Hard Landing

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Newt Gingrich is limping out of Florida with no momentum, little money and not much to be happy about. After his substantial victory in South Carolina and visions of soaring to the moon, Newt has crashed back to earth. His supporters are pinning his loss on negative ads from the Romney side, but that argument is just sour grapes. The truth is that Newt hurt himself more than Romney did and very likely hurt the conservative cause in the process.

First, let’s dismiss the argument that negative ads are what sank Newt. That was true in Iowa. Conservative voters abandoned him and voted instead for Santorum. In New Hampshire without the attacks, the conservatives split fairly evenly between Gingrich and Santorum. In South Carolina, even with negative attacks, Newt won solidly. In Florida, Gingrich still won the conservatives – his voters did not run to Santorum as in Iowa. The negative ads didn’t bring Gingrich down. He secured his base, but it was a smaller base than in South Carolina. Hence, he lost.

To the moonHis real weakness was an inability to steal moderates from Romney. He only has himself to blame for that. His debate attacks were exposed as little more than stunts and his boasts exploded like over-inflated balloons. His image as a man with great knowledge and serious solutions backed by past experience suffered greatly. When he was caught with flagrantly incorrect ‘facts’ during the debates, it weakened trust in his criticisms of Romney. When his big spending promises in each State he’s campaigned in were called out during the debates, it weakened confidence in his ability to have real solutions. When his great claim to fame of balancing the budget was admitted to be false because it was done by robbing Social Security, it undermined his claim to be the experienced fixer the country needs. Gingrich didn’t just have some bad debates, he collapsed during them. His strong supporters may not see that nor admit it, but those who are not Newties were able to see it and the exit polls confirm it.

The real disservice Newt did in Florida was convince people that he is the only conservative who can beat Mitt. As a result, when Newt started to implode only voters who were shaky for Mitt stayed with him rather than go with another candidate. The race was viewed as being between Mitt or Newt and undecided voters found themselves with little choice than to support Mitt under the circumstances. Even if you add together the Gingrich and Santorum votes, Mitt still wins. That isn’t because of negative attack ads on Newt, but rather the inability of Santorum to gain undecided voters because they felt the only candidates who could win in November were Mitt and Newt. That two man view is something only Newt has been pushing and for which he must take the blame when his campaign stumbles resulted in an overall conservative loss.

Newt will likely double-down on his themes. He’ll say that he’s the only conservative that stands a chance. He’ll say that only he has the experience needed. He’ll whine about negative attacks. He’ll launch new attacks of his own which will likely be as weakly supported as his most recent ones in Florida that backfired. As I wrote after his loss in Iowa when he lost his temper and started his attacks on capitalism, Newt is his own worst enemy and his own undoing.

46 States to go…or so he says.

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Newt Handed the Debate Win by CNN

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CNN handed the debate to Newt Gingrich on the opening question about his ex-wife’s allegations. With an economy in the toilet, millions out of work, a debt that is out of control and so many other issues facing us, CNN decided that the old allegations dredged back up by ABC were the top issue to debate about. Newt hit back hard and brought even more cheers than he did in the last debate. The audience was with him regardless of who they had originally come in supporting and that is all he needed to roll up another debate win and very likely a win on Saturday as well. It was a massive media gaffe, the likes of which the GOP can only hope to have in a debate against Obama in October.

Beyond the wild start, the debate was mainly between Romney and Gingrich with Santorum shoehorning his way in whenever he could find a chance. At one point, Ron Paul even had to tell him that he wasn’t referring to him in an answer and “I think you’re too sensitive.” Speaking of Ron Paul, he continued to lose out in the debate format by only occasionally being asked a question while the ‘chance to respond’ rule mainly kept the entire debate between the other three who kept attacking each other. At one point the audience actually booed and demanded the moderator let Ron Paul answer a question when he was about to be skipped over yet again. They ought to bring out an easy chair for Paul to relax in during the 20 or so minutes he has to wait before getting a chance to speak.

