It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.
You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.
But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.
In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):
- Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
- Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
- minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
- unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)
Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:
- Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
- Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
- minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
- unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)
A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.
And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.
But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.
Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.
Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)
Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.
If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.
Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.
This truly wasn’t a shock; back in December when Herman Cain exited the race I came right out and said I wouldn’t be surprised if he endorsed Newt Gingrich. They’re very familiar to one another as both hail from Georgia and you may recall they had a one-on-one debate with each other last fall. (Gingrich also had a similar debate with Jon Huntsman, which neither did anything for Huntsman nor got him to endorse Newt, as Jon Huntsman now backs Mitt Romney.) Cain’s consolation prize is now a position chairing Newt’s tax reform efforts.
However, the timing of this perhaps shows Cain’s lack of political savvy – or, to play devil’s advocate, means he marches to his own drummer and eschews standards which would place him within the political norm. Your choice. The latter seems especially true when you consider Cain had already made his “unconventional endorsement” of “the people.”
Honestly, as a former Cain supporter, I think Herman’s post-campaign decisions have been quite disappointing. His TEA Party response to the State of the Union address was all right, but it seemed to me he pulled his punches somewhat; of course one could also argue that had he endorsed Newt earlier he would not have received the slot. As I said up top, it wasn’t unexpected that he endorsed Gingrich but doing so at this time, when Newt’s campaign is otherwise imploding in Florida, smacks of desperation on the part of both – but moreso Gingrich, who’s trying to corral onetime Cain supporters into his camp.
Too bad that, for many, the horse has already left that barn – Newt isn’t going to get much of a bounce from an endorsement eight weeks after the candidate’s withdrawal. Obviously it wasn’t needed for Newt to win South Carolina, so to do so now indeed seems like flailing from a candidate who vows to “go all the way to the convention.” That movie has played before, and usually that sort of declaration comes just before the closing credits roll on the campaign.
Unfortunately, the GOP voters and caucus participants who have come before me have seen to eliminate most of my top selections from the race. It will leave me a choice – as too often seems to be the case in Presidential politics – of:
- voting my conscience (even if he dropped out before the primary), or
- voting for my third- or fourth-favorite choice who’s still there, or
- voting against the guy I don’t want to win with his strongest remaining opponent.
A combination of the second and third options was the approach I took in 2008, basically voting against John McCain rather than for Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was pretty much my fourth option after Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani withdrew. (As I recall, Florida was Giuliani’s Waterloo, too.) In 2012 I’ve already lost Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry (although Perry is on the ballot here.)
But we’ll see if Cain’s backing for Gingrich is too little, too late. If it ends up I vote for Newt Gingrich, it won’t be because Herman Cain endorsed him. Instead, see bullet point #3 above and you’ll find my reason.
I’m not sure this is the most surprising thing out there, but I find it interesting how open Michele Bachmann’s campaign is about what needs to happen. Here’s a video Bachmann campaign head Keith Nahigian put up.
So let’s play this scenario of an Iowa Bachmann victory out. At this time there are perhaps six candidates who can compete well in the caucuses: Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. If she wins Iowa you can say goodbye to Rick Santorum, as he’s sought the same “teavangelical” (I like that word) vote as Bachmann. The remainder will continue on to New Hampshire, where Jon Huntsman is also staking his hopes.
Obviously Bachmann has written off New Hampshire, which will be the test for Mitt Romney. If Romney doesn’t win New Hampshire, a state in his backyard, he’s a walking dead duck in the race. Newt Gingrich is also becoming a major player in the race, and as I noted Jon Huntsman is playing to win or at least do well in New Hampshire. Of the three, the loser is probably the odd man out and likely it will be Jon Huntsman. As well, Rick Perry is probably not strong enough to take two early losses like this. But if he is, he may play a role farther down the line – I don’t see it happening in my crystal ball, though.
At that point, it would be down to the final four: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney. I think the Bachmann firewall is South Carolina, for if she doesn’t win there (remember, this is in Newt’s back yard) it’s doubtful she’ll have the money to keep going. (You’ll notice the final segment of the video was a fundraising pitch.)
There’s no doubt I think Michele Bachmann is perhaps the best candidate remaining out there. But we know what happened to the last GOP candidate winning Iowa – Mike Huckabee lost his momentum quickly because he was perceived as unelectable and not a real fiscal conservative.
I don’t doubt Bachmann’s conservatism, but the trick will be getting her message out at a time when the narrative is that of a two-man race – Romney vs. Gingrich. That’s a battle of establishment candidate vs. Washington insider who’s acceptable to those inside the Beltway, too. I’m not sure it’s what America needs at the moment, though.
