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Posts tagged “Rick Santorum

Is This It for Mitt?


Will this say "Romney Defeats Obama"?

Super Tuesday came and went, only it wasn’t quite so super. If anything, the results only served to muddle the outcome further in what was an already muddled Republican primary. If you listen to the MSM, Mitt Romney solidified his role as front-runner after expanding his lead in delegates.

Ah, if only it were so simple. But nothing about this primary season has been simple. The principle reason for quagmire is that the Republicans decided this year to change things up and award delegates proportionally, but left it to the individual states to decide how the apportionment would work. State party bosses, being state party bosses, largely decided that the popular votes wouldn’t matter and state political conventions would ultimately decide how many delegates each candidate would receive. Craziest of all these is Missouri, which held a non-binding primary last month and will hold non-binding caucuses next week. It’s a system only Boss Hogg would appreciate.

The net result of all this inside horse-trading (aside from having only a relative few delegates actually apportioned) is the current morass. If, as in the ancient past (read: 2008) delegates were awarded on a winner take all basis, Romney would have commitments from 513 delegates, Rick Santorum 197 and Newt Gingrich 101. Instead, we have estimated delegate counts. Depending on the source, Romney has between 379 (CBS News’ count) and 430 (Fox News) delegates. My own personal count gives Romney 386 delegates. Regardless of which count you take, there are only two I’ve seen that give the front-runner more than 50% of the delegates contested thus far.

And that brings us to the current problem for the GOP. It is becoming increasingly possible that they will arrive at their convention without a candidate who has amassed 50% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. Not necessarily probable, but possible. After all, there are three winner-take-all states (New York, California and New Jersey) that profile favorably for Romney and they combine for 317 delegates. If combined with his current total, that would mean he would need to win about 40% of the remaining delegates in the other states not yet voted, in order to reach the 1,144 required. It should be a doable task for establishment’s preferred choice.

Only, therein lies the problem for Romney and the establishment. They want the primary season over so they can focus on the general election. New Jersey doesn’t vote until June 5th – and if Romney hasn’t secured the nomination by then, it will mean enough of the party isn’t supporting the eventual nominee to signal significant weakness to the nation. A comparison can be drawn to 1948, the year Harry Truman became the original “comeback kid” (sorry, Bill Clinton). By all normal election standards, Truman should have been walloped that year: unemployment was rising, the economy faltering, the Soviets detonated their first atomic weapon and Winston Churchill’s infamous “Iron Curtain” was now a reality Americans faced with fear and trepidation. But the Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey, was about as inspiring as dry toast and succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Not unlike Romney, Dewey was perceived by many fellow Republicans as aloof and calculating – a politician’s politician. Also not unlike Romney, Dewey was disliked by the conservative wing of his party (who preferred Ohio Senator Robert Taft). The intra-party fight lasted into the convention, where it took three ballots to nominate Dewey.

Some 64 years later, the Republican Party seems to be repeating history. Certainly, the political calendar isn’t favorable to Romney. What he needs is a convincing win outside of New England to demonstrate he can bring the party together and he seems to be pouring money into Kansas, in the hope he can get it there. But after Kansas comes Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri, three states that do not favor Romney. Since it’s also highly likely that Santorum and Gingrich will split the lion’s share of delegates from these four states, one or both will probably close the gap with the Romney. The GOP nightmare scenario gets that much closer at that point. If the voting holds as it has thus far, with southern and evangelical voters opting for anyone but Romney, the current front-runner can’t cross the 1,144 threshold before New Jersey’s June 5th primary.

But there are two other pitfalls Romney will need to avoid if he wants to secure the nomination, even at that late date. First, he’ll need to ensure that those party conventions are stoked to vote for him (far from a sure thing at this point). Second, he needs to wrap up as many of the uncommitted delegates as possible. There are currently 93 of them; current projections indicate there may be as many 255 by the convention. That will be a powerful voting bloc, one as capable of tying up the 2012 Republican Convention as those of Earl Warren (yes, the man who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) and Harold Stassen in 1948.

So, Romney still seems best positioned to become the Republican nominee. But party fratricide seems even more certain to deliver him as weak and badly wounded nominee. In 1948, the Republicans thought they could take on an unpopular incumbent presiding over a moribund economy and uncertainty on the world stage with an unpopular candidate and win. Will 2012 prove to be a repeat of that disastrous strategy?

