Is it Coming Down To Romney, Cain, South Carolina, and Florida?

 Bookmark and Share    While there is a great deal of focus on the view that the bickering during the recent CNN  G.O.P. debate in Nevada hurt Republicans and helped President Obama,the truth of the matter is that the bickering of today, is the meaningless and forgotten history of tomorrow.  Just ask George. H. W. Bush who called Ronald Reagan’s economic policy, voodoo economics and then went on to serve two terms as Reagan’s Vice President.

The only truly relevant factors concerning the success or failure of any of the Republican presidential candidates at this point concern three key elements………, their organization and its effectiveness, their fundraising capabilities, and their individual standings within the first four nominating contests, especially the last two of those four…..South Carolina and Florida.

While national trends have a role, it is important to remember that nominees are chosen through individual state contests and at different times.  So while the entire nation participates in the process, it is far from being accurately described as a national election.

For those reasons, I am less concerned with what Rick Perry said about an illegal immigrant cutting Mitt Romney’s lawn, in an attempt to defend his own pitiful position on  illegal immigration.  More important than any of that is the current snapshot taken by two new NBC News-Marist polls.

To get a real sense of how things are going, one needs to remain focussed on what really matters.  And with just a few months to go before voting in the Republican nomination contests begins, that focus needs to be less on any overall national impression of the current field and more on where the individual candidates stand in individual states. Although polls are merely a snapshot of a fleeting moment, the cumulative effect of each of these moments offer an indication of the way things are going and at the moment newly energized Herman Cain narrowly leads Mitt Romney in South Carolina’s Republican primary, and is running neck and neck with Romney in Florida.

Click Here for Complete October 19, 2011 South Carolina NBC News/Marist Poll Release

Click Here for Complete October 19, 2011 South Carolina NBC News/Marist Poll Tables

More so than Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida will have a profound effect on establishing the future trajectories of all the candidate.  The only real way for Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two contests, to have as much as an impact as Florida and South carolina is if Mitt Romney can win both of those states, or if someone is able to defeat Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.  If Romney wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, he will establish an almost unstoppable momentum that will lift his chances for victory in all the state contests that immediately follow them.  If someone like Jon Huntsman or Herman Cain pulls off an stunning upset victory over Romney in New Hampshire, they will be in the catbird seat as they go in to the Palmetto and Sunshine state contests.

No matter what though, South Carolina and Florida will really set the tone for all the following contests, especially in the delegate rich South which Mitt Romney faces his stiffest competition in as he vies for votes among the region’s uber-conservative, evangelical base, and must also contend with evangelical Christian bigotry towards Romney’s Mormon faith.

The fact that Romney is still maintaining a strong position in both Florida and South Carolina is a testament to both the effectiveness of his campaign organization and the viability of his candidacy.  But this does not insure a Romney win  in either state.  Herman Cain’s current ability to tie and even surpass Romney in early polls in South Carolina and Florida, is a sign that Romney is still quite vulnerable.  Herman Cain does not have a campaign that is organized in a way that is comparable to Romney’s.   Yet despite that lack of organization, Cain  is holding his own.  If Herman Cain hopes to insure his own victory in South Carolina and Florida, he must build an organization that can establish a strong ground game.  Mitt Romney will have a top notch ground game in both of those states.  If Herman Cain’s operation is inferior to Romney’s, the results in Florida and South Carolina could be close, but the winner will ultimately be Mitt Romney.

But if Romney finds himself facing off against a well organized competitor who within striking distance, Romney can definitely go down.

This made quite evident in the current NBC-Marist Poll which shows that in South Carolina, Cain has the support of 30% of likely GOP primary voters, to  Romney’s gets 26%, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 9%, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6% and Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, with 15% of likely primary voters remaining undecided.  According to a broader pool of Republicans in South Carolina, Cain is at 28 % and Romney is at 27%.

In Florida, Cain is at 32% among likely voters, Romney at 31%, Perry at 8%and Paul and Gingrich are at 6%, and  11% say they are undecided.

South Carolina and Florida have both played pivotal roles in past Republican presidential nominating contests.   Since 1980, the winner of South Carolina’s GOP primary has gone on to win the party’s nomination, and in 2008, John  McCain’s win of Florida’s primary  essentially handed the nomination to him.  Both states are likely to play the same role in 2012.

What is particularly troubling for Romney within those numbers is a breakdown which shows that while Romney may be toward the top of the field with Herman Cain, the enthusiasm for Romney is much lower than it is for Cain. In South Carolina, 45% of Cain’s supporters in South Carolina strongly back him, while only 37% of Romney’s supporters describe themselves as strongly committed to Romney. In Florida, 52% of Cain’s supporters strongly back him, compared to 41% who strongly back Romney.

