Mitt Romney’s TEA Problem

Bookmark and Share A mixed message came out of the recent straw poll of New Hampshire Republican Party power players. While Romney won the poll and defeated a field of more than 20 names by surpassing his closest rival by as much as 24%, the same people who voted in that poll also elected a TEA Party candidate as the Chairman of the New Hampshire G.O.P.. The election of TEA Party backed Jack Kimball over the establishment candidate was a clear signal that conservative outsiders were increasing their influence and beginning to dominate over moderate political insiders.

The initial wins of Romney in the straw poll and Jack Kimball in the election for Party chair, may on the surface seem related and an indication that the former Governor of Massachusetts is fairing well among TEA Party voters. However a closer look reveals that only a bit more than half of those who voted for Kimball in the election for Chairman, voted in the straw poll. And of those with TEA Party sentiments, their vote was divided between a number of favorites, including second place finisher Ron Paul, fourth place finisher Sarah Palin, followed by Michelle Bachmann-5th place, Jim DeMInt-6th place, Herman Cain-7th place, and arguably Gary Johnson-16th place. Their combined total percentage was one point shy of Mitt Romneys 35% share of the vote.

This begs the question, if the TEA Party got behind one candidate, could they pick the winner of the New Hampshire presidential primary, just as they did the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Party?

This is a question which Mitt Romney must look at closely. Up to now, Romney has seemingly had a bad taste for TEA Party politics.

The Boston Globe reports that Mitt Romney has kept Tea Party activists at arms length. And while some like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and even Haley Barbour seem to be going out of their way to court influential TEA Party leaders, the chairman of New Hampshires TEA Party influenced Republican Liberty Caucus, Andrew Hemingway, claims Romney for the most part is inaccessible,” and adds. Pawlenty, I could call him right now and say, Let’s have coffee.’ ”

An advisor to Romney suggested that Romneys issues are the TEA Partys issues when told the Boston Globes Matt Viser I would hope the kind of issues the Tea Party cares about are issues he can address and will address,”.

The answer is a sensible one but it does not address the politics behind the politics. Part of that game is perception. In fact politics is all about perception and currently, in this atmosphere of pro anti-establishment sentiments, Mitt Romney is rapidly being perceived as an establishment candidate, a position that will not be to his benefit in the long run.

By all rights, Mitt Romney should be a clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. In many aspects he is, but only by the most tentative of definitions. Part of the reason for that is distrust among conservatives who are not convinced that his right-to-life conversion from his pro-choice stance is genuine and another part is widespread dissatisfaction with the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney created a state version of Obamacare before Obamacare ever came to fruition. This has Romney entering the race for the Republican nomination as a flip-flopping, big government Republican. Is that an accurate description? In truth, it isnt. But unless Mitt Romney embraces the strongest elements of the thriving, decisive, small government TEA Party wing of the G.O.P., he will not have a snowballs chance in hell of changing that perception.

Romney could be trying to keep the TEA Party at arms length because he fears that being linked too closely to them will hurt his chances in the general election. For that reason he could be wanting to distinguish himself from others like Sarah Palin, who risk being perceived as too extreme. Rudy Giuliani recently revealed that as his own strategy in a potential bid for the G.O.P. nomination. Romney could also be hoping that just as was the case in the New Hampshire straw poll, maybe a crowded field of TEA Party favorites like Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, and others, could split the TEA movement vote and allow him to walk right up the middle.

If that is his strategy, he needs to plot a new one.

He should take a lesson from John McCains failed campaign and realize that the same people whoRomney is keeping at a distance, are the same people who were not thrilled by John McCain as our nominee and the same people who sat on their hands in the general election. He should also realize that for many Republicans, Sarah Palin was the only thing that energized McCains candidacy. In other words, Romney can not become President without embracing the TEA movement and without the TEA movement embracing him.

It’s time to talk TEA Mitt. You may not want to start campaigning too early, but you have a lot of repairs to make before you let the train leave the station and now is as good a time as any to start fixing them.

Bookmark and Share

Romney Wins New Hampshire Straw Poll

Bookmark and Share At a meeting of New Hampshires State Republican Committee, a straw poll sponsored by WMUR-TV and ABC, found former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a big winner. (see poll results below)

Among a field of more than 21 names, Romney polled 35%, a 24% lead over his nearest opponent, Ron Paul, whose second place showing was a bit of a surprise.

Out of 493 state committee members 429 members showed up but only 273 participated in the straw poll. Still, the results of this poll indicate that Romney has a large pool of favorability among the activists within the Party who are crucial to a campaigns organizational ability and ground game in New Hampshires Republican Presidential Primary. Those voting in the poll are for the most part, the leaders of the local GOP organizations within the state.

The main purpose of the state committee meeting was to elect a new Republican State Chairman to replace the retiring chair, John Sununu. The hotly contested race pitted the establishment of the Party against TEA Party insurgents. Sununu and the establishment supported Juliana Bergeron while a loose coalition of TEA Party members and libertarians supported businessman Jack Kimball. Kimball won by 23 votes.

The results of the race for State Party Chair made the results of the presidential straw poll even more interesting than usual. By all rights Romney should have won. New Hampshire is in his own backyard and he has been making his presence in the state quite well known for more than two years now. But the fact that he polled so far ahead of his nearest possible rival, in a crowd of voters that were largely professing anti-establishment sentiments and elected a TEA Party backed Chairman, is an indication that Romney may be more viable among TEA Party voters than some have thought.

