Tag Archives: Jon Huntsman

‘Americans Elect’ Organization Growing

As we move to within a month of the first votes being cast in the 2012 presidential election, a little-known group is laying the foundation to have a potentially major impact upon the November election. Americans Elect is a non-profit 501(c)4 organization that will allow the American people, via the Internet, to choose an Independent nominee for President. While this sounds like a far-fetched concept, the group already claims to have raised $20 million for their effort, in undisclosed contributions, and has already gained ballot access for their eventual candidate in 13 states, including key battlegrounds like Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan. The organization already has submitted more than 2.15 million valid signatures to obtain the ballot access in these places, and the number continues to grow. The group’s leadership says that more than 1 million additional petition signatures already have been gathered for California and will soon be submitted for verification.

If Americans Elect continues along its current pace, their eventual “nominee” will be on the ballot in most states. With former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) already publicly urging GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman to enter the America Elect sweepstakes, more attention is being paid to the organization. Though no eventual Independent candidate will be in serious competition to win the Presidency, such a candidacy could significantly affect the race by peeling off votes from the two major candidates.

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.

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.

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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Trio of Polls Show Romney, Perry at Top

Since July 20, three major national polls have been conducted and released, all recording basically the same results. Gallup (July 20-24; 1,088 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), the Pew Research Center (July 20-24; 980 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents), and Rasmussen Reports (July 28; 1,000 likely GOP primary voters) each place Massachusetts former Gov. Mitt Romney in first place with 17, 21, and 22 percent, respectively, among the voters tested. But the bigger story continues to be how well Texas Gov. Rick Perry performs. In each of these surveys, the unannounced candidate places second, notching 15, 12, and 18 percent preference among those sampled in the three respective survey universes.

These polls, as well as most others, tell us two things. First, Romney is a weak front-runner since he fails to break 25 percent in any national poll. Second, the rise of Gov. Perry who, by all accounts will soon enter the race, again underscores the respondents’ desire to choose a person outside the sphere of current candidates, thus expressing disapproval with the GOP presidential field as a whole.

The Gallup poll, which includes former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, clearly highlights the desire for additional choices because the individuals placing second, third, and fourth (Perry, ex-Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and Giuliani) are all non-candidates. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) ties Giuliani for fourth with just 11 percent, but all other official candidates: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), retired businessman Herman Cain, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), recent US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, finish no better than in high single-digits.

The other tangential effect from Perry’s strong early performance is the weakening of Bachmann’s standing. The Pew study illustrates this point in two ways, through the use of several different and interesting questions.

First, the sampling universe was asked to name the candidate they have heard the most about during the recent time frame. By a margin of 23 to 13 percent, the respondents answered Bachmann. Romney scored the 13%. Perry, on the other hand, posted just 3 percent on this question. Such bodes well for the Texas governor because he is still placing second in the overall poll despite the at-large sample hearing little about him. Conversely, this measurement trends poorly for Bachmann because her support appears to be declining slightly even though she is by far and away the candidate attracting the most current attention.

Second, Perry already polls ahead of Bachmann, 16-14 percent, among the people who look favorably upon the Tea Party. This is quite a surprise since Bachmann is the House Tea Party Caucus chair and has been closely identified with the disparate individual groups since their inception. Perry, while certainly espousing the type of economic theories and policy positions with which the Tea Party leadership and members agree, is not nearly as identified with the movement as Bachmann. Yet, at least according to this Pew data, the governor is already passing her within the polling segment.

Furthermore, Romney even exceeds Bachmann’s support level within the Tea Party sector, tying Perry at 16 percent. This is more astonishing than Perry’s performance, since Romney’s record includes enacting the now highly publicized Massachusetts state government health care system that came into being by virtue of his initiative while Governor. Along with Herman Cain posting 12 percent support from the Tea Party Republicans, the data tells us that no one candidate has a lock on this ideological segment of the GOP primary vote. It leads us to the conclusion that the campaign is wide open and will likely run through the maximum number of states before a Republican nominee is crowned next year.

During this late July period, the polling, as reflected in the Pew, Gallup, and Rasmussen studies that were all conducted during the same time segment, is clearly detecting several noticeable trends. First, while Romney places first in virtually every poll, it is never by much, suggesting that his path to the nomination is tenuous despite his present standing. Second, Bachmann is not in as strong a position across the board as she was during the early part of the month. Third, Gov. Perry is showing uncommon strength for a non-candidate with relatively low name ID. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that when Perry officially enters the race, the contest could conceivably winnow down, relatively quickly, to a two-person campaign between Perry and Romney. With neither having a defined early lead, we have further support for concluding that this race will not soon be settled.
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