First off, I think the hashtag should have been #OhJesusChristItsAnotherDebate, but unfortunately that was too long for many tweets.
Second, my pessimism from last November and December has returned. During the summer of 2011, I was pretty sure that Obama had it. Even with the killing of bin Laden, after the support quickly evaporated, I figured his support was going to continue to fall. But then, after seeing the rise of Herman Cain and the ridiculous tomfoolery in the back half of the year, I figured Obama had it in the bag. Lately, I was thinking it’s a more 50/50 thing, but last night’s performance has me thinking again that Obama is going to steamroll this election in November.
Why? Because none of the candidates—aside from Paul, natch—had any real divergence or difference, nothing truly remarkable that sets them apart from either each other, Obama, or even George W. Bush. Cut taxes, increase defense spending, some paltry attempts at entitlement reform, and oh, civil liberties, who needs those? They may play well with the base, but they are utterly disastrous with the general electorate. I for one agree on the taxes thing, but you will have Obama and the left point out that taxes are the lowest they have been in years, and unless Republicans shoot back with the OECD taxation charts, I don’t think that will sell very well (though obviously, yes, if we’re going to remain competitive, cutting our business tax rates to ~20% and getting rid of capital gains and payroll taxes would be good—though we have to balance that by massively cutting spending.)
In my brief primer yesterday on the New Hampshire primary, I noted that Mitt Romney needed at least 40% of the vote in order for his “win” not to be considered a “loss.” By that I mean that conservatives in the anti-Romney faction of the GOP were going to point to that as a “proof” that Romney winning the nomination isn’t inevitable.
With 98% of precincts reporting, Romney won 39.3% of the vote — a slightly higher percentage that John McCain took in 2008. While it’s not quite 40%, based on what I’m hearing and reading this more from many anti-Romney conservatives (many of whom where firmly behind him four years ago), it’s close for them to read the writing on the wall.
So what does this mean? I suspect that we’re about to see things get very nasty with Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich stepping up their attacks Romney. Rick Perry will probably wind up attacking everyone, particularly Gingrich and Romney.
Huntsman’s has a ceiling. If he doesn’t catch fire in the next two or three weeks, he’ll have a tough time justifying sticking around until Super Tuesday. That’s just reality. You may say, “Well, he finished third in New Hampshire. That counts for something.” No, it doesn’t. Huntsman based in campaign there. That’s why his poor showing in Iowa didn’t matter.
For Huntsman, a third place finish in New Hampshire is no better than finishing last since Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum weren’t really contesting the state. Those three have their eyes set on South Carolina, where Huntsman isn’t going to be nearly as competitive. He will, at best, cut into Romney’s numbers and possibly hand the state to Santorum or Gingrich.
We’re beginning to see some backlash against Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry’s (and to a lesser extent, Jon Huntsman) anti-capitalist attacks against Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. The National Review, an influential voice in the conservative movement, lashed out at Romney’s critics:
Gingrich and Perry have between them about eleven minutes’ worth of relevant private-sector experience — Perry being subsidized by the federal government to farm cotton, Gingrich subsidizing himself by farming his political connections — and therefore may not know (or care) what a private-equity firm such as Bain does. (Gingrich might consider asking his friends at leveraged-buyout firm Forstmann Little, where he was on the board.) Bain is involved in, among other things, leveraged buyouts, meaning that the firm and its investors borrow money from banks to acquire companies, usually firms that are in trouble but believed to be salvageable. These firms generally are bought on the theory that they represent fundamentally sound underlying business enterprises that are for one reason or another performing deficiently, usually because of incompetent management. Strong, thriving companies rarely are targets for leveraged-buyout acquisitions — if things are going well, there is no incentive to sell the company. If the firms are publicly traded, they often are taken private, their stocks delisted from the exchanges, and then reorganized. Once the company has been returned to profitability, it is taken public again or sold to a private buyer, in the hopes of turning a profit on the deal.
As mentioned in today’s GOP Presidential Power Rankings, Mitt Romney now leads in South Carolina, an important early primary state, and Newt Gingrich has fallen to third thanks to a surging Rick Santorum.
Here are the results of the new Rasmussen poll:
- Mitt Romney: 27%
- Rick Santorum: 24%
- Newt Gingrich: 18%
- Ron Paul: 11%
- Rick Perry: 5%
- Jon Huntsman: 2%
Romney’s lead has also been confirmed by surveys conducted by Public Polling Polling and CNN/Time, and he’s outside of the margin of error in those polls. This is obviously good news for Romney, who may wind up with a clean sweep of the four January primaries. The bad news for Romney is that Gingrich still has time to impact the race in the two weeks between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primary.
Speaking of Santorum; yes, he has managed to receive a bump in the polls, but his numbers are really limited to social conservatives. Fiscal conservatives are rightfully skeptical of him and are largely staying with other candidates. That gives you the feeling that Santorum has reached ceiling.
With Iowa out of the way, our attention shifts to New Hampshire where, according to the latest poll from Suffolk University, shows Mitt Romney ahead by a wide margin over his rivals for the Republican nomination:
- Mitt Romney: 41%
- Ron Paul: 18%
- Rick Santorum: 8%
- Newt Gingrich: 7%
- Jon Huntsman: 7%
- Michele Bachmann: 1%
- Buddy Romer: 1%
- Rick Perry: 0%
- Undecided: 17%
Other polls, as noted in this morning’s headlines, show Santorum gaining a bit more of a bump than Suffolk University, which is doing daily tracking of New Hampshire. However, New Hampshire really isn’t fertile ground for Santorum anyway. His next hurdle is South Carolina. Perry’s numbers, of lack thereof, in New Hampshire will be easy to shrug off since he is also focused on the Palmetto State.
Here are some details on the numbers:
Romney’s drop was driven by the three conservative counties of Belknap, Merrimack, and Strafford in central New Hampshire, where his 16 point advantage over Paul shrunk to just an 8 percent lead while Santorum grew to 10 percent there.
Paul is winning 24 percent of Independent voters, which is limiting Jon Huntsman’s ability to grow with Independents. Despite improved strength, Paul still trails Romney by 13 percentage points among Independents. Santorum is now winning 13 percent of conservatives and 13 percent of women ages 18-44 years as he sets his sights on Paul.
Huntsman has staked his campaign in New Hampshire, so a third place finish could make him rethink sticking around for Super Tuesday, which is too bad. Most of us, myself included, never really gave him a fair shake.
It certainly sounded, on Tuesday evening, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry was about get out of the race for the GOP’s presidential nomination. But by yesterday afternoon, Perry said he was still in the race and headed for South Carolina:
Perry tweeted a message to supporters earlier in the day suggesting he would remain in the Republican presidential race.
“And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State … Here we come South Carolina!!!” Perry tweeted from his account, along with a picture of himself, dressed in workout gear, giving a thumbs-up to the camera.
“I was out on the trail when it kind of came to me,” Perry told reporters, according to The Des Moines Register.
“It’s there, it’s clearly there,” he said, apparently speaking of the path forward for his campaign.
Perry also knocked the process in Iowa and suggested that many caucus-goers weren’t “real Republicans,” which was a probably a poor move. In fact, saying in the race is probably a poor move. Perry is currently polling, according to Real Clear Politics, at 5.7% in South Carolina; far behind Newt Gingrich, who leads in the state, and Mitt Romney.
If you listened to his speech last night, Rick Perry initially spoke as though he was gong to press forward. But, as noted this morning, Perry changed his tone during the speech, deciding that he was headed back to Texas today to determine what his next step is in the race.
But the message has already been sent. Perry was scheduled to be in South Carolina today campaigning for a primary that takes place in just three weeks. Perry is done, as we knew he would be, even if he decides to press forward.
Michele Bachmann, however, seemed to be in denial last evening, at least publicly. After winning the Ames Straw Poll in August, Bachmann placed next to last; an embarrassing finish for someone who invested a lot of time in Iowa. That defiant tone didn’t carry over into this morning. Bachmann’s team scheduled a press conference this morning where she announced the decision to suspend her campaign:
In the wake of a disappointing finish in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday that she is suspending her campaign for president.
“Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” she said at a hastily-arranged news conference here.
“I have no regrets,” she added. “None whatsoever. We never compromised our principles.” She said she “looks forward to the next chapter in God’s plan.”
Bachmann did not endorse another candidate.
I would imagine that many of Bachmann’s backers will flock to Rick Santorum. Her numbers weren’t substantial, national polls showed her in single-digits, a boost in his polling as a result of her dropping out won’t be much, though Santorum will still receive a small bump over all.
We have yet another new poll out of Iowa today showing that the Rick Santorum surge is for real; at least right now. The poll, released by NBC, echoes others polls released this week by CNN and Rasmussen that show Santorum moving into third place overall. However, the NBC poll also shows Gingrich dropping to fifth.
- Mitt Romney: 23%
- Ron Paul: 21%
- Rick Santorum: 15%
- Rick Perry: 14%
- Newt Gingrich: 13%
- Michele Bachmann: 6%
Gingrich’s drop was aided by a substantial number of attack ads being run against by by super PACs and other campaigns. Perry has also seen a window of opportunity in recent days and attacking Santorum’s abysmal fiscal record, including his use of earmarks. Santorum’s defense is terrible.
The strangest development out of the state today is that Ron Paul will take this weekend off from the campaign trail to spend with his wife. With the caucus just a few days away, many observers are questioning the wisdom of such a move when public appearances to rally supporters are important. With that said, Paul does have a dedicated base of supporters that will no doubt continue working hard, but it helps to have the candidate there actively campaigning.