Election 2012

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...

Where Are the Rich Liberals?

Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations. Super PACs started to test the waters of the new landscape in the 2010 election with American Crossroads, a group founded by Karl Rove, spending over $25 million last year, primarily on ads against Democrats in midterm congressional races. There is an independent super PAC raising funds for each of the presidential candidates, and Bill Burton left his post as deputy press secretary at the White House to start...

Rick Perry's Rich Friends

As I mentioned earlier today, we are just beginning to observe the role super PACs will play in the 2012 election. A handful of groups capitalized on the Citizens United ruling to begin spending money in 2010, but the extra preparation and heightened interest in presidential politics means the money spent by these groups will skyrocket over the next year. Super PACs are already beginning to play a part in the nomination process. Make Us Great Again, a super PAC former to support Rick Perry's presidential run, is hitting the airwaves in Iowa and South Carolina with new ads: Make Us Great Again typifies the murky separation between campaigns and these so-called independent groups. It was formed by Mike Toomey, one of Perry's former chiefs of staff at the Texas governor's office. An internal memo from the group leaked two months ago revealed that the super PAC had set $55 million as its target fundraising goal. For context, Perry's campaign raised $17 million in the last quarter. And the...

Republicans or Obama, Voters Can't Decide

One of the striking things about the current political moment is the extent to which anti-incumbent sentiment hasn’t abated since last year. The poor economy has left Americans in a continuous state of anger toward their elected officials, regardless of political affiliation. In particular, according to the latest poll from United Technologies and National Journal , voters are down on both the congressional GOP and President Obama. When asked what outcome they would prefer in next year’s elections, “44 percent of registered voters said they would like to see a Republican elected, while 42 percent want Obama to win a second term,” a statistical tie. Likewise, when asked if Republicans should retain control of the House, ”41 percent said yes and 43 percent said they would prefer Democrats to recapture the majority." Overall, the public is evenly split; 35 percent of Americans want Democrats to retain the White House and take the House, while 34 percent of Americans want the reverse –- a...

Iowa GOP: Not as Crazy as You Imagine

At New York , John Heilemann ponders Mitt Romney's standing in Iowa. Early in the campaign, team Romney made a deliberate decision to downplay his presence in the first-in-the-nation caucus. He would not repeat his 2008 mistake, where he invested heavily in Iowa only to lose handedly to Mike Huckabee , a candidate who had been buoyed by a wave support from Iowa's active evangelical Christian base. Romney has made just three Iowa trips to date this year, and his Hawkeye staff is limited to five people with no television or radio purchases to his name. Yet Romney arguably leads the Iowa pack two months out from caucus day. There has been no consistent front-runner in the polls. Michele Bachmann led for a time but now only garners single-digit support. The same fate befell Rick Perry, who has now been supplanted by Herman Cain (which may quickly evaporate after allegations of sexual harassment came to light this weekend). Romney, though, consistently places a close second in Iowa polls...

Do Democrats Need Discipline?

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, accompanied by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., center, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, to discuss China currency. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In response to my post on Drew Westen’s latest, a few commenters took issue with a secondary point. (My primary point, that Westen mischaracterizes the partisanship of the mass public, attracted less dissent.) My secondary point was that, despite this stereotype that Democratic politicians are less disciplined than Republicans—more fractious, harder to coordinate, etc.—Democrats and Republicans in Congress have essentially equivalent levels of unity on roll call votes. I honestly believe that most people who say that Democrats are less disciplined than Republicans do not know this fact about unity on roll call votes. That’s why I pointed it out. Is roll call voting the entire story on party discipline? Of course not. Let’s review some other evidence: As I noted in the first post, Democrats and Republicans in the mass public vote for their party’s candidates at the same (high) rate. In presidential elections, party loyalty is approximately 90%. Here is data from the 2008 exit polls,...

Can We Talk About Sexual Harassment?

(Patsy Lynch/Rex Features via AP Images) Herman Cain addresses charges of sexual harassment at the National Press Club yesterday. We’ve just inched past the 20-year anniversary of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, which electrified the country and educated employers and employees alike about the newly enshrined civil-rights violation called “sexual harassment.” Now Politico brings us another iteration of the did-he-or-didn’t-he game—this time, about Herman Cain. Here’s what already bothers me about this conversation: It’s all about electoral politics. Will this hurt him with his constituency ? How will Cain play this ? How will it be played by Fox & Friends? Do Iowa primary voters care? Unlike that round 20 years ago, this is not going to be a discussion about sexual harassment. Call me a crank, but I think sexual harassment matters. Let’s recall the origin of the tort. [Insert unforgivably professorial harumph here.] The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on...

The Right Rallies Around Herman Cain

At the end of my post this morning, I wondered if the Right would rally around Herman Cain following Politico ’s allegations of sexual harassment, as if to replay the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Via Real Clear Politics, we have our answer . Here is Rush Limbaugh as he defends Cain and attacks the Politico story as an “unconscionable racially charged attack”: The Politico and the mainstream media has launched an unconscionable, racially stereotypical attack on an independent, self-reliant conservative black because for him that behavior is not allowed. […] Anything goes, as far as they’re [liberals] concerned, and they cannot allow a black or an Hispanic to rise to the top of a political establishment that is not Democrat. This builds on Ann Coulter’s claim that liberals are “terrified of strong, conservative, black men,” which was echoed by the Washington Times in a column by “Middle Class Guy” Peter Bella, “Herman Cain’s detractors are racists …They do not want to see a...

