Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Initial Thoughts on Florida

1) Too many old people. Also, that affected the primary. I over-estimated Ron Paul's numbers (by 2) and the lack of anyone who eats dinner after 4:30 PM really hurt Paul in Florida. Just 21% of voters were under the age of 45 and just 6% were under the age of 30.

2) Santorum under-performed among White Evangelicals. He got just 19%. I over-estimated Santorum's tally by 3.5 points and this would do it. Hey Rick, if you're getting 19% among White Evangelicals, the game is caught. Go home. Interestingly, this is where Gingrich and Santorum split the anti-Romney vote. Romney won a plurality among White Evangelicals with 38% to Gingrich's 37%.

3) To the moon Newton! I nailed Newt's share of the vote in my prediction. 32%. The media will call this a rout. I think that 1) when $16M is spent to make you look like a bad person and 2) you are, in fact, a bad person ... 32% really is kind of impressive. Gingrich did lose among conservatives overall (by 4) but, among the "very conservative," he won by 11. The "very conservative" made up a third of voters. They will be more in places like Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Are victories in those states the path to the nomination? Probably not. But Gingrich does have a constituency.

4) My biggest error was on Romney's share of the vote. I under-estimated his share by 5.5 points. Most of this was the result of Romney's strong showing among "somewhat conservative" voters.

5) Turnout was quite low. This is what happens when 92% of ads are negative in a primary. More on this tomorrow.

Florida Prediction

I'm going to go out on a limb (a little) and predict that Gingrich only loses by 9. Most media outlets expect Romney to win by 12-15. Nate Silver's final projection has Romney winning by 15.

My prediction:

Romney 41
Gingrich 32
Santorum 17
Paul 9

If my prediction is roughly correct with regard to the overall margin, then the really close race tonight is whether Romney or Gingrich will win among "conservatives." As I've noted, PPP shows Gingrich leading among those who identify themselves as "very conservative." Romney has a similar lead among those who describe themselves as "somewhat conservative." And Romney crushes Gingrich among moderates and liberals.

So does Romney win among conservatives? I'm going to say he pulls it out by a very small margin but it is close.

And that is his big problem going forward.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Santorum is the Biggest Threat to Romney

Are you very conservative? If you are, you don't like Mitt Romney. In Florida, where Romney has outspent Gingrich by a 5 to 1 margin, Willard is still losing to Gingrich by 7 among the "very conservative" and Romney is losing by 7 among "tea partiers." Indeed, it is only among moderates that Romney beats Gingrich. Among everyone who self-identifies as a conservative, Gingrich is effectively tied with Romney.

These numbers come from the latest PPP poll. Among the "very conservative," it is Gingrich 36, Romney 29, and Santorum 24. And this is the key to Romney's big vulnerability going forward. Romney can continue to outspend Gingrich and win states. But that's not bringing very conservative voters to his side. So here's the nightmare scenario for Romney: What happens if Santorum drops out? Where do those voters go? Let me posit this. If you're supporting Rick Santorum, you're really committed to some crazy. You like some crazy. Not just the run-of-the-mill "I want to build a border fence with 3 moats" kind of crazy. I'm talking "Let's outlaw contraceptives" crazy. If that's your brand of crazy, you're not getting on board the yacht with Thurston Howell just yet. You're getting on board a space rocket and headed to that moon base Newton Leroy is planning.

The media seems very focused on the storyline that Romney's winning Florida and pulling away and oh boy, this is going to be a blowout, etc.! Let's say all that happens. Mitt may face a nightmare at that moment. Santorum could leave the race. And then we'll see whether Mitt can get his party's base behind him. I'm not so sure.


Nobody really ever comes back from Florida, do they?

Gingrich will lose in Florida, the question is by how much? It is a bad sign that the most recent poll to include cell phones in their sample (NBC/WSJ) has Romney up by 15. I still think it won't be quite that bad and Gingrich will lose by 9 points or so.

Gingrich has life after Florida. He seems to lead in national polls (I still don't trust Gallup very much) and he seems to be tied or leading in other states like Arizona, Michigan, and Minnesota. A win in one or more of those states could help him get to Super Tuesday when some southern states vote that Gingrich could win. So what explains the disparity between Florida and the rest of the country? I've never quite bought into the "debates" argument. Everyone thinks the debates made Gingrich in South Carolina and broke him in Florida. But his movement was underway before those debates in both cases. And, if the debates were driving this, why wouldn't his numbers be moving similarly in other states?

I think it is the negative ads pounding Newton in Florida (and previously in Iowa) that are causing the movement there. Mitt can replicate this elsewhere. But it becomes harder to do on Super Tuesday.

All this is not to say that I think Gingrich can beat Romney in the long run. He can't. But he can make it last ... at least until baseball starts.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Newt(ron) Bomb

Well ... we've reached the limits of Newt puns which is one indicator his righteous campaign to become President of the United States of South Carolina (Colbert had it right after all) has run its course. But wait ... there's more.

