Tag Archives: Florida

Why Gingrich is Right … and Wrong

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, on the campaign trail in Florence, SC, intimated that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry should drop out of the race and unite behind him as the only viable conservative candidate who can still overtake former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The South Carolina primary is this Saturday, Jan. 21.

While Gingrich is correct that conservatives need to unite behind one candidate, he’s wrong in saying he’s that man. Actually, of the three, it is Rick Santorum who has the better chance of beating Romney in South Carolina and beyond. While it is highly unlikely that anyone drops out of the race before Saturday, and thus Romney probably wins the Palmetto State primary even though South Carolina is arguably his weakest state in the country, it is Santorum who has the least political baggage among the three remaining conservatives.

Santorum is routinely attacked for his position on social issues, but his stands are closer to the average Republican primary voter, particularly in South Carolina, than almost anyone else running, though both Gingrich and Perry also have consistently strong records from a GOP perspective.

Gingrich showed he had a glass jaw in Iowa when, after establishing a lead across the board in all polls, issue advocacy ads highlighted some of his weaknesses. In particular, reminding the electorate of the Cap & Trade television commercial in which he appeared with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi proved to be most damaging. Once the voters remembered this and his other less-than-conservative stances, Gingrich’s numbers came tumbling down and he ended up finishing fourth in the Hawkeye State Caucuses. If matched with President Obama’s political machine in a general election, the attacks upon him would be even more severe and devastating, thus making the former Speaker unelectable.

There is no question that Gov. Perry is finished, though he continues to say he is staying on through South Carolina and probably Florida. Perry has the money to compete, but not the voter support. After a brilliant start, the governor fell to the depths of polling statistics quicker than anyone in recent memory. Failure to properly handle the immigration issue, coupled with horrendously poor debate performances and speaking gaffes in New Hampshire, have relegated him to also-ran status. But he will still attract a significant vote percentage away from another conservative, and that only helps Romney.

For his part, Gingrich argues that only he has the experience to run a national campaign against Mr. Obama. “I helped Reagan in ’80, I helped Reagan in ’84. I helped in ’88 when Bush was down 19 points in May and we won by 6 in November … I helped design the ’94 campaign, which had the largest one-party increase in an off year in American history,” the former Speaker said. While it is undoubtedly true that he helped Messrs. Reagan and Bush, it is clear that claiming victory had more to do with their own candidacies and campaigns, spiced with reverse assistance from then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Democratic nominees Walter Mondale in 1984, and Michael Dukakis in 1988, than what role Mr. Gingrich played in the conquests. There is no denying, however, he was the principal architect of the 1994 Republican landslide that brought the GOP their first House majority in 42 years. But, does that change this week’s result in South Carolina after 18 years have elapsed? Almost assuredly not.

While Mr. Gingrich is right that former Gov. Romney will win this primary if conservatives don’t unite, he’s wrong in thinking he is the focal point around whom the movement coalesces. A victory in South Carolina will virtually clinch the nomination for Mr. Romney, thus bringing the preliminary campaign to an early close, while simultaneously jump-starting the general election.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following eight states during the first business week of the new year:

CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The Connecticut court-appointed special master has released his draft congressional map and, as the state Supreme Court ordered him to create, it is a “least change” plan. All five districts will basically remain the same as constructed on the current map, except for population equalization adjustments. This plan will likely be adopted and all five seats will be favored to remain in Democratic hands.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment passed a congressional map during the past week. The full Senate will likely take action in a few days. The state House is also moving a bill. A plan will move to Gov. Rick Scott (R) shortly. The real battle over this most crucial congressional plan, however, will ultimately be decided in the state courts. Conflicting issues between the state-passed voter initiative that added criteria to map construction and the federal Voting Rights Act have put the Florida process on a legal collision course. Regardless of the resulting legalities, the final plan will almost certainly yield many more competitive districts than under the current set of district lines. The Sunshine State clearly features the best Republican map in the country.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – The state House of Representatives passed a congressional map that strengthens both of the state’s Democratic members, Reps. John Yarmuth (D-KY-3) and Ben Chandler (D-KY-6). The Republican Senate appears headed upon a different course meaning this situation may move to the judiciary for final resolution. The Kentucky primary is May 22, with candidate filing scheduled for a fast-approaching January 31st. This is the critical week in the Kentucky redistricting process.