So give Michele a chance. Once we get through the clutter of nearly a dozen candidates still seeking the GOP nod, we can start focusing on the real race – the one to bring the end of an error come January 2013.
For those of you who thought having an Iowa caucus right after New Year’s Day (and a full ten months before the election) was ridiculous, well, we may just see this happen again.
In a Politico story from Friday, writer Emily Schultheis revealed that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is considering moving their primary – already scheduled prior to a date authorized by both parties (February 28, 2012) – to January 31. “It only makes sense that our state have its voice heard loud and clear,” said Brewer. I’ll bet 49 other governors feel the same way, Jan.
In turn, both Iowa (tentatively scheduled for February 6) and New Hampshire would be forced to move forward because Florida would likely jump forward from its January 31st date to stay ahead. Next thing you know, it’s a primary for Christmas – that’s the direction we’re headed. And it’s shameful.
I was hoping we’d see some common sense prevail after a 2008 Maryland primary that made our Congressman a lame duck 10 1/2 months before the end of his term (and just 13 1/2 after he’d won re-election.) And even February 12 was too late for Maryland to have a roster of picks to choose from since Mitt Romney withdrew from the race a week prior. Out of nine GOP candidates on the ballot only four were still active candidates at the time (John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Alan Keyes, and Ron Paul) while Democrats had just three of eight (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Gravel.) As for the rest, you may as well have tossed away your vote.
For years I’ve advocated a solution which does two things: makes smaller states more meaningful and compacts the race to a much shorter period. I think a June-to-November campaign is long enough, and here’s how it would work in reverse order, using a 2012 calendar as an example.
- November 6: General Election.
- September 4-7 and 10-13: Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively.
- July 24: Sixth regional primary (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico). In 2016 they go first.
- July 17: Fifth regional primary (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska). In 2016 they go sixth, in 2020 first.
- July 10: Fourth regional primary (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi). They would be first in 2024.
- July 3: Third regional primary (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee). They would be first in 2028.
- June 26: Second regional primary (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia). We would be first in 2032, after we work our way down the line.
- June 19: First regional primary (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine). They would cycle backwards to be first again in 2036.
- June 12: New Hampshire primary. By the way, in order to stay first they have to close their primary so only previously registered Republican voters vote for the GOP nominee and Democratic voters for the Democrat.
- June 5: Iowa caucus.
Doesn’t that seem like a more logical plan? It would probably save us all a ton of money because candidates would only have a shorter window in which to make ad buys and need only travel to certain small regions rather than all over the country. It also means that, aside from Iowa and New Hampshire, regions of the country would eventually get first crack at either a Republican or Democratic nominee (or both) every twenty years or so. And smaller states could get a little more love from candidates.
But I doubt my plan would be accepted by the powers that be. Instead, by the time the 2020 cycle comes around we’ll be voting in the 2018 General Election as the primary for 2020. Don’t think I’m kidding, either.
The former Godfather Pizza CEO pulled it out in the end, but a widely split GOP Presidential poll here drew votes for nearly twenty possible contenders. This goes to show that…we need to see just who will enter the field for sure, as Cain is the first reasonable contender to establish an exploratory committee.
This is how they finished:
- Herman Cain (former Godfather Pizza CEO, radio host) – 10 (12.82%)
- Gary Johnson (former New Mexico governor) – 9 (11.54%)
- Chris Christie (New Jersey governor) – 8 (10.26%)
- Ron Paul (Congressman from Texas, 2008 Presidential candidate) – 8 (10.26%)
- Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House) – 7 (8.97%)
- Sarah Palin (2008 VP candidate, former Alaska governor) – 6 (7.69%)
- Rudy Giuliani (2008 Presidential candidate, former NYC mayor) – 5 (6.41%)
- Michele Bachmann (Congressman from Minnesota) – 4 (5.13%)
- Tim Pawlenty (outgoing Minnesota governor) – 4 (5.13%)
- Mitt Romney (2008 Presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor) – 3 (3.85%)
- Donald Trump (businessman) – 3 (3.85%)
- Mitch Daniels (Indiana governor) – 2 (2.56%)
- Jim DeMint (Senator from South Carolina) – 2 (2.56%)
- Paul Ryan (Congressman from Wisconsin) – 2 (2.56%) – write-in
- Rick Santorum (former Senator from Pennsylvania) – 2 (2.56%)
- George Allen (former Senator from Virginia) – 1 (1.28%) – write-in
- Mike Pence (Congressman from Indiana) – 1 (1.28%) – withdrew
- John Thune (Senator from North Dakota) – 1 (1.28%)
- Haley Barbour (Mississippi governor) – 0 (o%)
- Mike Huckabee (2008 Presidential candidate, former Arkansas governor) – 0 (0%)
If you look at your top 6 candidates in this poll, you’d find the TEA Party carried a great amount of influence along with the libertarian wing of the GOP (who would tend to support Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.)