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Dear Rick Santorum:


I won’t make this very long. This message is too important to be left open to interpretation (which you demonstrate time and again to be horrible at).

Actually, I can sum up the message in pretty short order: GET OUT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE.

It’s not that I think you’re necessarily a bad guy. I believe you genuinely care about America’s blue-collar majority, probably quite a bit more than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Unlike the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I also believe that you’re a man of conviction whose word is as good as any signed contract. In fact, I think you’re probably not unlike many people I know personally. Your politics, however, are better suited to running Pakistan than the USA.

Numerous independent and non-partisan economists have reviewed your spending proposals. All of them agree that of the proposals currently out there, yours is the most fiscally irresponsible. We’re enduring a Presidency in which the federal debt will double in 4 years. Somehow, doubling it again by 2016 doesn’t strike me as either responsible or *ahem* conservative.

But more alarming than that is your commitment to theocracy as an overriding governing principle. That anyone can as flippantly dismiss the separation of church and state as you have, and still be considered a major candidate, speaks volumes about the mess the Nation has become. That you seem to read meaning into the 1st Amendment that isn’t there doesn’t speak very well of your professors at Dickinson. That you seem certain that people of faith are excluded from providing input into government affairs is either the result of extreme bigotry or extreme blindness on your part. If it’s the former, then nobody but another bigot could want you for President. If the latter, you’re too stupid to be President.

I’m writing this as man of deep religious faith, but also an American citizen. I’m fine with you practicing Catholicism openly. But I doubt you feel the same about the millions of your countrymen who are equally faithful regarding other religions. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you certainly do not respect the rights of millions of more to not practice any faith. I’m not going to pretend to know everything there is to know about Catholicism, but surely you were taught the Golden Rule at some point (some version of it seems to be the underpinning of every Christian religion I’ve encountered). Anyway, that’s what makes the 1st Amendment unique among the laws of men: we actually codified the idea that if you respect everyone’s else right to speak, write and pray as they like, they’ll respect yours to do the same. You know, the whole Do Unto Others thing – the part of your faith you seem to have left at the altar of politics.

The longer you stay in the race, the longer the press will be obligated to publicize you and the moronic things you say. But if you drop out now, you can still go on speaking tours of every KoC hall in America. You can still write op-eds for the weekend newspapers. You’ll still have the same right as every other citizen to weigh in on the important topics of the day. But those of us who really don’t want have your misguided opinions shoved down our throats won’t be forced to listen to you every morning, noon and night – to the exclusion of the real problems facing us.

See, there are people in America who actually care about fixing the country – and not turning us into a broke, corrupt and contemptible nation. I know, I talk to them every day of the week. And with you out of the way, the public discourse can return to matters of substance. If you love your country as much as you profess, than do us a favor Rick. Get out.


The Republican Dilemma


Webster’s defines a “dilemma” as

“a situation involving an undesirable or unpleasant choice.”

Given that definition, the GOP may want to reconsider changing its name to the “Grand Dilemma Party.” The reasons can be found in what can only be described as the tepid response the party’s rank-and-file have demonstrated towards the party’s Presidential aspirants.

Much column space has been devoted to the vagaries of the Republican Presidential Primary season. The topsy-turvy nature of polls; the fact no candidate can seem to muster more than 40% of the electorate for longer than a week; the inability of any candidate to sustain momentum. The commentariat is busy trying to fit round pegs into square holes, though. They’ve completely missed the boat on what’s actually happening this year, having spent the majority of their professional lives ensconced in the daily trivialities of DC politics.

The narrative thus far runs something like this: there is a natural back-lash against establishment candidates, as represented most wholly by Mitt Romney. Each time a new “anti-Romney” rises (currently, that’s back to Rick Santorum) the electorate looks more closely at said candidate and decides he’s a bit too establishment for their tastes. The anti-Romney of the moment fades back, allowing Romney to capture a few states. The cycle then renews, but in the end the establishment candidate (Romney) wins because he will have the backing of the party machinery. The general GOP membership is resigned to this outcome, even if they aren’t happy about it, and so they’re largely staying home this cycle.

