Wednesday’s Words and Wit from the Presidential Campaign Trail: 11/16/11

Bookmark and Share   Trunkline 2012 summarizes today’s news regarding Newt’s surge and troubles, Romney’s strengths, Sarah Palin’s opinion of the the GOP presidential candidates, a view of the gaffes made by the candidates, their positions on guns, Santorum’s hope for a shot stardom, and Mitt’s tele-town hall.  And as always, much more too.

Mitt Romney’s appearance on Fox News’ first candidate tele-town hall with host Brett Baier

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Newt Gingrich: Phoenix Rising or Leader Emeritus? Can Newt be the Next Frontrunner?

  Bookmark and Share  While Mitt Romney maintains a steady 25% in most Republican presidential polls, the polling numbers for other candidates have seen wide fluctuations that provide them with five minutes of fame in frontrunner status. That has been a phenomenon mainly to the desire of the G.O.P. base to find a viable alternative to Romney that they can get excited about. For a while that alternative was Mike Huckabee Mitch Daniels, and Donald Trump.  Then it was  Michele Bachmann, and soon after her it was Rick Perry.  When Perry stepped in and did not meet expectations, the enthusiasm shifted back towards the hope that a new name would jump in to the race.  Paul Ryan again declined and then Chris Christie spent an hour in a press conference convincing people that he was not running.  Soon after that, Herman Cain catapulted to the top.

At the moment, Cain still remains in the lead in several state and national polls, but it is a slim lead that seems to be slowly fading.  Meanwhile Romney stays mired in the mid twenties.

So what’s next?

Will Cain build on his lead?

It is possible but not very likely.

Herman Cain has had a few hiccups such as his contradictory remarks regarding abortion.  These bumps in Cain’s road to the White House have stalled his momentum a bit and it provides a little space for a new name to move up in the polls.  And while Cain can certainly recapture that momentum, he is still quite limited in the sense that he has not been able to coordinate any significant organizational strength on the ground in any of the early states.  Without such organizational strength, high poll numbers are in truth artificially inflated.  Coordination of an operational organization that keeps a close track on voters is the only way to insure that those high poll numbers translate in to actual votes.

But between now and when the first votes in Iowa take place, perception is the name of the game.  Voter perceptions will continue to be the driving force behind the polling numbers and if I am right, I believe that perceptions will soon find Cain being viewed in a much dimmer light and cause Newt Gingrich’s name to the forefront.

As Rick Perry focusses on tearing Romney down instead of building himself up, and as Herman Cain is forced to waste time correcting and explaining himself, candidates like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul will continue to look for opening that will let them get in to contention.  Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich has recently found his opening.  An average of polls as indicated by Real Clear Politics, shows that Newt Gingrich is practically tied with Ron Paul for third place.  Paul’s numbers are basically as high as they can go in a Republican primary or caucus.  That essentially leaves Newt as the candidate in third place and that ultimately gives Newt Gingrich the best chance to become America’s next new Top Model………….,  I mean candidate.

Up to now, Newt has been running g a low-key campaign.  That is mainly due to the fact that he has had no choice in the matter.  His fundraising has been relatively meager, many conservatives have not wanted to give Newt much of a chance because of his personal marital infidelities, and the establishment has not wanted to give Newt much consideration because of what they see as a general image problem that makes Newt unelectable.

But all that may change and Gingrich is ready to force that change upon voters.

Mitt Romney is eventually going to have to move in one direction or another.  He will have to break out of the mid-twenties and break in to the at least the low  to mid-thirties.  Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen until Romney wins a primary or caucus other than New Hampshire, where he is an obvious favorite.  Until Republicans who are apprehensive or unhappy with Romney have concrete reasons to resign themselves to an inevitability of Romney winning the nomination, they will either remain on the fence or commit themselves to another candidate.  Right now, Rick Perry, the candidate seen as having the most potential to be the alternative candidate,  is not picking up many votes and he is not having an impact on the 25% that Romney steadily maintains.

Perry also has many troubling hurdles.  While his Republican rivals will continue to chip away at his strong suit……..job creation, and hammer away at his unpopular illegal immigration positions, Perry is stuck with other problems.  He is not good on the stump.  Perry does not do well in unscripted environments.  Whenever he is left to his own devices, he fumbles and stumbles and does not portray the type of command of the issues and confidence that is necessary.   While in time, he may improve, right now there is little room for on the job campaign training.

