“Ron Paul’s son is a senator from Kentucky, and he’s now endorsing Mitt Romney. I know how that feels. My son watches Jay.” –David Letterman
“Ron Paul’s son is a senator from Kentucky, and he’s now endorsing Mitt Romney. I know how that feels. My son watches Jay.” –David Letterman
Honorable move by Mike Huckabee to demand that a fund raising letter sent on his letterhead referring to Obama’s advisers as “morally repugnant political whores” be pulled. Huckabee denies having approved this. I am inclined to believe him. Compare Huckabee’s action in stating he did not approve this as soon as the letter went out to Ron Paul claiming he did not know about multiple racist and anti-Semitic items under his name, years after pocketing the money raised.
Last night’s primaries, occurring after Rick Santorum left the race, turned out to give pretty much the same picture as when there was more of a contest: Mitt Romney will be the nominee, but many Republicans would prefer to vote for someone else. Smart Politics points out the weakness of Romney’s victories:
Over the last 40 years there have been nearly 80 contests in which the presumptive Republican nominees played out the string after their last credible challenger exited the race.
In every one of these contests, the GOP frontrunner won at least 60 percent of the vote, even when ex- and long-shot candidates remained on the ballot.
But on Tuesday, Romney won only 56 percent of the vote in Delaware and 58 percent in Pennsylvania, home to Rick Santorum who dropped out on April 10th.
While Romney avoided the embarrassment of winning with a mere plurality, never has a presumptive nominee won a primary contest with such a low level of support at this stage of the race with his chief challenger no longer actively campaigning.
Clearly the author doesn’t consider either Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul to be a credible challenger, and the assumption looks valid. Even Newt Gingrich has realized this, dropping out of the race. While Ron Paul’s chances at winning are still the same as at any other point in time, zero, it will be interesting to see if he manages to receive more primary votes as the last candidate standing, allowing him to take a larger block of delegates to the convention than would otherwise occur.
Jimmy Carter says that, while he would prefer Obama, he would feel comfortable with Romney:
“I’d rather have a Democrat but I would be comfortable — I think Romney has shown in the past, in his previous years as a moderate or progressive… that he was fairly competent as a governor and also running the Olympics as you know. He’s a good solid family man and so forth, he’s gone to the extreme right wing positions on some very important issues in order to get the nomination. What he’ll do in the general election, what he’ll do as president I think is different.”
I would refer Carter to yesterday’s post on this subject. There is certainly a reasonable chance that Romney is more moderate than he now claims to be. It is really impossible to tell what opinions Romney has, or if he even has any, considering the way he can sound sincere while taking either side of any issue. Unfortunately Romney has painted himself into a “severely conservative” corner and will have difficulty moving out. Even should he prefer more moderate positions, it is hard to see him resisting the wishes of a far right wing Congress, which is the most likely result should conditions in the fall favor a Romney victory.
It is clearly far too early to predict who will win. Polls now favor Obama, but they can change by November. I am encouraged by Obama’s strength in most of the battleground states, although he is likely to lose some states he won in 2008. Republicans who were encouraged by a narrow Romney lead in Gallup’s daily tracking poll will not want to see that Obama has jumped to a seven point lead. I suspect that this is more a measure of the uncertainty among many voters as opposed to a major change in positions, but does emphasize the weakness of Romney as a candidate.
Gallup has also found that the usual partisan breakdown along religious lines still holds in a race between Obama and Romney:
Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama by 17 percentage points, 54% to 37%, among very religious voters in Gallup’s latest five-day presidential election tracking average. Obama leads by 14 points, 54% to 40%, among the moderately religious, and by 31 points, 61% to 30%, among those who are nonreligious.
If this is viewed purely based upon religion, the results might not make any sense considering Obama’s religious views. There are two additional factors in play. Many Republicans are still fooled by the attacks from the right wing noise machine, with a meaningful number still believing Obama is a Muslim. The other factor is that the concern among many on the religious right is not whether a candidate is religious but whether they will use government to impose their religious views upon others. In this case, perhaps the religious right has a better understanding of the outcome of a Romney presidency than Jimmy Carter shows.
It is time for Romney to shake his Etch A Sketch. Rick Santorum has suspended his campaign. Most likely he realized that it is better to get out now as opposed to being humiliated by a loss in Pennsylvania.
Gingrich is still in but his campaign appears dead. Even Herman Cain is dropping Gingrich for Romney. Ron Paul is still in the race, running ads attacking the other Republican opponents, but he remains with zero chance of ever winning the nomination. It was already pretty clear, but in case anyone had any doubt it is now as certain as it can be before the conventions that the general election will be Romney vs. Obama.
May the honest, consistent man with integrity win.
