Hollow Victories?

One aspect of the Republican race for the nomination that may yet become a serious issue is the penalty assessed on NH, SC, FL, AZ and MI because they held their primaries before February. It has been the case that no Republican has won the nomination without winning SC and either IA or NH. Yet, this year those victories are more a public relations victory than ones that really build a delegate base. Even if Mitt Romney swept the January primaries, he won’t have amassed the type of delegate count candidates would have historically had by Michigan. When he is only polling on average at 25% across the country and a couple other candidates still with money and a national campaign staff, Romney could be unexpectedly wiped out on Super Tuesday.

While the traditional conservatives are split right now between three candidates, there is time to unite even after Michigan and still effectively challenge Romney. That was not the case four years ago when the split among the conservatives allowed McCain to build not just a list of victories, but a strong foundation of delegates. With half of the delegates stripped from the early primary States and the proportioning of delegates splitting them even further, Mitt Romney will not have the lead that McCain had by Michigan even if he runs the table. That has to be cause for concern.

Complicating the issue is the candidacy of Ron Paul. He’s not going anywhere. He can raise the money and has the grassroots network to at least maintain his current percentage of the votes. As the conservatives coalesce around a single candidate, this will become a three man race. Even if the final conservative candidate cannot fully consolidate all of the support currently spread across three, he will only really need around 40% of the electorate to win the election if Paul stays around 20%. Romney voters are not energized for him, generally speaking. Already he is tied with Ron Paul when they are polled against Obama – meaning Romney’s ‘best candidate to defeat Obama’ pitch is already losing its power. When the conservatives finally settle on a single candidate (probably after Florida), that person will likely also pull even with Romney and Paul on head to head match-ups with Obama. With the moderates split, a conservative could cruise to victory.

Super Tuesday could also redefine the election from the current Romney vs. non-Romney into Paul vs. non-Paul. This is possible because the conservative candidate will battle Romney mainly as the main rival, leaving Paul to his 20%. Once the delegates get tangled up between Romney and the eventual conservative candidate, Paul’s slowly accumulating delegate count will become an issue. More moderate Republicans could begin to shift from Romney to Paul as Romney’s chances of victory wane. Gingrich, Santorum and Perry are all polarizing figures. Unifying each others’ supporters will be hard enough, but winning over the more moderate voters could be very difficult, especially if the kinds of attacks on Romney that have been made by them recently continue over the next six weeks. Disgruntled Romney supporters (the elderly in particular) may shift over to Paul giving him both the elderly and the youth. If the vitriol between the eventual conservative and Romney were bad enough, Romney could even endorse Paul just to stick it to the person who ‘robbed him’ of his nomination.

Of course, the conservatives uniting may not happen. An angry Perry or Santorum or Gingrich could pull out and endorse Romney rather than join with a conservative they are angry with. That would give Romney more conservative credentials and be just enough to let him steamroll over the final conservative candidate. With Paul pulling out at least 20%, Romney doesn’t need to be stellar so long as the conservatives don’t fully unite.

Certainly this is all speculation. However, the stripping of half the delegates from the early primary States has bought time for the conservatives to unify that they lacked in 2008. Combine that with a stronger Ron Paul who has gone all in this year (abandoning his seat in the House) and the early primaries just don’t hold the power they normally do. A third party run in the general election is very unlikely. But the dynamics of such a race playing out for the Republican nomination is not only possible but probable. The conservatives will unite. Paul will continue on. Romney will not be safely ahead in the delegate count after FL. How that plays out just can’t be predicted right now. Just don’t think that it is over even if Mitt sweeps right through FL. The victories are hollow when it comes to actual delegates gained. He’ll still be vulnerable. There are States that only Romney and Paul are on the ballot and conservatives could support Paul in those just to weaken Romney, complicating the delegate picture. This isn’t over and won’t be over for quite some time.

