Free Markets, Free People

Mitt Romney


Romney wins Florida primary

Does that mean a rapid closure of the Republican nomination process (i.e. will Santorum and Gingrich finally call it a day) or will this continue to drag on interminably?

Frankly, the FL primary wasn’t even close despite many of the pre-primary polls claiming it was a tight race.

Romney received 46 percent of the Florida vote. Gingrich had 32 percent, followed by Rick Santorum with 13 percent and Ron Paul with 7 percent.

Romney won all 50 of Florida’s convention delegates.

Fairly definitive, I’d say.

Ironically, it was Santorum who voiced what many GOP voters feel:

Santorum decried the tone of the campaign Tuesday night, urging the party to focus on the "real issue, which is defeating Barack Obama."

"Republicans can do better," Santorum said. "Really, this campaign went downhill. … the American public does not want to see two or three candidates get into a mud-wrestling match where everybody walks away dirty."

The guy they should all be focusing their fire on is Barack Obama.  Politically he provides a target rich environment.  It is time to start tuning up to address the real problem – the guy in the White House and his record.

One bit of irony as far as I was concerned:

In a positive sign for Gingrich, exit polls showed evangelical voters trending for the former House speaker. The exit polls showed Gingrich with 40 percent among that group, and Romney with 36 percent.

Gingrich?  Evangelicals?  Really?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Newt the victim

Just what the GOP needs:

Under siege from Mitt Romney and conservative elites who seem to be conspiring against his candidacy, Gingrich abandoned his stump speech on Thursday in favor of an angry tirade against his most daunting Republican rival and the Washington establishment. He isn’t the candidate who vowed to stay positive in Iowa, or the nose-to-the-grindstone guy he was in South Carolina.

As he took the stage before a tea-party crowd here, Gingrich seethed at Romney for the avalanche of negative ads blanketing the Florida airwaves and bashed the Beltway denizens for coalescing to obstruct his rise.

“There’s the Washington establishment sitting around in a frenzy, having coffee, lunch and cocktail hour talking about, ‘How do we stop Gingrich?’” he said, referring to a spate of prominent Republicans who painted him Thursday as a philandering egomaniac comparable to Bill Clinton and not as close to Ronald Reagan as he would like to think.

The former House speaker told the tea party crowd that they shouldn’t be confused by the attacks coming from the right because it’s still part of the scared establishment.

“Remember, the Republican establishment is just as much an establishment as the Democratic establishment, and they are just as determined to stop us,” he said.

And Newt Gingrich used to define the Republican establishment. 

Frankly, though there are two of them,  this is boiling down to GOP voters having a sort of Hobson’s choice – pick one of these two or Obama wins.  The problem, of course is that picking either of the two could mean an Obama win, and voters know that.  Both are about as much establishment candidates as one could imagine.  And neither offer the depth of message that Tea Party and conservative voters are looking for.   When watching these two, voters are reduced to wondering which one has the best shot at unseating Obama.

That person isn’t Newt Gingrich.  And Romney is only marginally better in that regard (I’m not endorsing Romney, I’m simply pointing out that in the big scheme of things, I think he’d have a relatively better shot than Gingrich).

As was obvious Gingrich is as thin-skinned as Obama and if he thinks the Romney attacks (along with those by the Democrats) are tough now, he ain’t seen nuttin’ sport.  This is just a warm up.

On Thursday, Gingrich went off on Romney for his negative ads, some of which are being aired by the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign and others by his super PAC. The ads depict Gingrich as misrepresenting his consulting work for mortgage broker Freddie Mac, which Romney says was really lobbying. They show him sitting on a couch with Rep. Nancy Pelosi and cite her comments about his 1990s House ethics case.

“This is the desperate last stand of the old order throwing the kitchen sink, hoping something sticks because if only they can drown us in enough mud, raised with money from companies and people who foreclosed on Floridians,” Gingrich said as he pounded on the podium. “Let’s be really clear, you’re watching ads paid for with the money taken from the people of Florida by companies like Goldman Sachs, recycled back into ads to try to stop you from having a choice in this election.”

Gingrich is referring to the fact, he says, that Romney owns stock in Goldman Sachs, which he claims is partially responsible for the mortgage crisis in Florida.

Yeah, and Freddie Mac is as clean as a pin concerning the mortgage crisis, isn’t it?  And did he or did he not do the Pelosi thing?  And if it were Mitt Romney on the couch, what would Gingrich be running in his ads?

Here we have another arrogant politician who thinks he should be able to wave away his record and pretend it never happened, because, you know, he’s got great ideas (I don’t want to hear about a freaking moon base when we’re 16 trillion in debt) and is the self-declared savior of our country.  Oh, and then there’s stuff like this.

Anyway, we’ve got one like that sitting the the White House now and chances are, given the GOP choices, he’ll be there next year as well.

