Tag Archives: South Carolina

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 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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The House Open Seats

As we approach the midway point in the national redistricting process, it is a good time to check the status of the House open seats. Because reapportionment creates a dozen new seats, the incumbent-less district count is already 29. An average election cycle features about 35 open seats, although the last two elections have broken the 40 mark. Should the proposed maps in California and North Carolina pass, at least three more vacancies will be added to the 2012 total. And if Utah Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) along with Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) run statewide, as they are considering, then three more would be added.

To review, the following are the announced open seats:

AZ-6 Jeff Flake (R) Running for Senate
AZ-9 New Seat
CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Retirement
CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Running for San Diego Mayor
CT-5 Chris Murphy (D) Running for Senate
FL-26 New Seat
FL-27 New Seat
GA-14 New Seat
HI-2 Mazie Hirono (D) Running for Senate
IN-2 Joe Donnelly (D) Running for Senate
IN-6 Mike Pence (R) Running for Governor
MO-2 Todd Akin (R) Running for Senate
MT-AL Denny Rehberg (R) Running for Senate
NV-1 Shelley Berkley (D) Running for Senate
NV-2 Vacant Rep. Dean Heller appointed to Senate
NV-4 New Seat
NM-1 Martin Heinrich (D) Running for Senate
NY-9 Vacant Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned
ND-AL Rick Berg (R) Running for Senate
OK-2 Dan Boren (D) Retirement
SC-7 New Seat
TX-14 Ron Paul (R) Running for President
TX-33 New Seat
TX-34 New Seat
TX-35 New Seat
TX-36 New Seat
UT-4 New Seat
WA-1 Jay Inslee (D) Running for Governor
WA-10 New Seat

Of the 29 open districts, 12 are new seats, nine current incumbents are running for Senate, two are running for governor, another pair are retiring from politics, one is seeking the U.S. Presidency, and one more is running for mayor of San Diego. Two members resigned their seats; one because of being appointed to the Senate; one due to scandal. Nine of the vacating incumbents are Democrats, six are Republicans. The two vacant seats split evenly, one from each party.

Most of the current seats will stay within the designated party control, but at least six (IN-2, Donnelly; MT-AL, Rehberg; NV-2, Vacant – special election Sept. 13; NM-1, Heinrich; OK-2, Boren; and TX-14, Paul) will likely join the competitive ranks.

With already a large number of open seats in the 2012 election cycle, it would not be surprising to see the total number approach 50 before filing closes in each of the states. Should this happen, added to the 97 members currently serving their first term, a full one-third of the House will have two terms of seniority or less in the next Congress.
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South Carolina’s DeMint Considers Presidential Run

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R)

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint confirms reports that he is now considering entering the GOP presidential contest. Previously, he said he would not become a candidate. Like former VP nominee Sarah Palin who is sending outward signs that she might jump into the fray and Texas Gov. Rick Perry also confirming new interest in a presidential campaign, DeMint sees opportunity for a newcomer who could carry the Southern states. The south is the heart of the Republican voter base. Since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels have all said they won’t run for President, the south is left without an obvious candidate to support.

Sen. DeMint actually has two bases of support, both of which are formidable. As a Tea Party spokesman within the halls of Congress, the Palmetto State solon would command sizable backing from the grassroots within the Republican Party base, which is significant in primary elections. Secondly, his own state of South Carolina is one of the key early nomination battlegrounds, following the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Since no non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever carried both Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina plays a major role in defining the pre-Super Tuesday momentum. Though DeMint is likely to be a second-tier candidate if he enters the race, his inherent bases of support could generate more for him than originally meets the eye.
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A Wide-Open Republican Presidential Field

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ announcement over the weekend that he would not seek the presidency means the Republican nomination is completely up for grabs. Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a substantial lead in the New Hampshire primary according to a new CNN/WMUR-TV poll (784 New Hampshire adults, 347 Republicans), the same data shows that 87 percent of those sampled have not definitely decided who they will support for president. In the south, the heart of the Republican nomination voter base, no remaining candidate has the inside track to winning the critical South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia primaries, among others.

With southern favorites like ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and presumably former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin all out of the race, does this open the door for others such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Both have made recent comments suggesting that they could enter the race. Giuliani would jump-start his campaign with a strong New Hampshire strategy, where Perry would be attractive to the base conservative voter, particularly those residing in the south. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now an official candidate, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), a likely one, could hurt each other in neighboring Iowa, since they may negate what could be each other’s regional advantage in the first-in-the-nation caucus. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who usually polls toward the end of the top tier of candidates, has stumbled out of the gate with a series of early gaffes.

This Republican primary is shaping up to become the most wide open race we’ve seen in the modern political era.
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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.