I think something more fundamental is at work within the party. To understand it, you have to return to 1980 and Ronald Reagan’s shock win over Jimmy Carter. (Yes, despite Carter’s bungling of the job, nobody really gave Reagan a legitimate chance of winning that November). Reagan’s magic was in forging a new Republican coalition. He began with the limited government Goldwater wing, mixed in the once strongly Democratic constituency of social conservatives from the Bible Belt, added in the anti-communist/strong defense types (who had fled the Republicans after Nixon’s pursuit of détente) and completed the soup with the Rockefeller Republicans. Most seem to forget now, but Reagan spoke often about his pursuit of a Republican Party “Big Tent” approach – the idea of bringing disparate groups together to work towards a common goal. In 1980, that goal was reinvigorating the American economy through (then radical) changes to monetary and fiscal policy, reducing the size of government while increasing America’s defense capabilities, reasserting American dominance in foreign affairs and direct confrontation with Communism and bringing back the traditional American themes of faith, family and hard work. The new groups in his coalition were referred to as “Reagan Democrats.” These were the people, generally blue-collar types from the South and Midwest, who President Obama derided during the 2008 election as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.”

The dilemma facing the Republican Party is that coalition is fracturing. The former Reagan Democrats and Goldwater Republicans that formed the backbone of that coalition are looking at their choices and felling less than satisfied. Moreover, they sense the Party has moved past them. There are either Rockefeller types (Romney and Gingrich) or aspirants to Jerry Falwell’s throne (Santorum), while the one candidate who hews closest Goldwater’s federalist view is also the one who is the antithesis of a strong US on the world stage (Paul). This leaves those two groups, who desperately want a return to the type of leadership exhibited by President Reagan, without a horse in the race. The result is each candidate has partially captured one constituency, but their individual flaws prevent them from fully claiming it. Romney has the Rockefeller wing for the most part, but it is a small part of the party base (in terms of numbers, not money). Santorum has the inside edge among Reagan Democrats (note his success in the Midwest); although his extreme views on using government to coerce, or even force, his moral code leaves many cold. Paul has captured perhaps half of the Goldwater wing, but his personal character issues and documented degradation of minorities limits his success there.

Can they recapture the coalition? They managed to pull things together enough to get George W. Bush elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. They lost a fair number of the small –government types, as was represented by the suppressed turn-out numbers in both years: neither party was putting forward a candidate that met that constituency’s desired goal, although both have been paying lip-service to that goal for 15 years now. The fact that constituency voted en masse for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 undoubtedly cost the Republican Party the Presidency in both of those elections. But unlike 1992 or 1996, there isn’t a strong 3rd Party candidate who is advocating both a federalist view of government and strong foreign policy, and unlike 1980, there isn’t a defining vision of the future allocuted by any of the candidates to rally the disparate groups within the tent. That would seem to kick in the Republican electoral formula from 2000 – run a social conservative/Rockefeller hybrid and allow suppressed turn-out to allow him to win. The problem is this year, that ploy may not work. For starters, the Goldwater wing is particularly resurgent this cycle. Consider how the TEA Party, which is largely comprised of Goldwater types, pushed the Party into power in the 112th Congress and that Paul is polling at better than twice his career norms (this is his third try for the Republican nomination).

While the Rockefeller and social conservatives will likely unite behind either Romney or Santorum come the convention, they currently run the risk of alienating as much as 40% of the party’s base with such a decision. If they do, President Obama will win a tough election in November – and the Republican Party as we’ve known it for 32 years will cease to exist. What will be interesting to watch is what takes it place. Will there be three major political parties, the Democrats (absorbing what’s left of the Rockefeller wing), the Social Conservatives and the Fiscal Conservatives? Or will the big-spending social conservative and Rockefeller wing end up absorbed in the current Democratic Party, while the Republicans re-align around federalists principles? And can the current Democratic constituency accept the social conservatives again? After all, the reason Reagan was able to capture them in the first place was that the Democratic Party began purging them during Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency. Regardless, the outcome of this year’s Presidential election promises more change than perhaps anyone bargained for.


Nevada: Still the Land of Make-Believe


With apologies to the Walt Disney Corporation, Nevada has always been America’s “Land of Make-Believe.” After all, the state’s economy depends on making ordinarily sane Americans think they can show up with $500 in their pocket and leave with a cool million. But after yesterday’s Republican Presidential Caucus, it seems seems as if the state (and national) party sprinkled fairy dust on the nation’s journalists. Why? Because they’re all pretending as if yesterday’s vote is actually significant.

