Hard Landing

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Newt Gingrich is limping out of Florida with no momentum, little money and not much to be happy about. After his substantial victory in South Carolina and visions of soaring to the moon, Newt has crashed back to earth. His supporters are pinning his loss on negative ads from the Romney side, but that argument is just sour grapes. The truth is that Newt hurt himself more than Romney did and very likely hurt the conservative cause in the process.

First, let’s dismiss the argument that negative ads are what sank Newt. That was true in Iowa. Conservative voters abandoned him and voted instead for Santorum. In New Hampshire without the attacks, the conservatives split fairly evenly between Gingrich and Santorum. In South Carolina, even with negative attacks, Newt won solidly. In Florida, Gingrich still won the conservatives – his voters did not run to Santorum as in Iowa. The negative ads didn’t bring Gingrich down. He secured his base, but it was a smaller base than in South Carolina. Hence, he lost.

To the moonHis real weakness was an inability to steal moderates from Romney. He only has himself to blame for that. His debate attacks were exposed as little more than stunts and his boasts exploded like over-inflated balloons. His image as a man with great knowledge and serious solutions backed by past experience suffered greatly. When he was caught with flagrantly incorrect ‘facts’ during the debates, it weakened trust in his criticisms of Romney. When his big spending promises in each State he’s campaigned in were called out during the debates, it weakened confidence in his ability to have real solutions. When his great claim to fame of balancing the budget was admitted to be false because it was done by robbing Social Security, it undermined his claim to be the experienced fixer the country needs. Gingrich didn’t just have some bad debates, he collapsed during them. His strong supporters may not see that nor admit it, but those who are not Newties were able to see it and the exit polls confirm it.

The real disservice Newt did in Florida was convince people that he is the only conservative who can beat Mitt. As a result, when Newt started to implode only voters who were shaky for Mitt stayed with him rather than go with another candidate. The race was viewed as being between Mitt or Newt and undecided voters found themselves with little choice than to support Mitt under the circumstances. Even if you add together the Gingrich and Santorum votes, Mitt still wins. That isn’t because of negative attack ads on Newt, but rather the inability of Santorum to gain undecided voters because they felt the only candidates who could win in November were Mitt and Newt. That two man view is something only Newt has been pushing and for which he must take the blame when his campaign stumbles resulted in an overall conservative loss.

Newt will likely double-down on his themes. He’ll say that he’s the only conservative that stands a chance. He’ll say that only he has the experience needed. He’ll whine about negative attacks. He’ll launch new attacks of his own which will likely be as weakly supported as his most recent ones in Florida that backfired. As I wrote after his loss in Iowa when he lost his temper and started his attacks on capitalism, Newt is his own worst enemy and his own undoing.

46 States to go…or so he says.

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Where New Hampshire Leaves Us

Bookmark and Share    The results of the Live Free or Die State’s first in the nation primary, did little to change minds or establish any great degree of certainty about the final outcome when Republicans gather to nominate a President in September.  Yet despite all the hand ringing, flavors of the many different weeks, sniping about who is to liberal, and general exasperation over the lack of perfection in the presidential field, I do believe that just as was the case in Iowa and now New Hampshire, Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee.  However, nothing is set in stone and as masterfully noted in a recent post by MDuminiak, there are a number of unique circumstances facing the now undeniable Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

As I have mentioned in the past, there is a significant possibility for Republicans to see their first brokered convention since 1976.  In his post “Hollow Victories”, MDuminak cites several factors that could lead up to such an event.  They include the penalties which strip several states of half their delegate counts for holding earlier than allowed primaries and the proliferation of states that have moved to a proportional allocation of their delegates rather than the usual winner-take-all system that dominated the process in the past.

Even so, while right now it does look like there is a good possibility for a brokered convention , I am convinced that all the speculation will be proven wrong and by the time September comes along, many will find it hard to remember just how contested the nomination seemed to be, or that most of us tried to make it out to be.

Many may find that hard to believe, but if history is any indication, that is exactly the way it will be when Mitt Romney accepts the nomination and nominates his running mate.  To believe that though, requires an interpretation of exactly where New Hampshire leaves us.

