Elections in the United States

Googling Ron Paul in Iowa

Google search activity may or may not be predictive here, but this is interesting nonetheless: For virtually all of 2011, including the past month, there is more search activity about Ron Paul than any other candidate. I thank John Coleman for highlighting this for me. What could this mean? Maybe Ron Paul supporters just spend a lot of time on the internet. Or maybe this is another indicator of the intensity of their support. One thing supporting the latter interpretation: search activity for Paul seemed to presage his second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll. If this proves true again, then Ron Paul is headed toward a strong showing in Iowa. His poll numbers are up in Iowa as well. I’ll go even further out on a limb. Say Gingrich wins Iowa but does a little worse than “expected.” Paul comes in second and does better than “expected.” Romney comes in a distant third. How much of a bounce would Paul then get in New Hampshire? After all, he’s in third place there and his numbers are...

Why Gingrich Should Be Afraid of Paul

Gage Skidmore
Newt Gingrich’s rise to front-runner status has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks, and the main question that's plagued analysts is this: Will the former speaker be able to overcome his many mistakes— i.e. , the affairs—and trounce Mitt Romney? The general arc of these arguments is right: Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. They are the only two candidates who come close to having the right mix of electability, popularity, and approval by party elites to become the GOP nominee. While the Mitt-Newt showdown may seem inevitable, it is wrong to take for granted that either one will win in Iowa. Given polling there, there is a good chance Ron Paul could win. What would this mean for the rest of the campaign? According to a Des Moines Register poll released this past weekend, 25 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers in the state support Newt Gingrich; 18 percent support Ron Paul; and 16 support Romney (a drop from last month’s 22 percent). Nate...

Gingrich Leads Confused Iowans

The Des Moines Register released its well-regarded Iowa Poll over the weekend. Newt Gingrich topped off the field with 25 percent support a month out from the Iowa caucuses. It's a complete turnaround from his performance in the first two Register polls this year—one in June and another just a little over a month ago—in which the candidate only notched seven percent. Ron Paul comes in second with 18 percent, a sizable jump from his standing in the previous two polls. The seemingly infallible 20 percent support for Mitt Romney might not be as rock solid as predicted; he dropped six percentage points down to 16 percent, though that is still a strong third over the rest of the field. Gingrich would appear to be in strong shape with such little time remaining until Iowa Republicans vote for their preferred presidential candidate. But the poll likely indicates that early state voters will remain fickle right up until voting day. Only 28 percent of those sampled said that they have fully...

Chart of the Day, Endorsements Edition

Via political scientist Seth Masket comes this chart showing the distribution of endorsements among the Republican presidential candidates: Yes, it’s true that there haven’t been many former candidates, which distorts the graph a little. Even still, it remains the case that while Gingrich might be popular among Republican voters, party elites are far more amenable to Mitt Romney’s candidacy. The latest Political Insiders poll from National Journal shows a similar result — only 17 percent of Republican elites (out of 102 surveyed) believed that Gingrich could beat President Obama in a general election. If it’s truly the party that decides the nomination, then I have a hard time believing that Gingrich stands a chance, even with his impressive poll numbers. Of course, it’s also true that party elites are competing for influence with conservative media personalities and their outsized influence in Republican politics. Sure, GOP elites might not like Newt Gingrich, but if Rush Limbaugh...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

A Big Endorsement for Gingrich

(AP Photo/Erik Kellar) Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich signs a copy of his book "A Nation Like No Other" as he and his wife Callista Gingrich greet supporters during a book signing event at Books-A-Million in Naples, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. This weekend’s big election news comes by way of New Hampshire, where the Manchester Union Leader , the state’s largest and most widely-read newspaper, endorsed Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination. This is great news for the former House Speaker, who has been catapaulted to the front of the pack by the GOP’s large cohort of anti-Romney voters. Because of its large influence—and New Hampshire’s distinction of holding the first Republican primary in the nation—the Union Leader ’s endorsement is coveted by GOP presidential candidates. Between now and the primary, it’s safe to say that the Union Leader will devote its time to boosting Gingrich and tearing down his competitors. On the face of it, this nod...

Reality Check

For all of the punditry (from myself and others) about Mitt Romney’s unpopularity with GOP voters, it’s worth noting the extent to which Republicans are perfectly happy with the former Massachusetts governor. Here’s Gallup with its most recent look at the Republican presidential contest: Mitt Romney is just as popular as Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, his problem—in part—is that he has too many competitors, and Republican voters are indulging the extent to which they have a fair amount of choice. When the field begins to winnow in January, odds are very good that Romney will pick up a lot more support from Republican voters.

Are Debates Hurting the Republican Candidates?

So far, the Republican Party has held 11 presidential debates, and between audience cheering for the death penalty, attacks on gay soldiers, or huge candidate gaffes, each debate has shown the GOP candidates in one unflattering light or the other. With 14 more debates to go, The New York Times reports some Republican elites are worried about the effect they could have on public perception. “This is the core of the Republican brand. You mess with it at your peril,” said Peter Feaver, a national security official under President George W. Bush. He compared the foreign policy flubs to reports about safety problems in Toyota vehicles. “The whole reason you bought a Toyota was so that you didn’t have those problems,” he said. “It cuts directly to the essence of the brand. Republicans should be concerned about this.” It’s hard to say how much effect these debates have had on the public’s perception of the Republican presidential candidates. It’s certainly true that primary debates can...

Obama Tied with Romney in the Swing States

Consider this an addendum to yesterday’s post on Nate Silver’s forecast of the 2012 election. According to a recent poll from USA Today and Gallup, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are tied in 12 swing states: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Of the GOP candidates, Obama fares best against Texas Governor Rick Perry in these swing states, winning 49 percent of the vote to Perry’s 44 percent. Despite the coverage around it, this poll doesn’t actually tell us much new about the landscape for next year’s election. Given the current economy and his approval ratings, Obama has long stood an even chance of losing re-election. If it does anything, this poll just underscores the extent to which he is in a precarious position. One additional thing: I’m not sure that it makes sense to call Pennsylvania a swing state, given its track record in presidential elections. It has voted Democratic in every...

Does Money Affect Election Outcomes in US Politics? A Quick Review of the Literature

Yesterday I addressed the question of whether Obama was actually having trouble raising money for his 2012 re-election campaign. This of course begs a larger question: how much does campaign spending actually affect election outcomes in US politics? I put this question to Andrew Therriault , a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University and an expert on campaign effects. Q: (me) What are the basic conclusions of the literature regarding overall spending in US elections? A: (Therriault): With regard to overall spending, Jacobson (1978) was the first to show an effect on vote outcomes, but this effect was mainly present for challengers [in Congressional elections]. In subsequent years, the effect of challenger spending was confirmed, but others also found effects for incumbent spending as well (e.g. Green & Krasno 1988, Erikson & Palfrey 1995, Gerber 1998). The basic takeaway is that spending more is clearly effective for challengers, and probably also matters for incumbents...

The Game Belongs to Mitt

Last month, I argued that Mitt Romney was on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite the large anti-establishment faction within the GOP base. Herman Cain might be surging among Republican voters, but recent polls affirm that view. At the The Plum Line , Jonathan Bernstein examines a recent poll of GOP insiders and finds that Romney is well positioned to win wide support among Republican elites. Of the party actors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, 36 percent report a “good chance” of endorsing the former Massachusetts governor. “Of the entire group,” notes Bernstein, “while 23% have already endorsed another candidate, only another 10% say they have 'no chance' of supporting him for the nomination.” Or, put another way, two-thirds of Republican elites in those states are willing to endorse Romney for the nomination. And given the extent to which endorsements are a key part of winning the party’s support, this is an excellent sign for Romney. With...

The revolving door of U.S. politics

I got the following email today from Jordan Gehrke, Campaign Director, AmericansforHermanCain.com Patriot— They’re at it again. Herman Cain is winning the Republican race for President. So the left-wing media has swung into action. Clarence Thomas called it a “high tech lynching” 20 years ago. That’s exactly what they’re doing to Herman Cain today. This is nothing but an attempt to smear Cain’s reputation and character. . . . The Left spews such hatred at black conservatives because they know that if the GOP ever breaks the Democrat stranglehold on the black vote, they are DONE as a party. . . . I’ll leave it to political scientists such as Tim Groseclose to judge whether the left-wing media has swung into action, but I will say that I think Jordan Gehrke is way wrong when he writes that the Democrats are goners if the GOP breaks their stranglehold on the black vote. On the contrary, I’m guessing that if the Republicans start getting a big chunk of black votes, a bunch of whites will...

Why Tim Pawlenty Should Have Stayed in the Race

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but the latest Gallup survey of Republican voters shows Georgia businessman Herman Cain leading the pack with a high positive intensity score. Cain scores 29 on the positive intensity score, a measure of how much voters like a particular candidate. He leads Mitt Romney by 17 points—a sign of Romney’s low favorability among GOP voters—and beats Rick Perry by 23 points. What’s more, Cain is the only candidate whose rating has gone up since entering the race. Here’s Gallup with more: It’s interesting to note that before he left the race in August, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had a fairly decent positive intensity score—about 13 points —that would have improved as Rick Perry’s star dimmed and conservative voters scrambled for a new alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. Indeed, as The New Republic ’s Isaac Choitner points out , “Were he still running, Tim Pawlenty would have a better chance than everyone else (minus Romney and...

GOP Insiders Seemingly Confident in Herman Cain’s Viability

I am fascinated by this result from the latest HuffPo-Patch poll of Republican party elites in the early primary and caucus states: Nearly three-fourths, 74%, of these party insiders believe that “can beat Obama” describes Cain “very well” or “somewhat well.” That’s more confidence than I would expect. I would be interested to know why these insiders see him as so viable. Given the economic headwinds that Obama faces, there are probably many GOP candidates or non-candidates who could beat him—including, I think, Romney, Perry, Christie, Huntsman, Daniels, Thune, Pawlenty, and others. All you need is some modicum of political experience, a likable enough personality, issue positions that you can massage as needed for your primary and general election audiences, and a minimum of outright wackiness. (And even issue positions that are tougher to massage may not matter much if the economy dominates all other issues.) These qualities typically combine to make a viable candidate who in turn...

Too Much of a Terrible Thing

Between the barrage of debates and parade of activity, it feels like we’re close to finished with the Republican presidential primary. Of course, not only are we more than two months away from the first contest in Iowa, but the large majority of Republican primary voters remain uncommitted to either of the candidates. According to the most recent survey from The New York Times and CBS News, “About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign.” Moreover, about 10 percent of voters say they want someone other than the available choices nominated. Of the Republicans polled, 25 percent say they support Georgia businessman Herman Cain; Mitt Romney garners 21 percent support, and Texas Governor Rick Perry has weakened to 6 percent support. That said, with 80 percent of Republican voters undecided, now is too early to discount Rick Perry, or...

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