Saturday, November 12, 2011

To Mitt or Not To Mitt...oops!

Hi all,

After a far too long hiatus (busy teaching my classes this fall) it is time for an update on the Republican primary.

When we last looked at the race, Rick Perry had just jumped in and Herman Cain's candidacy was seen as not meriting much media time.  How things have changed...and stayed the same!

First Governor Perry:  He has consistently failed to impress many in the Republican electorate who initially had high hopes for his candidacy.  After all, he is a long serving governor of a state which seems to have suffered less during the recession and is a true conservative (oh, except for immigration).

Perry's 52 second "oops moment" of a couple of nights ago apart from providing great fodder for late night comics may well be a political death knell.  His stock was already falling based upon poor debate performance and a number of misstatements.  The style and demeanor of Perry, while positive for Tea Party activists leaves a lot of voters in the cold.  When I saw him speak in NH back in August, I simply was not impressed with him and nothing has occurred to change my perceptions.  We all have "oops moments" (my students can attest to that!) but having one on a national stage like this does raise legitimate questions about his preparedness and thus his electability.

What Perry does have going for him is a significant amount of money banked and he is launching  a widespread TV/radio ad campaign in early caucus and primary states.  Although I see his chances for the nomination as poor, he can still recover if the electorate coalesces around him as the "anti-Mitt" and forgives his sins on immigration and his err, "speaking skills".  However, most voters will likely see him as a regional and weak general election candidate who may win traditional Republican groups against President Obama, but won't turn on suburban independents in the Midwest.

Herman Cain has been a shooting star.  His folksy style and simple 9-9-9 (say that five times fast) plan has attracted a lot of support and many conservatives in the party have unwaveringly defended his lapses on foreign policy and the recent sexual harassment allegations.  Cain seems to be surviving this tempest so far (polling is still strong) but the momentum has stalled.

As a candidate, Cain is very likable, contrasts sharply with frontrunner Romney, and is a down-the-line conservative who is attractive to Tea Party folks.  However, questions regarding of his lack of depth on foreign policy and his very poor handling of the harassment allegations (regardless of if the charges have merit) has placed a tremendous weight on his campaign.  I see him staying in the race as his core supporters don't seemed particularly troubled and the new strategy of attacking the media energies his fans as many don't trust the dreaded main-stream media anyway.  Will he leave the race over these allegations?  As Herman says "Ain't gonna happen!"

Newt Gingrich has truly surprised me. As Speaker of the House he resigned under a cloud of uncertainly in 1998 and his political career seemed finished. He has since been writing and traveling in conservative circles and announced a very long-shot campaign about a year ago.  Much of his campaign staff quit last spring (many joined with Perry), but in the past two weeks buoyed by solid debate performances and with the withering of Perry and Cain, Newt may be the anti-Mitt flavor of the month... Or perhaps much longer as there are few other candidates left who have the ability and money to run a nationwide campaign.  Gingrich is probably the smartest man on the stage and has been described as having many ideas, but some of them can be "really out there."

On the negative side of the ledger, Gingrich has had many past issues with his family life that social conservatives may have issues with.  Additionally, he has been criticized for taking money as a lobbyist over the past few years and opposition research will have a ball with his record.  I do not see him as an electable nominee next year, but he may well emerge as Romney's most serious rival as party activists like most of what he says.  We shall see if this contiunes in the next few weeks.

This leaves Mitt Romney who continues to chug along. He can't seem to break 25% in national polls, but maintains a wide lead in New Hampshire. National polls do not mean a lot at this stage in the race; remember this nomination will be won state by state.

Mitt's problem is that a lot of Republicans, especially conservatives continue to look for some alternative. After all, he did sign the health reform law in Massachusetts as governor. And yes, much of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is based off of this law - see the individual mandate for starters. Additionally, he has a history of "evolving" on issues which is heresy for many conservatives. He is the establishment candidate in a very anti-establishment year. Rush Limbaugh seems to truly despise him and that is a problem for him in the primaries, although this could be an asset in November. Being tied to the Tea Party is probably a negative in the general election.

What Romney has going for him are continued solid debate performances, a lot of money on hand, organization, and he appears the most "presidential" of the candidates on the stage. He is never going to excite conservatives which may be detrimental as intensity matters in ginning up the turnout next November, but at this point I believe is still the likely nominee. Romney continues to benefit as Perry, Cain, Bachman, and Newt are all scrambling for the same voters.

