Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Newt Gingrich

Tuesday Election News: Romney Finishes 3rd in Alabama, Mississippi

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Folks, you’re going to hear much in the next 24 to 48 hours about Rick Santorum, because Santorum won both Alabama and Mississippi this evening.  While that is correct, the real news is that Mitt Romney, despite spending an enormous amount of money, finished third in both contests.  (Newt Gingrich finished second.) 

You must keep this very simple fact in mind in upcoming days, because assuredly Santorum and Romney are going to attempt to frame this narrative to benefit themselves. 

The fact is that Romney finished third, which proves that Romney is extremely unpopular with Republican voters.  (This makes me wonder just who’s going to vote for the guy if Romney does, indeed, get to the general election against the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.)  There is absolutely no argument left for Romney to position himself as a moderate except to run on his record — and if he does that, he’s going to alienate even more conservative voters than he already has.

What’s odd about all this is that Romney views himself as an “inevitable” candidate; some of his campaign staff and surrogates have even hinted that Romney believes his candidacy to be “divinely inspired.”  Yet finishing third after spending such a huge amount of money is not the way an “inevitable candidate” is supposed to win, something Gingrich pointed out in his concession speech tonight. 

This points out that, at least for the moment, Gingrich has his pulse on what’s really going on with the Republican voters.  Neither Santorum, nor especially Romney’s people — as Romney did not make a speech this evening at all — are going to say this, but it’s the plain, flat truth: between them, Santorum and Gingrich won over 60% of the vote (closer to 70% in Alabama), and that shows that around 2/3 of the Republican voters in these states really do not want Romney as their nominee

This is the real story: how many people are going out to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses solely to vote against Romney in some way, shape or form.  Any other story, up to and including the fact that Santorum won (providing he doesn’t acknowledge this “inevitable” point), is nothing less than an incredibly distorted framing of the narrative.

Politics, Money, and Super Pacs — the Road to South Carolina

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New Hampshire’s primary election results both confused and baffled me.  How could the Republican Party electorate be so fragmented that not one, not two, but five Presidential candidates drew 10% or more of the vote?

And the putative winner, Willard “Mitt” Romney, didn’t exactly impress anyone even though he took 39% of the vote due to how close, geographically, New Hampshire is to Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.  While he gained seven delegates, Ron Paul did quite well in gaining 23% of the vote and garnering three delegates, while Jon Huntsman came in a strong third with 17% of the vote and gained two delegates.

But I’d rather talk about something else aside from the bare results today; to wit, it’s time to talk money.  Namely, Super PAC money.

Where is all this money coming from?  Most of it is coming from a handful of individuals, supremely wealthy sorts who can spend millions like it’s going out of style, which allows the various candidate-affiliated Super PACs to run all sorts of negative ads.  Some of which actually have some resemblance to the truth.

Now, are the candidates supposed to be affiliated with the Super PACs that are helping them?  Of course not.  But it’s hard to believe that Jon Huntsman’s father, Jon Huntsman, Sr., isn’t talking to his son about the ads he’s running on his son’s behalf; it’s really difficult to believe that the folks backing Romney haven’t talked with him about the ads they’ve aired on his behalf, either.

As most long-time political watchers are aware, the best-funded candidate often wins rather than the best-qualified candidate, mostly because he or she can take command of the narrative in a way that it can become tough to rebut if there’s enough money to throw at an election.

But if you read that as, “if there’s enough money to throw an election,” you might not be too far wrong, either.

So here’s the deal, folks; we have way, way too much money in politics, something MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan often discusses during his afternoon show.  We have Super PACs who can raise unlimited amounts of money and who don’t, necessarily, have to disclose who’s funding what with whose money due to the controversial Supreme Court of the United States’ “Citizens United” decision.  And we have a completely broken, fraudulent system that’s become more like an oligarchy than the putative democracy most of us grew up to know, study and love.

So the road to South Carolina is littered with all of that, which is why this is such a mess.