 Mitt Romney:

Romney finally cracked that 25% mark that has helped many to question his electability as a Republican.  But it was in a state friendly to Mitt and that is seen as less conservative than many other states.  Nonetheless, he did exceed his 25% high watermark and achieved what can only be called a landslide victory.

But there is more to consider as Romney moves on to the next battleground.

Mitt has played it safe.  He has not offered a single bold initiative or major reform other than his promise to repeal Obamacare.  This has made it difficult for him to win over the reform minded TEA movement wing of the G.O.P. and nearly impossible for him to tap in to the general anti-establishment mood that permeates the electorate.  His lack of innovative, revolutionary, ideas have left many uninspired by him, myself included.   Yet all that Romney has carefully proposed can not be considered anything less than conservative.  They are just not things that could easily be painted as “extreme”.  That may not be a big hit with conservatives, but it does give Romney an advantage in the general election and that is exactly what Romney is trying to do…….run a general election campaign.  It was, and is a calculated risk that he decided on many months ago. when it became clear that conservatives were not going to have a single conservative alternative to Romney  to unite behind.

So Romney has been playing it safe, and for good reason.

While the rule of thumb is that Republicans must run to the right to get the nomination and then run to the middle to win the election, that old concept may not apply in 2012.

With Barack Obama accumulating a war chest of more than a billion dollars, Romney knows that if he runs too far to the right to get the nomination, Obama’s money may make it impossible for him to run back to the middle.   Obama’s historic spending could go a long way in painting Romney as the extremist who is more out of touch with Americans than the President himself is.

Then there is the fact that Romney is not exactly quite as condemned by conservatives as many would like you to believe.  Here is a man who for several years  priors to 2011, was elected the favorite conservative by CPAC.   In 2008, Mitt Romney was also the conservative alternative to John McCain.  And since then, Romney has only become more conservative, not more liberal.

This is probably why recent exit polling showed Romney beating all other candidates among even conservatives.  In many ways, according to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is the conservative alternative that conservatives were looking for.

Add to that the most well financed and organized campaign, combined with significant endorsements from people like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and what you have is candidate who can buy,  organize, and win over all the delegates he needs to win the nomination.

Then of course there are all the factors working against each of  Mitt Romney’s rivals;

Ron Paul:

Ron Paul is performing far better than he ever has before.  Some may see this as a sign that his rhetoric is resonating.  And it is.  But not with Republicans.

While Republicans agree with much, if not all of Paul’s fiscal ideas and platitudes about the Constitution, they know that he is really not quite as unique as some of his worshippers think he is.  Many Republicans understand that Paul is more rhetoric than action and that when it comes to foreign policy and national defense, he is just irresponsible.  This is why polling, including exit polls from both the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary, show :

a).- Ron Paul losses among self identified Republicans.

 b).- Ron Paul loses among self identified conservatives.

c).- Ron Paul, the mythological father of the TEA Party, even loses among those who identify themselves as TEA Party members and supporters.

Which leads us to the electoral irrelevance of Ron Paul.

Ron Paul’s inflated vote totals are arrived at through a unique coalition of liberals, independents, and youth who look upon their parent’s  days as hippie, love and peace, revolutionaries,  with nostalgic admiration and see it as the days when America had meaning.

Some suggest that we must thank Ron Paul for bringing these people in to the Republican Party.   Some do, but I don’t.

First of all, I have no need for liberals in my Party.  It’s bad enough that as a New York born resident of New Jersey, I am living among far too many Rockefeller Republicans already.  But more than that, none of these people are going to stay in the Republican Party, and none of these Paul fanatics are going to ever vote Republican.  They will either cast their lot with President Obama, vote for a third Party candidate, or not vote at all.  No matter which one of those three alternatives they choose, none of them were or are ever going to vote Republican.  Not unless Ron Paul becomes the nominee and that is just not ever going to happen.

So when it comes to Ron Paul, relax.

He has little to do with the G.O.P. and this is still the Republican presidential nomination we are talking about.  Will Ron Paul continue to get his message out?  Yes.  Will it change the results of the Republican presidential nomination contest?  No.

So Ron Paul is merely a distraction.