Capitalism a Casualty of Campaign

What is happening to the Republican field?  It made some sense when Cain was attacked for being a businessman with no foreign policy experience and no political experience.  That was perhaps a fair shot at an outsider businessman candidate.

Then came the attacks on Newt for having Freddie Mac as a client.  Newt not only had Freddie as a client, but his firm made over a million dollars.  Suddenly, it was like Newt himself had caused the economic collapse.  Reasonable conservatives told me that this was insurmountable.  How could Newt, a high level business consultant, have Freddie Mac as a client?  His fellow candidates tried to make it sound like Newt was on their payroll.  Suddenly populism had overtaken the Republican party.

Then came the attacks on Romney for his time at Bain Capital.  Romney’s company created new businesses, reorganized and saved businesses, and occasionally tried to save businesses and failed.  As with any free American enterprise, Bain Capital sometimes downsized and let people go.  Romney’s opponents have seized on this, especially with the ignorant populist anti-wall street sentiment in the country today, and have tried to use this against Romney.  They have painted him as an out of touch, insanely rich “Mr. Burns” who would go in, take over small companies, and fire everyone just to make a buck.  Here’s an idea, how about a millionaire’s surtax on evil rich people like Romney?  Oops, we just became liberals.

I know, political rhetoric is political rhetoric.  You say whatever it takes to win.  But then came the really disappointing moment.  GOP rivals jumped on Romney’s statement that he likes to be able to fire people.  Romney was not saying that he likes to randomly fire people, or likes to fire employees like Bain Capital did.  Huntsman attacked Romney directly for the comment, while Newt released a video exploiting workers who had been fired as a result of Bain Capital’s work.  Romney was actually talking about the ability to not have to buy insurance, or to drop an insurance company that isn’t serving his needs.  But what does context matter in politics?  Shame on them for this line of attack.  You know it’s bad when you are attacking a moderate Republican, and even Ron Paul is standing up for the moderate.  In fact, my hat is off to Ron Paul for defending Romney against this dishonest line of attack.  Newt also eventually came to Romney’s defense about the misquote.

Newt at this point will likely lose Florida, which means he will lose the primary.  Up until this week, at least he had the opportunity to exit with his head held high.  Up to now he had run a very honest, positive campaign.  When he did go negative, it was with honesty.  His best shot at salvaging the honor in his campaign at this point is a humble apology for attacking Romney for being a capitalist.

One final note, may the best capitalist win.  Since when has populism won over conservatives?  Heck, what’s the point?  If Newt is evil for having Freddie Mac as a paying client and Romney is evil for what he did with Bain Capital, then we need to re-elect Obama.  Imagine if Trump had stayed in the race.

 

Editors note: correction from the originally posted article.  Newt did defend Romney against the attack based on his statement about firing insurance companies.  However Newt has attacked Romney for the jobs lost through Bain Capital.

Live New Hampshire Primary Election Result Updates

286 of 301 Precincts Reporting – 95%
Name Party Votes Vote %
Romney, Mitt GOP 94,252 39%
Paul, Ron GOP 54,511 23%
Huntsman, Jon GOP 40,388 17%
Gingrich, Newt GOP 22,518 9%
Santorum, Rick GOP 22,292 9%
Perry, Rick GOP 1,668 1%
Roemer, Buddy GOP 898 0%
Total Write-ins GOP 788 0%
Bachmann, Michele GOP 341 0%
Karger, Fred GOP 331 0%
Rubash, Kevin GOP 246 0%
Johnson, Gary GOP 175 0%
Cain, Herman GOP 148 0%
Lawman, Jeff GOP 122 0%
Hill, Christopher GOP 103 0%
Linn, Benjamin GOP 82 0%
Meehan, Michael GOP 46 0%
Story, Joe GOP 39 0%
Drummond, Keith GOP 35 0%
Betzler, Bear GOP 29 0%
Robinson, Joe GOP 26 0%
Greenleaf, Stewart GOP 22 0%
Callahan, Mark GOP 18 0%
Swift, Linden GOP 17 0%
Martin, Andy GOP 16 0%
Wuensche, Vern GOP 15 0%
Brewer, Timothy GOP 14 0%
Davis, John GOP 13 0%
Crow, Randy GOP 12 0%
Cort, Hugh GOP 2 0%
Vestermark, James GOP 2 0%