What I see is this: we have Romney, who a whole lot of Republicans and right-leaning Independents don’t like.  We have Rick Santorum, who is a Christian conservative — he’s a kind-hearted and well-meaning man by all accounts, but some of his public statements (especially regarding GLBT Americans) are, to be charitable, questionable at best.  There’s Newt Gingrich, who is a smart, wily politician — I don’t agree with many of his stances, but I’ll never deny that he has skills and smarts — but who has a great deal of ground to make up if he intends to win the Republican nomination for President.  There’s Rick Perry, who can’t seem to get over his disastrous debate performances to gain any traction.  There’s Ron Paul, who has become attractive to many people, mostly because he speaks his mind and isn’t anywhere near as “packaged” as the rest of the folks running for President.  And there’s Jon Huntsman, who really looks like he’d be a great President down the road — but not this year, methinks.

All of these candidates, were there some semblance of a level financial playing field, would be far better served than they are right now.  Gingrich has said so, and so has Perry to a degree; I applaud them both for their stances, even though what they’d do to fix this mess as conservative Republicans is to make every candidate have to fully and freely declare who’s funding whom and why.  (To my mind, that’s a good start.  But it’s only a start.)

As I see it, the road to South Carolina is filled with all sorts of potholes, unintended sinkholes, and way too much money to be borne.  So the media will clean up, the populace of South Carolina will largely tune out, and it’ll be much harder for any candidate to gain any sort of legitimate traction than it would’ve been with a more level playing field.

Because of that, my best guess is that if there is an upset here, it’s going to come from Newt Gingrich.  I think Paul will once again be a factor and gain delegates.  I think Romney will draw at least 25%, and I think if Huntsman continues to represent himself well, he’ll get at least 9% or 10%, a respectable showing.  But it’s also possible that Rick Santorum will do well in South Carolina; because Santorum and Gingrich both are trying to take Romney down, that might split the “anti-Romney” vote between them which allows Romney to eke out another narrow win.

And I do think, for whatever it’s worth, that South Carolina is Rick Perry’s final stop on the 2012 Presidential merry-go-round.

One final thought: I’d really love to find out how much money Romney’s five sons are earning as “campaign aides.”  I believe the only person, by law, a Presidential candidate can “shield,” financially, is his spouse — that’s because a married couple is counted as one, legally.  And I’m fine with that; I don’t really need to know how much money Ann Romney needs at this point, nor Callista Gingrich, nor any of the other candidates’ wives, either.

But Romney’s five strapping adult sons are another matter.  They are all listed as “campaign aides,” which means they’re drawing a salary.  I think it’s time we know how much Romney’s paying his five sons to do a bunch of make-work on the campaign trail, don’t you?

Whither Iowa? Thoughts on the 2012 Iowa Caucuses

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If you watch politics on television as much as I do, you probably have seen a great deal of hoopla surrounding the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.  This is the first test of several Republican candidates** who’ve had their moments in the sun — including Michele Bachmann (who won the Ames Straw Poll last year), Newt Gingrich (ahead in the polls in Iowa in early December), Rick Perry (ahead in the polls in mid-September), Ron Paul (ahead in some Iowa polls as little as two weeks ago), the hard-charging Rick Santorum (who could actually win tonight) and, of course, well-heeled frontrunner Mitt Romney, who ran in 2008 and whose support seems to run a steady 25% whether he campaigns hard — or doesn’t — in Iowa.

But the question remains, “Why does what the people in Iowa think of these candidates matter so much year after year?”

There’s an easy answer that goes like this:  “Well, c’mon, Barb!  These Iowans see the candidates every four years.  They’re less likely to glom onto a candidate who’s all talk and no action — that goes without saying!” 

But that’s a facetious answer.  The real reason Iowans matter so much is because most of ’em are middle-income folks and below.  These are as close to “real people” as the candidates on both sides are likely to see; between Iowa and New Hampshire, ordinary citizens get to have more dialogues with candidates than anywhere else.  And this may give campaigns like Romney’s a better idea of what middle-income people want out of their government, especially as the words “Romney” and “middle-income” go together about as well as a bullwhip and iced tea.

