Jan 23, 2012

January 6, 2012: The People will Speak, Wrong-Ward Drift, Santorum on the Outside

In Iowa the party activists spoke, in New Hampshire the people will speak for in the Granite State the nation will observe the first presidential primary election of the season.  

The primary, sampling as it does a much broader cross-section of the electorate, will favor the more moderate Mitt Romney the former governor of Massachusetts who is campaigning here in his ‘back yard’. 

New Hampshire is to Boston what New Jersey is to New York City, that is the media markets of these cities dominate the landscape heavily influencing neighboring states.  Accordingly the Boston media market  is important not only in the Massachusetts primary held later in the year but in the New Hampshire primary as well.  It is significant to note that four years ago the Boston Globe endorsed John McCain over Romney and McCain emerged victorious.  This year the Globe endorsed John Huntsman, former Utah Governor, over Romney citing Mitt’s penchant for changing his stripes in an effort to appeal to the ultra-conservative base of the party.  Romney’s wrong-ward drift has been well documented and need not be repeated here, and Mitt’s efforts ring just as hollow as those of ‘Baby Huey” who is being rejected by the very ideological purists he recruited into the party, because he proved not stalwart enough for their liking. 

Be that as it may, Romney’s efforts have not been hollow enough for the Boston Globe.  The editorial chiding by the Globe may, in the end, prove beneficial to the Romney campaign. The Boston Globe may have unwittingly given Romney the bona fides needed to help convince the unwashed that he is acceptable to them. The wrath of the editorial board of the major organ of the ‘liberal East’, may have been just the tonic needed to immunize Romney from rejection by a sizable portion of ideological conservatives, if not it’s fundamentalist purists.  That remains to be seen, in the meantime Santorum is gaining

January 4, 2012: Romney by a whisker, A Party Divided, On to New Hampshire

After years on the hustings, countless campaign appearances and many millions of dollars later, Willard “Mitt” Romney ended with just a fraction fewer votes than he received 4 years ago.  Last night Mitt Romney was able to eek out an 8 vote victory over the surging Sanitorium primarily because the Rescumlican field proved, on balance, less convincing than the last time around.  With a lower turnout than in 2008, Romney was able to finish just ahead of Rick Santorum for the bragging rights to Iowa.

 The results produced by the ‘retail’ politics of Iowa reflect the huge divisions that lurk just beneath the surface of the Rescumlican Party.  Divided between the so-called “moderates”, that is the marginally sane candidates represented by Romney and Huntsman, and the “ideologues” represented by the likes of Ron Paul and, to some extent Baby Huey, the base of the wrong is further subdivided by the emergence of ultra-conservatives who pander openly to the crypto-fascist brown shirts so evident in the 2009 shenanigans over the Health-Care fiasco.  This base element was represented most markedly by Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry who pandered shamelessly to the likes of Dick Armey and Rush Limbaugh embracing every cracker-headed idea from ‘Birther’ to ‘death panels’ to repeal of the 14th amendment and the direct election of the Senate.  Not since the days of John C. Calhoun has the politics of ‘nullification’ been so openly advocated.  The idiot wrong has moved to obstruct, delay and otherwise impede the efforts in the waning days of the last Republican administration as well as President Obama to right the ship of state before it flounders on the rocks.

 What we have here, then, is a race between the relative voices of reason with the voices of intolerance and greed.  The results showed that among hard-core activists the latter hold the majority within the Rescumlican party but are divided concerning who should carry their standard.  As long as those divisions hold and the ‘anybody but Romney’ movement cannot come together behind the standard of a single alternative then the voices of ‘reason’ and ‘moderation’--always in short supply within the Rescumlican ranks--will win out.

To date the fundamentalist base of the party has been unable get behind a consensus candidate.  It remains to be seen if the emergence of Santorum as the latest ‘I-am-not-Romney’ candidate will prove to be more than a mere 15 minutes in the spotlight.  It will depend on if he can now turn this performance into a compelling candidacy by raising enough money and building the organization needed for the long haul ahead.  Both time and money are in short-supply. If he doesn’t act or the base of the party does not move to his assistance quickly enough Santorum will go the way of Michelle Bachman who won the straw-poll in Iowa last summer and withdrew from the race today saying that the people had spoken.  And so they have, and now it’s on to New Hampshire.