“There is something so grotesquely hypocritical about the Romney campaign that I think it’s just going to melt down over the next six or eight weeks as the American people learn more about him,” he told reporters after the tea party rally.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know who characterized this race as the Indy 500 in clown cars, but it certainly is living up to that billing.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


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


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


Romney wins Iowa … or something

Ok, just being flip, but I’ve never really thought that much of the caucus process and still don’t.  All this excitement, work and rhetoric over approximately 225,000 votes.  Yes I understand the possibility of winnowing the field (think Newt will finally take the hint?).

So Romney won – by 8 votes out of about 225,000 total.  That’s not as surprising to me, frankly, than who came in second.  Very disappointing to the Paulbots, I’m sure.  But Rick Santorum?  Seriously?

And will Huntsman, Bachman, and Perry drop out or hang on through New Hampshire?  After all it’s not that long till NH and again, Iowa is a caucus state.   I don’t see any of the three doing significantly better there than Iowa, but still they may give it a shot.

Cain was beaten by “no preference”.  The only “candidate” missing, as far as I’m concerned, was “none of the above”.  My guess is NOTA had a shot at at least 2nd or 3rd, and who knows, with that field, might of pulled out a win.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Gingrich fatigue?

Probably not so much fatigue as getting to know Newt and finding out he’s not really the guy many in the GOP want as the presidential nominee.  In fact, no one seems to be really capturing the attention of likely GOP voters for more than a month or two without imploding or fading.  Gingrich seems to be doing a fade job as Gallup documents:

After enjoying 14- to 15-percentage-point leads over Mitt Romney in early December, Newt Gingrich is now statistically tied with Romney in national Republican preferences for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination: 26% for Gingrich vs. 24% for Romney. This follows a steady decline in support for Gingrich in the past 10 days.

My guess is “Getting To Know You” wouldn’t be Newt Gingrich’s favorite song, because the more you know about him and the more you hear him, the less you want this guy anywhere near the Oval Office.  And for the man who sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi to try to claim conservative credentials is, well, laughable.

So as the press actually vets a candidate (apparently they remembered how after Obama was elected) and voters get to hear more and more from him on issues such as the judiciary (and something about handcuffs) etc., not to mention the fact that he is the consummate and ultimate Washington DC insider, his star begins to twinkle less brightly in the political heavens.

Iowa will be upon us soon.  Rumor and a few polls have it that Ron Paul will win that.  As someone else mentioned, if he does, that will make Iowa pretty much a farce.  Paul cannot get beyond 10 to 11% nationally and winning Iowa won’t change that.  What it may do, it that happens, is cast even more doubt on Gingrich’s ability to win in the long run.  A Paul win in Iowa will simply make him the latest GOP shooting star.

Romney, however, will plod along and his organization will take Iowa in stride and continue on the long road to the nomination.  I’m not saying I want Romney by any stretch, just laying out the facts as I see them.   He has built the best organization and ground game.   Iowa will not stop or deter his pursuit of the nomination.  I won’t go as far as to say his nomination is inevitable.  It’s a long way to November.  I’m just saying that, barring the entry into the race of the prefect candidate, he probably has the best chance of being the compromise nominee when the convention rolls around.  Obviously the primaries will tell, but I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on Iowa.

Gingrich, on the other hand, is seeing what I would consider an expected pushback.  When you first see him and hear him you think, “ok, he’s articulate, he debates well, he could take on the incumbent easily and, well, he might not be so bad”.  Then you begin to pay attention and hear his ideas and thoughts.  And you decide he’s not at all what you’re looking for if you’re really a conservative.   He can talk the game, but if you really listen and pay attention to what he’s said in the past, you know he’s about as consistent as Mitt Romney – he just spins his flip-flops better.

That said, the GOP faithful are going to have to realize something – and before I say this, I want it understood it is not an endorsement of any of the above – they’re not going to get the perfect candidate.  At some point they’re going to have to pick among those running and back that candidate if they want Barack Obama to begin planning his library.  And it may entail holding their collective noses to do so … again.

If anything, that’s the problem with which the entire electorate should be concerned.  Look at the incumbent.  Look at the challengers.  How in the world did we ever get in the shape that they are the only one’s from which we have to pick?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Dec 11

This week–our last podcast before we go on hiatus for the Christmas Holidays–Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the end of the Iraq war, and the Republican nomination race.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Politics: Here’s something to chew on for the right

Charlie Cook is a greatly respected political analyst who works mostly for the Democrats.  But he knows the business and he has a great track record.  He said something in a recent column about the GOP field that just rings true to me.  I wanted to get it out there a) for discussion and b) for the record.  I’m interested to see if his prediction comes true for the reasons he advances:

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that, just as in a marathon, things like stamina, preparation, discipline, and focus matter. To win this marathon of a presidential nomination contest, one might add money, organization, depth, and layers of campaign expertise and skilled manpower to the list of what actually matters in this race. Even the grassroots efforts of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Howard Dean had some degree of infrastructure. Each of them also had a brain trust that existed beyond what resides under one head of hair and between two ears. That’s why I remain very skeptical that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will end up being the nominee, and will be pretty surprised if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney doesn’t. Exciting or not, Romney is the only one who has carefully put together the building blocks necessary to construct a winning nomination campaign.

Obviously there’s the possibility of a surprise here … personality and charisma (and no mistakes) overtaking good organization and money.  But there’s also a history that tells us that’s not often the case.   And we are talking about Newt Gingrich here, who can implode in a heartbeat as we’ve all observed over the decades he’s been in the public eye.

I’ve read a number of reports that the Gingrich campaign is not the model of organization and it lacks a significant grassroots base.  As the race nears the primaries of next year, those are going to be increasingly important to Gingrich’s chances.   Meanwhile, Romney, regardless of your thoughts about him as the candidate, has, as Cook points out “carefully put together the building blocks necessary to construct a winning nomination campaign”.

Note the specifics of his point: he’s constructed a “winning nomination campaign”.   This is a drive and an organization tailored to a specific goal – the nomination.  He’s been building it for years.  Gingrich, on the other hand, has been pretty much campaigning on a wing and a prayer.  Cook is of the opinion that will come to hurt him as this process goes on and I tend to agree with him.

Your thoughts?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Newt, Mitt and the incumbent Democrat

I’m not much of a Paul Begala fan, but in fact, like a blind pig will eventually find an acorn, he’s gotten this one right.  Why is Newt Gingrich in ascension?  Well because the ABR crowd’s latest candidate, Herman Cain, imploded.

ABR you ask?  Anybody But Romney.

Begala:

More likely the Gingrich surge is just the latest Republican tulip craze (count the pedantic historical references I use in Newt’s honor!)—with Newt simply serving as the latest vessel for the ABR movement: Anybody But Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president nonstop for about five years now. And he has gone from 25 percent in the 2007 Iowa caucuses to 18 percent in the latest Bloomberg poll of Iowa voters. He’s the Harold Stassen of 2012. Face it, Mitt: they’re just not that into you.

Republicans, apparently, will date anyone before they’ll marry Mitt. Remember their brief fling with Donald Trump? Then, after he decided not to throw his hair into the ring, they fell for Michele Bachmann, the Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya of the far right. Then it was Rick Perry—the guy who claims he jogs with a loaded gun (without a safety) tucked into his shorts. And now that they’ve tired of Herman Cain’s, umm, hands-on style of leadership, it’s Newt’s turn.

Begala’s point is fairly obvious but true.

However, there’s a very important point to be made despite that.   A recent poll found that Obama, Romney and Gingrich are statistically tied in the swing states.  Romney, as Begala and others point out, isn’t even the consensus GOP pick.  In fact, the GOP voters are willing to look at everyone else to see if any of them provide a suitable replacement for Romney.  And even the candidate they’d prefer to replace Romney with is tied with the incumbent Democrat.

That isn’t good news for Democrats if you think about it.  If the guy that is the last pick of the GOP faithful (or so it seems) is able to tie the incumbent president in swing states, how bad will it be when the GOP (and supporters) finally pick one candidate and get behind him (even Romney)?

Begala thinks Gingrich would be a “gift” to Democrats.  He’s right to an extent.  But the Republican’s gift is sitting in the White House right now. He actually has to run on a record this time, and it’s not an enviable record.  While it is true that Republicans are still trying to find their man (or woman), there are indicators such as that poll that say that regardless of who they choose, even if it is a baggage laden Gingrich, Obama has big trouble. 

So far those like Paul Begala choose to ignore that point.  Their intent now is to attack the GOP candidates personally as they’ve always done in the past (remember Begala comes from the Clinton campaign where the politics of personal destruction were raised to an art form) and hope they manage to demonize the Republican pick enough to let their guy slip by.  It’s about the only hope they have.

Gingrich will provide a target rich opportunity there.   But, given the incumbent, will it be enough?  I’m not so sure.  I’m certainly not convinced that Gingrich will prevail, but I do think that Democrats right now are either in denial or simply not aware of how deep the electoral trouble is that their candidate is in.  Whoever the GOP chooses, he will not play John McCain to this election year’s Barack Obama.

While everything is mostly focused on the GOP and their interminable debate cycle, at some point, Obama has to step out of the shadows and actually begin his run.  That’s when the real games will begin, and I’m not sure the Democrats yet understand that much of the fire the GOP candidates are now receiving will shift to Obama when that happens. 

It ain’t gonna be pretty when it does.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO