Is it over?

Super Tuesday is just around the corner with 786 delegates at stake. The polls and the pundits are all over the place.  The Michigan and Arizona primary results were interesting in that they showed very little momentum for Mitt Romney. Michigan, which is Romney’s home state had an voting increase of 13% from 2008. However, Romney won the state by little more than 3%. Arizona, had a voting decrease of 15% from 2008. Although Romney had tepid opposition in Arizona, he still could not break the 50% barrier. Yet, politicians and pundits say Romney will close the deal on Super Tuesday. I am not so sure.  Although I am on record as being against Romney as the GOP nominee, I shall endeavor to argue in good faith.

Romney has an overwhelming advantage in money and organization, yet, he has yet to achieve 50% in any caucus or primary. His numbers in the caucuses and primaries are rather pedestrian. There is not, despite the many polls, an overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding Romney. To be fair, the rest of the field has had a difficult time sustaining any momentum.  Whenever any one in the field becomes a threat to Romney, Romney’s super-PAC uses a sledgehammer to take out the threat. I believe these actions will come back to haunt Romney to the convention and beyond. Team Romney has decided to campaign against their opponents in lieu of promoting Romney. Team Romney has used an array of distortions, lies, and half-truths to take out their opponents.  Unfortunately, they also use an array of distortions, lies, and half-truths to promote Romney and his record. I believe these actions will also come back to haunt Romney to the convention and beyond.

I believe that Team Romney has made a strategic mistake in their campaign. They are running a general election campaign full of campaign rhetoric and promises to attract non-Republicans, when they should be running a primary campaign to attract the Republican base. The perception is that Romney believes he is the inevitable GOP nominee. Romney may end up being the nominee but the air of entitlement will turn off the GOP base. His ruthless attacks on his primary opponents will lose him valuable assets in money and manpower for the general election. There will be those who will cheer Romney’s Machiavellian tactics against his primary opponents. However, it is very important to remember to promote your virtues instead of your opponent’s vices. Perhaps, when one has never felt comfortable being a conservative, they must tear down their opponent to make themselves look better. The problem with that method is that the typical GOP primary voter tends to be a political activist who also tends to be very keen on issues and politicians. They know Romney’s record better than Romney and no amount of negative advertising or smoke-and-mirror promotion is going to change their perception of Romney.

Thus, the non-Romney vote as always been stronger than the Romney vote. I see Santorum is putting together an organization but lacks the financial resources to compete. Gingrich seems to be raising money but outside of Georgia he doesn’t seem to be building much of an organization.  Both Santorum and Gingrich have to blunt Romney’s organizational ability to garner absentee ballots for Romney. I think this is one of the most under analyzed topics of the primaries. Without the absentee ballots, Romney would probably have lost Florida and Michigan. I have not seen the numbers for Arizona but I assume that 75 to 80% of the absentee ballots are for Romney.  Absentee ballots may give Romney primary victories but they also overstate Romney’s strength in the primaries.

The question on Tuesday is whether either of them will be able to continue. The main reason I believe that both will continue is the power of the Internet. The Internet allows information and mass communication to many people in a quick time frame. The TEA party utilized the Internet to great advantage to mobilize people to appear at rallies and to vote in 2010.  I believe both Santorum and Gingrich have and will utilize the Internet to extend their campaigns. As long as they continue the run, I believe Romney will have to fight tooth and nail for every convention delegate. I think Team Romney is worried about a long and drawn out process. They are not worried about spending copious amounts of money to win the nomination but if they do not attain enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, they may be worried about losing the nomination in a brokered convention. This may have played a role in the Michigan State GOP giving Romney both at-large delegates instead of splitting them between Romney and Santorum; as per the original agreement. It does make one wonder about the machinations surrounding access to the Virginia ballot.

I am in favor of a brokered/contested GOP convention this year. I do not believe that any of these candidates will be able to unify the GOP against Obama in November. I believe the GOP/TEA party activists are currently putting their efforts into taking the Senate and increasing their margin in the House.  I believe a brokered/contested convention will produce a candidate who will not only unify the party, embrace conservative ideals, but will ably destroy the Obama campaign of class warfare and war on culture. There will be those who say that a brokered/contested convention will produce a candidate who will be behind in money and organization. I disagree. I believe, with the power of the Internet and the advent of the super-PACs, the candidate will be able to hit the campaign trail immediately. I also believe that the enthusiasm generated by the broker/contested convention will nullify any advantage Obama believes they maintain.  At this time, my first choice for brokered nominee is Paul Ryan. I believe that he can unify the social conservatives, foreign-policy hawks, and the economic conservatives, to win the presidency. My second choice, unfortunately, has a seemingly unpopular last name but I strongly believe he has the right executive experience to be the best president since Reagan; Jeb.  I may be one of the very few, but I believe Jeb would make an awesome candidate to face Obama.