But would all of them be viable? Time will tell, but if you look at the top contenders from 2008 there’s little desire for a rewarmed candidate. Since I don’t consider Ron Paul as an ‘establishment’ candidate, the top votegetter among the group was Rudy Giuliani with 5 votes. Even combining the other 2008 aspirants (including Paul) they collected just 16 votes, which is barely 20 percent of the total vote. Mike Huckabee was shut out.
The only 2008 names which seem to have support are Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, who didn’t run for the top job four years ago but was added to the ticket just prior to the GOP convention. She polled reasonably well in this trial, but those who believe the nomination is hers to lose may want to think again.
Over the next month or two we’ll likely see the field shake out a bit as some of the bottom-feeders (and maybe a top name or two) decide to take a pass. The remainder of the contenders will likely begin getting their teams together for the busy times one year hence.
Well, regardless of the fact the survivor of the process won’t know the final result for another 21 1/2 months, the polls have begun for the GOP nomination in 2012, with the winner most likely taking on President Obama that November.
Today Rasmussen released a poll which showed Mitt Romney has the early lead for the GOP nomination, with 24 percent replying they prefer Mitt at this nascent stage. Sarah Palin netted 19% while Mike Huckabee picked up 17 percent. The top contender who didn’t run in 2008, Newt Gingrich, had 11 percent while national newcomer Tim Pawlenty finished under the “undecided” (10%) with a 6% score. Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels rounded out the field.
One weakness in the Rasmussen Poll is that they somewhat arbitrarily picked the seven contenders, yet they point out that the leaders at this stage rarely end up with the nomination. As I recall, at this time four years ago we were supposed to have a rematch of the abortive 2000 New York Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Hillary was the last person standing between Barack Obama and the 2008 Democratic nomination, but Rudy was an early casualty in the GOP race.
This is notable about the methodology, though:
The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary.
In other words, they rely on an open primary of sorts. More tellingly:
Romney, Palin and Huckabee are essentially in a three-way tie among voters who describe themselves as very conservative. Those who characterize themselves as somewhat conservative and moderate/liberal have a clear preference for Romney.
Yet Palin has the lead among TEA Partiers, and there’s no real way of knowing just how much influence they’ll have over the GOP nominating process in states with both open and closed primaries.
New Hampshire is a state with an open primary, and a straw poll was conducted there over the weekend – 273 Granite State Republicans scattered their votes among a total of 20 candidates. It’s not particularly surprising that Mitt Romney won, but 35 percent isn’t all that overwhelming considering he comes from a neighboring state and is a name well-known to “establishment” Republicans. Ron Paul was a distant second with 11 percent.
However, if you look at the candidates who could be considered the “darlings” of the TEA Party (Paul, Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Herman Cain, Mike Pence, and Gary Johnson) you get just as much support as Romney drew – they add up to 37 percent. Once the TEA Party can coalesce around one or two candiates, the race will be joined.
It’s pretty amazing to think that only one of those mentioned (Herman Cain) has even taken the step to form an exploratory committee – the rest are still considering if and when to jump in. But surely over the next few months the final field will emerge, and it will be fun to see how the race shakes out.
A few election cycles ago Republicans ended up nominating a real, honest-to-goodness old warhorse for their presidential candidate, putting him up against a scandal-plagued incumbent Democrat. With the off-year elections two years before bringing a resounding GOP victory, Republican regulars shrugged off the 23-year age gap between the two nominees and presumed that the contrast between the incumbent’s lacking character and their nominee’s homespun charm could still score them an upset victory.
But thanks to a lackluster campaign and just enough of a third-party effort to deny the incumbent a majority of the vote, Republican stalwart Bob Dole lost the 1996 election to Bill Clinton. It was an era which placed the term “triangulation” into the political lexicon and Clinton executed that strategy masterfully in winning a second term.
In fact, recent history suggests Washington insiders don’t do well as Republican candidates. George W. Bush won because he cut his political teeth in Texas, far from the nation’s capital. Similarly, Ronald Reagan governed California before winning the White House on his second try and America expected more of the same when they elected a Beltway insider to succeed him in Vice-President George H.W. Bush. Conversely, Dole and John McCain were longtime Republican fixtures in Washington, perhaps alienating them from the party grassroots.
To that end, a number of names being bandied about for the GOP nod in 2012 come from the ranks of state governors. While Bobby Jindal of Louisiana declared last week he was not in the running, there’s still several current or former state chief executives in the mix – Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Texas’s Rick Perry, 2008 candidates Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and of course former second banana Sarah Palin of Alaska.