Jon Huntsman:

Huntsman did well in New Hampshire, but third place behind Ron Paul does not make him a rock a star and while he claimed that third place was his ticket to South Carolina, he better hope it’s a roundtrip ticket.  His 3rd place finish will not swing big money his way as it did for Rick Santorum after Iowa,  and with the lack of money that he has to invest in South Carolina, what you get is a candidate with no momentum and not enough tread on his wheels to get the type of traction he needs in South Carolina.

Huntsman like Paul, is now merely a distraction.

Rick Perry:

At this point, the only reason Perry is still running is because he wants to be there if the other candidates trip and fall as badly as he did.  Perry does not want to miss the chance to become the nominee by default if Romney or any combination of the others become the next Gary Hart and fall out of favor because of “Monkey Business”.

Perry is not even a distraction. He is just standing by and waiting to fill a vacancy that may never open up.  His only other hope is that the field stays relatively muddled until he can rack up a significant number of delegates from Texas and the rest of the deep South, West of Florida.  And even then he has to hope that fate provides him  with a brokered convention that make his delegate count important enough for him to have a big say as to who the nominee is.

Rick Santorum:

Santorum still has a chance to show some life in South Carolina.  Like Iowa, it is dominated by social conservatives and no one else has really  established themselves yet as the social conservative candidate.  On top of that, he now has money.  After raising significant amounts of money following his virtual tie with Romney in Iowa,  he could not spend it in New Hampshire because its primary was so close to Iowa’s caucus, that all the air time was already bought up.  That is not the case in South Carolina.

However, that is about all the momentum Santorum has left going in to South Carolina.  He was unable to turn his strong Iowa showing into a strong New Hampshire finish and coming in behind Newt Gingrich did not help at all.

So Santorum is not likely to defeat Mitt Romney in South Carolina but he could still emerge as a conservative alternative to Romney in Florida.

Newt Gingrich:

Gingrich is fading fast.  He really needed to at least beat Jon Huntsman if not Ron Paul too.  Instead he now goes in to South Carolina as an underfinanced, unorganized, bottom tier candidate. Yet if there is  any place he could turn things around, it is South Carolina.  Sadly though, I do not see him doing that.  Gingrich failed to ever accept the fact that although he may be an unconventional leader, there are some conventional aspects of a campaign that are so basic, that even he, Gingrich the Great, needed to employ them.  But he didn’t.  between that, a lack of structure,as well as a lack of a clear theme and message, and his experiment with attacking Mitt Romney from the left, it looks like South Carolina may be Newt’s last stand.

Even if Newt does surprise us all in South Carolina, I am afraid it is too late for him to do much with it.  Florida will be tougher for Newt and easier for Mitt than South Carolina, and with Newt’s lack of funds and Romney’s abundance of funds, Florida is where the inevitability factor may settle in for Mitt and help to dry up any remaining opportunities that his rivals might still have.

Does this mean it’s all over?

Not at all.

The game will still be played.

If  for nobody other than Ron Paul, the race will remain contested at least until Super Tuesday and probably beyond.  But the game won’t  be a very serious one.  It will mainly be talked up by political junkies like myself and rating starved talking heads who will claim Ron Paul is tearing the G.O.P. in half, and that he may go to the convention with enough delegates to change the Republican platform or determine who the presidential and vice presidential nominees are.  But such talk will be mere fantasy because in the end, Mitt Romney will reach the 1,128 delegates he needs for the Republican presidential nomination by March 20th or earlier.  And if he happens not to get it by then, he will do so no later than Tuesday, April 24th, when 231 delegates are up for grabs in the Mid-Atlantic version of Super Tuesday that will see the Romney rich states of Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island all hold their primaries.

Then, mark my words, all this talk about about how incompetent the Republican field was and how competitive it was, will all be a part of a hard to remember past, and no matter how much you dislike Mitt Romney now, you will not be disliking quite that much after he delivers his acceptance speech in September at the Republican National Convention.

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Family To The Rescue

What does Mitt Romney have that Cain and Gingrich don’t?  A clear 40+ year record of unchallenged fidelity to his wife.  On the right, that matters.  It’s something many of us respect Barack Obama for as well.  Cain’s sexual harassment story is one of the major things that can be attributed to his recent decline.  Gingrich is sure to face the same thing regarding his previous marriages.  In fact, Bill Maher has already set the distasteful tone for this line of attack, despite Gingrich’s years of faithful marriage to Callista.