Santorum is showing no signs of dropping out and has only stepped up his attacks against Gingrich. He feels that he beat Gingrich twice and deserves to be the one conservative candidate. On that measure, he has a point. The problem with Rick is that he always sounds like a whining spoiled child arguing with his parents. Even when he is making really good points, he is about as unlikable as Romney. You have to give him credit for not caring what others think and being willing to stand by his convictions. Unfortunately, his convictions don’t line up well with the majority of Americans when weighed across all issues. America may be generally more conservative than it is liberal on key issues, it isn’t in favor of government meddling in the internet, the bedroom and a number of other places Santorum thinks are fair game for federal agents to dictate.

Romney had one of his best performances. He tried to channel a little Newt-ness with a couple quick one word answers – particularly when asked if he would follow the example of his father and release a dozen years of tax returns. Unfortunately for Mitt, he doesn’t play the part of jokester well. Those failed attempts to have a personality aside, he did a far better job articulating his positions than he has in the past few debates. He managed nearly whole audience support several times, although he did get heckled once. All in all, Romney seems to have refound his footing and should be able to prevent any further backslide in support for awhile. He may have to accept the fact that he isn’t going to win South Carolina and the nomination isn’t going to be easy to obtain.

No one collapsed in the debate. In fact, all four candidates turned in better performances they they had previously. The lines are becoming more clearly drawn. That makes Ron Paul the real loser of the debate as his inability to clearly articulate his ideas seems worse than it did when Perry was around doing an even worse job. If Paul can’t find a way to make salient points without drifting off-point constantly, he’s going to see his percentage of support drop over the next several contests as undecided voters don’t connect with him.

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President of the A.V. Club

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Whoopidee doo, Ricky Santorum maybe, kind-of, possibly won in Iowa, but we’ll never know. We’re in South Carolina now and voting in Florida in less than two weeks. Those are big league primaries. No offense to Iowa, but who cares what they think? (Actually, I guess that is an offense to Iowa – but given their track record, they only have themselves to blame.) The froth may have floated to the top in Iowa, but Santorum had few champions in New Hampshire and isn’t exciting many in South Carolina either.

Sure, Rick can now tout maybe having won in Iowa. Of course, that will sway about as many voters as saying he was elected President of the A.V. Club back in grade school. No one in South Carolina really cares. The only people who might care are that small segment of the population who think sweater vests are hip. Oh, wait… The only people who think that are already Santorum lovers: hipsters voting for Obama and people who have already lined up to support Rick Santorum. (Just read it again and you’ll get it and if not, just Google Santorum).

Anyway, my point is that Santorum isn’t going to the White House unless it’s as an invited guest. It doesn’t matter if he maybe, possibly won in Iowa. The only thing that matters out of the Iowa story is that the GOP in Iowa can’t figure out who won. It raises doubts about how effective they’ll be in helping the GOP in the general election if they are that disorganized as to mess up the only thing anyone pays attention to Iowa about.

When Santorum finally drops out of the race, he can rock gently back and forth in a darkened closet clutching a sweater vest repeating to himself, “I maybe won Iowa. I maybe won Iowa. I maybe won Iowa.”

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How Far Will Perry’s Endorsement Go?

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Rick Perry bowed out of the race for the Presidency and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Given how poorly Perry was doing in the polls, his endorsement isn’t worth squat if all it gives Newt is Perry’s voters. What Newt needs and Perry has are money and contacts. With the Florida contest only a short way off, Gingrich needs to hit the airwaves there with ads right now.

We should find out within 24 hours if Perry’s endorsement comes with real campaign support (donors, contacts, etc.) or not. If Newt goes in for a significant media buy in Florida to capture early voters before the weekend, then we know that Perry is fully behind Newt. If not, then Perry’s endorsement may not matter at all. The Texas primary is too far off to matter if Gingrich can’t get money for ads and an organization going on the ground in upcoming States.

Perry may have failed in his run for the nomination, but the reason he was considered a major player was not for his debate skills. Even when he struggled in the debates he was still considered a danger to the other candidates. The reason is simple: money. Perry is an effective fund-raiser and the only one thought capable of challenging the Romney war chest. If that power is fully behind Gingrich, then Romney could be in serious trouble.