The Real FairyTale Land in NJ

Ssshhh. Don’t wake the sleeping beauties in Las Vegas, but what they’re full of is usually found in a septic tank. But if you’re not afraid of being turned into a toad, here are three things to keep in mind before following the national media in their hallucination…

Point One: It looks as if only 35,000 or so people bothered to vote in the caucus. That’s roughly 1.5% of the state’s population. You could also, for comparison’s sake, note that this is about the same number of people as live in my hometown of Manahawkin. To pretend that Mitt Romney won a “resounding” or “decisive” or even “big” with minscule turnout like that is being more than a bit disingenuous.

Point Two: Of course Mitt won. Everyone expected him to win the state easily, given the inherent advantages he enjoyed. He won in 2008, one of the few states he did win that year. Then there’s the large number of Mormons that inhabit Nevada (I know, it seems incongruous that Sin City and the LDS co-habitate), giving Mitt a natural organizing advantage. It’s hardly surprising that Mitt won the percentage of the vote he did. It might be more surprising if he doesn’t capture 50% of the final tally. (Point 2A – people in Nevada might be able to count cards, but they have hard time counting votes. As of 2pm today, only 71% of the votes were counted.)

Point Three: Ron Paul seems equally caught up in the fairy tale being spun off the Vegas strip. The only candidate other than Romney to actively compete for Nevada, Paul’s third-place finish and fewer than 5,000 votes wouldn’t seem to be something anyone could put a positive spin on. But there was Paul this morning on ABC’s “This Week” program, doing his best to pretend his campaign is actually viable. The reality is that at best he’ll garner 4 of Nevada’s delegates, which would run his total to 8. If he wants to pretend having a campaign that rivals Rick Santorum’s for futility is viable, that’s fine. But he shouldn’t expect those of who aren’t insane to join him in his fantasies.


Don’t Bury Newt Yet


Florida Results Map

In the wake of the Florida primary, the general consensus among political commentators is that Newt Gingrich’s campaign is like a zombie – dead, but still walking around.

Not so fast.

Those pundits are basing their opinions on the headline numbers, which make Mitt Romney’s victory look far more impressive than it really is. Yes, Romney beat Gingrich by 14%; the split between women and men was decisive (4:1, according to exit polling). Romney carried every significant demographic group, except white men. He won among voters who decided early on in the campaign – some 40% of the electorate said they decided who to vote for last year, and Romney won 83% of those votes. Most importantly, Romney takes all 50 delegates from Florida, a significant coup at this early stage of the campaign. Further, Gingrich cannot reasonably expect to do more than tread water during February. Of the six states holding nominating contests this month, four should be easy wins for Romney (Nevada, Maine, Michigan and Minnesota), one seemingly leans his way (Colorado) and only one seems competitive (Arizona).

But here’s what the pundits are missing: underneath the headline numbers, Gingrich actually acquitted himself quite well in preparing for a Super Tuesday showdown. To understand why, first; consider the way the election has proceeded thus far; second, take a closer look at the election return map from Florida.

Each candidate has demonstrated an ability to attract a certain type of voter. Romney has found core support among moderate and establishment Republicans. Gingrich’s support has come from the Tea Party and those that describe themselves as staunch conservatives. Rick Santorum is the choice of social conservatives and Ron Paul of the very young. Those characterizations were borne out in the three contests leading up to Florida – and when you look into the results, there as well. The moderate region in the southeast corner of the state (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Palm Beach) and the I-4 corridor primarily fueled Romney’s win. Romney’s margin of victory was around 241,000 votes; he outpointed Gingrich by 123,000 in the five counties that best define the area (Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Hillsborough). Gingrich, on the other hand, easily won the conservative area of the state, loosely defined as the northeast corner and panhandle. In this, each replicated their wins in earlier contests – Gingrich in South Carolina, Romney in New Hampshire.