The anti-Mitt, anti-establishment sentiment has yet to coalesce around any one candidate and as long as no plausible alternative candidate can capture these party activists, Romney's appeal to Independents who can vote in the NH Primary should be enough to give him an early lead one the voting begins.  He needs to be concerned with South Carolina and other Southern states that may give a boost to Cain or Perry.  I anticipate him trying to win big victories in the more "moderate" primary states and hoping that the Tea Party vote continues to split in states where he would fare poorly in a one on one contest.

The Iowa Caucuses are scheduled for January 3. The NH Primary is January 10.  We are now in the end run of the invisible primary which began in November 2008.

By the way, only 361 Days until Election 2012...Onwards!!

The Prof

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rick Perry - Early Take

With a Texas-sized splash, Lone Star State Governor Rick Perry has officially jumped into the primary race and has vaulted to the top position if you believe the early polls (BTW polling at this stage is directional, but don't read too much into them yet).

Pros: Ability to connect with party faithful, appeal in socially conservative Iowa and South Carolina, executive experience, Texas has record of job creation during the recession, very charismatic, good at throwing "red meat" to tea party activists, will raise boku $$, has played the election game without losing for 20 years

Cons: close your eyes and he sounds like George W. Bush, gaffe-prone, evangelical religious conservatism may not play well outside of socially conservative states, statements alluding to state secession and extremism libertarian view of government makes electability an issue, Texas has multiple issues with poverty, education, and poor access to healthcare

Odds for the nomination: Actually quite good if he avoids gaffes and can show electability.  Romney will be his main competition, although he has to guard his flank against Bachmann.

Perry has a real shot at this and if he polishes his act and appears presidential (as opposed to simply rhetorical and theatrical) he may well outlast Romney.  He will do poorly in NH, but should do very well in delegate-rich southern and midwestern states.  What he needs to watch are statements that get him in trouble (Ben Bernake take note) and an image of a good 'ol boy.  His campaign skills will serve him well if he can remake his image. 


The Prof

September 2011 - Brief Assessment

Well, September 2011 is here and a lot has been happening with the Republican presidential candidates.

Right now, conventional wisdom says that it looks like a Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney race with Michele Bachmann being a possible dark horse.  This is a correct assessment to some extent, but a lot can happen to rearrange candidate positions going into Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond.

Emergence of Additional Candidates

Obviously Sarah Palin comes to mind.  Her entry would create a huge splash and ironically, would help Romney by splitting conservative support three ways with Bachmann and Perry.  She would be an instant celebrity candidate with the ability to raise a lot of money.  However, my instinct says that she does not run in 2012. (I though Hillary was going to win in 2008 as well, so my instinct can be very wrong!)

Other candidates who are considering jumping in at this late state are former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.  NJ Governor Chris Christi is under pressure to run as well, although this is unlikely.

Recent polls have shown that Republican primary voters are by and large satisfied with the current crop of candidates.  However, there is still room for another candidate or two.

Self Destruction of Existing Candidates

Both Perry and Bachmann are running into issues with high profile media gaffes.  Perry's book has a number of politically controversial positions that could maim his candidacy as well.  With so many microphones and video cameras tracking their every waking move candidates are bound to make mistakes. They need to avoid major gaffes that will come to define them. 

Candidates Emerging From the Back of the Pack

A candidate like Huntsman (I happened to see him speak last week) could conceivably make a run if frontrunners begin to self destruct., However this is an unlikely to happen.  Newt Gingrich simply ain't going to happen either!

One thing that may decide what happens in next year's primaries is that Republicans need a candidate who can beat President Obama.  I foresee electability of becoming a larger issue as time draws closer.  This would likely help Romney, but is he too radioactive among conservatives who dominate the primaries?  Can Perry win over middle class northern suburbanites in a general election? 

But remember that polling several months before the primaries is an inexact science at best.  Just ask presidents Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton...


The Prof

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ames IA, Bye T-Paw, Welcome Gov Perry

Wow - lots happening so let's get down to business...

The traditional (since 1979) Ames IA Straw Poll was a resounding victory for Michele Bachmann cementing her as a legit top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination. She has excited the party grassroots and is the real deal, at least in Iowa, although I suspect that she will have more trouble in NH as her socially conservative supporters do not hold the sway in NH as they do in Iowa. But yesterday was a triumph of her organization and message to Iowa Republicans. Charisma matters!

