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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Paul goes on the offensive

Ron Paul's campaign has created a 2 and a half minute video that absolutely rips apart Newt Gingrich. I mean like a no holds barred, the gloves are off, I-don't-respect-you-at-all, we-are-now-officially-enemies video. You can see it below:

There are some attack ads that politicians let roll off their shoulders in the primaries. For instance, Hillary and Obama were at each other's throats, but then they forgave each other and joined forces. It can be a mutual understanding that the attack was only made due to political necessity at the time, like a "hey, I'd have done the same thing, no worries." This is not one of them. Newt has been captain solidarity so far, and has literally declined opportunities to attack or even softly criticize his Republican allies on the debates. His catchphrase has been "Hey, any of us are better than Obama!" and he's emphasized that party unity is necessary if Republicans are going to win. This makes Paul's attack ad especially likely to antagonize Gingrich, because it was totally unprovoked. Ron Paul made it clear that he wants nothing to do with Newt Gingrich and will not support him if he wins the election: hardly a surprise in theory, but as a tactic this is still somewhat new for Paul.

For sure, we've seen him blast both parties in general, and all of the candidates on stage with him in the debates in general. He's made backhanded criticisms of his opponents by saying things like "I'm the only candidate in this race who isn't ____", and occasionally would list several of his opponents by name in a list, saying "he supported ____ and she supported ____". But until now he hasn't set his sights squarely on the person who's highest in the polls and unleashed such a specific barrage. His previous ads were either entirely "I'm awesome!" or at least "everyone else is really bad, except me", rather than a "this individual guy is really bad!".

Why is Paul adopting this new strategy? I think it's because he senses his opportunity, and realizes that Newt is the last thing blocking his path. Several polls, including ones by Bloomberg and Iowa State University, have placed him in second place or higher with 19-25% of the support in Iowa. The rotisserie of non-Romney candidates has reached it's fourth installment, and the only two others in the race are Rick Santorum (a Romney clone) and Jon Huntsman (who's socially liberal). Paul thinks his best shot is if the limited-government hawks in the tea party run out of alternatives and have to choose between s big government hawk (Romney, Santorum, Bachmann) and a limited government dove (Paul). He's banking on them choosing the latter. But before they face that choice, Gingrich has to fall in just the same way Bachmann, Perry, and Cain did before him. Paul want's to be the 5th non-Romney option, peaking just in time for the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd, and it's essential that Gingrich fall for that to happen.

As for the actual content of the ad, I personally don't like the first third of it. Climate change is something I think Republicans, including Paul, would be wise to wake up to, and I'm not sure Paul Ryan was actually talking about Gingrich in that quote. But the latter two thirds of it are devastating, and they portray Gingrich as the corporatist, crony capitalist political insider that both OWS and the Tea Party despise. It's a risky gamble because all attack ads risk coming off as ugly, but it's a smart one.

NY Post Says Ron Paul has a Shot

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The trouble with Democracy...

A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University (cited through Reason.com) found that 44% of Americans blame Republicans for the supercommittee's failure, vs. only 38% who blame Democrats. Yet the SAME POLL, asking the SAME PEOPLE, fonud that 49% want to close the deficit with spending cuts only, vs. 39% who disagreed. Sigh. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: DEMOCRACY!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Picture? Not much has changed.

We have a month and 5 days until the first primary, and it still appears to be a landlocked three-way tie between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain falling slightly behind. I would be shocked at this point if Herman Cain winds up being the nominee; his already controversial financial policies and 999 catchphrase seem even more difficult to sell with his demonstrated lack of knowledge on the foreign policy front. If I had to pick who the nominee will be, I'd actually say Gingrich at this point, just because he seems the least gaffe-prone of the non-Romney candidates, and because he can handle himself in a debate the best and is the most well-rounded and knowledgeable of the non-Romney candidates. But I could see either being the running mate for the other, also. No data or new developments to display, just giving you my take after a weeklong gap in posts!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tea Party vs. OWS Cartoon

Eric Allie - Caglecartoons.com - Tea v Occupy COLOR - English - occupy wall street,tea party, scum,democrats,obama,socialists,know nothings, uncle sam

Romney says Individual Mandate is a "Conservative Concept"


No, Mitt, it isn't. Just because Newt Gingrich and the Heritage Foundation once advocated it does not make it a conservative concept. Conservatism is not simply whatever famous conservatives say. It's an ideology that DOES NOT CHANGE, that says the role of the government is to defend individual rights. It is NOT the right of any government, state or federal or local, under any conservative ideology, to tell people what they must or must not buy. There is no getting around that. Abandon the individual mandate, or abandon the support of limited government conservatives in this primary. There is no third option.

Romney announces VP contender

When pressed by Reporters, Romney announced that he has a list of about 15 names that he's considering for as his VP selection, and that one of them was New Hampshire Senatore Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte seems to have a strong emphasis on fiscal conservatism, rather than social conservatism (she doesn't even include the social issues on her website's list of "issues", which can be found here). This is surely by design, because Romney's got the social conservatism covered and is really trying to shore up his image among the Tea Party faction.

