Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Herman Cain’s Upset Win in Florida Straw Poll

Retired businessman Herman Cain scored a major upset victory at the Presidency 5 Florida straw poll event on Saturday, easily outpacing the entire Republican field of presidential candidates in an exclusive vote of Florida Republican State Central Committee members. Mr. Cain scored 37.1 percent of the 2,657 ballots cast, or 985 actual votes.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a distant second at 15.4 percent (409 votes); former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed third, attracting 14.0 percent support (372 votes); former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was next, recording 10.9 percent (290 votes); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was the final candidate to land in the double-digit percentile (10.4 percent; 277 votes). Bringing up the rear were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8.4 percent; 223 votes), former Obama US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (2.3% percent 61 votes), and finishing a surprising last was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the Iowa Straw Poll winner, who registered a paltry 1.5 percent at Presidency 5, or just 40 votes.

Several points are worth mentioning about these results. First, unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, which was open to all registered Republican voters, the Florida vote was limited only to official party central committee members. These individuals are either elected or appointed to serve in party positions in their counties, thus giving them membership and voting privileges at statewide conventions. While the Iowa vote was a test of the general Republican voting public, Presidency 5 was a measure of strength within the official state GOP establishment. The fact that Mr. Cain would score an impressive win is yet one more piece of evidence that the Republican insiders are still looking for a candidate upon whom to rally behind.

Second, almost as big a surprise as Cain’s strong Florida performance, was Rep. Bachmann finishing dead last. Though certainly not a favorite of the party establishment – in fact, some of her appeal is that she energizes non-traditional conservatives to vote in the Republican primaries and general elections – attracting only the support of 40 people is another argument for the view that her flailing campaign may have crested when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Certainly the fact that Ms. Bachmann made no attempt to garner support for Presidency 5 is a large part of the reason she did so poorly, but such is not the total cause. Most of the other candidates did not put forth a top effort either.

Third, the performance of perceived front-runners Perry and Romney is certainly a disappointment for both, but particularly the former. Here is where the Texas governor’s poor performance in the last televised debate may have had an impact. Party insiders, such as the group who participated in the this past weekend’s vote, would have been more likely to view or even attend the debate, thus his lackluster showing would have more greatly affected this particular straw poll event than an at-large primary vote.

Perry did invest time and resources into the Florida vote, which bodes even more poorly for his showing and campaign organization. During the Iowa Straw Poll, a 527 entity independent of the Perry campaign, called Americans for Rick Perry, implemented a write-in strategy that captured a record number of votes. In Florida, this group was not present.

For his part, Mr. Romney did not run an organized effort, which is consistent with his approach to all straw poll events. Therefore, both he and Perry badly under-performed in Presidency 5 based on their status atop the Florida Republican polls.

As has been the case since the very beginning of this GOP nomination campaign, the race continues to be a wide open battle. This is likely to continue until actual votes begin to be cast early next year at the Iowa Caucus and in the early primary states.

New Poll Confirms Big Perry Lead

Last week, Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-21; 663 “usual” GOP primary voters) gave newly announced presidential candidate Rick Perry a substantial 33-20-16 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). All other candidates scored only in the single-digit percentile. This week, the Opinion Research Council, polling for CNN (Aug. 24-25; 1,017 adults; 927 registered voters; 467 Republican primary voters), confirmed those results in almost identical fashion.

According to the new ORC/CNN data, Perry’s lead for the GOP nomination is 32-18-12 percent over Romney and Bachmann, respectively. Both the PPP and ORC/CNN studies are small-sample polls and carry high error factors, thus the exactness of the two conclusions becomes even more significant. Perry gained 14 points from the ORC/CNN’s early August survey (Aug. 5-8); Romney dropped five, and Bachmann increased her standing by three percentage points.

