Careful, Newt

Newt should know that in politics, you must constantly clarify exactly what you mean. Newt is in hot water over comments he made during the weekend about the individual mandate in Obamacare. What Newt said was “Ive said consistently, where theres some requirement you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate youre going to be held accountable.

While this seems pretty clear to me, the media has declared this to be some sort of statement proving that Newt supports the individual mandate. So why would Newt then post a video today highlighting his record of consistently opposing the individual mandate? Probably because he didn’t actually say he supports the individual mandate. Newt said that he supports a requirement where you EITHER have health insurance OR… Media outlets seem to have missed the either, or in his statement.

What Newt said is something that constitutionalists who support individual responsibility have supported for a long time. I wrote about it back in 2009 when the Obamacare debates were hot and heavy. Newt said he supports a requirement that people pay for health insurance or indicate through a bond or some other way that they will pay for their medical care. This isn’t an individual mandate to buy health insurance, this is an individual mandate to pay for the medical care you receive, either through insurance or by other means. Why would Newt say that “libertarians would be happy” with his solution if he supported an individual mandate?

The problem Gingrich will face is that if soundbite Americans, especially those in the mainstream media, can’t figure this out then he will have a hard time getting his message across. Newt needs to learn how talk to Americans like they are idiots. Not because they are idiots, but because pundits are determined to misunderstand him and make their version of what he says the next morning’s headlines.

Cain’s Gain?

Mike Huckabee made it official over the weekend. He is not running. Huckabee was one of those candidates who was able to corner a specific share of the GOP market and turn them into a cult following. As the 2008 primary dragged on and Huckabee appeared on shows like Saturday Night Live to joke about how his mathematical chance of winning required winning every remaining state, Huckabee continued to campaign and siphon votes away from Mitt Romney in crucial states.

Even coming into 2012, Huckabee has maintained a Ron Paul-like base of support who will chide media outlets for not casting him in a bright enough light or leaving him out of 2012 primary analysis. To be honest though, I wasn’t surprised when Huckabee said no this year. Any Republican candidate is going to have a huge uphill battle facing their own divided party, the media, and then the Obama political machine. Who can blame Huckabee for wanting to sit this one out and make money hand over fist at his TV show?

Can Herman Cain pick up Huckabee's votes?

So who will get those voters who faithfully showed up and voted Huckabee even after his chances of winning evaporated in 2008? Only one candidate sofar has come out firmly for the socially and fiscally conservative platform, including the Fairtax, that Huckabee represented: Herman Cain.

Cain stands to pick up many of your neighbors who have the anti-IRS Fairtax signs in their yard and on their bumper stickers. He also will pick up many of Huckabee’s fans who are also mainstream Conservative media fans. There is a great deal of overlap between Foxnews talk show fans and Conservative radio fans.

Huckabee and Cain share another large support base among TEA Party candidates. Many of these small government conservatives who supported Huckabee in 2008 will look to Cain in 2012 as the most Conservative candidate who is not as radical as Ron Paul on foreign policy.

Will this be what bumps Cain into the top tier? It certainly is an opportunity sitting on the table. If Cain can make the connections in voters’ minds, he stands to be the one to gain.

Airtime for the backups

Aside from Tim Pawlenty, going into last night’s debate I think most pundits considered these to be second tier candidates. After last night, I will admit that the perception that most of these candidates don’t have a viable shot probably hasn’t changed. However, there were clear winners and clear losers. Here is my take on the debate, which at times will be blunt and harshly honest:

Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty demonstrated why he is a top tier candidate. He was professional, studied, and Presidential. He took clean shots at Obama and did not make missteps. However, his answer to Cap and Trade may come across to the base as a weak answer. Cap and Trade is already widely unpopular with the TEA party and conservative right. It is almost as unpopular as humbling yourself before the media and admitting a mistake. I think it was the best answer Pawlenty could give, but it highlighted that unfortunate decision to initially support Cap and Trade. Pawlenty’s other disadvantage coming into last night was that everyone expected a polished performance. He will be judged at a higher standard. I was pleased to see Pawlenty show some charisma and get the crowd motivated. However, when it came to charisma, Pawlenty was not the candidate who stole the show.

Herman Cain

Cain provided the night with a dose of Donald Trump charisma mixed with Sean Hannity conservatism. Cain was unequivocal and commanded the stage. He was a crowd pleaser who handled each question without a gaffe or misstep. I think Cain’s performance brought many conservatives to believe that he could be the conservative answer to the straightforward, no nonsense approach that Trump had become so popular for. My prediction is that we will begin to see Trump wane in popularity now that the birther issue has run its course and Cain stands to benefit. We will see if Cain can capitalize on his performance.

If Cain’s popularity does grow, he will need to find answers to a lot of questions on issues that have not seen the light of the mainstream media yet. For example, Cain defended his support of the Fairtax by mentioning the concept of a “prebate” paid to every family at the beginning of the month for essentials. But is Cain prepared to face scrutiny on the prebate idea? The IRS paid out billions in fraudulent stimulus checks as a one time deal. Kiplinger says that the IRS estimates that 25% of earned income credit payouts were incorrect and fraudulent. Can the government cut a check to every family in America at the beginning of every month without an Internal Revenue Service, individual tax returns, and massive fraud? Also, getting rid of the IRS sounds nice, but who is going to make sure businesses remit the fairtax and prebates are paid out without a revenue department in the government? Perhaps we will see in the course of this primary if Cain is running on answers or populism.

Rick Santorum

Santorum did a good job as a whole, and will appeal to the same conservatives that Bush appealed to. The question is if Santorum can position himself as more likely to win than Obama. Santorum’s message resonates with social conservatives, and he made it clear last night that his message hasn’t changed. Will conservatives vote for Santorum? While presenting himself as a solid candidate, he did not say anything last night that distinguished himself or rocketed him into the top tier. Santorum’s win for the night was the fact that he showed up, while Gingrich, Huckabee and others did not. But he is still overshadowed by other conservative heavyweights, including Gingrich, Bachmann, Huckabee, and now Cain.

Ron Paul

Paul hasn’t changed since 2008. While he says many things that make sense to conservative constitutionalists and libertarian Republicans, Paul still comes across as the enemy of all things Democrat and Republican. This is great for wooing independents and libertarians, but will not win Paul the Republican primary. For most of the night, I felt myself agreeing with and cheering Paul, but he will once again be the martyr of the protectionist, states rights conservatives. They understand what Paul is saying, they just can’t figure out why non-Paul Republicans don’t. Here’s a hint, Ron Paul still comes across as abrasive, obnoxious, and anti-Republican. This man could be President if he could figure out how to sell himself and explain why what he believes would actually work. I spent a good part of the evening asking myself why Republicans don’t support Ron Paul, but the answer is the same as last time he ran. He is an uncompromising and radical philosopher campaigning in a world of soundbites, and soundbites are not kind to Ron Paul.

Gary Johnson

Picture a more abrasive and whiny version of Ron Paul, but without the name recognition. With Ron Paul in the race, who needs Gary Johnson? He did not distinguish himself, except to come down on the traditionally liberal side of Iraq, Afghanistan (supported it before he was against it), and drugs. His “cost/benefit” approach to drug legalization portrayed a dollars above principles approach to policy. Whether his views on the cost benefit of the war on drugs are right or wrong, such a calloused approach to a moral question will not win him a conservative majority. Johnson only made matters worse by dismissing the conservative majority in the Republican party as unnecessary in the primary and guaranteed to be loyal in the general election. He should ask John McCain if Republicans need social conservatives to defeat Obama.

Johnson’s moment of charisma showed itself in the form of scolding the moderators for not asking him enough questions, a move that screams “I am unpolished, second tier, and everyone knows it but me”. He will find his frustrations at not being taken seriously will continue to grow, mainly because he is not a serious candidate.

Summary

After last night, I think Herman Cain moved up, Santorum, Paul and Pawlenty remained unchanged, and Johnson moved down. Gingrich was probably hurt the most by not showing up, Romney was hurt the least. Gingrich could have used the exposure and chance to showcase his debate skills. Romney sofar has seemed to transcend any primary activity in early polls as an assumed front runner by most whether he shows up or not. Mitch Daniels was probably the most unfairly represented absentee at the debate itself. In the end, the only lasting effects of this debate will be a bump for Herman Cain.

Surprising Results in Evangelical Poll

The Barna Group is perhaps the most respected Christian Evangelical research group. That makes their recent poll findings particularly startling when it comes to who Christians might support in 2012.

Perhaps not the results you expected

In a poll of Catholic and Protestant Christians, the candidates with the highest negatives were Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. This is especially surprising considering the incredible support these two have put behind traditional family values.