The polls were looking bad for Gingrich before last night's debate in Florida and last night's debate is not going to help Newton any. So, if we had to bet now, I'd say Newt loses Florida by about 9 or 10. Newt is about that far behind in the polls and I don't think he's going to drop much further. If that's what happens though, I'm not sure this (Fig) Newton is fully cooked (Hey, there's another pun!!!).

Gingrich will still have a rationale for going forward. It is not a reasonable rationale ... ya know, one where he could reasonably still be the nominee. But this is a guy who applied to be President of his College as a second-year Assistant Professor. He's not one to need a "reasonable" rationale. Any rationale will do.

So, then we start to look beyond Florida. Romney has more money, better organization, and lots more establishment support. Also, there's fewer debates going forward for Gingrich to change the game so how can he make this a race? Here's a few (unreasonable) ideas.

1) Gingrich does still lead the national head-to-head against Romney. That is a bit of a lagging indicator and he will likely drop again but he's not going to drop as far as he did the first time. There is some anti-Romney sentiment that has coalesced around Gingrich that won't go away easily.

2) Gingrich does lead in some particular states between now and Super Tuesday. He apparently leads by a lot in Minnesota don't ya know. It is conceivable he could win a state and get some momentum back.

3) Romney is still Romney. He's really quite an awful candidate. He's stumbled since just before Iowa as he has received more media attention. There's always the possiblity that he really says stupid things or does stupid things like hiding his money in a Swiss bank account. Gingrich will keep going because, if Romney really falls apart (not likely but possible), Gingrich would be best positioned to pick up the pieces of the nomination. So why not hang around a while?

Bottom line, the fun is not over even though Romney seems to have re-gained his balance by solving the riddle of Newtonian (hey!!!) politics.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feel Your Anger, Newt

This is basically what we need to happen tonight:

Feel your hatred, Newt. You hate Mitt Romney. You know you hate him. You know he hates you as much as the rake who bent his croquet mallet at the club in 1986. Stop trying to contain it, Newton Leroy. Let it out tonight. Let it ALL out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The polling data suggests that Newt has not only peaked but he is almost certainly behind in Florida. Nate Silver compiles the data here.

This is not hard to explain. Newt was leading for a few days and took his foot off the pedal. He scaled back the attacks on Romney, he tried to Bruce Banner it at the debate, and he unveiled a ridiculous policy proposal to build a permanent lunar base. He got Newt-ered.

Thursday, Newt has a shot to get back to the red meat attacks on Romney (and, more importantly, the media) that helped him win South Carolina. If he plays it cool Thursday, he's going to lose Florida. Simple as that.

Get angry Newt. Get very angry.

Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?

If you haven't read the piece, it is worth reading for its criticism of BOTH the right and the left.

Andrew Sullivan (a real conservative) defending Obama against Stephen Colbert (a fake conservative). Enjoy ...

The State of the "Response"

President Obama’s State of the Union speech was well written and well delivered. It was also carefully poll-tested, sprinkled with carefully couched political boasts and challenges to his critics. Because presidents get this grand stage with no time limit and plenty of “production value,” it has long been a perfect venue for campaigning. As a liberal, I enjoyed the speech, both for its policy content and its political effectiveness.

As a political scientist, I couldn’t help wonder why opposition parties don’t pass on their opportunity to deliver a partisan “response.” Speaking late at night from some location chosen for symbolic purpose, a bright light of the opposition party has maybe 10 minutes to try to dent the force of a president’s “close up.” Unlike the president, the person responding for the opposition party delivers an explicitly partisan political response. So, even though the president’s speech is always partisan and political, he has the advantage of doing it in a constitutionally designated way in the House Chamber with lots of official pomp and circumstance. Like most president’s, Obama never attacked his Republican opponents by name and delivered his sharp political blows just subtly enough to deny his opponents any useful campaign video. The person delivering the “response,” however, has none of these advantages.

As usual, last night’s effort by Governor Daniels was small, explicitly partisan and political, and inescapably bitter. Daniels is neither small nor bitter, but he had a mission that simply cannot be accomplished gracefully or thoughtfully by anyone. Forced to ignore the bulk of a president’s speech, the opposition party response must rely on what amounts to a “liar, liar” defense. Unable to take enough time to attack his target subtly or tactfully, Daniels was forced to make his charges too bluntly and without any substantiation.

I wonder when the parties will realize that this type of response is not useful to them. I also wonder why anyone with personal political ambition would agree to do it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry, Mitt

Newt’s object in the South Carolina debates was to be the Hulk. No, not that green thing Ed Norton tried not to turn into in that ridiculous movie. Obviously I’m talking Lou Ferigno. Pure anger expressing itself, bursting out of the same plaid shirt every week, on behalf of the little guy.

His object in last night’s debate, however, was to be Dr. Bruce Banner. Quiet, reasonable and bright, yes -- but most importantly, the key for him was not to get hyper, to keep his pulse rate under 200. In fact, you could almost see Newt repeating this mantra in his head, over and over again, as his blood pressure began to rise -- do not explode, Newton Leroy, do not explode. Channel your hatred. Smile. No, not that obviously evil smile, the real-looking fake one. Ok, forget it. Just take a deep breath, and go into morally outraged that anyone has the audacity to question your character during a political campaign mode.

