Bad News for Romney?

Romney declared today to be a good day for his campaign.  The media easily agreed, following their template that Romney is already the nominee.  However, the good news may end up being all for Gingrich.  The long dead in the water conservative finally has what he has needed for a second resurgence: no competition for the social conservative vote.

In fact, Newt made the point today that he would love to get Santorum’s delegates.  Newt is right, he is far closer to what Santorum’s delegates want than Romney.  While Romney is far away ahead of both candidates on their own, together their delegates number more than 400.

Gingrich’s next hope for a good day won’t come until May 8th, and Romney is sure to sweep the blue states that vote on April 24th.  In fact, nearly certain victories in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island could seal the deal.

On the other hand, Gingrich could start a come back in Indiana and could win North Carolina and West Virginia with some hard work.  In fact, May should favor the remaining social conservative, culminating with the 155 delegates in Texas.  May could be enough to provide Gingrich with the convention floor battle he’s been hoping for.

On the other hand, without a strong ground game, and with limited funds and no media recognition that he even still exists, Newt may never have a chance at realizing the potential the Santorum exit has given him.

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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.

Conservative Formula Plays Out

Imagine if you single-handedly picked Presidents.  The choice is up to you.  No need to consider electability, lesser of two evils, third parties, spoilers, or anything else.  Your choice is it.  Now, imagine you live in Montana, Minnesota, or Colorado and delegates aren’t rewarded based on your primary vote.  It’s pretty much the same situation.

The result?  Ron Paul got his standard 10-20% of libertarians and conservatives seeking radical constitutionalism, Romney got his standard 30-40% of fiscal conservatives who want a strong businessman, and the social conservatives split the rest.  Except in states where electability, lesser of two evils, third parties, and spoilers don’t matter, Newt Gingrich barely registered.  Instead, Rick Santorum, deemed unelectable from day one, swept bigtime.  It’s like “What’s My Line” where the points don’t matter.

Social Conservatives demonstrated what they really want, and it ain’t Mitt or Newt.  Mitt Romney is striking out with Conservatives, first with support of increasing labor price floors, then with information about his imposing abortion coverage on private companies like Obama is doing now.  Both of these are huge question marks on Romney’s record.

But Newt hasn’t done much better, with most of the country now thinking he was Freddie Mac’s number one lobbyist and had more sex partners than your average Mormon.  Romney has succeeded in dragging Newt down, and Newt hasn’t helped himself.

So does Santorum have a shot?  Probably not, but he does have something Iowa didn’t really give him: momentum.

Now Santorum can face the Romney attack machine for a while.  It started with the Donald saying that since Santorum lost in Pennsylvania he can’t possibly win the Presidency. Of course, that is a pretty funny standard to be judged by when it comes from a multi-billionaire business-owner who has declared bankruptcy four times.  I would think Trump would be able to relate to Santorum’s tenacity.

The problem with Santorum is that he doesn’t have that Presidentiality  that stupid, ignorant, and independent voters look for in a President.  He doesn’t have the hair or the chin.  Oh, and as Scarlett Johannson pointed out, he is unelectable because he wears sweater vests.  What Johannson underestimates is how many people out there who would take a bag of rocks wrapped in a sweater vest over our current President.

I pick on independents, but social conservatives aren’t much better.  When delegates are back on the table, don’t hold your breath for another Santorum sweep.  That would require conservatives looking themselves in the mirror and asking what they actually want in a President, not just who can beat Obama.  Tuesday’s message was loud and clear.

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.

Trunkline 2012: Sunday Election News Review – 11//06/11

Bookmark and Share  Sunday political news summary offers a look at the Sunday morning political programs, how Florida Republicans view the chances of the GOP presidential nominee winning their state in 2012, Rick santorums social and cultural agenda, Herman Cain’s fundraising, attacks upon Romney and Cain, the way Obama can win in 2012, and much more.

Seven Versus One

The debate is over and there is a clear loser.  Whether by pact or we just got candidates this good, Obama was the only one with a target on his back last night.  Even Pawlenty wouldn’t take the obvious bait to attack front runner Mitt Romney.  The result was a debate of seven on one, and the One wasn’t there to defend himself.

The other loser in last night’s debate was CNN’s John King who amidst annoying grunts failed to turn the candidates on one another.  Even when he tossed Palin’s name out as an easy target for Republicans seeking to moderate, the response came from Tim Pawlenty and it was perfect.  Joe Biden has failed in every aspect as a Vice President, his views on Iraq were completely wrong, and Sarah Palin would be a better president than Biden or Obama.

Can Bachmann break through media created stereotypes?

The candidates handled tough hot button issues amazingly well also.  The shining example here was Michelle Bachmann who deflected an easy gotcha by making it clear that the role of the President and the role of the states in determining the fate of gay marriage is not equal.  She provided a balanced states rights view, while promising to protect the states from the courts if it came to that.  The other good answers on gay marriage were Ron Paul, leave it to the church and get government out, and actually Rick Santorum who explained that a constitutional amendment would require the approval of 75% of the states, something opponents rarely mention.  Cain appeared to struggle the most on the muslim staff question.

While there were no clear winners, I believe this debate showed two classes of candidates.  Michelle Bachmann led her class of fired up TEA Party approved candidates fighting for principled social and fiscal conservatism with unmeasured attacks against Obama and willingness to take heat for their views if deemed controversial.  Cain is included with this group, although he appears now more as a TEA Party candidate who jumped in feet first and now is searching for substance beyond catchphrases and buzz words.  He did not find that moment last night.  Ron Paul’s anti-establishment libertarianism may catch up to him this year when all the Revolution liberals realize that he does not support any federal entitlement programs.  Santorum failed to set himself apart as anything but a sacrificial lamb for 1st term George W. Bush style conservatism.  While they all performed well, Bachmann outshined this group.  Given the TEA Party’s success in 2010 and their conservative appeal, I would not write this group off.

The other group becoming apparent are the “intellectual”, restrained conservatives in Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty.  Their answers would not pass a soundbite test, but they were clear, well thought out, and flawless.  At the same time, these three touted socially conservative views and credentials which should make each one palatable for any Republican voter.  Newt was in a tough place and would need to be the only shining candidate last night to pull his campaign out of the rubble.  His performance was near flawless and enough to start the rebuilding process, but not good enough to bring him in from the dog house.  And while he may be right about ensuring that America is on board with the Paul Ryan plan, he is sure to take more heat for some of his comments last night.

Tim Pawlenty was perhaps the closest thing to a winner last night.  He made a great case for his pro-life record, perhaps settled some social conservatives with his call for his stance on homosexuality, connected with union and blue collar America, and magnanimously skipped a golden opportunity to play John King’s game and trash the front runner.  While the left-wing media rakes Pawlenty over the coals for his choice, conservatives should take a much closer look at a candidate who knows the enemy.

Mitt Romney will remain the front runner after last night.  The campaign has been nearly effortless for him sofar, and he made no mistakes that would cause him to lose his front runner status last night.  But he shouldn’t get too comfortable.  With Huntsman entering the race and with Rick Perry and Rudy Guiliani mulling Presidential runs of their own, the space Romney and Pawlenty occupy could get real crowded real quick.

In the end, the field last night did what they had to do.  They stayed focused on the economy and Obama.  They did not bite on questions obviously designed to turn them against each other and other Republicans.  They agreed with one another publicly and showed that any one of them is better than and can beat Barack Obama in 2012.

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