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With Democrats fleeing the Democrat convention, the DNC has turned to local popular mayors.  Now, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be providing the keynote address.  Not too long ago, Obama mistook Mayor Castro for a Whitehouse intern.

Along with Senator Claire McCaskill, several other prominent Democrats are skipping out, including nearly every Democrat from West Virginia.

Mayor Alvin Brown, D-Jacksonville, FL

But even among popular Democrat mayors, Obama is struggling to gain traction.  I have noted before how Mayor Alvin Brown of Jacksonville has been notably absent from Obama’s visits to the city.  Jacksonville.com reports that even if Mayor Brown was in town, he wouldn’t have been at the event.  While stopping short of endorsing Romney, Brown has stated that he intends to steer clear of the election and not get involved at all, including offering no endorsement for Obama.

He had no such inhibitions as a staffer for the Clinton Whitehouse.

Then again, Clinton and Obama are two completely different kinds of Democrat.  Clinton was a liberal, but he knew how and when to moderate.  Clinton understood that not only did business owners “build that”, but they were essential to a growing economy.  Brown understands the same thing and has been growing Jacksonville by going out and bringing business to town.  He hasn’t tried to grow the city through wasted stimulus spent on friends and campaign supporters, and in fact he has refused to raise taxes. Instead, he has cut the size of local government to close budget gaps.
If Obama had any illusions of bi-partisanship, support for businesses, or winning Florida, Mayor Brown is the type of person he would want to pursue for things like making key speeches at the convention.  Yes, Castro is more popular in San Antonio.  He got 82% of the votes (totaling about 34,000).  Brown on the other hand, with about 97,000 votes, only barely eked out a victory over his Republican challenger.  Or perhaps Obama believes that Texas is a more attainable prize than Florida.

Obama has already lost the Reagan Democrats, but he may also be in danger of losing the Clinton Democrats.  They won’t vote for Romney, but if they don’t vote for Obama, he’s sunk.

Obama in Jax, Mayor Out of Town

Obama received a cool reception in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday, where his campaign managed to give away about 3,000 tickets to bring a crowd into the smaller venue in town.  Also in attendance were protestors from several GOP groups.  One notable absence was Democrat mayor Alvin Brown.  This is the second Obama appearance he has been out of town for.

Obama greeted by the locals

It is not surprising that Brown hasn’t rearranged his schedule to join the President.  The Mayor has been accused by many of being too conservative to be a Democrat.  Even with the latest budget, he refused to raise taxes and instead sought to cut spending again.  Also, instead of demeaning business owners, Mayor Brown has spent a great deal of time courting businesses and bringing them (along with their jobs) to Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is an important swing city in a very important swing state.  Last time around, Obama drew a crowd of 9,000 at the Veterans Memorial.  It was the day before the election and Obama mistakenly thought he was in Ohio.  It’s still early in the race, and Obama could ramp up attendance as we get closer.  But the vibe in town was certainly different than it was four years ago.  Obama no longer carries the big tent revival aura or celebrity status that he once did.  I would be surprised if he lost northeast Florida by only 8,000 votes this time around.

Santorum Shines, Paul Respected

The only thing worse than endless political ads is political ads being tossed back and forth in a debate format with no fact checker.  Well, almost no fact checker.  Romney himself got caught when he tried to famously disavow any political negativity coming from his side only to discover that he had indeed approved an attack ad against Gingrich.

What was lost in the mix was serious debate.  The average listener might think that Romney and Gingrich’s stance on immigration actually differed.  What we discovered instead is that they really are basically the same, making their attacks on each others immigration policy pretty funny.  In fact, they all seemed to have the same view on illegal immigration except for Ron Paul who seemed to be saying that the problem is we have a bad economy and if we had a good economy we would all want illegal immigrants to come here and take the jobs Americans won’t.

Of course, with Paul sometimes it is difficult to differentiate his “this is what I would do as President” with his “this is the way things ought to be” with his “this is the way things are” rhetoric.  It keeps him safe with both the radical constitutionalists and the ignorant populists in his base.  Of course, I myself am a radical constitutionalist, but most of Paul’s constitutional rhetoric falls under the “this is the way things ought to be” column.  I couldn’t have any alcohol last night because of an early morning medical procedure Friday morning, but if I had a drinking game it would have been how many times Paul redirected a question by making his answer about the war, how bad the fed has made the economy, or how small a constitutional government should be.  The immigration question got both the war and the economy.