I’m happy to say, mission mostly accomplished. The worst it got to was about here, when Romney was basically poking Newt in the chest, over and over again (like a 10 year-old kid in the schoolyard): “Hey Plutarch, how’s that 25 grand a month now?”

Bottom line, Newt held it in, folks. He held it in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spoiler Alert

Newt's victory in South Carolina was good for the news media and good for Democrats who enjoy seeing intra-Republican squabbling, but not a sign that Gingrich will become the 2012 Republican nominee for president.

There are only two realistic possibilities going forward for the Republicans. Either they will nominate Romney, or they will nominate a moderate to be named later in a brokered national convention. The Republican Party is presently embroiled in a battle for control between its ideologues and its political establishment. Thanks to the new "wild west" campaign finance regime created by Citizens United the nomination process has become the battle field for this intra-party struggle. The key advantage of establishment partisans in nomination battles past was that their candidates could outlast the ideologues by using electability as an increasingly useful way to sap ideological candidates of momentum and resources.

In 2012, the ideological right can afford to push a candidate all the way to the convention. However, I don't think they can prevent the establishment from beating them, one way or another, at the convention. Nonetheless, Newt or Santorum will likely go all the way in hopes of forcing the nominee to give them something meaningful, like a Vice Presidential nominee.

Romney in a Box

The initial Florida polling is perhaps not too surprising but also not good for Mitt Romney. Insider Advantage (a fairly unreliable pollster) has Gingrich ahead by 8 points. PPP (a great pollster) says Romney and Gingrich are "neck and neck" in their first night of polling. Rasmussen (consistent pollster but usually oversamples more conservative voters) has Gingrich ahead by 9 in Florida. Gingrich is most definitely ahead in Florida now, probably by 5-7 points. That’s more than enough to overcome Romney’s early voting advantage and it obviously means that the million dollars Romney has already spent in Florida is effectively wasted.

Romney is really in a box in my view. If you’re an adviser to Romney, you’ve got three problems: 1) The things you would normally do to compete with Gingrich’s surge are generally not going to work. Endorsements? You just make yourself look like more of an establishment politician. Negative attacks? Gingrich will deride them as typical slash-and-burn politics and a product of the liberal media. 2) The other problem is you’re an advisor to Romney. You’ve already demonstrated you’re an utter moron. The failure to release tax returns earlier, the use of “envy” as an argument, the lack of preparation for debates that allows your candidate to say “maybe” and so on. Romney's brain trust seems guided neither by brains nor trust. 3) Now you've got Romney's 2010 tax return being released on Tuesday. Why Tuesday? Because the President's State of the Union will drown out the news ... for a day or so. But the attention will come back to Romney's returns if there is something interesting in there and Romney will still be asked to release more years of returns ... drip, drip, drip.

So what does Romney do if I were advising him? 1) Release 10 years of tax returns immediately. Get it all out there, hope some of the bad stuff in there is lost amidst some of the other bad stuff in there, take your lumps, and let it die down (as it will) in a week or so. 2) Do less, not more. Mitt Romney's best weapon in his fight against Gingrich is ... Gingrich. Gingrich WILL say and do self-destructive things. Give him the stage to do it. Give him the scrutiny that comes with frontrunner status. Stay away from major interviews, run your paid media, and make it mostly positive. Gingrich is a walking negative advertisement for himself. 3) Stop the "envy" and "attack on free enterprise" argument. It is NOT working. Instead, use the release of your tax returns and the criticism that comes with it to make an argument for tax reform. Romney's response to the tax return criticism should be that he did nothing illegal, took advantage of legal tax provisions, and if we don't like those provisions, we should change them. Conservative voters like tax reform. All voters like tax reform.

Most of all, Romney needs to change gears. Throw out the textbooks you're reading about how a frontrunner nails down the nomination. You're in a different kind of race, a different context, ... and you're not really the frontrunner anymore.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reviewing South Carolina and Previewing Florida

One way to look at the signficance of what happened in South Carolina last night is to look at my predictions for South Carolina, where they were off, and what that tells us about where the race is headed.

I pegged Gingrich at 37% and he got 40% of the vote. It seems those polls that were showing Gingrich still surging on Friday night and Saturday were correct. But to really understand the depth and meaning of this defeat for Romney, you have to consider that BOTH Gingrich and Santorum overperformed my prediction (and Nate Silver's for that matter). In other words, what I suggested might happen ("some Santorum voters may defect to Gingrich") to drive Gingrich to a bigger victory is NOT what caused the blowout. Instead, some conservative voters, tea party voters, etc., defected from Romney to both Gingrich and Santorum. I have seen many analyses suggest this morning that Gingrich won because conservative voters were "coalescing" behind Gingrich. That's not quite true. It is more accurate to say that conservative voters are coalescing "against Romney." Many are moving to Gingrich. But some moved to Santorum, who received 17% (I had predicted 15%, Silver had him at 14%).

