Tag Archives: Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty Returns as Minnesota
Gubernatorial Candidate

By Jim Ellis

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

April 9, 2018 — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who briefly became a presidential candidate in 2012, ventured back into the active campaign world late last week. Though routinely indicating that he had “retired” from elective politics after serving eight years as the state’s governor and then dipping his toe into the presidential campaign waters, Pawlenty is now again an active political candidate.

The Minnesota gubernatorial race is an open contest. Though the state does not impose term limits on its governor, Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton has chosen to retire after eight years in office. Prior to winning the governor’s office, Dayton served one term in the United States Senate.

But Pawlenty’s run will not be an easy one. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R), who held Gov. Dayton to a 50-45 percent re-election victory in 2014, pledged to continue his own campaign saying that, “Pawlenty has never gotten over 46 percent of the vote in a statewide election, even after four years of being governor, and that was before a controversial second term, before he made $10 million as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, and he publicly trashed Donald Trump a month before Election Day.”

Minnesota politics features a major state endorsing convention in June before the August primary. Most of the time, candidates who do not receive enough delegate support to win an official state party endorsement usually end their campaigns and support the one who did secure the backing. Such unity may not appear in this Republican battle, however. It is unclear if Pawlenty will even enter the convention because precinct caucuses to choose state delegates have been underway since February and Johnson has fared well in early straw polls. Should Pawlenty force a primary, which appears to be his ultimate choice, it is clear that there will be an ensuing battle between he and Commissioner Johnson for the nomination.

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Saturday: The Turning Point

Clearly the most important day of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination campaign occurred Saturday. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN-6) victory at the Iowa Straw Poll sent former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty packing, while 1,200 miles away at the Red State Gathering event in Charleston, SC, Texas Gov. Rick Perry formally joined the race.

Rep. Bachmann’s preliminary Hawkeye State victory was no surprise. It had been clear for weeks that she and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) had the strongest vote-gathering potential within the regular universe of Straw Poll attendees. Ironically, it was Pawlenty who had the best campaign organization and spent more than any other candidate – far above $1 million. The fact that he finished a distant third (2,293 votes to Bachmann’s 4,823 and Paul’s 4,671) caused him to officially end his campaign on Sunday.

The high Straw Poll turnout proved to be the event’s biggest revelation. Many political pundits and outside observers were predicting a lower than average rate of participation in the days approaching the carnival-style political affair held at Iowa State University in Ames, saying that none of the candidates were exciting the rank and file GOP voters.

In 2008, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Straw Poll, more than 14,000 people voted, with as many as 20,000 on the grounds. At its historical high point in 1996, more than 30,000 individuals cast ballots but that was when candidates were allowed to bus and fly people in from all over the country. Beginning in 2000, participation was limited to Iowa registered voters. Some predicted that overall turnout for the current event could be as low as 10,000. But on Saturday, 16,829 people cast ballots.

Aside from Pawlenty, the event’s biggest loser could well be Mr. Romney. Making the decision to bypass the Straw Poll and participate only in the pre-event debate held last Thursday evening, Romney scored just 567 votes. Though he and two other candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman, refused to participate in the Straw Poll, the Iowa Republican Party officials still added their names to the official ballot. Gov. Perry and former V-P nominee Sarah Palin, neither of whom were candidates at the time of the state party ballot deadline vote, were not placed on the ballot.

Though Perry’s name was not on the Straw Poll ballot, an independent expenditure group supporting his running for President, called Americans for Rick Perry (AFRP), did organize for purposes of convincing Perry supporters to attend the event and write-in the governor’s name. Because AFRP is not officially tied to the candidate, obtaining tent space on the event grounds was not allowed. With no ability to work inside the gates and not even having a candidate, AFRP still was able to deliver 718 write-in votes. This total was better than what was recorded by three campaigns whose candidate actually participated in the Thursday debate and were on the official ballot: Romney, Gingrich (385 votes), and Huntsman (69).

