Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Romney Gains by Merely Standing Still

Last night’s Republican presidential debate as shown on the CNBC network appeared to give former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney another boost in his bid to secure the GOP nomination. Romney didn’t hit any rhetorical home runs, but another candidate clearly committed an error, possibly a fatal one. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, needing a strong debate in order to neutralize previous poor performances, again fell victim to mis-speak that will likely cost him dearly. The governor, in trying to remember the three federal agencies he would eliminate under the fiscal recovery plan he just released, could only remember two such departments and froze before the camera in struggling to remember more. Thus, Mr. Perry unfortunately reinforced his image as a poor communicator.

With retired business executive and heretofore chief rival Herman Cain battling a series of sexual harassment scandals, Romney finds himself gaining by merely standing still. It is probable that next week’s polls will begin to show Cain faltering and Perry mired back in the pack and lacking the ability to show positive upward movement. Therefore, the one scenario that would actually nominate Mr. Romney – meaning all of the other candidates implode – may actually be unfolding right before our eyes.

Is the GOP Presidential Primary Boiling Down to a Two-Way Race?

We’re now approaching a critical juncture in the GOP presidential contest. With the first delegate selection voting event (the Iowa Caucuses on January 3rd) now less than two months away, a pair of national polls suggest that the campaign may be evolving into a two-person race. According to the ABC News/Washington Post survey (Oct. 31-Nov. 3; a ridiculously small sample of 438 Republican “leaners”) and Rasmussen Reports (Nov. 2; 1,000 likely Republican primary voters), the results are virtually the same. The small sample for the ABC News poll raises questions about its reliability as does their lack of definition for the term “leaners,” but the results are close to the more solid RR poll conducted during the same time period.

The ABC poll shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and retired business executive Herman Cain in a virtual tie (24-23 percent in favor of Mr. Romney), while Rasmussen shows the latter up 26-23 percent. All other candidates are in the mid-teens at best.

The prevailing early campaign wisdom was for one more conservative candidate to isolate Romney in a one-on-one race and define him (Mr. Romney) as the moderate. Such a strategy would likely be successful before a highly conservative Republican primary electorate. If Mr. Cain is that other person, however, does his budding personal scandal change the picture? Since these polls were taken before most of the Cain controversy became public, will future results be affected based upon this new knowledge? The polling over the next 10 days should answer that question and possibly define the race. Could a Cain collapse allow Texas Gov. Rick Perry to re-emerge? Perhaps former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? Stay tuned.

Virginia: A Battlefield Again

Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Now, more than a century and a half later, the Old Dominion may again be the site of further history-making battles; but this time the participants are Republicans and Democrats instead of military heroes.

The election of 2008 had Democrats speaking openly of Virginia being permanently converted from a “red” to a “blue,” or at least evolving into a swing “purple” state. Barack Obama carried the state, once designated as the capital of the Confederacy, by a wide 235,000-vote margin over John McCain. As a result of this success, Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Additionally, the state claimed six Democrats in its congressional delegation and both of the party’s U.S. senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, recently converted Republican seats and were considered rising stars.

But, the Democrats’ success proved to be short-lived. Just a year later in 2009, then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell led a sweep of the state’s constitutional offices, returning the governor’s mansion to the GOP after eight years of Democratic rule. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli joined McDonnell in Richmond and began filling the party’s coffers with treasured campaign dollars, much to the delight of veteran GOP state party chair Pat Mullins.

Another year later, on Election Day 2010, the GOP re-captured the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 9th congressional District seats and gave 11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly the scare of his political life.

Next week, Election Day 2011 will feature a down-to-the-wire contest for partisan control of Virginia’s 40-member state Senate. Controlling the legislature will give the GOP control of the congressional redistricting pen. The Republicans need to capture three seats to gain a working majority and Mullins is spending heavily on his targeted races to accomplish this goal.

But, of even greater importance, are the headline events for 2012. At stake: Virginia’s thirteen presidential electoral votes and control of the US Senate. As one of the key states nationally, the Commonwealth is clearly in play for the presidential nominees of both parties. Because the Senate races are expected to be tight across the country, control of the body could conceivably come down to how the Old Dominion votes. The Commonwealth’s senior senator, Jim Webb (D), was one of the first to announce his retirement during this election cycle, and the race to succeed him has been locked in a dead heat ever since former governor and DNC chair Tim Kaine decided to jump into the race and oppose the GOP’s likely nominee, former governor and senator, George Allen. The polling throughout the summer and as recently as last week continues to show the race to be in a statistical tie, and even their Q3 financial reports reveal that both have raised nearly identical amounts of campaign funds ($3.5 million).