In sum, South Carolina was more a rejection of Romney by conservatives than an endorsement of Gingrich. Among the 36% of South Carolina Primary voters who described themselves as "very conservative," Gingrich got 48% and Romney got 19%. But just imagine if these "very conservative" voters had, in fact, "coalesced" around Gingrich as some have suggested. What I didn't mention was that Santorum got 23% of these "very conservative" voters. Assuming those voters break out on a 2.5 to 1 Gingrich to Romney ratio as they were distributed if it were a head-to-head matchup, and Gingrich's lead is 62% to 26%. And guess what? Romney didn't do well among the 32% who described themselves as "somewhat conservative" either (Gingrich won 41% to 30% there).

Now take that math to Florida. Yes, Romney has more money and yes, some 200,000 voters have already cast ballots in Florida and that is an advantage for Romney. But Florida is a closed primary (unlike South Carolina) and, in 2008, 61% of Florida Republican Primary voters described themselves as "conservative." This is not too short of the 68% of South Carolina voters who described themselves as either "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative." The turf is a little better for Romney but not enough to make up for a deficit of the size we saw in South Carolina. Romney needs the deck to be shuffled. So what does he do?

This morning, Romney announced he will be releasing his 2010 tax returns on Tuesday. This is not going to be good for Romney but he doesn't have good options at this point on his tax returns. The right move for Romney would have been to release 10 years worth of his returns a year ago. He can't go back and fix that mistake now. The best thing now is to get everything out there that he can and take his lumps as soon as possible so that he can get past it as soon as possible. Why he's only releasing one year of returns is beyond me though. Better to get everything out there right away and deal with it. Also, releasing a flood of material will allow at least some of the bad details to get buried under the really bad details. A drip, drip, drip of releases only extends and highlights the narrative.

I had said a few days ago that Mitt Romney's campaign team was guilty of campaign malpractice. Last night, on MSNBC, one commentator suggested that Romney's team should have had a discussion and an answer on the tax returns question a year ago. Steve Schmidt, McCain's campaign manager from 2008, chimed in that it was a discussion they should have had "FIVE years ago!" He's right.

Republicans are really in between a rock and a hard place right now. Mitt is the rock ... stiff, inflexible, sinking, and apparently unable to adjust. Newt is the hard place ... the nominee the very conservative wing of the Party seems to want and the nominee that would SURELY lose in the Fall and probably in a big landslide.

At a minimum, Romney is going to expend a lot of resources and has to find a way to win conservatives over. That will mean tacking more to the right and alienating independents at least temporarily. At worst, a Romney loss in Florida will lead to unmitigated panic in the GOP to find an electable alternative to Gingrich.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Quick Thought on SC Results

I am listening to Mitt Romney's concession speech ... and I am absolutely convinced he's learned NOTHING from the last two weeks while his campaign has melted down. On the night of the New Hampshire Primary, I focused in on Romney's use of this "attack on free enterprise" and "envy" argument and said it was a mistake. Romney seems to be doubling down on it by attacking Gingrich along the same lines. Romney said he knew Barack Obama would criticize success and free enterprise but he didn't know members of the Republican Party (Gingrich, et al.) would join him.

Romney and his campaign team are utterly tone deaf ... and they are really melting right now.

Steve Schmidt (ya know, the last guy to beat the tar out of Romney) was just asked on MSNBC if the Romney campaign meeting on taxes should have happened a year ago. Schmidt said, "it should have happened 5 years ago!"

UPDATE: Glad to see Sullivan was writing along very similar lines as I was at the same moment watching Romney speak ...

8.07 pm. Romney's speech is a little hackneyed, but focuses in the end on Gingrich, someone "who hasn't run a business or run a government." He attacks Gingrich for "picking up the weapons of the left" today. He is sticking to his defense of Bain Capital as indistinguishable from capitalism itself. That argument didn't work in South Carolina, and it remains weak, weak, weak.

More later ...

Predicting South Carolina ... and Beyond

Before the Iowa Caucus I pointed out that predicting primary and caucus outcomes is usually a fool's errand but I'll do it again anyway. My prediction is ...

Gingrich - 37
Romney - 30
Paul - 15
Santorum - 15
Cain - 3

Let's start at the bottom. I think a few people will come out to vote for Stephen Colbert (Herman Cain). That means that, in percentage terms, Colbert will have had the biggest surge in South Carolina.

On to the serious stuff. The latest PPP polling showed Gingrich's momentum continuing to build, not slowing down. They had him up by 9 overall but up by 14 in the last night of polling. So why do I think Gingrich's win will be a little smaller than that? 1) PPP does not do live interviewing and I think that means they under-poll cell-phone only households ... and those are not Gingrich voters. 2) Gingrich does not have much of a ground game so Romney will gain on him a bit there as well. 3) There is rain in South Carolina and that will make things worse for a candidate who does not have a ground game. I do think there is much potential for Gingrich to outperform my prediction as well, particularly if the sizable number of Santorum voters move to their second choice (Gingrich for half of them) knowing Santorum can't win. But 37 seems about right to me.

