Free Markets, Free People

South Carolina


The Newtron bomb and plastic, fantastic Mitt

Yesterday, on our podcast, Dale, Michael and I talked for quite some time about the significance of Newt Gingrich’s win in South Carolina.

Does it foretell a Gingrich nomination?   Probably not … or at least not necessarily.  What it may signal, more than anything, is that the GOP voter doesn’t want some timid nominee who is mostly in a prevent defense mode.  Or Mitt Romney as he has presently evolved.

I was under the mistaken impression that the interminable debates were really not having much of an effect.  The South Carolina debates and results changed that impression for me pretty dramatically.

What Gingrich accomplished, with those two debates, was electorally remarkable.  He literally changed the course of a primary that all the polls told us was Romney’s – and pretty comfortably too.

The big question though is what does it all mean?  After all there are many ways to interpret this primary result.

Perhaps the biggest take-away may be that voters want a fighter.   They’re tired of the apologies for what they believe.  They want someone who is, as Michael described Newt, “unapologetic” about their conservatism.

The question that then follows is, does that mean they want Newt?

That’s actually a complicated question.  Gingrich certainly was the choice in South Carolina after his “unapologetic” debate performances.  But, per the polls, he wasn’t their choice prior to them.  So has Newt suddenly become acceptable as a candidate or was it primary voters really expressing their dissatisfaction with the rest of the field and using Newt as their surrogate example of why?

I frankly think it is the latter.  Quin Hillyer described Newt as the “Bill Clinton of the right, half the charm and twice the abrasiveness”.

If you’ve at all followed Newt Gingrich’s career you understand the truth of HIllyer’s description.  Gingrich is, in political terms, a human hand grenade.  In his previous life as a minority member of Congress, he was a designated bomb thrower.   He has, many times in his career, managed to insert his foot in his mouth to such a depth that he’s killed the impetus of whatever good thing he had going at the time.

However, in the South Carolina debates, he said what many conservatives have been longing to hear said.  And he also did something that conservatives love – he smacked the mainstream media, not once but twice. 

But is that enough to carry  him through the nomination process to victory?  That’s the pregnant question.  Will voters tire of him quickly?  Will Romney again reinvent himself as a fighter for conservative values? 

One of the theories out there is that voters have factored Newt’s baggage into their calculations about the man and have decided, the hell with it.  But Conn Carroll reminds us that for the most part, ‘America hates Newt Gingrich’.  His negatives far outweigh his positives and he runs poorly against Obama.

Of course, he was running poorly against Romney in South Carolina until a few days ago.

The other question about Gingrich is can he manage to discipline himself enough to somehow avoid doing or saying something which would doom his run for the nomination and/or his candidacy should he win the nomination?  My guess is, if there was a betting line established on that question, the odds wouldn’t favor Newt at all.

Finally, there’s the question of how the big middle – the independent voter – will react to Newt.  While he may, at least for the moment, satisfy conservative voters, they won’t win the election for the right.  The premise of the Romney campaign, at least viewed from here, is that their primary goal must be to woo indies because, in their calculation, conservative voters will eventually come into the fold when it is clear that Romney is the inevitable nominee.

I don’t think that calculation is necessarily wrong, but it is very unattractive to conservative voters.   And what the Romney team doesn’t seem to understand is that these primaries, unlike the general election, are where political activists and conservatives are much more likely to show up than independent voters.  And, of course, if you can’t get past the primaries, how acceptable you’ve made yourself to indies is really a moot point, isn’t it?

So Florida just became a lot more interesting.  As did the debates that are going to happen in the state.  We should see at least some of the questions I’ve posed answered there, or at least be given a hint as to their eventual answer.

Is Newt the one or will he eventually bomb.   And will we see plastic fantastic Mitt Romney reinvent himself yet again in an attempt to defuse the Newtron bomb?

All this and more, coming to a state near you soon.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


953 dead people voted in South Carolina

Aw, come on, we know this doesn’t happen:

South Carolina’s attorney general has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud.

Attorney General Alan Wilson sent details of an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

In a letter dated Thursday, Wilson says the analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters listed as dead. In 71 percent of those cases, ballots were cast between two months and 76 months after the people died. That means they "voted" up to 6 1/3 years after their death.

The letter doesn’t say in which elections the ballots were cast.

The analysis came out of research for the state’s new voter identification law. The U.S. Justice Department denied clearance of that law.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


GOP Primary news

All sorts of things popping within the GOP’s primary venue.

1. Gingrich’s ex-wife to unload in an interview with ABC News who, it seems or at least it is claimed, had some sort of ethical debate about when to air it.  Apparently ratings won and it will air tonight when it could have a very adverse effect on a surging Gingrich’s chances there (at least according to one poll).

I don’t blame his ex for giving the interview, but ABC and ethics in the same sentence did caused me to laugh out loud.

2. Rick Santorum apparently won the Iowa Caucus. My reaction?   *Yawn*  He certainly didn’t come close in New Hampshire and it looks like he’s going to bomb in South Carolina and Florida.  The world has moved on.

As someone ask, why again does Iowa get to go first?  And what does Iowa really mean? If you can’t get the count right, maybe you should go last.  Yeah, if you didn’t pick up on it, I’m not a caucus fan.

3. Rick Perry calls it a day and will quit the race.  That helps clear the field a bit more.  He’ll endorse Gingrich (all the non-Romneys will endorse Gingrich until Gingrich drops out).  If ever there was a case of a missed opportunity, Rick Perry may define it for this election season. 

4. And, after 15 or so "debates", Michael Barone concludes that the GOP candidates still aren’t ready for prime time.  I had hoped this tedious series of debates would have sharpened and toughened them up, but instead, I tend to agree with Barone … still an unprepared field.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled drudgery and thank you for stopping by.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Who won last night’s debate? Who cares?

Who cares as in “will it matter”?  

Seems to me that while it was clear that Romney didn’t do as well as he has in the past, Gingrich ruled and the others, beside Ron Paul, had at least OK nights, it really doesn’t matter as I believe the South Carolina primary vote will show.

If the debate mattered, Gingrich will surge dramatically in the polls and, one would think, in the final vote to at least close to a close second to Romney.  I simply don’t think that will happen.  Huntsman dropped out and that brought absolutely no reaction from the crowd last night when announced.  I think precisely the same would be true for any of the non-Romneys at this point, including Gingrich.

That is not to say I am at all pleased that Romney seems to be the inevitable nominee.  I haven’t been pleased with a GOP nominee since Reagan.  I mostly see Romney as another Dole or McCain.   That said, I see the man in the White House as far more dangerous than Romney.   But again, it seems this election season will distill itself down to the usual choice – the lesser of two evils.

There were some good lines last night from the non-Romneys and I was glad to see them back off the attack on capitalism and Bain.

That said, and considering this was a debate moderated by the GOP friendly Fox network, where in the world were the questions about the economy and the European crisis?  Where were the queries about jobs and how to go about creating them? 

Instead we got silly race baiting questions from Juan Williams (which, thankfully, were turned on him to the point that the crowd gave Newt Gingrich a standing O for his answer to one of them), questions about tax returns and other ancillary topics that really didn’t address the main problem of our time.

Certainly, if you watched Twitter during the debate, people had fun scoring the punches and the hits, the “dodges” and the answers, but in the big primary scheme of things, does any of that matter?   If polls are to be believed, Romney is comfortably ahead in both South Carolina and Florida.

I’m personally tired of the debates.  For the most part they’ve delivered more entertainment than information. They’ve devolved into scorekeeping about who got the best shot in on Romney.  This is something like the 15th Republican debate and we’re no more enlightened about the serious topics we should be addressing than we were after the 1st. 

If we have to go through more of this debate nonsense, can we have one solely focused on jobs, the economy and the proposed policies each of the candidates would try to have implemented to turn this mess around?   Can we hear an intelligent discussion of what the European mess portends and how it will effect us?  Can we toss a question out there addressing the President’s new defense strategy and its implications and effect on future American foreign policy?

And can we give them more than 90 seconds to answer?   I’m tired of hearing the same old stump speech for the umpteenth time, the usual fall back when there are time limits on answers.   If the debate is 2 hours and that means only 2 to 3 questions get asked, but each candidate gets, say 5 to 7 minutes to answer, I’m fine with that. 