The best way to look at Florida is that it didn’t really settle anything. The deluge of advertising by Romney was able to firm up his support among his natural constituency but didn’t sway Gingrich’s base. Likewise, Gingrich’s attacks on Romney failed to persuade those who were predisposed to vote for the latter. The Republican Party has settled into two distinct factions, establishment and anti-establishment. As odd as it may be, the anti-establishment camp has settled on Newt Gingrich as their standard-bearer. And that doesn’t bode well for Mitt.

Why? Assuming some type of political bomb doesn’t explode between now and March 6th, Gingrich could conceivably wake up on March 7th with the lead in delegates. The math isn’t terribly difficult. There are 6 nominating contests in February, but they are relatively small states. Most are caucus states and all apportion their delegates, 183 in total for all 6. For good measure, both Paul and Santorum are going to campaign hard for delegates in the caucus states – those states represent a firewall for those candidates and their best opportunity to make a mark. So, assuming Romney wins 100 delegates in February (not far-fetched), that would give him 169 heading into Super Tuesday to Gingrich’s 80. But 11 states vote on March 6th, for a combined 466 delegates. What should trouble the Romney campaign (and by extension, the Republican establishment) is that of those 11 states, 7 of them have electorates that profile favorably for Gingrich. Those states combine for 293 delegates. Only two profile favorably for Romney, combining for a total of 58 delegates. 115 delegates will come from states that profile as toss-ups. It seems reasonable that each will capture large majorities of delegates in the states where they’re strongest, based on past history. If each captures 65% in those states, with the toss-ups splitting roughly equally, then the delegate count could easily be Gingrich 338, Romney 329, Paul 90. This is going on the big assumption that Paul stays in and Santorum drops out sometime in February. Based on the respective campaign finances and goals of those two (Santorum still sees himself as a contender, Paul seems resigned to leading a movement), it isn’t a huge assumption though.

What would a result along those lines mean for the Republican convention in August? Likely that it would be the first brokered convention in 64 years. Roughly 1/3 of the delegates are chosen by March 6th and extrapolating those results across the full party leaves no candidate with the 1174 needed for a first ballot victory. In fact, the two leaders would each be around 150 delegates short of securing the nomination. Besides being a dream come true for Paul (imagine Ron Paul holding kingmaker power in the Republican Party!), the personal animosity between Romney and Gingrich would boil over in a made-for-TV spectacular of epic proportions.


Romney’s Mittens EXPOSED


MItt is MAD

Is Mitt Authentically Angry?

The Republican establishment is suddenly confronting the very real possibility that their horse in the Presidential race is more broken down nag than thoroughbred. A week ago, Mitt Romney seemed assured of sweeping the first three primary votes and virtually locking up the nomination – before the race even began.

Then came a dismal debate on Monday night, in which Newt Gingrich gained a standing ovation and Mittens was left grasping at straws. That was followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry dropping out and endorsing Gingrich, and the Iowa GOP declaring that Rick Santorum was the actual winner in their caucus. The next night, Gingrich delivered another bravura debate performance while Romney did his best Porky Pig impersonation.

Suddenly, a 14 point lead turned into a 12 point loss. And as of this morning, Romney’s 22 point lead in Florida has turned into a 9 point deficit, a 31 point swing in 2 days. The establishment is understandably freaking out. It’s understandable because Romney represents the time-honored tradition of candidate-in-waiting. Oh, and the little fact that they have poured millions of dollars into his campaign thus far – a very real investment on the party leadership’s part. If Romney fails to secure the nomination, it will rank right up there with Solyndra in the history of investment strategies. And finally, there’s the very real possibility that Gingrich will win the nomination. Let’s face it, there is absolutely no love lost between Gingrich and the party elite, many of whom worked diligently over the past 25 years to bury him. To see Gingrich rise like a phoenix from the ashes of his political career has to be particularly galling to people like Karl Rove and Ann Coulter.

But their problem is less with Gingrich than it is with Romney. If Romney were a truly leading candidate, odds are Newt wouldn’t have had a prayer.  The fact is they bet on the wrong horse. Even if he survives to claim the nomination, he will be too battered and bloodied to win the Presidency. Romney’s greatest attribute as a candidate was the “I can WIN” argument; losing two of the first three contests (and getting his tail handed to him in the most recent) doesn’t lend much credence to that claim. In fact, after the first three nominating votes, Gingrich leads Romney in the delegate count, 26-19. In point of fact, Romney is closer to third place (Santorum has 13 delegates) than to first.