That means that the Republican electorate is quite unsettled and if there is still time for a third candidate to rise to the top.  I believe that that candidate could be Newt Gingrich.

If Gingrich holds his powder in Iowa and New Hampshire, a split decision  in those two states could allow Newt to make his move and startle everyone with either a win in South Carolina and Florida, or at least a stronger than expected showing.  That is unlikely but it is quite possible.  However, much like Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich does not have a campaign that is organized enough compete with Mitt Romney’s.  Unless and until someone can match Mitt Romney’s ground games in several early states, Romney is headed towards the Republican National Convention in Orlando, Florida as the inevitable Republican presidential nominee.

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The Launching of “Americans for Herman Cain,” a Project of the “9-9-9 Fund”

Bookmark and Share  It is rare for a an outside group that is campaigning independently of and for a particular candidate to campaign better than the candidate than that they are supporting but that is exactly the case with with a newly organized outfit called the 9-9-9 Fund and which has launched what it calls Americans for Herman Cain.  The new committee amounts to what is commonly called a super-committee

Jordan Gehrke

In the groups first mass email which was sent out while the CNN Republican presidential debate was taking place, its campaign director, Jordan Gehrke, penned a missive that presented a case for Herman Cain  that Herman Cain’s own campaign has not effectively laid out for voters.

In what is a very succinct and articulate fundraising email, Gehrke demonstrates superior strategic political skills with a succinct but articulate letter that demonstrates how effective direct messaging can be when done right and provides Herman Cain’s campaign with a sample of how they should be communicating to voters.

In his email, Jordan Gehrke combines Herman Cain’s positives with the negatives of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in a way that makes the combination of the two, one of the most powerful cases for why Herman Cain should be the nominee that I have seen yet. Up to now, Herman Cain seems to be too much of a gentleman to go after his Republican opponents too harshly. But this is not an ad war between Dominos and pizza Hut, this is presidential politics and pretty soon Mr. Cain is going to have to do what Mr. Gehrke is willing to do …. land some meaningful, hard hitting punches. So far, Mr. Cain has criticized his opponents with light jabs distinguishing them as politicians and himself as a problem solving outsider. That will not seal the deal. However; by showing that he has a powerful uppercut and a lethal left hook, Herman cain can do exactly what he needs to do right now, while the iron is hot. He must not only gain some ground, he must also cause his opponents to lose some ground.

So far the race for the Republican presidential nomination has seen candidates burn quite bright but quickly fade out and be outshined by the steady little flame that is Mitt Romney’s dull glow. If Herman Cain does not want to be the next Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry, he must take advantage of the newfound popularity that he saw since the Florida Straw Poll and establish himself as a truly viable alternative to Mitt Romney. If he fails to take advantage of this surge now, it may be too late and he will likely find himself being a flash in the pan that will easily be written off as another “also ran”.

In order to avoid that, Cain must take two steps forward while simultaneously pushing his opponents two steps back.

In his fundraising email to supporters, Jordan Gehrke does just that.  See Gehrke’s 9-9-9 Fund email below and you too will realize how effective Cain’s positive message is when combined with the negative realities of his opponents.
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great herman cain vid
Jordan Gehrke, Americans for Herman Cain to you
From: Jordan Gehrke, Americans for Herman Cain info@americansforhermancain.com
To:   liberalsrlosers
Date: Tue, Oct 18, 2011 9:05 pm
`
What if we didn’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils for  President? What if we had a conservative choice we could be proud of? Let me explain.
`
Conservatives have been told they have to pick Mitt Romney, despite his flip-flops on abortion, immigration, gun control. Plus, he’s the intellectual father of ObamaCare. No conservative really LOVES Mitt Romney. But they think they might be stuck with him.We were told Rick Perry was the “Tea Party” alternative to Mitt Romney, until we found out he mandated 12-year-old girls receive a vaccine f or HPV without their parents’ permission, opposed building a fence along America’s southern border, and supported free college tuition for illegal aliens.
`
We have a real choice this time: Herman Cain. Herman Cain is surging in Iowa and New Hampshire. Just this week, a new poll showed that if the election were held today, Herman would beat Barack Obama.  Will you help him today?
`
Today we are launching “Americans for Herman Cain,” a project of 9-9-9 Fund.
`
I wanted you to be among the first to see our new video about our efforts. I hope you’ll like it, and share it across Facebook and Twitter:
Herman Cain has grassroots support. He has the poll numbers. He is a conservative. He can beat Barack Obama. Now it’s our job to propel him to victory in Iowa, N ew Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona.
`
We’re going to do everything from TV ads, voter mail, advocacy phones identifying Herman’s supporters, to get out the vote programs. But we can’t do it without your help. We’re fiscal conservatives like you, and we won’t waste a dollar.
`

Together, we will take our country back.

