Hard Landing

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

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

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

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

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

46 States to go…or so he says.

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Newt Handed the Debate Win by CNN

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CNN handed the debate to Newt Gingrich on the opening question about his ex-wife’s allegations. With an economy in the toilet, millions out of work, a debt that is out of control and so many other issues facing us, CNN decided that the old allegations dredged back up by ABC were the top issue to debate about. Newt hit back hard and brought even more cheers than he did in the last debate. The audience was with him regardless of who they had originally come in supporting and that is all he needed to roll up another debate win and very likely a win on Saturday as well. It was a massive media gaffe, the likes of which the GOP can only hope to have in a debate against Obama in October.

Beyond the wild start, the debate was mainly between Romney and Gingrich with Santorum shoehorning his way in whenever he could find a chance. At one point, Ron Paul even had to tell him that he wasn’t referring to him in an answer and “I think you’re too sensitive.” Speaking of Ron Paul, he continued to lose out in the debate format by only occasionally being asked a question while the ‘chance to respond’ rule mainly kept the entire debate between the other three who kept attacking each other. At one point the audience actually booed and demanded the moderator let Ron Paul answer a question when he was about to be skipped over yet again. They ought to bring out an easy chair for Paul to relax in during the 20 or so minutes he has to wait before getting a chance to speak.

Santorum is showing no signs of dropping out and has only stepped up his attacks against Gingrich. He feels that he beat Gingrich twice and deserves to be the one conservative candidate. On that measure, he has a point. The problem with Rick is that he always sounds like a whining spoiled child arguing with his parents. Even when he is making really good points, he is about as unlikable as Romney. You have to give him credit for not caring what others think and being willing to stand by his convictions. Unfortunately, his convictions don’t line up well with the majority of Americans when weighed across all issues. America may be generally more conservative than it is liberal on key issues, it isn’t in favor of government meddling in the internet, the bedroom and a number of other places Santorum thinks are fair game for federal agents to dictate.

Romney had one of his best performances. He tried to channel a little Newt-ness with a couple quick one word answers – particularly when asked if he would follow the example of his father and release a dozen years of tax returns. Unfortunately for Mitt, he doesn’t play the part of jokester well. Those failed attempts to have a personality aside, he did a far better job articulating his positions than he has in the past few debates. He managed nearly whole audience support several times, although he did get heckled once. All in all, Romney seems to have refound his footing and should be able to prevent any further backslide in support for awhile. He may have to accept the fact that he isn’t going to win South Carolina and the nomination isn’t going to be easy to obtain.

No one collapsed in the debate. In fact, all four candidates turned in better performances they they had previously. The lines are becoming more clearly drawn. That makes Ron Paul the real loser of the debate as his inability to clearly articulate his ideas seems worse than it did when Perry was around doing an even worse job. If Paul can’t find a way to make salient points without drifting off-point constantly, he’s going to see his percentage of support drop over the next several contests as undecided voters don’t connect with him.

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President of the A.V. Club

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Whoopidee doo, Ricky Santorum maybe, kind-of, possibly won in Iowa, but we’ll never know. We’re in South Carolina now and voting in Florida in less than two weeks. Those are big league primaries. No offense to Iowa, but who cares what they think? (Actually, I guess that is an offense to Iowa – but given their track record, they only have themselves to blame.) The froth may have floated to the top in Iowa, but Santorum had few champions in New Hampshire and isn’t exciting many in South Carolina either.

Sure, Rick can now tout maybe having won in Iowa. Of course, that will sway about as many voters as saying he was elected President of the A.V. Club back in grade school. No one in South Carolina really cares. The only people who might care are that small segment of the population who think sweater vests are hip. Oh, wait… The only people who think that are already Santorum lovers: hipsters voting for Obama and people who have already lined up to support Rick Santorum. (Just read it again and you’ll get it and if not, just Google Santorum).

Anyway, my point is that Santorum isn’t going to the White House unless it’s as an invited guest. It doesn’t matter if he maybe, possibly won in Iowa. The only thing that matters out of the Iowa story is that the GOP in Iowa can’t figure out who won. It raises doubts about how effective they’ll be in helping the GOP in the general election if they are that disorganized as to mess up the only thing anyone pays attention to Iowa about.

When Santorum finally drops out of the race, he can rock gently back and forth in a darkened closet clutching a sweater vest repeating to himself, “I maybe won Iowa. I maybe won Iowa. I maybe won Iowa.”

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How Far Will Perry’s Endorsement Go?

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Rick Perry bowed out of the race for the Presidency and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Given how poorly Perry was doing in the polls, his endorsement isn’t worth squat if all it gives Newt is Perry’s voters. What Newt needs and Perry has are money and contacts. With the Florida contest only a short way off, Gingrich needs to hit the airwaves there with ads right now.

We should find out within 24 hours if Perry’s endorsement comes with real campaign support (donors, contacts, etc.) or not. If Newt goes in for a significant media buy in Florida to capture early voters before the weekend, then we know that Perry is fully behind Newt. If not, then Perry’s endorsement may not matter at all. The Texas primary is too far off to matter if Gingrich can’t get money for ads and an organization going on the ground in upcoming States.

Perry may have failed in his run for the nomination, but the reason he was considered a major player was not for his debate skills. Even when he struggled in the debates he was still considered a danger to the other candidates. The reason is simple: money. Perry is an effective fund-raiser and the only one thought capable of challenging the Romney war chest. If that power is fully behind Gingrich, then Romney could be in serious trouble.

Money not only buys ad time, but also the organization necessary to keep Newt from going off the deep end another time. Sometimes the candidate needs to be managed for his own good to protect his campaign image. Newt has benefited from basically running his own show and not getting bogged down in ‘candidate packaging’, but as he becomes the de facto conservative alternative to Romney – he’s going to need to be more careful. Having the money to blanket the airwaves helps with that as it will relieve some of the pressure he’s been under to ‘score a knock-out blow’ against Romney. With money, Newt only needs to be smart, responsible and conservative and he’ll defeat Romney.

The next 24 hours are the tell. If Newt hits the Florida airwaves with a large buy before the weekend, then he’s expecting money from former Perry donors. If he waits until after the SC results, then he’s expecting to have to raise money on his own. It may only be the matter of a day’s difference in buying ad time (before or after SC votes), but that day speaks volumes as to the level of help Perry will actually be.

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The Problem With Romney

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There are plenty of pundits explaining why Romney is the best candidate to go up against President Obama in November. The effort to find the candidate who has ‘the best chance of beating Obama’ has been the topic of countless editorials and discussion groups. Certainly defeating Obama is a critical goal, but victory in November will have more to do with the weakness of Obama due to his failed policies than anything the GOP puts on the table. When an incumbent is running for re-election it is almost always more of a referendum on that person than about the ideas of the challenger. That being the case, maybe the focus on who has ‘the best change of beating Obama’ is the wrong metric to be using in deciding our nominee.

I submit that the question we should be asking is, “Which candidate has the best chance of undoing Obama’s policies?” When looking at the election that way, Romney comes up short. That’s the real problem with Romney. We could look past his lack of a personality and stammering during almost every debate. We could even look past his flip-flops. But when we look past those things, what do we find? We find a manager. That’s not what the country needs.

