Newt Gingrich is Yesterday’s Man

 

Will the Dream Team be Benched?

Newt Gingrich was introduced at CPAC by Calista, who generously thanked the many kind Americans they have met on the campaign trail. When he came on stage to an excited crowd, it was clearly no 2009, when he had entered through the crowd to his signature “Eye of the Tiger.” Maybe it’s the effect of copyright denying him playing his tune, but it seemed to take Newt a while to get going.

His focus was on the economy, though if he’s going to present an economic plan to America he will have to find a better way than invoking the name of Reagan every two minutes. He recalled Reagan’s bold colors speech at CPAC, and recalled what he achieved, which liberals thought then was “unrealistic” but turned out so successful.

It was almost halfway through the 10 minute slot that he finally got the crowd going, when he sent Prime Minister Harper a message that Canada won’t need China in a Gingrich White House.

He joked that we can track Fedex parcels, but the government can’t track 11 million illegal immigrants. Newt offered his own innovative solution, to send 11 million parcels to immigrants and track them to find them.

Newt promised he intends to change Washington, not accommodate it, prompting this observer to ponder when he decided to stop accommodating DC, given his ultimate insider status. Really, his attacks on the Washington, Republican or political “establishment” rings hollow for this consummate DC schmoozer.

His schmoozing has led him to form his own “conservative dream team” to challenge his supposed bête noire establishment, and you can count how many failed presidential nominee candidates are in the line-up for yourself.

The speech in truth hit the two problems: the GOP will not win by trumpeting Reagan in favour of substance, and Gingrich will not convince many beyond his base that he is anything but an establishment man. In both cases, he simply comes across as yesterday’s man.

Who will bring us a bright tomorrow?

A Populist CPAC, but where are the ideas?

Bookmark and Share Meeting Donald Rumsfeld today, the man who knows his knowns from his unknowns, he saw my media badge saying WhiteHouse12 and asked me “You’re from the White House?” I explained I was not, and we are a website covering the election, but I can’t be sure whether he was disappointed or not.

Being an election year, you would expect CPAC 2012 to be a populist fest of election themes, peppered with attacks on the Obama administration, and today’s line-up did not disappoint on that front. The worrying thing is that the slate of speakers, while inspiring the crowd, did not have ideas to inspire the folks with outside the conference hall. The speakers were long on broad principles but short on specifics.

CPAC 2012 Kicked off with a populist energy, but are speakers offering enough?

Marco Rubio got the crowd all whipped up, ready to be severely unwhipped by a windbag speech from Mitch McConnell. The House Senate Majority leader did the math well when he said that if you lose your job in the Obama economy it will take you 40 weeks to find a new one. However, his math failed him when he exceeded his 10 minute slot by some 20 minutes. Some disciplined editing down to 10 minutes would have given him a better speech. When he got a cheer at the end I couldn’t work out whether it was for his message or the fact that he had finished.

The schedule ran 30 minutes late for the rest of the day, and Michele Bachmann followed. Her speech was probably the most detailed of the day, focused on the series of foreign policy failures by the Obama administration. The former candidate launched a sustained attack on the policy failures, and blasted the president for not backing Mubarak, saying “Obama failed to stand by Mubarak and that helped fuel the revolution in Egypt … The president spurned the President of Egypt when he took his first foreign trip to Cairo. In an absolutely shocking move, he invited the Muslim Brotherhood to hear his speech when Mubarak’s policy was to keep the Brotherhood at arm’s length.”

Bachmann attacked the president for not standing by Israel, “Before Obama was elected, no one had ever heard of a United States president saying to the world that the United States is not a judeo-christian nation.  I am here to say we are.” She concluded “The president’s foreign policy does change the history of the world, which is why Barack Obama cannot have a second term as president.”

Rick Perry got the crowd going as well, focusing on the economy he said “Success on Wall Street shouldn’t come at the expense of Main Street.” With the crash on the way, Perry said “Folks on Wall Street who saw it coming, they made millions; folks who didn’t see it coming, they got bailed out.” His parting shot was intended to strike an ominous note, saying “I’m fearful of what the score’s gonna be if we let the president start the second half as a quarterback.”

More populist notes were struck by Herman Cain, who told CPAC “A lot of people thought that after the character assassination that was launched against me that Herman was going to shut up and sit down and go away… Ain’t going to happen.” On his 9-9-9 plan, Cain told conservatives to press candidates for federal office to embrace his flat-tax solution before they are elected. He also invited “Joe The Plumber” Samuel Wurzelbacher, who is running for Congress in Ohio’s 9th District, to take a bow.