But in Cain and Gingrich’s cases, both are receiving help from just the right place, family.  As reported yesterday, Gloria Cain has surfaced to stand by Herman Cain and refute allegations based on his character and her knowledge of him.  Still, without hard evidence and with such a late showing, it will be interesting to see if this has much effect.

Gingrich got a boost yesterday in a pre-emptive strike against the false message that he delivered divorce papers to his cancerous wife on her death bed.   His daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote an article describing what really happened.  In a divorce that Gingrich’s wife had requested, Newt delivered the papers when he and members of the family drove to the hospital to visit her after she had a benign tumor removed. Gingrich’s daughter writes:

“For years, I have thought about trying to correct the untrue accounts of this hospital visit. After all, I was at the hospital with them, and saw and heard what happened. But I have always hesitated, as it was a private family matter and my mother is a very private person. In addition, for the four people involved, it was one of a million interactions and was not considered a defining event by any of us.”

Cushman also reiterated that her mother is a very private person and will not give media interviews, but that their family has healed and the two daughters have great relationships with both parents.

 

Trumped

In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Donald Trump ties Mike Huckabee for second place.

Trump has developed an early reputation in this race as a hard hitting, brutally honest, hawk with a plan to restore respect for America on the world stage. He has already promised the ability to whip our enemies, and allies, into shape through tough foreign policy.

Could he be a contender?

There is a grass roots website set up now to recruit supporters for Trump called Should Trump Run. This website has video from the desk of the Donald, along with his interviews with various news organizations. Trump has also found easy access among conservative radio and tv hosts.

With Trump’s outspoken campaign thusfar, many Republicans may be hoping he runs, even if they don’t plan on voting for him themselves. Trump is the only candidate with the clout, confidence, and sufficient lack of political reputation to question Obama’s birth certificate and get away with it.

I view Trump more as a bull in a china shop. They may draw a crowd, and can do a great deal of damage. But in the end, they never actually end up buying anything. My hope is that Trump can keep his focus on Obama and his brutal honesty where it will do conservatism the most good; not sniping at other potential GOP’ers.

And before Trumpites get too excited, Romney still came in a comfortable first in this poll.

Is Trump Trustworthy?

We’ve heard it before. In fact, our current President stood before the nation and told us that he believed that marriage was a union between one man and one woman. Since then, Obama has stirred controversy by refusing to defend the current law on the books that defines marriage that way. In fact, before the ink was dry on the administration’s statement that they would no longer defend DOMA in court, prop 8 opponents in California had quotes from the statement prepared in a lengthy legal document requesting a stay in the implementation of Prop 8.

Pandering is the ancient art of politics. John Kerry supported the war before he was against it. Many have accused Mitt Romney of pandering. After all, he ran on a pro-choice platform in Massachusetts and then wrote Romneycare. He may have excuses and explanations, but in the end conservatives will have to decide if they are willing to trust Romney on social issues and healthcare.

Conservatives will have to make the same decision with Donald Trump. Trump recently came out in opposition both of gay marriage and civil union benefits. Already he is getting a lot of flack for the choice. One gay activist called him “an extreme bigot” for his marriage position.

Trump has also changed his stance on abortion, now choosing to go pro-life.

So can social conservatives trust Donald Trump? As noted in previous posts, Trump has supported Democrats like Rahm Emanuel financially. Trump’s daughter was recently seen at a pro-gay marriage reception in New York.

Trump knows whose palms to grease and who to support to be successful in his business. That makes an easy explanation for his history. But it should also be a warning sign to social conservatives. Is Trump truly a social right winger? Or is the social right wing his latest acquisition?

Trump’s move may be genuine, but the 2012 Republican electorate is turning out to be one of the most cynical, untrusting and judgmental crowd the right has seen in a long time. And justly so. George W. Bush’s last couple years in office ruined his conservative legacy, and McCain was no Reagan.

My prediction: Trump is not going to convince the social conservative base of the Republican party.

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