Paul did receive a great deal of respect from the other candidates.  It was the sort of respect Romney showed to Bachmann early on in the race.  It was that sort of “you have no shot of winning, but I would really like your supporters to like me down the road so I’ll smile and pat you on the back” respect.

Gingrich fell into a trap that I warned about a few months ago.  He has big ideas, but he has also become more and more of a states rights conservative.  Gingrich’s problem is communication in small soundbites.  I understood that he was speaking about encouraging private ventures to establish a moon colony, but the three candidates up there either willingly or ignorantly seemed to think he was talking about NASA doing it.

Gingrich also dropped the ball on something he has done very well at in previous debates, not taking media bait.  Blitzer played Romney and Gingrich all night long.  In fact, it was Rick Santorum who had to bring the debate back to the issues.  Unlike the early debates where Gingrich ran the show and the other candidates followed his lead, this time it was Santorum who reminded the other candidates what the debates and this whole process is all about.  Because of it, Santorum shined last night.

Mitt Romney has hired Bachmann’s former debate coach and it shows.  He laid down persistent attacks, mostly inaccurate, and was distracted from the issues all night.  Newt attempted to rebut, but his responses were too involved for the average American viewer.  Romney easily turned Gingrich’s responses on their head.  A good example was when Newt brought up Romney’s investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.  I think Newt’s point was that Romney shouldn’t be attacking him for doing consulting work for Freddie Mac when in fact Romney himself is making money on Freddie Mac stock.  In the end though, both sides lost that debate and viewers were left with a disgusting taste in their mouth.

I said that Jacksonville, Florida would be the most important debate of this election if one candidate could shine like Gingrich has in the past debates.  In the end, Gingrich saw his shadow and this primary will continue far beyond Florida.  And unfortunately, it will continue to get nastier.  The candidates have already said many things about each other that they will not be able to take back in the general election.  So in the end, Santorum won the debate, but the Republican party was the big loser.

 

Obama Raised Taxes on Buffet’s Secretary!

Populism Gone Wrong

Last night, Warren Buffet’s secretary occupied  a place of honor as an invited guest of the Obama’s to the State of the Union address.  She got to sit with the First Lady, sort of like the Iraqi woman who was invited by Bush and showed off her ink stained finger for voting.  So what exactly did Buffet’s secretary symbolize?  The downtrodden middle class who somehow pay more taxes than billionaires like her boss Warren Buffet.

There is one glaring problem with Obama using Debbie Bosanek, Buffet’s secretary, as a prop for class warfare.  As Paul Roderick Gregory with Forbes Magazine calculates, Buffet’s secretary makes at least $200,000 a year.  Fortunately, she can still call herself part of the 99% because at $200,000 a year, she only made the top 3% of income earners, not the top 1%.

But here is the best part: Obamacare raises taxes on individuals making more than $200,000.  Because of Obamacare, starting next year Warren Buffet’s secretary will pay an additional 3.8% on investment income, and an additional .9% in Medicare taxes for a total tax hike of 4.7%.  And if Obama gets his way and the Bush tax rates are eliminated for individuals who make more than $200,000, Obama will have effectively raised Buffet’s secretary’s taxes by 7.7%, or possibly as much as 9.6% if she is in the highest tax bracket.

Good job, Mr. President.  Thank you for that ever-so-perfect State of the Union prop.

Speaking of Buffet

In case you were wondering why Obama canceled the Keystone pipeline, a move the Washington Post called “insanity”, we may get some clues by following the money.  According to Bloomberg, Obama supporter Warren Buffet stands to profit big time from cancellation of the pipeline.  Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway owns the rail companies who will transport the oil in lieu of a pipeline. Crony capitalism at its best, at the cost of thousands of American jobs.  Oh yeah, and for you environmentalists who opposed the pipeline, what sort of impact do you think transporting that oil on trains will have on the environment?  Maybe you should re-think this one.

Jacksonville TEA Party Straw Poll Picks Newt

In the first ever Angie’s Subs Caucus, TEA Party members from across the Northeast gathered at Angie’s Subs in Jacksonville, Florida to discuss local and national politics and have a straw poll.  323 votes were cast and the winner was Newt with 138 votes, or 43%.  Second place?  Ron Paul, gaining 26% of the vote.  Romney finished third.

Thursday, Jacksonville will be hosting the last debate before voters in this key state hold their primary.  Recent polls have wavered back and forth with Newt erasing a double digit deficit to now have a slight lead in most polls.