For America,
Jordan Gehrke
Campaign Director
AmericansforHermanCain.com

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Personally, I’m impressed.

In my opinion, this solicitation is a perfect example of what Herman Cain and his campaign needs to be articulating and driving home. However, as is often the case, when it comes to negative campaigning, like most successful criminals know, it is best not to leave your own fingerprints on the weapon used in committing your crime. That is why surrogates are often called upon to do the attacking for them.

But Gehrke is not associated with Herman Cain.  You will note the disclaimer at the bottom of his email which states that AFHC and the 9-9-9 Fund is not authorized by any candidate or committee.

Mr. Gehrke is an experienced political operative who once led the Internet activism division at Eberle Communications Group and was the Director of Business Development for BMW Direct, a national direct mail fundraising firm, where he also led their voter contact mail division. Some of his past clients include Sen. David Vitter and Reps. Jim Ryun, Geoff Davis, and Robin Hayes, Sharon Angle, and also involved in some controversial dealings with the campaigns of Tim Cahill who ran a primary for the Republican gubernatorial campaign of  also Nevada’s Sharon Angle.

In the case of Cahill, during the 2010 primary, Cahill sued  Gehrke who beiefly served as Cahil’s political director, and he tried to insure that Gehrke did not from hand  any confidential information and documents over to Cahil’s chief opponent for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Charlie Baker. Gehrke and three other cahill campaign official had suddenly resigned from Cahill’s campaign.

But the most questionable involvement of Gehrke comes from his positions with  Base Connect, which was formerly known as BMW Direct.  The company described itself as “a full-service creative agency for conservative candidates running at the national level.”  But it was noted that for several election cycles, the political consulting firm would go out and find  longshot conservative candidates that were  running against a well funded Democrat incumbents and then launch a national fundraising campaign by sending direct mail to a list of loyal but small pocketed conservative donors around the country.

The real problem though was that as much as 95% t of the money Base Connect raises  is funneled backt o Base Connect and partner companies that are based in the same suite in the same building off K Street.   According to one report, GOP consultant  Bill Pascoe called the Base Connect  process “subprime fundraising.” And Erick Erickson once said that” candidates who use the firm are in danger of losing Red State’s endorsement, presumably because conservative donors’ money is going to a fundraising agency rather than actually helping the cause. Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) dropped all ties with Base Connect after Talking Points Memo reported in March he was paying the firm 75 percent in fundraising ”

So while I am impressed by the effectiveness of Mr. Gehrke’s work, I am forced to question the sincerity of his involvement in a so-called super PAC that is designed to promote the candidacy of a not so well connected political candidate who s running for the highest office in the land.

When White House 2012 approached Mr. Gehrke for an interview and asked some basic questions, he offered an email response that went as follows:

“There is zero relationship with Americans for Herman Cain and the Cain campaign. We are simply a SuperPAC that exists to put together an experienced team in early primary states for Cain that can win in IA, NH, SC, NV, FL, MI, AZ, etc.

I think Herman and his team have done a great job turning him into a tier one candidate despite the media and the establishment telling us he can’t win.

Now, it’s our job to provide reinforcements. That’s what we intend to do. We’ll be announcing the team in the coming days.

Thanks for your interest.

Jordan”

To be clear, neither Mr. Gehrke or his former employers at Base Connect have been officially charged with any wrongdoing and in America one is innocent until proven guilty.  So we give Jordan Gehrke the benefit of the doubt and for Herman Cain’s sake, we hope that Mr. Gehrke’s obvious abilities raise the money that will allow his talents to deliver plenty of votes to Herman Cain.

A Look Back at Herman Cain and His 2004 U.S. Senate Primary Election

  Bookmark and Share  Since Herman Cain has spent the last two weeks towards the front of the pack in the G.O.P. presidential field, many people have begun to take notice of him.  And they like what they see.  His rise from the bottom tier to top tier of candidates has also given many who liked Cain, but thought it impossible for him to get anywhere, reason to now jump on the Herman Cain bandwagon, or at least good reason to seriously consider doing so.  But with this new-found popularity, and his new image as a threat to previous frontrunners, now makes Herman Cain a target.  Up to now his Republican opponents have had no reason to go after Cain.  Instead, because he has always been a likeable guy, many of those running against Cain, spared him from any negative attacks on his positions.  The thinking was, he’s a nice guy who people like and is not standing between them and the GOP presidential nomination, so why go after him and risk turning off his supporters.  That has all changed now.