As for the others, Herman Cain faces the same problem and I believe that he and his cornerstone 9-9-9 plan are not going to hold up to the scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner for very long.  Ron Paul has hit his usual 8 to 14 percent ceiling of support, Bachmann will fight for her life and exhaust her resources in Iowa to compete for a stop spot and in the end, she might pull off a win in Iowa but that is becoming increasingly unlikely and even if she does take the Iowa caucuses, she will have little ability to translate that in to a victory in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada or any other contested races.

In regards to Rick Santorum, while he will campaign well, he has not demonstrated an ability to catch on with voters and without any significant money available to him, it is not possible for him to become a contender for the top spot.

This leaves Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson.

Johnson is just not a factor and will not be.  He is investing all his time and very limited resources in New Hampshire where he is counting on pulling off a miraculous upset victory over Mitt Romney and suddenly become the man to beat.  But that won’t happen.  Huntsman may be able to surprise many with a second place finish in the Granite State but that too is unlikely.  And regardless of how well he does, he will not gain the type of momentum from his New Hampshire finish that can  propel him to a top spot in South Carolina, Nevada, and/or Florida.

This leaves Newt Gingrich with multiple windows of opportunities to become the next best alternative to Mitt Romney and the next flavor of the month, or at least the week and he knows it.  He already believes that he has a chance to do well in New Hampshire, and states that Romney does not have a lock on that state’s primary. And he may be right.  That is why Gingrich is finally building an organization in New Hampshire.  More so than any of the other candidates, Newt has the potential to sneak up on Romney, a state which recent primary history has shown to be the scene of many surprises.  If Newt has the resources, he could take advantage of New Hampshire by pulling off a surprise second place showing.  That would be a great start to the firewall Newt has stated that he will build in South Carolina.  With a good showing in New Hampshire, Gingrich may be able to build what could more accurately be called a large sand dune in South Carolina, but not a firewall. Nonetheless, he can establish himself there and turn what is currently a campaign to talk about in passing, in to a campaign that grabs the headlines——positive headlines.

Leading up to the first nominating contests, in order for any of this to be possible, Newt can and must begin to take control of the agenda through successful strategic messaging.  By turning his numerous ideas in to the topics of discussion, he can quietly rise in the polls, as he has already been doing, but at a significantly faster rate.

If and when that happens it will be quite possible for Newt Gingrich to make his move and turn the nomination contest in to a two or three man race between himself, Mitt Romney and either Herman Cain or Rick Perry.  If that does occur, all bets are off because Newt can not be underestimated.  He is a man of superior intellect and his ideologically passion can be infectious among conservatives.   Add to that the undeniable fact that Newt is a  figure who has helped shape contemporary conservative thinking and what you have  is a candidate who in a mano y mano environment, will allow Newt to score many points and finally begin to tap in to all that is needed to unite critical factions of the electorate into a winning coalition of voters, a coalition that even includes the TEA Party.

While Newt is not considered a darling of the TEA movement he has the ability to tap into them and win them over. In New Hampshire he has already begun to tap in to the TEA Party.  He recently hired Andrew Hemingway, a Tea movement activist and former state chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, as his state campaign director.  In line with his potential TEA movement appeal, while Newt was once part of the establishment, he is far from an establishment thinker or player and that bodes well for him in an anti-establishment electorate.  When it comes to the conservative base of the Party, few true conservatives can turn their back on Newt if he positions himself as “the’ alternative to Romney.  Social conservatives may still put their noses up at Newt, but their vote may be end up being divided between players like Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and even Santorum.

Of course none of this is definite.  Newt has been reluctant to demonstrate a willingness to allow his campaign to operate in carefully structured environment, and while that may be refreshing and have a degree of popular appeal, it prevents Newt from avoiding pitfalls and from organizing the type of ground game that is needed to keep support once you get it.  However, as demonstrated by his new hires in New Hampshire and the opening of 5 offices in  New Hampshire, there are signs that he is resigning himself to the reality of the need to employ some type of  basic and traditional campaign structure.

All of this leads me to suspect that Newt is the next name to become the focus for the Republican presidential nomination.  The question is, will he have the ability and resources to keep his name at the top once he gets his turn, or will he fall back into the ashes like others have done?   The answer  will either start a new chapter for Newt as President or close the book on his political career and forever remain simply, the former Speaker of the House.

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In the Third Debate, Romney Wins,Cain, Gingrich and Santorum Shine. Rick Perry Bombs.

Bookmark and Share    Before we get in to the details, while White House 2012 is happy to provide you with one opinion of last night’s debate, we are also happy to provide you with both a complete transcript of the debate which can be found here and with a complete video version of the debate which is below this post.   Also, take the White House 2012 poll and let us know who you think won last night’s debate.

