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.

Affair Story Could Change Minds

Herman Cain may not have impressed pundits with his handling of the sexual harassment and assault charges that were leveled at him with no proof, and in some cases no names attached to the victims.  But he has managed to keep many of his loyal supporters from losing faith.  Support from Cain’s wife and his own direct denials turned a potentially ugly situation into a he said/she said where his supporters had a reason to rally around him and his detractors simply had one more negative thing to say about him.

Now, someone who Cain describes as someone he thought was a friend is coming out and alleging a 13 year affair with Cain.  Cain apparently had knowledge ahead of time that she was going to come out and attempted a pre-emptive denial.  The big difference here is that Cain did know her, remembers that he knows her, knew she was going to come out with this allegation, and considered her a friend.  People who you think are your friends don’t usually make up stories about 13 year affairs.

The problem with this story is that if it changes peoples’ minds about Cain’s character, then every other dismissed accusation is back on the table.  If Cain did it and decides to come clean and admit to an affair, he can forget the support and especially the trust of his supporters.  If he continues to deny this affair, he will keep his loyal supporters but may not gain enough support back to regain relevance.

The best thing that could happen for Cain’s campaign at this point is for one of the women who made accusations to come out apologetically admitting that she made the story up.  Either that, or an alibi.

Cain Not Catering to Sissies

It has been a busy news day for Herman Cain.  First, he said he’s been to 57 states so far, then it came out he’s been in a church with a racist pastor for 20 years, then he gave a speech and kept confusing Iraq and Afghani….oops, sorry, that was all Obama.

Cain screwed up on his Libya answer.  It took Cain more time to think of if he agreed with Obama’s decision to invade our Libyan allies than it took Obama to think about doing it in the first place.  I’m sure you’ve seen the video by now, and it’s pretty painful.  Not quite Perry painful, but still painful.  You can see the video here.

Darn it!  That was Obama again.  My bad.

Cain is in trouble though for something pretty legitimate.  Something that will cost him the Liberal female vegan vote.  Apparently, Cain said he likes a lot of meat on his pizza.  Of course, with his recent sex scandals, we all know what he really meant.

Do you think I’m joking?  Apparently Donna Brazille, Democrat strategist, read into Cain saying he wanted more toppings on his pizza in light of his “woman troubles”.

If disrespecting women by saying he likes more toppings on his pizza wasn’t bad enough, Cain made it even worse by insinuating that “manly men” like more meaty toppings on their pizza and that wanting vegetables on your pizza makes you a “sissy”.  We have not received the official response from PETA yet.

If the left thinks that loving meat on his pizza is going to make Republicans decide to not support Cain, they have another thing coming.  If they think attacking Cain for saying veggie pizza is for sissies is going to do anything other than infuriate Republicans who are sick and tired of obvious media bias, they really haven’t been paying attention.

On a personal note: I don’t like Cain’s 9-9-9 plan and I do think he lacks foreign policy smarts (not quite as bad as Obama, but pretty close).  But if the media keeps attacking him for stupid stuff like this, I’m gonna have to support him purely out of spite.

CNBC versus the GOP

Last night the GOP candidates went into hostile Michigan to face a hostile set of moderators who were booed into sticking to economic issues by the crowd after an unfair detour against Herman Cain.  In all, the night turned into somewhat of a circus.  Hopefully, the GOP will shun CNBC in the future, as this was the worst and most unprofessional case of moderation we have seen.    But aside from that, let’s get to the winners and losers.  First up…

It floored me when they tried to ask if companies should be making a profit or growing jobs.  Excuse me, but how the heck do you create jobs if you aren’t making a profit?? Gingrich’s response was beautiful. Watching the moderator rolling her eyes when Gingrich said a 30 second answer on healthcare was ridiculous was fun to watch.  But my favorite answer of Gingrich’s was on education, where he offered a real life example of a real life solution that addresses the issue of education that is getting exponentially expensive with much cheaper results.  As someone who works full-time, is a full-time grad student and has been in college for a decade following various business and religious pursuits, I connected with Gingrich’s answer and could not agree more.  This morning Neil Boortz in a morning phonecall to WOKV implied that Republicans needed to worry about who could beat Obama, not who would be the best President speaking of Newt Gingrich.  Bull.  Gingrich keeps winning debates because he is the smartest man on that stage.  And he made a joke out of those bombastic, rude moderators.

Rick Santorum did well.  This doesn’t mean anything, he still can’t win.  But he did highlight his leadership on things like medical savings accounts and gave viewers no reason to mark him down.  He has struggled in debates, but performed well last night.  Ron Paul also did a good job.  He avoided saying anything outlandish and produced a solid, constitutionalist approach.  Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Huntsman also did pretty well, though his attempt at “answer this in 30 seconds?” humor sounded like a lame, screwed up retelling of a good joke.

Mitt Romney needs to understand his precarious position.  He is stuck at 30%.  The rest of the GOP voters are looking for not-Mitt-Romney as their candidate.  His smoothness, economic savvy, and gaffe free debate performances have gotten him this far (along with a great deal of establishment money).  He needs to figure out how to get himself the rest of the way.  He has to find a way to make Social Conservatives trust him. Mitt, if you are listening, make a major statement in favor of state personhood amendments.  Consider that step one to breaking into the 40s in the polls.

Herman Cain also has hit a roadblock, but it is a policy roadblock.  I think many viewers were left with the feeling that if nuclear missiles were airborne from China heading for the US, President Cain would be on the phone with the Chinese President telling him how his bold plan, the 9-9-9 plan, could solve their problems by growing China’s economy.  9-9-9 is to Herman Cain what Windex was to Tula’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  This one dimensionalism will leave him open to a Gingrich rise.  On the other hand, Cain did very well defending himself against accusations which are more and more looking like racist smears from the Axelrod/Democrat machine.