Also, with Palin in 08 and now Ayotte in 2012, I think Republicans may be making a concerted effort to get a woman on the ballot. 50 years from now, everyone will look back and remember Barack Obama, a Democrat, as the first African American president. If Republicans seek to shed the "rich white male" label, they know they must start nominating people who aren't rich white males! Pretty much anyone who can launch a political campaign has to be rich nowadays, so that leaves two variables left. Herman Cain is one example, and perhaps Ayotte will be a second.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ron Paul on the Move?

Ron Paul's thoughts on his "breaking the status quo" and a country in denial:

He seems to be making a move up the rankings too. A Bloomberg poll just put him in second place in Iowa. RCP has taken five polls from the past week in Iowa, and each of them place Paul in double digits, 2 of them at 19 or higher:


Meanwhile, he continues to get absolutely shafted by the media, especially in the recent CBS Foreign Affairs debate last Saturday, in which he got only 89 seconds of speaking time over the nearly 90 minute long debate.


Some Browsings

Thomas Sowell on why Mitt Romney would lose to Barack Obama:

Sarah Palin on Congressional insider trading and crony capitalism in the Wall Street Journal:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gingrich's Profile on Libertarian "Reason Online"

Not a glowing report. Gingrich is almost as much of a flip-flopping small-government poser as Romney is, he's just lied low over the past few years so not as many people know it.

Newt Gingrich Candidate Profile

Reason has profiled the major Republican presidential hopefuls and devised a scientific* survey to help readers find true love among the 10 top contenders (Herman CainMichelle BachmannRick SantorumRick Perry,Gary JohnsonSarah PalinJon HuntsmanNewt GingrichMitt Romney,Ron Paul). 
Click here to take an eight-question quiz and find the candidate of your dreams.
* We're using "scientific" in the Republican sense of the word. So we really mean "made up."
Name: Newt Gingrich (b. Newton Leroy Gingrich)
DOB: June 17, 1943 (shares a birthday with King Edward I, M.C. Escher, Barry Manilow)
Aliases: the Professor, the Architect, Mr. Speaker
Experience: Represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional District from 1979 to 1999. Served as minority whip in 1989, Time's "Man of the Year" in 1995, and speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. Engineered the Contract With America and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After Republicans lost five seats in the 1998 midterm elections, Gingrich resigned his speakership and his seat, telling several colleagues during a conference call, "I'm willing to lead, but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals."  
Hangups: fidelity, the 24-hour media cycle, fund raising, shiny things
Spending/size of government/entitlement reform: Wants the government to spend less and do less but doesn't want to alienate the people it spends money on and does stuff for. (See: corn farmers, above; Paul Ryan's Medicare plan). Criticizing the Ryan plan, Gingrich said, "I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options,” but that the Ryan plan was "too big a jump." Opposes Obamacare but in 2005 joined Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in "appearing to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage." In a 2010 interview with The Financial Times, stressed the importance of maintaining defense spending.
Economic Policy: Said in August 2011 that "bureaucratic socialism" is hamstringing American companies. Suggested as a remedy that "Congress should come back in and start by passing the repeal of the Dodd-Frank bill on day one, move to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley on day two. Go through as many federal regulations as they can and repeal them in order to let state governments, local governments, businesses focus on doing their jobs." Speaking in Ames, Iowa, he "urged the use of business management strategies that could improve government efficiency," such as "corporate fraud [detection] programs."
Foreign policy: Believes "we are at war with radical Islamists—and it is a war we are losing," a view he elaborated on in the movie America at RiskSaid of the Iraq War in 2005, "Do you really think America would be better off if we cut and run, if we showed to the world that we were afraid and we had no courage?" Said of the Iraq War in 2006, "It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003." He revised his position days later during a Fox News appearance, claiming, "I am not for any precipitous withdrawal from Iraq." Gingrich is equally ambivalent about Afghanistan. In 2009, when President Obama sent an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the country, Gingrich said, "I think he knew when he did it he was going to split his own party, and I think that took considerable courage on his part." In 2010 he said the war in Afghanistan "is not going to end well." During the first New Hampshire GOP debate this year, Gingrich said, "I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out how to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved." Two weeks later, he  said, "None of the generals recommended the speed of the drawdown the president wants. We are beginning to lose in the region." Supported trying terrorists in civilian courts before he opposed it; supported the Libyan adventure before he opposed it.
Drug war: Argued in 1995 that the U.S. should institute the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying, "You import commercial quantities of drugs in the United States for the purpose of destroying our children, we will kill you." (Congress passed similar laws in 1988 and 1994; Gingrich had already voted in favor it.) That same year, he advocated a national referendum on drug legalization, harsher penalties for possession, and more mandatory minimum sentences. During a 2009 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor he said the U.S. should adopt a Singapore-style approach to drugs, with harsh penalties for sellers and mandatory rehab for anyone arrested for possession: "I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory. And I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization." Smoked pot a few times in the '60s.
Personal freedom: Opposes gay marriage; said in 2011 that recent political victories for LGBT community show America is "drifting toward a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of." In a single 2006 speech, he scolded John McCain for abridging the First Amendment with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and said the War on Terror requires the U.S. to "adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people." In 2010 Gingrich "accidentally" named a porn producer "Entrepreneur of the Year" through his PAC, American Solutions for Winning the Future.
Immigration: In 2006 Gingrich authored a white paper for the American Enterprise Institute that suggested "an intelligent center-Right coalition would be for both security and immigration, for accuracy in identity (including a voter card with id and a biometric worker visa card) and patriotic integration of those who want to become American." In 2010 he suggested an "overhaul of the country's immigration system so that every worker in the United States is legal"; this suggestion was "not a call for amnesty." During the first 2011 Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, hesaid, "No serious citizen who's concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you're either for totally selling out protecting America or you're for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way."
Education: Gingrich joined Obama's "Race to the Top" in 2009, calling Education Secretary Arne Duncan “a serious innovator." He said "where Obama doesn't get it" is that more needs to be done. "It can't even just be the Congress," he said. "It's got to be school boards, city council, state legislature, county commission, governorships." Said that Duncan and Obama were "respectful" of teachers unions and "more willing to work inside the system than I would be." Said in June 2011 that one of his first acts as president would be to introduce a the "10th Amendment Enforcement Act," which would "return most of the power of the Department of Education back to the states, the local communities, and citizens."
Energy: Gingrich likes ethanol subsidies and has accused "big cities" and "big urban newspapers" of trying to hurt the farmers who benefit from them. Also likes fossil fuel subsidies and said in 2010 that "a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country." Supported cap and trade in 2007, bashed it in 2009.
Religious? Yes! Raised a Lutheran and elected as a Baptist, Gingrich converted to Catholicism for his third wife, a former Capitol Hill staffer named Callista Bisek. Produced a film called Rediscovering God in America. He said Ronald Reagan had "the key underlying insight that you defeat Communism at a cultural level, that you pit the cross against the Soviet emblem, and that the cross ultimately will defeat atheism." Has called President Obama and the current crop of congressional Democrats "secular socialists." Worries that by the time his grandchildren are "my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."
Horoscope for 2011: "Busy as usual, Gemini?" asks Horoscope.com. "You'll make many commitments this year—but you might have troubles keeping them all....If you're trying to catch up financially, you could bite off more than you can chew. There may be times when it's wiser to turn down extra work.”