January 2, 2012: Caucus in Iowa, Field Divided, How Well He Runs

The nation will tomorrow witness the beginning of the all-too-shortened process of selecting the nominees for the major parties’ presidential nominations.  On the Democratic side there will be no contest with the incumbent Barack Obama running unopposed in his bid for re-nomination by the Democratic Party.  On the Rescumlican side of the ledger, however, the past, and momentarily at least, front-runner Mitt Romney is being opposed by at least half a dozen lesser lights in his latest bid to become the presidential nominee of the party of greed. 

Deep in the heart of the plains lies Iowa, the first contest in this election year.  As noted previously the process of selecting delegates for the respective parties conventions is a rather convoluted one in the ‘Hawkeye” State.  Of the 1.3 million or so eligible voters in the state, some 120,000 or so will gather in at some 17,000 caucus sites throughout the state.  These sites range from churches and school auditoriums to citizens living rooms and barns where the faithful of each candidate will gather, listen to some speeches and then cast ballots.   Those groups representing candidates that fail to reach a “threshold” level of strength, around 15%, will then either leave or be asked to switch their votes to another candidate, much like what would occur at a state or national conclave if we ever get to witness another convention go past the first ballot.  In this way a ‘dark-horse’ candidate can gain strength, move up into the top tier or perhaps pull an upset much as the “Huckster” Mike Hucklebee did four years ago in upsetting the plans of Mitt Romney. 

It is an odd way to begin such an important undertaking, restricting as it does participation to a miniscule fraction of the electorate.  It favors candidates who are ‘one issue’ or
‘ideologically pure’ as well as those candidates who have built an organization in the state.  For in the final analysis, the outcome depends more than anything on the ability of your campaign to identify ardent supporters and insure that they get out into the cold night, show up at the caucus, and fight for the candidacy.  While lacking the ideological support of the idiot-wrong, Romney has built a respectable organization which, hopefully, will have learned a lesson or two since the set-back four years ago. 

 Romney is also favored by having the fundamentalist base of the party fractured in it’s divided support of the candidacies of Ron Paul and the up-and-coming Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and darling of the supply-siders who the good people of Pennsylvania had the sense to expel from the Senate some years ago.  Nevertheless with the nosedive taken by ‘Baby Huey” in recent weeks, as Romney and others began a telling series of negative ads simply citing Gingrich’s record and behavior when he was last a player in Washington, the brain-dead base of the party has moved toward Santorum seeking a less flamboyant and more suitable substitute.  While Santorum is polling ahead of all others among the fundamentalist base of the party, his lead is only a few points ahead of Ron Paul with Gingrich trailing a not-so-distant third. 

 What one must keep in mind about this process is that on the Rescumlican side of the ledger most of these contests are winner-take-all, meaning that one can claim all the delegates with a mere plurality rather than a majority of the return.  As long as Romney is opposed by two or three contenders on his political right, he can carry the day and claim the lion’s share.  It is in his interest to keep the candidacies of at least two, possibly three, such ultra-conservatives alive at least until the process has wound it’s way through the Southern states. 

 The exercise in Iowa will not necessarily determine the nominee.  What it will do will be to  define who has emerged as a ‘top-tier’ candidate, with the top three or four--depending on how closely they poll together--receiving the boost they need by way of media attention and subsequent campaign donations.  From this perspective it appears that Romney, Paul, Santorum and, perhaps, Gingrich will survive Iowa.  The candidacies of Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Huntsman will take a serious body blow.  The question for Romney is holding it together thru New Hampshire and then finding a way to survive the Southern primaries.  If he can hang on in the South, he has the inside track to the nomination.  The Question for the conservative wrong is whether they can decide which candidate to rally around in order to deny the Mormon the nomination.  Given the divided opposition it appears that Romney has some open field, how fast it closes on him will depend on how well he runs.