Barack Obama has governed as one of the most radical and autocratic Presidents in our history. He has accomplished so much of his radical agenda in the past three years that it truly will take a radical and energetic effort in the opposite direction just to get the country back on an even keel, let alone making real progress. Romney isn’t a radical. He isn’t going to drive us back from Obamanism. He’s more likely to take ‘reasonable’ steps to slowly and thoughtfully back us away from the cliff only to have the next liberal who gets into the White House send us careening back over it.

The only way to undo a radical is either a long steady restoration or a radical restoration. Since Presidential terms are only 4 years long and there is no guarantee of a re-election victory, the slow and steady approach isn’t wise. We can’t afford to suffer under Obama’s policies for more than a year after he leaves office. We need a radical reversal of our nation’s course. We need what happened in Wisconsin and New Jersey where radical leftist nonsense was radically and swiftly thrown into the dumpster so real economic progress could be made.

Romney’s a nice guy and if the past four years had been Reagan’s second term, then Romney would be a great choice. All he’d have to do is be a manager and keep things running smoothly. But, the past four years weren’t Reagan’s second term; they were Obama’s radical experiment in disaster. We’re not running smoothly. We need more than a manager. We need a crusader who will drive to undo what Obama did with even more gusto than Obama used to do it himself.

We need to stop asking who could best defeat Obama and accept the fact that Obama will win or lose on his record. Assuming we do win the election because Obama is such a failure, which candidate will most effectively and quickly undo not just some of what Obama did, but ALL of what Obama did? The answer clearly isn’t Mitt Romney.

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Is Newt The Comeback Kid?

Bookmark and Share    Newt was focused and seemed to be resonating with the SC Republicans at the last debate. He made Santorum and Perry seem like lesser alternatives for the conservative vote. He’ll have to convince people finally in the debate on Thursday that he is the single conservative candidate to rally around if he hopes to win in South Carolina and hope to stop the Romney coronation. If anyone can do it, it is Newt Gingrich. At the same time, Newt is also the man who will have the hardest time doing it.

His attacks on Romney’s time at Bain were stupid and he now knows it. Many who found his attacks reckless turned to Santorum. They could be wooed back since Santorum was not their first choice and he is a fairly weak candidate. To get them back, Newt has been explaining his attacks and distancing himself from the SuperPAC that launched the worst of them. He doesn’t have much time to heal the wounds, but is making excellent progress. Whether he can pull it off this week without making another mistake remains to be seen. If he can pull it off anywhere, it would be easiest in South Carolina where he has many past supporters.

A victory for Newt in South Carolina can come in two ways: he can beat Romney or he can be at least 10 points ahead of Santorum. With either outcome, he can campaign on the ‘strongest conservative’ strategy fairly successfully and probably win back all those who lost confidence in him outside South Carolina. However if he stays tangled up with Santorum, the two of them will have to get in a room and decide who is going to drop out in order to unite the conservative vote before it is too late to make a difference.

But, let’s say that Gingrich pulls off the win in South Carolina by at least distancing himself from Santorum and Perry. Perry will, if he has any sense for his political future, drop out of the race so as not to split the conservative vote. Santorum should do the same, but would probably try to make one last stand in Florida hoping that Newt would only be strong in SC. All that aside, the question remains: would Newt uniting the conservatives be a good thing?

We have learned that the new Newt is just the old Newt with a couple dozen extra pounds. He is still mercurial and gets sucked into conflicts without seeing the bigger picture. The Bain mistake will likely not be his last and conservatives could find themselves without a candidate if he implodes later in the race. If he manages to hold it together and win the nomination, he is still a hard candidate to sell to the all-important independent voters. No one can question his debate skills, but if he can spin out of control so easily under the pressure of Romney’s attacks it certainly raises doubts that he will be able to battle the vicious lie machine called the Obama campaign.

Can Newt be the Comeback Kid? Would the party benefit if he were? I think he will succeed in being the final conservative standing and challenge Romney. I’d give him a 30% chance of winning the nomination if he pulls that off. I’d then give him a 25% of winning the Presidency if he were the nominee. I, and pretty much every Republican, would end up voting for him because of our intense desire to see Obama out of office. Yet, independents are fickle and can be bought by slick ads and accusations – especially with a complicit media helping at every turn. Newt would only need to make one mistake and he would be beaten over the head with it constantly. While I am entirely convinced he would mop the floor with Obama in a debate, I doubt Obama will give him the opportunity. Sure, Newt says he’s just hound Obama like Lincoln after Douglas. That would work if the media weren’t in the bag for Obama and would report Newt fairly. Since that is not the case, Newt would make a lot of good points no one he needs to reach would hear.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Newt is great. I’d love to see him force Santorum and Perry out of the race and get this nomination process focused between the three wings of the party with one candidate each. I think that the party needs that debate and to pick a direction on issues rather than personal bickering. I just don’t think Newt can pull off the final victory due to the mistakes he’s already made and the likelihood that he’ll make more when the pressure really comes on. In his defense, I think Santorum and Perry stand even less of a chance and if anyone can pull it off for the conservatives – it is Newt.

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Time to Stand

Bookmark and Share    One of the greatest problems plaguing the political scene is cowardice. More particularly it is ideological cowardice. It is an admitted fact that candidates run to the fringe during primaries and then run to the center for the general election. That is considered good politics. Unfortunately, it makes for bad government.

The level of disgust with our elected government is astonishing. If it were just political partisanship, we could expect that approval ratings would be somewhere around 50%. Yet that is not the case. Approval ratings have dropped into the single digits numerous times for Congress and into the 30s for Presidents. Clearly the people are disappointed even in their own party’s elected officials.

The reason is simple. Politicians are cowards. They are for something one second and against it the next. Recently we’ve seen an uptick in the “I’m for it, but not for how it is being done” or “These are special circumstances that require measures I wouldn’t normally support.” They are two different ways of saying, “I don’t want to look like a flip-flopper but I want to be on the side of political expediency.” It is as if almost our entire elected government has become filled with Arlen Specter clones.

It is difficult to find a candidate that you can really believe will do what he or she claims. It is difficult to find a candidate that consistently speaks from an ideological foundation that is firm. The one thing all our “greatest” Presidents had in common was their willingness to stick to their principles and govern as they promised. Granted there were some Presidents who were equally consistent and failed, but at least the people knew what they were getting and they could decide whether or not to support those men. Today we treat ‘political conversion’ or ‘position adjustment’ as some sort of normal behavior.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. Is it normal to convert from Catholicism to Islam and then again to Lutheran? Such a thing would be considered absurd. But how are ‘political conversions’ any different? Sure, decades ago someone might go from Democrat to Republican because the parties themselves were transformed – BUT the reason for the change in party affiliation was based on a desire to be in the party that represented that person’s UNCHANGED positions on issues. Such changes are more like a member of the Episcopal Church becoming a Lutheran because that person did not support changes in the Episcopal Church doctrine (such as ordaining gay clergy). The person’s beliefs never changed, but the group to which he belonged changed in a way that was incompatible with those beliefs. That is not what is happening in politics today.

What we have today are people who are claiming to have changed their beliefs or to have found exceptions to their beliefs. That’s like a man saying he’s straight, but another guy at the gym was unusually attractive and in that extraordinary circumstance it made sense to have gay sex. Be it abortion or government bailouts or foreign affairs, it seems that ‘anything goes’ is the new normal. Whatever the political winds of that day happen to be, so too are that candidate’s “convictions”. It is disgraceful.

What will a candidate do if elected? Who knows? Maybe their record will shed some light on that and maybe it won’t. Maybe their previous positions will shed some light on that and maybe they won’t. It all depends on which parts of those they agree with today and which ones they see as ‘mistakes I’ve learned from’. Of course, today’s convictions may be tomorrow’s ‘mistakes I learned from’.

These ideological void candidates are not the only problem. We, the people, are equally to blame. We are cowards ourselves when we fear our beliefs might bring us criticism. We allow critics of our beliefs to bully us into silence about them rather than be labeled ‘extremists’. We end up supporting a candidate based not on what they truly believe and whether that matches our beliefs, but rather on who we dislike least of those ‘who can win’. We sell ourselves out first and then are upset when the person we supported does the same thing. We feel betrayed that the candidate that didn’t really share our views governs in a way that is contrary to our views instead of in the way promised during a campaign.

I have been one of those cowards this year. I have strong ideological beliefs. Yet, I refused to support the candidate that most reflects those views because I didn’t think he could win. I bought into the lie that we should support the one who can win over the one who is right. I took the side of those who refused to support Goldwater in ’64 and Reagan in ’76. I tried, in vain, to find another candidate who could serve as a ‘good enough’ choice and that ‘could win’ according to the pundits. I was an ideological coward.

Today that changes. Today I set aside my indecision between candidates I don’t really agree with who pundits say can win and throw my support behind the candidate with whom I am in the most ideological agreement. Maybe he can’t win the nomination. If he doesn’t, then I’ll support who does as any of them are better than Obama. But, this is my vote. This is my party. This is my ideology.

My endorsement for the 2012 Republican Nomination goes to Congressman Ron Paul.
Congressman Ron Paul

I fully recognize Ron Paul’s limitations. He has never been a chief executive. He’s not supported by the leadership of his party. He’s not a great speaker. His foreign policy scares the establishment. All those things were said about Barry Goldwater in 1964 but history proved that he would have been far better than what we got. His campaign sparked a movement that eventually brought us Ronald Reagan and the Republican Revolution of 1994.

We live in a different world than in the days of Reagan. An evil empire is not our chief concern and primary security risk. Today we face isolated terrorist cells around the world and the threat of economic destruction through control of energy, currency manipulation and cyber attack. Our national debt is greater than our GDP and our economy is built upon pushing money around more than actually creating anything of real value. Our entitlement system has grown so precariously huge that it threatens to bankrupt us within the foreseeable future.

There is only one candidate who sees that these issues are the greatest threats facing us. There is only one candidate who will use the power of the Presidency to force real cuts in spending and not just in the rate of spending growth. There is only one candidate who will rethink the old Cold War era military thinking and re-position us for responding to the threats of the 21st century. There is only one candidate who has been ideologically consistent for decades and who has correctly predicted the problems we are faced with today. There is only one candidate who won’t be corrupted by polls or pundits or lobbyists. There is only one candidate who believes more in governing within the confines of the Constitution than in finding excuses to circumvent it. There is only one candidate who put his life on the line for his country. There is only one candidate for me.

That candidate is Ron Paul and he has my endorsement and support.

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Hollow Victories?

One aspect of the Republican race for the nomination that may yet become a serious issue is the penalty assessed on NH, SC, FL, AZ and MI because they held their primaries before February. It has been the case that no Republican has won the nomination without winning SC and either IA or NH. Yet, this year those victories are more a public relations victory than ones that really build a delegate base. Even if Mitt Romney swept the January primaries, he won’t have amassed the type of delegate count candidates would have historically had by Michigan. When he is only polling on average at 25% across the country and a couple other candidates still with money and a national campaign staff, Romney could be unexpectedly wiped out on Super Tuesday.

While the traditional conservatives are split right now between three candidates, there is time to unite even after Michigan and still effectively challenge Romney. That was not the case four years ago when the split among the conservatives allowed McCain to build not just a list of victories, but a strong foundation of delegates. With half of the delegates stripped from the early primary States and the proportioning of delegates splitting them even further, Mitt Romney will not have the lead that McCain had by Michigan even if he runs the table. That has to be cause for concern.

Complicating the issue is the candidacy of Ron Paul. He’s not going anywhere. He can raise the money and has the grassroots network to at least maintain his current percentage of the votes. As the conservatives coalesce around a single candidate, this will become a three man race. Even if the final conservative candidate cannot fully consolidate all of the support currently spread across three, he will only really need around 40% of the electorate to win the election if Paul stays around 20%. Romney voters are not energized for him, generally speaking. Already he is tied with Ron Paul when they are polled against Obama – meaning Romney’s ‘best candidate to defeat Obama’ pitch is already losing its power. When the conservatives finally settle on a single candidate (probably after Florida), that person will likely also pull even with Romney and Paul on head to head match-ups with Obama. With the moderates split, a conservative could cruise to victory.

Super Tuesday could also redefine the election from the current Romney vs. non-Romney into Paul vs. non-Paul. This is possible because the conservative candidate will battle Romney mainly as the main rival, leaving Paul to his 20%. Once the delegates get tangled up between Romney and the eventual conservative candidate, Paul’s slowly accumulating delegate count will become an issue. More moderate Republicans could begin to shift from Romney to Paul as Romney’s chances of victory wane. Gingrich, Santorum and Perry are all polarizing figures. Unifying each others’ supporters will be hard enough, but winning over the more moderate voters could be very difficult, especially if the kinds of attacks on Romney that have been made by them recently continue over the next six weeks. Disgruntled Romney supporters (the elderly in particular) may shift over to Paul giving him both the elderly and the youth. If the vitriol between the eventual conservative and Romney were bad enough, Romney could even endorse Paul just to stick it to the person who ‘robbed him’ of his nomination.

Of course, the conservatives uniting may not happen. An angry Perry or Santorum or Gingrich could pull out and endorse Romney rather than join with a conservative they are angry with. That would give Romney more conservative credentials and be just enough to let him steamroll over the final conservative candidate. With Paul pulling out at least 20%, Romney doesn’t need to be stellar so long as the conservatives don’t fully unite.

Certainly this is all speculation. However, the stripping of half the delegates from the early primary States has bought time for the conservatives to unify that they lacked in 2008. Combine that with a stronger Ron Paul who has gone all in this year (abandoning his seat in the House) and the early primaries just don’t hold the power they normally do. A third party run in the general election is very unlikely. But the dynamics of such a race playing out for the Republican nomination is not only possible but probable. The conservatives will unite. Paul will continue on. Romney will not be safely ahead in the delegate count after FL. How that plays out just can’t be predicted right now. Just don’t think that it is over even if Mitt sweeps right through FL. The victories are hollow when it comes to actual delegates gained. He’ll still be vulnerable. There are States that only Romney and Paul are on the ballot and conservatives could support Paul in those just to weaken Romney, complicating the delegate picture. This isn’t over and won’t be over for quite some time.