For all of his money, establishment backing and slick TV commercials, Romney suffers from a very real problem: he isn’t believable. It doesn’t stem from his constantly changing policy positions (Gingrich is equally culpable of that crime). Rather, it comes from a simple observation of the man himself. When you look at Mitt, you see a Presidential candidate straight from central casting: good looking, with perfect hair. Good looking wife and kids. Donates to his church and community. No skeletons in his closet. No skeletons in his family’s closets. Wealthy son of self-made immigrants.

In all of this perfect bio and appearance lies Romney’s essential problem, and it isn’t something that can be corrected in a 60 second commercial or even a 30 minute interview with Barbara Walters. No, Americans know genuine when they see it. Genuine is not a life that would make Ozzie and Harriet jealous. American’s know that real people have trials and travails. They fail, they pick themselves up; they screw up and make amends. They are the guys you hang out at the bar with on Friday night after work. The ones you go bowling with on Wednesday. They are most definitely not Mitt Romney. Every time Romney talks about how $375,000 in speaking fees “aren’t that much” he just comes across as a little more unauthentic; every time he hides something (tax returns, destroyed computer hard drives) you’re left wondering what it is he’s hiding. Because we all know he has a skeleton somewhere – we all do, even if we never talk about them. And we expect our Presidents (and the people who aspire to be President) to at least be human enough to admit they aren’t perfect.

Americans like failed heroes, especially ones who have managed to rehabilitate themselves (see: Rob Lowe or Newt Gingrich). We can relate to making human mistakes, asking forgiveness and starting again. We can’t relate to people who are perfect (or imagine themselves to be). Therein lies Mitt Romney’s problem. And I don’t think he can fix it before January 31.


First take: South Carolina Debate


The debate just ended and I thought this one was more spirited than the previous 217 debates.

I think Newt Gingrich won this one, but just barely. His opening was like a shotgun blast, hitting his ex-wife and John King with enough birdshot to wound both. Rick Santorum had his best debate to date, but it was fueled solely by his animosity towards Newt. On the issues, he skitchy – and his answer on SOPA was Orwellian double-speak. Mitt Romney once again survived relatively unscathed, but it’s amazing that he still hasn’t come up with a solid answer about his tax returns. (Hint: we know you’re rich, Mitt). As for Ron Paul, he was a non-factor, although the Paulbots did force King to let him answer a few questions.

As for the questions, several real issues were left out of the mix to allow for rambling, nonsensical answers to rambling, nonsensical questions. But, hey at least we avoided the Diet Coke question.


8 Things after New Hampshire


In case you hadn’t noticed, yesterday New Hampshire had a primary. Mitt Romney won. Here’s five other things you should know.

  1. Mitt Romney may be inevitable: Romney wasn’t running so much against the other Republican candidates as against expectations in New Hampshire. Since the state is a second home for the front-runner, he was expected to win – and win big. Earlier, I wrote that anything less than 40% of the vote would be disappointing for his camp. Well, Romney met and possibly beat expectations. 40% of the vote? Check. Double digit lead over number 2? Check – second place finisher Ron Paul finished 17 points back. Increase in share over his 2008 run? Check – he even beat 2008 winner John McCain’s share. On top of all that, he pulled off a feat no non-incumbent Republican has managed: first place finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s pretty impressive. One can forgive Mitt if he’s feeling a bit smug today.