In the meantime, I do not believe that Romney is inevitable to be the GOP nominee nor will the primary race be over on Super Tuesday.  Let’s see what happens.

Spartan
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In The Long Run, We Are All Bained

This has been probably the oddest of political primary seasons. We have an incumbent President who is the mad combination of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale. Obama ran in 2008 with the promise of being a “centrist” but has ruled, not governed, this country with all the aplomb of a bull in a china cabinet.

In 2010, the people of the United States under the mantra of a Tea Party gave the President and his political party a shellacking at the polls. Not only did the House of Representatives change hands but so did over 20 State legislative bodies; some for the first time in over a hundred years. The momentum for 2012 appeared to be ready to oust Obama and the Senate Democrats. In response to the election results of 2010, did Obama and Harry Reid work to assuage the Tea Party momentum? No, they just doubled down.

The Senate has, in violation of law, not submitted a budget for over 1000 days. What Obama can not get from an unwilling Congress, he gets by bureaucratic fiat and regulations. The GOP momentum has been for all intents, neutered.

With this in mind, the GOP primary season began with a series of candidates who ranged from losers to wannabes to the never were. Missing from the race were formidable and vetted conservatives such as Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and Paul Ryan. Now, the GOP is left with four candidates. From these, it appears two (Gingrich and Romney) are contenders, one (Santorum) is vying for VP, and one (Paul) is just trying to be an influence at the convention. Of these, I want to focus on Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president since he became Governor of Massachusetts in 2003. He was considered a weak and feckless Governor and for the last two years of his term, a running joke. Under his watch, RomneyCare was enacted and gay marriage was found to be constitutional by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Budget shortfalls were made up with increases in taxes and user fees. When outraged people of all political stripes demanded Romney do something to overcome the aforementioned Supreme Court decision, Romney did nothing. Yes, he decried the decision but he frustrated any effort to amend the Massachusetts Constitution. In the end, Romney fought for nothing and believed in nothing but himself.

During his first run for the Presidency in 2008, Romney had the backing of many conservatives who did not like or trust John McCain. Romney became for these folks the “Anyone But McCain” candidate. I watched in amazement as none of his rivals liked Romney. He was treated with disdain and contempt. It was assumed it was because of their contempt for his support. It was only later, we found out their frustration with Romney surrounded his attempts to destroyed candidacies through a sordid whisper campaign in the media.

In the race for 2012, the real Romney has emerged and it is not pretty. In the four years since he dropped out of the 2008, Romney has embarked on a takeover of the GOP political process.

First, states like IA and NH moved up their Caucus and Primary dates. FL also moved up their primary date; even at the price of half their delegates. VA, with their strict ballot access rules, made access to their ballot even harder to access. The beneficiary of all these moves was Romney. He has the money and organization to accomplish these moves. It is almost as if Romney had taken the Bain Model to co-opt the GOP primary process. His willing accomplices in the conservative media saw nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Second, get the polls to show Romney is the only one who can beat Obama. This is pretty easy when the narrative is pushed through the media (Mainstream and Conservative) by political operatives. The narrative is reflected in the polls and a front-runner is born.

Next, when anyone begins to threaten the frontrunner status, destroy the contender. When candidates like Herman Cain seemed to threaten Romney, stories of sexual harassment and marriage infidelity magically appeared. Cain, in a fit of pique, put all his troubles on other candidates; notably Rick Perry. When Newt Gingrich then became the contender to Romney, he was systematically destroyed in Iowa and Florida by a full frontal negative assault. Gingrich was also attacked in SC but still won that election. Once again, his willing accomplices in the conservative media see nothing wrong and remained quiet.

Lastly, create a relevant message and stick to it. In response to the horrid economy, Romney promises to create jobs by stating that only he knows what is needed to create jobs. To that end, he constantly points to his time at Bain Capital, a private equity financial firm. This is the proverbial “fly in the ointment”.

