Trunkline 2012: Monday Mentions from The Republican Presidential Race – 12/12/11

Bookmark and Share  Gingrich and Romney trade barbs, Paul becomes appealing, Santorum raises money with Romney’s bet, and some juice on Marco Rubio and Ben Bernanke.   All of this awaits you in today’s Trunkline 2012.  And don’t forget to take the poll in it.

Between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, which of the two would be a stronger candidate against President Obama?   Vote here, now.

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Rasmussen Shows Gingrich Over Obama

In what may be a bad sign ultimately for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich has overtaken Barack Obama in a hypothetical poll for the 2012 General Election.  Newt 45, Obama 43 is the Rasmussen headline.

Certainly this is bad news for Barack Obama.  Gingrich has a great deal of distance to cover in order to win over moderates and and establishment Republicans without losing the Social Conservative base.  He has already been attacked by watchdog/attack dog Michele Bachmann for not being conservative enough on illegal immigration.  Mitt Romney is trying to portray Newt as a Washington insider, and liberals like Bruce Bartlett and Paul Krugman are trying to feed a new portrayal of Newt as someone who only sounds smarter than them.  Even Mark Steyn got in on the action while filling in for Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, saying essentially that Newt only sounds smart because he uses big words.  Yet Newt has accomplished something other flavor of the week Social Conservatives haven’t with this poll.  Falling to Newt this early in a national poll is very bad news for Obama.

So why might it be worse news for Romney?  How about some de ja vu.  Click here for a 2008 New Hampshire poll that might remind you of how the 2008 primary went down. Romney had been the clear choice until polls started showing McCain as being the best candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.  Up until now, Romney has consistently been the best candidate to beat Obama in 2012.

Let’s be honest.  The number one concern of most Republicans when determining who to vote for in this primary is who can beat Barack Obama.  Even though any of the candidates running should be able to beat Obama, many Republicans are basing their vote on that one key: electability.  If Newt continues to beat Obama in the polls, Romney could find himself watching the November results from home for the second time in a row.

Gingrich Wins at Cain Event

Slated by organizers as the beginning of the Northeast Florida political campaign season, Stand Up for America was an event in Jacksonville Friday night featuring semi-local radio personality Neil Boortz, Karl Rove, Jacksonville political news blogger and reporter Jaime Dupree, and featured a special guest appearance by Herman Cain.

Cain got the audience going at the well attended event with a 20 minute speech on taxes, spending and foreign policy.  But the big winner of the night was Newt Gingrich who won the straw poll at the beginning of the night.  The day before, Newt gathered a crowd of a couple hundred in downtown Jacksonville for a townhall meeting sponsored by the First Coast Tea Party, one of the largest individual TEA party organizations in the United States.

Social Conservatives Split As Predicted

Months ago, I laid the framework for next year’s primary election with my blog entitled “The Neapolitan Party“.  In it, my theory was that Republican voters would fall on three lines, Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, and Libertarian.  Cain’s rise and Perry’s fall is continued proof that this template is accurate.  It also is bad news for Mitt Romney.

An untrained eye might see Perry’s recent fall in the polls and Romney reclaiming front runner status as great news for the Romney campaign.  But the numbers tell a different story.  Romney is not losing or gaining votes from Social Conservatives.  Perry and Cain are moving these votes back and forth.  Eventually the race will come down to Romney and the top Social Conservative.  At this point, that top Social Conservative will likely win.

Can Romney increase his support among Social Conservatives enough to win?

Romney will get Huntsman’s voters when Huntsman drops out of the race.  Paul and Johnson voters  will either go to Romney, stay home, or vote third party.  But the rest of the candidates are passing support back and forth between them based on who has the best chance of beating Obama.  This is why Santorum and Gingrich continue to fail to gain traction.  When they drop out, their votes will go to the top Social Conservative.

Romney’s best hope may be for Perry to regain his momentum.  With the attacks leveled by Bachmann and Santorum against Rick Perry, some of their jaded supporters may gravitate to Romney if and when they fall out of the race.  Others will see Perry’s illegal immigration stances and choose Romney as the lesser of two evils.  However, I believe that Romney may not be able to recoup enough supporters from other Social Conservatives unless he seriously steps up his Social Conservative message.  Romney has done well to endorse TEA party objectives and move more to the right socially, but trust is still an issue.  On the other hand, Cain is a very likeable and trustable candidate.  Libertarians are wary of him because he used to be a board member of a Federal Reserve bank.  But the libertarians who would not vote for Cain because of that have far more reasons to not vote for any other viable candidate.

The other factor that could change this would be last minute polling of who would beat Obama.  If it comes down to Cain and Romney, but polls show that Romney would have a better chance of beating Obama, that could be a game changer.

Gingrich Preparing New Contract With America

Newt Gingrich has promised a new Contract with America to be revealed next week in Iowa.  Newt seeks to turn around his fortunes after stellar debate performances have failed to spark a surge in the polls.  While most will acknowledge that Gingrich is one of the smartest, if not the smartest person in any political room he enters, many are turned off by his low charisma, history with regards to the Clinton impeachment, and perceptions about a floundering 2012 primary campaign.