The contests on Election Day 2011 and 2012 may not be quite as historic or dramatic as what happened in Yorktown or Appomattox, but it is clear that Virginia is once again front and center for key political developments. Both the Presidency and the Senate potentially could be decided here, which means that this swing state could become the epicenter of Campaign 2012, and once again be a focal point for American political change.

New Wisconsin Poll Shows Weakness for Romney, Thompson

A new Public Policy Poll of Wisconsin Republicans (Oct. 20-23; 650 Wisconsin Republican primary voters) provides even more evidence that retired business executive Herman Cain is continuing to gather serious momentum in his quest for the Presidency. The results give Mr. Cain a 30-18-12-12 percent Badger State lead over Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, respectively.

As further evidence of Cain’s strong standing, he even leads on the follow-up question about being the respondents’ second choice. When asked, “Who would be your second choice for President?”, it is again Cain who places first, this time with 18 percent. Gingrich is second at 16 percent; Romney scores 14 percent; Perry 12 percent; and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) 10 percent.

Turning to the upcoming open Wisconsin Senate race, it is former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson who is not faring quite as well among the Republican faithful as one might expect. The ex-governor and former US Health and Human Services Secretary leads former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, but by a rather unimpressive 35-29-21 percent margin.

What may be most troubling for Thompson, is that it is within the party’s dominant conservative wing where his weakness is greatest. When asked if the respondents would prefer Mr. Thompson or a more conservative candidate, the latter was preferred by a 51-35 percent margin. When paired with Neumann on a one-on-one basis, Thompson’s lead shrinks to just four points, 43-39 percent. If the race came down to a Thompson-Fitzgerald battle, the former governor’s edge is a more substantial 47-35 percent margin. Even this is not a particularly good sign for Thompson, however, because the former governor is known by 86 percent of those questioned versus just the 50 percent who could identify Fitzgerald. Mr. Neumann’s name ID is 61 percent. All three men have strong favorability ratios.

The Wisconsin presidential primary will be held April 3, and will distribute 42 delegates to the GOP candidates. The state employs a winner-take-all by district and statewide system as is used in seven other states, two of which are mega-delegate California and Florida. (Though the latter will likely lose half of its delegation as a penalty for moving their primary before Super Tuesday in violation of Republican National Committee rules.)

The Wisconsin system awards 10 delegates to the candidate who wins the statewide vote, regardless of percentage garnered. Three delegates apiece are given for carrying each of the state’s eight congressional districts. A sweep at the district level would yield one candidate 24 more delegate votes. The remaining eight are party officer and bonus delegates who can vote as they please. As in the vast majority of states – there are only seven winner-take-all places under the new party rules – multiple candidates will likely win some Wisconsin delegates. The primary is open to all voters.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the most important statewide contests in the country. With majority control of the body possibly coming down to one state, Wisconsin could be that one, and both parties are placing the highest priority upon this open-seat campaign. Four-term Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring. The consensus Democratic nominee is becoming Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). The race is expected to have a “toss-up” rating all the way to Election Day.

Nevada Restores Calm

Nevada Republicans have now officially chosen a caucus voting schedule that appears to break the January logjam and restores a sense of order to the GOP presidential nominating process.

Under Republican National Committee rules, the only states allowed to hold a delegate-selecting nomination event (primary or caucus) prior to Super Tuesday (March 6 in 2012) are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. However, Florida upset the apple cart earlier this month by moving to Jan. 31 and is willing to accept the consequences of a party-imposed penalty that forces them to relinquish half of their delegates. But the Nevada Republicans, under the reasoning that they are still the first event in the west, may have brought sanity back to the process by choosing Feb. 4 as their caucus date. This allows New Hampshire, featuring their first-in-the-nation primary, to choose Jan. 10. Iowa has already laid claim to Jan. 3. South Carolina will hold their party-run primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.

The action finally means that the campaigns can now enter the home stretch of the early nominating events with a defined calendar. Expect activity to quickly become heavy in Iowa and New Hampshire, in particular. The Hawkeye State may be the site of the more intense interest because Mitt Romney already has a healthy lead in the Granite State, and Iowa is close. It is clear that the latter state may become a do-or-die venue for Gov. Rick Perry. Now languishing in the polls, Perry does have strong financial backing, on par with Romney, and must prove he can deliver votes in the first contest to be taken seriously. Retired business executive Herman Cain continues to show strong support and is certainly still the campaign wild card.