Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

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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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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Q-Poll Out Sets Fla., Pa., Expectations

Quinnipiac University just returned the results of two new surveys in the critical presidential states of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Sunshine State’s story (July 27-8/2; 1,417 FL registered voters; 510 self-identified GOP voters) is the interest in Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Included among the Republican field of presidential candidates, Perry, despite launching no campaign organization to date, soars to second place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The two are the only Republican primary candidates, according to this Q-Poll, to break double-digits.

The Florida primary results show Romney with 23 percent, followed by Perry’s 14 percent. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) are next with 9 percent apiece. Retired businessman Herman Cain has 8 percent. Perhaps the biggest surprise, and possibly the biggest casualty should Perry enter the race as all pundits now expect, is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6). According to this Florida GOP sample, Bachmann only posts 6 percent, less than half of Perry’s total and only a quarter of Romney’s. Relegated to single digits in an important state like Florida is not good news for the Tea Party Caucus chair, who has been performing very well in other state polls, particularly those among Iowa voters. The Q-Poll features a low sample (510 Republicans) for a state the size of Florida, even when considering that they are only testing supporters of one political party.

The Florida Republican primary is one of the most important in the GOP contest. Slated to be held just before Super Tuesday, 99 delegates will be apportioned among the candidates, third highest of any state. Only California (172 delegates) and Texas (152 delegates) have larger GOP delegations. The winner of the statewide vote is awarded 10 delegates. Eight more – three party delegates and five bonus votes – will also likely end up with the statewide victor. In all, 81 delegates, three per each of the state’s 27 congressional districts, are awarded to the candidate winning the specific CDs. In the general election, the Republicans must win Florida to have a legitimate chance of capturing the Presidency.

Romney and Perry are also tops among all the Republican candidates when paired with President Obama, too. In fact, Romney draws to a 44-44 percent tie with Mr. Obama. Perry is just five points behind the President, trailing 39-44 percent. The margin is greater when the other GOP contenders go one-on-one with Obama. Against Palin, the President’s advantage is 53-34 percent, his best showing against any top Republican contender. Bachmann does better than Palin but still trails Mr. Obama by double digits. In this match-up, Obama leads the Minnesota Congresswoman 50-38 percent.

The Pennsylvania numbers (July 25-31; 1,358 PA registered voters; 580 self-identified Republican voters) are much different. A relatively reliable Democratic state, Pennsylvania will play an important role in the 2012 presidential contest, but much more so for the Democrats than Republicans. The GOP can win the national election without carrying Pennsylvania, but Democrats cannot.

The surprising performer among the Keystone State voters is their former senator, Rick Santorum. The former PA officeholder spent three terms in the House and two in the Senate before falling badly in 2006 to now-Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., 41-59%. Though barely a blip nationally as a Republican presidential candidate, Santorum is showing resiliency in his home state. Among GOP primary contenders, Romney has the lead with 21%, followed by Santorum at 14%. Palin is next with 12%, Bachmann has 11%, and Perry is way off the pace, posting only 8%. In the Republican primary, Pennsylvania is allocated 72 delegates making it the sixth largest state for the GOP nomination.

In the general election match-ups, the President actually fares quite poorly, considering that Pennsylvania is a must-win state for him. He trails Romney 42-44 percent; leads Santorum only 45-43 percent; and bests Perry with an unimpressive 45-39 percent showing. Mr. Obama enjoys an eight-point lead over Bachmann, 47-39 percent.

The Obama job approval numbers are a clear barometer to gauge just how far the President has fallen before the Keystone State electorate. Today, only 43 percent of the PA respondents give Mr. Obama favorable reviews versus 54 percent who disapprove of how he executes the duties of his office. In June his positive to negative ratio was a better, but still uninspiring, 48:48 percent.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.