MISSOURI (current delegation: 6R-3D; loses one seat) – Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has an active lawsuit before the courts, objecting to the draw in the eastern part of the state that collapses his current district. While the court didn’t comment upon his original claim, they did express concern over a certain part of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s (D) 5th District, anchored in Kansas City. Though no action has yet been taken, it is possible that the Missouri map will have to be adjusted.

NORTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 7D-6R) – The state three-judge panel has scheduled oral arguments for the consolidated redistricting lawsuits regarding the legislatively enacted congressional, state Senate, and House maps for this Friday, Jan. 20. It is likely that the North Carolina Supreme Court will eventually be referred the matter in order to render a final verdict on the maps. This will have to happen relatively quickly since the Tar Heel State primary is scheduled for May 8, with a fast-approaching candidate filing deadline of Feb. 29. Though the plaintiffs have raised approximately 70 causes of action, the most important is their racial gerrymandering claim about some African-American districts.

TENNESSEE (current delegation: 7R-2D) – Both houses of the legislature have now passed the new Tennessee congressional map. The legislation goes to Gov. Bill Haslam (R) for his signature. The Republican legislature drew a map that attempts to keep the seven seats just won in the GOP column, but also makes freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais highly vulnerable in the Republican primary. A member of the State & Local Government Committee that has jurisdiction over redistricting, Sen. Bill Ketron, ensured that Rutherford County was placed in the new 4th, thereby making plausible his intra-party challenge to the new incumbent.

VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – A new status quo 8R-3D congressional map passed the Virginia House of Delegates last week. The plan now goes to the Senate where the measure is expected to quickly pass. Once that occurs, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will sign the map into law. A full analysis will be provided upon completion of the legislative process.

WEST VIRGINIA (current delegation: 2R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel that struck down the West Virginia congressional plan for population equality reasons has back-tracked on their requirement that the legislature produce a new map by Jan. 17. With no pending deadline, the legislature has more time to arrive at a solution. The governor and legislative leaders originally responded by asking the US Supreme Court to step in, following Texas’ lead in their own case. The problems here are solvable and the “least change” goal of the new West Virginia map will still likely prevail.

New Florida Poll Numbers

Quinnipiac University just released the results of their latest regular Florida poll. The survey (Jan. 4-8; 1,412 registered Florida voters) shows extremely close races for both President and US Senate. President Obama, whose job approval rating registers a poor 42:54 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio in the Sunshine State, actually trails former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, 43-46 percent. Tested against Pennsylvania ex-Sen. Rick Santorum the President rebounds into the lead, but not by much. He claims only a 45-43 percent advantage in that pairing.

The Obama ballot test results are not particularly surprising given his upside-down favorability index. What’s more surprising is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D) performance when measured against Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14). The new Q-Poll shows Nelson holding only a 41-40 percent margin over the Republican challenger. But, Nelson’s personal ratings are actually quite good. By a margin of 41:23 percent, the Florida sample has a positive view of the senator. His job approval rating stands at a respectable 47:30 percent and, by a span of 44:35 percent, the respondents believe he deserves re-election. This compares with the President’s inverted re-elect score of 44:52 percent. When paired opposite Rep. Mack, however, Nelson’s numbers rather inconsistently tumble.

The Quinnipiac poll confirms the results of all the Nelson-Mack studies save one Public Policy Polling survey (Nov. 28-Dec. 1: Nelson 46 percent, Mack 35 percent). They collectively project a spread between the candidates of only a point or two. Therefore, one must conclude that the Florida Senate race is certainly in play. Despite the mixed signals, it does appear that Sen. Nelson is in for a serious fight as this election year progresses.