Would Rick Perry Skip Debating Obama?

Rick Perry's campaign spent last week floating the possibility that the Texas governor might skip some, if not all, of the remaining presidential debates. Their logic was pretty clear: Perry entered the field as the newly crowned frontrunner in August, only to see his stock plummet after a series of inept debate performances. They hoped to pull their candidate from the debate podium and counted on having few primary voters notice or care. As Jamelle noted last week, that was a risky strategy, which could alienate the conservative elite who already wary to support the governor after his stumbles. Perry's camp quickly backtracked the idea over the weekend and said that Perry would attend all of the five scheduled upcoming debates. That course seems set for the primaries but, what happens if Perry manages a comeback to gain the GOP nomination? Steve Benen argues that after his bout of hemming and hawing, Perry would likely try to avoid facing Barack Obama one-on-one by tangling over the...

Can Congressional Democrats Run Away from Obama?

Speaking to the The New York Times , Rob Jesmer, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, makes a good point about efforts by congressional Democrats to distance themselves from President Obama: “Whether they get on stage with him is not going to matter,” said Rob Jesmer, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “ They are going to rise or fall with him in most cases . The reason he is unpopular is because of his policies and these are the policies they have voted for – health care, the stimulus, now a second stimulus. There isn’t any daylight in the minds of voters.” [Emphasis mine] It’s worth taking a look at this chart on split-ticket voting from political scientist Alan Abramowitz, plotted using data from the American National Election Studies: Increased polarization over the last three decades has produced a sharp decline in split-ticket voting, which means – in other words – that Jesmer is right; voters are more likely to evaluate each...

Multiple Choice Mitt Strikes Again! Kind of.

As recently as June, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was on record as accepting climate change, and acknowledging the extent to which humans were major contributors, “I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.” Over the weekend, in a characteristic move , Romney changed that position outright: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said, according to CBS. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” Romney has taken flak for this as another example of his complete political malleability, but I think that’s a little unfair. Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made a similar change when he was in the race – going as far as to apologize for his past belief in climate change – and if someone like Chris Christie had entered the race, he would have gone the same...

Iowans Love Herman Cain, for Now

The Des Moines Register released their latest caucus poll over the weekend, and Herman Cain is the official favorite to win Iowa two months before caucus day. Cain posted support from 23 percent of likely voters, narrowly edging out Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No one else could even come close to touching the top two. Ron Paul gathered 12 percent. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—both of whom were crowned caucus frontrunners at one point in 2011—only had eight and seven percent respectively. That matches the rest of the numbers that have trickled out of the state over the course of the past month, but the Register's Iowa Poll is given extra heft by political watchers based on how accurately it predicted the final results during the last presidential cycle (though some caution is necessary, the equivalent poll this time four years ago had Romney in first trailed by Fred Thompson). The Los Angles Times ran an article over the weekend pronouncing the end of Cain's campaign surge, listing...

A Most Happy Fella

Here's Rick Perry's new ad in Iowa. Watch, and then we'll discuss: The first thing you notice is that he's wearing a dress shirt, but no jacket or tie. I think this is the first time I've seen him dressed this way. There's also something odd about the lighting and makeup—I can't quite put my finger on what it is that's producing the effect, but the best way to describe it is that he looks like a person who normally wears glasses but has taken them off. There is something kind of dark about Perry's looks —Joshua Green described him perfectly as having "the dark, slightly exaggerated good looks of the villain in a daytime soap opera"—and this washed-out look may be an effort to mitigate that. But he's also displaying a kind of happy-go-lucky affect that is at odds with most of what we've seen of him so far. Even when Rick Perry is smiling, there's usually something kind of sinister underneath. But everything in this ad is bright—the background, the music, and Perry himself. Finally, his...

Believing Cain

The talk of the town today is of course Politico's story detailing how two women who worked for Herman Cain at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990's accused him of sexual harassment, and were then given payouts to leave the organization (and made to sign non-disclosure agreements, of course). Although Politico relied extensively on anonymous sources for their story and obtained only some details about the alleged harassment, it does appear that they worked it pretty hard and didn't publish until they were confident about the facts they had. There are two possibilities here when it comes to the allegations. The first is that the women's allegations are true, which would mean Herman Cain is a pig who preys on women who work for him. The second is that the allegations are false, which would mean Herman Cain is an innocent man besmirched by allegations he can't escape. At the moment, we have no basis on which to determine which of those two is more likely to be true. When...

Foreclosed for Business

Before the Republican presidential primary debate in Nevada, 2012 GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review Journal that government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to help families about to lose their homes. “ Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process ,” he said. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain claimed following the debate that the best way to help homeowners facing foreclosure is to “ get government off the back of the banks .” Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s prescription for aiding homeowners, meanwhile, is to repeal the Wall Street reform law that Congress passed last year. Listening to the GOP presidential candidates, you’d never know that Nevada was the state hardest hit by the bursting of the housing bubble, that it has led the nation in foreclosures for 56 consecutive months , or that last year one in nine Nevada households received a foreclosure notice. The one time that foreclosures came up during the debate, none of the...

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