Republicans

Libertarian Purity and the Presidential Race

In March of last year, I wrote a post on “Libertarian purity”.  It was one of the most read posts of 2011, and probably the most read post I’ve personally ever written.  As we look onto the 2012 primary season and eventual general election, I figured it might be a good time to revisit that post and how it could apply to this election.

First, we have a unique year this year.  An actual libertarian - by most people’s definition anyways - has a legitimate shot and making some headway.  Ron Paul’s slow but steady rise in the polls has been something that fills me with a level of joy that is hard to describe.  “But Tom,” you might say, “didn’t you come out in support of Gary Johnson?”  I would answer yes.  I like Johnson more than Paul, but frankly a President Ron Paul wouldn’t exactly be anything close to bad in my book.

Further, Gary Johnson is challenging for the Libertarian Party nomination, so there’s still a good chance that I’ll get to vote for him in the general election.

It’s entirely possible that we’ll have two libertarians on the ticket, but it’s also possible that we won’t have but one.  So what do we do about that?

In that post from last year, I said that it was vital that we start winning elections, rather than just debating politics from the outside.  So let’s take a look at some of the options and how it relates to that post.

GOP Presidential Power Rankings: Eve of the Iowa Caucus

We’re almost there, folks. Tomorrow, Iowans will head to the various caucus locations to cast there ballots for the Republican nomination for president. Who is the favorite right now? It’s hard to say, because three candidates are in a dogfight for the top.

On New Year’s Eve, the Des Moines Register released their final poll for the caucus showing Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum rounding out the top, in that order:

  • Mitt Romney: 24% (+8)
  • Ron Paul: 22% (+4)
  • Rick Santorum: 15% (+9)
  • Newt Gingrich: 12% (-13)
  • Rick Perry: 11% (+5)
  • Michele Bachmann: 7% (-1)
  • Jon Huntsman: 2% (—)

While the poll shows Romney and Paul in a virtual tie for the top, here is the kicker; Santorum took 21% in that final two days of the poll, which is leading many pundits to say that he is the likely favorite heading into tomorrow.

Public Policy Polling also released their final poll for the caucus. They too show Santorum surging, though still in third. There is bad news, despite leading in the poll, for Paul:

  • Ron Paul: 20% (-4)
  • Mitt Romney: 19% (-1)
  • Rick Santorum: 18% (+8)
  • Newt Gingrich: 14% (+1)
  • Rick Perry: 10% (—)
  • Michele Bachmann: 8% (-3)
  • Jon Huntsman: 4% (—)

We’ll go over more in these polls in our rankings.

The Rankings

GOP Presidential Power Rankings: Iowa Edition

We’re just a week away from the first votes being cast in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Now that Christmas is behind us, look for news out of the Hawkeye State to be non-stop over the next week. We’ll be posting whatever polls come out and we’ll do one final Power Ranking on Monday.

You can see the latest polling out of Iowa here.

Ron Paul: Depending on the polls, Ron Paul is either in first by himself or his is in a statistical tie. His campaign has the best organization, but the recent coverage of the 20 year-old newsletters could threaten his momentum. It’s too early to say he’ll win, but if his campaign can stay on message, Paul could shock the establishment, which will be fun to watch.

Mitt Romney: Recent polls show Romney gaining some ground in Iowa, and he is seeking to capitalize on it by going on a three-day bus tour of the state in advance of the January 3rd caucus. If he wins the caucus and then wins New Hampshire with a decent enough margin, Romney may very well see a boost in other early and put talk of a long, drawn-out primary to bed.

Newt Gingrich: While he managed to benefit in the polls with Herman Cain’s exit from the race, Gingrich hasn’t pieced together a strong team in Iowa. This matter since a well organized ground game is important in getting people to locations to cast their vote. It would be unwise to say Gingrich “won’t win,” but it certainly seems unlikely.

