South Carolina Political Ad Wars Are Well Underway

Bookmark and Share   Since 2000, South Carolina has taken on a reputation as the state in which the presidential primaries get real ugly.  It is a natural result that comes about because of timing and because of its symbolic start of the nomination contest in the all import delegate rich South.

For some candidates, the South is where their greatest strength lies and a win in South Carolina makes it more possible to win the many Southern states that follow, particularly Florida.  But for campaigns that have been battered and bruised in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina always seem to represents a last chance for success.  Those are the campaigns which are usually the most desperate and it is out of desperation that they begin to openly make their strongest, most outrageous, attacks on their rivals.   Then there are the smear campaigns that desperate candidates begin in South Carolina.

In 200o, South carolina Bush supporters began an undergorund effort that saw fliers that labeled McCain “the fag candidate”  circulated in churches.   Then a not so subtle whisper campiagn began to accuse McCain of homosexuality, and having illegitimate children and a drug addicted wife.  Then there was the smear designed to paint McCain as being unstable.  That underground effort was timed to coincide with Bush’s public references to McCain’s “temper”.

With 9 days remaining till voting in South Carolina begins, there will be plenty of time for a whole host of similar whisper campaigns to start.  I expect to hear a few good ones that try to raise doubts about Romney that stem from exaggerations about his Mormon faith, a religion which is about as foreign to South Carolinians as one can possibly get.

In the meantime, the airwaves are being taken over by commercials that reflect very different strategies.

Rick Perry has recently come out with a spot called “President of Honor”.  It tries to spark support for him among the inordinately large military population in South Carolina.

Ron Paul, fresh off of his own slew of negative attack ads like “Betrayal” is also targeting veterans for support of his candidacy.

And while Paul is targeting veterans, a pro-Paul Super PAC called Santa Rita PAC is is doing the same by urging voters to support our troops by supporting Ron Paul.

Then there is a group independent from all the presidential candidates, which is airing an attack on Ron Paul. The Emergency Committee for Israel features Gary Bauer in a spot that takes Ron Paul on for his dangerous foreign policies and conspiracy theories.

Newt Gingrich has chosen to stay focussed on destroying Mitt Romney in his campaign to exact revenge. His most recent South Carolina ad attacks Mitt on the issue of abortion and plays on doubts about Mitt’s conservative credentials.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is leaving the negative attacks up to his supportive Super PACs, such as this one which goes after Newt, sponsored by the pro-Romney PAC, Restore Our Future.

As Mitt leaves the dirty work up to his Super PACs, his campaign is investing most of its money in ads that aim at Barack Obama. Like in this one which he began running last week and which goes after the NLRB decision against Boeing.

A Rick Santorum Super PAC called the Red, White, and Blue Fund is airing a positive piece pitching Santorum as the principled conservative.

While that one is up, flush with an injection of $3 million in donations since his virtual tie in Iowa, Santorum’s campaign is airing another ad which casts him as the full spectrum conservative and the one who can beat President Obama.

And that is all just the beginning. Pretty soon South Carolina’s airwaves will be polluted with more rhetoric, accusations, and false claims than we will be able to keep track of. And that is when the real smear campaigns will begin, when it becomes too hard to really track it back to anyone specific.

But before that happens, Mitt Romney is already airing his ads in Florida, the state where much of this race will conclude. One of Mitt’s first ads up there is entitled Nosotros and essentially speaks to the very influential conservative Cuban American voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

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Back loading and Frontloading Changes Presidential Primary and Caucus Schedule Big Time

Bookmark and Share   The Republican presidential primary and caucus calendar remains up in the air, but White House 2012 has updated the tentative schedule.  It can be found here.

WH12 has established the tentative dates of each primary and caucus through a combination of historical analysis of how the schedule usually works itself out and where each state has so far positioned themselves in the process.

Attempts by Florida to increase the impact of their primary results by holding their primary earlier than allowed by RNC rules, has forced the earliest dates in the new schedule to be in a state of flux. Republican National Committee rules allow Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to hold their nominating contests in February, while all other with states are allowed to vote after March 6.