Certainly Saturday’s biggest winner was Michele Bachmann. The biggest loser was Tim Pawlenty. But the underlying story is Perry and Romney. Gov. Perry, via a write-in campaign organized solely from the outside by an unconnected group in just three weeks, scored a respectable number of votes by all accounts. Romney, by finishing under Perry, creates a greater image of vulnerability and poses questions about his strategic decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll. He has made past comments that he would also bypass the significant straw poll events in Florida and Michigan. It will be interesting to see if the Iowa results prompt a change of plans from the Romney camp.
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The Iowa Debate and Vote

Last night, the eight announced Republican presidential candidates faced each other in the third nationally televised debate – a largely mundane affair interspersed with a clever line or two – this time on the campus of Iowa State University. The forum is part of the Iowa Straw Poll (ISP) event scheduled to culminate with actual citizen voting on Saturday.

The ISP has become a major media event on the presidential campaign trail because it is the first time that thousands of people actually participate in a voting event. Though straw polls are commonly held at organizational and state political party meetings, the Iowa function is unique because actual GOP voters have the opportunity of attending and casting a ballot for the candidate of their choice. In the past, as many as 30,000 people have come to the state fair-like event, where candidates have large outdoor promotion areas and provide food and entertainment to the masses, to register their vote.

At its high point, when previous campaigns were running on all cylinders in the early phase of the race – unlike this time where as many as three potential top-tier candidates haven’t even yet formally declared – candidates would actually fly voters in from all around the country to participate. Now the party rules prohibit such acts, limiting voting eligibility to Iowa registered voters.

The Straw Poll event is the first real test of the candidates’ organizational ability. Charging the candidates thousands of dollars to participate by buying Iowa Republican Party lists of previous Caucus and Straw Poll attendees and entry fees for every person coming to the event (in virtually all cases, paid for by the campaigns) the fundamental purpose of the Iowa Straw Poll is that of a major fundraiser for the state GOP. The money is then used for general election party building activities that the eventual Republican presidential nominee will need to capture the state in the general election. Iowa, as one of four true swing states for the general election – New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada are the others – could be a deciding state in November 2012 even though it only carries six Electoral Votes.

The result of this particular Iowa Straw Poll event is likely to be inconclusive. With attendance projected to be closer to 10,000 than 30,000, the event is missing the participation of the early front-runner and 2007 Straw Poll winner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Though Mr. Romney participated in last night’s debate, his campaign decided to bypass actively participating in the actual ISP voting. As mentioned, he won the event in ’07 but fell in the actual Iowa Caucuses to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in what proved to be an upset. The Romney campaign never recovered from his Iowa Caucus loss because expectations, largely drawn from his Straw Poll performance, were set too high.

Some question the Romney strategy for the 2011 ISP. Not participating means a sure loss at the event, and possibly a poor performance, though his campaign apparatus is still quietly organizing supporters to attend and vote since the Iowa Republican Party leaders included his name on the ballot anyway; but he will be able to brush off any such result by simply saying he didn’t participate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making his first public indication that he will become a candidate at the Red State Gathering event earlier Saturday in Charleston, SC, will also steal some of the luster from whichever candidate wins the Straw Poll later that afternoon.

The emergence of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) as a top-tier candidate and favorite to win the straw poll may damage Romney and prove his strategic decision to skip the event was a mistake. Bachmann is becoming a national presence and a victory at the ISP will codify her standing as a top-tier presidential candidate. The other favorite and potential straw poll winner, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), is a second-tier candidate who is not positioned to go very far in the national campaign. Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was once viewed as the early favorite for the ISP and the actual Iowa Caucus vote, is probably a distant third-place finisher at best.

The Iowa Straw Poll event does signify the official beginning of the presidential campaign. With Saturday crowning a straw poll winner and another major candidate making it clear that he is in the race, the 2012 presidential campaign is beginning to take shape. Tomorrow, the official starting gun sounds.
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Trio of Polls Show Romney, Perry at Top

Since July 20, three major national polls have been conducted and released, all recording basically the same results. Gallup (July 20-24; 1,088 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), the Pew Research Center (July 20-24; 980 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), and Rasmussen Reports (July 28; 1,000 likely GOP primary voters) each place Massachusetts former Gov. Mitt Romney in first place with 17, 21, and 22 percent, respectively, among the voters tested. But the bigger story continues to be how well Texas Gov. Rick Perry performs. In each of these surveys, the unannounced candidate places second, notching 15, 12, and 18 percent preference among those sampled in the three respective survey universes.