Paul Derangement Syndrome and the Iowa Caucuses

In what is surely a complete coincidence, Ron Paul’s rise in the Iowa caucus polls has been accompanied by an incredible rise in anti-Paul rhetoric on the right.  Now, certainly some of this is valid - I, like many others, am very bothered by Paul’s newsletters and many of his associations.  But the level of hate and anger at Paul exceeds even that directed at Obama.  It’s routine to see Paul referred to as anti-American, a charge heretofore reserved for liberals.  It has even led to many claiming that, despite months of fetishistic obsession with the Iowa caucuses, Paul winning those caucuses would somehow render them meaningless.

Some, like Margaret Carlson, argue that a Paul win in Iowa would reduce the Iowa polls to obsolescence.  She makes a number of other arguments as to why Iowa should be reduced in meaning, but the central tenet is that if Paul wins, they are essentially done.  Now, I’m not going to defend the idea that Iowa’s claim to the first vote in the primary is somehow sacred, because I generally feel it is not.  But if the caucuses were irrelevant, they have been so for a long time.  It is nothing new that Iowa is not representative of the nation as a whole, that it is a poor predictor for eventual winner, or that the style of the caucuses is so unique as to be an entirely different beast from normal primary elections.

Ron Paul has a good shot to win in Iowa

With his poll numbers in rising, some pundits, observers, and veteran Republicans are noting that Ron Paul may have a real shot of winning in Iowa. The National Review’s Robert Costa explains:

Rep. Ron Paul rarely makes news, and his candidacy is frequently ignored by Beltway reporters. But headlines, his aides say, are overrated. In fact, the Texas Republican’s low-key autumn was strategic. As Paul’s competitors stumbled and sparred, he amassed a small fortune for his campaign and built a strong ground operation. And with January fast approaching, his team is ready to surprise the political world and sweep the Iowa caucuses.

“This was a movement when he first started running in 2008,” says Trygve Olson, a senior Paul adviser. “Now it’s turned into a highly professionalized campaign, but the energy from that last run is still there, and at the heart of what’s keeping up his momentum.”

The latest polls back up that confidence. In the influential Des Moines Register poll published over the weekend, Paul placed second. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, captured 25 percent of likely Iowa GOP voters, but Paul garnered 18 percent, two points ahead of Mitt Romney, who in 2008 placed second in the caucuses.

If Paul wins Iowa, the upset could upend what many politicos say is a two-man race between Gingrich and Romney. According to state GOP insiders, a Paul victory is a real possibility. In background conversations, many say Paul is much stronger than outside observers believe, with deep and wide support among a frustrated electorate. With Herman Cain’s departure from the race, operatives see Paul potentially collecting a quarter of caucus attendees.

Libertarian Republicans For Huntsman?

The choices for libertarian oriented Republicans in this year’s Republican field are, admittedly, better than they have in the past. Not only is Ron Paul doing much better than he did four years ago, getting more press attention, and seemingly surging into second place in Iowa, but we’ve also got Gary Johnson, former two-term Governor of New Mexico.

There’s been much to lament about Johnson’s campaign, of course, not the least being the near disaster caused due to a campaign miscommunication that almost kept Johnson off the New Hampshire ballot, as well as staff problems inside the campaign. At the same time, though, Johnson has largely been ignored by the media, and kept out of nearly all the debates due to low poll numbers (although, as Johnson has noted himself, it’s hard to do well in the polls when they don’t even include your name on the list of prospective candidates).

The possibility that Johnson could run for the Libertarian Party nomination for President next year is also encouraging. It’s not perfect, of course, and libertarian Republicans have had to sit back and watch a bunch of incompetents like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain rise in the polls and get far more media attention than either their qualifications or their accomplishments would seem to warrant while a two-term Governor is ignored. Nonetheless, it’s better than we’ve had it in the past, and hopefully a sign that libertarian-leaning candidates are gaining wider acceptance in the Republican Party as a whole.

GOP Presidential Power Rankings

Guess what? The race for the Republican nomination has been shaken up again. Many of us saw Herman Cain’s downfall coming, it was only a matter of time. But still the fact that he lasted this far into the race is concerning given his lack of experience and complete lack of knowledge on some of the most basic issues, including foreign policy.