Bain Capital is a financial animal that is needed when private companies need an infusion of cash. It also comes at a high price. On top of the high fees, there is debt. Some companies survive, some companies do not. Bain is interested in making money, not creating jobs. When I think of what Bain does, I am reminded of the Henry Hill narration from the movie Good Fellas when the restaurant owner takes Paulie Cicero as a partner:

“Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? F*** you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F*** you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F*** you, pay me.”

Yet, when Rick Perry decried Bain Capital as “vulture capitalists”, a cacophony of conservatives accused Perry (and Gingrich) of being “anti-capitalists” and “attacking Romney from the Left”. The classic definition of a capitalist is someone who takes a long term risk to provide goods and services to the public. They invest their money, time, ideas, and expertise into the business while sacrificing everything to succeed. How is what Bain does any different than Paulie Cicero?

Romney’s mantra of knowing how to create jobs is belied by three other issues:

Romney’s support of a minimum wage tied to the rate of inflation.

One of the biggest criticisms of the minimum wage is that it causes unemployment, especially among Black youths. Conservative economists have decried the devastating effects the minimum wage has had on hiring. Yet, Romney pushes the idea.

The latest unemployment numbers.

The latest statistics from the government show 243,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.3%. Romney’s response was basically he would have done this in quicker time. No where does Romney point out that 1.2 Million people have quit looking for work and that our labor force is at its lowest level since 1983. To be fair, even the vaunted Wall Street Journal says the 1.2 Million are likely retiring baby boomers. But as the blog Zero Hedge notes; as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million. At this rate, the government should be able to declare unemployment at 6.5% by November. Romney is not prepared to face this challenge.

RomneyCare

RomneyCare is a huge problem for Romney. Ann Coulter can make three cheers for the idea but the consequences of RomneyCare are dreadful. Business owners will have some tough decisions to make. Either they do not hire or expand, or they shift the burden of paying the premium to the employee. All the insurance plans in Massachusetts have to be approved by the State. They are also expensive.

The real problem with Romney is that Romney wants a centralized control economy. RomneyCare not only accomplishes much of that but it drastically changes the relationship between the government and the people as the government dictates to us how we are to spend our money. If this concept is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us. If you think the government will stop here, you are living in a fool’s paradise.

Romney ignores the collateral damage of his ideas, His ego is so large, he can not comprehend that any part or use of his ideas can and will produce disastrous results. Perhaps, his way of creating jobs is to have the government hire more bureaucrats with the purpose to go into each private business no matter how large or small to see if they running properly and at full capacity. These bureaucrats will be able to streamline jobs or demand more hiring by diktat.

Conclusion:

I believe Romney’s career at Bain Capital makes him uniquely unqualified to become President of the United States. If Bain were interested in and believed in the concepts of Free Enterprise, then why all the heavy tactics that result in the loss of Free Enterprise?

It was the entrepreneur who is the real capitalist. It is their sweat equity that grew our economy from the malaise of the Carter years, not the equity of Bain. If the nominees in November are Romney and Obama, it does not matter who wins. Romney’s accomplices in the conservative media still do not see anything wrong and remain quiet. They are willing to sacrifice their principles for power. Eventually, they will have neither because in the long run, we are all Bained.

Spartan

Of Fools and Faith

Of Fools and Faith

Part I

1/18/12

As everyone has realized the political primary season is in full swing. This is the time of year when everyone has an opinion over who not only is the best candidate but who will win the general election. These opinions are held by pundit and voter alike and all of them are most likely to not get one correct lottery number on a Saturday night.

From candidates to pundits to voters, the fools come in various forms and flavors. Candidates like Herman Cain promoted simplistic slogans he could not explain. He got in big trouble when he could not simply explain the Libyan adventure or his exploits with women who were not his wife. Yet, slobbering journalists like Robert Stacy McCain and pundits who have lost their conservative moorings, like Ann Coulter, professed their love and admiration. You see, in their minds, Herman was the one. Cain sold a lot of books to folks who thought he was the one. These books will keep them warm on these cold winter nights.