None of the main speakers offered endorsement messages for the 2012 GOP nominees, preferring instead to talk more generically about the need to stop a second Obama term. A late addition to the speaker slate was Rand Paul who arguably matched, perhaps exceeded, the rapturous applause received by Cain. Paul asked if the President hated rich people and poor people with jobs, but then went on to state “The president doesn’t really hate all rich people, just those who don’t contribute to his campaign.” He then rallied “If you’re a crony, if you’re a buddy, just stop by the White House.”

Paul rightly reminded attendees of Ronald Regan’s “optimism,” a president who he said “turned a whole generation of Democrats into Republicans.” His parting shot was “Who will be that next Ronald Reagan?” This gets to the heart of what folks are feeling, which ran though this whole first day, feeling the need for inspiration, the need for a positive approach, the need for American exceptionalism.

What was lacking was any real depth to the conservative messages today, and it will take more than the invocation of the name of Ronald Reagan and repeating the wrongs of the incumbent to put a conservative into the White House. Reagan brought more than sunny optimism to the White House, he brought some strong and deep ideas on the economy and foreign policy as well. I didn’t hear the equivalent depth of ideas today.

Tomorrow will see Gingrich, Romney and Santorum take the stage, but will they bring any more than today’s speakers? I may not know the knowns or unknowns of what tomorrow holds, but I know I won’t be holding my breath.

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Video of Rick Perry’s 2012 CPAC Speech

Bookmark and Share  Texas Governor Rick Perry offered the over three conservatives gathered in D.C. at CPAC a very fiery speech that focussed on what America will be if we continue down the path that President Obama is taking us.  He did so in large part with an emphasis on one of the issues nearest and dearest to the Lone Star State Governor…..the Tenth Amendment.

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Video Of Rick Perry’s Decision to Suspend His Campaign and to Endorse Newt Gingrich

Bookmark and Share Below is video of Governor Perry endorsing Speaker Newt Gingrich after annoucning that he was suspending his own campaign for President.

According to Governor Perry;

“I believe Newt is a Conservative visionary who can transform our country.  We’ve had our differences which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?  The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God.  And I believe in the power of redemption for it is a central tenant of my Christian faith.  I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a Conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the Conservative movement.  The courage to tell those Washington interests to take a hike if that is in the best interest of our country.”  

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Newt under attack from a hidden source but is endorsed by Perry as the right man

Texas Governor Rick Perry stepped out of the Republican Presidential race in a dignified and gentlemanly manner this afternoon.

Perry is abandoning his run for his party’s nomination to face Democratic President Barack Obama on November 6, campaign sources said, and will endorse Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Perry scheduled a news conference in North Charleston, South Carolina, for 11 a.m. EST just two days before this Saturday’s crucial Republican presidential primary in the conservative Southern state, where he had hoped to revive his campaign.

“I’ve never believed that the cause of conservatism is embodied by one individual,” Mr. Perry said at a news conference here. “Our party and our conservative philosophy transcends any one individual.”

“I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me,” Mr. Perry said. “I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.”

“Newt is not perfect, but who among us is,” Mr. Perry said, in an apparent allusion to his three marriages. “The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek god. And I believe in the power of redemption for it is a central tenant of my Christian faith.”

Mr. Perry’s decision comes as Mr. Gingrich has picked up support in South Carolina during the past week of campaigning with the latest Rasmussen Poll showing Gingrich at 33%, leading Romney at 31% in South Carolina.  Monday’s debate performance on Fox News combined with the unofficial nod from Sarah Palin, has seen Gingrich surge in the polls over the last few days. Gingrich had called on his other conservative rivals to drop out so that conservative voters can coalesce around him as the alternative to Mr. Romney.

Perry’s support and endorsement of Gingrich couldn’t have come at a more welcome and critical time for the Gingrich campaign, as his second and former wife Marianne, is due to give an interview to be broadcast this evening on ABC news. It alleges former Speaker Gingrich asked her for an “open marriage” or a divorce in 1999, at the same time he was giving speeches around the country on family and religious values.

Most of the allegations have previously appeared in an interview printed last year in Esquire magazine. The general feeling and belief among commentators and supporters is that this is a “put-up,” by a non Democratic source in an attempt to derail Gingrich’s rise in the polls again. There are many who are concerned that Gingrich’s commitment on doing away with some of the poor practices in the Washington inner-belt, if elected, are motivating some of the dirtiest tricks seen in recent elections mostly from within his own party.

Gingrich has been direct and honest regarding the mistakes he has made in his personal past; he states that he has gone to god and sought forgiveness and reconciliation over those events.