It looks as though Newt Gingrich has been able to capitalize on Cain’s misfortune and, as noted earlier, seems like to receive an endorsement. Gingrich leads in six of the last nine national polls, hold a single-digit lead in Iowa, and double-digit leads in Florida and South Carolina. Mitt Romney still leads in New Hampshire, but Gingrich and Ron Paul are gaining steam.

The News

Why Newt Gingrich is likely to be the GOP nominee?

The emergence of Newt Gingrich as frontrunner for the Republican nomination is without doubt very odd. Many pundits thought that Gingrich’s campaign dead in the water after making some incredibly dumb comments about Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. We were all wrong, apparently.

It’s not like the conservative base has embraced Gingrich. After all, Herman Cain excited the base at the beginning of the race. But that eventually moved to Michele Bachmann, who had her brief time in the limelight and won the Ames Straw Poll in mid-August. But after Rick Perry jumped in the race, Bachmann became a distant memory. After Perry proved himself to be an incapable debator and gaffe-prone, where did the support go? Not Gingrich, but back to the inexperienced and unproven Cain.

But now with Cain tapering off again, it’s Gingrich — not Rick Santorum or Ron Paul — who is reaping the benefits. Why? As I noted recently, it’s because GOP voters remember him and respect him as a some sort of intellectual conservative (laughable, I know, given all the statist policies he’s supported).

The reason conservatives aren’t flocking to Paul are sort of obvious, though I don’t expect his average supporter to grasp them. Paul isn’t a neo-conservative, so he doesn’t appeal to warmongers defense-minded GOP voters. While he is personally opposed to gay marriage, he is also a defender of the Tenth Amendment and opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment. And let’s face it, he doesn’t come off as that great of a debator. Sure, his ideas are sound on paper and in practice, I believe. But when it comes articulating them, he just isn’t that great.

Cain Train is coming to a painful halt

Due to a new claim of a 13-year affair, Herman Cain told several dozen staff members and advisors that he was “reassessing” whether he wanted to continue his quest for the Republican nomination:

In a morning conference call with his advisers, Mr. Cain said that he would make a decision in the coming days about whether to stay in the race after his campaign was rocked by another round of allegations about his sexual conduct.

The call, which was first reported by National Review, came as Mr. Cain was heading to Michigan for a campaign stop on Tuesday evening. He said that he was discussing the future of his campaign with his family and was considering his options.

“This is cause for reassessment,” Mr. Cain said, according to one participant on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity. “During the summer we had to make some reassessments based on our financial situation. We were able to hang in there.”

Mr. Cain denied the accusations from the Atlanta woman, Ginger White. But he acknowledged that the latest report of sexual misconduct might be more difficult to overcome, considering that the first voting is set to take place in five weeks at the Iowa caucuses. He said that he had not lost his enthusiasm to run, but suggested it was a distraction that could be difficult to recover from.

“With this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud in some peoples’ minds as to whether or not they should support us going forward,” Mr. Cain said, according to the participant on the call.

We’re all RINOs now

Dan Drezner, a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine, has a great blog post up explaining why he calls himself a “RINO,” or “Republican-In-Name-Only,” that epithet usually utilized by such sagacious and distinguished intellects as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter. While it does lean towards foreign policy (naturally), the whole thing is a good read. Here’s the snippet I want to focus on, though, his three reasons for being a RINO:

In my case, at this point in time,  I believe that last appellation to be entirely fair and accurate.  I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t think I’ve become more liberal over time.  That said, three things have affected my political loyalties over the past few years.  First, I’ve become more uncertain about various dimensions of GOP ideology over time.  It’s simply impossible for me to look at the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis and not ponder the myriad ways in which my party has made some categorical errors in judgment. So I’m a bigger fan of the politics of doubt during an era when doubt has been banished in political discourse.

Second, the GOP has undeniably shifted further to the right over the past few years, and while I’m sympathetic to some of these shifts, most of it looks like a mutated version of “cargo cult science” directed at either Ludwig Von Mises or the U.S. Constitution (which, of course, is sacred and inviolate, unless conservatives want to amend it).  Sorry, I’m not embracing outdated concepts like the gold standard or repealing the 16th Amendment.  Not happening.


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