Dixville Notch Opens the New Hampshire Primary With a Win for Romney and Huntsman

Bookmark and Share   With all the pomp and circumstance and meaning of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire has seen their first in the nation primary begin with the first voting in the state out of Dixville Notch.

Out of the 9 voters in the small town, 4 are Independent, 3 are Republican, and 2 are Democrats.  As is expected, most of the the Independent voters chose to vote in the Republican Primary and so out of the 6 votes cast in that contest, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman tied with 2 votes each.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul each received 1 vote.

On the Democratic side, President Obama won in a landslide, receiving all 2 of the registered Democrat voters and 1 Independent voter Dixville Notch.

Historically, Dixville Notch is about as good an indicator of voter sentiments in New Hampshire as Ron Paul is an example of responsible national security…………not at all.  But it is a good example of civic responsibility and participation in the democratic process and that is what’s it all about.  I would still have prefered that Independents were not allowed to influence the selection of who represents my Party but I am nonetheless glad to see that an end to the News Hampshire primary is in sight.  And short of a very unlikely surprise result in the Granite State, I am looking forward to the days leading up to the South Carolina Primary, a state primary contes twhich promises to provide a true proving ground for Mitt Romney and a real opportunity for any of his rivals who are still in the race after New Hampshire.

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These Debates Could Be Game Changers

Come on.  We’ve heard these candidates in just over one million debates so far this year.  Another one?  Another two actually, this weekend leading up to the New Hampshire debates.  And these two debates could definitely wreak havoc on the standings going into New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney is the undisputed front runner.  Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fans at this point are dreaming if they think their candidates are on a solid trajectory to win.  Not winning Iowa should be a clear sign to heavily religious social conservatives like Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and Newt that getting past Romney is going to be nearly impossible with a crowded field.  Bachmann got the hint, and Perry almost did.  As for Ron Paul, maybe if he runs two more times he can win enough support to break out of his traditional 5-10% polling finish.  Look, he’s already doing better this year than last time, and last time he did better than the time before.  That was Ross Perot’s and Ralph Nader’s problems.  They quit trying too soon.

Back to Mitt Romney.  You know he is back on the punching bag hook tonight, a place he hasn’t been since the very first debates.  Santorum wants a piece of him, Newt wants a piece of him, Jon Huntsman finally qualified for another debate and you know he wants to take Romney down a peg.  I think Perry will try to just get through the night and might take a few shots at Santorum.  As far as the #1 conservative attack dog of other conservatives, Michele Bachmann will not be there tonight to claim that Perry is in bed with pharmaceutical companies,  Newt Gingrich is pro-partial birth abortion and the number one Freddie Mac adviser responsible for the economic collapse, and whatever she might cook up about Rick Santorum while mostly leaving Paul and Romney alone.  So I think Romney will be taking the hits and the other candidates can relax their guard a little bit.

Now, on to the x factor in debates.  Newt Gingrich was finished this summer after his campaign collapsed and he proved he was in the top 1% by buying his wife jewelry.  I mean how out of touch can you get.  But, he has climbed back into contention through powerful and commanding debate performances.  Just two weeks ago, Gingrich was the front runner.  The difference between Gingrich’s fall and other candidates falls is that their demises can be tied directly to debate performance.  Bachmann with her claims about HPV and other wild attacks on the candidates, Perry with his glaring gaffe, Cain who offered 999 and 999, oh yeah and 999.  It wasn’t enough substance to save him when scandal gave nervous supporters a reason to doubt.  Huntsman affirmed his global warming stance.