Money not only buys ad time, but also the organization necessary to keep Newt from going off the deep end another time. Sometimes the candidate needs to be managed for his own good to protect his campaign image. Newt has benefited from basically running his own show and not getting bogged down in ‘candidate packaging’, but as he becomes the de facto conservative alternative to Romney – he’s going to need to be more careful. Having the money to blanket the airwaves helps with that as it will relieve some of the pressure he’s been under to ‘score a knock-out blow’ against Romney. With money, Newt only needs to be smart, responsible and conservative and he’ll defeat Romney.

The next 24 hours are the tell. If Newt hits the Florida airwaves with a large buy before the weekend, then he’s expecting money from former Perry donors. If he waits until after the SC results, then he’s expecting to have to raise money on his own. It may only be the matter of a day’s difference in buying ad time (before or after SC votes), but that day speaks volumes as to the level of help Perry will actually be.

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The Problem With Romney

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There are plenty of pundits explaining why Romney is the best candidate to go up against President Obama in November. The effort to find the candidate who has ‘the best chance of beating Obama’ has been the topic of countless editorials and discussion groups. Certainly defeating Obama is a critical goal, but victory in November will have more to do with the weakness of Obama due to his failed policies than anything the GOP puts on the table. When an incumbent is running for re-election it is almost always more of a referendum on that person than about the ideas of the challenger. That being the case, maybe the focus on who has ‘the best change of beating Obama’ is the wrong metric to be using in deciding our nominee.

I submit that the question we should be asking is, “Which candidate has the best chance of undoing Obama’s policies?” When looking at the election that way, Romney comes up short. That’s the real problem with Romney. We could look past his lack of a personality and stammering during almost every debate. We could even look past his flip-flops. But when we look past those things, what do we find? We find a manager. That’s not what the country needs.

Barack Obama has governed as one of the most radical and autocratic Presidents in our history. He has accomplished so much of his radical agenda in the past three years that it truly will take a radical and energetic effort in the opposite direction just to get the country back on an even keel, let alone making real progress. Romney isn’t a radical. He isn’t going to drive us back from Obamanism. He’s more likely to take ‘reasonable’ steps to slowly and thoughtfully back us away from the cliff only to have the next liberal who gets into the White House send us careening back over it.

The only way to undo a radical is either a long steady restoration or a radical restoration. Since Presidential terms are only 4 years long and there is no guarantee of a re-election victory, the slow and steady approach isn’t wise. We can’t afford to suffer under Obama’s policies for more than a year after he leaves office. We need a radical reversal of our nation’s course. We need what happened in Wisconsin and New Jersey where radical leftist nonsense was radically and swiftly thrown into the dumpster so real economic progress could be made.

Romney’s a nice guy and if the past four years had been Reagan’s second term, then Romney would be a great choice. All he’d have to do is be a manager and keep things running smoothly. But, the past four years weren’t Reagan’s second term; they were Obama’s radical experiment in disaster. We’re not running smoothly. We need more than a manager. We need a crusader who will drive to undo what Obama did with even more gusto than Obama used to do it himself.

We need to stop asking who could best defeat Obama and accept the fact that Obama will win or lose on his record. Assuming we do win the election because Obama is such a failure, which candidate will most effectively and quickly undo not just some of what Obama did, but ALL of what Obama did? The answer clearly isn’t Mitt Romney.

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Is Newt The Comeback Kid?

Bookmark and Share    Newt was focused and seemed to be resonating with the SC Republicans at the last debate. He made Santorum and Perry seem like lesser alternatives for the conservative vote. He’ll have to convince people finally in the debate on Thursday that he is the single conservative candidate to rally around if he hopes to win in South Carolina and hope to stop the Romney coronation. If anyone can do it, it is Newt Gingrich. At the same time, Newt is also the man who will have the hardest time doing it.

His attacks on Romney’s time at Bain were stupid and he now knows it. Many who found his attacks reckless turned to Santorum. They could be wooed back since Santorum was not their first choice and he is a fairly weak candidate. To get them back, Newt has been explaining his attacks and distancing himself from the SuperPAC that launched the worst of them. He doesn’t have much time to heal the wounds, but is making excellent progress. Whether he can pull it off this week without making another mistake remains to be seen. If he can pull it off anywhere, it would be easiest in South Carolina where he has many past supporters.