New Hampshire Analysis

As the final votes were being tabulated in last night’s New Hampshire Republican primary, it appears that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the evening’s clear winner, came close to achieving his needed benchmark as he garnered nearly 40 percent of the total vote. As polling predicted, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was a strong second with just under 23 percent.

The other major story line, however, focused again on former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. But this time, it was his failure to score big in New Hampshire after forcing Romney into a virtual tie last week in Iowa. Santorum was fighting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for fourth place, and failed to crack double-digits. Santorum needed a strong finish in New Hampshire to propel him into serious contention for the upcoming South Carolina primary on Jan. 21. A second-place finish in New Hampshire, followed by a win in the Palmetto State, could have made Santorum the conservative alternative to Romney, thus turning the campaign into a legitimate horse race. Now it appears it is Romney who will have the momentum as the candidates head south.

A victory in South Carolina, heretofore one of Mr. Romney’s weakest states, would launch him into Florida 10 days later as the undisputed GOP leader. Taking first in the Sunshine State followed by an almost certain win at the Nevada Caucuses on Feb. 4 would allow Romney to sweep the early states, thereby virtually crowning him as the nominee. At that point, the general election would unofficially begin.

For his part, Mr. Romney is already portraying himself as the nominee. He used his New Hampshire victory speech as a forum to begin developing a clear contrast between himself and President Obama. With still no clear alternative candidate rising above the remaining contenders, it may not be too early for him to begin laying such general election ground work. It is doubtful that any one of the other Republicans can now generate enough momentum to establish the proper position to effectively battle the former governor. South Carolina may now represent the last chance for another candidate to score an upset. Failing to do so lessens the chance of anyone but Romney winning Florida even more.

Turnout for the Republican contest was up from 2008, but not substantially so. When all votes are counted, the total turnout will likely break 247,000 cast ballots, about a 5 percent increase from just under 235,000 votes that were cast four years ago. Mr. Romney’s 92,000-plus votes also exceeded ’08 winner John McCain’s 88,571. While Romney is almost touching the 40 percent mark, by comparison, McCain scored 37.7 percent in 2008.

As for Jon Huntsman, who scored a third-place finish in New Hampshire, I’ll refer you to my post yesterday, John Huntsman: Mr. Irrelevant.

Iowa Winners and Losers

Two clear winners emerged from the Iowa Caucuses last night – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Both men earned 25 percent of the vote, give or take a hundredth of a point when all of the votes are officially tabulated, which means they fought to a virtual draw. The latest tally after last night still shows Romney leading by a scant eight votes of the just over 60,000 votes cast between the two of them.

There had always been speculation about whether Mr. Santorum would get the same surge that every other candidate had received at some point during the Iowa election cycle. Attempting to project ahead for the long term, since 49 other states still must cast their votes, it’s difficult to see another candidate besides Romney having the staying power to claim the nomination throughout the grueling 50-state nomination process.

But the candidates who didn’t perform well in Iowa might be the bigger short-term story. After he spent what will likely add up to be more than $500 per vote cast for him when the financial accounting becomes final, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has returned to Austin to consider whether he should continue his campaign. Fellow Texan Ron Paul also under-performed, after many polls and predictions suggested that he would win the Iowa Caucuses. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) just barely cracked 6,000 votes. During the Iowa Straw Poll, which she won back in August, her grand total was 4,823. Such little growth in the months between the Straw Poll and the full Caucus vote suggested that her campaign was doomed. And it ended today when Mrs. Bachmann announced that she was suspending her candidacy.

Does the Santorum performance now allow him to coalesce the more conservative Republican voters, attracting them from Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose precipitous drop in the polls translated to a similar performance when actual votes were cast), and Bachmann? Will it propel him into a one-on-one race with Mr. Romney? It has always been the conventional wisdom that if a candidate could isolate Romney, that individual would win.