Newt’s unfavorable ratings in the mid 40’s very likely relate to his nagging marital infidelity issues from 16 years ago. While most political bases find such things to be easily forgivable, the Christian base is not so forgiving nor will they defend Newt’s actions. This could make a Christian grass roots support base difficult to build.

Palin’s highest negatives are even more surprising. When it comes to Evangelical Christians, most pundits would consider Palin to have that category wrapped up going into this race. However, this poll is reminiscient of the Family Research Counsel’s straw poll that put Palin behind Romney, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich in a straw poll won by non-contender Mike Pence.

This is not a mainstream media poll and it was not reported by mainstream media. Perhaps the message to Sarah Palin coming from Christians is that whether they agree with her or not, they don’t want her to run. At any rate, without the Christian vote, she does not have a prayer.

Perhaps what I found most surprising was the favorable rating for Mitt Romney. I don’t think anyone was shocked to see Huckabee do well in a poll of Christians. Romney on the other hand struggled to get Evangelicals to vote for him in 2008 due to his liberal history and Mormonism.

My suspicion is that many Christians have resigned themselves to the possibility that they will not be voting for their favorite candidate in 2012, but instead will be voting for the best candidate who can defeat Barack Obama. When this poll is viewed in that light, it makes sense that front runner Mitt Romney would get high ratings; as would Huckabee who Christians love but acknowledge will likely not even run.

George Barna suggests that no matter who the Republican candidate in 2012 might be, they will be “bloody and half-poor” coming out of the primary.

 

 

What do you think? Are you a Christian or values voter? Leave a comment and tell us if you are planning on voting for the candidate who most represents your values, or a candidate who is not Barack Obama but can beat him.

The Neapolitan Party

Early on in this race, we are starting to see a clear breakdown in the Republican party into three distinct flavors. The question will be whether one candidate can unite the party once the others have melted away.

Can Republicans compromise on one flavor?

The social conservatives are known for their stances on family values, morality, and for some, Christianity. They are the candidates that the Family Research Counsel and American Family Association would love to see win. They are openly supportive of the TEA Party movement and are popular among talk radio listeners and Glenn Beck fans. They are big on national security, small government, and spending cuts, but these stances are drowned out by their social values. They are often controversial and pull no punches in attacking the Left. This flavor includes Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Herman Cain, Haley Barbour, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

Then you have the fiscal conservatives. They are proven businessmen. They have cut costs in government, they have balanced budgets, they have produced growth, and many of them have large personal fortunes. They have made the tough, controversial decisions having to do with the size of government, and they have produced incredible results. However, even though many of them are pro-life, pro-family, and generally socially conservative, this does not come out strongly in their campaigns. They are willing to work across the aisle, and sometimes alienate their own party by doing it. Social conservatives don’t trust them, but they enjoy a closet relationship with the TEA Party movement. They are strong on national security and foreign policy. These candidates include Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump.

Finally, there are the libertarians. Although they may live socially conservative lives and oppose things like abortion on a personal and state level, they will die by the principle that such things are beyond the scope of the Federal Government’s regulations. They oppose foreign wars and take a very cynical approach to free trade, the UN, and other foreign entanglements. They oppose the war on drugs and would take a chainsaw to the Federal Government’s authority without hesitation. Secretly, many conservatives love them, but most would not actually vote for them. These include Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.

And then there is Newt Gingrich. Newt can be credited with helping bring about one of our nation’s most prosperous times as he worked both across the aisle and strongly against a Clinton administration to balance the budget.

Newt can win the general. Can he win the primary?

Newt also is a dedicated social conservative, who despite his own personal family issues from a decade ago is a strong advocate for socially conservative issues. Newt also advocates for limited government, but certainly not anywhere to the extent that Ron Paul does. Gingrich is smart on foreign policy and thinks outside of the box.

His American Solutions website and conservative crusade starting from when he was considering a presidential run in 2007 have helped to codify and establish the conservative brand going into 2012. He has been a strong TEA Party ally without appearing to be a one dimensional TEA Party candidate.

Could Newt be the candidate who can unite enough of the Republican Neapolitan breakdown to win in 2012? He could certainly defeat Obama in a debate and would have a strong showing in a general election. The question is if he can get enough of the social conservative, fiscal conservative and libertarian Republicans to abandon their favorite in order to unite behind him in the primary.

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