    Romney Celebrates his New Hampshire win

  2. Then again, maybe not: Now comes the hard part for Romney. The campaign shifts to the South, with the South Carolina primary on January 21 up next, followed by Florida on January 31. Yes, South Carolina, home to the Tea Party and where over half the Republican electorate identifies as being evangelical. The state is about as diametrically opposed to New Hampshire as one gets. Look for the attacks to come fast and furious now, as the various conservative alternatives pile-on in an attempt to paint Romney as nothing more than Barack Obama in Mormon clothing. If he falters at all, it could open the door to one of the other challengers to get a crucial win and pull the shine off the campaign’s front runner.
  3. Kiss Jon Huntsman goodbye: Huntsman bet the ranch on if not a win, then at least a strong showing in the Granite State. A 17% third place finish doesn’t really meet the standard. Really, he has no one else to blame but himself (and maybe his campaign manager). I’ve been watching politics for over three decades and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more disjointed campaign. His only concrete position seemed to be anti-everything Republican Party. He never adequately defended his diplomatic service in the current administration – and seemed pro-China in his foreign policy. Actually, I’ve never figured how he lasted this long, other than that the mainstream media loves the guy. Unless he’s willing to spend his considerable fortune to fly around the country bashing Romney (it’s possible), Iook for Huntsman to slip quietly away. And for David Brooks to write a column lambasting fellow Republicans for not giving Huntsman a fair shot.
  4. New Hampshire still hates social conservatives: Beware social conservatives in 2016. You may want to skip New Hampshire. The combined vote totals for the three social conservative candidates didn’t even match Huntsman’s total. This comes four years after social conservatives Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter split 13% of the vote. New Hampshire may be the home of fiscal conservatism and small government, but they don’t want their politicians dealing with personal matters of faith or family.
  5. Can Ron Paul keep the momentum moving? Paul has managed to harness large numbers of college students, independents and disaffected Democrats in both Iowa and New Hampshire, each time coming in with slightly more than 1/5 of the vote (21.8% in Iowa; 22.9% in New Hampshire). But neither electorate is as conservative as South Carolina’s. And Florida’s electorate is more than slightly older than college age. Can he continue to pull 1/5 of the vote (and be a thorn in the GOP’s rear at the same time)? If yes, then look for him to seriously contest Romney in the remaining caucus states. If his decidedly isolationist foreign policy scares the large number of military retirees in South Carolina and anti-Social Security/Medicare stance riles up the Floridians, Paul will be a footnote in a history text.
  6. Can conservatives rally in time? South Carolina is social conservatives last real opportunity to derail the Romney train. So far, it looks like a repeat of 2008, when Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson beat each other up. McCain wound up winning the state; Thompson was forced to drop out and Huckabee was never a real factor again. This year, you can cast Rick Santorum as Huckabee and Rick Perry as Thompson – but the script looks awfully familiar. (The difference is this year we have Newt Gingrich, but more on him in a moment). Like Huckabee, Santorum pulled off a surprising finish in Iowa. Like Huckabee, he virtually disappeared in New Hampshire. Perry, like Thompson, was an also-ran in Iowa. Unlike Thompson, he didn’t even register as a blip in New Hampshire (really Rick? Less than 1% of the vote?). The conservative’s best hope is a pair of confab’s taking place this weekend, one in Texas and the other in South Carolina. If the powers that be can’t decide to back one of the conservatives left in the race, look for a replay of 2008.
  7. Newt Gingrich is now…a Democrat?!? We all knew Newt loathes Mitt. We all knew Newt was waiting for his chance to go “nucular” on Mitt after the way Romney and his SuperPAC demolished Gingrich’s chances in Iowa. None of us realized how far Newt would go. In fact, over the past 48 hours, Newt sounds more like Barack Obama than a Republican in his denunciation of free markets and Romney’s participation. He’s already been blasted by conservative media (see video below). And, his attack didn’t help him in New Hampshire, where he only polled 9% of the vote. Is Newt going to continue along this line, or will party bosses work to neuter him? If there’s one thing the past 25 years has taught us, it’s that Newt will always put himself above party. But still, it’s an amazing turn-around for a man who only ten days ago was chiding his fellow candidates for breaking the Reagan Commandment – even for Newt Gingrich.
  8. The Obama Campaign better be nervous: Ok, New Hampshire really isn’t indicative of the country as a whole. But still, turnout in yesterday’s primary beat 2008 by better than 10% as unhappy Democrats and Independents showed up to vote Republican. Even taking away the pull of Ron Paul, that’s a lot of people who voted for Obama in 2008 who decided to vote for somebody else this year. The first referendum on the Obama presidency is in, and it isn’t good news for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Santorum v. Perry


Well, well. It seems Rick Perry took one look at his war chest and decided he’s back in the race. About 12 hours after a dejected and deflated Perry seemingly left the race, he tweeted he was back in. Only caveat: he appears to be bypassing New Hampshire entirely and going for broke in South Carolina.

Skipping New Hampshire makes sense for Perry. That’s Mitt Romney’s back yard and Romney is expected to crush his competition there. Unfortunately for Granite Staters, it makes their primary virtually irrelevant, barring another Rick Santorum miracle or surprise from Jon Huntsman.