Ron Paul also did well (as expected) with a second place finish as the Paulists were out in force.
However, don't look for him to go very far once the primaries begin next year. More on this in a later post.

Tim Pawlenty came in a distant third after sinking much money and political capital into the Ames poll and decided to withdraw from the race today as a result of his poor showing. The effects of the invisible primary are clear - T-Paw's fundraising was apt to disappear as contributors generally want to wager on a candidate who shows some likelihood of doing well. Good bye Governor Pawlenty- you looked great on paper, but just didn't have the organization and frankly the passion necessary for a run like this. Ironically, he would probably be a strong general election candidate as he is a moderate and would have appealed to suburban independents.

Mitt Romney wisely decided not to openly participate in Ames and benefited by not having high expectations. Iowa has not been kind to Mitt in the past and methinks he has his focus on NH anyway. Buy he now has a new worry (hint: it involves a cowboy hat)

This week's other big story was Gov. Rick Perry of Texas throwing his ten gallon hat into the fray. He brings lot of assets and liabilities; much more on him in my next posting.

The Prof is going to see Perry speak in NH next week and will be able to relate an up-close assessment on his strategy before genuine NH voters.


The Prof

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tim Pawlenty - Early Take

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at one time looked like a very good general election candidate...on paper. He set up a strong primary campaign organization in Iowa, was seen as a conservative, but effective governor of a liberal-leaning state, and was generally drama-free with blue-collar roots.

What has happened to cause his campaign to now be in guarded condition if not life support?

From my perspective, Pawlenty has several flaws/issues that are undermining his campaign.

1. He is not terribly well known or charismatic. Being "drama-free" can come across as boring or technocratic. A successful candidate needs some gravitas to energize supporters.

2. Michele Bachmann. She has energized social conservatives and has taken the momentum in the early state of Iowa where Pawlenty had hoped to springboard himself to the Republican nomination.

3. Poor early debate performance. Pawlenty hurt himself in the early going with last month's wishy-washy performance on the debate stage. He had a chance to go after Romney on healthcare and failed to do so. Minnesota nice did not serve him well.

These issues are creating some doubt over his long-term viability. This hurts him among donors, groups from whom early support is key, and creates the perception that he cannot win over the long haul.

A major test of Pawlenty's strength will be the Ames Iowa straw poll in August. He needs to do well to maintain his credibility going into the fall.

The good news for Pawlenty is that he can still be a credible alternative who may do well in a general election. Pragmatic primary voters faced with the prospects of a too conservative Bachman or a damaged Romney being the party nominee may well give "T-Paw" a second look.

Next week: second tier candidates Gingrich, Cain, and Huntsman - and why they have little chance of lasting. And remember, we still have to look at undeclared candidates Rick Perry and Sarah Palin!


The Prof

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Michele Bachmann - Early Take

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann seems to have taken the number two spot among Republican primary voters in the early polling. Following her mid June announcement, Bachmann has been on a meteoric rise in native (until age 12) state Iowa and among many tea party adherents, Evangelical Christians, and social conservatives.

Pros: Ability to connect with party faithful, appeal in socially conservative Iowa and South Carolina (both early states), seen as outsider in contrast to mainstream Mitt Romney, loyalty of followers, female candidate in a white male dominated field, fund raising rapidly, support from conservative talk radio.

Cons: Extremely gaffe-prone, extreme conservatism may not play well outside of socially conservative states, lack of executive experience, not well-regarded in the House, reminds some of Sarah Palin, has made a number of statements in the past that some would consider to be out of the political mainstream.

Odds for the nomination: Bachmann really needs a win in Iowa and is placing a lot of effort in doing just that. Follow that with a strong showing in NH, wins in the deep South, and then slugging it out for the nomination. Her best chance is to make this a two-person race between her and Romney (with Huntsman splitting the moderate vote with Romney) and to count on tea party and an insurgent wave. However, my bet (with six months to go, very much out on a limb) is that she will fizzle in the end done in by numerous gaffes and her low chances of electability against President Obama.

However, I can certainly see her being on the VP short-list of a Romney or Pawlenty especially if there a need to unify the party.

Next Up - Tim Pawlenty.


The Prof

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mitt Romney - early take

The Prof is ginned up on politics and ready to roll over the next year and a half!