Cain Stumbles on Foreign Policy Again


Herman Cain becomes the latest in the GOP field to shoot himself in the foot. Again. And THIS is why Newt Gingrich is the frontrunner, folks. It's amazing how averse Tea Partier's are to Romney, Paul, and Huntsman, because they're the only ones uttering coherent sentences at this point.

This pretty much sums up Newt Gingrich

As I posted a link to last night, Newt Gingrich is gaining rapidly in the polls at Herman Cain's expense and appears to be taking his place atop the anti-Romney Tea Party pedestal. However, most people feel that this development only shows that people are getting desperate and running out of options, not that they actually are excited at the prospect of a President Gingrich. Who better to make fun of this than The Onion?


The impact of the Supreme Court on the 2012 elections


In big but expected news, the Supreme Court will take up the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and, in the event it is found unconstitutional, will then determine if the entirety of Obamacare must be struck down as well. As you know, the Affordable Care Act imposes a mandate that every US citizen must obtain health insurance by 2014 or face a fine. The Court's decision to hear the case in February/March, and levy a decision by June/July, meaning it will have a huge impact on the elections. How so?

If they uphold the law, Obama can rub it in Republican's faces, say "haha I was right and you were wrong", and tout it as his signature legislative accomplishment. He can also cite Republican efforts to repeal his law as further evidence of Republican "divisiveness" and placing "partisanship over what's best for the country", which will doubtlessly be a major campaign theme. Since the Supreme Court is (perhaps incorrectly) viewed as nonpartisan, a ruling in favor of Obamacare would portray Republican opposition as partisan quibbling, trying to simply stop Obama at all costs rather than moving forward. In order to get the bill repealed, Republicans would need to recapture both the White House and a majority in both houses to repeal the law before it is fully enacted by 2014. Doing that would be a steep challenge if their defeat is announced in June, stealing the publicity and excitement that usually accompanies the announcement of the Republican nominee.