Some sources in the media have gone as far as accusing those in the GOP establishment aligned to Romney with the attempted smear although; these are yet to be confirmed. However, even most Democratic commentators are surprised with the timing of the attack, and are steadfastly insistent that the source lies within the GOP, and not the Democratic machine itself.

Perry was clearly aware of the allegations to be broadcast on ABC tonight when saying, Newt is not perfect, but who among us is.” It is noteworthy in possession of the information surrounding the allegations to be broadcast tonight, Perry still felt strongly enough that Gingrich was the right candidate to lead the party into the general election and beat President Obama.

While South Carolina has been a renowned slugfest in the past, this campaign season has seen a determined effort by many in the establishment and conservative media, to anoint Romney ahead of Gingrich, Santorum & Perry and have the primary process over even before it has started.

The conservative and grassroots Tea Party movement have noticed the efforts to make a Romney victory in South Carolina, a coronation of his candidacy & seal the party nomination. There is no doubt, voters and supporters are now more concerned with issues of policy, and the need to have a strong powerful candidate, capable of beating President Obama in the fall.

If the latest effort to slur Gingrich, over widely known, and long held allegations, is identified as coming from a Romney source. Not only will Romney’s efforts to defeat Gingrich have been in vain, his political career will be well and truly over, regardless of the vast sums of money he has built up for the primary campaign.

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 Impact of Perry’s Decision to Suspends His Campaign and Endorse Newt Gingrich

Bookmark and Share   In what was probably the most sincere and eloquent speech of his 5 month long race for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing the candidacy of Newt Gingrich for President.  The decision which came in advance of what was an inevitable, single digit, last place showing in this Saturday’s  South Carolina Primary was not totally unexpected, but both its timing and the endorsement that came with it were.

In recent days it became clear that despite an endorsement of Rick Santorum by over 150 evangelical leaders, the evangelical base and conservative base of the G.O.P. was not coalescing around Santorum and continued to see both blocs dividing their vote between Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum.  At the same time, while Santorum seemed to be losing steam among those voting blocs, Newt was gaining momentum among them.  So much so that he even suggested that if Perry and Santorum really cared about the conservative cause, the two of them would drop out and get behind him.

Rick Perry apparently agreed and in his announcement, he issued a subtle call to arms for conservatives to indeed get behind Gingrich.

According to Perry, Gingrich is a “conservative visionary” and in a clear attempt to blunt the blow from an anticipated ABC News interview with Newt’s ex-wife Marianne, Perry stated;

“Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?” 

He added;

“The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my own Christian faith.”

The latter remarks will probably have more of a positive impact on Gingrich’s candidacy than Perry’s actual endorsement.

Some recent polls indicate that Perry only has the support of 2% of South Carolina primary voters and while not all of those supporters will simply flock to Newt because of Perry’s decision to support him, Perry’s words about redemption will resonate quite well among the broader base of evangelical voters at large in South Carolina.  Those words will go a long way in helping many of those undecided evangelicals to break for Newt rather than Santorum.

To a great degree, Perry’s decisions to suspend his campaign and endorse Newt Gingrich are less important than the timing of those decisions.

Before the day was less than half over, Perry’s announcement blurred the focus of two other headline grabbing bits of news that had it not been for the distraction of Perry’s announcement would have captured the headlines and all the attention.

The first was the continued leaking of the ABC News interview with Newt’s ex-wife, who described her revelations as career ending for the former Speaker.  The other news was the declaration by the Iowa State Republican Party to “unofficially” certify Rick Santorum as the actually winner in that state’s caucus.  Even though a recount has given Santorum 34 more than Mitt Romney the Party oficially ruled the caucus a virtual tie between Santorum and Romney.  The unusual ruling was based upon the fact that the results from 8 different precincts are missing.

The glitch allowed Santorum to technically declare himself the winner and give him the hope of changing the narrative that has until now, dominated the Republican nomination caucus, a narrative which made Mitt Romney the clear frontrunner as the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Given the few votes that separated Santorum from Romney in Iowa, and the fact that there are votes missing, Santorum would have already had a difficult time trying to change the existing perceptions about Romney’s electoral strength, but Governor Perry made it practically impossible for Santorum to do after he quickly replaced the Iowa Caucus headline with his own about the end of campaign and endorsement of Gingrich.

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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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What Is Shaping the South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary?

Bookmark and Share   One of the most unique things about South Carolina in regards to the early presidential nomination contests is the state’s substantial military demographic. It accounts for nearly 400,000 military veterans or 12 percent of the state’s voting age population.  Then there are about another additional 34,000 active duty service members who are stationed on military bases in South Carolina.