Rubio Flexes Influence

Newt Gingrich pulled an add calling Mitt Romney “anti-immigrant” after Marco Rubio called out the ad as deceptive.  What this shows is the incredible respect the current Republican godfathers have for the 2010 class.  And this is well deserved.  Marco Rubio, Alan West, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and a host of Republican governors including Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and others, represent the type of conservatism that the TEA Party loves, but that also resonates with Americans.  Part of the reason the 2012 Presidential field has been disappointing for some is because the giants of 2012 pale in comparison to the greatness of the younger Republican generation.

 

Newt Wins, on to Florida

With Perry gone and Newt’s second resurrection complete, non-Romney supporters seem to have found their man in Newt.  I predicted Santorum would probably pull a Huckabee and win in Iowa.  I also predicted Romney would easily win New Hampshire.  South Carolina was the setup for the defining moment in this race scheduled for January 31 in Florida.  Had Romney won South Carolina, he would nearly have Florida locked up.  Instead, Romney will be going for the fight of his life again in Florida.  He has one week to show South Carolina is a fluke, because if Newt Gingrich can come back and beat Romney so handily in South Carolina based solely on a two strong debate performances, Romney has already lost the electability argument.  Newt swept all but two counties.

Liabilities for Newt include a strong negative campaign against him in Florida which is already underway.  Also, Santorum may not realize it, but he is in danger of doing to Newt what Huckabee did to Romney in 2008.  Newt was right, Santorum should get out of the race.  However, one thing is clear: Romney is not breaking out of his support base and he has fewer opponents to split the remaining votes.  If Santorum were to drop out of the race, Romney may as well join him.

Floridians watch a lot of TV.  They also are concerned with electability.  I will repeat my prediction that the key in the race for Florida will be the January 27th debate in Jacksonville Florida.  If Newt does well in that debate, the momentum from South Carolina will carry him.  If Newt wins Florida, it will be very difficult for Romney to make a comeback.  If Newt loses in Florida, then the assessment that non-Romney supporters need to make is what Newt plus Santorum’s votes combined would have been.

Oh, and one last parting thought.  The late breaking rumor is that Jeb Bush, the most popular Florida governor in decades, is choosing to stay neutral.  Most had been expecting him to endorse Romney.  I think Jeb sees the writing on the wall.

Debunking Newt Mythology

Ok, hold on a minute.  Let’s talk about Newt.

The left has gone all in on Newt.  After three years of seeing that the Democrats have an empty hand with Obama, they have put all their chips on the table and dared us to run Newt.  And as usual, we are folding.  Same thing happened in 2008 when the left and the media scoffed at Mitt Romney and said that the only candidate who could ever beat their guy was John McCain.  Believe it or not, we listened.  For the smarter party, Republicans sure can be stupid.

Now the left is saying it will be a cake walk if we run Gingrich and the only serious candidate who can beat their guy is Romney, or maybe Huntsman, although they seem to have figured out that one is a hard sell.  So why are we listening again?  Ann Coulter came out slamming Newt and endorsing Romney.  George Will has attacked Newt Gingrich.  And what for?

Newt got $1.8 million from Freddie Mac.  Not really, it was actually Newt’s company.  But he did it by lobbying.  Well, again, no.  Newt did not lobby for Freddie Mac, but his company did provide consulting services to Freddie Mac.  Now, I am a businessman and a lot of what I do involves consulting.  Does that mean I can never run for President in case one of my clients does something bad someday despite my advice?  Maybe.

Let’s take it out of the business realm.  Pretend you own a garage and you fix cars.  If George Soros drives up and asks you to change the oil, will you turn him away?  Are you a liberal if you change his oil?  What about Bernie Madoff before he was caught?  Are you part of his illegal pyramid scheme because you changed his tires?

It would be one thing if Newt counseled Freddie Mac on how lose billions of dollars, get bailed out, and pay everyone huge bonuses.  But if you are looking for that smoking gun, you are looking at the wrong person.  Try Franklin Raines, Jamie Gaerlick, etc.  Enough with the guilt by association.  Newt did consulting for large businesses, and they paid his company rates that large, multi-billion dollar businesses pay for high level consulting.

Ok, but Newt sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi.  Yes, he did.  He also had debates with Cuomo, Kerry and Sharpton.  Newt Gingrich is not going to implement cap and trade to prevent global warming.  That’s about as crazy as saying Mitt Romney is going to support partial birth abortion.  Seriously, you have my word that neither of those will happen.  Newt wasn’t endorsing Nancy Pelosi any more than Al Sharpton was endorsing Pat Robertson.  If Sarah Palin stood next to Michelle Obama and did a PSA saying its good for kids to have a healthy diet, would you suddenly think that Palin supports federal government takeover of school lunches? Newt has fought vigorously against cap and trade.