Still, no matter what, Herman Cain is the candidate whom people most like a person.  As such, to go after him on anything but the issues, would backfire on them.  They can’t really attack Cain for not having held elected office.  That is something that people like about him and which Cain could easily turnaround and use against those who want to harp on his lack of experience as a Washington, D.C. politician.  So trying to take Herman Cain down is something that the other candidates must be careful about.  At the same time, Herman Cain has to now be able to hold up to the scrutiny that comes with his frontrunner status.  He will have to demonstrate that he has a better knowledge of foreign affairs and is well equipped to go toe to toe with people like Vladimir Putin or  Mahmoud Abbas, and control the room.  He must show that he is capable of  not playing second fiddle even when sitting along side of allies like Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Benjamin Netanyahu or Nicolas Sarkozy others.

None of this is impossible for Cain to do.  It can all be achieved.  But to do so, he will have to begin to raise substantially more money than he has had up to now and he is going to have to start picking up some of the top Republican strategists and Party insiders in the nation.

One may think that doing so would undermine one of Cain’s greatest attributes, his lack of participation in Party politics and political games.

However, the Republican Party and the process that you go through to become its nominee is undeniably political.  It involves a political Party in a process that is essentially run by politicians.  So avoiding the politics behind it all is just not realistic.  It would be like trying to play baseball with  a Jai Lai cesta.  It just doesn’t work.  So far Herman Cain has still not relied on a campaign staff that has the knowledge, and experience needed in a presidential election.   He doesn’t even have those well placed political connections that can provide him with some of the ins and outs of of Party politics and help him cut through some of the political red tape.

Cain is now aware of all that.  He learned that when in 2004, he ran for U.S. Senate in Georgia.  He found himself in a three way primary against  incumbent Congressmen Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins,  In that race, Isaksaon was largely the Romney-like candidate,  He was seen as the moderate.  But Cain and Collins were the two conservatives opposing him. Cain and Collins both hoped to deny Isakson a majority on primary day in order to force him into a two man runoff with one or the other.  During the campaign, Mac Collins tried to paint Cain as a moderate, accusing him  of having supported affirmative action programs.  For his part Cain argued that he was a conservative and noted that he opposed the legality of abortion except when the mother’s life is threatened.

On the day of the primary Cain finished a distant second to Johnny Isakson who pulled overe 50%, thereby avoiding a runoff.  The final results were Isakson won 53.2%, Cain 26.2%, Collins 20.6%.

Now, in 2011, those senate primary vote totals tell a story that is quite similiar to the problem that we see for conservatives in the Republican presidential contest.  The division of the conservative vote among several candidates, including Herman Cain, has so far allowed Mitt Romney, the perceived moderate in the field, to find himself with a slim majority of Republican support.  Now in addition to the benefit that provides Romney , we find out that working for Mitt Romney is strategist Stuart Stevens who was a consultant to Johnny Isakson during that same 2004 senate primary which beat Cain.

How much of advantage that will give Romney if Herman Cain continues to give Mitt a run for his money, is still unknown.  But Stuart Stevens knows one thing.  Never underestimate Herman Cain.  He tells The Atlantic, “He scared the heck out of us”.  Realizing that means that Mitt Romney has a strategist who will not make the mistake of underestimating Herman Cain.

But Herman Cain also walked away from his 2004 primary with some important lessons learned.  One of them was that if he was going to run for President, he was going to have to get in the race early.  One of the reasons Cain feels he lost the 2004 primary was because he entered that race late.

Meanwhile, the firm that Romney strategist Stuart Stevens represents, SSG consulting, lists the 2004 race that  they ran to defeat Cain with, as case study.

       Case Studies

         Johnny Isakson – 2004

           HISTORY: Johnny Isakson is a long-time client – we worked to elect him to Congress during the 1999 special election.

           CHALLENGE: Beat two candidates in Primary and win by 50% to satisfy state’s threshold requirement.  Go on to win general election.

 STRUCTURE: Develop strategic plan based on financial discipline.  Do not answer every charge.  Let opponents spend money on air and   hold off on television advertising.  Strike at high volume before primary to boost numbers, position as the conservative choice – keep opponents at bay to win over 50% of vote to avoid run-off.

EXECUTE: Isakson wins the primary with 51% of the vote, avoiding a runoff.  He goes on to win the general election with 58% of the vote – the largest margin ever for a Republican in Georgia.

In 2004, Herman Cain came out of nowhere in the Georgia Senate primary and made a name for himself as a true conservative leader in Georgia.  He was a virtual unknown who wound up challenging two incumbent Congressmen, beat one of them, and gave the other a surprising scare.  So far, he’s repeating his better than expectedelectoral performance .  But now he must he must somehow do what he could not do in the 2004 primary…….. consolidate all of the conservative vote.

Below is a look at he tried to do that in 2004 when he ran a series of ads that touted what he called his message……… Common sense.

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