Gingrich hurt himself with his illegal immigration stance, but his downfall can be attributed to the harsh attacks he faced over the last two weeks from Romney’s friends, paid allies, and former foes.  Ron Paul also attacked Newt, not Romney, with harsh ads in Iowa.  Paul has probably done the same math I have, but mistakenly thinks he has a shot with Newt’s base over Romney’s.

The debates are ad free.  They are also friend free.  The only way Romney can attack another candidate tonight without attacking that candidate directly is to pay off the moderator or a fellow candidate.  On that stage, it is going to be Santorum’s “what smells” debate face versus Perry’s memory versus Huntsman’s out of touch moderate stances versus Paul’s old shaky finger wagging versus Romney’s slick hair and nice demeanor versus Newt’s heavy hitting and quick wit and ideas.

If these debates garner an audience, this is all upside for Newt, and downside for front runner Mitt Romney and social conservative front runner Rick Santorum.  In an instance of incredible luck for the candidates in this New Hampshire debate, the New England Patriots get this weekend of playoff action off.

Iowa Recap

Romney won, Bachmann quit, Santorum is rising, Paul is maintaining his status quo, Newt is struggling, Perry has faith, and Huntsman….who?  Iowa recapped:

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney won in Iowa. Honestly?  No big deal. Romney will gain momentum from winning, but when people look at the numbers they will realize that if Michele Bachmann wasn’t in the race, Santorum would have won comfortably.  If Santorum wasn’t in the race, Newt and Perry probably would have both outpolled Romney.  In Iowa, he got his fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives split the rest.  But it’s not all bad for Romney.  In fact, while Romney may have come to a predictable finish, he won by choosing his opponent.  Gingrich was a shoe in to win Iowa barely more than a week ago.  Instead, Santorum now has the social conservative momentum and Romney should easily win New Hampshire and could win South Carolina.  So Romney’s win is:

Good for: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum      Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman

Rick Santorum

A shocking surprise to some, a mild surprise for others, Santorum has Huckabee’d Iowa.  With a great ground game, time, hard work, and the luck of Newt Gingrich being destroyed by Romney, Inc, Michele Bachmann, and the Republican establishment, Santorum is finally getting his shot at vetting.  Already, he is being called a war monger and “big government conservative”.  But Santorum’s rise may be too late in the game for a vetting process to destroy him.  Many social conservatives have been waiting for a reason to believe that Santorum could win.  From the day he started running the narrative has been that Santorum is simply unelectable on a national scale.  So, Santorum’s second place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney   Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann

Ron Paul

Paul’s third place finish is certainly not what the Paul camp was hoping for.  Ron Paul came very close to breaking free from his libertarian ceiling, but in the end social conservatives showed they would rather take a gamble on the unvetted Rick Santorum instead of giving Ron Paul the ‘turn’ he was starting to experience.  Paul has been passed over as the anti-Romney.  He may be able to turn things around in New Hampshire, but a third or worse finish in New Hampshire should be a clear signal to Paul that the revolution is over.  Paul’s third place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney  Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Even if Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race and split their votes on a pro rata share, Newt would still not have passed Mitt Romney.  The fact is, Romney ran an incredible, strategic dismantling of Newt without even breaking a sweat.  In the meantime, Newt refused to go dishonestly negative, but managed plenty of headlines saying “Newt Goes on the Attack”.  Newt is realizing in time for New Hampshire, he won’t win with a positive campaign.  Can he win with a negative one?  New Hampshire will probably go Romney’s way.  But Newt needs South Carolina.  Without South Carolina, he won’t have the momentum to take Florida and Florida is the key.  So Newt’s dismal fourth place finish is:

Good for: Mitt Romney   Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann

Rick Perry

Perry’s fifth place win got him to re-think his campaign.  But with Michele Bachmann choosing to drop out, perhaps Perry thinks he still has hope.  He should have decided to stay in Texas.  Perry’s placing is:

Bad for: Rick Perry

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann barely registered.  Iowa was her last hope to connect with social and evangelical conservatives and she failed.  Fortunately, this provided the wake up call she needed to see the end of the race.  Bachmann has decided to drop out of the race and return to Minnesota.  Unfortunately for Bachmann, she has not built the cult following that Sarah Palin did.  Hopefully she will continue to be a strong voice for the TEA party.