Romney is really a mess right now. PPP has him at 28 and I'll give him a 2-point boost for turnout operation and perhaps a gag reflex among some voters who liked Gingrich's debate performance but just can't pull the trigger for the former Speaker.

The battle for third place between Santorum and Paul should be close. I give Paul the edge on the basis of voter enthusiasm and the fact that some Santorum voters may defect to Gingrich.

The interesting question about Santorum is whether he'll stay in the race after tonight. He shouldn't. He can't win. His small bank account will dry up after this Gingrich surge and there is just no path to victory for him ... unless Gingrich's support collapses. That could never happen, right? Right. So, Santorum will probably stay in.

So, let's say I'm right. What happens next? The polls have Romney well ahead in Florida and most in the media seem to think Romney will hold steady there. In addition, the demographics of Florida are different than South Carolina (fewer evangelicals, lower unemployment rate) and Romney has more money to compete in the expensive media markets of Florida. I think there's three big problems with that line of thinking: 1) Gingrich will get a huge free media boost out of South Carolina if he wins as I predict. 2) Gingrich will raise more money as a result of a South Carolina victory and his SuperPAC supporters will likely double down if he wins South Carolina. 3) Romney is now planning to debate in Florida and that means he'll either have to release his tax returns (disaster), not release his tax returns (disaster), or continue to say "maybe" on releasing his tax returns (disaster). Put all that together and it seems possible Gingrich could win Florida. I don't know that it is likely as Gingrich has his own problems that Romney will bring into sharper focus but it is possible.

So what happens if Gingrich wins South Carolina AND Florida? Panic in the GOP. The establishment is not going to be okay with Gingrich as the nominee. And the establishment is going to be uncomfortable with the guy who can't beat Gingrich. Messy, messy. Here's hoping for a mess.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Has one word ever summed up a candidate better?

Romney is sliding in South Carolina, his campaign is having trouble, he's had his first poor debate performances, and he's been asked questions about his tax returns over and over. It isn't like they couldn't see this question coming in the debate. And the prepared answer is ... maybe? MAYBE?!?

Mitt Romney needs to get a lawyer and sue his campaign team for malpractice. There is simply no way he can still not have a clear answer to the tax return question. And yet he really doesn't. He answers with maybe and then some vague nonsense about "multiple years" but he's not willing to say how many. And he still doesn't provide a clear answer as to when he will release them. How is there no clear answer here???

We all know there is stuff in the tax returns that will make Romney look bad. He pays a lower rate than too many people. He earns a lot and people might feel like he's out of touch. And he probably has used some tax dodges that are legal but look bad. But whatever the bad stuff is ... get it out there. This is PR 101.

How does he get asked about his taxes and say ... "maybe???"

By the way, a little bonus on this video clip is Rick Santorum. Watch Santorum's reaction as he stands next to Romney flailing. He's having a ball.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Independents Not Digging Romney

PPP has a poll out today with Obama beating Romney nationally 49-44. It is not a massive lead but it is an improvement on where things had been.

Of particular note is Romney's slippage among moderates and independents:
It's not as if Obama's suddenly become popular. He remains under water with 47% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But Romney's even less popular, with only 35% rating him favorably while 53% have a negative opinion of him. Over the last month Romney's seen his negatives with independents rise from 46% to 54%, suggesting that the things he has to say and do to win the Republican nomination aren't necessarily helping him for the general. Obama's turned what was a 45-36 deficit with independents a month ago into a 51-41 advantage.

One thing that really stands out in this poll is the extent to which Obama has claimed the middle. He's up 68-27 on Romney with moderates. He also leads by 20 points with voters under 45, a group there's been some concern about slippage with, and he has a 66-30 advantage with Hispanics.

Maybe Mitt should have one of those discussions about envy that we're allowed to have in "quiet rooms" sooner rather than later.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Colbert = Genius

Not only is this ad brilliant from the over-sized salmon he pretends to have caught to the slow-developing smile Colbert promised he could do better than Cain ... but is it me or is Colbert trying to hijack Cain's actual spot on the ballot?

The ad is called ... "Not Abel." So Colbert is effectively on the ballot and now I have a reason to watch the returns on Saturday.

Obama's Long Game

Andrew Sullivan (a conservative in case anyone has forgotten) says what I think about Obama better than I can. He rips the right for being what they are: a band of un-thinking ideologues who care only about amassing power, not policy. But he also rips the left, as I regularly do, for totally misunderstanding Obama: for failing, over and over, to recognize the touchdowns Obama has put on the board just because he doesn't do a dance in the endzone.

Sullivan's piece is a must-read.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Warm, Genuine, and Does Not Enjoy Firing People ...

... That's Mitt Romney!

Colbert SuperPAC

Their first ad in South Carolina accuses Mitt Romney of being a serial killer. Pure gold ...