A victory for Newt in South Carolina can come in two ways: he can beat Romney or he can be at least 10 points ahead of Santorum. With either outcome, he can campaign on the ‘strongest conservative’ strategy fairly successfully and probably win back all those who lost confidence in him outside South Carolina. However if he stays tangled up with Santorum, the two of them will have to get in a room and decide who is going to drop out in order to unite the conservative vote before it is too late to make a difference.

But, let’s say that Gingrich pulls off the win in South Carolina by at least distancing himself from Santorum and Perry. Perry will, if he has any sense for his political future, drop out of the race so as not to split the conservative vote. Santorum should do the same, but would probably try to make one last stand in Florida hoping that Newt would only be strong in SC. All that aside, the question remains: would Newt uniting the conservatives be a good thing?

We have learned that the new Newt is just the old Newt with a couple dozen extra pounds. He is still mercurial and gets sucked into conflicts without seeing the bigger picture. The Bain mistake will likely not be his last and conservatives could find themselves without a candidate if he implodes later in the race. If he manages to hold it together and win the nomination, he is still a hard candidate to sell to the all-important independent voters. No one can question his debate skills, but if he can spin out of control so easily under the pressure of Romney’s attacks it certainly raises doubts that he will be able to battle the vicious lie machine called the Obama campaign.

Can Newt be the Comeback Kid? Would the party benefit if he were? I think he will succeed in being the final conservative standing and challenge Romney. I’d give him a 30% chance of winning the nomination if he pulls that off. I’d then give him a 25% of winning the Presidency if he were the nominee. I, and pretty much every Republican, would end up voting for him because of our intense desire to see Obama out of office. Yet, independents are fickle and can be bought by slick ads and accusations – especially with a complicit media helping at every turn. Newt would only need to make one mistake and he would be beaten over the head with it constantly. While I am entirely convinced he would mop the floor with Obama in a debate, I doubt Obama will give him the opportunity. Sure, Newt says he’s just hound Obama like Lincoln after Douglas. That would work if the media weren’t in the bag for Obama and would report Newt fairly. Since that is not the case, Newt would make a lot of good points no one he needs to reach would hear.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Newt is great. I’d love to see him force Santorum and Perry out of the race and get this nomination process focused between the three wings of the party with one candidate each. I think that the party needs that debate and to pick a direction on issues rather than personal bickering. I just don’t think Newt can pull off the final victory due to the mistakes he’s already made and the likelihood that he’ll make more when the pressure really comes on. In his defense, I think Santorum and Perry stand even less of a chance and if anyone can pull it off for the conservatives – it is Newt.

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Time to Stand

Bookmark and Share    One of the greatest problems plaguing the political scene is cowardice. More particularly it is ideological cowardice. It is an admitted fact that candidates run to the fringe during primaries and then run to the center for the general election. That is considered good politics. Unfortunately, it makes for bad government.

The level of disgust with our elected government is astonishing. If it were just political partisanship, we could expect that approval ratings would be somewhere around 50%. Yet that is not the case. Approval ratings have dropped into the single digits numerous times for Congress and into the 30s for Presidents. Clearly the people are disappointed even in their own party’s elected officials.

The reason is simple. Politicians are cowards. They are for something one second and against it the next. Recently we’ve seen an uptick in the “I’m for it, but not for how it is being done” or “These are special circumstances that require measures I wouldn’t normally support.” They are two different ways of saying, “I don’t want to look like a flip-flopper but I want to be on the side of political expediency.” It is as if almost our entire elected government has become filled with Arlen Specter clones.

It is difficult to find a candidate that you can really believe will do what he or she claims. It is difficult to find a candidate that consistently speaks from an ideological foundation that is firm. The one thing all our “greatest” Presidents had in common was their willingness to stick to their principles and govern as they promised. Granted there were some Presidents who were equally consistent and failed, but at least the people knew what they were getting and they could decide whether or not to support those men. Today we treat ‘political conversion’ or ‘position adjustment’ as some sort of normal behavior.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. Is it normal to convert from Catholicism to Islam and then again to Lutheran? Such a thing would be considered absurd. But how are ‘political conversions’ any different? Sure, decades ago someone might go from Democrat to Republican because the parties themselves were transformed – BUT the reason for the change in party affiliation was based on a desire to be in the party that represented that person’s UNCHANGED positions on issues. Such changes are more like a member of the Episcopal Church becoming a Lutheran because that person did not support changes in the Episcopal Church doctrine (such as ordaining gay clergy). The person’s beliefs never changed, but the group to which he belonged changed in a way that was incompatible with those beliefs. That is not what is happening in politics today.

What we have today are people who are claiming to have changed their beliefs or to have found exceptions to their beliefs. That’s like a man saying he’s straight, but another guy at the gym was unusually attractive and in that extraordinary circumstance it made sense to have gay sex. Be it abortion or government bailouts or foreign affairs, it seems that ‘anything goes’ is the new normal. Whatever the political winds of that day happen to be, so too are that candidate’s “convictions”. It is disgraceful.

What will a candidate do if elected? Who knows? Maybe their record will shed some light on that and maybe it won’t. Maybe their previous positions will shed some light on that and maybe they won’t. It all depends on which parts of those they agree with today and which ones they see as ‘mistakes I’ve learned from’. Of course, today’s convictions may be tomorrow’s ‘mistakes I learned from’.

These ideological void candidates are not the only problem. We, the people, are equally to blame. We are cowards ourselves when we fear our beliefs might bring us criticism. We allow critics of our beliefs to bully us into silence about them rather than be labeled ‘extremists’. We end up supporting a candidate based not on what they truly believe and whether that matches our beliefs, but rather on who we dislike least of those ‘who can win’. We sell ourselves out first and then are upset when the person we supported does the same thing. We feel betrayed that the candidate that didn’t really share our views governs in a way that is contrary to our views instead of in the way promised during a campaign.

I have been one of those cowards this year. I have strong ideological beliefs. Yet, I refused to support the candidate that most reflects those views because I didn’t think he could win. I bought into the lie that we should support the one who can win over the one who is right. I took the side of those who refused to support Goldwater in ’64 and Reagan in ’76. I tried, in vain, to find another candidate who could serve as a ‘good enough’ choice and that ‘could win’ according to the pundits. I was an ideological coward.

Today that changes. Today I set aside my indecision between candidates I don’t really agree with who pundits say can win and throw my support behind the candidate with whom I am in the most ideological agreement. Maybe he can’t win the nomination. If he doesn’t, then I’ll support who does as any of them are better than Obama. But, this is my vote. This is my party. This is my ideology.

My endorsement for the 2012 Republican Nomination goes to Congressman Ron Paul.
Congressman Ron Paul

I fully recognize Ron Paul’s limitations. He has never been a chief executive. He’s not supported by the leadership of his party. He’s not a great speaker. His foreign policy scares the establishment. All those things were said about Barry Goldwater in 1964 but history proved that he would have been far better than what we got. His campaign sparked a movement that eventually brought us Ronald Reagan and the Republican Revolution of 1994.

We live in a different world than in the days of Reagan. An evil empire is not our chief concern and primary security risk. Today we face isolated terrorist cells around the world and the threat of economic destruction through control of energy, currency manipulation and cyber attack. Our national debt is greater than our GDP and our economy is built upon pushing money around more than actually creating anything of real value. Our entitlement system has grown so precariously huge that it threatens to bankrupt us within the foreseeable future.

There is only one candidate who sees that these issues are the greatest threats facing us. There is only one candidate who will use the power of the Presidency to force real cuts in spending and not just in the rate of spending growth. There is only one candidate who will rethink the old Cold War era military thinking and re-position us for responding to the threats of the 21st century. There is only one candidate who has been ideologically consistent for decades and who has correctly predicted the problems we are faced with today. There is only one candidate who won’t be corrupted by polls or pundits or lobbyists. There is only one candidate who believes more in governing within the confines of the Constitution than in finding excuses to circumvent it. There is only one candidate who put his life on the line for his country. There is only one candidate for me.

That candidate is Ron Paul and he has my endorsement and support.

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