Rick, Rick, Rick.  By the way, if you want to see the sexism of the left, just watch how long Perry’s crash and burn stays in the media cycle and blogosphere compared to a Palin or Bachmann gaffe.  Talk about not being ready for primetime.  I think Perry likes to start talking and get rolling, and that’s why he sometimes forgets what he was talking about mid-sentence.  No excuses.  You are running for President of the United States.  Running before you secure the ball is how you lose games.  Running your mouth before you have your answer and grasp on the issues is what makes Presidents say stupid things.  E.g. Barack Obama talking about police officers who arrested his professor friend.

Cain and Gingrich Capital Rise With Debate

Mitt Romney should take notice.  The Cain/Gingrich debate is EXACTLY what Conservatives are looking for.  It is something today’s liberals and Republican posers simply won’t do.  The two candidates from Georgia sat down with no time limits, no moderators, and no attacks on each other, they spent an hour and a half laying bold, smart, outside the box proposals on the table.  They complemented one another and tossed questions to each other that built each other up.  It wasn’t about me versus you.  There was no mud, no dirty politics.  It was pure and simple ideas and a clear demonstration why these two candidates deserve every Conservative’s consideration.  If Mitt Romney is smart, he will be begging to be part of the next debate, because his fiscal conservative, establishment support is not going to win him this primary by itself.

At the beginning of the debate, Cain and Gingrich stood side by side and joked about what the 2012 ticket might look like.  Actually, that’s not such a bad idea.

I got done watching the debate feeling much better about the GOP field this year.  Cain has been boxed in by his 999 plan in previous recent debates.  In this debate be broke out and showed that he is a far more complex and intelligent candidate.  He finally had a chance to explain his Social Security private option.  Their mutual respect and support helped lend Cain additional credibility.

Newt has been stellar in uncomfortable media run debates.  He soared even more in this debate.  Newt oozes leadership, and even in this debate was in charge.  It would be interesting to see if Newt would still rule the roost with Romney at the table as well.  At any rate, to the extent that this debate is replayed and seen by more Americans, Newt’s star will continue rise.  This debate highlighted Newt’s intelligence and communication skills.

Hopefully we will see more of these type of debates, and hopefully many more people will watch them.  And if the GOP wants to win in 2012, it would be great to see if Obama would step up and give this format a shot.

What about Newt?

If any campaign staffers at Newt 2012 are listening, this might be an idea looking in to.  Over the last few posts, I have lamented about the constant, typical response I get when I ask what people think about Newt Gingrich.  But what I have also found is that Newt rarely enters the conversation.  More often, when the topic of the 2012 primary comes up the topics are why we don’t trust Romney, why we used to like Cain, and what the heck went wrong with Perry.  Gingrich is having a hard time finding his way into the conversation.

So here is a strategy idea for Newt’s staffers: tell your supporters to ask their friends “What about Newt?”.  You could put this on your Facebook page, include it in your newsletter, and circulate the idea among staffers.  When the 2012 primary comes up as a topic of conversation, or any aspect of it, ask “What about Newt?”.

I’ve discovered that many people say they like Newt or that they like his idea, but only when he actually comes up in conversation.  What Newt needs to do to make his third place polling relevant is dominate the conversations in American kitchens like he has dominated the debates.

Time to thin the herd

All is not lost!  Yes, it was an ugly night for several GOP candidates.  Newt’s frustration with the format is certainly understandable.  It made for great television, but it was a bad debate.  However, there were some glimmers of hope, starting with the Vegas Champ…

Newt Gingrich.  I didn’t give Newt the win last time because I didn’t think his campaign would see a boost.  After this debate, I think it will.  Newt once again is the adult in the room.  He puts himself above the fray and really acts as a second moderator.  Voters should give Newt a second look.  Give Newt seven debates with Barack Obama and Obama might even drop out of the race before November.  I would love to see these debates as more candidates drop out and more time is given.  Newt has been so supportive of other candidates that his questions of other candidates carried a great deal of weight and were therefore more devastating.  Cain will not survive the 999 barrage, look for Newt to pick up steam.  Newt’s statement on faith put him squarely in the majority of conservative thought.  Newt’s biggest slip up was on appearing weak on states rights.  Another candidate who performed well, but likely won’t see much change because of it was…

Mitt Romney.  Romney was once again the big punching bag, and once again hit back.  He continued to defend his healthcare program as a state program and did pretty well.  But here Newt hit him hard on the big government aspect of it.    Romney kept his cool when being shouted down by Rick Santorum and talked over by Rick Perry.  Romney screwed up on Cain’s 999 plan trying to argue that Cain’s plan would add federal taxes to state taxes.  Excuse me, Mr. Romney, but you already pay bushels of apples and oranges.  Don’t feel bad, every candidate but Cain and Newt seemed to forget that 999 would eliminate our current tax code.  In the end, especially with no Huntsman, Romney’s got his support base solidified and did nothing to hurt that. Unfortunately, this is the last good report on a candidate performance in this review.  Although, it wasn’t terrible for everyone, especially…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele, Michele, Michele.  First, Obama took us to Libya, THEN, he took us into Africa!  Oops, Libya is in Africa.  But again, if Joe Biden can be VP, we shouldn’t be too hard on Bachmann for her frequent misspeaks.  Aside from that, she did well in another forgettable performance/turned stump speech.   As a tax litigation attorney though, I am disappointed in her evaluation of Cain’s 999 plan.  A VAT because every corporation in the manufacturing process pays 9%?  What does our current corporate tax do?  Same thing.  Shame on you Michele.  But most people won’t figure that out, so you’re good.  We will see if the media picks up on Bachmann’s idea of a $1 poor tax.  Bachmann won’t see any uptick from this debate.  Another candidate with no uptick or downtick…