With such a large percentage of military voters, you would expect that based upon the claims that Ron Paul has more support from the military than any other candidate, Ron Paul is a shoo-in to win the South Carolina primary.  However, Dr. Paul is currently in fourth place, far behind Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, respectively.

So who does have a leg up on these military voters?

In 2008, John McCain,  a bona fide war hero and second time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, essentially began to lock up the nomination with a big win in South Carolina.  He was closely followed though by Mike Huckabee.  Mitt Romney came in a distant fourth behind Fred Thompson, and the candidate supposedly beloved by the military, Ron Paul came in fifth place by failing to even get 4% of the vote.

2008 South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary Results

John McCain 147,733 33.15% 18
Mike Huckabee 132,990 29.84% 6
Fred Thompson 69,681 15.63% 0
Mitt Romney 68,177 15.3% 0
Ron Paul 16,155 3.62% 0

This timed around, while it is hard to say who will come in second to Mitt Romney, but there is no denying that Romney will take first place honors.

In addition to a good organization and a well financed campaign, he has an advantage over other candidates within the South Carolina Party apparatus which Romney unofficially gained access to when he got the official endorsement of the state’s Governor, Nikki Haley.

But the race for second place will be exciting.

That contest should come down to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

And while that decision will be significantly influenced by South Carolina’s large military vote, even that voting bloc finds their top priority to be jobs, not national security.  With a 10% unemployment rate, even the military is beginning to fear the prospect of benefit cuts and the effects of President Obama’s call to downsize the armed forces.  It is this mix of military related economics which happens to be giving Mitt Romney an edge in the Palmetto State.

While he receives high marks from these military voters on economic matters, they also understand that Romney is strong on defense and his well designed national security agenda receives great approval from this voting bloc, much more so than even Ron Paul who many of these voters feel would weaken our defenses and directly hit them in their pockets at the same time.  All of this bodes well for Romney help works to his advantage as the significant socially conservative voting bloc in South Carolina end up splitting their vote between Santorum, Gingrich, and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Meanwhile, Rick Perry has launched his own ad aimed at coalescing the military vote behind him.

His hope is that between them and a portion of social conservatives, he might be able to hammer together a small coalition that is big enough to provide him with a surprise showing.  But the prospects for that happening are getting dimmer by the day.

Last week, an American Research Group poll noted that between the month’s of December and January, Romney had gained as many as 9 percentage points, while Newt Gingrich lost 9 percentage points and Rick Santorum gained 23 percentage points.  That trend would indicate that Santorum had what George H.W. Bush called the “big mo”.  But more recent polls have shown that Santorum’s surge has leveled off and the Mitt Romney continues to pick up some steam.  Newt had stopped hemorrhaging support in South Carolina but his new negative ant-capitalist strategy may not provide him with the boost he needs to overcome Romney.  He may now not even be able to surpass Santorum, who Gingrich narrowly defeated in New Hampshire.  As for Rick Perry, his movement in any direction has been minimal.

While no one can guarantee that Mitt Romney will in South Carolina, right now he must be the odds on favorite and as for the rest of the field, well it’s hard to say with certainty that Gingrich is out and that Santorum will pull of a second place finish, but that is likely and also likely is a a Ron Paul fourth place finish, followed by Rick Perry and rounding off the back of the pack, former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

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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.

These Debates Could Be Game Changers

Come on.  We’ve heard these candidates in just over one million debates so far this year.  Another one?  Another two actually, this weekend leading up to the New Hampshire debates.  And these two debates could definitely wreak havoc on the standings going into New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney is the undisputed front runner.  Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fans at this point are dreaming if they think their candidates are on a solid trajectory to win.  Not winning Iowa should be a clear sign to heavily religious social conservatives like Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and Newt that getting past Romney is going to be nearly impossible with a crowded field.  Bachmann got the hint, and Perry almost did.  As for Ron Paul, maybe if he runs two more times he can win enough support to break out of his traditional 5-10% polling finish.  Look, he’s already doing better this year than last time, and last time he did better than the time before.  That was Ross Perot’s and Ralph Nader’s problems.  They quit trying too soon.

Back to Mitt Romney.  You know he is back on the punching bag hook tonight, a place he hasn’t been since the very first debates.  Santorum wants a piece of him, Newt wants a piece of him, Jon Huntsman finally qualified for another debate and you know he wants to take Romney down a peg.  I think Perry will try to just get through the night and might take a few shots at Santorum.  As far as the #1 conservative attack dog of other conservatives, Michele Bachmann will not be there tonight to claim that Perry is in bed with pharmaceutical companies,  Newt Gingrich is pro-partial birth abortion and the number one Freddie Mac adviser responsible for the economic collapse, and whatever she might cook up about Rick Santorum while mostly leaving Paul and Romney alone.  So I think Romney will be taking the hits and the other candidates can relax their guard a little bit.

