Archive for January, 2012

It’s a Brand Newt Day*

This has not been a good week in the land of Mitt Romney. One week ago, the former Massachusetts governor was the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, the winner of both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, a historic first for a non-incumbent candidate. Romney was sitting back as his opponents dug holes for themselves, attacking what they were calling “vulture capitalism” and splitting apart the non-Romney vote into factions.

Now, things have changed. After some intense vote-counting in Iowa, Republicans there have actually awarded the win to Rick Santorum. This shift does little to change the actual delegate counts in the process, as A.) the two men essentially tied and split the delegates, and B.) Iowa’s delegates are not “pledged,” meaning that technically they can vote for whoever they want at the convention. After receiving a standing ovation in a debate kicking off South Carolina week, Newt Gingrich suddenly surged. Dropping his attacks on Romney’s Bain capital days, he focused more on jobs and the economy, making the case that Romney was too out of touch to understand the needs of South Carolinians.

Next up, Rick Perry decided to drop out of the race and endorse Gingrich. While Perry had been polling fairly dismally in the state, this move still helped to cement Gingrich’s status as the candidate with the momentum, as well as helping to coalesce some of the conservatives factions behind his campaign.

On Thursday, Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, gave an interview with ABC news, claiming that Gingrich had asked her for an “open marriage,” while he was engaged in an affair with his now-wife Callista. While some commentators suggested this late-in-the-game event would derail Newt’s building momentum in South Carolina, instead the former Speaker of the House used it to his advantage. At Thursday night’s CNN debate, after moderator John King opened with a question about the allegations, Gingrich took the opportunity to rail against what he saw as bias in the national press against the Republican candidates, and in favor of President Obama. Receiving another standing ovation, Gingrich kept scoring points on his opponents (now including the media) throughout the evening.

Mitt Romney’s week from Hell ended with Newt Gingrich winning handily the South Carolina primary, beating 2nd-place Romney by more than twelve points, 40.4% – 27.8%. Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent of the vote, leading Texas Congressman Ron Paul by only four points.

The Gingrich campaign has many hurdles in front of it now heading in to the Florida primary (January 31), but the Republican party is now facing a scenario it has never witnessed before: three different candidates each having won one of the first three contests.

 

*No apologies given for horrible puns.

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Battle of the Unique Names: Newt v. Mitt

This morning Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he was suspending his campaign for President of the United Sates, and was endorsing former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Perry’s exit was a long time coming, as he had failed time and again to meet expectations in both polling and actual voting. In the time between last week’s New Hampshire primary and this Saturday’s upcoming South Carolina primary, conservatives around the country began calling for the “lesser” conservatives in the GOP field to get out of the race in order for the conservative factions of the party to coalesce around on candidate, in the hopes of depriving Mitt Romney the nomination. With Perry’s announcement this morning, it seems party conservatives have decided that the long-sought-afterconservative alternative to Mitt Romney” is Newt Gingrich.

Following Sarah Palin’s strange pseudo-endorsement of Newt on Tuesday, it seems that most conservatives are leaning towards Gingrich over Rick Santorum, one of the few remaining candidates in the shrinking GOP field. Jon Huntsman, the somewhat-moderate former Utah governor, left the race Sunday and endorsed Mitt Romney. With this week’s two high-profile campaign collapses, the once wide-open GOP slate of big-name candidates has been winnowed down to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul. Running an often-times ignored campaign is former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, who is still in the race.

The Republican nominating fight, as it now stands, is down to whether either Santorum or Gingrich will be able to bloody Romney enough for voters to want to choose someone else as the nominee.

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What Happened in NH? Nothing Much

You may have noticed the lack of a post-New Hampshire update here. Why, I hear you asking? Well, it has something to do with the fact that little to no news was actually made on election night in the Granite State. After leading in the polls for months, Mitt Romney (who owns a home in New Hampshire) won the first-in-the-nation primary with 39% of the vote, more than sixteen percentage points over second-place finisher Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who ended up with 23%.

Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who had staked his hopes on New Hampshire came in third with just under 17%. Huntsman had spent months campaigning in New Hampshire, and in the week since the Iowa caucuses, had hoped to pull a Rick Santorum, making Romney fight for a win in his own backyard. Unfortunately for the Huntsman camp, there was no late-in-the-game massive surge towards Huntsman, leaving the candidate walking wounded as he heads to South Carolina.

Ron Paul’s surprisingly strong second-place finish in New Hampshire has left many asking what will become of the movement candidate who almost certainly will not end up being the party’s nominee. While Rick Perry will go back to governing Texas, Newt Gingrich will go back to writing books and lecturing, and Jon Huntsman will try to get speaking gigs at Americans Elect events, Ron Paul has not been one to go quietly off to lick his wounds. Famously, Congressman Paul held a dueling convention in 2008, mere miles from the Republican nominating convention in Saint Paul, MN. This time around, however, Ron Paul has gained more attention, in part due to the change in GOP primaries which now awards delegates on a proportional basis rather than the old winner-take-all model. While Paul has almost no chance of becoming the nominee, his role in this contest is far from over, as he remains one of the few candidates with the organization necessary to keep pulling in delegates in order to be a presence at the GOP convention in Tampa, FL.

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Farewell, Michele

In the cold light of Wednesday morning, the Republican candidates who are not Rick Santorum are sitting down to reassess what last night’s Iowa caucuses mean for them. After coming in as a distant sixth in the race, Michele Bachmann has announced that she is suspending her campaign. The Minnesota congresswoman and chair of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives was unable to pull off a repeat of her Iowa Straw Poll victory from last August.

After being the first candidate to enjoy the odd boom-and-bust cycle we’ve seen over and over again with the GOP field, Bachmann was relegated to “fringe candidate” status, leaving her trailing behind nearly all the other “big names” vying for the nomination. Following Rep. Bachmann’s decision to drop out of the race, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seemed to signal that his campaign would be rethinking its place in the 2012 process, announced to his Twitter followers that he was continuing on to campaign in South Carolina. With Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and now Michele Bachmann out of the race for the Republican nomination, the remaining candidates will be positioning themselves to best attract those voters looking for a candidate to support.

As January rolls on, the campaign calendar becomes tighter, with New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida all holding primaries within the next twenty-seven days.

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Happy Iowa Hangover, Everyone!

The Iowa caucuses were held last night, and despite the fact that Mitt Romney won by just eight votes, the big winner of the night was Rick Santorum. Santorum, a former United States Senator from Pennsylvania, came away from the first contest of the election season with the one thing his campaign desperately needed: a chance to introduce himself to the American public.

After languishing in the polls since unofficially getting into the race nine months ago, the Santorum campaign saw a surge in support in the polling to come out in the days before the Iowa caucus. While some point to Santorum’s style of campaigning as what brought him a relative victory in Iowa last night, it is hard not to see the Santorum campaign as the latest GOP candidate to benefit from being the candidate who is not Mitt Romney. Dave Weigel has a piece up on Slate detailing the different surges of each candidate’s campaign, from the Michele Bachmann surge of popularity back in July and August, to the mid-December rise of Ron Paul.

The question now, of course, is what happens moving forward? While nearly all the other Republican candidates enjoyed a surge in popularity away from the scrutiny of any actual vote-contesting, Senator Santorum now has shown he can compete (somewhat) in a real scenario. Donations to his campaign will pour in as we head to the New Hampshire primary next week, and he will almost certainly enjoy a bounce from his unexpectedly good showing in Iowa.

While Santorum was able to make 250 campaign stops in Iowa over the last year, the same cannot be said for his operation in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney made fewer than twenty days campaigning in the Hawkeye State, he has made a much larger investment in New Hampshire, crisscrossing the state and campaigning there non-stop. Mitt Romney brand of moderate conservatism may play better in the Granite State than Rick Santorum’s extreme social conservatism.

More so than almost any other candidate, Santorum’s socially conservative positions are far to the right of the main stream. As an example, he believes that birth control is “harmful to women and harmful to society.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health-focused non-profit group, more than 99% of women “aged 15-44 who have ever had intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.” With these numbers in mind, Rick Santorum’s long-term viability as a candidate comes into question.

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