Ron Paul. Paul is good on state’s rights.  The other candidates would do well to learn some things from him.  On the other hand, we heard a lot of the same platitudes and fuzzy one liners that leave us scratching our heads about if Paul actually has a viable plan.  Get rid of the income tax?  Oh, ok.  Is that like repealing Medicare part D?  Would be nice, but not a priority?  Paul came out with a new economic plan that cuts a trillion in spending.  Worth taking a look at, but didn’t get much play last night.  He will maintain his small support base, but with his vagueness and legend over substance approach this debate won’t give him a bump.  But at least he won’t lose support, like…

Herman Cain.  Cain gave the media some pretty good quotes last night.  Would he shut down Guantanamo to negotiate with terrorists?  Kinda sounded like it.  Apples and Oranges?  Cain, that is simply not Washington speak.  Cain looked amateurish.    He is an amateur though, so he may get a pass for the inability to articulate his 999 plan in a way that Americans can understand and latch on to.  Fortunately, his opponents weren’t much better.  In fact, only Newt seemed to have a clue how 999 works, but he wasn’t about to throw Cain a bone.  Cain right now is riding on populism, but poor debate performances can sink that ship (Bachmann, Perry).  In fact, I think it did sink two ships last night, starting with…

Rick Santorum.  Rick continues to be an advocate for the family.  He continues to present strong conservatism.  But his discussion with Romney early on just set a bad tone.  He reminded me of an angry teenager.  It was unprofessional and amateurish.  It’s been good to have Santorum in these debates for the most part, but after last night he needs to drop out and endorse a social conservative who can still beat Romney.  You’re not going to win, Rick Santorum.  At this point you are hurting more than helping.  But at least Santorum did better than…

Rick Perry.  Geez.  I don’t want to sound politically incorrect, but Perry seemed…slow.  Can we still use that term?  When Romney was answering and Perry was slowly drawling over him and droning on, I couldn’t help but laugh.  But it got worse as the night went on.  Perry, who gave instate tuition to illegals and opposes a full border fence, went after Romney for hiring a landscaping company that hired illegal aliens.  And that wasn’t the only 2008 unfair attack that Perry dug up.  Even when Perry made a good point (We need to uh, look at, uh the…darn, which amendment was it again?  Oh yeah, tenth amendment for uh…issues) it was lost in translation.  Perry was put in his place over and over.  It was a complete dud.  Even his distancing from Pastor Jeffers was not believable.  The best we got from Perry was a promise that next week he will have a tax plan. The good news is that even Rick Perry had a better week than…

Barack Obama.  Rumor has it, after a bunch of his tour supplies were stolen, that his teleprompter is currently being interrogated by Iranian sponsored Al Qaida terrorists in Mexico.  Although, there have also been alleged sightings of his teleprompter in Zuccoti park, smoking a joint and displaying a message about being overworked and underpaid.

Yes, he can?

In the volatility of the Republican 2012 primary, one thing is for sure.  Calling this race now would be like predicting the Superbowl in September.  How ’bout them Eagles.  Of course, I called the Eagles faltering before the season started.  I’m usually pretty good with my football picks.  So, allow me to apply some of that prophetic magic here.  FYI, this post is not for the faint of heart.  I’m just giving it to you straight.

Romney is all set as the Republican establishment candidate.  He has had that spot locked up really since before Mitch Daniels dropped out of the race.  Now the one stable thing in this race is that Romney will get the establishment vote.  He will also get a lot of mainstream Republican votes.  But he is going to run into a real issue, and that is with the anti-establishment movement within the Republican party.  All that is about to blow wide open this week as the NYT releases a story about opinions among establishment Republicans of the TEA party.  The GOP is about to have a civil war on its hands.  Whether they can recover by next November will be huge in determining whether or not Barack Obama is President in 2013.  Mitt Romney absolutely must nail down his conservative support and soon, or he will lose Iowa, South Carolina and Florida.

Cain's 999 plan could be his undoing

I like Herman Cain a lot.  I think he would make a great Vice President.  I think he would be a star on the campaign trail.  I think he would bring a lot of conservatives to the table and would bring the TEA party and anti-establishment wing to the table.  Here’s the problem: Herman Cain’s 9 9 9 plan sucks.  He would do better to drop that plan completely and advocate a Fairtax, which I also oppose for various reasons you can find here.  But even the Fairtax is better than 9 9 9.  Cain’s 9 9 9 plan has several Achilles’s heels hidden in its simplicity.  Perhaps the worst is the 9% flat tax on corporation’s gross profits minus purchases and dividends.  Unless Cain plans to include payroll with purchases, his 9% flat tax could turn into an effective 99% tax, or even higher, on low margin service industries with high labor costs.  But simplicity and feel good soundbites are what drives the Cain campaign.  Sometimes those soundbites are the common sense we are all thinking, but nobody who represents us is saying.  In those times, I love Herman Cain.  Other times it’s not much better than the soundbites written on a Wall Street mob sign.  Great for riling you up, until you stop and think about it.