Well, what about Newt supporting a healthcare mandate?  When Hillary was pushing Hillarycare, which would take responsibility away from people, Newt signed on with the Heritage Foundation’s alternative that included an individual mandate. After researching it, Newt backed off that position.  He never implemented it for an entire state, or for anyone actually.  Newt is not going to implement a healthcare mandate on the entire country.  Guess what, neither is Romney.

In fact, let’s talk Romney for a minute.  Mitt Romney is pro-life.  He opposes gay marriage.  He makes Huntsman look like Hillary.  He supports tax cuts for the middle class and not raising taxes on employers and producers.  As much as Romney has been painted as the liberal in this bunch, he was the most conservative viable candidate in 2008 after Fred Thompson dropped out.  He may not be a card carrying TEA Party member, but he has said himself that he supports the TEA Party and shares all of their goals.  By the way, I never got a card either.  I really don’t think they issue them, even if Bachmann has one.

Why did Romney lose in 2008?  It all came down to two reasons.  Number one, Romney was not moderate enough to get the “independents”.  He was too conservative.  Only John McCain could beat the Democrat in 2008 by reaching across the aisle and not being so extreme.  Reason number two, the infamous time-table for withdrawal charge.  Romney said that when the time came to draw down the troops from Iraq, he supported a time-table for an orderly withdrawal.  His opponents turned that into Democrat style cut and run.  No matter how many times he tried to explain that was not what he believed, that became the mantra.

What about Rick Perry?  Why aren’t we going around saying that Rick Perry is going to implement cap and trade because years ago he was a Democrat working on the campaign of the future Nobel prize winner and global warming snake oil salesman, Al Gore?

The only person we have to actually worry about doing half the crazy stuff he’s been accused of thinking is Ron Paul!

So let’s not let people choose our candidate for us.  Research what you hear about candidates.  Just because George Will thinks you are too dumb to vote doesn’t make it so.  Each of the candidates left have some great ideas, and each one will do a far better job at running this country than the current President.  Did Cain have some foreign policy gaffes?  Shoot, the last three years have been an Obama foreign policy gaffe.

Part of this election cycle that Romney has skipped sofar has been the knife in the back from the right and the dare to run that candidate from the left.  Considering how well Newt is handling this complete onslaught from the right and left, wouldn’t you rather have him going up against Obama than the candidate that no one is vetting?  McCain got plenty of vetting after Romney dropped out in 2008.

This is not an endorsement of Newt.  I will make an endorsement of a candidate after the Jacksonville, Florida debate in January.  But this is a serious question to our party.  Why do we have to self destruct again?

Gingrich Wins at Cain Event

Slated by organizers as the beginning of the Northeast Florida political campaign season, Stand Up for America was an event in Jacksonville Friday night featuring semi-local radio personality Neil Boortz, Karl Rove, Jacksonville political news blogger and reporter Jaime Dupree, and featured a special guest appearance by Herman Cain.

Cain got the audience going at the well attended event with a 20 minute speech on taxes, spending and foreign policy.  But the big winner of the night was Newt Gingrich who won the straw poll at the beginning of the night.  The day before, Newt gathered a crowd of a couple hundred in downtown Jacksonville for a townhall meeting sponsored by the First Coast Tea Party, one of the largest individual TEA party organizations in the United States.

Rush Hits Newt Again

Six months ago, I wrote an article about Newt Gingrich’s attempt to clarify his views on healthcare.  Newt had gotten himself in trouble when it came out that in 1993 Newt agreed with the Heritage Foundation on an insurance mandate.  At the time, Newt said that he felt there should be a law that made it so that people would need to either buy health insurance, or post a bond when they receive medical care as a guarantee that they will in fact pay for that care.

At the time, I warned Newt that this would cause problems.  Of course, we didn’t have as large a readership back then, so I’m sure he didn’t get my warning.  Shortly before that, Newt was secretly my number one pick to eventually win it all.

With great influence comes great responsibility

Sure enough, right about that time Newt called in to Rush Limbaugh’s show and tried to explain exactly what I said in the first paragraph here.  Rush didn’t buy it, and the godfather of Social Conservatism cast doubt on his blessing of Newt’s candidacy.  Listen to the interview here.  The result was that a couple weeks later I was writing about the rubble of Newt 2012.  In that article, I said that it would take a miracle to revive Newt, that miracle being upward movement in the polls.  Hallelujah, we now know the political gods did not forsake us after 2008.