So Much for the New Newt

Many years had passed since Newt Gingrich served as Speaker of the House. In those years, Newt told us that he had matured. He had seen his mistakes, found religion and was ready to put policy solutions and a positive vision for America at the center of his campaign. He refrained from fighting with the other candidates during debates and cited Reagan’s ’11th commandment’. His strong positive vision, clearly presented solutions and generally revamped image propelled him from the bottom of the pack to the leader. Then came the attack ads against him and everything changed.

The Newt we all remembered came back from exile and the professorial solutions image was chucked into the dumpster. The old Newt is backThe scrapper from the past is back and his debate appearances and interviews are now completely devoid of policy or vision. He’s even gone so far as to attack from the left and make the case that Obama was right when he claimed there is some limit to when someone has made enough money.

Where once it was feared that Ron Paul would be the one to fracture the party and set up an Obama victory, the truth is that Gingrich has assumed that role. In his effort to salvage his campaign, he’s not only attacked the character of his opponents, but also attacked bedrock beliefs of the Republican Party. The Free Market he championed when he was ‘new Newt’ is now in his cross hairs as he asserts that shutting down a failing business is immoral “looting”. That sounds like something Obama would say and it will be something he does say and a soundbite he will use in November. Even if Romney is not the nominee, Newt’s attacks on free enterprise are ammunition for the Obama campaign because Obama hates free enterprise and will want to weaken whoever is the Republican candidate by undermining that person’s support for free markets through Newt’s arguments.

There were many things I liked about Newt Gingrich and he was in my top three from which I expected to pick who I would finally support. I called his rise in the polls and was offered a spot campaigning for him in my State (which I declined at the time due to still being undecided) because of my praise for his ideas and character. Yet now, I regretfully add his name to the sort list of candidates I will not support. His leftist attacks cannot be forgiven. The ammunition he has handed to the Obama campaign cannot be forgiven. That he would be a man of positive vision and solutions can no longer be trusted due to how quickly he abandoned those characteristics when he faced difficulty. The Presidency is inherently difficult. The opposition from the Democrats, the Washington machinery and the liberal media will be far worse than the attack ads that drove him to destructive retribution.

I am sorry to see the ‘new Newt’ gone. I liked him. I could have happily supported him. He gave me confidence and inspired me. But, he’s gone now and I wouldn’t trust a reemergence of him as genuine. The field has thinned by one. Most people may not know it yet and may need to see what happens after SC and FL, but Newt has killed his own campaign. Had he stayed positive and solutions oriented, he could have come in third in NH and won SC and FL. By making leftist attacks on Romney and belittling Santorum as a ‘junior partner’, he has alienated the voters he needed. SC will not be the turning point of his campaign. It will prove his campaign is already finished.

Lessons From History

There is a saying often attributed to Mark Twain that goes, ‘History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.’ Any fools with a nostalgia for the late 70’s learned the truth of that in the past few years. Being President is about more than smiling and speaking in grand platitudes. It is a harsh reality of perpetual crisis both foreign and domestic – many of which the American people never really learn about unless they spin out of control.

We like to look at candidates for the office and project onto them the mantle of some previous President. It gives us a false hope of how they will handle the unknown future. Sometimes the candidates try on the mantle of a previous President themselves and try to convince us that they wear it best. Call me crazy, but Michele Bachmann doesn’t look convincing in her Reagan costume.

For all the best hopes of pundits and packaging of candidates themselves, rarely are the mantles draped upon candidates accurate. Obama is no Kennedy nor FDR as claimed in his campaign in 2008 nor a TR as he claims now. He’s a Carter. It’s no wonder he is seeking a different comparison.

The Republican field is not full of Reagans nor does it have a Jefferson or Jackson in its midst. However, if we look closely at the candidates, their records, the political reality of today and history – we may be able to figure out which President each would most likely resemble once actually in office. Here in short form is my take on who each candidate actually would be most like if elected:

Mitt Romney – Romney claims to be Reagan. Romney is not a hard core anything. He is a pragmatist. He has a track record of working across the aisle and changing his position to side with prevailing opinion. He is slick, managerial and focused more on accomplishing something than on getting what he wants. Gerald FordRomney strikes me as being most like Gerald Ford. Government would probably hit a few bumps with him in office, but he’d learn to navigate the prevailing political moods and generally make things better. He wouldn’t distinguish himself or ever really connect with the American people. Congress would get more credit for any success than he would and while no one would really hate him, few would champion him.

Newt Gingrich – Gingrich claims to be Reagan and Jackson. Newt is mercurial, knowledgeable, an insider who sees himself as an outsider, not the ally of many in his own party and has a drive to prove he is better than his reputation from Congress. He was written off by most, yet inexplicably manages to keep hanging around. Richard NixonGingrich strikes me as being most like Richard Nixon. He is likely to fight with his own party and even go against the popular will of the American public to do what he thinks is the right thing to do. He’d use use his ability to speak plainly to the people to rally just enough support to maintain his ability to assert his agenda. Yet, his insecurities and anger at a media that jabs at him would detract from an ability to even enjoy his successes. He would likely have difficulty maintaining an administrative core.

Ron Paul – Paul claims to be Jefferson. Paul is a stubborn yet principled politician who would rather be right by his own views than compromise on anything. He has no real friends in Congress and is the enemy of the very machine he would seek to operate. He is constitutionally astute. Andrew JohnsonPaul strikes me as being most like Andrew Johnson. He’ll fight not only the opposing party, but the leaders of his own in Congress. The machinery of the bureaucracy assembled by previous administrations would be his main target as it would be something he thought he could change. A long train of vetoes, overrides, wiggling free from Congressional attempts to wrangle him and generally four years of being right, but equally disliked by all.

Rick Perry – Perry claims to be Reagan. Perry is a man of great ego, personality and amorphous convictions. He surrounds himself with advisers who define most of his actions and control access to him. That limits his ability to see more than just one side of an issue and sometimes puts him in a predicament. George W. BushPerry strikes me as being most like George W. Bush. He’s as likely to expand government to be ‘compassionate’ as he is to cut some part of it. He would likely be often caught misspeaking as the policies of his staff would not be his own and his answers to questions about them would lack grounding. He’d make numerous gaffes that pundits on both sides would wonder how he could have ever been able to be so stupid, but those gaffes would come as a result of the bubble his advisers would keep him in.

Rick Santorum – Santorum claims to be Reagan. Santorum is a strong social conservative who believes in using the power of the federal government to dictate domestic issues that were previously State and local matters. He is a party man who went along with government expansion and big spending when his party committed it – although he claims he realizes that was a mistake and wouldn’t do it again. John AdamsSantorum strikes me as being most like John Adams. He would likely push his ideology fiercely and fail to see when he had gone too far. He would surround himself with advisers and policy makers who once worked for or around his beloved mentor (in this case Reagan) but lack the wisdom of that mentor to know when those advisers and policy makers had drifted too far from the will of the people. He would not understand why his administration would become unpopular and instead entrench himself further.