Friday, January 13, 2012

John Sides asks "Does Mitt Romney Have a Wealth Problem?" The answer? Yes. This graph sums it up:

Envy Redux

I said it the other night and I'm saying it again ... this counterargument from Romney about "envy" is a big, big mistake and his speech on New Hampshire Primary Night was a big mistake. Andrew Sullivan agrees.

And his response to the people in this documentary - white working class heartland Americans, the GOP base - is that they are merely envious of his achievements. ... I simply cannot imagine a worse narrative for a candidate in this climate; or a politician whose skills are singularly incapable of responding to the story in any persuasive way.

The problem is that the mood out there is not "an attack on capitalism" as Romney puts it. It is a revulsion about a certain type of economic parasite - the Wall Street money manipulators. The folks who got us into this mess were and are an abhorrent lot to those on Main Street because they produce nothing, at least that is the perception. They simply suck money out of the system.

And when Romney says that people who find what Bain Capital did to be distasteful are "envious," he is offering the worst kind of response. "Aw, you're just jealous." He is rubbing salt in the wound. Nate Silver points out the attack on Romney cuts to the core of his brand. I think Romney's response is making it worse.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


As I posted on Tuesday night, it is being a bit over-stated. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner does some math:

When you eliminate independents and Democrats from the 2008 equation, actual registered Republicans made up 61 percent of the roughly 239,000 votes cast in the GOP primary, putting the turnout among Republicans at around 145,790. But last night, actual Republicans only comprised 49 percent of the electorate, according to exits. Even if we round up the final 2012 turnout number to 250,000, which would be slightly higher than current projections, that would only leave actual Republican turnout at 122,500, which would represent a 16 percent drop.

Now obviously, there are a number of caveats involved. More and more voters are identifying as independent, especially in New Hampshire, even though they typically behave in a partisan matter. And perhaps disaffection with Obama also led to a spike in turnout among Democrats and true independents. But either way, this is worth keeping in mind when you hear reports of the "record" turnout. From my observations, Republican events have been generally low energy both in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially when compared with what we saw on the Democratic side in 2008.

So, Romney did well in New Hampshire, yeah. But it is (one of) his home state(s) and it is a primary in which just 28% of the electorate was evangelical. 60% of caucus-goers in Iowa were evangelicals and in South Carolina? Probably about 60%.

I'm not saying Romney is going to lose the nomination. He's not. He will be the nominee. But there are still two things at stake: 1) Will Romney be forced to work for the nomination, expend resources, and take fire? 2) Are Republicans going to be enthusiastic about their nominee?

These numbers from New Hampshire tell me (and I'm having trouble convincing people of this) that Romney is still going to face some bumps in the road and that Republicans are not feeling "Mitt-Mentum" just yet.

UPDATE: 3 polls are showing a very close race in South Carolina. 2 of them are from pollsters I don't trust (ARG and Insider Advantage) at all. But PPP is a VERY good pollster and they've got the race tight. So, Mitt is in for a bumpier ride than the really poor analysis done on New Hampshire Primary Night suggested. Again, Mitt is going to be the nominee. But he's going to have to take some more lumps before it is over.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Mitt Romney has been attacking Obama for employing "the rhetoric of envy."

I really think this is a mistake for Romney. In short, I think it does not look good to be a rich guy telling America that "Obama is just trying to make everyone envious of me." That is not the language Romney uses but I think that is the message that is received.

It is as if two kids are arguing and one accuses the other of being a child of privilege and the privileged child says, "you're just jealous." Well, that line not only acknowledges the wealth, it tells the person who is not wealthy their lot in life is their fault.

To put it in more strategic terms, last night, Romney received 48% of the vote in New Hampshire from Republican Primary voters with over $100,000 in income but just 33% of those under $100,000 in income. But just 37% of Republican Primary voters had income over $100,000. He just stuck out his tongue at people who don't like him already. Now imagine the demographics in low-income South Carolina compared with New Hampshire (lower income in South Carolina). Now imagine the demographics among the broader electorate (much lower income than the Republican Primary electorate).

Mitt Romney appears to be embracing his public persona as a candidate for wealthy people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Initial Thoughts on Romney's "Win"

Yeah. The airquotes are intended to be sarcastic.

Comparing the initial results from tonight with my pre-primary night post on expectations for Romney, we can see that Romney failed on at least one key measure and I think it really is an ominous sign for Romney. I had said that it would be bad if Romney failed to match his vote total from 2008 but that I thought this was not likely to happen. It appears it is happening:

Although the polls made pretty good predictions of the election outcome tonight, forecasting turnout is harder. So far it looks like rumors of a record Republican turnout in New Hampshire were greatly exaggerated.

With 85 of 301 precincts reporting, 52,191 voters have cast a ballot in the Republican primary so far. That projects to about 185,000 votes statewide, as compared with about 240,000 votes in the Republican primary in 2008.

The drop-off in turnout looks worse for Republicans since a higher fraction of voters - about half this year, compared to 37 percent in 2008 - are independents. That means that turnout among registered Republicans could alone be off by nearly 40 percent from 2008.