But Florida’s decision to have its primary on January 31st of 2012, has forced Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to leapfrog the Sunshine State in an attempt to maintain the excitement and influence that comes with their early vote. This situation is exacerbated by New Hampshire state law which requires the Granite State to be the first in the nation presidential primary and Iowa’s state code that mandates that their presidential caucus be held “not later than the fourth Monday in February and at least days prior to any other presidential nominating contest. Because of those legal requirements the jockeying for position by Florida which has forced South Carolina to move its date up will ultimately force New Hampshire to move its primary to Tuesday, January 16th.  That in turn will force Iowa to conduct its presidential caucuses on Monday, January 2nd. Monday the 9th, would seemingly be a better date, but due to the date that New Hampshire will be forced to hold its primary on, Monday the 9th of January would be a day short of the Iowa state mandate requiring it be held 8 days prior to all other presidential nominating contests.

Further evidence of these likely date changes comes from New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner.  He recently told  the Boston Globe that the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary could be held in January or as early as it must to maintain its prized first-in-the-nation primary. Gardener added that insofar as the likelihood of New Hampshire holding its contest before the originally scheduled February 14th date, “it’s not a close call”

Between those factors and legislative action that has already changed the dates of the presidential nominating contests in other states, White House 2012 has established that So the opening primary and caucus calendar will most likely be as follows:

Monday, January 2nd; –

  • Iowa Caucus – 28 Delegates

Tuesday, January 17th;

  • New Hampshire Primary– 23 Delegates

Saturday, January 28th:

  • South Carolina Primary– 50 Delegates 

Tuesday, January 31st;

  • Florida– Primary -99

Such a frontloaded calendar is not exactly desired, mainly because it forces the height of campaigning in to Iowa to be conducted during the Christmas and New Years holidays, a time when most Americans are far more interested in seeing Santa and the New Year Baby than they are in Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, or Newt Gingrich.  But in 2008, a similar scenario saw Florida push their primary up and that led to a chain reaction which ultimately forced Iowa to hold their caucuses on Monday, January 3rd. So it is my belief that this situation will play itself out in 2012 much the same way that it did in 2008.

In the meantime, while Florida, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida are in a competition of frontloading the Republican presidential nomination process, there has been little or no mention of the fact that many other states are doing just the opposite.

In 2008, New Jersey which has traditionally been one of the very last states to hold its presidential primary, and thereby one of the most inconsequential to the process, moved its primary to March, with states like New York. But the legislative geniuses in the Garden State decided that the $11.2 million that it costs them to hold a primary separate from their traditional primary date for all other elected offices, was not worth the cost.  So in 2012, New Jersey will join Montana, New Mexico , and South Carolina in holding their primaries on June 5th, a date that  precedes only Utah which will hold its contest on June 26th.  By then the question is…..why bother?

As for New York, it too has moved its Primary back, along with Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Together, on Tuesday, April 24th, these states will join with Pennsylvania and hold what is essentially a northern, Mid-Atlantic regional primary that will offer up a total of 231 delegates. These states are traditionally more liberal than much of the rest of the G.O.P. and as such, the strength of their combined vote coming on the same day, could be a big boost to less conservative Republican presidential contenders like Jon Huntsman or if he runs, favorite regional son Rudy Giuliani.

All together, White House 2012’s updated primary and caucus schedule has established date changes for more than a dozen states. And while not every date is set in stone, we are confident that this is one of the most probable presidential primary and caucus calendars out there.

Of course this could all change if Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus adheres to RNC rules and punishes any of those states which are not allowed to hold their nomination contests prior to March.  The penalty for such a transgression of RNC rules requires reducing the number of delegates that the violating states send to the national nominating convention by half. Such a reduction in size would be a significant blow to the influence that large states like Florida which has 99 delegates, would have on the nomination process. This is especially true when it comes to California which has scheduled their primary for February 7th. They would go from 172 delegates to 86 delegates. That’s a loss of more delegates than the combined total of delagates that Iowa, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Rhode Island send to the convention.

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New Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire Make Nothing Very Clear

Bookmark and Share Two new Strategic National polls offer results from Iowa and New Hampshire that mirror other similar surveys.

Of 410 Iowans who are described as typical caucus voters, former Governor Mike Huckabee is ahead of his closest possible rival, Mitt Romney, by 9.02%.