Today, Rush once again expressed his reservations about Newt.  In what he framed as analysis of Newt’s rise to the top, Rush once again mentioned Newt’s baggage including his support of a mandate in 1993.  While doing his best not to appear against Newt, Rush laid out everything Conservatives should be careful about with Newt.  To be fair though, he did the same for Mitt Romney at the same time.

In the end, Rush chalked up Newt’s rise to the top as two things.  Newt doesn’t defend his mistakes (like Romney does with Romneycare), and he does go after the media for their bias.

It’s a little bit more than that.  Newt has a proven fiscal conservative track record.  He balanced the budget for four years in a row.  The Federal budget, not just one of the 50 states.  That doesn’t even seem in the realm of reality these days.  It would be like saying he walked on water in the context of today’s deficit.  But speaking of walking on water, Newt has the social conservative credentials as well.

In a speech in Jacksonville, Florida yesterday (that yours truly had the privilege of attending), Newt said that under his education reforms, teachers who could not adequately explain what it meant to be endowed by your Creator with certain inalienable rights would be asked to resign.  This was in response to a question from the audience regarding a neighboring county where the government was putting pressure on a pastor there to stop school flagpole prayer meetings.  Newt said that he would seek to end funding for Planned Parenthood and use that money to help promote adoption.  He is pro-school choice.  He has well rounded conservative credentials and unlike Romney, conservatives trust Newt when he says things like supporting a mandate and sharing a couch with Pelosi were stupid.

Frank Luntz on Sean Hannity’s show this afternoon said that everyone was shocked about Newt’s resurgence.  It wasn’t a surprise for me.  I predicted that as the Cain-Gingrich debate received acknowledgment and replay, Newt would rise.  On November 3rd, I said that people were taking a fresh look at Newt Gingrich.  But even better than that, on October 13th, I laid out the path to victory for Newt Gingrich going through South Carolina and Florida.  In a blog titled “Yes He Can”, I analyzed how Cain was preparing to fall on his 9-9-9 plan and how Newt would take early states Iowa and South Carolina, leading to a showdown in Florida between Newt/Mitt.  So no, it wasn’t a shock.  If you’ve been reading this blog, it wasn’t a shock to you either.

In that same article, I said that Newt’s dirty laundry has been airing out for a long time.  It doesn’t smell as “fresh” as Cain’s or Perry’s.  The same is true for Mitt, although Newt knows when to admit to a mistake.  Therefore, in this up and down race where nothing is certain and things change every minute, I am sticking to what I said over a month ago.  Newt/Mitt, for the championship, the second to last GOP debate in Florida in Jacksonville.  Newt will be carrying South Carolina and maybe Iowa to the table, Mitt will have New Hampshire under his belt.  Then the two smartest, most articulate, and strongest leaders will have one last significant chance to make their case.

Rush, Coulter, and any other big-time rightwing players who still think Bachmann, Cain, or Santorum could come back and win, keep dreaming.  It’s more likely that Tebow would win the Superbowl.

PS, I have absolutely nothing against Tebow.  In fact, after Thursday’s game against Rex Ryan and the Jets, Tebow is my second favorite quarterback.

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.

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.

Huntsman Loses Key Campaign Staffer

Jon Huntsman’s late and slow start took a hit last Thursday when Susan Wiles, his campaign manager, decided to call it quits and return to Ponte Vedra, FL.  Wiles had recently come off a successful campaign for Governor Rick Scott of Florida when Huntsman brought her on.

Wiles stated that there wasn’t any specific event or circumstance that caused her to return to her Florida public relations firm, but simply that she wanted to take some time off of political campaigns.  Wiles manages a public relations firm with former Jacksonville Jaguars football player Tony Boselli.

Wiles comments related to her departure were intended to sound as though she was only there for a phase and that phase was over.  However, she was influential in the decision to move his headquarters to Orlando, FL, and her statements suggest that the decision to leave was a little more sudden.  She said “This morning I said, it’s time to move on.”

Huntsman is unconcerned about his slow start

Huntsman’s campaign has not yet taken hold after he joined the field late.  He also comes across as a Mitt Romney generic and has polled consistently behind front runners like Romney and Bachmann.  Aside from being a political unknown for most voters, Huntsman has made conservatives nervous due to his working for Obama as an ambassador and his acceptance by more centrist political commentators.

For now, Huntsman isn’t worried.

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