National straw polls still like Gingrich – but for how long?

Anyone who’s a political junkie of any sort knows that the presidential winnowing process will begin in Iowa a week from next Tuesday, January 3, 2012. By the end of that day we’ll have some idea of who the Republicans in that state prefer, with the battle then shifting to New Hampshire a week later.

But what if there were a national primary? Well, there is no such thing, but there were two recent straw polls which attempted to widen the focus out a little bit. These polls were conducted by two different groups: one was the Townhall/Hot Air Primary and the other was the Tea Party Straw Poll. I participated in the former but not the latter.

One interesting facet of the Townhall/Hot Air Primary was the opportunity for a “second choice” vote. As we all know, there are times we have to settle for our second choice as Herman Cain supporters are finding out. But I’ll start with their topline results (poll taken December 13-15):

  1. Newt Gingrich 36.5%
  2. Mitt Romney 18.8%
  3. Michele Bachmann 17.7%
  4. Ron Paul 17.4%
  5. Rick Perry 9.5%

Second choices:

  1. Michele Bachmann 25.4%
  2. Newt Gingrich 20.6%
  3. Mitt Romney 20.4%
  4. Rick Perry 18.2%
  5. Ron Paul 15.4%

There’s more summary here, but I found it fascinating that Bachmann supporters were the most diverse and that those who voted for Ron Paul must not have had a second choice. Jonathan Garthwaite’s article doesn’t mention who those that backed Paul voted in as their alternate selection. Worth noting as well is that Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum weren’t included because they didn’t attain 5% in national polls.

The Tea Party primary had the same frontrunner but also a caveat: four of the seven candidates they polled also participated in a tele-forum held in conjunction with the poll, so results may be a little skewed. I’m denoting forum participants with an asterisk (*).

  1. Newt Gingrich* 31%
  2. Michele Bachmann* 28%
  3. Mitt Romney* 20%
  4. Rick Santorum* 16%
  5. Ron Paul 3%
  6. Rick Perry 2%
  7. Jon Huntsman 0% (0.34%)

Obviously the poll was very skewed in favor of participants, but one can still make a reasonable assumption that Bachmann and Santorum in particular get a heavy dose of their support from the TEA Party, with Gingrich enjoying a more broad appeal among conservatives at-large. On the other hand, Mitt Romney isn’t making the hearts of the right wing go pitter-patter.

Yet there’s another item one can read between the lines. It seems that every time one turned around, Ron Paul was winning a straw poll someplace. But he didn’t do all that well in these two (granted, he didn’t participate in the call so his numbers would naturally be artificially lower) at a time when he’s supposedly becoming the front-runner in Iowa. We hear about Newt’s campaign “collapsing” but these numbers don’t necessarily bear that theory out either. I know Paul has his passionate supporters but too many find his isolationist foreign policy scary. And the trumpeting of the news that we’re no longer in Iraq may take away the Long War issue from the front burner.

As we have seen over the last several months of this GOP campaign, a week means a lot. Since the voting began in the Townhall/Hot Air Primary we’ve had a GOP debate and the media has trained its heavy fire on Gingrich. It’s no wonder some voters are having second thoughts, although some must be on thoughts six or seven by now. The only candidate still in the running who hasn’t had his day in the sun is Rick Santorum and maybe he’ll peak just in time for Iowa. Stranger things have happened.

PlanMaryland, like it or not

Why? Because the Governor says so. And you will like it.

I have found it interesting over the last few days that our “beloved” Governor seems to be operating from the shadows. First of all, his hand-picked redistricting committee dumps out the General Assembly redistricting plan on a Friday evening, when many have tuned out for the weekend, and now this move a week before Christmas. It seems to me that he could have gotten the same thing by making it part of his legislative package for the 2012 session and legitimized PlanMaryland more in the eyes of the public. Instead, Martin O’Malley rams it into law via executive order. Maybe he has learned a lesson or two from Barack Obama and certainly eyes the 2016 Democratic nomination.

And while the Executive Order claims that “PlanMaryland is not a substitute for local comprehensive plans and it will not supplant local planning and zoning authority,” let’s see what happens if a local jurisdiction doesn’t “identify proposed Planning Areas by reviewing their existing comprehensive plans and regulations to see where and how they align with Planning Area Guidelines.” Of course, those will be commanded from on high at the Maryland Department of Planning – the same people who gave us our redistricting.

The biggest problem I have with PlanMaryland is my belief that those who already have growth and development will be allowed to keep going, while areas like ours which need something to spur job creation and attract growth will be starved. There’s no question that the Radical Green idea of maintaining our rural heritage isn’t one of agriculture, but restoring our land back to a state of wilderness. Sadly, we have a Governor who’s pretty much in allegiance to Radical Green – hence the War on Rural Maryland.

Moreover, it’s a question of autonomy. Similar to the argument for supporting an elected school board over one appointed by the Governor, generally the closer government is to the people the more responsive and proper it becomes. Our interests may not be those of some Annapolis bureaucrat in his cubicle, but with PlanMaryland what that faceless and feckless automaton says will dictate our policies regardless of how we would prefer to proceed.

Now that the process is underway, a group called the Smart Growth Subcabinet will have the task of receiving reports over the next 180 days from various state agencies on how they will implement PlanMaryland, then another 60 days to come up with a summary report. Thus, by the end of next summer we will have some idea of PlanMaryland’s effects on our way of life.

Speaking for the other side, Delegate Justin Ready noted that “(t)he O’Malley Administration has said that PlanMaryland is nothing new.  However, they have also said that it is a ‘first step’. My view is if this is a ‘first step’ towards any change in how we deal with land use in our state – that first step should be vetted by the General Assembly,” Ready concluded.   “This discussion will definitely continue in the 2012 Legislative Session.”

However, the problem with Ready’s approach is that it’s almost certainly doomed to fail. Even if legislation which curtails some or all of PlanMaryland manages to pass the General Assembly it’s likely to be vetoed by Governor O’Malley. Then the question would obviously be whether the General Assembly could muster the votes to override next year and I don’t think the majority party really wants to cross the governor. They can conveniently let him take the blame since he’s not up for re-election in 2014 – but they are. And given the short attention span of many Maryland voters who don’t notice their freedoms being eroded drop by drop, they just might get away with it.