- Nate Silver

So, if this is true, what does it mean? Romney appears headed for about 35% to 36% of the vote tonight. That's sort of in the middle between what he was hoping for (40%+) and what I thought would be a disaster for Romney (<32%). It does appear he'll have beaten Ron Paul by more than 10 points ... but not by much more. But the low voter turnout is pretty awful and, if Romney does get fewer votes in 2012 than in 2008, I think that's a real danger sign for him.

Remember that there is no competitive Democratic Primary this year so independents are not being drawn in big numbers away from the GOP Primary as they were in 2008. Turnout should have been higher. It appears to be a lot lower.

Let's put this another way. In 2008, Romney lost the nomination ... but he couldn't even get all of those voters in New Hampshire that voted for him last time to vote for him this time. In effect, his win tonight was simply the result of the failure of the anti-Romney vote to coalesce around anyone in particular. Had they done so, there was plenty of room for Romney to actually lose tonight.

There are two bad things that can happen to a frontrunner on primary night. One is they can lose. Romney avoided that. But the other bad thing that can happen is they can win but misinterpret the result as a sign that they're on the right track. Romney does not seem to be seeing the danger signs here. He has underperformed his polls in Iowa and in New Hampshire. He has received fewer votes in Iowa AND in New Hampshire compared with 2008. But he seems to think voters like him more this time. That's not it Willard. They just like your opposition less.

UPDATE: My initial read of the early numbers is not quite as bad for Romney. It does appear he will get a few more votes than in 2008 (roughly 10,000 more by current projections) but the argument still stands I think. Maybe just not as emphatically.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mitt Romney's Very, Very Bad, No Good, Horrible Day ...

... and then there's this:

Romney is having a bad day and some (not all) polling shows his numbers eroding a bit in New Hampshire. Will it be enough for Romney to lose in New Hampshire? No. Will it be enough for Romney to "lose" New Hampshire? Possibly.

Romney can "lose" New Hampshire by having a significantly worse-than-expected showing. What is worse than expected? How about ...

1) ... failing to match one's percentage of the vote from 2008? Romney got 31.56% in 2008. It seems unlikely he'll go below that this time ... but it is possible.

2) ... failing to reach his vote total from 2008? There was a lot of energy on the Democratic side sucking up votes that will be there in 2012. So this is very unlikely.

3) ... failing to finish more than 10% ahead of all his rivals. Expectations for Romney's dominance in New Hampshire have been so high that failing to win in a walk would be bad. Paul and Huntsman have both been gaining steam in New Hampshire. Again possible but unlikely.

So, the best-case scenario for Romney in New Hampshire right now is that he meets expectations and wins with say, 40% - 45%. There will be very little bump in the polls from that. There are some bad scenarios for Tuesday night to be watched. Those aren't likely but they are more likely than they were 24 hours ago.

Romney ...

... is simply not a very good candidate. I've said it before. He has this reputation as someone who is very disciplined but he's actually quite the opposite. He's so wooden and on script that he's plastic and makes big mistakes. The reason people seem to think otherwise is he has been in some kind of weird campaign where his opponents declined to attack the frontrunner until about the last 24 hours. Here's a new example of how undisciplined Romney can be:

Now, the point Romney was making was a fair one. He was talking about health care and why it is necessary to have choice among plans. By the way Mitt, Obamacare allows for choice among plans ... so Mitt also happens to be perpetuating a lie about Obamacare here. But let's put that aside for a moment.

There are certain phrases a candidate for president should not say when the sole rationale for their campaign and the central theme of the Election Year is "job creation." One of those phrases is "I like being able to fire people." It is an especially bad phrase to utter when you worked for a corporate "chop shop" in Bain Capital where you had a history of buying companies and ... ya know, firing people.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Breaking News!

Romney's tax plan amounts to a massive tax cut for rich people! Can you believe it?

The full explanation can be found here.

Beyond the fact that it is bad public policy, it is really bad politics. Mitt Romney, a man who is a walking caricature of an out-of-touch rich guy is just cementing the caricature.

It is irrelevant but ...

... this video put together by a Ron Paul supporter is coasting to victory as the most offensive ad of the 2012 campaign. I cannot imagine anyone else even coming close:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Iowa and Its Aftermath

Some initial thoughts:

1) My predictions were pretty darn good. I over-estimated what Romney would get which leads right into some of my other thoughts ...

2) Mitt Romney is still exceedingly likely to win the Republican nomination but he's a very, very bad candidate. It is widely known that he doesn't connect well with voters but he's actually worse at it than that phrase sounds. For more on this general line of argument, I highly recommend reading Dana Milbank's column on the post-Iowa victory tour for Romney. Better yet, see Stephen Colbert's coverage of Romney's awful post-Iowa "victory speech."

In Andrew Sullivan's words, "he makes plastic look real."

Some metrics on the shallow nature of Romney's victory:

He got a slightly smaller percentage of the vote compared with 2008
He got 6 fewer votes than 2008
75% of Iowa voters said "no" to Romney. It isn't like they don't know him. They just don't like him.

