Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

September 3, 2011 11:58 AM

2012 Presidential Campaign

The Republican Nomination

  • 21 people have been tempted or have joined the race
  • 8 people have announced they are not running or quit the race 11 people are running
  • 2 people are toying with the idea of running or are quiet
  • 3 is the number of real players at the moment
The chart below notes the status of each of these people.

Maybe Exploring Running Not Running

Peter Hart, the NBC-WSJ poll co-director, offered me a wager I could not resist. I gave him 10-to-1 odds that the GOP nominee was on the list above. He says the GOP will nominate someone who has yet to get in the race. Lunching together on the weekend when Hurricane Irene had cut its path from the Carolinas to Maine, and in the same week a 5.8 earthquake also made its presence felt in Washington, he thinks this is a metaphysical sign for the Presidential year ahead. His theory: "It is a good year to bet on the unexpected." For the record, exactly four years ago, Peter got 7-to-1 odds in a bet with Frank Fahrenkopf that Barak Obama would be the Democratic nominee. Stay tuned.

Anyone who chooses to take one side or the other (without being part of the formal wager) can do so by sending an email. WW will keep track of your opinion and report the results when the nomination has been secured.

Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) won the first test of the Republican contest by winning the Iowa Straw Poll, if only by 152 votes, over Ron Paul (R-TX). One special result for Bachmann was that she dispatched her Minnesota rival for the nomination, former Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty left the race after finishing third, 2,530 votes behind Bachmann. Pawlenty went all in for this effort and perhaps showed why many people find him attractive by getting out after his weak performance. His departure removed a competitor to Bachmann for the Tea Party and Christian conservative vote.

Perry and Romney did not “compete” in the straw poll. Romney’s name was on the ballot, but Perry’s was not. An “independent” group supporting Perry did play at least a little, and Perry finished 6th with 718 votes, besting Romney’s 567 votes.

What is the impact of the 16,892 votes that were cast in the straw poll on which millions of dollars were spent by the various candidates?

Had Bachman lost, it is hard to see how she could have avoided following Pawlenty’s path. She is from Iowa and lives now in a neighboring State. Ron Paul’s 2nd place finish will help him raise more money and stay in the race. (He has announced that he will not be a candidate for re-election to the House.)

What has the Iowa Straw Poll’s impact been in the past on the Republican nomination, subsequent caucuses and primaries, and the general election?

A review of the last 5 Republican nomination fights (1980, 1988, 1996, 2000, and 2008) reveals the following:

  • Winner of the straw poll won the Iowa Caucuses 3 times
  • Winner of the straw poll won the GOP nomination 2 times
  • Winner of the straw poll won the general election 1 time
Here are a few factoids about the winners of the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire and South Carolina contests in those same election years: The best predictor of the winner of the Republican nomination contest is the South Carolina primary.

  • Winner of the Iowa Caucuses won the NH primary 0 times
  • Winner of the Iowa Caucuses won the SC primary 2 times
  • Winner of the Iowa Caucuses won the GOP nomination 2 times
  • Winner of the Iowa Caucuses won the general election 1 time
  • Winner of the NH primary won SC Primary 3 times
  • Winner of the NH primary won the GOP nomination 3 times
  • Winner of the NH primary won the general election 3 times
  • Winner of the SC primary won the GOP nomination 5 times
  • Winner of the SC primary won the general election 3 times

  1980 1988 1996 2000 2008
Winner of straw poll won Caucus Y N Y Y N
Winner of straw poll won GOP nom. N N Y Y N
Winner of straw poll won gen. election N N N Y N
Winner Iowa Caucus won NH primary N N N N N
Winner of Iowa Caucus won SC primary N N Y Y N
Winner of Iowa Caucus won GOP nomination N N Y Y N
Winner of Iowa Caucus won gen. election N N N Y N
Winner of NH primary won SC primary Y Y N N Y
Winner of NH primary won GOP nomination Y Y N N Y
Winner of NH primary won gen. election Y Y N N Y
Winner of SC primary won GOP nomination Y Y Y Y Y
Winner of SC primary won gen. election Y Y N Y N

And then there were three or two?