Now that things are heating up, it is time to begin outlining my initial 2.5 cents on the presidential candidates vying to take on President Obama 16 months hence. My next several posts will focus on each of the major candidates running for the Republican nomination. First up - Willard "Mitt" Romney.

Mitt Romney - the former Massachusetts Governor continues to lead most early polls due to name recognition. It must be said that he has been spending the past three years of the "invisible primary" raising money, building an organization, and trying to secure support among key Republican constituencies. All of this is essential to running a legitimate national campaign.

Additionally, it is traditional among Republicans to nominate candidates when it is "their turn"; in fact in recent history the only Republican outsider to secure the party nomination was Barry Goldwater in 1964. However, recent polling suggests a lack of enthusiasm for him with many Republican voters wishing there was another candidate in the race. Could his support be a mile wide, but an inch deep...

Romney will have a target on his back as long as he is the perceived front runner. Expect a lot of fire directed toward him in upcoming debates.

Pros: General weakness of other Republican candidates, fairly well spoken, squeaky clean personal life and image, rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics, raising a lot of $$, field organization, experience from running in 2008, establishment candidate who is "next in line", not a rhetorical bomb thrower, has a house and is known in critical NH, relatively moderate stances...and yes, looks like a president!

Cons: Flip-flops on key issues, Romneycare in Massachusetts (really hurts him among core Republican primary voters), relatively dull style, big business background may not play well among small government tea partiers, socially moderate positions won't play well in Iowa and in the South, Mormonism may hurt in the South as well.

Odds for the nomination: At this early stage he is best positioned among the Republican candidates to win a grueling year-long campaign and primary battle...but time may show that he has feet of clay. He acquitted himself well in this month's debate in first in the nation primary New Hampshire. My initial take is that he is going to try to run a competent and gaffe-free campaign and simply outlast his opponents.

Next up - Michele Bachman...


The Prof

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Political Ecumenicalism

Hi all.

A non-political post for today...

Nice to see a great example of political ecumenicalism today. With the tornadoes and resulting human disaster in Springfield and the other communities, politicians of both parties are putting aside their ideology and petty differences to focus on people who are truly hurting.

Hats off to Governor Patrick for taking charge in a calm and reassuring way. Kudos to Senators Brown and Kerry and local officials of all political stripes for helping folks who had their lives changed forever. It would be nice to see some similar goodwill during election season.

I will be getting back to presidential primary analysis in short order, but it is important to come together as Americans regardless of politics in times like this.


The Prof

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Senator Patrick??

Hi all - I am back from a far too long blogging hiatus...

I am going to open 2011 with a far-out, but plausible prediction - newly reelected Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick challenges Senator Scott Brown in 2012.

Below is my reasoning; hopefully in a coherent manner!
  1. Governor Patrick can put together the best statewide "ground game" of any possible candidate - as evidenced by his successful reelection last November. This will also serve to give other possible Democratic contenders (especially a pair of congressmen named Capuano and Lynch) pause as they will have trouble establishing anything on this scale
  2. Patrick would have no trouble raising money for this race. Big advantage as Senator Brown has over $7 million banked and he will raise a lot more by next year.
  3. Patrick is not acting like a lamb duck governor who has pledged not to run for a third term. Quite the contrary, he is very active and engaged.
  4. The local press, notably the Boston Globe has been running a number of very positive pieces on the Governor over the past few weeks. Praise for the sake of praise or laying the groundwork for a future endorsement?
  5. Patrick's role model (or is it the other way around) President Obama will easily carry Massachusetts in 2012. Democratic enthusiasm and high urban turnout will benefit a Patrick candidacy
  6. Some on the far right are not happy about Senator Brown' Massachusetts brand of Republicanism. Does a conservative launch an independent candidacy in 2012 thus siphoning off 5% of voters who may have otherwise supported Brown?
  7. Vicki Kennedy is not running.
  8. Governor Patrick is an ambitious fellow as evidenced by his past campaigns. Is he really content to serve until 2014 and leave or is this his chance for national office...

Some or all of the above observations may be correct. That does not guarantee a Patrick run, but the conditions for him to give it a shot do exist. Massachusetts voters are fairly used at this point to having sitting governors aspire to other offices.

Even is Patrick does run, Brown remains generally popular and will be a favorite for reelection. But I think that Patrick has a very legitimate shot at this if he decides to jump in.

Stay tuned...


The Prof