Now, on to the x factor in debates.  Newt Gingrich was finished this summer after his campaign collapsed and he proved he was in the top 1% by buying his wife jewelry.  I mean how out of touch can you get.  But, he has climbed back into contention through powerful and commanding debate performances.  Just two weeks ago, Gingrich was the front runner.  The difference between Gingrich’s fall and other candidates falls is that their demises can be tied directly to debate performance.  Bachmann with her claims about HPV and other wild attacks on the candidates, Perry with his glaring gaffe, Cain who offered 999 and 999, oh yeah and 999.  It wasn’t enough substance to save him when scandal gave nervous supporters a reason to doubt.  Huntsman affirmed his global warming stance.

Gingrich hurt himself with his illegal immigration stance, but his downfall can be attributed to the harsh attacks he faced over the last two weeks from Romney’s friends, paid allies, and former foes.  Ron Paul also attacked Newt, not Romney, with harsh ads in Iowa.  Paul has probably done the same math I have, but mistakenly thinks he has a shot with Newt’s base over Romney’s.

The debates are ad free.  They are also friend free.  The only way Romney can attack another candidate tonight without attacking that candidate directly is to pay off the moderator or a fellow candidate.  On that stage, it is going to be Santorum’s “what smells” debate face versus Perry’s memory versus Huntsman’s out of touch moderate stances versus Paul’s old shaky finger wagging versus Romney’s slick hair and nice demeanor versus Newt’s heavy hitting and quick wit and ideas.

If these debates garner an audience, this is all upside for Newt, and downside for front runner Mitt Romney and social conservative front runner Rick Santorum.  In an instance of incredible luck for the candidates in this New Hampshire debate, the New England Patriots get this weekend of playoff action off.

A Republican Occupy Protester and Republican Gay Activist Lead Rick Perry in New Hampshire

Bookmark and Share  If a recent Suffolk University poll is an accurate indication of voter sentiments in New Hampshire, Rick Perry is going to have a tough time not only explaining why he should be President, but simply explaining why he should still be running for President.

According to the Suffolk University poll, Rick Perry shares last place in New Hampshire with activist gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger and is being beaten by former Democrat and Governor of Louisiana Buddy Roemer, a pro-Occupy Wall Street candidate who whines about how nobody cares about his candidacy.

The poll question and results were as follows;

Q7. If the Republican Primary for President of the United States were held today and the candidates were {alphabetical} Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Fred Karger, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum for whom will you vote or toward whom would you LEAN at this time?


Now I am not willing to conclusively state that Perry is done.  Some very strange things happen in politics…….very strange.  And we find ourselves surprised all the time.  Between that and the fact that a week in politics is a lifetime, you never know what miracle may occur to propel Rick Perry in South Carolina and beyond.

But at his point in time, if Rick Perry can not beat a relatively unknown, gay Republican who runs to the left of the Republican base, Perry will likely be the butt of more jokes in the conservative South Carolina Republican presidential primary, than a recipient of votes.

Just something for Perry think about before Saturday nights, debate.

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Perry’s Very Telling Decision to Stay in the Race

Bookmark and Share    When it became clear that Rick Perry was going to come in fifth place in the Iowa Caucus, it seemed as though his hopes to recapture the lead that he once held in the G.O.P. nomination contest were dashed.  The only two good bits of news to come out of Iowa for Perry was the fact that he won two of the 99 counties, the only candidate to win any county aside from Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, and that he did not have a totally embarrassing last place showing.  That distinction went to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose sixth place finish put her ahead of only Jon Huntsman, the one major candidate who did not do any campaigning in the Hawkeye State and who summed up his appreciation for Iowa by saying “who cares”.

Then the writing seemed to be on the wall when Governor Perry came out to address his supporters and told them that he was going back to Texas to reassess his campaign.

But a strange thing happened to Governor Perry on his way home.  Between the time he decided to reevaluate his campaign and the time he woke up the following morning, an infusion of optimism compelled him to type a Twitter feed that read;

“And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State,” Perry tweeted, “Here we come South Carolina!!!

The electronic announcement came as a pleasant surprise to his campaign staff and stunned the political world.  Few thought it possible for Perry to continue with his campaign after making an inference to how bad things were by stating the need to “reassess” his chances of winning the nomination.  Most experts agree that given the poor showing and all the time and money that he invested in Iowa,  no sincere evaluation of his campaign have  possibly found any promising reason for Perry to stay in the race.