These polls, as well as most others, tell us two things. First, Romney is a weak front-runner since he fails to break 25 percent in any national poll. Second, the rise of Gov. Perry who, by all accounts will soon enter the race, again underscores the respondents’ desire to choose a person outside the sphere of current candidates, thus expressing disapproval with the GOP presidential field as a whole.

The Gallup poll, which includes former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, clearly highlights the desire for additional choices because the individuals placing second, third, and fourth (Perry, ex-Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and Giuliani) are all non-candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ties Giuliani for fourth with just 11 percent, but all other official candidates: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), retired businessman Herman Cain, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), recent US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, finish no better than in high single-digits.

The other tangential effect from Perry’s strong early performance is the weakening of Bachmann’s standing. The Pew study illustrates this point in two ways, through the use of several different and interesting questions.

First, the sampling universe was asked to name the candidate they have heard the most about during the recent time frame. By a margin of 23 to 13 percent, the respondents answered Bachmann. Romney scored the 13%. Perry, on the other hand, posted just 3 percent on this question. Such bodes well for the Texas governor because he is still placing second in the overall poll despite the at-large sample hearing little about him. Conversely, this measurement trends poorly for Bachmann because her support appears to be declining slightly even though she is by far and away the candidate attracting the most current attention.

Second, Perry already polls ahead of Bachmann, 16-14 percent, among the people who look favorably upon the Tea Party. This is quite a surprise since Bachmann is the House Tea Party Caucus chair and has been closely identified with the disparate individual groups since their inception. Perry, while certainly espousing the type of economic theories and policy positions with which the Tea Party leadership and members agree, is not nearly as identified with the movement as Bachmann. Yet, at least according to this Pew data, the governor is already passing her within the polling segment.

Furthermore, Romney even exceeds Bachmann’s support level within the Tea Party sector, tying Perry at 16 percent. This is more astonishing than Perry’s performance, since Romney’s record includes enacting the now highly publicized Massachusetts state government health care system that came into being by virtue of his initiative while Governor. Along with Herman Cain posting 12 percent support from the Tea Party Republicans, the data tells us that no one candidate has a lock on this ideological segment of the GOP primary vote. It leads us to the conclusion that the campaign is wide open and will likely run through the maximum number of states before a Republican nominee is crowned next year.

During this late July period, the polling, as reflected in the Pew, Gallup, and Rasmussen studies that were all conducted during the same time segment, is clearly detecting several noticeable trends. First, while Romney places first in virtually every poll, it is never by much, suggesting that his path to the nomination is tenuous despite his present standing. Second, Bachmann is not in as strong a position across the board as she was during the early part of the month. Third, Gov. Perry is showing uncommon strength for a non-candidate with relatively low name ID. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that when Perry officially enters the race, the contest could conceivably winnow down, relatively quickly, to a two-person campaign between Perry and Romney. With neither having a defined early lead, we have further support for concluding that this race will not soon be settled.
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Romney and Pawlenty Already Faltering?

Selzer & Company, a survey research firm headquartered in Iowa that routinely polls for the Des Moines Register newspaper, released some surprising results from their latest study (June 19-22; 400 likely Iowa Caucus participants). According to the data, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, upon whom many analysts and media outlets already bestow the “front-runner” tag, leads upstart Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) by a razor-thin 23-22 percent count within this particular polling universe. Businessman Herman Cain placed third with 10 percent.

Perhaps the biggest surprise found in this study, however, is the poor showing from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who captured just 6 percent of the respondents’ support despite his heavily targeting the state. Pawlenty was thought to be a top-tier candidate but so far has failed to excite the Republican voting base, including conservative donors and activists. Additionally, any regional bump he might get because he hails from a neighboring state (Iowans have proven to be regionally parochial in their past voting history) is apparently being snatched away by Bachmann, who is also from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

This latest Iowa Caucus poll is again proving that the Republican presidential nomination contest is still a wide open political battle that will produce many surprises before a winner is ultimately crowned next August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
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New Hampshire Debate: One More Enters

At the Republican presidential candidate debate last night in Manchester, N.H., Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) made it known that she will become an official presidential candidate. Previously, she was only in the exploratory stage. She joins a field that now includes Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), and businessman Herman Cain. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is also a candidate, but was not invited to participate in the New Hampshire debate sponsored by CNN and the Manchester Union Leader newspaper.