The ORC/CNN poll then included both former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom could still conceivably become candidates, in their secondary presidential preference question. With the additions, Perry’s lead drops to 27 percent, Romney falls to 14 percent, and Palin places third with 10 percent. Bachman dips to 9 percent, which is the same number as Giuliani posts. It remains to be seen if the Perry juggernaut is long-standing, or just a bounce from his long-awaited and highly anticipated announcement speech.
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Perry Leads in Polls; Paul Gains – Romney, Bachmann Fall

The Gallup organization released a new national poll of Republican primary voters yesterday (Aug. 17-21; 1,040 self-identified Republicans and Independent-leaning Republicans) that finds Texas Gov. Rick Perry soaring into first place by a double-digit margin, obviously detecting a large bounce from his official announcement of candidacy. Mr. Perry leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 29-17 percent, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) claiming third place at 13 percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), apparently gaining no polling momentum from her Iowa Straw Poll victory, fell to 10 percent.

The brand new Public Policy Polling national survey (Aug. 18-21; 663 GOP voters) confirms the Gallup numbers. They show Perry climbing to 33 percent, followed by Romney at 20 percent, and Bachmann performing better at 16 percent. Ron Paul only pulls 6 percent according to this data.

This is the second national Gallup poll that included Perry, but the first since he officially joined the campaign trail. He gained 11 points from the pollster’s July 2011 survey. The other gainer was Rep. Paul, who popped up three points and moved ahead of Bachmann into third place. Mr. Romney, now second, dropped six points. Ms. Bachmann lost three and essentially became the mirror image of Mr. Paul.

Perry leads in all geographic regions except the East, where he trails Romney by only one point. He also has the edge among all age categories except the 18-29 year old sector, which is dominated by Rep. Paul. He commands the advantage among church-goers and non-church-goers alike, while trailing Romney by a surprisingly small four points among self-identified Moderate/Liberal Republicans.
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Gov. Christie Rumors Gain Momentum

Despite repeatedly denying that he will run for President during this election cycle, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is again the subject of intense speculation that it is imminent that he will throw his hat into the ring. Interestingly, this time the rumors are flying from both the left and the right. Yesterday on his national radio program, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said sources were telling him that Christie is making moves to enter the race. Back in Trenton, New Jersey’s capital city, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said that the governor’s recent budgetary actions suggest that he is running for President.

If Gov. Christie entered the race, it would add yet another surprising twist to an already unpredictable presidential election cycle. With his strength in the Northeast, a Christie candidacy would be most detrimental to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who must capitalize on his strength in the north and east in order to neutralize what appear to be sure losses in the south. Since New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are all winner-take-all Republican primary states, and represent a grand total of 173 delegates, a Christie sweep of his home turf would immediately make him a formidable force.

If Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and ex-VP nominee Sarah Palin all were to run for President, in addition to Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the race would be thrown into absolute chaos. Moves by any non-candidate entering the race will have to occur within the next month if any of them are to have a realistic chance of winning.
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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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The Perry Announcement Strategy

Reportedly Texas Gov. Rick Perry will publicly say he’s running for President by the end of this week. The governor will speak at the Red State.com Gathering event in Charleston, SC this Saturday afternoon and is expected to reveal his future plans without formally announcing his candidacy. The choice of date and place for his “pre-announcement” accomplishes two key strategic objectives.

First, South Carolina will likely become a make-or-break state for the Perry presidential campaign. Considering that Iowa voters typically choose someone from the Midwest, it’s Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) who is the current favorite to win the first-in-the nation caucus event. New Hampshire should belong to neighboring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, just as it did in 2008. The Nevada Caucuses, now scheduled for Feb. 18, also should line up strongly for Mr. Romney, since he scored big there during the last nomination contest. Therefore, for Perry to capitalize in the south and become a legitimate first-tier candidate, South Carolina becomes the first state where victory for the Texas governor will be expected.

Second, though not participating in the Iowa Straw Poll event (because he is not yet an official candidate), also occurring Saturday, Gov. Perry’s Charleston statement will go a long way to upstage the event’s winner, presumably Ms. Bachmann. Setting the tone in South Carolina while simultaneously upstaging an opponent in Iowa puts Gov. Perry four-square on the national political board.

Not a bad opening salvo for this newcomer from the Lone Star State.
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