Michele Bachmann – Bachmann claims to be Reagan or Jefferson. Bachmann is a wannabe ideologue. She clings to the banner of the Tea Party, yet is easily dragged towards neoconservatism whenever she feels that she needs to sound tough. She is generally over-matched by the enormity of the Presidency even as a candidate. While she can spew soundbites, she is slow to hit the mark when thrown an unexpected question. Barack ObamaPolitical ideology aside, Bachmann strikes me as being most like Barack Obama. She would most likely struggle to find effective ways to get her big ideas turned into actual policies even with GOP control of Congress. She’d feel the need to embark on military adventures to prove she wasn’t weak on defense. She would reverse herself on executive orders and start issuing many of them as an alternative way to implement her agenda.

Jon Huntsman – Huntsman claims to be a Reagan. Huntsman has great executive experience and deeply understands the geopolitical and economic position of the Unites States in the world in relation to past, present and emerging world rivals. He is measured, reasonable and yet considered an outsider by even his own. Dwight EisenhowerHuntsman strikes me as being most like Dwight Eisenhower. He would likely chart a course that looked far more into the future than the leaders of Congress. He would be strategic rather than tactical in military and foreign affairs. He would challenge the status quo and risk rebellion from his own party when he put pet projects on the chopping block. He would be seen more as a fatherly President than a partisan one.

I could be very wrong in these associations, but I think they are fairly accurate. We just can’t really know until they sit in that office. But, we do have their histories and personalities as well as those of the men who already held the office and how that office changed them. From those, we can construct better guesses as to which President they will not repeat, but most rhyme with. In all cases, it is not the one they think they are – at least in my opinion.

In doing this exercise, my views of the candidates have changed a bit. Thinking not of who I would like them to be or who they sell themselves as, but who their history and personality most aligns them with has left me questioning my leanings in this race. I don’t accept the general media criticisms of our candidates or the wild histrionics by the champions of one candidate against opponents. However, viewing these candidates in an historical light and how their strengths, weaknesses and personalities would likely mix with the current economic, political and international reality does raise some new questions for me. Of Ford, Nixon, G. W. Bush, A. Johnson, J. Adams, Obama or Eisenhower, who could not only best beat Obama in 2012 but best address the foreseeable problems? Would stagnation and infighting in Washington be worse than misguided progress or the other way around? Is victory today and four years a stability worth backing a candidate that could probably be beaten in 2016? When there is no Reagan clone, on whom can we settle?

I don’t have the answers to those questions for you. They are for each of us to decide on our own when choosing a candidate. I don’t even have the answers for myself which is why I remain undecided and uncommitted. I’ve ruled out three of the seven, but have a long way to go before I get down to one.

Ron Paul: Foreign Policy Radical?

Below is a video with highlights from the 2000 Presidential Debates by George W. Bush on his foreign policy ideas. If I’m not mistaken, he sounds a lot like Ron Paul when it comes to being over-deployed, being overly involved in the internal affairs of other nations and getting into fights we have no exit strategy from. Who knew that George W. Bush was unelectable and completely impossible to sell as a candidate to the conservatives of the Republican party with such a weak, isolationist foreign policy?

I guess it doesn’t matter if you have a more non-interference based foreign policy (as George W. Bush campaigned upon and Ron Paul does now) so long as you are for other big government things like expanding Medicare, expanding the Department of Education, etc. as Bush campaigned and delivered upon. I wonder who the real conservatives are in this party if Bush could win in 2000, but Paul is unelectable in 2012?

Ron Paul: The Only Flawed Candidate?

Ron Paul can’t win. That’s the going theory, right? He can’t win because he’s soft on national security. He can’t win because he’s soft on drugs. End of story.

The question that remains is how it is instant that Ron Paul’s issue flaws are fatal but every other candidate’s issue flaws are explained away? We are all well familiar with the flaws of Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum, etc. What should be fatal flaws for conservative voters are set aside because ‘on most issues’ the candidate is correct. They are not “un-electable” even if they supported big government medical takeovers, massive failed bail-outs, rewarding illegal immigrants with perks, siding with ultra-liberals in the Global Warming scam or voted time and again for massive increases in spending and deficits. Yet, somehow Ron Paul is “un-electable”.

Just what is it about Ron Paul that makes him an exception to the rule? Why can’t he be judged by the same standard, i.e. being correct ‘on most issues’? One could argue that his position against preemptive war is a fatal flaw because Republicans prize national security above all else. But, at least half the time Paul and the rest of the field have agreed on not taking action in various military actions over the past few decades. So is he soft of national security or is he just not a team player when his party is for a military action similar to those they opposed when a Democratic President was launching it?

My goal is not to tear down any of the Republican candidates but to question why Ron Paul is the only one who all the conservative pundits have written off even though he has a stronger record on fiscal conservatism, protection of life, illegal immigration, limited government and pretty much every other conservative issue than any other candidate. Disagree with him on national security or the drug war as vehemently as you want, but go after the big government, big spending, soft on illegal immigration and such issues vehemently on the other candidates. Let the voters decide if, at this point in time, someone strong on pre-emptive war but pathetic on fiscal conservatism or supportive of big government programs or soft on illegal immigration is better than someone weaker on defense but strong on fiscal conservatism, strongly against big government and tough on illegal immigration. Isn’t that our choice to make?

I am an undecided voter. I see flaws with all of the candidates and I need to weigh them all to decide which flaws must be overlooked for the greater good. But, I get to make that decision and no candidate is “un-electable” simply because of one or two issues out of dozens. Ron Paul is as legitimate a candidate as any of the others and should be treated as such. The belittling of his candidacy and of him is a disgrace to the party and a disservice to the Republican voters who need to be trusted to weigh the good and bad of each candidate and make their own decision.

A Dismal Fight for Relevance

The GOP Presidential debate in Las Vegas highlighted not only some of the candidates’ fight for relevance, but the fight for relevance for many voters in the nation. Nevada joined the growing number of States moving up their primary election. The voters in many States have felt as though their votes did not matter. Key swing States often vote so late that the primary process is basically over and decided before their votes are cast. It has been argued that this has resulted in nominations of candidates that don’t speak to the needs of most Americans, but rather just to the needs of a handful of non-representative States. The power that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have in the nomination process outweighs that of key general election States like Florida and Ohio. The cost of running a campaign is so staggeringly high that a candidate that does not appeal to the voters in Iowa or New Hampshire may be out of the race regardless of how he or she is polling in more critical States. The problem effects both parties and gave the Democrats Barack Obama and the Republicans John McCain, not the first choices of the majority of people in key general election States at the time of the early primaries. Penalties against States in 2008 from the Democrats are being matched this year by many Republican candidates boycotting Nevada either wholly or in part.

Jon Huntsman was absent from the debate in protest. In reality, his ‘protest’ had more to do with courting New Hampshire voters than it did with any principle. He is seeking to knock Romney down in the New Hampshire polls and lift himself by painting himself as their real ‘friend’ and Romney as not really for their needs. Romney, Perry and Paul decided to leave the placement of primaries to the States and stay out of their affairs. All the others didn’t seem sure of what position to take, so they went to the televised debate but skipped other events. That is sort of like going to the all you can eat buffet and ‘making a stand’ by not eating any oyster crackers. It isn’t a position based on any principles and it isn’t particularly meaningful. In the end, it all comes down to Huntsman trying to make himself relevant by playing up the inflated relevance of New Hampshire while Nevada is trying to make the votes of its citizens relevant by moving up its primary.

The rest of the field used the debate to fight for their relevance. Bachmann and Santorum needed to make a big move. Gingrich needed to put on as good a performance in this debate people could actually watch as he did in the minimal audience Bloomberg debate so they would see his relevance. Perry needed to show that he can be an effective candidate without a teleprompter or he might drop further in the polls to total irrelevance. Cain needed to show that he had foreign affairs ideas and not just 9-9-9 so that he can truly challenge Romney. Paul needed to connect with the viewer better after publishing his plan full of popular conservative ideas so that he is no longer viewed as irrelevant to mainstream voters. Lastly Romney needed to put some passion into his performance and show the voters something to be excited about so that he can see his poll numbers break out of their long-time holding pattern.

Unfortunately none of the candidates succeeded. They could have all come out of the debate better off and advanced the larger conservative cause. Instead, rather than any winners, the debate is better measured in who the bigger losers were. In the effort to make themselves look better at the expense of other candidates, Santorum and Perry generally made themselves look like jerks. The only civility in the debate came, once again, from Gingrich and Cain. Romney, who needed to energize the voters and give them a reason to be excited by his campaign, instead decided to engage in attacks on other candidates in a very condescending manner. Bachmann did better on issues than in some previous debates but still came across as a yipping dog.

Now I’m sure that there will plenty of you who think I am being too hard or too mean to these candidates. You may feel that it is disloyal to the party or the movement for a conservative blogger to call out these candidates. You may think your preferred candidate somehow was justified in his or her actions during the debate. You may think they won the debate. As someone who has yet to make a choice on these candidates, I are weighing them all and I was disappointed in their performances this time. I know they could do better. I expect them to be better. We need them to be better.

That being said, there were many good responses and messages put forth in this debate on security. There was not as much consensus on security issues as there had been on economic issues. Some interesting divides emerged. It was surprising that Bachmann, as Tea Party champion, aligned more with neoconservative Santorum on foreign affairs. She was far more a champion of interventionism than any other candidate on the stage aside from Santorum. How that will play with the less interventionist leanings of most Tea Partiers will be seen in the next round of polls. Ron Paul has generally had weak support from most conservatives on foreign affairs, but he did manage to better articulate his positions on those matters. Herman Cain was able to be a more broad candidate and not just Mr. 9-9-9. Rick Perry appeared prepared and engaged for the debate. So, there are some good parts that came from the debate. It is just unfortunate that most of that was buried underneath a mountain of attacks and counterattacks between the candidates.

The conduct of the candidates is translating to the voters. The audience in the debate hall was far more divided than in previous debates. At times they even booed various responses. That is good news for Obama, but not very good news for the GOP. The only person who really seems to get that is Newt Gingrich. If the candidates continue to drive wedges within the party in their fight, they may only make the eventual nominee so weak that the party itself will have to fight for relevance again. We need to be building on the momentum of 2010, but are slowing our own roll and giving Obama everything he needs to destroy any of these candidates in the general.

To all of the candidates (except Speaker Gingrich), I must say that I am disappointed in your actions and while I came into the debate excited about my choices, I am leaving the debate much less so. We need leaders. Attacking your fellows is not leading. Bashing another’s ideas is not having vision. Grow up.

Is It Too Late?

Some very wise political analysts wrote that things have changed since 1992 when Bill Clinton got into the race late and managed to win. The need to build a national campaign network, raise money and meet the demands of 24/7 campaigning without making a single mistake are hurdles that put late joiners at a serious disadvantage. Mitt Romney has been raising money, performing in debates, bringing in endorsements and satisfying local political committees necessary for the early primaries. He can do it because he has a network in place to do most of the work for him, leaving him free to focus on interviews, debate prep and meeting with the big donors. Gov. Perry, as a relative late-comer, is floundering by comparison. The overwhelming demands on his time in places he has no network and from people with whom he has no intermediaries have strained his ability to focus on improving his debate abilities. His big lead has slumped and he is at risk of simply fading away. By the time he gets a full national campaign in place, his mistakes may have made him irrelevant. Soon Herman Cain will face the same problems. These were the reasons various pundits said Christie should definitely not get into the race. It was too late, even if he had changed his mind.

But is it too late? Being in early and ahead in the polls is no guarantee of success. The pages of campaign history are littered with the failed campaigns of big names, with national support and early planning. Perhaps the right question is not whether it is too late, but rather is it too soon? It is clearly too late to get into the race and compete against the established campaigns. There is not enough time to get a national campaign up and running effectively between now and the early primaries while simultaneously engaging in frequent televised debates. But, that doesn’t mean it is too late to get into the race at all. It just means it is too early to be a late entrant.

Look at the poll numbers Perry pulled in just due to hype. Christie saw the same, although he ended up not running. Cain made one great debate appearance and his numbers shot up. However, Perry and Cain now have to find a way to sustain that popularity for months before it can translate into votes. Just ask Michele Bachmann how that straw poll victory is treating her now. Frankly, getting in early opens the door to constant attacks by a vengeful media and the inevitable mistake that will get blown out of proportion just to have a news story to report. Romney and Paul are somewhat immune to these problems because they were already attacked in the last election and there just isn’t much new to attack them with. Their names are already out there and they have a base of support in place, so they don’t need the big performance to gain a position in the rankings. They just need to not trip over themselves and wait it out until the primaries get closer and they start spending the piles of money they built up. Everyone else has an uphill battle and has as much to fear from sudden success as from a major mistake.

With so many primaries happening so close together and so early in the year, a late entrant could ride the newcomer media hype to a handful of early victories. Then, by absorbing the staff and network of candidates who are forced to drop out, basically walk into a national campaign with enough time remaining to still effectively raise funds for the general election in November. This would not work for just any random candidate, but there are some big names who stayed out who have the skills, policy knowledge and connections to pull it off if they time it right. A December entry could steal the nomination.

I’m not saying that is what should happen, will happen or would be desirable. It is just that the old logic that there is a time after which a new campaign cannot succeed is very likely no longer valid. Like it or not, the media does manipulate public opinion in elections. Playing the media against itself may be a better strategy than traditional campaigning. After all, then Sen. Obama had nothing to offer on policy or experience, but the media carried him to victory. The media may be generally against conservatives, but they just can’t help themselves from hyping anyone new. Even if the hype is full of negatives, it raises the recognition of that candidate and usually results in a rise in the polls – at least until the hype dies down or the candidate withers under the spotlight.

