battle to limit the federal budget “cannot wait,” the tea party-backed rising star explained that he didn’t want to devote his energy to a campaign — even one he’s “convinced I could win.”

“I’ll continue fighting for fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense. That’s why I was elected. That’s what I’m doing. That’s where my passion is,” Chaffetz wrote in a statement. “Ultimately, I can spend the next 15 months doing my job, or I can spend the next 15 months campaigning to do Senator Hatch’s.”

At the end of July, Chaffetz said he would “probably” run and that “people are ready for a change.”

The decision comes as a huge relief for Hatch, who has been busy courting tea party voters, and as a disappointment for national groups who hoped to oust the six-term incumbent.

The same goes for Tea Party firebrand Alan West:

That leaves former Sen. George LeMieux, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller and retired Col. Mike McCalister in the primary to take on Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Chaffetz and West would have faced different situations in their hypothetical primary campaigns: Chaffetz would have become the virtually unanimous favorite of the Utah Republican base against longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, whereas West would have had to compete with Adam Hasner, billed by some as “the next Marco Rubio”, for Tea Party and base support. Of course, none of this musing now matters, but isn’t always fun to think, “What if?”

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad had some distinctly positive things to say about Rick Perry today:

“I think he did a tremendous job at the Iowa State Fair,” said Branstad, a fellow Republican. “I thought he was as relaxed and confident and at home at the Iowa State Fair as anybody I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of them. He comes from a farm background, he’s a former agriculture commissioner, he’s a graduate of Texas A&M.”

Branstad added: “Only thing, in Texas they always say how big everything is and we tend to downplay and understate here. But I think he came across very well.”

Despite these compliments, I would not expect Branstad to make any formal endorsement until very late in the game, if at all.

Former NY Gov. George Pataki apparently thinks he may have a shot in the 2012 race:

His aides say he’s seriously looking at running – getting serious about getting serious, if you will – and as part of that look, George Pataki is heading back to Iowa this weekend.
Continue Reading

Polk County GOP officials said the former New York governor is set to attend a party picnic there this weekend.

I can’t say I agree at all with Pataki. If you’re looking for a former Northeastern governor to back, you’ve already got an enticing option. If you want someone clearly positioning himself as moderate-leaning, well, then you’re also all set.

Lastly, it seems that more media outlets have started to come around to the opinion expressed here at Race on multiple occasions, that Rick Perry will look very hard into tapping Rudy Giuliani as his VP if he wins the nomination.

August 17, 2011

More Ammo for Perry

Just to get it out of the way, I intended no pun with my title.

Today, James Pethokoukis wrote a nice article comparing the unemployment rate in Texas to the national average, while adjusting for context:

The Texas labor force participation rate was 65.6 percent in June, higher than the national average. That means there were more folks active seeking work, a reflection of the more positive job environment.

…So let’s do an apples-apples comparison. What if the national labor force participation rate was as high as that in Texas? Well, the national U-3 unemployment rate [which doesn’t count discouraged workers] would have been 11.3 percent in June, sharply higher than the 8.2 percent rate in Texas. And what if the Texas labor force participation rate had been as low as the national rate? Under that scenario, the Texas unemployment rate would have been 6.1 percent, also dramatically better. So either way you cut, the unemployment rate is much better in Texas than the national average.

This surely bolsters Perry’s argument on jobs. Of course, this does not consider the wages or benefits associated with these jobs. Still, it shows that the Governor has a legitimate case that Texas features both better conditions for growth and a more vibrant overall economy.

While Perry’s cultural cues will in all likelihood cost him primary support among low-information voters who base their decisions largely on initial impressions and superficial contrasts between the candidates, he could still, in a dose of irony, gain some votes from them, for a different reason.

It’s only a matter of time until Perry begins comparing his jobs record to Mitt Romney’s. Just think about it: Perry will state that 40% of the jobs created in America came in Texas and then conveniently follow it up by noting that Massachusetts fell to 47th in the nation in job growth under Romney’s watch.

Mitt and his supporters will then try to refute the argument by invoking statistical logic and screaming that the numbers lack context, but to a good number of voters – the aforementioned low-information variety – it will not matter much; the claim itself will have more of an impact.

  9:25 pm 2012 Misc., Mitt Romney, R4'12 Essential Reads, Rick Perry  

August 16, 2011

Perry Gives Out-Retails Bachmann in Iowa

Politico has provided an informational write-up of the well-publicized campaign event that featured Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann this past Sunday:

Rick Perry came to Michele Bachmann’s hometown Sunday evening and schooled the newly minted Iowa front-runner in her native state’s demanding retail political culture.

…the contrast that may lift Perry and undermine Bachmann in their high stakes battle for Iowa had less to do with what they said than how they said it — and what they did before and after speaking.

Perry arrived early, as did former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The Texas governor let a media throng grow and dissolve before working his way across the room to sit at table after table, shake hand after hand, pose for photographs and listen politely to a windy Abraham Lincoln impersonator, paying respect to a state that expects candidates, no matter their fame, to be accessible.

But Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign’s signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners.

She camped out in her bus, parked on the street in front of a nearby Ramada Hotel, until it was time to take the stage. Even after a local official’s introduction, Bachmann was nowhere to be found. It was not until a second staffer assured her that the lighting had been changed and a second introduction piped over the loudspeakers that she entered the former dance hall here. By the time she made her big entrance to bright lights and blaring music, the crowd seemed puzzled.

…In fact, Bachmann never went table to table to greet the roughly 300 local Republicans who came to see her, and seemed to go out of her way to avoid being drawn into the crowd. She also didn’t acknowledge Perry, who sat smiling and occasionally applauding through her speech.

Perry, in contrast, didn’t have to explain to anyone that he knows how to campaign in Iowa.

Making his debut in the first-in-the-nation state, the Texan parried questions from reporters in between chatting with attendees about topics ranging from Iowa farms to just how much Austin has grown in recent years.

Activists came away impressed with his stump speech — which, unlike that of Bachmann, was followed by a question-and-answer session with the crowd — and his warmth.

Bachmann has another thing coming if she thinks she can just rely on speeches and scripted Q&A sessions to win Iowa. If she doesn’t shape up and address these weaknesses, she risks letting Perry race past her and win over the hearts and minds of Hawkeye State voters.

Iowans expect the opportunity to engage in give-and-take’s with prospective candidates. I saw this firsthand at the Pawlenty events I attended. When he finished speaking, the audiences immediately launched into questions, peppering him on the complicated issues of the day and demanding specifics in his answers. Michele needs to understand this if she hopes to maintain her current standing in the field.

Sean Trende Assesses the Race for the Nomination

Political analyst Sean Trende is out with a fascinating new analysis of the GOP primary contest in this morning’s edition of Real Clear Politics.  I find myself pretty much in agreement with Sean, but there are some nuances and more intangible aspects to this contest as it is currently developing that I will discuss in a future writing.  So, rather than comment further, read Sean’s analysis here.

August 13, 2011

Blogging From the Ames Straw Poll

As an attendee of today’s Ames Straw Poll, I will periodically update this with whatever observations or insights I have. Feel free to also use this as our Straw Poll discussion thread.

Update 11:50: My first impression: My, oh my, the Ron Paul brigade has come out in full force. Everywhere you look, you see Paul signs and bumper stickers. This guy just may win this thing.

Update 12:05: From what I’ve seen, Pawlenty has a good turnout. His campaign has distributed green t-shirts to supporters, making them easy to spot.

Update 12:45: Maybe the other campaigns simply haven’t given their supporters t-shirts, but a substantial number of the people voting consisted of Pawlenty backers.

I’ve now moved inside to watch the candidate speeches. First up, Rick Santorum. He certainly appears to have dedicated supporters, with signs popping up all over the town of Ames and a vocal reception when he just took the stage.

Update 1:00: Santorum just gave an impassioned speeh, calling his effort “the little campaign that could”, highlighting his legislative record and history of defeating Democratic incisors, and placing added emphasis on his pro-life efforts. If he makes it farther in this race, MWS and other ardent pro-lifers, you might have a lot to like in this guy.

Update 1:15: I cannot believe just how many Paulites I’ve seen here. I don’t know just how many of them came from other states, and therefore cannot vote, but they’ve clearly continued their habit of crash straw polls. I expect a hero-like welcome when he takes he stage.

….And, I was right. These people LOVE him.

Update 1:30: In somewhat of a surprise, Paul began by focusing on abortion, instead of his usual bread-and-butter issues of monetary policy and foreign policy.

However, he did migrate to the latter as he moved through his remarks.

Update 2:00: If this audience contains any undecided voters, Pawlenty may have just done himself a big favor with that speech – one of the best I’ve seen from him.

Update 2:20: Bachmann’s speech so far has amounted to giving Iowans a collective pat on the back. I still remain somewhat surprised by the reports of her massive turnout, as her reception hasn’t sounded nearly as enthusiastic as many claim.

She hasn’t veered far from standard Republican boilerplate in this address.

Update 3:55: After touring the grounds for a little while, I’ve now ventured back inside to await and view the announcement of the results. The Bachmann tent did look well-populated, and Paul took up more square yardage than any other candidate. It truly wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if Paul pulls out the W. I can tell you how many people I’ve seen sporting an “I voted for Ron Paul” shirt or wielding a Paul sign.

Update 4:20: with voting closed a four, the attention now turns to counting and awaiting the results. While I don’t dispute Bachmann’s reportedly strong turnout, if Pawlenty somehow manages to upstae her, imagine the media boost he’ll get.

Update 5:00: the word from Twitter says we had nearly 17,000 votes cast today. That impressive turnout suggests the eventual winner will need far more than 4,000 votes.

Update 5:15: Estimates have begun popping up on Twitter: over 6,000 for Bachmann, 4,500 for Paul, and 3,000 for Pawlenty.

If those prove accurate, will T-Paw have to immediately end his campaign, or can he hold out in the hopes that he will gain momentum into the Caucuses?

Update 5:45: Bachmann wins 4,823. Ron Paul comes in a close crime with 4,671, Pawlenty grabs 2,293, and Santorum and Cain respectively take fourth and fifth.

August 11, 2011

Race42012 Referenced by Bill Bennett

You read that right, our little internet home was linked to in an opinion piece by the man Lamar Alexander once called “Our nation’s conservative conscience”:

The Ames straw poll is not a very good predictor of who the ultimate nominee will be (George H.W. Bush won the poll in 1979, Ronald Reagan was the 1980 nominee; Pat Robertson won the poll in 1987, George H.W. Bush was the 1988 nominee; Mitt Romney won the poll in 2007, John McCain was the 2008 nominee). But it does have a tendency to fuel and give life to campaigns, and it has a second tendency to tell other candidates whether this year is worth their continued efforts or not. For example, Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle both dropped out shortly after their low finishes in 1999 in Ames.

So Congrats to Kavon and Matt C. I guess this shows Race42012 is getting noticed. To paraphrase Vice President Biden, this is a big deal.

  6:10 pm 2012 Misc., R4'12 Essential Reads  

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