The Democrats’ biggest fear (for now)

It’s a concept I first heard from Rush Limbaugh, but it makes common sense: your opponents will show you what they are most afraid of by what they speak about and the terms by which they do so. In this case, perhaps their biggest fear going into 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was the subject of a DNC e-mail I received featuring this quote:

The DNC characterized this as an unsavory comparison, which some called a “gaffe.”

Obviously Walker was trying to portray himself as one who actually has a spine, unlike a lot of those who are in federal office at this time.  As a governor he has little foreign policy experience, but he has faced down more than his share of policy-based adversaries given his stance against the public-sector unions in Wisconsin. (It’s interesting to note that the Democrats in that Wisconsin case turned tail and ran rather than stand and fight for their beliefs. Par for the course.)

But Scott Walker has surged to the top of the polls because he’s maintained a relatively conservative line through the four-plus years he’s served as Wisconsin governor, winning not just two but three elections where Democrats have thrown the kitchen sink at him, including a trumped-up ethics investigation. A state that was considered to be safe for Democrats is now up for grabs because a conservative has led it for an extended period of time and performed successfully. That turnaround and the fact he actually stared down a key liberal constituent group and prevailed explains much of Walker’s appeal at this stage of the game. It’s a record none of the Democrats currently eyeing the nomination can match.

You may also recall that Walker was the subject of liberal wailing and gnashing of teeth a week or so earlier when he didn’t bite on questions about Rudy Giuliani’s remark questioning Barack Obama’s love of America. Add this to the CPAC speech and more and more on the Right are convinced Scott Walker is the Left’s biggest fear going into 2016 – so, to the liberals, he must be destroyed at all costs. Walker is hardly an elite or establishment GOP fellow, and it’s that relationship with the common man that Democrats fear, unlike Mitt Romney who they could (and successfully did) portray as a Wall Street patrician.

At this point, though, what difference does it make? To Americans who want a clear choice for President it makes all the difference in the world.

Bush redux

Just a day or so after the push continued to retool Mitt Romney for 2016, the counter-movement came from another Presidential family: on his Facebook page, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, the former governor of Florida, announced he would seek the office his father occupied for four years and his brother held for eight. While this wasn’t a complete surprise out of left field, the pundits speculated how it would affect the Presidential horserace for 2016 and seemed to believe that this move by Jeb was going to hurt the prospects of both Romney and Chris Christie.

Even the Democrats decided the prospect of another Bush was a good excuse to push for donations; then again, almost anything can be a reason for them to go begging.

I seem to recall we had 5% unemployment with a booming economy at the time the last Bush was in office, and it was 5% unemployment they didn’t have to drop millions from the workforce to achieve. So there is that.

Anyway, it looks like Jeb will be making his first run for the Oval Office. To be honest, if his last name were anything other than Bush I think more people would be very interested in his record and accomplishments. I recall at the time George W. Bush ran many already said the wrong Bush was running for the office.

But there is the question of whether eight years away from political office will make him more of a relic. Jeb has been out of office just as long as Bob Ehrlich, but while few believe our former governor has any shot at being President, there are those in the political world who believe Jeb is a shoo-in to be the Republican nominee. If so, that sets up the second Bush vs. Clinton election nearly a quarter-century after the first and the fifth out of the last seven to feature either a Clinton or Bush (or both) as a nominee. (Since Hillary ran in 2008, seven of the last eight Presidential campaigns have featured a Bush or Clinton. One can even argue it’s 9 of 10 if you count George H.W. Bush running as Reagan’s Vice-President in 1984 along with an abortive 1980 Bush campaign.)

Bush’s entrance into the race, though, may mean the “Ready for Romney” movement will be short-lived – and that’s not so bad.

Inevitability, though, has its pitfalls – just ask 2008 nominees Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Oh wait, neither won the nomination, did they? But through most of 2007 that was how the election was predicted to shake out – no chance the rest of the field would beat them; that is, until we counted the votes.

So if you are reading this from Iowa or New Hampshire, please say hello to Jeb for me when you see him, because chances are he will be in those places quite a bit. One advantage of being a retired public official is the schedule is pretty much free and I suspect Jeb will be a familiar face in those places.

Cain: Gingrich is able

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.

Thoughts and updates

I was thinking a little bit about the Presidential race this evening, and it started when I moderated a comment on my last post from Phil Collins (who I presume is not “the” Phil Collins, just like the Maryland GOP ranks have a Dick Cheney who isn’t the former VP.) He claims that he spoke personally to Buddy Roemer last Thursday and “he’ll run.”

If you believe the conventional wisdom, a guy like Roemer has no shot against a cadre of candidates who have money and name recognition. You know the names: Romney, Palin, perhaps Huntsman and Pawlenty as well. According to those “in the know” the rest may as well stay home for various reasons: they’re running horrible campaigns (Newt Gingrich), too extreme for the American public (Ron Paul, Rick Santorum), or no one knows who they are (the rest.) Funny, but I seem to recall back in 2007 the 2008 election was going to be that 2000 New York U.S. Senate race pundits were salivating over (but never occurred): Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton.

Almost anyone who runs for President thinks they’ll win, although there is that segment of society who has the ego trip of placing their name on the ballot line. (It’s why there are 156 – and counting – who have filed with the FEC to run. Most won’t even qualify for the ballot in Maryland.) The serious candidates, though, are the ones who are planning their message and the means to get it out there.

Yet even in this age of new media punditry, conventional wisdom makes the rules. Why else would a candidate who had not announced be invited to a GOP contender debate when others who were already in the race get snubbed? It’s understandable that a stage with over 150 contenders would make for useless debate, but someone like Gary Johnson belonged on the stage in New Hampshire. (Similarly, Buddy Roemer was snubbed for both New Hampshire and an earlier debate in South Carolina.) I think the 11 contestants I list on the GOP side are the most legitimate because they have some political experience and have a viable campaign. Others I would include on that list if they chose to run would be Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Rudy Giuliani. That’s not to say those are the only three, just the most likely.

It’s for those candidates who have announced that I’m slowly but surely working on the series of posts which will establish the Presidential hopeful I’ll stand behind this primary season.

Now some would say my track record is not good, as I supported Duncan Hunter in 2008 and preferred Steve Forbes when he ran in 1996 and 2000, but that’s only because the rest of the nation hasn’t caught up with me yet. (I say that only half-joking. Imagine what our country would be like with a flat tax system and a tougher foreign and trade policy like Hunter prescribed. I daresay our economic circumstances would be much improved.) Obviously I have a broad mix of conservative and libertarian views on issues, but it’s very complex. Someone said that the ideal candidate would take a little bit from everyone in the race, and I think almost every GOP candidate will have areas they shine in.

But since I want to use column space for this important issue, something has to give and I think I’m going to wait until later this fall to complete the monoblogue Accountability Project. After all, we have a Special Session so there’s no point in compiling legislative awards for the year until that’s over. The good news is that I have the most of the list of votes I’m using handy so the rest is just compilation. (I only need to find three good floor amendment votes to finish the list of 25 key votes for the session. The hard part will be limiting it to three, I’m sure.) I was also going to do it by county but since districts will be changing before the next election I’ll hold on to the old format until closer to 2014. It makes my life a little easier!

That’s one update. A second piece of news is that I should have a new advertiser soon, bringing my list to three. Yes, it’s a modest number compared to other websites but all have paid me in advance. They see value in maintaining a quality website which brings a mix of content on a daily basis. (You can too.)

So look for the posts on picking the Presidential candidates, along with other good stuff coming your way.

Unsurprisingly uninspired

Whether it’s because we have over eighteen months to go until the presidential election and about nine until the first real votes are cast, or if it’s a field which draws little but yawns, there’s just not a lot of buzz going in about the Republican presidential field. I had a poll up for a week and drew a small response – less than 5% of my readership had an opinion.

I set it up for two questions: preference for those already in the field and a wish list of those one would like to see enter. If the primary were held today, the top votegetters among my readership would be:

  • Ron Paul (35.48%)
  • Tim Pawlenty (25.81%)
  • Herman Cain (16.13%)
  • Rick Santorum (12.9%)
  • Newt Gingrich (6.45%)
  • Mitt Romney (3.23%)

In the category of zero support were Fred Karger, Roy Moore, and Buddy Roemer. That’s no surprise.

I was a bit surprised with the results of poll number 2, which asked who respondents would prefer to see jump into the field.

  • Michele Bachmann (25.0%)
  • Donald Trump (13.89%)
  • Gary Johnson (11.11%)
  • Rudy Giuliani (8.33%)
  • Haley Barbour, John Bolton, Mitch Daniels, George Pataki, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan (5.56% apiece)
  • Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin (2.78% apiece)

Paul Ryan was a write-in, as was Herman Cain. Somebody didn’t pay attention to my first poll.

And no one wants Jon Huntsman in the race. You would think since I allowed multiple answers on the wish list poll that someone would back him, but I guess not.

The biggest shock to me was just how quickly Sarah Palin has fallen out of favor. Had I asked the question a few months back I’m betting that she would be the top vote-getter, or at least right up there with perennial libertarian darling Ron Paul.

But it seems to me that her outspoken populist angle is being usurped by – of all people – Donald Trump. It’s surprising that a guy who has donated thousands to Democrats is being considered as a conservative darling, but he has name recognition to spare and isn’t partaking in the political doublespeak many other candidates engage in.

Honestly, I think she may have missed the boat on 2012. Whether Sarah would prefer to bide her time and wait for 2016 (which assumes an Obama victory and an open seat) or simply decided a position as a political outsider and spokesperson for conservative causes – one who can still draw a crowd – better suits her situation, well, that I don’t know. And there may be a cagey reason for her to let Trump take all the slings and arrows for awhile, since he seems to relish the spotlight regardless of how harsh it may be.

In a way, it’s great to have so many choices and not have someone considered a frontrunner at the moment. This is a time where we need a contest for the Republican nomination because it serves as a placeholder for a contest for the soul of the party itself. While the TEA Party can help elect a candidate, there’s still a faction of establishment Republicans who need to be eradicated from the levers of power before a takeover is possible. That faction is the one calculating just who would be the ‘safe’ choice acceptable to the American people yet malleable enough to control once in office.

Assuming President Obama is a one-term president, the new Republican president becomes the de facto leader of the party. It will take a strong conservative to fight not just Democrats but the establishment Republicans fighting the rear-guard action to bring the party to the center – in other words, the “No Labels” types. (Someone like Senator Jim DeMint comes to mind, but I doubt he’s running.)

I know my readership has a political compass pointing somewhere between conservative and libertarian, as it likely reflects my personal opinion. So it’s interesting to see just what kind of push that Ron Paul (and Gary Johnson, who announced shortly after I created the poll) have here as opposed to the nation at large.

In the next couple weeks I’ll begin to compile the Presidential campaign widget along with ones for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat and First District Congressional seat. (In that case I think the key question is whether we’ll see a Harris-Kratovil threepeat.) I know things slow down around here for the summer (who wants to sit inside reading blogs? Heck, I’m composing this outside in the summerlike breeze) but there’s a lot of political events going on.

Now is the time to really pay attention, since those in power know summer is a political siesta. That’s when they try and get away with the most damaging stuff.

Cain raised to top in GOP poll

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.

Isn’t it a bit early for this?

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.