Santorum is moving on to New Hampshire with the considerable momentum from Iowa behind him. And although Romney enjoys big leads in the Granite State in polling, if Santorum can place a clear second, it might be enough to secure the mantel as Romney’s top challenger. South Carolina would then become hugely important. If Santorum can upend Romney there, his national campaign could quickly become the real deal. Republicans are returning to a more traditional primary and caucus schedule (meaning the majority of the states are voting after Super Tuesday – March 6 this year), which could favor the late breaking candidate and not Romney, who has been in the top tier since the beginning.

If the eight-vote statewide Iowa margin stands, it will of course be the closest primary or caucus victory in presidential campaign history. Romney’s unofficial total of 30,015 votes is eerily similar to the total he received in 2008, when he lost to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In that year, Mr. Romney accumulated 29,949, only 66 fewer votes than his performance last night.

Turnout also was similar to 2008. That year, 118,696 people participated in the Iowa Caucus meetings. Last night, the total was 122,255.

It was clear that the predictions of many Democrat and Independent voters would come to the Caucuses in order to re-register Republican and vote for Ron Paul did not materialize. Even in the key college counties of Johnson (University of Iowa) and Story (Iowa State University), Paul failed to place first. Mr. Romney carried both places, albeit only by 10 votes in Story, however.

The only candidate other than Santorum, Romney, and Paul to carry any county was Perry. He won in both Taylor and Union Counties, two southern Iowa entities that border each other.

Once again, it has been proved that a candidate who travels the state and works in a grassroots, one-on-one fashion can score big in the Iowa Caucuses. Santorum understood that and adopted this strategy well. Moving to the larger states like Florida and California, where such campaigning is virtually impossible, will prove more daunting.

Santorum is clearly the big story coming out of Iowa. But what is also clear is that this race has a long way to go.

It Begins Tonight in Iowa

The Iowa Caucuses are finally here and late polling shows that tonight’s result may be inconclusive. Several surveys forecast a very tight race among Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who appears to be surging at precisely the right time. The attacks on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have worked as his fortunes are declining to the point where even he says victory at the Caucuses is beyond his grasp. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) are hovering around the 10 percent mark, but do not appear to be in serious contention.

Still, a bunching of these candidates where the winner is only a few points ahead of those in the middle of the pack will render the Iowa Caucus vote somewhat meaningless because it is likely that the entire field will continue to New Hampshire (Jan. 10), South Carolina (Jan. 21), and then to Florida (Jan. 31) and Nevada (Feb. 4).

Here are the results of the latest polls:

• Insider Advantage (Jan. 1: 729 likely voters): Romney 23 percent, Paul 22 percent, Santorum 18 percent, Gingrich 16 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 6 percent.

• Public Policy Polling (Dec. 31-Jan. 1; 1,340 likely Republican Caucus attenders): Paul 20 percent, Romney 19 percent, Santorum 18 percent, Gingrich 14 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 8 percent.

• American Research Group (Dec. 29-Jan. 1; 600 likely Republican Caucus attenders): Romney 22 percent, Paul 17 percent, Santorum 16 percent, Gingrich 15 percent, Perry 9 percent, Bachmann 8 percent.

• Selzer & Company for the Des Moines Register (Dec. 27-30; 602 likely GOP Caucus attenders): Romney 24 percent, Paul 22 percent, Santorum 15 percent, Gingrich 12 percent, Perry 11 percent, Bachmann 7 percent.

Several points merit attention. First, should Mr. Romney finish ahead of his opponents, he will become the first non-incumbent Republican to ever win both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary, assuming he is not surprised there next week. Polling shows him holding consistently large leads in the Granite State. Winning the first two nominating events would give him needed momentum heading into South Carolina, which is clearly his weakest state. He will then need to rebound in Florida (possible) and Nevada (likely) to possibly deliver a knockout blow to some of the weaker candidates.

Second, it’s possible that Rep. Paul is under-performing in polling because the surveys do not accurately detect the number of non-Republicans who could come to the Caucus meetings for the purposes of switching to the GOP in order to participate in the presidential contest. Paul’s strength outside the Republican Party is an x-factor that could provide him enough of an added push for him to claim victory.