A well-timed late entrant would face significant challenges, but could play the media hype into a surge in the polls just in time for it to translate into real votes. I’m sure Rick Perry wishes the early primaries had been in August when he was the talk of the town. Had they been, he’d probably be in this against Romney alone instead of falling back into a still crowded pack. The lack of consensus on a candidate and the infighting between them during the debates could be justification enough for one of the big names that decided not to run many months ago (when Obama looked stronger) to reconsider and come in to ‘unify the party against Obama’. While such an entry would never work if it came this month or in November, it could potentially play in December – especially if the field doesn’t slim down between now and then.

Second Thoughts?Who could pull off this last minute capture of the early primaries and the nomination? There are two that immediately come to mind: Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels. Conversely, two names that couldn’t pull it off are Sarah Palin and Chris Christie. They both bowed out too recently to change their minds so soon. Barbour and Daniels could be ‘drafted’ back in if they plan such an effort. They are not the only ones, but the ones with the best name recognition (Daniels) and existing connections (Barbour) to generate the necessary media hype and channel it into sudden victories. With the voters still divided, no real excitement for the ‘inevitable candidate’ and a compressed primary schedule, there may never be a better time than December to capture the race without having to face the withering pressure of public scrutiny of every minor decision they ever made. With so many of the big names that got out early still sitting silently and not endorsing anyone, one has to wonder if they are pondering the same thing I am. But, only one could pull it off. If two jumped in, they would both lose. If Barbour and Daniels go to dinner, Romney should start to worry.

Mindless Media Madness vs. Reality

Another Republican Presidential Debate is in the books and another mind-bogglingly clueless post-debate analysis from the media has followed. Let’s not even get into the utter uselessness of the so-called fact checking that can’t even grasp the simple concept of static vs. dynamic scoring. The fact is that so much of the media is so invested in their story that they won’t let the facts get in the way.

Again and again, we have seen the media name the winners of the debates only to be proven wrong by the people who watched them. The media called Romney the winner of the last debate, but I called it for Cain. I was not alone in my thoughts as Cain followed that debate with a straw poll victory and a rise in the polls. The media was blindsided, both the left-leaning and right-leaning media outlets. Tonight I am calling the debate for Gingrich. The mind-numbingly obtuse media analysis equated Gingrich’s success tonight with occasional applause for the JV soccer team. They will be proven wrong once again.

They also focused on the ‘heat’ of the exchanges. They revel on the candidates attacking each other. To them, this is all political theater where issues don’t matter as much as soundbites and personalities. The dumbing down of America begins with the dolts in the main stream media. Their lack of any real knowledge on issues leaves them parroting mindless slogans and focusing on hair cuts. I wouldn’t trust most of them to cover a Snuggie fashion show, let alone serious fiscal, foreign affairs and political issues. So while they report the winners as whoever they think are the hottest names, the reality is quite different. Motivated voters, particularly motivated conservatives, are trendsetters not followers. Chanting “Yes We Can” doesn’t send thrills up their legs. They want substance and leadership. So here is a run-down of the reality beyond the mindless media madness.

Gingrich Wins New Hampshire DebateGingrich has been following a fairly safe strategy to date of remaining aloof from the infighting while basically mocking all the current Obama policies as not even worth discussing because they are so bad. Tonight he was more aggressive and didn’t let the media moderators get away with giving him no time. He insisted he be allowed to speak and he connected on issue after issue. While some may criticize him for not knocking out other candidates, I believe he made the biggest tactical move of the race so far when he picked the best one or two things from every other candidate during one of his answers. That showed that he can pick the best solutions from multiple sources and be a true consensus leader. Maybe that is how he would govern and maybe it isn’t, but the appearance of true leadership combined with the subtle lumping of all the other candidates as either one trick ponies or only party right was a major victory in how Gingrich will be perceived by voters.

Perry, on the other hand, has only weakened himself further. Each debate comes with Rick Perry having remembered to talk about one thing and one thing only. This time it was a less catchy version of drill, baby, drill. I was reminded of the Bush-Kerry town hall debate in which Bush stumbled through an entire series of questions repeating one variation or another of “it’s hard work”. While a President cannot be down into every detail, he also can’t just be big picture. Successful Presidents have advisers they can trust but know enough detail to provide both the necessary oversight and the public face to often complicated policy matters. Perry just doesn’t seem to have that ability. I rate him as ‘all hat, no cattle’ and while I think he’ll stick around for quite awhile, his chances of victory are very slim. Of course there could be another backroom deal like the one between Huckabee and McCain in the last election that resulted in the disastrous nomination of media McCain, so Perry can’t be counted out entirely.

Cain has managed to avoid becoming the next Bachmann and will not be a quick flash in the pan candidate. However, I would wager that the majority of voters share my concern about adding a new taxing authority to the feds. Santorum hit the issue squarely on the head and all the explanations in the world won’t fix the underlying problem with the 9 9 9 plan: the people don’t trust the government. When trust in the government is so low, it will be nearly impossible for Cain to convince people that they can trust the government not to abuse the new taxing power in the future. I do believe Cain’s campaign will begin to fizzle as the 9 9 9 plan just can’t be trusted because it relies too much on government being responsible. When his campaign does begin to falter, keep an eye out for those black ‘leaders’ who attacked Cain for not being ‘black enough’ to blame his decline on the GOP being too racist to elect the black candidate (who suddenly will be ‘black enough’ for them then).

Romney needs no lengthy summary. He is staying on track and made mincemeat out of Huntsman and Perry. There still is no enthusiasm for Romney like there was at CPAC in 2008, but he could get it back especially if the pack thins out and his opposition’s weaknesses can be packaged as unconservative – such as Perry’s anmesty-like policies were in the previous debate.

Paul has no one to blame but himself for tonight’s poor performance. When given the chance to ask any question of any candidate, he indulged his Fed fetish and attacked Cain without even having the sources he was using in the attack at his fingertips. The moderators rarely give him a chance to speak and when they do it is invariably only on the Fed or foreign wars. His failure to use the opportunity to expand his campaign to a broader message was a huge mistake. His biggest win of the night was the bit of praise and agreement he gained from Gingrich. His core followers aren’t going anywhere, so neither is he. But, those numbers will not grow if he helps the media package him as basically a one-issue candidate with a sour attitude and with no positive vision to offer.

Bachmann improved her performance this time and will steal back some of the support she lost to Perry. What many think was a softball question to her from Romney, I view differently. I think Romney was trying to make her look like a shallow, one-issue candidate as a way to push out the attack from the right and ultimately leave him looking more conservative with Bachmann out of the race. I think she successfully turned that back on him and his plan to make her look unelectable failed. Although, honestly, I don’t think she stands a chance.

Santorum, I must admit, is a candidate for whom I have no love. As a Pennsylvania conservative, I supported him when he ran for the Senate and then opposed him when he ran for re-election. I was not alone along conservatives who left his side, which is why he lost. He may appeal to the Huckabee crowd on social issues, but he voted for big spending over and over. Now, when he is running for office, he says he made a mistake and wouldn’t do what he did if he had it to do over again. I don’t believe him. I feel his credibility is even weaker than Romney’s. He may pick up some more endorsements after his fairly good performance tonight, but those endorsements are as much a ball and chain on his campaign as they are a boost. They tie him to neo-conservatives at a time when most Republicans are headed in the opposite direction. Social issues are of less importance and fiscal conservatism is of more importance. That’s the opposite of Santorum’s record in the Senate and that is a hard hurdle to overcome.

Huntsman should just back it up now and take a vacation. His attempts to attack Romney backfired miserably. His attempt to parlay his experience as Ambassador to China on the currency devaluation issue also failed miserably. His attempts to be funny were only marginally more humorous than Al Gore. In the post-debate questioning, he said that government should put caps on how large banks should be allowed to get and put the cap at somewhere around the size Goldman-Sachs was in 1995-98. He’ll be doing damage control for weeks. Pack it up sir, you’re done.

The end result: Romney, Cain and Gingrich will be the new top 3. Perry will fall. Bachmann will rally slightly. Huntsman will seriously weigh leaving the race. Paul and Santorum will continue to only play to their existing bases of support. As a final note, Romney’s campaign blundered enormously by having Christie endorse him today. It didn’t help the debate (which wasn’t even really watchable by most voters) and was generally wasted by coming at this moment. Saving that media fascination with Christie until his endorsement would have potentially separated Romney from a smaller pack a month or two from now would have been smarter. It will be lost in the debate spin and leaves Romney with nothing to counter a Palin endorsement later of someone else.

Neo-Santorum?

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Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator, has been making the candidate rounds for months. Yesterday on “FOX News Sunday”, Santorum called his vote on the Medicare prescription drug benefit a mistake. In an effort to paint himself as the fiscal conservative he would like to campaign as, he is working to distance himself from his record of supporting big government and big spending.

Santorum Concedes 2006 Election

While he blames former President George W. Bush for his election loss in 2006, the lack of strong support and turnout from the party base that allowed a challenger to defeat him was also due to his support of increased spending. While no one in their right mind should ever believe the Democrats when they campaign on fiscal responsibility, the fact that people were even willing to buy that fairy tale demonstrates just how far removed from fiscal conservatism the Republicans had strayed.

Now Santorum would like us all to forget his record on spending. He is trying to admit he was wrong and move on while at the same time not really admitting much of anything. He points to two points of the bill as things he says he wanted done differently, but even if those two things were done differently it would have still been an enlargement of government and an increase in spending. So while he wants to appear as a fiscal conservative at heart who mistakenly voted for big spending, he continues to reveal himself as supportive of increased government involvement in social issues and increased spending. In other words, he’s a fiscal conservative…if you compare him to Harry Reid.

The 2012 campaign will be filled with candidates who will try to John Kerry their way through the process, explaining away all their actions with flip-flops. They will all try to paint themselves as fiscal conservatives. Some will give us the old zinger of being a fiscal conservative, but with compassion for the needs of the less fortunate. They’ll tell us how big government spending programs were bad, not on principle, but because they needed a tweak this way or that. They’ll claim that fiscal conservatism means running this nation into debt at a rate slower than the Democrats.

We need to look at the record. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes. Rick Santorum may have some good positions on a number of issues, but he is weaker than a pale ale when it comes to fiscal issues. He voted time and again for expansions of government programs, expansions of funding for existing programs and plunging our government deeper than ever before into the red. Sure, things have gotten much worse since he was booted out of office in 2006 but that’s like comparing Rosie O’Donnell to Rosanne Barr. Neither of them is Heidi Klum and neither is Rick Santorum a fiscal conservative.

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Where’s the Leadership?

Bookmark and ShareThere is little point even getting into the way many of us feel about the way the government funding situation was handled. Suffice it to say that only those who make their living fawning over the party leadership and never have an opinion until they are given one are happy with how things turned out. Everyone else is disappointed either because they feel the process made the party look bad or because after all that fuss we didn’t really get anything. Put all those feeling aside for the moment and ask yourself, “Did the Presidential hopefuls demonstrate leadership over this?”

With the exception of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the Republican Presidential hopefuls all managed to avoid those press cameras in front of which they are usually jumping before the situation was basically resolved. Then a handful came back out of hiding to provide comments. Gingrich and Barbour tried to neither endorse nor condemn the deals by just saying we have a long way more to go. Huckabee basically parroted what Obama had been saying all along, i.e. the Republican proposals were too extreme and compromise was necessary and appropriate. Is this the field that will inspire us to victory in 2012?

It feels like a sick joke to have to always bring up Ronald Reagan not as a lesson to the Democrats, but as a reminder to the Republicans. How could people who profess such adoration of Reagan and conservative values so consistently turn their backs on both? Did Reagan go missing when major issues were being decided before 1980? No. We all know that. We all know that he went out and spoke for his conservative vision and principles without deviation for years without ever censoring himself for fear that he might be on the wrong side of something. He stood up for conservatism even when the country was lurching to the left and his views were not ‘what the voter wanted to hear’.

It was that dedication to principles he knew were right, even if they were not polling well, that inspired more than a generation of conservatives and shifted the country. There was the leadership. He didn’t shift his views or statements to fit the public sentiment. He shifted the public sentiment to his views by his statements. That is the kind of leadership we all want from a President and from those candidates who seek that office. Regardless of which way you may lean in your views, there is no denying that most of those who seek to be our Presidential nominee are not demonstrating that level of leadership.

Some apologists will argue that it is too early to begin campaigning for 2012 or that having the candidates go out and lead would undermine the position of Boehner in House. That is all nonsense. The candidates are more than happy to campaign for 2012 right now when all it involves is jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is popular. A show of leadership and strength from Presidential candidates would only help Boehner by deflecting some of the heat the Democrats are directly entirely at him and energizing the people to stand by the goals they voted for in 2010.

Taking a stand on principles is a risk. It could mean losing in 2012. But, if all we’re going to get to see from candidates is Obamaesque hiding out until things fall one direction and then jumping out to either claim responsibility or issue blame, then how are we to know who should lead us in 2012? Moreover, if that is what our candidates propose to do, are any of them worthy to lead us in 2012? It may sound harsh, but it must be said. Our nominee in 2012 needs to be a leader who can champion our values, not a politician who answers questions by saying nothing and avoids situations because they have risk.

We need to look beyond the image candidates cultivate and even beyond their records to see if they are leaders or simply followers who got lucky by being in the right places at the right times. Some of those running may not really share our values, but have been riding on the coat tails of conservative State legislatures. Their silence on issues on the national stage is a sign of their ideological emptiness. On the other hand, others have previously shown great leadership at the State level, but for some reason are gun shy on the national stage. To them go these words: step up. We have seen too many great conservative leaders fumble primaries by hiding what we admired about them under the cloak of campaign mundanity. We are looking for leaders who will champion conservative values, not facilitators to negotiate good with bad to give us less bad.

Despite all the bad that can be said about the Democrat leadership, the one thing that can’t be said is that they are spineless. They knowingly sacrificed an election to force through their agenda. You can’t negotiate with people who are willing to torpedo their own power in order to accomplish an agenda. That’s like trying to talk down a kamikaze. They have raised the stakes and shown they are willing to pay any price to gain their objectives. We need leaders who recognize that shift and adjust tactics and strategy to address it. So far such leadership has been conspicuously absent with but few exceptions. We need better.

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