Notable about this particular debate, which broke no new campaign ground with the exception of the Bachmann announcement, was who didn’t attend. The biggest potential name still not yet in the race is, of course, former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Also, don’t forget former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who could become a factor later in the race. A new poll already places him second in New Hampshire, though about 30 points behind Romney. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is another potential late entrant who may have the ability to catch fire and vault into the top tier. And, former Obama Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is also likely to become a candidate but chose not to participate in the New Hampshire debate.

All totaled, the entire field could soon expand to 12 if all of the aforementioned individuals actually become candidates. Though this national political race has been slow to begin, the action will soon become hot and heavy.
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A Wide-Open Republican Presidential Field

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ announcement over the weekend that he would not seek the presidency means the Republican nomination is completely up for grabs. Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a substantial lead in the New Hampshire primary according to a new CNN/WMUR-TV poll (784 New Hampshire adults, 347 Republicans), the same data shows that 87 percent of those sampled have not definitely decided who they will support for president. In the south, the heart of the Republican nomination voter base, no remaining candidate has the inside track to winning the critical South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia primaries, among others.

With southern favorites like ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and presumably former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin all out of the race, does this open the door for others such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Both have made recent comments suggesting that they could enter the race. Giuliani would jump-start his campaign with a strong New Hampshire strategy, where Perry would be attractive to the base conservative voter, particularly those residing in the south. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now an official candidate, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), a likely one, could hurt each other in neighboring Iowa, since they may negate what could be each other’s regional advantage in the first-in-the-nation caucus. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who usually polls toward the end of the top tier of candidates, has stumbled out of the gate with a series of early gaffes.

This Republican primary is shaping up to become the most wide open race we’ve seen in the modern political era.
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Campaign 2012 Officially Begins

Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party co-hosted a candidates’ debate last night at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., that surprisingly served as the official kick-off event for the 2012 presidential campaign. Though it was somewhat of a non-event because the candidates most pundits would describe as being first-tier were not in attendance, the so-called second-tier group did nothing to discourage their supporters and actually managed to motivate the audience on several occasions.

Of the five participants, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) repeatedly brought the crowd to cheers, particularly so when he answered a question about heroine legalization by saying ” … how many people here would do heroin if it was legal? I bet no one would, so why do we need the government to protect us?” The others who participated in the debate were businessman Herman Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

No one bungled a question but none of the participants particularly distinguished themselves either, with the exception of Dr. Paul on several questions and Mr. Cain in the final minutes of the debate. It is also probable that the eventual Republican presidential nominee was not part of this forum, but it is difficult to project just who that Republican winner will actually be, since all of the candidates are closely bunched. Polling shows no clear front-runner or individual capturing more than 20 percent support. Therefore, this may be the most wide-open campaign we have seen in the modern campaign era.

All of the contenders seemed to understand the key fundamental in contrasting themselves with Pres. Barack Obama, especially in light of the Osama bin Laden assassination. All of the candidates gave Obama due praise for his handling of the bin Laden mission, but then quickly pivoted to what they believe are the president’s shortcomings in his managing of the domestic agenda.

Though it is clear Mr. Obama has scored major political points for his action overseas and probably wouldn’t be defeated by anyone if the election were tomorrow, we don’t have to go too far back in history to prompt our memories and recall that foreign affairs victories are often short-lived and quickly crumble in significance when compared to the state of the domestic economy.

Two clear examples of this phenomenon occurred in 1945 and 1992:
• Winston Churchill, whose British Conservative Party was turned out of office in landslide proportions after successfully declaring a clear and stunning victory in World War II just a scant two months earlier.
• George H.W. Bush, who enjoyed 90% approval ratings after successfully guiding America in the Gulf War, only to lose his re-election just 10 months later, capturing a mere 37.5 percent of the national popular vote.

These results clearly show us that economics fundamentally trump foreign affairs.