Right now, we are watching the French Revolution in the TEA party and anti-establishment wing of the Republican party.  And who can blame them?  I should say, who can blame us.  Our party had the President who initially signed TARP.  Now, of course I don’t think Bush ever imagined TARP would be used to give the treasury secretary ultimate powers to steal companies from their bondholders, sell them overseas and give the proceeds to unions.  But he should have.  Conservative Constitutionalists are praying, quite literally, that we don’t get fooled again.  The result has been the rise and fall of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain.  Each time, the anti-establishment establishment is looking for that perfect, conservative candidate that we can get behind and support.

Now, suddenly Newt Gingrich is inching back into the top three.  In fact, while Cain tops out the very volatile state of Florida, Gingrich has hit double digits.  As a matter of fact, Gingrich’s facebook page shows a photo of him on the Drudge Report with a story about how he is still in this.  And he definitely is.

The difference between Newt and the other candidates is that Newt’s laundry has been on the line for years now.  Everyone knows who Newt Gingrich is.  He isn’t going to come out with a plan that sinks his campaign a month from now.  No one is going to learn during a debate about him forcing 12 year old girls to get vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases.  Everyone knows how imperfect his past is.  That’s why he hasn’t been in this race up to now.  And that is why he will be very dangerous if Cain falls on 9 9 9.  Of course, I mean “dangerous” in the best way possible.  Newt versus Mitt with no specter of late arrivals and no more candidates left to shoot up to the top could solidify January’s primaries.

Newt can carry Iowa and South Carolina easily once the other social conservatives lose their votes to him.  Newt was the first in the debates to really highlight how Obama was preventing jobs from coming to South Carolina.  And Iowa will pick the social conservative every time.  In a Newt/Mitt race, it will all be about Florida.

Could the debate in Jacksonville, FL determine the next President of the United States?

On January 26th, Republicans will hold the last GOP debate that matters before the primary.  I know, there will be one in Tampa the night before the primary.  No one is going to change their mind because of the Tampa debate.  It will all come down to January 26th in Jacksonville, Florida.  Mitt Romney versus the TEA party favorite.  The last time the Superbowl was held here, the Patriots won.

Welcome to the top, Herman Cain

The most recent debate is over, and Herman Cain is discovering what Rick Perry felt like when he was the front runner.  The way the debate went, there was clear recognition of Cain, Romney and Perry as front runners.  The other candidates almost seemed to be helping in the vetting process as though they were seeking to help Americans choose from one of those top three.   So here goes, the latest debate in retrospect.  And the winner is…

Romney back in the driver seat

Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney had some good news today.  He picked up an endorsement from Chris Christie, which is huge.  He also had some bad news.  Rush Limbaugh questioned Romney’s conservatism compared to other candidates and gave the death knell that took down Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.  Rush called him the Republican establishment candidate.  Still, Romney was his usual comfortable self.  His adopting the Trump doctrine on China will help build that portion of his base.  Cain did Romney a huge favor by asking him about his 59 point plan and giving him the chance to explain it and expound on it.  In fact, the questioning session turned into an opportunity for the other candidates to seem to vet the apparent front runner candidate.  Romney’s own question to Michele Bachmann was very gracious and showed the kind of class that simply makes Romney likeable.  Romney’s answer on Dodd Frank was pure gold.  He was polished and Presidential.  Romney still has to get a little bit stronger on his conservative stances and lose a bit of that obvious shine in order to pick up more of the anti-politician minded rightwing, especially the TEA party.  But for this debate, Romney managed to edge out…

Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is the best debater.  As the best debater, Newt spewed pure common sense.  His best was when he bluntly spoke about how absolutely stupid the debt commission is.  His answers put him above the fray and he maintained his mantra that any candidate on that stage would be better than Obama.  However, Newt did not get enough face time.  He took no arrows, shot no arrows at the other candidates, but simply did not have enough chances to speak to make a difference.  Newt has won several of these debates, but winning these debates is not enough for him at this point.  He must so completely knock each debate out of the park that everytime a front runner falls he is there to pick up the pieces.  In this case, he did not even mention his campaign’s new contract with America.  It was a lost opportunity.   So far he has not accomplished what he needs to do in these debates.  I can’t give him first, no matter how well deserved.  But as a representative of the Social Conservative flavor of this party, he did outperform…

Cain has his work cut out for him

Herman Cain.  Cain’s 9 9 9 plan finally got the inspection it deserved.  A striking moment was when Rick Santorum polled the audience on who wanted a new 9% sales tax, and who thought a 9% flat income tax would stay at 9%.  Not a single hand in the audience was visible.  Santorum hit the nail on the head.  The result is Cain will be in trouble after this debate.  He must now find a way to explain his plan in a way that resonates with Americans.  He made a good start when he talked about how the 9% sales tax would replace a 15% payroll tax, which of course we all pay.  If he can hit that point and solve the question of how to prevent future Presidents from turning his 9 9 9 plan into a 35 35 35 plan, he can salvage his front runner (by my calculations) status.  Cain took a huge hit on the federal reserve when Paul questioned him too.  Later when he spoke about fixing the Fed, Paul made easy work out of Cain.  Still, his likeability level and pure down home realness will keep him afloat for at least one more round.  At this point, if Cain falters I predict voters will finally give Newt Gingrich a second look.  Another candidate they might be looking at is…