There has been a lot of talk lately about Ron Paul teaming up with Mitt Romney. This has raised some questions in my mind. First of all, will it matter? Paul is concentrating on the caucus states where the final delegate counts might not be entirely consistent with vote, but at the moment Paul does not have all that many delegates. Even if for the sake of discussion we assume that Paul wins enough delegates to matter should Romney be just short of enough to win the nomination, there is also the question as to whether he will be able to deliver his support to Romney. After all, with the lack of enthusiasm for Romney, it is certainly possible he could fall short of the required amount.
Paul’s supporters have created a myth that Ron Paul is a hyper-moral and consistent non-politician. His career has demonstrated just the opposite. This ranges from his support for earmarks to his pandering to racists to raise money. Even his support for freedom is quite inconsistent, opposing the right of a woman to control her own body at the level of federal legislation. His support for freedom in other areas remains limited to the level of the federal government, with his view of the power of state governments making him the ideal candidate for the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who make up much of his support.
A post at The Hill’s Pundits Blog provides further insight into the difficulties Paul is having over his romance with Mitt Romney:
The perception of a secret side deal between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney is now creating a major backlash from conservatives and relegating the Paul campaign to third-tier status. While major media have begun withdrawing embeds and reducing coverage of the Paul campaign, conservatives are increasingly angry with Paul (and Gingrich) for helping Romney. I never thought I would say this, but Rick Perry has been acting like a far more honorable and consistent conservative than Paul, who may well be engaging in old-style politics backroom behavior…
Paul has a very limited amount of time left to restore some purpose to his campaign. He is very close to being marginalized into insignificance. His romance with Romney is destroying his candidacy and creating a growing anger and backlash against him from conservatives. His behavior is damaging his own credibility and doing long-term damage to Rand, with the broader conservative movement that does not want Romney and does not appreciate Romney enablers.
While Ron Paul is doing poorly in his campaign, at least the comments to the linked post do show that Paul continues to maintain support on line from the same types of irrational kooks as he had back in 2008.
Jeb Bush, generally regarded as George’s younger, smarter brother, has been receiving a lot of credit this week for saying what any sane conservative should realize:
“I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are.”
It is a shame he didn’t speak out when his brother was in the White House. While the Republican Party has moved even further to the right, the fact remains that George Bush was probably the most radical right wing president in our history, and few (if any) other presidents have done as much harm to the country as Bush.
I wonder if Jeb is laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign, already realizing the importance of distancing himself from what could be a disastrous campaign in 2012. This assumes that the Republican Party will be more sane in 2016 than it is now, which is a very questionable prediction. It is easy for Jeb Bush to sound more sane now when he is not running. If he was a candidate for the 2012 nomination he might be forced to act just as insane as Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney.
There was a time when perhaps Mitt Romney would be the Republican candidate who tried to tone down the extremism and campaign as the sane candidate. Instead Romney has actually tried to campaign with claims of being to the right of Rick Santorum. As Bill Maher has pointed out, that cannot work: “he can’t be to the right of Rick Santorum because there’s nothing to the right except Kirk Cameron and the Neo-Nazi Party.”
In quick follow-up of yesterday’s look at the Republican nomination battle, Mitt Romney did the minimum necessary to win yesterday’s events, but not in a very convincing manner. Both many commentators and Rick Santorum have attributed Romney’s win at CPAC to busing in large numbers of college students on from the east coast, analogous to how Ron Paul won the past two years. Today Santorum is outright accusing Romney of rigging the vote:
Romney beat Santorum by 7 points Saturday in a straw poll of almost 3,500 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Santorum pointed out that Ron Paul had won the poll in both of the past two years “because he just trucks in a lot of people pays for their ticket, they come in and vote and then leave.”
“I don’t try to rig straw polls,” Santorum said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Paul actually came in last on Saturday, having declined to address the conference or to activate his base for the straw poll. But Santorum said that wasn’t the case with Romney.
“You have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought,” Santorum said. “We’ve heard all sorts of things.”
Romney won with 38 percent, followed by Santorum at 31 percent, Gingrich at 15 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent. It is notable that the combined voted received by Santorum and Gingrich significantly exceeds that received by Romney. I believe that if Newt Gingrich were to leave the race, Rick Santorum would be the most likely winner. On the other hand, polls show that Santorum supporters are more mixed in their second place choices, probably due to Newt Gingrich’s past, and Romney would remain the front runner if Gingrich dropped out.
Romney also won in Maine, but only by three points over Ron Paul, the only other candidate to actively campaign in the state. Only beating a crackpot such as Ron Paul by three percent is hardly very impressive. This might be partially be because the major Republican candidates have seen no point in devoting any effort to campaigning against Paul, hoping to keep some of his supporters in the party. They know that any concentrated effort to bring up Paul’s negatives would easily knock him back into the single digits should he ever become a real threat.
Although the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney is the probable Republican nominee, he is certainly having a hard time establishing himself as a front runner. Before today’s poll came out, Nate Silver listed ten previous front-runners in alphabetical order, including some Republicans who led in the polls without being a declared candidate: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Today, Public Policy Polling makes Rick Santorum the eleventh. Santorum leads at 38 percent. Romney trails at 23 percent, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent.