Now for the assessment;

With nine candidates and over 20,000 questions submitted by American voters, as one White House 2012 reader put it, last night’s Republican presidential debate was more of a Q and A than a debate.  Still, the forum did provide the opportunity for some engaging, albeit brief exchanges.  While most of those exchanges and some of the longest ones too, were between frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, others like Rick Santorum also took advantage of the those exchanges, land some punches, and score some points……….at Rick Perry’s expense.

Insofar as winners and losers go, if there was a winner, it would have to be Mitt Romney.  Not so much for the quality of his answers,  but for his performance and ability to use the rules of the debate to his advantage and his main rivals disadvantage.  One such example was Romney’s presence of mind while under pressure, to deny Rick Perry the chance to counter any of his verbal punches, by not mentioning Perry by name. 

One of the debate rules was that if a candidate referred to you by name, you would have 30 seconds for rebuttal.  On issues such as Social Security and immigration, while Romney laid into Perry’s record quite extensively, he would go so far as to look straight at Perry, but never mentioned him by name.  At the same time there, was no misunderstanding who he was talking about.  But Perry was left leaning against the ropes and unable to fight back.

As for Romney’s answers to the questions he was asked, the former Massachusetts Governor made no mistakes and never once departed off of the conservative line.  Throughout the debate, Romney offered decent answers that no conservative could have a problem with.  On that score, since he walked away from this debate without giving any Republican a reason to vote against him, he most certainly wins.  The only area in which Romney failed was his passing up of the chance  to break new policy ground and  prove himself to be a bold leader who will think outside of the box and be the anti-establishment hero that many are looking for.

 At the same time, not ony did Perry miss the chance to become that bold hero many are looking for, he walked away from this debate with less than he had when he first walked on to the stage.

At times, Perry seemed lost for words and when he tried to throw some body blows to his critics, he missed.  Such was the case when after Rick Santorum stated that he found Governor Perry to be soft on illegal immigration.  To that charge Perry could only say, “I’ve got one question for him. Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?”

To which Santorum replied simply “Yes”.

For Perry, Thursday’s debate took him two steps back, not one step forward.  This was especially the case on the issue of illegal immigration.  On that Perry  threw out a remark that will leave a negative impression of him in the  minds of many conservatives for quite some time. 

When he and Mitt Romney engaged in debate over Perry’s approval of offering discounted in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal aliens,  Perry claimed  “If you say that we should not educate children (illegal immigrant children) who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought their through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” .  That remark seemed to cross a line, and not one with just the other candidates on the stage, but with the millions of conservatives in the American listening audience.  For many, it was the type of liberal attempt to make one feel guilty for the justified logic behind their own position.  Perry’s answer was a strange spin on another famous Texans attempt to be a “compassionate conservative”. however, while Perry’s slant on that phrase may have been compassionate,  it was not conservative.

But neither Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney let Perry get away with his claim.  In fact Romney swung a home run right over Perry’s head on the issue. 

“I’ve got be honest with you, I don’t see how it is that a state like Texas — to go to the University of Texas, if you’re an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That’s $22,000 a year. Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien go to the University of Texas. If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn’t make sense to me.” , said Romney.

But illegal immigration was not Perry’s only weakness last night.

Tell us who you think won the presidential debate

Right off the bat, Perry was asked about the number one issue in America today…….jobs. When asked where his jobs plan was? Perry answered, “Well, you will see a more extensive jobs plan.”    Sorry buddy, but telling voters that the dog ate your homework does not cut it in the real world.  Perry just looked stupid on that one. 

So we have our winner of the debate and the loser of the debate.  What about those in between?

Michele Bachmann had a few strong but routine answers but essentially, she was just there.

Ron Paul was Ron Paul.  While his cheering section hooted and hollered at his every word, his words were the same as usual and lacked the explanation of how he could successfully apply his libertarianism to government. 

Performing better than Paul, was former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.  Despite being a Republican libertarian who is little known, Johnson was able to do something that Paul could not.  he was able to point to actual accomplishments.  At times, he even provided answers that put him on an equal footing with some of his better known opponents such as Romney and Perry.  When asked why he would be a better choice as a libertarian-Republican than Congressman Paul, Johnson replied I’m not going to presume to make that assumption” , but he then went on to  to distinguish himself from Pau quite well……… 

“I would like to say that I do bring a unique perspective to this stage. I started a one-man handyman business in Albuquerque in 1974 and grew it to over 1,000 employees. I have run for two political offices in my life: governor of New Mexico and reelection. I promise to submit a balanced budget to congress in the year 2013. I promise to veto legislation where expenditures exceed revenue. And if anybody doubts my willingness to veto bills, I think I vetoed more bills than any governor in the history of the United States. I think I vetoed more bills than all the other governors in the country combined.  Add to that, throwing out the entire federal tax system and replacing it with a consumption tax, the fair tax, which would absolutely reboot the American economy because it does away with the corporate tax to create tens of millions of jobs in this country.”