Rick Santorum.  Rick Santorum did very well.  He made a key point when he said he did not support the bailout.  He called out Cain’s 9 9 9 plan and struck a very strong blow on it.  He exposed Cain’s naivete beautifully.  But that was the extent of Santorum’s stunning performance.  Like Gingrich, he simply did not get enough other face time to make a huge difference.  No one is afraid of him becoming the front runner any time soon, so there wasn’t much interest in him among the debate moderators.  While Santorum did not make a strong case for himself as President, he certainly gave voters a lot to think about with the latest rising star in Herman Cain.  That may be his purpose at this point.  There is very little chance of his campaign being successful.  Almost as little chance as…

Jon Huntsman.  Jon Huntsman did not do bad for the most part.  His answer on China will not connect with Americans and for a good reason.  Being nice to China does not sell when as Romney pointed out we are already losing to them because they are cheating.  Two debates ago I said Huntsman’s campaign is over.  Nothing changed with the debate tonight.  Feeling our pain because he helped run the family business and was a good governor is so cliche at this point, it’s really forgettable.  But not as forgettable as…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele Bachmann did well.  She spoke on Obama’s failures and conservatism.  But mostly she was forgettable.  At one point, it sounded like she said she raised 28 children, 22 foster and 5 biological.  I could understand, with that many kids, how easy it would be to get the math wrong.  But it’s not good when that’s what sticks out in my mind.  No highlights, no major gaffes, and in fact her role in Congress became even more forgettable when Gingrich asked why the House has not made any move to repeal Dodd Frank or Sarbanes Oxley.  I was left wondering where her actual leadership has manifested itself.  The exchange with Romney was her one saving grace, proving that at least she is not one dimensional unlike…

Popularity off the debate stage won't save these candidates from earning low marks in this debate.

Ron Paul.  Ron Paul did ok.  He made it pretty clear he isn’t a fan of the fed.  But on the fed, especially Bernanke, Newt stole his thunder.  What else did Paul speak about?  Again, another forgettable candidate.  Paul fans, don’t hate me for saying that.  Step outside of the movement for a minute and ask yourself if he truly made a splash.  Did we hear anything new about Ron Paul that would make us want to make him in charge of everything the President of the United States is responsible for?  No, but I’d be happy to see him head up the Fed audit once we get a President who has that as a priority (which apparently is not Herman Cain).  But even Ron Paul did better than…

Rick Perry.  Rick Perry came across as a something between a walking cliche and a deer in the headlights.  He simply does not debate well.  He again was slow in his responses and his wording did not connect.  He came across as very unprepared once again.  His good answers were copies of other candidates, and his bad answers seemed to drag on with his drawl.  I’ve said before that I would love to see Newt Gingrich debate Obama.  I would not love to see Perry debate Obama.  I’m not sure I would be able to watch.  Can Perry turn things around?  Possibly.  I’m not ready to give him the Dead Candidate Walking title along with Huntsman just yet.

The Field Is Set: And Herman Cain Could Win

Sarah Palin has now announced she will not be running.  It appears the 2012 GOP Primary is ready to kick off.  So you heard it here first: barring a major disqualifying gaffe, Herman Cain will win the 2012 primary.  Here’s why.

Cain passes on the right to pull even with Romney

Ok, seriously.  No one knows at this point how this  is going to go down.  Candidates surge and fall, as Rick Perry has proven.  I don’t really know that Herman Cain is going to win the primary.  But he does have a clear path to victory.  Right now it is his race to give up.

But wait, isn’t Romney leading the polls??  Yes, but as I pointed out in my last blog Romney’s majority is an illusion caused by a split vote among social, TEA party candidates.  As Perry continues to fade and Cain continues to pick up his supporters, you will see more polls like the most recent CBS poll that shows Cain and Romney tied.  Perry’s demise is all upside for Cain while Romney maintains his solid base of support.

So why Cain?  Why didn’t Bachmann, Gingrich, or Santorum gain any momentum from Perry’s fall?  Perry dropped 11 points in this CBS poll while Cain jumped 12 points.  Gingrich and Santorum both got small bumps, but are still considered unelectable and still cannot shake their baggage from the last 20 years.  Santorum continues to come across as an unelectable champion of family values with a support base that loves what he says and believes but won’t vote for him because they’d rather have Obama gone than lose with the most socially conservative candidate on the stage.  For Gingrich, conservatives have already written the USA Today, Time Magazine and New York Times headlines in their heads about his failed marriages, hypocrisy in the Clinton impeachment, global warming commercials with Nancy Pelosi, and other things from his decades in the spotlight.

Bachmann, with a relatively small public history, is a different story.  Although her message, naivete on some issues, and ability to stir a TEA party crowd mirror Herman Cain, she somehow comes across differently.   While Herman Cain gets away with announcing that no future President will raise the rates on his 999 plan, Bachmann promises $2 a gallon gas and becomes the laughing stock of the mainstream media and even conservatives.  Bachmann tells stories of raising her kids and foster kids and is seen as homely and amateurish.  Cain tells stories of him and his brother sneaking drinks from the Whites Only drinking fountain as kids and the story simply tugs at anyone’s heart strings.  Bachmann embellishes Perry’s Merck connection and the potential health risks of the HPV vaccine and the media drags her through the coals on it.  The media tried to make hay out of Cain’s comment about blacks being brainwashed into voting Democratic and the story was dead on arrival.

Perhaps the greatest difference that speaks to American hearts is that Cain is not bitter or angry.  Yes, he is the first to tell us that Obama’s policies are destroying the country.  But he does it with an air of policy sincerity, not partisan gamesmanship.  Cain doesn’t seem to have a racist bone in his body, to the extent that some Democrats seem to think he is racist against blacks.  Cain simply comes across as a successful American who believes in America and in every American’s ability to become whatever they want to be.  Cain brings back with sincerity something that politicians have been falsely touting for years: a sincere belief in the American dream and the ability of Americans to achieve it.  His simple, Reaganesque faith in the American people and freedom will be enough to preserve his seat as the top social conservative.  As other social conservatives call it quits, Cain will continue to swallow up their supporters and surpass Romney.