Supporters of Romneys opponents downplayed the poll results and even suggested that Romney did not do as well as should have. But the result most striking here was Mike Huckabees 12th place showing. In the 2008 primary, both Romney and Huckabee were beaten by John McCain. McCain pulled 38% to Romneys 32% and Huckabees 11%. This time around, at least among the states activist Republicans, Tim Pawlenty snatched third place with 8% and Huckabee was beaten by Atlanta Radio Talk Show host Herman Cain and lumped together with Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum and Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence. All polled 3%.

Like Romneys first place showing, Tim Pawlentys third place showing was an encouraging sign that his recent level of high activity is helping gain traction in Granite States important early primary. As for Ron Paul, his second place showing is a bit deceiving. While it puts him at the head of the pack, the 11% of the vote that got him there, is representative of his extremely dedicated base. But it is also representative of the number he usually peaks out at, as he fails to expand significantly expand his base.

With exception of a small contingency of Santorum, Pawlenty, and Cain supporters who braved the cold and snow to hand out leaflets and Dunkin Donuts munchkins, none of the other campaigns had a presence at the event. Most straw polls usually feature aggressive campaigning before the ballots are passed out. But this WMUR-ABC poll was announced only a few days in advance, giving the campaigns little time to coordinate a push among the state committeemen voting in the contest.

Complete Poll Results:

  1. Mitt Romney Former Massachusetts Governor 35%
  2. Ron Paul Texas Congressman 11%
  3. Tim Pawlenty Former Minnesota Governor 8%
  4. Sarah Palin Former Alaska Governor, 2008 GOP Vice Presidential Nominee 7%
  5. Michele Bachmann Minnesota Congresswoman 5%
  6. Jim DeMint South Carolina Senator 5%
  7. Herman Cain Tea Party Speaker & Former C.E.O. 4%
  8. Chris Christie New Jersey Governor 3%
  9. Rick Santorum Former Pennsylvania Senator 3%
  10. Mitch Daniels Indiana Governor 3%
  11. Newt Gingrich Former U.S. House Speaker 3%
  12. Mike Huckabee Former Arkansas Governor 3%
  13. Mike Pence Indiana Congressman 3%
  14. Rudy Giuliani Former New York City Mayor 2%
  15. Judd Gregg Former NH Senator 2%
  16. Gary Johnson Former New Mexico Governor 2%
  17. Other 2%
  18. Donald Trump Real Estate Mogul 1%
  19. Haley Barbour Mississippi Governor 1%
  20. Jon Huntsman Jr. U.S. Ambassador to China 0%
  21. John Thune South Dakota Senator 0%
    Bookmark and Share

Republican Presidential Hopefuls Headed for Hard Times in the Granite State

Bookmark and Share Campaigning in New Hampshires first in the nation primary is always tough. New Hampshire voters expect to meet a candidate in person at least two or three times before they make a decision on who to nominate for President. But for some, that process is usually made a little easier by favoritism from state Party leaders. Organizational support, even unofficial organizational support, is often half the battle in tight races. For this reason, candidates and potential candidates spend a lot of time schmoozing G.O.P. leaders and members of the New Hampshire Party apparatus.

Long before the 2008 Republican presidential primary, people like Mitt Romney were trying to cozy up to the most influential Republicans leaders in the state. And in Romneys case, he has been continuing to forge such relationships ever since the 2008 presidential election was over.

The problem is that the midterm elections of 2010 changed the entire political landscape of New Hampshire. The state saw a total turn around from the bottom up. It switched both state legislative houses with the Senate going from 14 Democrats and 10 Republicans, to 19 Republicans and 5 Democrats and in the State House of Representatives the G.O.P. picked up 124 states and gained their largest majority ever.

This means that thereis a large new slew of Republican players in the state whom are virtually unknown to the 2012 presidential contenders and little time to start forging those close, valuable political relationships with them.

Even more dramatic then themassive influx of Republican legislators though is thecoming of newleadershipin the state Republican organization, an organization that for decades was powered by the Sununu and Gregg families. But now John Sununu is stepping down as state Chairman and Senator Judd Gregg just retired from politics. So now, with new players taking over, potential G.O.P. presidential candidates have to start forging those organizational relationships allover again.

The man probably most negatively affected by the changing landscape in New Hampshire is the former governor of New Hampshires neighbor—-Massachusetts. Mitt Romney now has to start from scratch in his own New England backyard. But before he or anyone can really get to work on that, the Party leadership must be put in place and that is currently a struggle.

It seems that the Republican establishment is being challenged by the anti-establishment TEA Party movement. They are supporting a TEA Party organizer named Jack Kimball while Sununu and the establishment is supporting the Chairman of the Cheshire County Republican Committee. Currently both the establishment and the anti-establishment have each one a recent battle. The TEA Party lost their primary challenge to incoming U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and the establishment lost their choice for Speaker of the State House of Representatives to a TEA Party backed conservative. So the race for State Party Chairman could determine the balance of power in New Hampshire.

Now the question becomes, are any of the possible presidential contenders willing to put their money on one side over the other in the hopes of the winner being indebted to them? If any of them do, they better make sure they pick the winning team because if they don’t, they could kiss that acceptance speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention goodbye.

Bookmark and Share
%d bloggers like this: