Category Archives: Presidential campaign

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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Trump’s Exit: What Effect?

Real estate magnate Donald Trump announced yesterday that he will not seek the presidency next year, but says he could have won. Indicating that his true passion is still business and not politics, Trump decided to take a pass on joining the Republican field of candidates.

His exit is not likely to alter the race all that much since his support, though appearing to be relatively wide, would have proven to be quite shallow. Despite his own favorable analysis about his prospects, Trump had little chance to win the Republican nomination. His polling status was mostly built on name identification from his high-profile business and television exploits over a long period of years. Once the other candidates and news media began attacking his past public positions and business record, particularly as it relates to owning gambling casinos, along with his flamboyant personal life, one can quickly determine that Mr. Trump was not compatible with the Republican primary electorate in most states. Obviously, the departure of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will considerably change the GOP presidential picture, but the never-to-be Trump for President campaign was little more than a blip on the political radar screen.
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Huckabee, McCotter Say ‘No’; Succeeding Sen. Kohl; W.Va. Gov. Results

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee officially took himself out of the 2012 presidential race Saturday night, announcing his decision on the Fox News television program that he hosts. Despite performing very well in preliminary presidential polling, Mr. Huckabee simply stated that his heart was not in another run. Instead, he will devote his time to the “Huckabee” television program and will continue with radio commentaries, speeches, and public appearances. Mr. Huckabee further committed to actively supporting conservative and pro-life candidates for public office.

The decision was not particularly surprising. Though included in virtually every national and early state primary poll, Huckabee had done nothing to operationally construct a campaign apparatus, a sure sign that a candidate is not serious about running. The effect on the rest of the field is unknown, but his sizable base of support will likely disperse to some of the more conservative candidates.

Michigan Senate

As quickly as speculation was beginning to surface suggesting that Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) might challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) next year, the five-term congressman made public his quick and definitive decision. In a statement over the weekend, Mr. McCotter said he will not run for the Senate in 2012. All nine GOP members of the Michigan congressional delegation have now taken themselves out of competition against Stabenow. Though appearing vulnerable, the Republicans have yet to field a strong candidate.

Wisconsin Senate

Turning to Wisconsin, on Friday afternoon Sen. Herb Kohl (D) made public his intention not to seek a fourth term next year. This sets up what could be a very competitive Badger State open seat political campaign. Kohl is the ninth in-cycle senator to announce a return to private life. Eight of these particular seats will be open in 2012. Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) has already resigned with Dean Heller (R) replacing him for the remainder of the current term. Hence, Sen. Heller’s new status for his 2012 political run will be that of an appointed incumbent.

There is likely to be a great deal of speculation surrounding potential candidates for the Wisconsin Senate seat. On the Democratic side, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold will be the person most discussed. Feingold, before Sen. Kohl opted out of another campaign, said he had no intention of running in 2012, even if the seat came open. Now that it has, Feingold will quickly be pressed for a decision. He served three six-year terms, originally being elected in 1992. He was defeated in 2010 by now-Sen. Ron Johnson (R) 47-52 percent.

Should Mr. Feingold not return to elective politics, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) will be a person who attracts noticeable attention as a potential Senatorial candidate. Second District Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is saying she will consider running statewide, too. Likewise for defeated Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Barrett. Prior to his run for governor, Mr. Barrett was mayor of Milwaukee and a former congressman.

On the Republican side, all eyes will preliminarily be on House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), who also is not ruling out a Senatorial bid. The author of the Ryan budget, which the Democrats are excoriating as the vehicle that destroys Medicare, will be a huge political target no matter what office he chooses to seek. Ryan has more than $3 million in his campaign account, so he starts any campaign in very strong financial shape.

West Virginia Governor

The special West Virginia gubernatorial primary was held on Saturday. As expected, Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin easily won the Democratic nomination. He tallied 40 percent of the vote over state House Speaker Rick Thompson who was strongly backed by organized labor and placed a surprising second (24 percent). Secretary of State Natalie Tennant who, early in the race was believed to be Tomblin’s strongest challenger, finished a disappointing third with 17 percent.

An upset occurred on the Republican side, proving again that virtually unknown candidates are still performing better in GOP primaries than more familiar politicians. Businessman Bill Maloney, who polling showed was gaining momentum toward the end of the race, took advantage of the political wind at his back and claimed an easy 45-31 percent win over former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Total voter turnout was only 16 percent of the statewide registered voters pool. Tomblin and Maloney will now square-off in a special general election scheduled for Oct. 4. The nomination of Maloney now turns this contest into a potentially interesting campaign.
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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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Thaddeus McCotter – The Unconventional Candidate

In recent days Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) has experienced something of a boomlet in terms of media coverage. Propelled by the admiration of Greg Gutfeld, the host of Fox News’ late night comedy show, “Redeye with Greg Gutfeld”, and a New York Daily News profile of the lanky Michigan lawmaker, McCotter is raising Republican eyebrows with a disarming manner and an unconventional approach to political popularity. The recent Daily News piece by conservative columnist S.E. Cupp goes so far as to suggest McCotter as a dark horse candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

Gutfeld has called attention to McCotter’s keen wit and unflinchingly populist brand of conservatism on his show. McCotter’s atypical approach to his job as a member of Congress includes playing in a rock band, having posters of John Lennon and The Pogues decorate the walls of his office and lacing his conversations with historical, cultural and comic references that even comedian Dennis Miller, a McCotter friend, might find obscure.

While the five-term Representative just recently drove himself from his working class suburb of Detroit to a conservative political conference in Des Moines to speak and sell copies of his recently released book, “Seize Freedom! American Truths and Renewal in a Chaotic Age,” don’t mistake his jaunt to Iowa as a prelude to a fledgling presidential campaign. The chances of him announcing the formation of a 2012 national exploratory committee are highly remote.

What appears more possible is the Republican Party turning to McCotter as a candidate to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow in her 2012 reelection campaign. With the Senate majority hanging in abeyance, the GOP has so far fallen short in recruiting strong candidates in Ohio (against first-term Sen. Sherrod Brown) and Michigan. It will be difficult for the party to re-claim firm Senate control if they concede these two important Midwest states, places where their candidates performed very well in 2010.

With a new GOP governor, a majority in both houses of the state legislature, and Michigan losing a House seat in reapportionment as a result of its declining population, Michigan Republican congressmen are hopeful that their new district lines will cement their recent electoral gains and their considerable power as a delegation within the GOP majority committee structure. Therefore, most of the members would risk much in attempting to become a freshman Senator.

Stabenow’s job approval rating continues to hover in the mid-40s in most polls, and Michigan’s unemployment rate is still far worse than the national average, complicating the task of any incumbent running for re-election. Although Pres. Barack Obama will head the Democratic ticket in November 2012, and although he carried Michigan easily three years ago, the lingering recession and Stabenow’s lackluster job approval numbers certainly could cast doubt upon her easy re-election.

As of this year’s first quarter filing with the FEC, McCotter reports more than $478,000 cash on hand while Stabenow’s disclosure shows a much more robust $3.034 million. If McCotter decides to run against Stabenow, however, his financial capacity would soar and the subsequent campaign would be anything but conventional. The stylistic differences between the two candidates and Michigan’s still-troubled economic circumstances would likely make a Stabenow-McCotter race one of the more interesting and talked about campaigns in all of America.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.