Just a month ago Cain was barely on the radar.  With Perry’s self-destruction and the Florida straw poll, Cain now has the potential momentum to carry him through.  The key will be surviving early Romney primary wins until the race narrows to just Cain and Romney.  From there he can coast to GOP victory.

Social Conservatives Split As Predicted

Months ago, I laid the framework for next year’s primary election with my blog entitled “The Neapolitan Party“.  In it, my theory was that Republican voters would fall on three lines, Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, and Libertarian.  Cain’s rise and Perry’s fall is continued proof that this template is accurate.  It also is bad news for Mitt Romney.

An untrained eye might see Perry’s recent fall in the polls and Romney reclaiming front runner status as great news for the Romney campaign.  But the numbers tell a different story.  Romney is not losing or gaining votes from Social Conservatives.  Perry and Cain are moving these votes back and forth.  Eventually the race will come down to Romney and the top Social Conservative.  At this point, that top Social Conservative will likely win.

Can Romney increase his support among Social Conservatives enough to win?

Romney will get Huntsman’s voters when Huntsman drops out of the race.  Paul and Johnson voters  will either go to Romney, stay home, or vote third party.  But the rest of the candidates are passing support back and forth between them based on who has the best chance of beating Obama.  This is why Santorum and Gingrich continue to fail to gain traction.  When they drop out, their votes will go to the top Social Conservative.

Romney’s best hope may be for Perry to regain his momentum.  With the attacks leveled by Bachmann and Santorum against Rick Perry, some of their jaded supporters may gravitate to Romney if and when they fall out of the race.  Others will see Perry’s illegal immigration stances and choose Romney as the lesser of two evils.  However, I believe that Romney may not be able to recoup enough supporters from other Social Conservatives unless he seriously steps up his Social Conservative message.  Romney has done well to endorse TEA party objectives and move more to the right socially, but trust is still an issue.  On the other hand, Cain is a very likeable and trustable candidate.  Libertarians are wary of him because he used to be a board member of a Federal Reserve bank.  But the libertarians who would not vote for Cain because of that have far more reasons to not vote for any other viable candidate.

The other factor that could change this would be last minute polling of who would beat Obama.  If it comes down to Cain and Romney, but polls show that Romney would have a better chance of beating Obama, that could be a game changer.

Florida is Boardwalk…

And they know it.

Florida is preparing today to announce that they are moving their primary to January 31.  While this comes as no surprise, it still angers several other states who may now have to push their primaries up as well to get their early start.  I don’t blame them, Florida is kind of acting like it’s the big man on campus.

As a Floridian myself, I figured I would bring some local perspective to the issue.  Florida is a state that has called the election in all but one of the last 10 elections.  Florida went blue in 2008, red in 2004, narrowly red in 2000, and blue in 1996.  Each time, Florida helped pick the winner.

In 2008, Florida played a huge role as a game changer for the Romney campaign.  Romney went into the Florida primary expecting a slim win.  Instead he was handed a slim loss.  John McCain went on to be our candidate, and lose.  Despite the horrible first three years Obama has experienced, Florida will likely be a deciding factor again in this general election.

Florida could be a huge game changer in this election, if the Florida straw poll is any indication.  As far as the media is concerned, this is a two man race between the faltering Rick Perry and the polished fiscal conservative Mitt Romney.  But influential Florida Republicans said no.  Let’s take another look at Herman Cain.  Shortly afterward, a Rasmussen poll added weight to the Florida game changer.  Herman Cain went from a future has-been back to contender status in one afternoon.

Let’s face it.  We know Iowa will probably go to Rick Perry and New Hampshire will go to Mitt Romney.  I think South Carolina is a toss up right now.  Florida is a clear toss up.  By moving up, Florida will get the candidates to flood the state, court the voters, and could be an early change in the momentum of the race.

Of course, other early states like Iowa and South Carolina will no doubt move up their primaries.  But Florida will still get that early say and make sure we have a voice before it truly is just a two man race.  Considering the role Florida plays in the general election, maybe other states should just get used to our bully stance.  Then again, we were the deciding factor in tossing John McCain into the ring with Barack Obama.  So maybe not.

Cain’s Florida Shocker

The value of the Florida straw poll was increased dramatically when Governor Rick Scott suggested that the winner of the Florida straw poll would also be the winner of the Presidency.  Scott’s prediction is not outlandish.  The Orlando event and debate was huge, in an area that represents the swing difference between the conservative north Florida and more liberal areas of the south.  The poll represents the party interests as many GOP and TEA party groups throughout the state made appearances.  And it would be almost impossible to imagine a 2012 candidate in the general election winning the Presidency without carrying Florida.

But who thought Herman Cain would win the Florida straw poll?

Rick Perry was the favorite going into the straw poll.  Perry also stayed behind and continued to work the crowd after the other candidates left.  Perry bought breakfasts and schmoozed.  He understood how crucial this poll was.  But in the end, Cain did twice as well as Perry in the straw poll.  While Romney continues to poll well in many northern states, Cain’s victory will at the very least cause undecided voters to take a second look.