Johnson’s answer was strong and compelling.

In the  case of Newt Gingrich, he proved once again that he is ideologically the most true conservative and the most savvy.  But he did not distinguish himself as the one who could best institute his conservative concepts into government and he failed to overcome his biggest hurdle…..electability.   Interestingly though,  based on a question asked about picking a running mate from among those on the stage, most of the candidates chose Newt to be their wingman.

Herman Cain had a solid performance but not one that was strong enough to push those at the top of the field out of his way.

Perhaps the saddest performance came from Jon Huntsman. 

As in his first debate appearance, Huntsman tried to be funny, but as he waited for burst of laughter to ring out whenever he reached his punchline, crickets were heard.   It was very uncomfortable.  And to make matters worse, he really offered nothing worth while.  The most he seems tohave for us are boilerplate answers with hands extended outwards and a stiff delivery of bad attempts at humor.

All in all, given the understandable parameters of the type of debate we were presented, it was a worthwhile gathering that gave at least a brief sampling of the type of president each candidate would be or try to be.  However it set nothing in stone.  While Romney won, he has still not provided those who doubt his conservative credentials with the confidence they need to become believers.  While he did not say anything that conservatives can be unhappy with, he also did nothing to inspire them.  What will be interesting though is to see how much of a difference this debate has on Romney’s popularity among Independents.  In many state primaries, Independents and even Democrats are allowed to vote in the G.O.P. contest.   Being dissatisfied by President Obama, many of these Independent could show up at the Republican primaries to support the candidate that  they believe is most capable of beating the President. 

In that sense, I believe Romney helped himself immensely.  He certainly came off as one of, if not the most electable candidates on the stage.

Perry’s poor performance, while being a setback, was certainly not enough to knock him out of the race.  He is still very much in the race.  However, he must really be on his A game in the coming weeks.  He also needs to go in to the next debate much more prepared than he was for this one.

As for the others, they are essentially doomed to linger around the the back of the pack.  I think Michele Bachmann peaked with her straw poll win in Iowa and the rest is downhill from there.  Herman Cain will be able to hang in, but hanging out in the bottom tier is about all he is likely to do.  The only thing I believe we can expect from Huntsman is his withdrawal from the nomination contest.  Ron Paul is mired in the middle where he will remain not dead, but not exactly living either.  You might say that he is comatose. 

Were it not for an inability to raise money, I would have to say that after his debate performance, Rick Santorum would be able to emerge as a strong alternative candidate.  He is spirited and passionate, does not come off as scripted and is satisfactory to the G.O.P. base.  But money talks and Santorum just can’t raise enough money to really be heard. 

That leaves us with Newt Gingrich. 

I still can’t write Newt off.  He has great potential and the rebirth of his campaign that will occur when he unveils his new Contract with America could be very attractive to voters.  But even if that is so, Newt will still have an extremely high hurdle to jump in proving that Newt Gingrich, the man, is as good as Newt Gingrich’s  ideas.  If he can somehow prove that the messenger is as good as the message, he could give Romney and Perry a run for their money that will be expensive and exhausting. 

Now, the awards………..

Most Memorable Lines

Funniest Line of the Night:

“My next door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this President.” 

 – Gary Johnson

Sharpest Attack Line of the Night:

“He [Rick Perry] doesn’t want to build a fence. He gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about bi-national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for bi-national health insurance.” 

-Rick Santorum

 Most Sarcastic Line of the Night:

“I spent my life in the private sector. Not in government. I only spent four years as a Governor. (Turns head, looks at Rick Perry and says) I didn’t inhale” 

-Mitt Romney

 Most Logical Line of the Night:

“…sex is not an issue.  It should not be an issue. Leave it alone.  Keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual.”

-Rick Santorum

Next Most Logical Line of the Night:

“….but I believe that it is fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks, for doing nothing.  That’s why we had welfare reform.”

-Newt Gingrich 

Worst Line of the Night:

 “If you say that we should not educate children (illegal immigrant children) who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought their through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” 

-Rick Perry

Best Line of the Night:

“It’s important to remember, this month, in the Reagan administration, September 1983, we created 1,100,000 new jobs. Obama’s socialist policies, class warfare, and bureaucratic socialism, we created zero in August.”

-Newt Gingrich 

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And here is the debate in its entirety:

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