Michele Bachmann promoted tough rhetoric on defeating Obama. She built her following by playing the victim of Democrat attacks and showing up on any stage promoting herself at TEA Party functions. She was one of us. The problem for Bachmann is the love she felt could not overcome her lying, demagoguery, and an overall lack of legislative accomplishment. She was a show horse, not a work horse. This may explain why she has a problem maintaining a congressional staff. However, before she left the stage, she took down Tim Pawlenty and tried to take down Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich through a series of dishonest lies and demagoguery. The funny thing; she made no such attacks on Mitt Romney. Other than being on her being a prima donna, exactly whose side was/is she on?

John Huntsman ran on his record as a fiscal conservative governor of Utah. He was pro-life and he used to be Obama’s ambassador to China. He also appealed to secularists who mocked evangelicals as Huntsman put science over Faith. Huntsman found financial support from Hilary Clinton supporters. It appears his father has formed an investment partnership with a former CEO of Bain Capital. He basically ran in one state (New Hampshire) and came in third. This was his ceiling and he dropped out a few days later. However, he dropped out just after receiving the endorsement of South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State. A lot of folks were fooled by the false ascendancy of Huntsman.

The GOP is now down to 5 candidates. I will discuss the five in greater detail later but I want to focus on the Social Conservative leaders who last weekend endorsed Rick Santorum for President. I do not really care who these folks endorse but they are presumably smart people. However, when you take into account Rick Santorum has no money and no organization to run a 50-state race. When you take into account Santorum was trounced by 18 points in his last political race in 2006. When you take into account Santorum has been a big government guy but who is staunchly pro-life and pre-family in an election cycle where big government is the biggest concern of the American voter. When you take into account the rehashed story of Santorum’s wife having a 6-year affair with an abortion doctor before she met and married Santorum. In light of all of these factors, you have to ask; what are you all thinking? Is this wishful thinking based on Faith or some realistic plan to make Santorum viable before Super Tuesday in March? Did you properly vet the candidate or is the idea to have your guy play for the VP slot under Romney?

The funny thing is both Bachmann and Cain (perhaps Huntsman–he wanted to be the anti-Romney but endorsed him upon his exit) seemed to take it easy on Romney during the campaign. There was speculation that both were angling for the VP job. What will Santorum bring to the campaign? PA? The South? The West? Any blue states?

Sometimes, I wonder who is fooling who in this matter; Santorum who is a social conservative but seems to be clueless on economic matters or the Social Conservatives who have put all their credibility on the line on a candidate who is behind in money and organization? When reality strikes both, I wonder what it will do to their reputations?

This is what happens when you abandon Faith in the search for power.

Spartan

The Conservative Crack-Up Part III

The Polls, The Electorate, and My Prediction

In all my years of working in and observing politics, I have never seen such fluctuations in the polls as I have seen in the last few months. First, Bachmann, then Perry, followed by the erstwhile Cain, now Gingrich. I think there are three reasons beyond ‘anyone but Romney’: 1) the people are looking at who is the smartest person at the time (in very much the belief that Obama is a smart man), 2) the polls are a reflection of the positive media coverage for whatever candidate is presumed the leader and the negative coverage of the other candidates (a combination of lazy analysis and a lack of caring), and 3) perhaps, the polls are wrong (not in the data but the methodology).

I believe there is deception in the promotion of Obama as a very smart person. Outside of the flowery words (which never seem memorable-like JFK) and party and ideological hacks telling us how bright he is, there is very little data to prove Obama is smart. No academic records are ever produced and no dissertations are ever released. Yet, the perception that Obama is smart remains. However, instead of demanding evidence of scholastic achievement, opponents of Obama seek to find someone who is as smart as Obama. This leads to a unhealthy vetting; not as to policies and beliefs but as to whether the candidate is smart enough to take on Obama. I think the polls reflect this dynamic.

I believe the media coverage has a lot to do with the up and down nature of the polls. The media has a nasty habit of building people up in order to destroy them later at their convenience. They also focus on minor issues as though they were major catastrophes and treat major catastrophes as mild irritations. They realize that most people are too lazy to go behind the headlines.

There seems to be two competing narratives from two different directions concerning Obama. The narrative from the MSM is that Obama is smart and a tough opponent to debate. The other narrative is Obama is the anti-Christ. Both narratives are patently false, but persistent.

The former is two fallacies; Obama is neither smart nor tough to debate. Let’s face it, when you listen to Obama, you do not get a feeling of brilliance. As for the ‘tough to debate’, that is some of the best sleight of hand the media has ever foisted on the public. Ask yourself a question; how many times have you watched a debate and thought Candidate A won the debate but only have the pundits after the debate say that Candidate B won the debate? I am not sure why the electorate allows itself to be led around by the media.