Good for: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry   Bad for: Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney

As for the other contender, Jon Huntsman’s disrespectful snub of Iowa, especially in light of Romney’s stronger finish in the state and momentum, seals Huntsman’s irrelevancy.

Groundhog Day Came to Iowa Early and Rick Santorum Saw His Shadow

Bookmark and Share   Iowa proved to be an incredibly dramatic opening contests for the Republican presidential nomination that even included the added suspense of missing and improperly recorded vote totals.  But by 2:30 in the morning, all was resolved and the results gave Mitt Romney a 8 vote victory.  The closeness of the race did not help Mitt Romney but it certainly helped Rick Santorum, the candidate who came from so far behind and so close to defeating Romney, that in the end Iowa really goes down in the books as more of a near loss for Romney than a real win.  And it was the incredible closeness of the race that changed everything, at least in the short term.

Several days prior to the Caucus, I correctly predicted the order in which the candidates would finish.  So the fact that Santorum finished second should not have been a total surprise.  But the fact that he came within 5 votes of winning is what changed everything.  As a result, contrary to other predictions, Iowa wound up mattering more than many expected, including myself. Exactly how much more though is up to Rick Santorum.

In addition to ending Michele Bachmann’s campaign and giving movement conservatives a chance to divide their vote up among fewer candidates, Iowa shifted the focus on to a new contender…..Rick Santorum.  But how much that matters depends upon Rick Santorum’s ability to capitalize on his new found fame.  If he fails to come out of New Hampshire and South Carolina stronger than he was going in to them, then Iowa’s impact on the nomination will prove to have been minimal.

The one thing we do know is that the strong showing they provided Rick Santorum with was a political version of Groundhog Day……not the movie, but the actual holiday.  Santorum, the former Senator from Pennsylvania, emerged from Iowa much like Punxsutawney  Phil, the famed Pennsylvania groundhog who the nation watches as he emerges from his burrow.  If he sees his shadow, it is said  to indicate that winter weather will last longer than we may want.  In Rick Santrorum’s case, his come from behind split decision in Iowa has cast a shadow on the Republican race which means that this nomination contest remains contested and will probably do so far longer than Republicans would like.

That situation was arrived at due to both Romney and Santorum.

In addition to running a strong campaign that was waged on principle, persistence, and elbow grease, Santorum never became the type of target that everyone who surged to the top found themselves to become. This helped him win voters over and keep them in his column.  Had Santorum surged to the top like Newt Gingrich did weeks before voting began, he probably would have fallen victim to the same circumstances of those before him and now he will have a hard time proving that he can withstand such scrutiny.

As for Romney, although he technically won, to really win, he needed to stun Republicans with a strong first place finish with 30 or more percent of the vote.  That would have changed the entire storyline coming out of Iowa.  Instead of Rick Santorum being the main focus of the results, the real headline would have been that Mitt Romney finally exceeded the 25% ceiling of support that has become his greatest hurdle.  And he would have done so in a state where he was hardly considered a favorite.  Instead, not only did Romney almost lose to someone who was in the single digits a week before the caucuses, he actually won with 6 votes less than he received in 2008 when he came in second to Mike Huckabee.  In 2008, Romney received 25.19% of the Iowa Caucus vote, just about the same as he did this time, but the raw total was 30,021 votes.  In yesterday’ s caucus Romney won with 30, 015 votes.