Complete poll results were as follows:

  1. Mike Huckabee 27.56%
  2. Mitt Romney 18.54%
  3. Undecided 17.56%
  4. Sarah Palin 12.44%
  5. Newt Gingrich 12.20%
  6. Tim Pawlenty 4.39%
  7. Michele Bachmann 3.66%
  8. John Thune 1.95%
  9. Rick Santorum 0.98%
  10. Other/Undecided 0.49%
  11. Haley Barbour 0.24%

In New Hampshire a random sample of 940 Republican primary voters offered a result that was almost as equally lopsided between the first and second place finishers as Iowa’s results were, but here it is Romney who takes the lead. The New Hampshire poll played out like this:

  1. Mitt Romney 33.51%
  2. Mike Huckabee 13.83%
  3. Sarah Palin 12.77%
  4. Newt Gingrich 8.62%
  5. Tim Pawlenty 5.21%
  6. Mitch Daniels 1.60%
  7. Rick Santorum 1.28%
  8. Haley Barbour 0.96%
  9. John Thune 0.21%
  10. Other/Undecided 22.02%

Both polls do little more than confirm what we already knew. What we don’t know though is who Iowa and New Hampshire voters will actually be splitting their votes between when it is time to vote and caucus. While we are more than certain that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty will be running, and pretty sure people like Fred Karger and Rick Santorum are running, we do not know with any certainty if Mike Huckabee or any of the other often mentioned names are running. Furthermore, given the countless number of variables, including who will or wont be in the race and the great potential that the campaigns of many potential candidates have, it would be naive to assume that anyone who is a frontrunner at this moment, will be the winner a year from now.

However, when it comes to New Hampshire and Iowa and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, a combination of name recognition from their 2008 presidential runs and demographics, Romney and Huckabee are where they should be in New Hampshire and Iowa and are naturals to win those state respectively.

If they did win in these tow states, the Republican presidential nomination contest is likely to be wide open well into the primary and caucus season.

Following Iowa and New Hampshire are Nevada and South Carolina. Here too a split decision is as natural as it is in the results of Iowa and New Hampshire. Demographics and established name recognition make Nevada a natural for Romney to win and South Carolina a natural for Huckabee to take. Of course with South Carolina being more of a sign of how the South goes than Nevada is of the way the West goes, Huckabee’s win in South Carolina would put him in a much better position for him than Romney.

South Carolina is where Romney has to draw his wall of fire. It is where he has to establish the “Big Mo” that George H. W. Bush thought he had behind him in the 1980 primaries against Ronald Reagan.

Of course as noted in previous White House 2012 posts, if enough candidates who are attractive to the evangelical vote, jump into the race, Romney could be the beneficiary and have the chance to walk right up the middle.

For now though, it really is too early to base any wagers on any of these polls. None of the potential candidates campaigns can be underestimated and there are so many possible players at the moment that it is too difficult to predict which way any one demographic or state will fall.

If Newt Gingrich were to run, not only will his command of the issues be undeniably impressive, but between the unique and numerous ideas he brings to the table, combined with a personality that will surprise many and the ability to reshape his image, he could quickly become an appealing figure to many, including evangelicals and TEA Party energized people.

If Sarah Palin were to run, her ability to campaign in a way that can broaden her base should not be underestimated and given the enthusiastic support that she already has from a loyal base of voters, such an expansion of her base could effect the primaries and caucuses profoundly.

But many other names also have the potential to establish powerfully effective campaigns that can attract the attention and support of any combination of influential wings of the G.O.P.. Texas Governor Rick Perry is building a solid foundation for a possible campaign that highlights states rights which appeals to TEA Party priorities. He has also built a record around anti-abortion measures and other social issues that are attractive to evangelicals and social conservatives. And on economic issues, his tax cuts, spending cuts and jobs record in the Lone Star State, appeal to all wings of the Republican Party.

Indiana’s Mitch Daniel’s is another figure whom could take the Party by storm. His American Heartland appeal and economic prowess will shine brighter than most. The entry of Mississippi’s Haley Barbour could quickly round up a large portion of the G.O.P. inner circle, raise oodles of money, count on many favors owed to him, significantly coalesce Southern support and dilute Huckabee’s Southern strength, while also surprising people with his own strategic abilities and appeal to conservatives in all four corners of the country.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota will be force to a contend with if he runs. While the addition of his name in to the field may not initially turn the race on its ear, he will quickly gain steam. Then there are other names like Rick Santorum and Mike Pence. All of these names will sharply divide the conservative vote, thereby give people like Tim Pawlenty, as well as Mitt Romney and maybe even Rudy Giuliani a better shot at racking high delegate counts.

And through it all may also be the likes of libertarians Ron Paul and former new Mexico Governor Gary Johnson as well as those dark horse candidates, such as Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and maybe even Donald Trump.

Right now, all that we can be sure of is that while some names like Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and outsider Fred Karger have all but made their campaigns official, everyone else is watching what each of the other names are doing. And until people like Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, John Thune and Sarah Palin, make up their minds, people like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman and more, will be waiting to make up their own minds.

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