The latter is just plain ridiculous. There is no such entity as an ’anti-Christ’. It is not possible that there exists an equal and opposite entity of Christ. It is possible for people to be ’against Christ’ but no entity can have the same power and stature of Christ; but for evil.

Nonetheless, the electorate is looking for the candidate who can address these two narratives. When one does not properly vet a candidate; perceptions matter. Positive media coverage increases perceptions, negative media coverage causes a negative perception.

I believe the current polls are a reflection of the emotional angst of the electorate seeking an easy answer to the current political situations. The one thing polls can not accurately define is the real support for the candidate. When one adds the dynamic of a top-down campaign, even the candidate has no idea what is his real strength.

Supposedly, Cain was raising tons of money when the allegations of the mistress came to light. When Cain ’suspended’ his campaign, he did not mention the strength of any donations or his neophyte campaign. The question now becomes; who deluded who?
This is why I believe the polls are wrong.

The perception now has become Newt is up in the polls; followed by Romney and Paul. Yet, there is no data of fundraising or any status of his current campaign and GOTV efforts. It eerily reminds me of Cain.

My Prediction

I strongly believe the adage that successful campaigns have three things in common: money, organization, and luck. It is often said that money is the mother’s milk of politics. As of this 19th day of December, only Romney and Perry have any real money. Santorum, Bachmann, Huntsman, Gingrich have little to no money. Gingrich is the latest beneficiary of the emotional electorate but his support is beginning to crater. The money will soon crater.

As for organization, Santorum has very little, if any, outside of Iowa. He may do well in IA but will not be able to capitalize anywhere else.
Huntsman, is playing for NH. He will get a little traction from IA, but if he does not do well in NH, he is finished. Even if he does well in NH, he has little to no organization in SC and beyond.

Bachmann has a little organization in NH and is starting to put an effort in SC. In SC, she has hired the Wes Donehue as her spokesman. He proclaimed Gingrich was buying Tea Party votes in SC. The problem is, Newt is not. This is an odd way of advancing Bachmann’s political campaign. Either she is not a serious candidate or she is not a serious conservative. At this point, I remain convinced she is in the race to help Romney. I am not sure what she has to gain other than the title of Ambassador to Malta.

Gingrich is finally putting together a campaign staff but it is small and most likely unable to fill the needs of a front-runner. If Gingrich continues to crater, they will be looking for work elsewhere.

Romney has organization in IA, NH, and SC. Perry has an organization in IA and SC. Ron Paul continues to have his merry band of idealists run his organization. I think these three will win, place, and show in IA. A fourth place showing by Newt will end his front-runner status. Romney and Perry will both claim the “Comeback Kid” status. Their battle royalé will begin in SC.

I see Romney and Perry being the only two who can fight a fifty state primary battle. Paul will be able to compete but his ceiling will be very low. Will either candidate avoid a brokered convention? Whether that happens or not, consider Perry lucky to survive.

Spartan

Ann and Ann

11/16/11

There are two Ann Coulters.

The one I respect and enjoy takes apart the Left with all the deftness of a skilled surgeon. The other is an emotional wreck; a hysterical shill.

In 2008, she endorsed Romney because he was the last best chance to knock off McCain; defeating McCain was more important than properly vetting Romney. This year, she backed Cain without any idea who and/or what he stood for. She defended Cain from similar accusations made on Bill Clinton; only that time she led the charge with High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Now, she demonizes Newt for being insufficiently conservative. It is a fair observation but it loses all credibility when she speaks of the inevitability of Romney. Throw in the shiv to Palin and the bouquets to Christie and I am surprised she can still stand upright in the current political winds.

The Conservative Movement was built on substance, policies, and standards. However, there are folks in the Conservative Movement who would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount, but they’ll labor like scholars over a conservative’s pedigree.

Listening to folks like Ann Coulter defend the feckless Herman Cain, attack Sarah Palin, praise Chris Christie, and cave-in to the inevitability of Romney; it makes me wonder when the Conservative Movement lost its way. Have we forsaken the legacy of William Rusher, Bill Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, and many others and replaced it with self-indulgent petulance?

We need to do much better.

Spartan