Given that this was Romney’s second time around and he actually lost support, last night was really  not a win for him.  In the end, all that Iowa did for Romney was confirm that Republicans are still not excited about him and would like a better candidate.

So the race goes on and Romney is poised to become the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to ‘technically’ win Iowa and New Hampshire.  The problem is that between the reality of his poor showing in Iowa relative to Rick Santorum’s near defeat of him, and  Romney’s win in new Hampshire being considered a given, those victories may not provide Mitt with the momentum he needs to assure himself of a win in South Carolina where Mitt may find himself either in his last stand or finally on course to winning the nomination.

Newt Gingrich, who currently leads in New Hampshire has been trying to build a firewall in South Carolina in the hope of finally establishing himself as the alternative to Romney.  And Newt is looking for a fight with Mitt and is ready to provide him with some payback for all the negative ads that he believes Romney is behind.

Then there is Rick Perry.

Perry had time to sleep on his fifth place finish in Iowa and while he headed to bed with thoughts of ending his campaign dancing in his head, he woke up ready to fight and even Tweeted a battle cry that declared he is moving on to the Palmetto State.

And not to be Rick-rolled will be the other Rick, Rick Santorum, the new great conservative hope.

If Santorum can run strong enough in South Carolina to prevent Perry and Gingrich from getting out of the single digits or mid teens, at least one of the two will drop out and give Santorum the opportunity to bring their numbers in to his vote totals in the Florida primary which immediately follows South Carolina.

As for Ron Paul, given how far out of the mainstream his national security policies are and given his lack of  legislative accomplishments in almost two decades in Congress, in order for him to have a major impact on future primary nomination contests, he needed a big win in Iowa.  Add to that the buzz about polls which showed him actually in first place over the course of the weekend prior to the Caucus, and what you have is a candidate who failed to live up to expectations, and failed to meet a level of support that would have helped him overcome his perceived electability problems.  Although Ron Paul ran well and his strong showing can not be denied, it was not strong enough to help him gain the type of traction that he needs.   As a result, Ron Paul’s 22% percent in Iowa was probably his high watermark and from here on out, while he will remain a presence in the race, his impact on it will be about as significant as it was in his previous two runs for President.

Meanwhile the immediate effects of Iowa are apparent.

Since last night, interest in Santorum reached such heights that his website crashed and he collected $1 million in donations.   That is a good indication of just how his strong showing in Iowa has indeed provided him with the opportunity to become the real viable alternative to Romney that many have been looking for.

Another good sign for Santorum is that several national evangelical leaders have decided to get together and determine which of the remaining candidates they can all get behind in an attempt to be certain that Romney is denied the Republican nomination.  Given the circumstances, at the moment, Santorum would seem to be the most likely beneficiary of such an alliance.

At the moment I am not sure what will happen.  I have a feeling that while Rick Santorum may now be considered the Great Conservative Hope, he will ultimately be like another great hope……Duane Bobick, the 197o’s boxing star who was jokingly refered to as the “Great White Hope”.   Back in 1977, the biggest sporting event of the year became a much anticipated match between Bobick and future legend Ken Norton.  Bobick had a a 38-0 record with 32 KO’s and when he entered the ring with Norton, millions were anticipating an epic fight between two extraordinary athletes.   Less than 40 seconds in to the first round, Norton landed  an overhand right to Bobick’s throat and after just one minute into the fight Bobick was counted out.  A large part of me believes that this is Romney’s nomination and that Santorum will be the Duane Bobick of presidential politics.

Romney is still best poised to lock up the nomination soon after Florida.  However; if the inevitability of a Romney candidacy becomes so obvious, and triggers the far right base of the G.O.P. to finally unite behind one candidate in an attempt to stop Romney, this could be either a long, drawn out battle or a quick turning of the tables.  My biggest fear is that if conservatives really can not accept Mitt Romney and do not settle on who his one opponent should be, we could just find ourselves with the first brokered convention since 1976.

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