While this may not change the scene too much for Herman Cain, it certainly is a tough blow to Rick Perry.  Perry struggled in the debate, blaming his performance on lack of sleep.  Perry also made a huge blunder by suggesting what amounted to a claim that if you don’t support instate tuition discounts for illegal aliens you don’t have a heart.  Even pro-amnesty Republicans will have a hard time swallowing that one.  So far the debate performances have not had much effect on the perceived standings of the candidates.  This time, Perry is feeling the painful fallout.

Interestingly, Ron Paul did not do well.  Typically his straw poll numbers are inflated, but not in Florida.  Bachmann did terrible and Huntsman barely registered.

Gingrich Preparing New Contract With America

Newt Gingrich has promised a new Contract with America to be revealed next week in Iowa.  Newt seeks to turn around his fortunes after stellar debate performances have failed to spark a surge in the polls.  While most will acknowledge that Gingrich is one of the smartest, if not the smartest person in any political room he enters, many are turned off by his low charisma, history with regards to the Clinton impeachment, and perceptions about a floundering 2012 primary campaign.

I wrote last week that there is a disconnect surrounding Newt’s campaign.  So here are my questions for the readers:  Will Newt’s new Contract with America help his campaign?  Do you like Newt?  Why or why not?  And this is an entirely different question: would you vote for Newt?  Consider this post a research project.

Perry Polls Well in Florida

A recent Florida Times Union poll has Rick Perry up by 9 in Florida.  Florida will be a key early state in the primary and of course could be the key to the Presidency in the 2012 general.  How solid is Perry’s lead?  As solid as the opinion of a 20 year old.

Perry took 67% of the young vote, ages 18-29.  The only other candidates to take any of this demographic were Newt Gingrich with 10 points and Ron Paul with 13.  10% of young voters remained undecided.

2010 election map: TEA Party favorite Rick Scott won Florida.

Perry won most demographics except notably seniors and blacks.  Romney carried seniors by a couple points and Perry got 0% of the support from blacks.  Support among blacks was carried by Mitt Romney with 37%, followed by Cain with 31%.  This was a bit of a shock in a state where blacks tend to come out to vote for black candidates regardless of party affiliation.  In fact, many in this demographic have come out saying they voted for Barack Obama and now support Herman Cain.  Romney’s ability to break into this demographic could be very helpful in the general election.  Perry got 0% of the black vote, while Santorum of all people and Huntsman picked up 14 and 18%, respectively.

Ron Paul did not crack the top five in the poll, and Huntsman eeked out a very weak 1.3%.  Surprisingly, even after ending up in the same boat as Perry on illegal immigration in the last debate, Huntsman got 0% of the Hispanic support while Perry ran away with 48%.  Bachmann also did well with the Hispanic vote.

In Florida, it is Perry’s game for now.  But this poll was taken right after the last debate and does not reflect the fallout from Perry’s Merck connection.  Fair or not, that is the same type of loose connection/unfair accusation that sunk Mitt Romney in Florida in 2008.  Just days before the Florida primary, John McCain accused Mitt Romney of supporting a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.  the result was a swing of a couple points that gave McCain the edge in the end.  Perry may not have forced retardation causing vaccinations on 11 year olds just for a $5,000 campaign contribution, but among Florida voters perception is sometimes reality.  This is especially true among young voters.

The minority split between Romney and Perry is not a great sign for Republicans in Florida for the general election.  It is difficult to win Florida without support in the I-4 corridor and the southern part of the state which have large Hispanic constituencies.  At the same time, when a Republican can’t garner support among blacks, but the opposing candidate is black, central-north and north Florida go from solidly Republican to only tenuously Republican.  The fact that Perry scored a 0% with blacks and Romney scored a 0% with Hispanics shows that both front runners need to do some work in Florida to ensure a shot at victory in the general election.

I can think of an easy solution for Romney or any other Republican candidate to nearly guarantee victory in Florida.  Make Marco Rubio your VP pick.

The GOP Debate Disconnect

Moments ago, the Republican candidates finished yet another debate.  This time, CNN and the TEA Party Express were the odd couple sponsors.  Blitzer was in liberal heaven, getting every question the left wanted the candidates to quarrel about on the record.  But there were some very bright spots, which brings us to our debate winner:

I call Newt as winner

Newt Gingrich.  The GOP debate disconnect seems to be how Newt consistently delivers stellar debate performances, and in fact directs the flow of the debate away from where the moderators want to go, and yet continues to flounder in the polls.  Other candidates were taking their cues from Newt, and Newt was again successfully making the case that every candidate on that stage was better than Obama.  At the same time, he was showing why at least in debates, he is the best candidate on the stage.  Newt hit a couple home runs.  The first was in the Social Security squabble between Perry and Romney where Newt reminded us that it was Barack Obama who threatened twice to cancel Social Security checks if Republicans didn’t vote for his liberal budget policies.  Gingrich’s second big home run came again when other candidates were arguing about job growth.  Newt pointed out that Americans create jobs, not government.  He then gave credit to other candidates for what they did to create job growth, but ultimately gave the credit to the American people.  Lastly, on green energy tax loopholes for GE, Newt destroyed Obama’s attacks on the oil industry.  Newt showed that he is the smartest and most studied candidate on the stage.  When asked about whether he would compromise with Democrats in power, his answer was perfect.  Whether or not that reflects in the polls will be seen.

Michele Bachmann was on the attack, but her strikes were good conservative strikes and they hit their

Bachmann had a good showing

targets.  Bachmann came across as the conservative constitutionalist on the stage with a balanced approach to getting our nation back to the constitution.  Her strikes landed on Perry with Social Security, and the HPV vaccinations, she struck Romney on the constitutionality of his healthcare plan, and she landed shots on Perry and Huntsman for their help to illegal aliens.  She did not come across as someone struggling to take down the frontrunners ahead of her, but more like a principled conservative attacking the liberal tendencies of her opponents.  And no one hit her back on anything.