No, the real battle becomes a fight for the anti-Romney vote in South Carolina. Perry, well financed but bumbling vs. Rick Santorum, newly minted as the anti-Romney favorite. It should be fun to watch the two conservatives with vastly different styles going after the same voters. Will Perry’s southern charm and immense campaign coffers allow him to overcome the fact he can’t seem to utter a coherent sentence in public? Or will Santorum’s down-to-earth, middle-class sensibilities combine with his oratorical repertoire in wooing over South Carolina’s conservative base?

We’ll know the answer in 16 days. Until then, game on!


5 Things Iowa Taught Us


The Iowa caucuses are over. As usual, they haven’t defined who will win – but they appear to have narrowed the field considerably. Here’s five things other things Iowans clarified last night.

1. The GOP establishment is in trouble: The Republican Old Guard has rallied around Mitt Romney, pitching him as the “electable” candidate who is “inevitable.” They may not say as much, but they have to be worried. Their inevitable candidate has yet to blast through his glass ceiling of support, ending up with only 25% of last night’s vote. Or, to put it in terms they don’t want to hear, 75% of Republican rank-and-file aren’t buying into either the electability or inevitability of Romney – margins eerily similar to the polling prior to the caucus in both Iowa and the national party. They’ll continue to pour in their support (see: John McCain), but Romney is in for a much tougher fight than he or his establishment backers originally thought. A real sign of trouble will be if Romney can’t get past 40% in New Hampshire. If that happens, expect the establishment to really open up with a full barrage – and risk alienating their party’s base of support.

2. Tea Party Conservatives are coalescing: around Rick Santorum. This is the big story out of the caucuses, and already the left is going off a cliff at the idea of a legitimate Santorum candidacy. The real question is how far can Santorum go? He has limited funding and a skeleton operation. He finished strong in Iowa based on old-fashioned retail politicking, a method which is impossible in a nationwide primary. Still, with Michelle Bachmann now officially out and Rick Perry sounding like he is, Tea Partiers are waking to the realization it’s either Santorum or Gingrich for them – and most have an understandable aversion to Newt. Romney may think Santorum will be easy pickings, based on the latter’s lack of political organization. But, the existing Tea Party groups (such as Tea Party Express) may give Santorum all the organization he needs to compete. If they publicly endorse Santorum in the coming days, look for his campaign to take off.

Rick Santorum Celebrates Iowa Win (courtesy: Politico)

3. Newt Gingrich is back in his comfort zone: Newt as the peacemaker never really fit his temperament or his history. Based on his statements leading up to last night’s vote and his remarks after, it sounds as if Newt is going to happily stick around for as long as he can, if just to make life miserable for Romney. Lord knows hell hath no fury like a Gingrich crossed and it looks as if Mitt is about to discover that first hand.

4. The real “flavor of the month” was Ron Paul: No candidate needed a win in Iowa more than Paul. Although he tallied 21% of the vote, the  stark reality is that among registered Republicans he only garnered 14%. This comes less than a week after leading all candidates among Republicans in Iowa. It seems once they became familiar with some of his zanier ideas and positions, GOP voters decided a man from Venus wasn’t their best option. Yes, Paul did well in bringing Democrats and independents in to vote for him and the fervor among his disciples is reminiscent of Obama in 2008, but his candidacy is basically over. Look for him to do well in New Hampshire’s open primary, then bolt to challenge Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party nomination after getting whitewashed in South Carolina.

5. The key to the race is still held by Rick Perry: Perry is still officially in the race, although he has gone back to Texas to reexamine his candidacy. Politicians rarely return from self-imposed exile to resume a campaign. However, Perry still has the second largest war chest of any candidate and several PAC’s that were supporting him. Assuming he drops out of the race, the question is: does he keep his money for a potential bid in 2016, or throw that financial might behind a Santorum candidacy? Buoyed by Perry’s finances, Santorum becomes much more formidable – a fact that Perry, who harbors as much (if not more) animosity towards Romney as Gingrich should be all too aware of.

UPDATED 1:02PM: No sooner did I hit publish on this than I read this article from AP, insinuating Perry is going to continue at least through South Carolina. If that is the case (no confirmation yet one way or the other), than point number 5 becomes moot.