However, if the court takes down the law, or  even just the individual mandate section of the law, Obama's in deep trouble. Firstly, regarding the law itself, the rest of the bill would have to be either repealed or drastically altered, reopening the whole healthcare reform issue but this time with a Republican majority in Congress. It is likely that nothing would get done on that before the election. This means that not only would Obama's signature accomplishment would be stripped from him, but his future plans would be derailed by the need to reopen that contentious issue and all the old wounds that accompany it. Republicans could then take up the mantle of advocating "TRUE healthcare reform", proposing both a plan for their future and attacking the presidents failures in one phrase. The issue of healthcare would cease to be a prominent feature on Obama's resume and instead be a liability that he must avoid talking about in debates. Even if he succeeded in drawing attention away from the defeat, what would be left for Obama to cite as his accomplishments? Mostly financial-oriented things: added regulations, the stimulus, the unpopular bailout, "rescuing us from the brink", etc. But with the economy in recession, that would likely fall on deaf ears. This is all speculation, but the point is not much is going well for America right now. The economy sucks. We're entangled in foreign wars. Illegal immigration is a problem. If the Healthcare bill falls through, the president will be saddled with another problem he's failed to fix in a constitutional matter, and that may just be the tipping point for him.

Republicans' should care that the individual mandate be repealed mostly to establish a real precedent limiting the governments power under the commerce clause. That is the most important implication long term, the sort of precedent professors will cite for generations afterwards. But in the short term benefits, a repeal of the ACA might just help them knock off Obama too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The weekend in the campaign

South Carolina (the third state that will be decided) is still a toss-up, elections are being predicted by controversial mathematical formulas, and Newt Gingrich appears to be the Tea Party's next rising star, replacing Cain with the endorsements of the "anti-Romney" crowd.




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anyone but Romney?

No, not just any Republican but Romney. Some conservatives are literally so opposed to Mitt that they're advocating ANYONE but Romney, including Barack Obama.

I'm not sure I'd take it that far, because Romney is at least saying all the right things NOW in the debates, as opposed to still being on the wrong side of the fence. But it just goes to show how desperate Republicans are getting.

The "Oops" Heard Round the World

Rick Perry is pretty much toast, folks. Remember how he lost so much support due to his poor showing in the early debates? Remember how he gave neutral Republicans a bad first impression, and really needed to step it up in the future debates if he was to have a shot? Well, this is what happened last night.

Yes, that did just happen. It is hilarious, but it's pretty much the end for Rick Perry. How can people take him seriously? He had to ask Ron Paul what the 3rd department HE had pledged to cut was! Politicians who forget their campaign promises years after the fact are one thing, but people who forget their campaign promises while they're making them? One gets the sense that were Perry to become President, he'd be even more gaffe prone than Bush was, and another bumbling Texas dufus is the last thing the Republican Party needs now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

David Axelrod Speech

Being at Hopkins, I had the opportunity to attend a speech by Obama's former Campaign Adviser David Axelrod yesterday. I found his speech interesting because it will probably be a good foretaste of the message Obama will tout on the campaign trail in 2012. He began his talk by thanking us all for our work in getting Obama elected in 2008, saying that "without young people like you, he wouldn't be president right now". Then, he used that same rhetorical device to credit us, and thus Obama, with the following accomplishments, saying "without you, we never would have...":
  • "Restrored the student loan program
  • Ended the Iraq war
  • Repealed DADT
  • Advanced stem-cell research
  • Appointed 2 women on the Supreme Court
  • Enacted Wall Street Reforms
  • "forced Bank of America to publicize, and consequently repeal, it's new fees on debit cards"
  • Passed ObamaCare
  • A deeper recession was avoided
  • "We refocused our attention on the people who actually attacked us", and therefore got Bin Laden
It's interesting that he cited the end of the Iraq War when he didn't want to end it until a month ago when the Iraqi government threatened to prosecute any US soldiers who remained. It's also interesting that he cited "refocusing our attention on those who attacked us" after we jumped into Libya and Yemen. And of course, the economic recovery talk will fall on deaf ears if we're headed for a double-dip recession, which many economists forecast. But regardless, these two themes will probably summarize his primary domestic and foreign policy resume for 2012: as one observer dubbed it, "GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead."

He also consistently reiterated another theme that I'm sure will resurface many times: "the politics of obstruction and division". He blasted the Republican party for intentionally trying to harm the country for political gain by stopping anything Obama proposed. Any who weren't trying to harm the country to help their electoral chances, he said, were too scared by the majority to "do the right thing". Just like Obama, he assumed that everyone on earth knew what "the right thing" was, and that it was whatever Obama proposed! Anyone who opposed the self-annointed "progress" must just be evil, there's no way anyone could possibly disagree.

If that doesn't make you roll your eyes, Obama's sudden talk of compromise should. Seeing the highly partisan nature of the conservative race, Obama will continually try to portray himself as a centrist whose tried to reach out to Republicans who just won't listen. He will then try to shift the blame from himself onto their unwillingness to do so. But if voters are smart, they'll remember how Obamacare passed through without a single Republican vote, and the President seem to care much for compromise then. If Republicans are smart, they'll remind him.