In this debate, Santorum finished a solid third place.  I had a feeling Santorum would do well with the TEA Party audience.  He looked far more relaxed and in control than in the last debate.  He maintained his conservative credentials, but introduced a new element: how he won multiple times in a blue state.  He also was able to identify himself with some of Gingrich’s success.  Santorum hit hard on Perry’s HPV issue and delivered a deadly blow on it.  Santorum and Bachmann are key elements in where I score Perry tonight, and both walked away unscathed.

Mitt Romney took some tough shots.  But despite the tough shots, he continued to show class and to handle attacks.  He was hit hard on Social Security, and in fact his position on Social Security was easily exploitable in front of this TEA Party audience.  Overall, he did a good job at taking some clean shots and his seven things we need to do to fix the economy and budget were spot on.  Romney fell into the expected trap and tangled with Perry too much on Social Security, and Romney’s support for Federal Social Security won’t win him TEA party support.

Herman Cain did a good job, but he continues to look amateurish compared to some of the more experienced heavy hitters.  Cain did well to expound on his 999 plan this time around, and he picked up the Perry/Romney social security fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.  But other than that his performance was unremarkable.  When Newt talked about private accounts for Social Security, he connected far better than Cain’s repeating of Neal Boortz talking points on Chile and Galveston.

Perry took it on the chin

Rick Perry took another beating, and this was a good one.  On social security, HPV and illegal immigration, Perry seemed to slip into his deer in the headlights slo-mo’ mode.  Perry’s argument that his state’s version of the dream act for illegal aliens was somehow a states rights issue was off-base and will not sit well with the TEA party.  Santorum and Bachmann nailed him on HPV and that one will stick.  At the same time, Perry’s role as the attack dog against Romney has soured this race somewhat.  Perry looked kind of amused/detached for a good part of the debate.  That mixed with his slow, Texan accent will remind some voters of a previous Texas Republican Presidential candidate, however unfair that comparison may be.

Ron Paul redeemed himself somewhat from his last debate performance.  However, his dodge on the Medicare Part D question may spark some serious questions that have been lingering in the darkest cellars about Ron Paul.  Is he as much of a purist as he seems?  Instead of quickly putting Medicare Part D on the chopping block, Paul kind of hemmed and hawed about other programs that should be cut first, including his biggest applause getters of the wars, the department of education, etc.  Paul, who is normally eager to take on unconstitutional spending programs, seemed to give an “if I get to it” response on Medicare Part D, which was one of the biggest social spending programs under George W. Bush.

Jon Huntsman just has nothing left in the tank.  His good answers were echoes of other candidates, and his bad answers were echoes of Barack Obama.  His Kurt Cobain joke fell completely flat.  His tax plan sounds exactly like Obama’s.  His stance on illegal immigration was wrong.  His Afghanistan rhetoric was meant to sound like the Afghan people needed to take more responsibility, but instead came across like America just wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore.  The best thing that happened to Huntsman tonight was no one asked him about global warming.

If debates drove polls, Newt Gingrich would be the front runner after tonight.  How Perry remains such a strong front runner with debate performances like these speaks to his clout and ability to run a public campaign away from the debate stage.

Did Rick Perry Threaten Ron Paul During the Presidential Debate?

Bookmark and Share  While most of the on air sparring in last night’s Republican presidential debate took place between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, apparently there was a little brouhaha during one of the station breaks. 

As captured in the photo shown here, it was during one of these breaks that Governor Perry strode up to Ron Paul, grabbed Paul’s wrist and raised his other hand to point a finger in Paul’s face in an attempt to make a point to the Congressman.

According to RonPaul.com, here’s how it went down:

“During a commercial break at Wednesday’s Republican debate, Rick Perry and Ron Paul continued their spirited exchange on stage. Suddenly, Perry grabbed Ron Paul’s forearm while aggressively pointing his index finger towards the Congressman’s face. Alerted by Perry’s menacing gestures, Ron Paul’s bodyguard (front left) was standing by, ready to protect the Congressman.”

What exactly was said is unknown but that won’t prevent Pauliacs from trying to use the image against their feeble three time presidential candidate.  So far they are on a campaign to try and claim that Perry was threatening and intimidating Paul. 

If the photo is capturing a truly heated exchange you can rest assured that Governor  Perry most likely urged Ron Paul  to stop the blatant lies Paul’s campaign has been promulgating about Perry, including the one about Perry having been a national chairman for Al Gore.

In past debates, live streams allowed internet users to catch glimpses of the candidates and how they were interacting during commercial breaks but MSNBC’s live stream of last night’s debate did not offer such an opportunity as they simply cut the  feed during commercials.  Had they not, we might have at  least seen the Perry-Paul exchange.

So far, there is no official comment from either Paul or Perry regarding what the exchange consisted of, but that has not stopped Ron Paul fanatics from trying to lift their messiah ever higher by alleging Rick Perry assaulted their guy. 

Until it is known exactly what was said, drawing conclusions is futile, but in the end, it my be in the best interest of Ron Paul that Rick Perry’s words remain unknown because if I know Rick Perry, his words probably did not provide for the type of praise that Ron Paul  would want to duplicate in an ad promoting his candidacy. And it will probably make many Paulbots look truly stupid for their exaggerations and lies.

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Update:  The truth comes out and the Ron Paul crowd does indeed look stupid.  See the conclusion here.

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