It may well be that, well before the first delegate-awarding contest, the GOP nomination fight is down to three realistic competitors, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney. Ron Paul does well, but it is hard to see him as the nominee.

Michelle Bachman’s best day may be behind her if Perry turns out to be a viable candidate. He does far better than she does with one of her most important constituencies.

What follows are the nomination preferences of those who support the Tea Party and for whom the noted issues are important.

  Prefer Perry Prefer Bachman
Support Tea Party Movement 35% 14%
Business and economy 25 8
Government spending and power 31 12
Social issues and moral values 38 10
[Gallup 8/11]

And Perry brings to the game a level of governing experience with which Bachmann cannot compete.

To be the viable alternative to Bachmann or Perry , Mitt Romney needs to avoid being totally dissed by the Tea Party movement and Christian conservatives, while laying claim to those elements of the Party who are concerned that Bachman and Perry bring a harshness to the campaign that will be problematic in the general election.

It is hard to see how Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, or Jon Huntsman can move from their current levels of support to a level at which they will be seen as competitive.

Some argue that because Palin is so well known she can still enter the race with a potential for success. It is obviously true that she is well known. It is also true that to know her is not necessarily to feel favorably toward her. 59% have an unfavorable impression of Palin. The only other Republican candidate who breaks 50% on the unfavorable scale is Newt Gingrich at 57%. Bachmann’s unfavorable score is 43%, Romney 41%, Perry 36%, Paul 36%. [AP/Gfk 8/11]

There are others in the race that are equally, if not more, acceptable to Palin’s primary constituencies.

Rick Perry (Ronald Reagan circa 1979?) Will he be able to keep it up?

It is said about Perry that he is too good looking, a cowboy, overly religious, very conservative on social issues, gaffe prone, and is the long-serving Governor of one of the largest States in the Union. Sound familiar? These same things were also said about Ronald Reagan when he, as Governor of California, was “brash” enough to seek the Presidency.

Perry is talking jobs. He’s making the case that Texas, during the last couple of years of his 10-year incumbency in the Governor’s office, created 37% of all net new jobs in the country. [ WSJ 8/19/11] At 8.2% Texas’s unemployment rate is less than the national average, but higher than 24 other States.

On the other hand, there are a number of areas in which the Texas record does not give Perry bragging rights.

When compared to other States, it ranks:

  • 50th in the share of residents with health insurance
  • 50th in the share of children with health insurance
  • 50th in terms of its high school graduation rate
  • 44th in children above the poverty line
  • 42nd in per pupil education spending
  • 30th in its college graduation rate
  • 26th in median household income [NatJour 8/6/11]
[NatJour 8/6/11]

At least initially, with his entry into the race, Perry has vaulted to the top of the leader board among Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents. (Based on Gallup surveys unless otherwise noted.)

In May and June, Perry was not included in the Gallup surveys, and Romney led both tests with 19% in May (Paul 2nd with 12%, Bachmann 5th with 7%) and 27% in June (Cain 2nd with 10%, Bachman 4th with 7%). The NBC/WSJ survey in June also showed Romney with a strong lead among Republican voters, with 30 %. (Palin 2nd with 14%, Cain 3rd with 12%, Perry 4th with 8%. No other candidate received more than 7%.)

Then came August, with the Iowa Straw poll (won by Bachmann, Paul a close 2nd), and Perry started to move out. [Gallup]

  • Perry 29%
  • Romney 17%
  • Paul 13%
  • Bachman 10%
(No other candidate received more than 4%)

This result is mirrored by a CNN/ORG survey (8/24-25):

  • Perry 32%
  • Romney 18%
  • Bachmann 12%
(No other candidate received more than 7%)

Perry is the strongest with those 50 years of age and older; those living in the South and West; conservatives; and weekly church attendees. He leads among those 30-49 years of age, but loses 18-29 year olds to Ron Paul. Perry, Romney and Paul run about even in the East; and Romney and Paul trail Perry by a small margin in the Midwest. Bachman trails significantly in every category to Perry and Romney; and to Paul in every category, except among those 50 years of age and above. She runs even with Paul in the West; among women; among conservatives; those who attend church weekly; and those who seldom attend church.

Perry’s entry into the race has increased satisfaction with the field among Republicans. In June, 52% of GOPers were satisfied with the field. Now, 64% express satisfaction with their choices. Those dissatisfied fell from 42% to 30%. [AP/Gfk 8/11]

General Election

History tells us that match races in August of the year before a Presidential election vary dramatically from the final results.

  • 1979 – Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were dead even; Reagan won by 10 points
  • 1983 – Reagan led Walter Mondale by 1%; Reagan won by 16 points
  • 1995 – Bob Dole led Bill Clinton by 2%; Clinton won by 10 points
  • 1999 – George Bush led Al Gore by 14%; Bush won, with Gore winning slightly more of the popular vote than Bush
But anyway....

In February 2011, when asked to choose between Obama and whomever the Republicans might nominate, registered voters split 45% to 45%, with the rest undecided. [Gallup]

In March, PEW found Obama to be in much better shape in the contest, leading the generic Republican candidate 47% to 37%. In May, Gallup found Obama edging ahead 43% to 40% over the Republican.

Since then it has been downhill.

In July, 39% selected Obama, while 47% went with the generic Republican in the Gallup survey. PEW found the race to be even, with Obama leading by 41% to 40%.

In August, when Gallup matched Obama, one-on-one, against several Republican candidates, the generic contest took on a more specific reality.

  Registered Voters Registered Inds
Obama 46% 44%
Romney 48 47
Obama 47 44
Perry 47 46
Obama 48 48
Bachman 44 42
Obama 47 43
Paul 45 46

There is no significant deviation among the share of the Republican or Democratic votes that Obama or any of the Republican candidates get from their respective Party partisans, except that Perry and Romney do slightly better among Republicans against Obama than do Bachman or Paul. [Gallup]

Voter Suppression

In the name of alleviating voter fraud, a variety of States are adopting legislation that requires voter identification cards at the polls; limits the time of early voting; ends same-day registration; and makes it harder for groups to register new voters.

Since there is little evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem, the efforts that are underway can only be assumed to be an effort to suppress the vote.

States which have enacted or are enacting these laws include Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Georgia, and Maine.

Judicial intervention is not likely. [WP 6/20/11]

For practical purposes, the campaign finance laws are all but dead as they relate to the Presidential election campaign. There are still limits on the amount that an individual can contribute directly to a candidate or to a formal political Party organization. However, if an individual is inclined to spend unlimited funds in support of a particular candidate he or she can essentially do it.

This change is the result of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. There are a series of Super PACs cropping that can take in unlimited sums from individuals and corporations, as long as they are disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.

There have been, and continue to be, independent committees that can take in and spend money without disclosing to anyone. Theoretically, these committees must operate without coordination with particular candidates, but what passes for “without coordination” under current rules makes that distinction meaningless.

A candidate is able to attend and address a fundraising event for a Super PAC, although he/she is prohibited from “raising money” for the Super PAC. However, there is nothing to stop a person who has a known reputation for being close to the candidate, i.e., a former staffer, a relative, a favored fundraiser, from organizing and operating either a Super PAC or an independent committee.

In a campaign world in which formal political Party organizations do little of value but raise money and run nomination contests, the Super PACs are really a kind of national political committee that can operate without limits.

In today’s world of ubiquitous communication, it does not take the equivalent of a rocket scientist to figure out what kind of activity will be useful to a candidate it is supporting.

Several of the candidates for the Republican nomination already have such organizations working on their behalf. There was one such group that was promoting Perry in the Iowa Straw Poll, even though he was not on the formal ballot.

Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, has started a movement of sorts. As a way of speaking out against the irresponsibility of elected officials he has decided to stop making campaign contributions until the elected officials begin to behave responsibly.

He has also reached out to other executives and individuals suggesting that they do the same. At least 100 have stepped up to agree with him.

It is an interesting idea, contributors “going on strike” until the needs of the country are placed ahead of the needs of political parties. It would also be interesting to know just how much Schultz and those who are joining him each gave in the way of political contributions in the 2008 and 2010 elections.

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