Because that will actually require them to say more than the canned generalizations they tend to throw out there now in response to questions.  That will allow probing for more detail and follow up.  It will actually shed some light on positions and better inform Americans.

Instead we seem to be stuck with the equivalent of Twitter debates, with about enough time for a candidate to attempt to summarize his answer into 140 characters or less.

Is there something wrong with demanding substance in these things and the time necessary to produce it?

Or is that just simply not good for ratings?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Romney wins in New Hampshire

As expected, and as polls indicated would happen, Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary.  And he did more than win, he pretty much cruised to victory.  Second place went to Ron Paul, which, actually, shouldn’t be particularly surprising.  New Hampshire is a libertarian leaning state.  He should have done well there.  Jon Huntsman took third, which is mildly surprising, after the showing Rick Santorum made in Iowa.

And yes, the big loser was Santorum who was pretty much rejected as a candidate by New Hampshire primary voters, negating his Iowa showing.  Apparently his time as Republican flavor of the week may be passing.  As for Newt and Rick Perry … well as Ron Paul said, “drop out.”  Gingrich and Santorum polled 9% while Perry got an anemic 1% in the Granite State.

All of the bottom 3 candidates think that the upcoming South Carolina primary will resuscitate their campaigns feeling their messages will get a better reception there than in New Hampshire.  Frankly, I think Perry is fooling himself.  He hasn’t done well in either Iowa or New Hampshire and he’s not polling well in South Carolina.

PPP has it broken down as Romney 30, Santorum 19, Gingrich 23, Paul 9, Perry 5, Huntsman 4.   Rasmussen has it Romney 27, Santorum 24, Gingrich 18, Paul 11, Perry 5, Huntsman 2 .

If those numbers hold, and there’s no reason to think they won’t, it may be Paul who is looking for the exit poll after SC.  I doubt he’ll do well in Florida.  Huntsman is done and probably the next to leave, and if Perry shows as dismally as the polls show, he’ll be out before Florida’s January 31 primary.

Santorum is looking for a boost for him from what MSNBC calls the “socially conservative and evangelical Christian voters in the Palmetto State”.  If he’s able to pull Rasmussen’s numbers then he’ll stay for a while.  If he ends up second with a PPP  spread, he’s pretty much done whether he’ll admit it or not.  He’s not going to pull good numbers in Florida.

So, like it or not, Romney appears headed toward the nomination at this time.  Watch for Gingrich to remain to the bitter end and be much more destructive to the GOP’s chances than the Obama campaign ever will be.  Obama, after all, has to run on his poor record which means the campaign has to be careful about what issues they raise and what they don’t want raised.   Gingrich is the Attila the Hun of politics, with no such limits and no qualms about pulling out all the stops even if his effort is doomed.  As I said once before, it was only a matter of time until “bad Newt” showed up, and he’s here.

Meanwhile in New Hampshire, Barack Obama only managed 82% of the total Democratic vote.  10% went to write-ins and 1% of the total vote went to Vermin Supreme, the guy who claims to be a satirist and wears a rubber boot as headgear. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


DoJ rejects South Carolina voter ID law

With a tight election in the offing, it comes as no surprise to me that the DoJ has decided to begin getting interested in voter ID laws in certain swing states where it can.  South Carolina is one of those:

The Obama administration entered the fierce national debate over voting rights, rejecting South Carolina’s new law requiring photo identification at the polls and saying it discriminated against minority voters.

Friday’s decision by the Justice Department could heighten political tensions over eight state voter ID statutes passed this year, which critics say could hurt turnout among minorities and others who helped elect President Obama in 2008. Conservatives and other supporters say the tighter laws are needed to combat voter fraud.

Two of the things that the left constantly claims when such measures are passed is it is A) it will mostly cause an adverse effect among minorities and B) there’s no evidence of voting fraud.

We’ve dealt with “A” before.  If you write a check, buy liquor or any of a myriad of different transactions throughout the year, you are asked or required to produce a valid state issued ID.  Does that adversely effect the ability of minorities to write checks or buy alcohol?  Then there’s driving.  No license, no driving.  It’s a nonsensical argument.  And most states issue free photo IDs to those who don’t drive.

As for “B”, it’s rather hard to prove fraud when anyone on two legs can walk up and vote without having to prove they are who they say they are, isn’t it?

In any case, here is the existing SC law:

When any person presents himself to vote, he shall produce his valid South Carolina driver’s license or other form of identification containing a photograph issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, if he is not licensed to drive, or the written notification of registration.

  • Voter registration certificate
  • South Carolina driver’s license
  • South Carolina Dept. of Motor Vehicles photo ID card

    Voters without ID may be permitted to vote a provisional ballot.  This varies from county to county. Whether the provisional ballot is counted is at the discretion of the county commissioners at the provisional ballot hearing.

  • OK?  Here’s the new law the DoJ has rejected:

    When a person presents himself to vote, he shall produce a valid and current ID.

  • South Carolina driver’s license
  • Other form of photo ID issued by the SC Dept. of Motor Vehicles
  • Passport
  • Military ID bearing a photo issued by the federal government
  • South Carolina voter registration card with a photo

    If the elector cannot produce identification, he may cast a provisional ballot that is counted only if the elector brings a valid and current photograph identification to the county board of registration and elections before certification of the election by the county board of canvassers.

  • I’ll leave it up to you to determine what “new” provision suddenly makes this particular law, in light of the existing law, suddenly something which deserves rejection by the DoJ for the reasons stated?  Also note that SC voters will still need to produce an ID to vote.

    In fact, more methods of identification have been added and the same provision for those without ID remain, i.e. the provisional ballot that then requires they present a valid ID before their vote is counted.

    In fact, this is the opening salvo in a political war with the Department of Justice in the vanguard.  The same DoJ that refused to prosecute the voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers documented on video in Philadelphia in the 2008. 

    The federal action — the first time the government has rejected a voter-identification law in nearly 20 years — signals an escalating national legal battle over the laws as the presidential campaign intensifies. The American Civil Liberties Union and another group recently filed a federal lawsuit contending that Wisconsin’s new voter-identification measure is unconstitutional.

    Laws approved in Mississippi and Alabama also require federal approval but have not yet been submitted to the federal government. States can get such approval for changes to voting laws from Justice, a federal court in the District or both.

    There is no concern for the integrity of the voting system whatsoever in the action by DoJ.  This is raw politics.  There is nothing notably different or onerous about the new SC law.  But it provides a precedent for rejecting other state’s “new” laws in the near future.

    Here’s the Georgia law which has been in effect for years (passed in 2005) for comparison:

    Each elector shall present proper identification to a poll worker at or prior to completion of a voter’s certificate at any polling place and prior to such person’s admission to the enclosed space at such polling place.

    • Georgia driver’s license, even if expired
    • ID card issued by the state of Georgia or the federal government
    • Free voter ID card issued by the state or county
    • U.S. passport
    • Valid employee ID card containing a photograph from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state
    • Valid U.S. military identification card
    • Valid tribal photo ID

    If you show up to vote and you do not have one of the acceptable forms of photo identification, you can still vote a provisional ballot.  You will have up to two days after the election to present appropriate photo identification at your county registrar’s office in order for your provisional ballot to be counted.

    This law functioned beautifully in 2008 and no one whined about "disenfranchisement".

    Again, this is about politics.  Why am I saying this?  Here’s a clue:

    It is unclear if the four states not subject to the Voting Rights Act requirement — Wisconsin, Kansas, Rhode Island and Tennessee — will face challenges to their laws. Justice lawyers could file suit under a different provision of the act, but the department has not revealed its intentions.

    Depends on how close the election appears to be in 2012 is my guess as to what will guide “its intentions”.  After all how can dead people vote if they have to produce a valid ID?

    I have absolutely no confidence in the current director of the Department of Justice nor do I believe he has any concern about justice.  He’s the ultimate political hack hired to push a political agenda (see Fast and Furious for further proof) and this is just another warping of the concept of justice by Eric Holder.

    ~McQ

    Twitter: @McQandO