I wrote last week that there is a disconnect surrounding Newt’s campaign.  So here are my questions for the readers:  Will Newt’s new Contract with America help his campaign?  Do you like Newt?  Why or why not?  And this is an entirely different question: would you vote for Newt?  Consider this post a research project.

Perry Polls Well in Florida

A recent Florida Times Union poll has Rick Perry up by 9 in Florida.  Florida will be a key early state in the primary and of course could be the key to the Presidency in the 2012 general.  How solid is Perry’s lead?  As solid as the opinion of a 20 year old.

Perry took 67% of the young vote, ages 18-29.  The only other candidates to take any of this demographic were Newt Gingrich with 10 points and Ron Paul with 13.  10% of young voters remained undecided.

2010 election map: TEA Party favorite Rick Scott won Florida.

Perry won most demographics except notably seniors and blacks.  Romney carried seniors by a couple points and Perry got 0% of the support from blacks.  Support among blacks was carried by Mitt Romney with 37%, followed by Cain with 31%.  This was a bit of a shock in a state where blacks tend to come out to vote for black candidates regardless of party affiliation.  In fact, many in this demographic have come out saying they voted for Barack Obama and now support Herman Cain.  Romney’s ability to break into this demographic could be very helpful in the general election.  Perry got 0% of the black vote, while Santorum of all people and Huntsman picked up 14 and 18%, respectively.

Ron Paul did not crack the top five in the poll, and Huntsman eeked out a very weak 1.3%.  Surprisingly, even after ending up in the same boat as Perry on illegal immigration in the last debate, Huntsman got 0% of the Hispanic support while Perry ran away with 48%.  Bachmann also did well with the Hispanic vote.

In Florida, it is Perry’s game for now.  But this poll was taken right after the last debate and does not reflect the fallout from Perry’s Merck connection.  Fair or not, that is the same type of loose connection/unfair accusation that sunk Mitt Romney in Florida in 2008.  Just days before the Florida primary, John McCain accused Mitt Romney of supporting a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.  the result was a swing of a couple points that gave McCain the edge in the end.  Perry may not have forced retardation causing vaccinations on 11 year olds just for a $5,000 campaign contribution, but among Florida voters perception is sometimes reality.  This is especially true among young voters.

The minority split between Romney and Perry is not a great sign for Republicans in Florida for the general election.  It is difficult to win Florida without support in the I-4 corridor and the southern part of the state which have large Hispanic constituencies.  At the same time, when a Republican can’t garner support among blacks, but the opposing candidate is black, central-north and north Florida go from solidly Republican to only tenuously Republican.  The fact that Perry scored a 0% with blacks and Romney scored a 0% with Hispanics shows that both front runners need to do some work in Florida to ensure a shot at victory in the general election.

I can think of an easy solution for Romney or any other Republican candidate to nearly guarantee victory in Florida.  Make Marco Rubio your VP pick.

Is Cain Trying in Iowa?

No, if you believe his now former Iowa director Tina Goff and Kevin Hall who was in charge of coordinating for the Iowa straw poll in just over a month.  Jim Zeiler has also left the Iowa staff and Cain lost his New Hampshire director earlier this week.  When it comes to managing a campaign, things are not looking good for Cain.

On the other hand, Cain is looking good in the Iowa polls.  Most recently he came in second only to perpetual front runner Mitt Romney and remade Michelle Bachmann.

Will the Guiliani gamble work for Cain?

The problem is that Cain has not done or said anything to differentiate himself from Michelle Bachmann.  Going into this race he had perhaps set himself apart as a more “serious” candidate, and certainly took on early momentum from the TEA Party.  But Bachmann easily out-shined him in the debate and continues to make the right steps even in the face of extreme character assassination.  Bachmann’s successes have made her detractors appear to be less “serious”.

In the meantime, Cain is reducing himself to soundbite worthy quips and small government platitudes while his substance seems to be a foggy mirror of the clarity Bachmann has produced.  The result is that Cain is quietly slipping into the shadows where other candidate copies, like Gary Johnson (generic brand Ron Paul) and Jon Huntsman (Mitt Romney clone only the media is excited about) reside.  Bachmann is quickly taking the TEA Party energy.

In some ways, Cain brought this on himself.  His radio host style speeches leave little substance to hang one’s hat on and his brief handling of gay marriage in the debate has alienated him from the religious section of the TEA Party.  In addition, at times he has seemed clueless on some of the more detailed issues such as right of return for a Palestinian state.  This still puts him miles ahead in knowledge from someone like Joe Biden who wanted a three state solution for Iraq.

Cain does have one demographic that still turns out strongly in support of him, and that is the African American conservatives, moderates, and independents.  Many of these who helped turn Florida blue for Barack Obama and are now disenchanted with his policies are indicating strong support for Cain.  Whereas Iowa is turning out to be a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Bachmann, all important Florida may end up being a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Cain. Real Clear Politics shows Cain in second place to Romney in Florida out of current candidates, but large percentages going to Huckabee and Palin.  It will be interesting to see how those Palin and Huckabee supporters break by the time we reach Florida.  It won’t be for Mitt Romney.

If Cain can survive until Florida and then capitalize on it, losing Iowa might not be that big a deal.  Then again, perhaps he should talk to Rudy Guiliani about that strategy.

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