Rick Santorum does even better if he does not have to divide he conservative vote with Newt Gingrich. If Gingrich were to drop out, the poll shows that 58 percent of his supporters would go to Santorum. In a such a three way race, Santorum get to 50 percent, while Romney would be at 28 percent and Paul at 15 percent.
Leadership in the GOP race has not meant very much to date, but falling behind at this stage does create problems for Romney. He might go negative against Santorum as he did against Gingrich, but his negative ads are starting to backfire. Some suggest that instead of going negative against Santorum, Romney must convert to a positive campaign. I’m not sure how a man who lacks any core beliefs or convictions can do this. His strongest pitch is that he can make up the biggest lies about Barack Obama.
The Maine caucuses conclude tonight with a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. There is speculation that Paul might be able to pull an upset victory. If you cannot beat a crackpot like Ron Paul, it is hard to see victory for the nomination as inevitable.
There’s another potential embarrassment for Romney. Public Policy Polling is also seeing the start of a surge for Santorum in Michigan. A loss in Michigan would be devastating to Romney, both for losing his home state and because of reinforcing Santorum’s dominance over Romney in the Midwest. Perhaps Romney will try to flip-flop on having been born and raised in Michigan. Would Mitt Romney’s birth certificate then become an issue?
CPAC is also conducting their straw poll. To paraphrase Jay Leno, Romney is promising to change his views to whatever views CPAC members desire. Romney pandered before them, claiming to be “severely conservative.” The word severe might sound out of place here, unless you see it as an honest admission from Romney, such as “I am severely insane” or, at very least, “I am severely out of touch with the voters of this country.”
The big question of the day is how Mitt Romney could possibly have lost three contests last night (Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri) after receiving the endorsement of Donald Trump? As Trump took the credit for Romney winning in Nevada after receiving his endorsement, is there any chance that Trump would accept the blame for Romney’s loses yesterday. So far, no such concession, but Trump is talking about a cabinet position in a Romney administration (which should scare away some more potential votes) and does raise a valid point about Santorum:
Rick Santorum was a sitting senator who in re-election lost by 19 points, to my knowledge the most in the history of this country for a sitting senator to lose by 19 points. It’s unheard of. Then he goes out and says oh ‘okay’ I just lost by the biggest margin in history and now I’m going to run for president. Tell me, how does that work? … That’s like me saying I just failed a test. Now I’m going to apply for admission to the Wharton School of Finance. Okay? He just failed a test…. And now he’s going to run for president. So, I don’t get Rick Santorum. I don’t get that whole thing.
Despite this, Santorum has an outside chance at the Republican nomination because of the degree of dislike for Romney by conservative Republicans and the lack of a viable alternative. Compared to Newt Gingrich, Santorum looks like an acceptable choice to GOP leaders. (Ron Paul remains irrelevant towards the actual nomination even though he will probably pick up a number of delegates, especially in the caucus states). I’m not all surprised that Santorum is emerging as the non-Romney candidate outside of the south. He is the best shot for the big-government conservative movement which remains obsessed with imposing their archaic religious views upon the entire country.
Beyond the Santorum hat trick, the other news out of last night’s contests is that turn out remains low in a contested battle for the nomination to oppose a president who many conservatives continue to think is a black foreign-born Muslim socialist who hangs out with terrorists. (Only the first part of that characterization is accurate, but that is enough to get many Republicans to want to defeat him). Public Policy Polling found that “58% of Democrats were ‘very excited’ about voting this fall, compared to 54% of Republicans. Six months ago the figures were 48% of Democrats ‘very excited’ and Republicans at the same 54%. Generally you would expect voters to get more excited as the election gets near.” The poll also found that “The percentage of Tea Party voters ‘very excited’ about voting in November has declined from 73% to 62% since late July.” Perhaps many will remain home in November if the Republicans do not nominate a candidate they find acceptable, while appealing to the Tea Party will lead to further loses among independent and moderate voters. (One caution on this poll is that the poll was conducted for Daily Kos. There is no evidence that this affects the results, but I always feel uneasy about whether pollsters might attempt to please those paying the bill.)
Other recent polls have also been favorable for the Democrats. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Obama with a clear lead over Romney nationally for the first time. The trend favors Obama as “By better than 2 to 1, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him.” Results in battleground states matter more in the electoral college than national polls but as Obama’s support improves nationally, it is also likely to improve in battleground states. The latest Quinnepiac poll shows Obama leading Romney 47 to 43 percent in Virginia. Democrats are also taking the lead in generic polls over preferred control of Congress.
It is still a long way until November and the polls can still change many times between now and then. Unpredictable events can also have a major influence on the election. There is, however, one predicable series of events which will help Obama. Nobody will be able to wrap up the Republican nomination soon, and the more the GOP candidates campaign against each other, the more the approval for all the Republican candidates declines.