Tag Archives: Iowa Caucuses

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.

Iowa Looming Large for Presidential Candidates

Irrespective of the states continuing to jockey for early primary or caucus calendar positions, it is clear that the Iowa Caucuses will command the premium amount of attention from the Republican presidential nomination contenders during the coming weeks.

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN-6) campaign is focusing her diminished resources solely on the Hawkeye State contest. Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) weak early performance has dealt his campaign a crippling blow, and he needs a strong Iowa finish to breathe new life into his presidential effort. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is hoping his campaign’s grassroots followers will be out in force to work the caucuses, an exercise that can be a daunting task for even the most vociferous of supporters. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) all dampen expectations for Iowa, but secretly hope a third-place or even fourth-place showing might spark renewed interest in their presidential aspirations. Furthermore, it has become apparent that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who previously downplayed his interest in the Iowa contest, is now making heavy organizational investments there in the hope that conservatives may so fractionally split their votes that a mid-twenties finish might place him at the top of the GOP field.

The newest Republican frontrunner, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, has been spending more time on his national book tour than at Des Moines pork chop cookouts, but he now appears to have vaulted ahead of the field among likely Iowa caucus goers in a new poll released just yesterday.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Iowa caucus-attendees shows that Cain is now in front with 28 percent, followed by Romney who registers 21 percent. Rep. Paul comes in a distant third at 10 percent followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who posts 9 percent. Congresswoman Bachmann is next with 8 percent, and Gov. Perry scores a disappointing 7 percent. The sixth-place finish for Perry in this poll illustrates his sharp decline from early September when he was the frontrunner both nationally and in Iowa.

Former Sen. Santorum picks up 4 percent and Mr. Huntsman claims only 2 percent. Another 4 percent would prefer some other candidate and 8 percent are not sure.

Only one-third of the caucus-goers (32 percent) are certain of their vote and don’t expect to change their mind. Among these voters, Cain again does well; 30 percent of this subset prefers the former business executive as compared to Mr. Romney’s 22 percent, and 17 percent say they are committed to Rep. Paul.

Among those absolutely certain that they will attend and participate in the caucus, Cain widens his lead even further over Romney to 31-18 percent.

Rasmussen Reports conducted the survey of 800 likely Iowa Republican Caucus Participants on Oct. 19, 2011. Its margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Many have criticized the Cain campaign for not having a strong organization in Iowa, which is seen as an essential component to successfully turning out the vote. Cain’s supporters, however, are quick to caution those who apply a conventional political analysis to an unconventional candidate in an unconventional political year.

We are now in prime time for the Iowa Caucus campaign. With the official meeting date now set for January 3rd, we are just over 11 weeks away from this first delegate selection event. It is now no longer early, and the trends we are currently seeing have to be taken much more seriously than during the preceding months.

Candidate Debates Do Matter

The latest Republican presidential debate was held last night in Las Vegas and, at least among the candidates themselves, it appears that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are still the top two contenders. They, with their podiums next to each other on center stage, dominated the evening’s responses and personal confrontations.

Even though retired businessman Herman Cain is surprisingly atop many current state polls, he appeared to retreat somewhat into the background of this forum as the candidates actively engaged each other more so than in previous debates. CNN host and debate moderator Anderson Cooper allowed the candidates more freedom in engaging their opponents and provided adequate time to answer the questions, leading to what became a lively evening.

Perry, coming into this debate with his back against the wall after performing poorly in two previous sessions, came on strong, particularly against Romney, over several issues. He was much more articulate and confrontational than in the past, and appeared to have a greater presence on stage. Whether this translates into positive momentum before the GOP primary voting public is yet to be determined.

Polls have already shown major ebbs and flows for Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-6), Perry, and Cain throughout the course of the fledging campaign. Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll in August and then immediately began tumbling downward, landing solidly in the single-digit second tier.

Cain has experienced the opposite course. Largely due to his debate performances, he has gained considerable strength and risen to the top echelon. How long he will stay there is anyone’s guess.

Gov. Perry had a meteoric rise as soon as he entered the race, but fell quickly back after two sub-standard debate performances and a lack of taking any overt action to reverse his slide.

Therefore, the statistical data as reflected in state and national political polls, makes It apparent that the eight debates, only one of which appeared on a broadcast network, are nonetheless having a clear effect upon the early stages of this race.

So far, there is only one candidate who has appeared to rebound after falling into oblivion. And, it is only through his superior debate performances to which his rise can be traced, since the public forums are the semblance of his campaign. This man is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Driven to the 3 percent range nationally after a disastrous start that saw most of his top campaign staff bolting to the Perry campaign, Gingrich is now coming back to the low double-digit mark — right around where he started. It is doubtful, however, he will ever leap back into serious contention because of a lack of a campaign organization and a fundraising machine that is badly in need of repair (Gingrich has only $353,000 cash on hand as of the latest Sept. 30, 2011 campaign financial disclosure report). In the latest Public Policy Polling national survey (Oct. 7-10) the former Speaker has climbed into third place, behind Cain and Romney, with a surprising 15 percent of the Republican primary vote.

Can Perry follow a similar course to that of Gingrich? He needs to, and his challenge last night was to launch himself on such a trajectory.

The polls have told us two things. First, Mr. Romney, despite always placing near the top in every survey, has a ceiling in the low 20s that he can’t seem to crash through. This makes him vulnerable to a candidate who can break out of the pack and contest him in a one-on-one battle. Of all the candidates, Perry is still the only one who has the financial resources to land in such a position, particularly if he successfully portrays himself as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney.

The second finding is that debate performances can tangibly send a candidate spiraling — either up or down, as Gingrich, Perry, and Cain have all proven. With the Iowa Caucuses now set for Jan. 3, 2012, and New Hampshire possibly moving to December, Phase I of the election cycle has officially drawn to a close. Now, they begin playing for keeps.

Is the Republican Field Already Narrowing?

Public Policy Polling (July 15-17; 730 US self-identified Republican voters) just released the results from their latest national political poll and though the 730 sample size is exceedingly low for a nationwide survey — thus raising the error factor considerably — the overall conclusions are plausible.

Capturing the sense that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is surging into the top tier of the Republican presidential field of candidates, the PPP actually places her in first position at 21 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 20 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, included for the first time in a major national poll, places a respectable third with 12 percent. Retired businessman Herman Cain is next, attracting 11 percent.

The poll results are particularly good news for Bachmann and Perry. The data provides evidence of Bachmann’s upward mobility, just as political commentators, campaign professionals, and rank and file activists alike had previously professed. But, the question surrounding her fledging effort is: can she sustain this pace and momentum? Now favored to carry the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll event (Aug. 13), which is actually a major fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party since candidates pay thousands of dollars to participate, Bachmann could well be on the way to positioning herself to win the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses come February.

Gov. Perry, scoring in double-digits his first time out of the gate, is impressive and the numbers are a clear signal that he will be a serious candidate should he ultimately decide to run. Perry’s greatest asset is his record as the nation’s senior governor. Leading the rest of America in job creation, Texas continues to defy the poor domestic economic trends. In a campaign year where jobs will be the top issue upon which the general election candidates will run, Perry clearly has established his economic legitimacy. He has few deficiencies with which to contend, thus making him a strong potential opponent for President Obama.

The PPP poll again reveals some weakness for Romney. Commonly viewed as the front-runner in the race, this is the third poll that places him behind Bachmann and the first one to do so nationally. The other two state surveys that produced similar results, both Public Policy Polling studies, were in Iowa and New Mexico. Romney also has another glaring weakness. Regarding the healthcare issue during his tenure as governor, he instituted a quasi government run healthcare system for Massachusetts. According to the PPP study, only 17 percent of the respondents say they would be willing to vote for a candidate who supported a state-run healthcare program. By contrast, 66 percent said they are not willing to do so. Additionally, the fact that he again fails to break 20 percent in a survey continually reveals his low ceiling among the Republican electorate.

The second quarter financial reports for the presidential candidates are now public, and though most of the candidates had previously announced their dollar figures, it is again important to review the financial landscape.

The following link goes to a spreadsheet displaying all of the pertinent numbers: Presidential Financials 2nd Qtr 2011.
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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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