3) What of the rest of the field? Santorum is just too far out of the mainstream but he'll get a nice bump from Iowa and hang on for a while. Paul represents a totally different constituency and will stay in to the end I think. Gingrich will use his money to tear Romney down. This will hurt Romney ... and Gingrich to a lesser extent. Perry said he would suspend his campaign and then he immediately re-started it. This is the kind of crack thinking that led him to spend more than anyone in Iowa and only get 10% of the vote. Bachmann is done. Huntsman will be done after a disappointing finish in New Hampshire.

So there is nobody who can credibly stop Romney. But they can all collectively make Romney spend a bit more money, tack a little more to the right, and waste more of his time on the nomination fight than he wanted to. All that is for the good.

In the end, the Republican base will rally around Romney. But the problem in all this is not the base. The problem is how does Romney compete for independent voters and how much does he energize the Democratic base? What happened in Iowa hurts Romney in both those efforts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Iowa Predictions

Romney - 26%
Santorum - 24%
Paul - 20%

So there. No point in even watching the coverage this evening.

Actually, the coverage is the whole story because the numbers are meaningless except to the extent they inform the spin. So, what will the spin be if these are the numbers?

Romney: His camp will tout the win in Iowa and begin the mantra of New Hampshire is next and it is an "important test" and so on. The problem for Romney is that he will have won Iowa with just 26%. 74% are for somebody else and those somebody elses are similar enough to one another that it is kind of an embarrassment that so few people support Romney. Tea Party people will make a big deal about this, they will eventually be ignored, and the quality of life will improve.

Santorum: This is a strong enough showing that he will raise a little money from this and get some momentum heading into New Hampshire. A second place showing there is possible. Lost in the shuffle of the Iowa Santorum Surge is the fact that Santorum has a decent organization in New Hampshire as well. But Santorum will not get enough money or enough of a bump to really threaten Romney. The national media will try to make it so, they will be ignored, and the quality of life will improve.

Paul: Just a few points behind Romney, this is still a slight disappointment for Paul. He'll certainly remain in the race for the long haul but, at a certain point, he will start to be ignored again, and the quality of life will improve.

Gingrich: He likely comes in fourth tonight. He will say he's going to fight in New Hampshire and make his stand in South Carolina. He won't place in the top two in either one, then he too will be ignored, and the quality of life will be awesome!

Perry: Fifth place is likely for Perry tonight. He will probably skip New Hampshire and try to make a stand in South Carolina. There is no rationale for Perry going on. Combined with his PAC, he's spent more than anyone and has only slid backwards. He will remain in the race for now though for no good reason other than he's from Texas and "this is like the Alamo." It will not dawn on him that everyone who fought to the death in the Alamo died.

Bachmann: Sixth place is probably assured for Bachmann and she will probably leave the race in the next 24 hours. Nobody will be affected by this.

Huntsman: He's been staked out in New Hampshire hoping that having the state to himself for several weeks will help him. It will not. He will be leaving the race in the 24 hours after the New Hampshire Primary. As Huntsman said the other day, "In Iowa they pick corn. In New Hampshire, they pick presidents." Neither place is picking Huntsman.

Lack of Hotel Space in Des Moines in 1972 Boosts Santorum

If Rick Santorum pulls off an upset in Iowa tonight and then becomes the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, he'll have the general lack of hotel space in Des Moines in the early 1970s to thank for his good fortune.

You heard me right.

It turns out that the reason Iowa is the first to "vote" (they aren't really voting as it is a caucus and there are no delegates at stake tonight but that's a different matter) can be traced back to the 1972 decision to move the Iowa Caucuses earlier because of an anticipated lack of hotel space in Des Moines in June 1972. David Redlawsk outlines the story here and the way in which the Carter campaign took advantage of this in 1976 and the rest is history.

In any case, this quirk of history means Iowa goes first and that means candidates with Santorum's profile have a good chance to emerge from the pack.

We'll see if he cashes in on poor planning by Iowa hotel developers from 40 years ago later tonight!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The PPP Poll

PPP is a very good pollster and their poll out tonight has Paul at 20%, Romney at 19%, and Santorum at 18%.

This poll is even more good news for Santorum and it is fairly good news for Paul and it is fairly bad news for Romney.

Romney: The topline of 19% is bad, bad, bad. The internals of the poll suggest that if there is a lot of seniors coming out (which normally happens), then Romney will do better than 19% and probably win. But they are not predicting the usual turnout and Romney is not the type of candidate likely to finish "strong." He's basically trying to win by tearing down the others.

Paul: It does seem Paul's decline has leveled off. He's not going up from here (at least not by much). But he doesn't seem to be dropping much below 20% at this point either.

Santorum: My post on the Des Moines Register poll applies here and seems mildly confirmed by this poll. Santorum has the most room for growth. And, if you take this poll seriously, Santorum has room to grow and is statistically tied with Romney and Paul. Santorum is probably a better than a 12% bet (Nate Silver's latest number) to win Iowa at this point. I'm gonna say he's as good as a 25% bet to win. UPDATE: Nate Silver's model updated with the PPP poll numbers has Santorum as a 24% bet to win.