Yet there is a Beltway insider who has enough appeal among the conservatives who attend events like CPAC or last week’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference to beat most of the above-mentioned names in their straw polls – he won the CPAC vote handily and just missed winning the SRLC balloting by one vote. If nominated, he would be 26 years older than the current incumbent Democratic president.
Somehow Ron Paul has escaped the wrath of being perceived as a Washington insider despite serving three stints in Congress totaling 20 years. Obviously he didn’t do particularly well in a crowded primary field in 2008 as far as gathering votes goes, but he proved a potent fundraiser and has become a darling among the portion of the Republican Party which preaches fiscal conservatism and limited government through his Campaign for Liberty organization. More importantly, he has an appeal among young conservatives which belies his age.
And with economic issues in the forefront this time around, one Achilles heel of Paul’s 2008 bid – his strident opposition to the war in Iraq – is off the table. His domestic policies generally follow a line which straddles conservatism and libertarianism, making him a definite friend of the TEA Party set.
It’s doubtful that many of the Presidential players for the 2012 cycle are going to make their intentions known before the 2010 election because of November’s potential for upending the Democrats’ stranglehold on our legislative branch. This wait-and-see approach serves to gauge the strength of TEA Party politics and the general anti-incumbent mood.
But don’t be surprised if the gentleman from Texas doesn’t toss his hat back into the presidential ring next year and is more successful this time around. Unlike Bob Dole, it’s not likely this elderly Washington insider will be uninspiring on the campaign trail.
Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer. This happened to be posted on April 12.
At a time when the political winds should be at their back the Republican Party may be ill-poised to make the electoral gains conventional wisdom and history dictate they should at this fall’s midterm elections.
Nowhere was this more evident than at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, better known by the acronym CPAC. One case in point: Rep. Ron Paul, who showed outstanding fund raising ability but few votes in the 2008 Presidential campaign, won 31% of the vote in a straw poll of preference for the 2012 Presidential nomination. The 76 year old Texas Congressman beat out such luminaries and former candidates as Mitt Romney (who had won the previous three CPAC straw polls), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee was also critical of CPAC, an event he skipped for the first time in several years, noting that the gathering had taken a more libertarian turn and focused less on conservative social issues. He also pointed out that the numerous TEA Parties had taken some of the luster off CPAC – however, over 10,000 participants registered for the event, making its 37th edition the largest ever.
There’s no question the TEA Party movement, which began with rallies about a year ago and became popularized by a nationally televised rant from CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli, has affected the GOP over the last year. While these newly-minted political advocates helped secure Chris Christie’s and Bob McDonnell’s victories in their respective New Jersey and Virginia races for governor and financially put Scott Brown in a position to be elected to the Senate, they also created a rift in the New York 23rd Congressional District race, allowing a Democrat to win there for the first time in over a century. Certainly this movement has caused GOP Chair Michael Steele no shortage of headaches during the first half of his two-year tenure.
Of course, Democrats have taken notice and are attempting to use this rift to their advantage. In Nevada, embattled Senator Harry Reid received some help as a group billing itself as the Tea Party placed a candidate on the November ballot. Organizers of the actual TEA Party movement in Nevada claim they know nothing about candidate Jon Ashjian or the ten people who are listed as the Tea Party’s slate of officers. Yet the group obtained the required 250 signatures and filed the requisite paperwork under the Tea Party moniker. Reid needs the third-party assistance as recent polls show he trails two of the leading GOP contenders, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, by double-digits.
With a mindset of fiscal conservatism and dislike of President Obama’s agenda, those who comprise the TEA Party movement seem like the Holy Grail of supporters for the Republican Party. But many in the GOP establishment dislike the libertarian streak present among TEA Party participants while social conservatives like Huckabee fret their pet issues will continue to get short shrift. And TEA Party protesters themselves dislike many Congressional Republicans who supported unpopular Bush-era policies and entitlements, dismissing them as “Democrat-lite.”
Perhaps herding cats would be an easier task, but to win in November the Republicans will have to walk the tightrope of appeasing their existing base while integrating the TEA Partiers by appealing to their fiscal side. But TEA Partiers don’t mind the Republicans being the “party of no” because they fear the effect of President Obama’s statist policies, so standing firm in opposition and not heeding the siren song of “bipartisanship” with the unpopular Obama agenda may be the key to turning over Congress this fall.
Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.
With a personnel change at LFS, apparently they are holding on to these for far less time. This cleared on Tuesday – tomorrow you get last week’s op-ed.