For the Republicans to get back into the game against the president they will have to focus on the economy as the sole issue of the campaign and drive home their messages about the national deficit and debt, high food and gas prices, and the lack of job creation. It appeared that the five Republicans participating in last night’s debate fully understood this principle, but they and the other candidates have a very long way to go in a short time if the 2012 election is to become legitimately competitive anytime soon.
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Presidential Mathematics

In the past few days, developments have occurred that help define the Republican presidential field of candidates. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, after giving every indication he was beginning to build a bona-fide presidential campaign apparatus, now says he won’t run. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is forming a presidential exploratory committee, meaning his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), will not become a candidate. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now traveling to New Hampshire on a regular basis, says he will run if he doesn’t believe that another Republican candidate could actually defeat Pres. Barack Obama in a general election.

We still must hear definitively from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom may not enter the race, and Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, all of whom either will, or probably will, run.

Looking at the delegate counts and apportionment systems that each state employs uncovers a road map to victory for one of the eventual candidates. Eleven states are winner-take-all (of Republican delegates) and another nine are winner-take-all by congressional district. These states proved key to Sen. John McCain’s come-from-behind victory in 2008. Remember, the McCain candidacy had been given up for dead until the actual voting began. His close wins in South Carolina, Florida, Missouri, and Arizona (though the margin between McCain and the other candidates wasn’t particularly close in his home state, he still managed to garner only 47 percent of the vote within his own Arizona party base) gave him such a commanding lead in the delegate count that it soon became obvious no one could catch him.

Interestingly, despite his under-the-radar approach to the 2012 campaign, the delegate-rich states stack up pretty well in former Mayor Giuliani’s favor, considering his home base of New York (101 delegates) and New Jersey (53), are in the winner-take-all category. Connecticut (28), the District of Columbia (19), Delaware (17), and Vermont (17) are all other places the ex-NYC chief executive could win. Maryland (37 delegates), another Giuliani potential, is in the winner-take-all by congressional district category. The big states of California (172) and Florida (93) are also there, as are Ohio (72) and Wisconsin (42).

All totaled, the winner-take-all and the winner-take-all by congressional district states contain 1,096 delegates of the grand total of 2,422 that form the Republican National Convention. This means 45.2 percent of all delegates will be chosen in either winner-take-all or winner-take-all by CD states. The remainder are in caucus, proportional systems, or hybrids like Louisiana (48 delegates) where both a primary and caucus are used.

The winner-take-all by congressional district awards a candidate a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote (usually their base 10 delegates that all states receive, and whatever extra and bonus votes they earn for electing Republican candidates to office) and another three delegates for every congressional district won. This system is interesting because some congressional districts in places like Los Angeles, where Republicans routinely receive well less than 30 percent of the vote are of equal stature to the strongest of GOP districts in terms of delegate allocation for the Republican presidential primary. While it is unlikely that any one candidate would win all of the delegates in a winner-take-all by CD state, it is possible for an individual to snare the vast majority, which matters greatly in the national vote count.

Whether Rudy Giuliani comes back from political oblivion to stake his comeback on a winner-take-all state strategy is unclear right now. What is evident, however, is that the person carrying the preponderance of these winner-take-all states and districts will almost assuredly win the 2012 Republican nomination and become Obama’s future general election opponent.

Winner-Take-All States
• Arizona – 54 delegates
• Connecticut – 28
• Delaware – 17
• District of Columbia – 19
• Missouri – 56
• Montana – 26
• New Jersey – 53
• New York – 101
• Utah – 36
• Vermont – 17
• Virginia – 49

Winner Take All by Congressional District
• California – 172 delegates
• Florida – 93
• Georgia – 72
• Maryland – 37
• Michigan – 62
• Ohio – 72
• Oklahoma – 43
• South Carolina – 47
• Wisconsin – 42

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Giuliani in New Hampshire?

The Manchester, New Hampshire-based American Research Group (ARG) just released the results of their new Granite State poll (April 11-16; 600 likely NH Republican primary voters) and it includes a name not commonly mentioned when discussing 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Tied for third place with 8 percent of the vote is New York City former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been spending much quality time in New Hampshire during the past couple of weeks. When asked if he is considering running again, he basically says “yes,” qualified with a statement that he would support someone else if he believed such person could defeat Pres. Barack Obama.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney captures first place in this new poll, with 32 percent of the respondents. Real estate magnate Donald Trump, who has been receiving a great deal of media attention recently for his proposed presidential run, is second with 17 percent. Tied with Giuliani are ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), who will officially form a presidential exploratory committee. Sarah Palin only scores a 2 percent preference rating, tied with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and businessman Herman Cain. Now that Ron Paul is making moves to get into the race, it is likely that his son, Sen. Paul, will cease his potential presidential activities.

Should Giuliani decide to run and attacks New Hampshire with a grassroots, no frills campaign, and finishes at least a close second, he could again become a serious candidate, particularly within this current field of GOP candidates. It appears that anything can happen in the 2012 Republican presidential contest, so Giuliani entering the fray and doing well is certainly within the realm of possibility.
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The (Way Too) Early Line – Vulnerable or Not?

While it’s far too early to place any value on hypothetical match-ups in a presidential election that’s 18 months away, some preliminary polling numbers are starting to raise eyebrows and interest in the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes.

Some polls released into the public domain do little to enlighten or inform about public opinions because of small or meaningless sampling methodologies or survey techniques. Others, however, provide a snapshot of informed opinion that can influence future outcomes.

A question on the minds of Democrats and Republicans alike is: “Is President Obama vulnerable in 2012?” Since the 1932 Great Depression era election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, only two incumbent presidents have been beaten by opposing candidates in a general election. Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush’s 1992 defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton stand out as the only two examples of incumbent presidents losing a November election during that time span. (Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal ended his 1968 re-election candidacy during the primary campaign.)

While Pres. Barack Obama continues to enjoy fairly high personal approval ratings from likely 2012 voters, his policy agenda doesn’t command the same level of support. In fact, looking at the trend line from the Rasmussen Reports tracking polls, conducted daily since the presidential inauguration, one sees that Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating has been under 50 percent every day since Feb. 18, while his disapproval score has consistently exceeded 50 percent post-Feb. 10.

These numbers might not mean much taken in and of themselves because Obama won’t be facing a “stay or go” plebiscite in November 2012. Instead, he will square off with a Republican challenger and, perhaps, an independent entry with a stark ideological bent.

During the month of March, Rasmussen conducted a series of presidential ballot test studies that included 10 different hypothetical GOP nominees. The comparison surveys all sampled at least 1,000 (and in some cases 2,000) likely voters and were conducted during the March 6-31 period. The sampling margin of error for surveys of 2,000 is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence; the error rate for surveys of 1,000 is +/- 3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Interestingly, regardless of who becomes Obama’s Republican opponent, the data shows he garners support between 49 and 42 percent of the respondents. The match-ups project Arkansas former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be running dead even with the president (43-43 percent), while Massachusetts ex-Gov. Mitt Romney trails 40-45 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is down 34-42 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lags behind by exactly that same percentage. As you have seen, all of the aforementioned Republicans trail by single-digit margins. GOP potential candidates down double-digits include: former vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (38-48 percent), Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (35-45 percent), Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (31-41 percent), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (37-49 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (32-45 percent), and businessman, newspaper columnist and Tea Party activist Herman Cain (25-43 percent).

At this early point in the election cycle, there are few definitive conclusions to draw from the president’s middling approval ratings and his less than dominant showing in these hypothetical horse races. However, there is also little to suggest that Mr. Obama will have the luxury of running a relaxed, Rose Garden re-election strategy either.
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Pawlenty Announces Exploratory Committee

As expected, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced the establishment of a presidential exploratory committee yesterday, via Facebook video. Mr. Pawlenty, not surprisingly for a candidate trying to positively position himself in the national Republican nomination process, struck a conservative, limited government theme throughout his 1:55 minute address. He pledged to “grow jobs, limit government spending, and tackle entitlements” before committing to “encourage the dreamers, innovators, and the hard workers.”

Tim Pawlenty served as governor from 2003-2011, choosing not to run for a third term, even though he was eligible to do so. He was widely reported to have been on John McCain’s short list for vice president in 2008, when Sarah Palin ultimately was chosen instead. Though twice winning his statewide position, he never came close to scoring a majority of the Minnesota vote. He was re-elected in 2006 on a 47-46% count, a margin of just 22,483 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, defeating then-Attorney General Mike Hatch (D). In 2002, he won a three-way race scoring 44% of the vote against Democrat Roger Moe (36%) and ex-Rep. Tim Penny (16%), who ran as an Independent.