Axelrod also touched on the faction within the Republican party I spoke of yesterday. I called those factions the Tea Party and  "the Romney supporters", but I thought he had a brilliant and catchy new name for the second group: "the Martini Party". He described the Tea Party as the "populist" part of the Republican party, and the Martini Party as the "corporate centrist conservatives", which is code for the status-quo supporters who benefit from crony-capitalism. It's a useful term for Democrats because it portrays them as wealthy fat-cats, and a useful term for Tea Partiers because it illuminates the government regulation of some companies to the benefit of others. That connection between big government and big business is the thing that both the Tea Party and the OWS crowd hates, and the "Martini Party" tag isolates that group. We'll see if it sticks, and if it does, we'll see how Romney tries to talk his way out of the association.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Which Candidate Stands the Most to Benefit from the Cain Catastrophe?

If the Herman Cain allegations were a "fiasco" when I posted about them 4 days ago, they are a full blown campaign killer now. Three additional women have gone public with much more serious allegations against Cain, one saying he offered her a job in exchange for sexual favors, and the other saying he reached his hand up her skirt. This is a game changer. I would speculate that before Thanksgiving, one of two things will have to happen: either Cain will somehow prove his innocence and these allegations will be exposed as baseless, or, if he cannot do so, he will be forced to drop out of the race, even if he maintains his innocence as he does so. If he's innocent, and these five are all just dishing lies with encouragement from a liberal media, that would be terribly unfair to Cain. But honestly, with each passing day that more women step up, that becomes less and less likely, and certainly less and less believable to an electorate that already has doubts about Cain's electability.

So let's say that in the coming weeks, Cain is forced to drop out. What would the results be on the rest of the pack? Presently, Cain is in first place with 25.2% of the support (according to the RealClearPolitics average of 6 national polls). Romney is in second place with 23.3%, Gingrich in 3rd with 12.2%, Perry in 4th with 10.2%, Paul in 5th with 8.3%, and then Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman each with less than 3.5%. Intuition says that without Cain, Romney would then be the clear favorite, because he has nearly twice as much as his nearest opponent. Simply removing Cain from the equation would remove his biggest competitor, making him a huge winner.

But Cain's supporters wouldn't just disappear along with Cain himself, and Cain's absence doesn't do Romney any good if those 25.2% all remain unified and join the supporters of some other candidate. Romney must hope to win over many of Cain's supporters into his camp. For those he cannot win over, he must hope they divide themselves fairly evenly among the second-tier candidates so that nobody else is thrust back up to challenge his front runner status. Will Cain's supporters be likely to support Romney without Cain as an option? If not, who are they most likely to turn to?

To understand this, we have to make inferences from previous polling data about what things drew Cain's supporters to Cain. Then, we must make educated guesses about which of the other candidates have those things, and would thus be most appealing to Cain's old supporters. If we examine poll data over the past year, we see that many of that almost all of Herman Cain's support was accrued in late September and early October. This surge occurred almost exactly in line with Rick Perry's collapse. Consider where these three candidates were polling in the RCP average on these dates:

September 13th:
Perry: 31.8%
Romney: 19.8%
Cain: 4.2%

October 2nd:
Perry: 26.5%
Romney: 23%
Cain: 9%

October 7th:
Romney: 21.8%
Cain: 16.2%
Perry: 15.8%

October 21st:
Cain: 26%
Romney: 25.5%
Perry: 12.5%

In 5 weeks, Perry dropped from 32% to 13% and Cain rose from 4% to 26%, while Romney stayed within 6% points of his score the whole time. Over this same time frame, no other candidate dropped or fell more than 4% points (the largest changer was Newt Gingrich, who increased from 5.3% to 9.2%). This evidence suggests that the same people who jumped off the Rick Perry bandwagon jumped directly onto the Herman Cain bandwagon. Why is this?

It would be a mistake to dismiss Cain's appeal on his own merit entirely, but it's probable that a lot of these supporters weren't so much "pro-Cain people" as they were "anti-Romney people". Romney is a polarizing guy in an election shaped by the Tea Party. The Tea Party has rejuvenated the ideological, small government faction of the Republican Party, and that is not Romney's forte. Romneycare and a history of big government compromises in liberal Massachusetts have alienated the fiscal conservatives, and a history of flip flops have alienated him from the "vote out the career politicians!" crowd.  He's beloved by social conservatives, and that group has held consistently strong for him. But those who dislike him have demonstrated a willingness to support just about anybody else but him.

Since August, we've had various candidates take up this Tea Party mantle, rise as people view them as the anti-Romney, and then fall as the media exposed their weaknesses. Bachmann experienced a brief shoot up the rankings during her Iowa Straw Poll triumph, but then shot down in August. Perry replaced her but then then shot down with the poor debate performance and the ranch controversy. Cain took his place and now he's potentially down or even out. Romney's support has stayed relatively consistent throughout all of this turmoil. I predict it will remain about the same looking forward too. It think Romney has been around long enough that most Republicans have already decided whether they like him or not. Those who do see him as the only option in a weak field, and those who don't are willing to try fringe candidates to ensure he loses.  Therefore, I speculate that those who supported Cain are probably unlikely to fall into the Romney camp should Cain drop. A few will probably do it reluctantly, due to a lack of better options. But most will probably look to find someone else who takes Cain's small government, tax-cutting, spending-cutting rhetoric. Who will that be?

The most likely benefactors are Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. As we've shown, many of the Cain supporters probably came from Perry's camp in the first place, and therefore may still like him as a fallback. Gingrich is a small government champion whose platform is similar to Cain's, and he is in third place right now. Even though Gingrich has a slight edge right now in the polls, I think Perry has a better shot at being the nominee because of his job creating resume and lack of Gingrich's baggage.  But honestly, both of their appeal is simply due to the process of elimination. The absence of Cain does not make either of those two guys any more enticing. I don't think Cain's 999 gimmick captured the hearts and minds of the American conservative either, I just think Republicans tried and failed with Bachmann and Perry, and then they looked around and didn't see much else. If Cain falls too, they've got to be getting desperate.

It is for this reason that there has never been a better time for a fiscal conservative to make a move than right now.  There are a bunch of small government fiscal conservatives around looking for someone to endorse. Santorum is Romney without having been governor, Bachmann is viewed as a nut-job prone to gaffes who killed her chance, and both are too socially conservative anyway. If Cain falls out, the door is wide open for somebody most people haven't considered to make a run for it. Yes, Ron Paul and John Huntsman, I'm looking at you. Both of these guys are a total longshot: Ron Paul's foreign policy and non-party-line-towing nature will probably turn people away, nobody knows who the hell John Huntsman is, and both are frankly kind of ugly. But if either of them have huge piles of money sitting around (Paul has $40.24 of mine...), this is the time to spend it, because the race is no more clear right now than it was when it began.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Cain Fiasco

The amount of negative publicity that Herman Cain has received in recent weeks is astounding. Ever since he tied with Romney as the leading candidate, the media has had him square in their sights, trying their darndest to illuminate his flaws and lack of experience. They are doing a mighty fine job. Apart from the past month,Cain has spent most of his political career being ignored as a non-contender, and I think he was legitimately taken by surprise to see his name rise in the polls so quickly. Consequently, he was unprepared to be on the defensive so frequently by opponents and by a media who all of a sudden find it worth their time to attack him. The result has been Republicans blasting his tax plan because it adds another tax without removing the others (even though it lowers them), the media blasting his total lack of foreign policy experience (made worse by his not knowing that China had nukes) and apparent flip-flops on abortion. But all of this pales in comparison to the "sexual harassment" scandal he's now bogged down in. With each day that goes on, the drama surrounding this issue resembles less a political campaign and more Cosmopolitan Magazine celebrity gossip.

On Sunday, Politico unearthed a story claiming Cain had been involved in a verbal sexual harassment case with two former secretaries from the National Restaurant Association (not the other NRA!). Cain was asked if he had ever been accused of sexual harassment. Taken by surprise, he said no. When pressed with the details of the allegations (which occurred back in the 1990's),  he admitted it he had been accused but hurriedly poo-pooed it, rightfully saying that it was settled "long ago" and that he has never committed any sexual harassment. This apparent contradiction drove further interest in the story and it was unearthed that the former colleagues had each received severance pay in exchange for dropping their suits and leaving the company - 35,000 and 45,000, respectively. The elevating publicity of the story eventually caused Cain to address the details of one of the allegations: he said he told one of them that she "was about the same height as his wife" and gestured this by putting his hand up to his chin. This caused even more drama, because apparently discussing those details of the allegations violated the severance agreement reached with the two women. In response, the lawyer of one of the two women sought judicial permission for her to give a public interview saying her side of the story some time in the future.

Frustrated by the growing publicity of what honestly should be a non-issue in the campaign, Cain then went on the offensive. He blamed the "liberal media" for launching a withering, hateful attack on him because he is a black conservative, which many liberals particularly abhor. He compared the allegations to the attacks on black conservative supreme court Clarence Thomas back in the early 90's for alleged sexual assault, which many Republicans at the time called race-based. Cain then blamed a former aide to his 2004 Senatorial campaign named Curt Anderson for leaking the story to the press to sabotage his campaign; Anderson now works for Rick Perry's campaign, and Cain claims he told them about the allegations in a private conversation in 2003. Anderson has denied the conversation and says he found out when everyone else did on Sunday. The result is a massive distraction and lots of bad publicity for Cain on an issue that really has no bearing on who is best suited to be President of the United States.

On one hand, I feel bad for Cain. If what he said is all he said, then this should not be a story making headlines 15 years later. The media is liberally biased, and if he actually did have that conversation with Anderson then the timing of the release is quite a coincidence. But while the allegations themselves don't concern me and I don't think they affect whether or not he's qualified to be President, I think his campaigns response to the allegations may affect his likelihood of getting elected. His personal response to this in the moment was bumbling and uncomfortable, and his campaigns response was unprofessional and made it into a bigger issue than it really was. As the newcomer on the block, he has to prove that he is a legitimate contender in what is going to be a very long, very heated, very ugly general election. So far, he hasn't looked up to the task. I guarantee Mitt Romney would have come out of this looking much better than Cain has; he would have known exactly what to say, what level of controversy warrants what sort of a reply and what to dismiss as too baseless to deserve an answer. And by playing the race card, he has contradicted his message that race shouldn't be an issue and people should stop blaming it for their problems.

Only time will tell if this particular issue will hang around long enough to seriously impede his campaign, but unless he shores up on both foreign policy and how to work the media it might not make a difference.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My take on the candidates

I'd like to start out the journey by making clear my thoughts on each Republican candidate, my hopes for who wins, and my thoughts on who actually will. I'll go in order of present national poll standing according to the Real Clear Politics Polling Index; the other chances are purely my current estimations.

Herman Cain – Cain’s recent surge to a slight lead over Romney has been a product of the Tea Party, the heightened Republican reliance on limited government, his catchy 999 tax plan, and the lack of better alternatives. However, I speculate that his I don’t think Cain being black will hurt him amongst republicans, because even the rare racist people are oftentimes eager to show the world how non-racist and tolerant and open-minded they are. I think it will hurt him amongst democrats, however. This is partially because they'd view him as a copycat and a gimmick that Republicans are only running for said purpose, but mostly because they oppose his stances on affirmative action and the welfare state, and Democrats are made uncomfortable by minorities who oppose special treatment for minorities. Regrettably, those stances would likely limit his acquisition of black votes (but for sure he’d get more than the others). Obama would portray his 999 plan as "a tax break for the rich" who need to "pay their fair share", which would hurt him in a general election. He'd have a shot, and ideologically Cain is pretty sound, but even republicans might balk at his idea for a VAT (as do I), and ultimately I don't think he could stand with Obama at a debate from a rhetoric angle.
RCP Index: 26%
Chances he wins the Republican nomination: 20%
Chances he wins the general election: 8%

Mitt Romney - That Mitt Romney is a frontrunner speaks to exactly one thing: how weak and/or problematic the rest of the field really is. As conservative website Free Republic puts it, Republicans are generally "pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun, pro-small government, pro-constitution, pro-liberty...Governor Romney is none of the above." That is, he’s none of the above until he needs to be. What’s really stunning is his lack of any principles or consistent ideology whatsoever. This is what makes him one of my personal least favorite candidates. The only ideology he's committed to is the ideology that will give him the best chance of getting elected at the time. He's got more flip-flops than a beach. He made Romneycare and pro-choice stances in liberal Massachusetts, and then blasted Obamacare and made pro-life stances for republicans. He was a fantastic businessman because he is able to detect trends in the market and position his business in the best strategic place to target that market by providing consumers with whatever they wanted to buy. He's used that same skill to great success in politics: he notices the trends in the electorate, and then changes his message to whatever it is the people want to hear now. But that’s just so slimy! And in a general election, I think that would be exposed as insincere. He's not a tireless champion of small, limited constitutional government, he's a champion of keeping himself in office. That's the textbook definition of a career politician, whether he's spent his whole career in politics or not. He is, at his core, a big government republican, and if there were ever an election in which that is a death knell, this is it. But at the same time, when it comes to playing the game of politics, steering clear of gaffe’s, and looking good in a debate without actually saying anything controversial, he’s probably the most capable man in the fight. Career politicians tend to succeed at advancing their careers, and with lots of money and many high profile endorsements, he just may do so.
            RCP Index: 24%
Chances he wins the Republican nomination: 30%
Chances he wins the general election: 15%

Rick Perry – Despite being in third place, he is honestly the one who I think has the best chance of getting the Republican nomination. He's not actually evangelical at all, he's hardly even religious, he's just putting on a facade right now to help him out in the bible belt. He was poor in the first few debates, but he's righted the ship a bit. He's enabled job creation like crazy, and jobs will be the “change” of 2012. He's successfully marketed himself as the anti-Bush republican. He's demonstrated a willingness to reach across the aisle, and can win the massive and growing Latino vote with his immigration policies: while these may piss off some suburban white folks, it won't piss them off enough to vote democrat, and it's certainly not something Obama would attack him on. And you know what his best attribute is? He's not any of the others! Each time a new candidate has risen in the polls (Bachmann, Cain, Perry, etc.) the media has quickly turned up as much dirt as they can on them and sharpened the microscope. They found a sex scandal, VAT hatred, abortion flip-flops and foreign policy uneasiness for Cain; they found generic bible-thumping and all around unintelligence for Bachmann. All they found for Perry was that somebody spray painted the n-word on his dad’s property. I don't see any major "yeah, but..." flaw that would take him out of consideration. He's a tough guy who loves his guns, has experience running the executive branch of a large state and has had success in driving the economy of that state, which is more than can be said for most of the others. The last time we elected somebody inexperienced, it didn't work out so well, and if I had to guess who will eventually get the nod, I'd put my money here.
            Present RCP Index: 10%
            Chances he wins the Republican Nomination: 30%
            Chances he wins the general election: 20%