Third, it is clear that Santorum is gaining momentum but probably not enough to actually win the Caucuses. Still, a strong top-three finish will definitely keep his campaign alive through at least South Carolina, another state where he has the potential to perform well.

After more than a year of campaigning and enduring countless twists and turns, the first votes of the 2012 presidential contest finally will be cast tonight. The apparent closeness of the Iowa vote will likely yield to a lengthy nomination contest since all of the candidates will move on to other states. With more places holding their primaries and caucuses on a more traditional schedule vis-a-vis the front-loading that occurred in 2008, it is likely that we won’t see a definitive nominee until at least late April and possibly beyond.

Three Scenarios: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina

Now that retired business executive Herman Cain has effectively ended his presidential quest, how will the campaign now unfold?

A new Iowa poll (Selzer & Company; Nov. 27-30; 401 likely Republican Caucus participants) stakes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to a relatively substantial lead as we come within four weeks of the Hawkeye State Republican Caucuses. At these meetings attenders will cast the first live votes of the 2012 presidential contest.

According to the latest polling data, Gingrich places first with support from 25 percent of those polled. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is second with 18 percent, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney follows with 16 percent. No other candidate registers in double-digits.

Without Cain in the race, the national campaign will likely evolve into a two-way race, but it’s a threesome in Iowa. A Gingrich win there on Jan. 3 will begin a two-way campaign between Romney and him. Romney still leads in New Hampshire polling and is expected to win the Granite State. No non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever placed first in both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and so chances are good that will play out again.

If Gingrich and Romney both have a win under their belts, then the two would go into South Carolina, arguably Romney’s weakest state, tied 101. But a big win there could catapult Gingrich to a victory in Florida, where he is already enjoying landslide leads in polling, and the culmination of these results might make the former Speaker unstoppable.

Should Romney pull what would now have to be considered an upset win in Iowa, he could be in position to wrap up the nomination early; that’s unlikely, but possible. With plenty of resources to turn out his vote, a lower participation rate three days into the bitterly cold new year could allow him to steal a win. Gingrich, because he has less in the way of money and organization, could be polling better than he will actually perform on Caucus night, thus opening the door even wider for Romney.

Capturing both Iowa and New Hampshire would give Mr. Romney strength going south, something he badly needs. Though he would have difficulty winning in South Carolina on Jan. 21 under any circumstance, a good showing coupled with his two earlier victories could make him the favorite in Florida.

Winning three out of the first four nominating events and then moving to the Nevada Caucuses on Feb. 4 (the first western delegate selection event and a Romney place of strength) would make the former Massachusetts governor extremely difficult to stop. At that point, it is likely Gingrich and the others would not have the resources to complete with Romney, whose fundraising would undoubtedly be even more robust than it is today. Should events unfold in this manner, it would be Romney who would then be moving unencumbered toward the nomination.

But, what if Ron Paul wins Iowa? This, too, is possible since he has polled well there for the past several months and has an army of loyal supporters who have proven repeatedly that they will turn out for him. Chances are, however, that a Ron Paul win would be a one-state occurrence. He would likely finish back in the pack in New Hampshire, effectively neutralizing any Iowa win. A Paul victory might then turn the race into a free-for-all, making it a wide-open affair and possibly allow some of the candidates who are not currently polling well to come to the forefront.

The Iowa Caucuses are carrying greater importance than they have in the past because they will almost assuredly set the tone for the balance of the race.

Should Gingrich take Iowa, as he apparently would if the election were today, he sets himself on a path to the nomination with a better-than-expected finish in New Hampshire, followed by wins in South Carolina and Florida.

Back-to-back victories for Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire could, conversely, launch him toward an early clinching.

Finally, a Ron Paul Iowa win would set the stage for a long-term, wide open race that might involve all 50 states before any contender has enough delegate strength to claim the nomination.

It all begins a month from now. Iowa becomes the trendsetter.