Coming from the upper Midwest should be a plus for Pawlenty in the Iowa Caucuses, the nation’s first official presidential selection event. Typically, as we have seen with Pres. Barack Obama (Illinois), former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (Missouri), and ex-Sen and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (Kansas), all who carried the Hawkeye State at least once, Iowans tend to support candidates from their geographic region. The former Minnesota governor is clearly a dark horse candidate for president, but may have the ability to strike the right chord before an electorate looking for a viable alternative to Mr. Obama. Watch for Pawlenty to fight hard in Iowa. An upset win there could quickly catapult him into the first tier of candidates, thus becoming a factor the rest of the way.
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Bachmann for Senate?

Given her tops-in-the-House fundraising performance during the 2010 election cycle ($13.2 million raised; $12.8 from individuals, with $1.97 million remaining in her campaign account) and polling showing her easily beating all other potential Minnesota Republican statewide candidates including Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is now saying that nothing is “off the table” for the 2012 election. Previously she said she was concentrating only on running for re-election. Though the early December Public Policy Polling data shows her to be the favorite of the Minnesota GOP, she and all other Republicans fare poorly against Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D). The Senator, who will be seeking her first re-election, breaks 50% against all potential Republican opponents, posting double-digit leads.

But there is another potential reverberation to Bachmann running for the Senate. If Minnesota loses a congressional district to reapportionment, as may happen in the Census Bureau announcement tomorrow, it would be easy for map-makers to collapse Bachmann’s congressional seat into a neighboring Republican district, thus costing the GOP a seat. Should a court draw the map, a likely scenario since the Democrats will control the governor’s mansion and Republicans the legislature, thus causing a political stalemate, a different option (among many) is to draw the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul into one seat, since it would be a sound legal argument to suggest the region is a community of interest. This would cost the Democrats a seat. So there is much more risk for the GOP than meets the eye should Bachmann take the statewide plunge.

In Minnesota: Klobuchar Strong, Pawlenty Faltering

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)

Public Policy Polling continues their early 2012 election cycle polling with two surveys of Minnesota voters. Their conclusions are that first-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) is in strong position for re-election; Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) fares best within the state Republican voting base; and outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is not as robust among his own party faithful as one might expect, but does lead the presidential pack of candidates even though 3/4 of the likely primary voters prefer another contender.

According to the PPP December 4-5 data (949 registered MN voters), Sen. Klobuchar has majority support against all potential 2012 opponents. Pawlenty fares best against her, but trails 43-53%. Klobuchar has a 14-point lead over former Sen. Norm Coleman, 54-40%; a 17-point advantage when paired against Rep. Bachmann, 56-39%; an 18-point edge over the recently defeated gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer; and enjoys a 52-34% spread over Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3). In the early going, it looks like Sen. Klobuchar will not be among the most seriously challenged Democratic incumbents in the next cycle.

PPP’s secondary poll surveyed the Republican electorate. Their small-sample poll (387 MN Republican primary voters, released December 13th) produced some interesting patterns. In testing all potential statewide candidates against Klobuchar, Rep. Bachmann easily does the best, claiming the support of 36% of those questioned. Pawlenty was second, but lagged back at 20%. Coleman followed with only 14%. Newly elected 8th district Rep. Chip Cravaack, who has yet to even take office in the House, actually scored a respectable 7%.

None of those candidates tested, however, have expressed any interest in running for the Senate. Still, if these individuals score as poorly as they do against Klobuchar, then it’s unlikely the GOP will be able to recruit another candidate who would begin in better position.

Though the Minnesota Republican survey is a small-sample poll, it does give us some clear points of reference. First, Bachmann, with her strength among Minnesota conservatives, is a viable contender to win a Minnesota GOP nomination. Second, Gov. Pawlenty, though a winner of two statewide general elections, should be doing better among Minnesota Republicans. If his support here is this weak, then a Pawlenty for President campaign will have to quickly gain strength and momentum, particularly in nearby Iowa, if he is going to be a factor in the national election.