From my vantage point, I can only assume that  Rick Perry believes that if doesn’t give up too early, the short history of this election which has created a new frontrunner every month, will repeat itself enough times to give him another opportunity to be in that position.  Perry probably assumes that Rick Santorum will not be able to sustain the attacks he is undoubtedly about to face and will not have the money to respond to those attacks effectively.  As a result, he is holding out hope for another opportunity to became the clear viable alternative to Romney.

But there may very well be another reason why Perry has found the strength to continue his fight.

Not long before the Governor tweeted his battle cry and aimed his campaign guns at South Carolina, it was revealed that a group of national evangelical leaders will gather in Texas for the second time in five months and determine who other Mitt Romney, they can all get behind.

Having a very good relationship with these religious and their associates, Perry may know something about what they are inclined to decide and it just might be responsible for his going from the need to take a close look at if and how his campaign could move beyond Iowa, to determining that he still has a chance to make a last stand in  South Carolina.

No matter what was exactly responsible for Perry’s change of heart, it is mainly a leap of faith.  Especially since Rick Santorum’s surprise strength in Iowa makes him the more likely candidate for movement conservatives to get behind.

Iowa Faith and Family Leader Bob Vander Plaats, a leading voice among evangelicals, had already issued a personal endorsement  of Rick Santorum before the Iowa Caucus but now, in its wake, he called on Newt Gingrich to reassess his candidacy, in hopes of mobilizing conservatives to rally behind Santorum.  Gingrich came in ahead of Perry but Vander Plaats’ plea to Gingrich came before Perry surprised everyone by his decision to stay in the race.  Had it been known that he intended to remain in the race, Vander Plaats would have certainly requested the same of Perry that he requested of Newt Gingrich.

So it would be hard to imaging that evangelicals leaders would choose to get behind Perry instead of Santorum, but either way, it would seem that Rick Perry is counting on some kind of divine intervention to turn things around for him.  And as for those evangelical leaders, I have a word of advice.  It took God seven days to create the earth but with less time than that remaining before New Hampshire, if their main goal is stop to Mitt Romney, they better get moving fast.

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Iowa Recap

Romney won, Bachmann quit, Santorum is rising, Paul is maintaining his status quo, Newt is struggling, Perry has faith, and Huntsman….who?  Iowa recapped:

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney won in Iowa. Honestly?  No big deal. Romney will gain momentum from winning, but when people look at the numbers they will realize that if Michele Bachmann wasn’t in the race, Santorum would have won comfortably.  If Santorum wasn’t in the race, Newt and Perry probably would have both outpolled Romney.  In Iowa, he got his fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives split the rest.  But it’s not all bad for Romney.  In fact, while Romney may have come to a predictable finish, he won by choosing his opponent.  Gingrich was a shoe in to win Iowa barely more than a week ago.  Instead, Santorum now has the social conservative momentum and Romney should easily win New Hampshire and could win South Carolina.  So Romney’s win is:

Good for: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum      Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman

Rick Santorum

A shocking surprise to some, a mild surprise for others, Santorum has Huckabee’d Iowa.  With a great ground game, time, hard work, and the luck of Newt Gingrich being destroyed by Romney, Inc, Michele Bachmann, and the Republican establishment, Santorum is finally getting his shot at vetting.  Already, he is being called a war monger and “big government conservative”.  But Santorum’s rise may be too late in the game for a vetting process to destroy him.  Many social conservatives have been waiting for a reason to believe that Santorum could win.  From the day he started running the narrative has been that Santorum is simply unelectable on a national scale.  So, Santorum’s second place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney   Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann

Ron Paul

Paul’s third place finish is certainly not what the Paul camp was hoping for.  Ron Paul came very close to breaking free from his libertarian ceiling, but in the end social conservatives showed they would rather take a gamble on the unvetted Rick Santorum instead of giving Ron Paul the ‘turn’ he was starting to experience.  Paul has been passed over as the anti-Romney.  He may be able to turn things around in New Hampshire, but a third or worse finish in New Hampshire should be a clear signal to Paul that the revolution is over.  Paul’s third place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney  Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Even if Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race and split their votes on a pro rata share, Newt would still not have passed Mitt Romney.  The fact is, Romney ran an incredible, strategic dismantling of Newt without even breaking a sweat.  In the meantime, Newt refused to go dishonestly negative, but managed plenty of headlines saying “Newt Goes on the Attack”.  Newt is realizing in time for New Hampshire, he won’t win with a positive campaign.  Can he win with a negative one?  New Hampshire will probably go Romney’s way.  But Newt needs South Carolina.  Without South Carolina, he won’t have the momentum to take Florida and Florida is the key.  So Newt’s dismal fourth place finish is:

Good for: Mitt Romney   Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann

Rick Perry

Perry’s fifth place win got him to re-think his campaign.  But with Michele Bachmann choosing to drop out, perhaps Perry thinks he still has hope.  He should have decided to stay in Texas.  Perry’s placing is:

Bad for: Rick Perry

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann barely registered.  Iowa was her last hope to connect with social and evangelical conservatives and she failed.  Fortunately, this provided the wake up call she needed to see the end of the race.  Bachmann has decided to drop out of the race and return to Minnesota.  Unfortunately for Bachmann, she has not built the cult following that Sarah Palin did.  Hopefully she will continue to be a strong voice for the TEA party.

Good for: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry   Bad for: Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney

As for the other contender, Jon Huntsman’s disrespectful snub of Iowa, especially in light of Romney’s stronger finish in the state and momentum, seals Huntsman’s irrelevancy.

Groundhog Day Came to Iowa Early and Rick Santorum Saw His Shadow

Bookmark and Share   Iowa proved to be an incredibly dramatic opening contests for the Republican presidential nomination that even included the added suspense of missing and improperly recorded vote totals.  But by 2:30 in the morning, all was resolved and the results gave Mitt Romney a 8 vote victory.  The closeness of the race did not help Mitt Romney but it certainly helped Rick Santorum, the candidate who came from so far behind and so close to defeating Romney, that in the end Iowa really goes down in the books as more of a near loss for Romney than a real win.  And it was the incredible closeness of the race that changed everything, at least in the short term.

Several days prior to the Caucus, I correctly predicted the order in which the candidates would finish.  So the fact that Santorum finished second should not have been a total surprise.  But the fact that he came within 5 votes of winning is what changed everything.  As a result, contrary to other predictions, Iowa wound up mattering more than many expected, including myself. Exactly how much more though is up to Rick Santorum.

In addition to ending Michele Bachmann’s campaign and giving movement conservatives a chance to divide their vote up among fewer candidates, Iowa shifted the focus on to a new contender…..Rick Santorum.  But how much that matters depends upon Rick Santorum’s ability to capitalize on his new found fame.  If he fails to come out of New Hampshire and South Carolina stronger than he was going in to them, then Iowa’s impact on the nomination will prove to have been minimal.

The one thing we do know is that the strong showing they provided Rick Santorum with was a political version of Groundhog Day……not the movie, but the actual holiday.  Santorum, the former Senator from Pennsylvania, emerged from Iowa much like Punxsutawney  Phil, the famed Pennsylvania groundhog who the nation watches as he emerges from his burrow.  If he sees his shadow, it is said  to indicate that winter weather will last longer than we may want.  In Rick Santrorum’s case, his come from behind split decision in Iowa has cast a shadow on the Republican race which means that this nomination contest remains contested and will probably do so far longer than Republicans would like.

That situation was arrived at due to both Romney and Santorum.

In addition to running a strong campaign that was waged on principle, persistence, and elbow grease, Santorum never became the type of target that everyone who surged to the top found themselves to become. This helped him win voters over and keep them in his column.  Had Santorum surged to the top like Newt Gingrich did weeks before voting began, he probably would have fallen victim to the same circumstances of those before him and now he will have a hard time proving that he can withstand such scrutiny.

As for Romney, although he technically won, to really win, he needed to stun Republicans with a strong first place finish with 30 or more percent of the vote.  That would have changed the entire storyline coming out of Iowa.  Instead of Rick Santorum being the main focus of the results, the real headline would have been that Mitt Romney finally exceeded the 25% ceiling of support that has become his greatest hurdle.  And he would have done so in a state where he was hardly considered a favorite.  Instead, not only did Romney almost lose to someone who was in the single digits a week before the caucuses, he actually won with 6 votes less than he received in 2008 when he came in second to Mike Huckabee.  In 2008, Romney received 25.19% of the Iowa Caucus vote, just about the same as he did this time, but the raw total was 30,021 votes.  In yesterday’ s caucus Romney won with 30, 015 votes.

Given that this was Romney’s second time around and he actually lost support, last night was really  not a win for him.  In the end, all that Iowa did for Romney was confirm that Republicans are still not excited about him and would like a better candidate.

So the race goes on and Romney is poised to become the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to ‘technically’ win Iowa and New Hampshire.  The problem is that between the reality of his poor showing in Iowa relative to Rick Santorum’s near defeat of him, and  Romney’s win in new Hampshire being considered a given, those victories may not provide Mitt with the momentum he needs to assure himself of a win in South Carolina where Mitt may find himself either in his last stand or finally on course to winning the nomination.

Newt Gingrich, who currently leads in New Hampshire has been trying to build a firewall in South Carolina in the hope of finally establishing himself as the alternative to Romney.  And Newt is looking for a fight with Mitt and is ready to provide him with some payback for all the negative ads that he believes Romney is behind.

Then there is Rick Perry.

Perry had time to sleep on his fifth place finish in Iowa and while he headed to bed with thoughts of ending his campaign dancing in his head, he woke up ready to fight and even Tweeted a battle cry that declared he is moving on to the Palmetto State.

And not to be Rick-rolled will be the other Rick, Rick Santorum, the new great conservative hope.

If Santorum can run strong enough in South Carolina to prevent Perry and Gingrich from getting out of the single digits or mid teens, at least one of the two will drop out and give Santorum the opportunity to bring their numbers in to his vote totals in the Florida primary which immediately follows South Carolina.

As for Ron Paul, given how far out of the mainstream his national security policies are and given his lack of  legislative accomplishments in almost two decades in Congress, in order for him to have a major impact on future primary nomination contests, he needed a big win in Iowa.  Add to that the buzz about polls which showed him actually in first place over the course of the weekend prior to the Caucus, and what you have is a candidate who failed to live up to expectations, and failed to meet a level of support that would have helped him overcome his perceived electability problems.  Although Ron Paul ran well and his strong showing can not be denied, it was not strong enough to help him gain the type of traction that he needs.   As a result, Ron Paul’s 22% percent in Iowa was probably his high watermark and from here on out, while he will remain a presence in the race, his impact on it will be about as significant as it was in his previous two runs for President.

Meanwhile the immediate effects of Iowa are apparent.

Since last night, interest in Santorum reached such heights that his website crashed and he collected $1 million in donations.   That is a good indication of just how his strong showing in Iowa has indeed provided him with the opportunity to become the real viable alternative to Romney that many have been looking for.

Another good sign for Santorum is that several national evangelical leaders have decided to get together and determine which of the remaining candidates they can all get behind in an attempt to be certain that Romney is denied the Republican nomination.  Given the circumstances, at the moment, Santorum would seem to be the most likely beneficiary of such an alliance.

At the moment I am not sure what will happen.  I have a feeling that while Rick Santorum may now be considered the Great Conservative Hope, he will ultimately be like another great hope……Duane Bobick, the 197o’s boxing star who was jokingly refered to as the “Great White Hope”.   Back in 1977, the biggest sporting event of the year became a much anticipated match between Bobick and future legend Ken Norton.  Bobick had a a 38-0 record with 32 KO’s and when he entered the ring with Norton, millions were anticipating an epic fight between two extraordinary athletes.   Less than 40 seconds in to the first round, Norton landed  an overhand right to Bobick’s throat and after just one minute into the fight Bobick was counted out.  A large part of me believes that this is Romney’s nomination and that Santorum will be the Duane Bobick of presidential politics.

Romney is still best poised to lock up the nomination soon after Florida.  However; if the inevitability of a Romney candidacy becomes so obvious, and triggers the far right base of the G.O.P. to finally unite behind one candidate in an attempt to stop Romney, this could be either a long, drawn out battle or a quick turning of the tables.  My biggest fear is that if conservatives really can not accept Mitt Romney and do not settle on who his one opponent should be, we could just find ourselves with the first brokered convention since 1976.

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Rick Perry Considers If There is a Way Forward for Him on the Road to the White House

Bookmark and Share  After a poor fifth place showing in the Iowa Caucuses, Governor Rick Perry gave a a very gracious concession speech in  which he announced that with great prayer and reflection, he would head home to Texas and determine if there is a way forward for him in the Republican presidential nomination.
Perry polled a sobering 11% percent in the Caucus with a total of approximately 12,300 votes.  It was less than 3,000 votes behind 4th place finisher Newt Gingrich and twice as many votes as Michele Bachmann who took 6% of the vote and finished ahead of only Jon Huntsman who did not campaign in Iowa.
Given the large amount of time and financial resources that Perry invested in to Iowa, his inability to break through as a top tier candidate would seem unlikely to change as the campaign moves to New Hampshire and beyond.  The poor showing will severely hamper Perry’s ability to raise money and now finds himself in a tough position to build the confidence in voters that he needs to prove to them that he will be electable.
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