Gingrich - He makes a great talking head, because he's rhetorically very talented. But he also was involved in a sex scandal at the same time as he was blowing hot air and feigning anguish at Clinton's sex scandal. Ultimately, he's too polarizing to gain a wide enough coalition to win. Give the man a radio talk show or maybe even a Vice Presidential place on someone else's ticket, but I think he fan base is mostly middle-aged white conservatives who fondly remember the 90’s and would happily vote for another Republican if he lost. He has little to offer the ticket that others can’t offer, but much baggage to bring along with him.
Present RCP Average: 9.4%
Chances he wins Republican nomination: 5%
Chances he wins general election: 2%

Paul – He’s perfect. But no, in all seriousness, I don't think he can win. However, I think that's only because he can't win the primary, not because he couldn't win a head to head with Obama. Think about it. There are a lot of disgruntled democratic doves sitting around thinking to themselves "Why the hell are we in more wars now than we were under Bush? Why the hell are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan and ALSO in Libya and Yemen?" There are a lot of unemployed people sitting around who realize Obama cannot create jobs. And while some republicans may balk at his foreign policy, would they really balk at it enough to vote democrat? The tea party has given new life to the small government factions of the Republican party and Paul is the only candidate who has been speaking that language for the past 40 years, the only one who they can trust will come through on his promises to shrink government. His name is not Barack Obama, which means republicans will vote for him if they really have to, but his name is not any of the other Republican candidates, which means he may get independent support. Four years ago, public trust in government was low, and Obama won on a campaign centered around change. McCain tried to defeat that message by calling Obama a "radical". He failed, because the conditions were bad and people were less scared of even a radical change than they were of "more of the same". Well, today, public confidence in government is even lower, and I think that “change” rhetoric could still be mighty effective if people see a candidate who is honestly, genuinely, undeniably a change. Not even democrats can say with a straight face that Paul doesn't represent change. Their only strategy will be to discredit crazy uncle Ron as a radical, as a raving lunatic, to scare people away from the very change message Obama preached in 08. Perhaps I trust the American people too much, but I honestly don't think it would work. I think Obama's appeal would be crippled without his change rhetoric, and I think the "I'm a moderate!" rhetoric he would fall back upon would crumble when Paul reminds everyone that Obamacare was jammed through without a single Republican vote. What would be left for Barack to say? His campaign would be all attack and no self promotion, because he hasn't done anything worthy of promoting (at least, nothing popular enough to effectively promote). If any other republican candidate were to win, he could still paint them as the stuffy old George Bush clone who "got us into this mess in the first place" and stopped him from fixing our problems with "partisan games in Washington", yada yada yada. But painting Ron Paul as "just another evil republican" wouldn't fly, because he’s clearly different from the rest. I think the traditionally democratic groups of a) young people, b) prison reform advocates c) drug legalization advocates and d) foreign policy doves would switch to the right in a heartbeat, and I think that the youth vote especially would rejuvenate the republican party and set it up for success in the future once all the old people who still believe in Medicare and Social Security die off. Conclusion: Ron Paul won't win the republican nomination. But if he did, I bet he would beat Obama in a head-to-head fight. If it ever happens, you can quote me on it.
            Current RCP Average: 8.2%
            Chances he wins Republican nomination: 10%
            Chances he wins general election: 8%

Michele Bachmann - Sarah Palin's older, less hot sister. They're saying the same things. To her credit, Bachmann is slightly more intelligent, less folksy and less narcissistic (she wouldn't make her own nature television show, for instance), but she wouldn't escape that image because she's a republican woman and whenever a republican woman gives impassioned rhetoric they're viewed as batty. She did win the Iowa straw poll, but she’s too much of a Bible thumper to win over the libertarian vote, too hated by moderates to have a chance at winning the General election, and too likely to attack people’s tax plans with references to them being the devil’s work (as she did here:
            Current RCP Average: 3.8%
            Chances she wins Republican nomination: 2%
            Chances she wins general election: 0%

Rick Santorum – Basically a Christian Mitt Romney without the flip-flops and without having ever been a governor. A social conservative who’s shaky on his economic ideology and who most people feel lacks the credentials to be a President. Nobody knows who he is. He’s young and attractive, but seems much better attacking during debates than promoting his own candidacy. He’s ultimately too much of a social conservative hardliner to win the general election, even if he had anything unique to offer the ticket anyway.
            Current RCP Average: 1.8%
            Chances he wins Republican Nomination: 0%
            Chances he wins general election: 0%

Jon Huntsman – Hey, I like the guy. He strikes me as an intelligent, rational, knowledgeable, economically sound Republican. He’s moderate-liberal on social issues which would help him in the general election, and he’s perhaps more qualified than any non-Ron Paul candidate on the other issues. Unfortunately, nobody knows him, and he’s kinda ugly. Which means he and Ron Paul would make great running mates!
            Current RCP Average: 1.2%
            Chances he wins the Republican nomination: 3%
            Chances he wins the general election: 3%

For those of you who are counting, that means I put Barack Obama’s chance of reelection at about 45%.