As a long-time political watcher, I’ve seen candidates do well in Iowa but flash-and-fade otherwise (2008 Republican winner Mike Huckabee comes to mind, here; so does 1980 Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush).  I’ve seen some candidates, like Barack Obama, do very well — surprisingly so — in Iowa, which helps them overall, yet others who’ve done well in Iowa, like Howard Dean and/or John Edwards, aren’t able to maximize their opportunities down the road and end up with that flash-and-fade effect, which looks the same regardless of party.

See, some of the candidates just peak too soon, that’s all.  Newt Gingrich seems to be one example of this, though he may well rally as he’s an intelligent, highly-seasoned political operative and if anyone can do it, he can.  Rick Perry is yet another one, though in Perry’s case he’s been his own worst enemy in the debates and that has definitely hurt him.

Over time, what the Iowa caucuses have shown is this: if a politician is smart, and can rally from this experience (whatever it may be), he or she will do well.   But you must learn from whatever it is the Iowans are telling you; if they’re saying, as I believe they are to Rick Perry, “Rick, we really like you, but you don’t have the gravitas.  You need to go work on your public speaking, develop a foreign policy, and come back in four to eight years,” the best thing Perry could do going forward is give himself a crash course in foreign policy, do his best to look like a statesman, and study up before he goes into another debate lest he have another one of those “oops!” moments.

Or if they say to Ron Paul, “Ron, we really like your energy.  You’re a breath of fresh air and we wish that more Republicans were like you in speaking their minds,” Paul needs to realize that what they’re saying, while gratifying personally, may not translate to electoral success in other states.  I’ll be interested to see if Paul can indeed follow up what I’m sure will be a very strong showing tonight — top four, easily, and he could possibly win the state as Romney isn’t beloved in Iowa — with a good showing in New Hampshire and a halfway decent one in South Carolina.  If he can do that, then he has real potential nationally.

And the guy with the most to gain — or lose — is obviously Rick Santorum.  The pundits have claimed for the past several days that Santorum will win, or come in second or maybe a close third, but that Santorum will definitely be a major factor. 

As I see it, Santorum could gain much if he wins Iowa; he’ll have instant national attention, a bigger flow of money toward him (as many people back a winner, but fewer flock to those who are seen to lose unless they’re super-committed — and those, in this crowd, mostly go for Paul or Gingrich, not Santorum), and more media types reporting on what he does every day, thus an easier way to get on free TV and make a bigger difference nationally.

But what he loses if he doesn’t come in the top four (assuming the top four will be nearly evenly split) is breathtaking, considering how far the expectations for his campaign have been ratcheted up. 

My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that Romney, Paul, Santorum and Gingrich will all have around 15% of the vote (or a bit more).  I think it’s more likely than not that Paul will win Iowa because his voters are passionate, committed, will caucus, will stay as long as is necessary and are vocal about their support.  But I have a sneaky suspicion that Gingrich will do better than he’s polled, too, because the folks who are backing Gingrich do it for these reasons: he’s smart.  He has good answers in the debates.  He’s a wily, resilient old pol in the best sense of that word; he knows how to roll with the punches.  And best of all for Gingrich’s supporters, Gingrich is the only one of the lot who seems to understand that to become President someday, you must turn your liabilities into strengths.  (I’m not totally sold on whether or not Gingrich has actually done this.  But I can see that he’s really tried to do so and that attempt matters.)

And I believe that Santorum, at the end of tonight, will either be ecstatic — in that he’s greatly exceeded expectations — or crushed.  I’m unwilling to say at this time which is more likely.


Note:  As President Obama is running unopposed in the Democratic caucuses, those are expected to be far more quiet — and far less well attended — than the Republican caucuses.  (As you might expect.)**

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm