Today should be it

Mitt Romney should easily sweep a handful of blue states today, including New York and Pennsylvania.  If he does, I think the staunchest of conservative holdouts are ready to call it for Romney.  The only thing that will change the trajectory of the primary at this point would be if Romney’s performance is weak in any of these states.

Is that possible?  To a certain extent.  With Romney already the presumptive nominee, media coverage of the April 24th primaries has been minimal.  Additionally, any inhibition towards voting one’s conscience should be gone.   Romney’s refocusing on Obama is certainly not unwarranted confidence, but does signal an end to his scorched earth campaign that ravished his closest rivals.

Will Gingrich show any sort of proof of life in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, or Rhode Island?  Don’t count on it.  To be sure, there is a conservative underground in each of these states, most strongly in Pennsylvania.  But at the same time, they have been so marginalized by the liberal culture that “most conservative who can actually win” is deeply engrained.

My prediction is that Newt doesn’t break 40% in any of these states.  If that is the case, I am ready to call the 2012 primary for Mitt Romney.  However, if Newt can somehow mitigate his losses and mathematically survive today, he has some friendly states coming up in May.  He may still not survive to the convention fight he is counting on, but he would have a chance.  And something he hasn’t tasted in months: momentum.

Is Mitt Bouyant? Or Santorum Sinking?

The day before Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney is looking good.  It’s looking like he will take the key state of Ohio and could take Tennessee.  Both of these are very close races.  But Romney’s ascendency back to the top is marked by Santorum’s dive in the polls, and Newt’s resurgence again.  Newt will win Georgia, which has the most delegates of any Super Tuesday state.  Newt is also now tied with Santorum and within one point of Romney in Tennessee according to one poll.  Just last week, Santorum was looking good in both Ohio and Tennessee.

If Santorum is suddenly seen as faltering, we may see the polls seesaw back to Newt on fears of unelectability.  However, at this late stage that may serve to only help Romney, unless Santorum loses big time.  If Santorum comes in third in Tennessee or Ohio and Gingrich easily wins Georgia, the shift back to Newt could be significant.

Consider this, if Santorum was not in the race and his voters went to Newt, Newt would sweep Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia.  On the other hand, the same could be said for Santorum if Newt dropped out and his votes went to Santorum.  In either case, Romney is the beneficiary of the social conservative split.  Meanwhile, Ron Paul is fleeing from social issues as he descends back into below 10% irrelevancy.

This could be short lived however, as Republicans revisit the myth that social issues are losers in elections.  As I pointed out the other day, a one dimensional economy candidate is going to struggle against Obama.  Republicans are more likely to be inspired to go to the polls for a bold conservative, and Romney is all pastels.  If Santorum falters tomorrow and Newt remains on message, this one could be far from over.

Capitalism a Casualty of Campaign

What is happening to the Republican field?  It made some sense when Cain was attacked for being a businessman with no foreign policy experience and no political experience.  That was perhaps a fair shot at an outsider businessman candidate.

Then came the attacks on Newt for having Freddie Mac as a client.  Newt not only had Freddie as a client, but his firm made over a million dollars.  Suddenly, it was like Newt himself had caused the economic collapse.  Reasonable conservatives told me that this was insurmountable.  How could Newt, a high level business consultant, have Freddie Mac as a client?  His fellow candidates tried to make it sound like Newt was on their payroll.  Suddenly populism had overtaken the Republican party.

Then came the attacks on Romney for his time at Bain Capital.  Romney’s company created new businesses, reorganized and saved businesses, and occasionally tried to save businesses and failed.  As with any free American enterprise, Bain Capital sometimes downsized and let people go.  Romney’s opponents have seized on this, especially with the ignorant populist anti-wall street sentiment in the country today, and have tried to use this against Romney.  They have painted him as an out of touch, insanely rich “Mr. Burns” who would go in, take over small companies, and fire everyone just to make a buck.  Here’s an idea, how about a millionaire’s surtax on evil rich people like Romney?  Oops, we just became liberals.

I know, political rhetoric is political rhetoric.  You say whatever it takes to win.  But then came the really disappointing moment.  GOP rivals jumped on Romney’s statement that he likes to be able to fire people.  Romney was not saying that he likes to randomly fire people, or likes to fire employees like Bain Capital did.  Huntsman attacked Romney directly for the comment, while Newt released a video exploiting workers who had been fired as a result of Bain Capital’s work.  Romney was actually talking about the ability to not have to buy insurance, or to drop an insurance company that isn’t serving his needs.  But what does context matter in politics?  Shame on them for this line of attack.  You know it’s bad when you are attacking a moderate Republican, and even Ron Paul is standing up for the moderate.  In fact, my hat is off to Ron Paul for defending Romney against this dishonest line of attack.  Newt also eventually came to Romney’s defense about the misquote.

Newt at this point will likely lose Florida, which means he will lose the primary.  Up until this week, at least he had the opportunity to exit with his head held high.  Up to now he had run a very honest, positive campaign.  When he did go negative, it was with honesty.  His best shot at salvaging the honor in his campaign at this point is a humble apology for attacking Romney for being a capitalist.

One final note, may the best capitalist win.  Since when has populism won over conservatives?  Heck, what’s the point?  If Newt is evil for having Freddie Mac as a paying client and Romney is evil for what he did with Bain Capital, then we need to re-elect Obama.  Imagine if Trump had stayed in the race.

 

Editors note: correction from the originally posted article.  Newt did defend Romney against the attack based on his statement about firing insurance companies.  However Newt has attacked Romney for the jobs lost through Bain Capital.

In Bachmann’s Mind

I would think Michele Bachmann would be more gentle with some of her Republican competitors.  She herself has faced everything from the bigotry of the Left against conservative women to the watchfulness of the one-eyed media who has gleefully remarked on her every gaffe while turning the blind eye to the Obama/Biden circus.

Yet, to hear from Bachmann at the Foxnews debate, you would think Newt Gingrich was a pro-choice, pro-partial birth abortion candidate who used to run Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and will be a President to the left of Obama himself.  This is no exaggeration.  However, her characterizations were.

Now, Newt and Bachmann come from different perspectives on the Republican party.  Bachmann would have done well to note that clearly.  Newt is not going to close off the Republican party and say ‘no pro-choicers, homosexuals, immigration reformers, anti-war candidates allowed’.  Bachmann, as a TEA Party activist, seems to lean more towards that hardline stance.  There is definitely a point to be made there.  There are many Republicans who desire party purity to the point of ditching the big top and settling for a camping tent.  Newt is not one of those.  Such a point is sufficient to distinguish Bachmann from Newt.

Newt Gingrich is not pro-choice.  He is not pro-partial birth abortion.  His firm took an average of $225,000 a year from Freddie Mac in consulting fees over  an 8 year period.  That is not a whole lot for high end consulting by a multi-member firm in Washington DC for a multi-billion dollar company.  Think about it.  Freddie Mac represented about 3% of the Gingrich Group’s total revenues.  It was an exclusive group with about 300 clients.  Clients paid on average $200,000 a year for membership.  Newt himself did not do any lobbying for Freddie Mac.

But that isn’t what she said.  Bachmann’s characterization was so outlandish that she lost all credibility.  What could have been an intellectual differentiation turned into a wild and false assault on one of the two best hopes of defeating Obama in 2012.

Bachmann will not win her way back into the hearts and minds of the Republican majority with this sort of outlandish hyperbole.  She certainly won’t win with a kill ’em all attitude towards Republicans who don’t fit her cookie cutter.  For this reason, I will make the same call on Bachmann that I have for Huntsman and Johnson:

Michele, you are not going to win.  You have done too much already on your own to destroy your own campaign.  As far as destroying other candidates campaigns, your attacks are effective only on the ignorant.  Now you are no longer contributing value to this primary.  You are not contributing fresh ideas, you are not drawing new blood into the campaign.  It is time to end your campaign.  Whether or not you realize it, it’s already over.

Paths to Victory

I have heard recently several conservative commentators marvel about how Newt has risen to the top and stayed there and how Mitt has never gotten over 30%.  It shouldn’t be a surpriseI explained it all months ago.  I’ve said as long ago as this that Mitt is in deep trouble.  He looked pretty good when there were six candidates splitting the other 70% of the vote and 40% were still undecided.  But Romney has always only appealed to fiscal conservatives.  He coasted through the first several months of this election and many in the establishment, now including George Will and Ann Coulter, assumed that his steadiness and assumed front runner status had something to do with him being the best candidate.

So can Romney win?  What about Paul and his recent rise in the polls?  Does he have a shot?  Here is a strategic look at where the candidates stand right now.

Newt Gingrich

Newt has managed to be that candidate who attracts social and fiscal conservatives.  It is his nomination to lose.  So far he has handled attacks perfectly.  Consider Nancy Pelosi’s claim that if he runs she will have a field day spreading every secret from his ethics investigation.  How does he respond?  By stating that out of 84 counts, 83 were dismissed and the 84th was a simple mistake he made and how if Nancy Pelosi is willing to spread secrets from the ethics committee investigation that proves just how corrupt she was in that investigation.  That’s Newt 2, Pelosi 0.  Those type of responses will continue to bolster him.

Next, he has to keep making speeches like he did to the Republican Jewish Coalition.  Newt showed the intelligence and wit that makes conservatives like me giddy about him opposing Obama.  Newt has to keep running on those ideas, setting the record straight, and not going after fellow Republicans who attack him.  I think he slipped up a little when he said Bachmann is factually challenged.  Newt’s message has to stay positive and focused on undoing and being the opposite of Obama.

Mitt Romney

As I said before, Romney’s only prayer in this race is to come out strongly to the social conservative side in a big, public way.  Maybe he needs to go protest in front of an abortion clinic, spend some of his Newt attack ad money on an ad clearly denouncing Obama for making bibles illegal at some military hospitals, or something like that.  Romney will never win this election with only DC establishment backing and fiscal conservatives.  Right now he barely has better electability to run on.  And the attacks from his surrogates are easily being linked back to him.  His smooth Reaganesque style and kindness on the debate trail is getting ugly with people like George Will calling his opponents book selling charlatans and Ann Coulter accusing Newt Gingrich of wanting to do something similar to teaching school kids how to masturbate.  None of this reflects well on Romney.

Romney has to do very well in this next debate at highlighting better ideas, but definitely smaller government ideas.  Newt tends to talk about ideas that he could not do as President but would help the country.  Romney needs to jump on that and be the smaller government alternative.  Romney needs to win the 10th amendment fight in this next debate, while still appearing to be a stronger social conservative than everyone thinks he is.

Ron Paul

Paul’s biggest liability is himself.  His second biggest liability is his supporters.  One of the reasons Ron Paul hasn’t gotten higher in the polls is that people don’t want to support him if they think he is their enemy.  Paul has worked very hard to make himself the enemy of anyone he considers to his left.  In the debates he comes across as abrasive and angry.  His pet issues cloud many great issues that most conservatives would agree with him on.  Hint hint, Ron Paul, constitutionalists want to like you.  But when I sit there and think about my life, I really can’t think of what I did to cause 9/11 or why terrorists can kill Americans because of Jimmy Carter’s foolish foreign policy and what every President has done since then.

Part of Paul’s problem is that his foreign policy approach reflects history, but not reality.  Paul can pontificate all he wants on how we got here, but most conservatives don’t like his solution for how we get home.  In a quick draw, when you drop your gun turn around and walk away, Bin Laden types usually just shoot you in the back.  Who cares if it’s your fault you got in that situation in the first place.  Personally, I don’t want to be shot in the back.

Ron Paul was his best this year when he was talking about domestic policy and when he showed even an ounce of grace in the debates towards his fellow Republicans.  One last thing, Paul will never win over conservatives with his states rights approach to abortion.  No true pro-lifer is going to vote for a guy who is going to ensure that abortion stays legal in most of the states.

Rick Perry

Perry really needs to reassess his chances.  His only shot is a good showing in Iowa, as in 2nd place or better.  He needs to nail every debate going forward.  Perry needs a “My Fair Lady” transformation.  For starters, he can learn how to pronounce Nukuler.

His ideas are not bad.  His tenth amendment stance is very good.  But he has a lot of competition among candidates who are pro-tenth amendment, and his HPV vaccine debacle ruins his credibility on personal freedom.

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman could easily be in the 2012 Presidential race.  All he has to do is switch parties.  I’m being completely serious.  Jon Huntsman could guarantee that Obama does not have another four years by changing to Democrat and running against Obama in the 2012 primary as a moderate.  Of course, he would have to kneel before Pelosi/Reid to get the necessary credibility.

Michele Bachmann

In order for Bachmann to win, two things have to happen.  First, Obama has to get so low in the polls and believe it or not do even more stupid things so that anyone could beat him (even Trump).  Then, Bachmann would have to convince TEA Partiers that she is their candidate more than Newt, Perry or Santorum.  Unfortunately for Bachmann, if absolutely anyone could defeat Obama and electability wasn’t an issue, there is another candidate who would still take the TEA Party vote before she would.

Rick Santorum

If the TEA Party is going to come home to anyone, it would be Rick Santorum.  Get ready, it could happen in Iowa.  Santorum has never been taken seriously because people doubt his electability.  He lost in Pennsylvania.  Of course, that year every Republican in Pennsylvania lost.  Not only that, but some of our best Presidents won after losing senate races.  If you listen to Newt, you know two famous historical names, Lincoln and Douglas.  Did you know Lincoln’s victory was a rematch of their senate race two years before?  Guess who won that senate race.

If one more star is going to rise before this primary is over, it will be Santorum and it will be because the TEA Party takes Bachmann’s advice and says screw electability.  If that happens, Santorum has to be ready for the vetting process with ideas that will knock our socks off and make Romney and Newt look like morons.  Santorum has to not be George Bush II on the war and he has to convince fiscal conservatives that he can get spending under control.  He also has to convince libertarians that he will stay out of their homes.  That’s a tall order for Santorum.

Positively Entertainment?

Earlier this election season, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain sat down in a one on one debate that displayed Newt’s intellectualism and fast thinking, and Cain’s graciousness.  It’s starting to look like Newt will have a shot at another one on one debate as only he and Rick Santorum have agreed to The Donald’s debate on Ion Television, sponsored by Newsmax. 

Mitt Romney politely declined, Paul said no and Huntsman inferred that the whole thing was about Trump’s ratings.  George Will has also infamously declared that the Trump debate is below Presidential politics.  Perry and Bachmann have not confirmed, although Bachmann said she believes Trump will be biased because he is already leaning towards a candidate.  How that makes this debate different from any MSNBC or CNN debate where the moderators are already in the bag for Obama, I’m not sure.

Who is going to be hurt from backing out of the Trump debate? Trump has already declared his position on many things.  Huntsman and Paul would both find themselves on opposite sides from Trump.  Romney probably won’t be hurt by snubbing Trump.

Will Santorum or Gingrich be hurt by accepting the debate?  For Newt, probably not.  For Santorum, the possibility for damage to his campaign is pretty big.  While he will be getting a great deal of facetime, Santorum will be answering questions from a very strong willed and strongly opinionated Trump while going up against Newt one on one.  It is a very risky move.  The risk will be compounded if Trump then endorses Newt.

Bachmann and Perry’s non-committal stance currently is only making them more irrelevant. It also comes across as indecisive.

Or is it helping to make Trump more irrelevant?  Trump has said that if the candidate he wants doesn’t get in the race, he will run as a third party candidate.  Is it better to cater to the crybaby?  Or ignore him?  And honestly, would Trump get any votes as a third party candidate, when four more years of Obama is on the line?

Cain’s Area 51 Response to Tabloid Reporting

Herman Cain may not be able to salvage his campaign after issuing a notice that he is reconsidering his run.  Nothing says you have skeletons in your closet more than jumping in front of the closet door and shouting “Ok, I’m done!” when people get close to it.  And it’s truly a shame.  Whether or not the accusations are legitimate, so far there is no credible evidence that they are.

Ginger White adds to the list of financially troubled, gold digging, sue happy women from Cain’s corporate past who have been bankrupt, sued their work place for frivolous sexual harassment claims, and of course have failed to provide any evidence of the alleged misconduct.  Her husband said her claims “wouldn’t surprise me, either way”.  If you’ve worked in the corporate world, haven’t you known that person that you decided right away you better leave your office door open when he or she comes in to protect yourself?

The mountain of accusations has come down to one woman, without even a hotel receipt to show for it, claiming that Cain grabbed her crotch in a car while taking her back to her room, one woman who claims Cain dared say she was as tall as his wife, and a woman with no money and several eviction notices who Cain thought was a friend, but who also has had about a month now of hearing why the other accusers might be financially motivated because of book deals.  I mean, imagine how much she could sell her autographed book she got form Cain that says something about friends being friends forever and everything else being bonuses?  We all know what that means.  He might as well have said “had a great time being friends with benefits”.

So suddenly every mainstream newspaper in America is reporting Cain’s affair like the black and white tabloids say that aliens exist.  The only problem is, Cain is getting ready to put electric, barbed wire fences up all around area 51.

Herman Cain has not been impressive in his handling of things like this, but let’s face it.  He is an amateur when it comes to smear politics.  He can’t even do it himself.  The poor guy has been nothing but respectful to most of his opponents, with the one exception being when he rashly called out Rick Perry and his former staffers for kickstarting the story since only they knew those sexual harassment claims existed.  So Cain’s decision to hold off and see if things blow over or not could just be a rank amateurish blunder.

That said, my evaluation is that Herman Cain may choose to continue, but the continuation will be short lived.  He has contributed a lot to this election process, but at this point his blunders have just made him a distraction from the main event.  If I had to predict, I would say that Cain will drop out, and will endorse the person who ends up becoming the GOP candidate.  Shortly after dropping out, the affair stories will quickly evaporate leaving only his most staunchest supporters and detractors wondering if they were ever actually true.

Foreign Policy Reveals Different Strengths

Whether or not you think the GOP has a strong field, one thing is for sure.  Any of these candidates would be better than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.  That came across clearly from more moderate voices like Jon Huntsman in addition to the two front runners.  Overall it was a great performance by all the candidates.  The contrast between the GOP field, including Ron Paul, and Barack Obama was clear.  So, here are the winners and losers:

Mitt Romney won the debate because of his smooth ability to introduce ambiguity on some issues to give all Conservatives a cushion of comfort.  See Newt’s performance below.  Mitt also took on Ron Paul and I think Mitt won that debate.  It seems pretty clear that Al Qaida terrorists and Timothy McVeigh do not represent the same sort of threat.  In fact, I would argue that lumping McVeigh, a disgruntled anti-American government citizen attacking the system, in with the 9/11 hijackers, foreign terrorists attacking and targeting United States civilians, is a very dangerous way of looking at foreign and domestic terrorism.  I sure hope we would treat a foreign terrorist crossing our border illegally differently than a citizen radical trying to build a bomb in their basement because the IRS just sent them another tax notice.

Jon Huntsman demonstrated his firm control of foreign policy issues.  I think he overcame some fears when he affirmed our strong relationship with Israel.  Huntsman also expressed sentiments on Afghanistan that have been felt by many Conservatives who were mislabeled as “neo-cons” over the last decade.  Many Conservatives supported both wars, but do not support something for nothing nation building in nations that don’t respect us and don’t appreciate the sacrifices we have made.  Huntsman turned again and again to the economy and the failures of Obama and Congress to solve the problem.  Huntsman’s point on how we leave North Korea alone because they have a nuke, but invaded Libya after they gave up their nuclear ambitions is a great diagnosis of the inconsistency in America’s position towards nuclear ambitious countries.

Newt had a great, issue free performance.  Here is the problem.  Newt comes across hawkish, and he is far too honest.  In the end, Mitt agreed with him on long-time illegal immigrants, but Mitt said it in such a way that will be taken better by anti-illegal alien Conservatives.  Newt also hurt himself by endorsing and calling for an expansion of the Patriot act.  This could help guarantee that Ron Paulites stay home and let Obama get re-elected in 2012.  What Newt should have said was that he supported the Patriot Act, but recommends examining it for things that could be eliminated or added.  I think Newt is too straight forward on a subject that honestly Americans would prefer some ambiguity on.  Same with covert operations.  His answer regarding opening our oil resources is not new, but continues to be a very strong point for him.

Ron Paul continued to solidify his base and add some fringe Conservatives who are weary enough of the wars to want to radically change America’s relationship with the world.  For these people, Paul’s angry old man persona, scoffing and reacting to opponents’ answers, and idea that if we leave terrorists alone, they will realize the error of their ways and leave us alone, will not affect his support.  Still, Paul would make a better foreign policy President than Obama.  At least his disengagement would be total, not mixed with war hawkishness like Obama’s.

Rick Perry’s substance earned him a higher spot after this debate.  I still think his idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aid resonates with Americans.  His refusal to dabble in hypotheticals about illegals who have been here more than a quarter century is going to help him as people weed out Romney and Gingrich’s immigration comments and discover the softness there.

Herman Cain did well not to hurt himself in this debate.  He has come across as unknowledgeable on foreign policy.  In this debate he showed he has a recognizable set of foreign policy principles, although he kept things pretty vague.  He didn’t hurt himself and that is a victory for him on foreign policy.

Rick Santorum comes across as a neo-con.   This debate didn’t really change that, and only a change in that perception would cause his status to change as a result of this debate.  No mistakes, but also no movement for him after this debate.  He continues to maintain that we should be paying Pakistan for friendship.

Michele Bachmann is either a career politician or has issues with comprehension.  On multiple occasions she seemed to not be able to grasp her opponent’s position.  A glaring example was when she interpreted Newt’s soft approach to long-time established illegals as some sort of call for general amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.  She played the same role in Rick Perry’s demise, but now it seems more like a desperate cry for relevance.  Rising and falling as the Social Conservative choice at this point will require superiority on the issues, not loud misunderstanding of opponents, even though that usually produces success with the general electorate.

No matter who the nominee is, what is clear from last night is that we cannot afford four more years of Obama’s foreign policy.

As Predicted

Newt is finally getting to taste the view at the top.  In the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Newt has climbed to the top, edging out Cain and Romney.  In fact, in this poll Newt was the only candidate with noticeable upward mobility.  Both Cain and Romney saw declines, while Perry slipped far closer to 5% oblivion with fellow candidates Bachmann, Paul, Santorum, Huntsman and Johnson.

Newt's turn as king of the hill

Newt’s ascension is no surprise to this staffer after Cain’s sexual harassment troubles refused to go away, his 9-9-9 plan came under scrutiny, and he gave a foreign policy debate performance where he may as well have said on a clear day he can see advisers who know something about foreign policy from his front doorstep.  Ok, low blow.  But you have to admit his debate performance was not up to Newt/Mitt standards.

Mitt Romney continues to occupy his base of supporters, but this poll may indicate that many who supported him as the only viable candidate are also giving Newt a second look.  This is especially true considering things like the latest Whitehouse12.com poll that shows high negatives for Cain and Romney, but relatively low negatives for Gingrich.

What Newt Gingrich needs to do now is avoid saying anything stupid.  The top spot in the GOP race is precarious.  And Newt is not spotless.  At times he means well, but is misunderstood.  While he has chalked up his couch time with Pelosi and his weak campaign start as stupid mistakes, such an excuse will not carry him through January.  Gingrich needs South Carolina and Florida to go his way before he can start feeling at all comfortable, and that is a ways away still.

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.

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.

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