#NHprimary: The “inevitability factor” and Mitt Romney

The polls close in most places in New Hampshire at 7 Eastern time, with the remaining in a different time zone closing at 8 Eastern time. Nate Silver’s live-blogging the primary so make sure to stay tuned to him for updates, commentary, speculation, etc.

Mitt Romney, as we all know, finished in a virtual tie with Rick Santorum in Iowa. And as I’ve noted before, Romney has polled solidly in New Hampshire for months now, maintaining double digit leads the whole way. My prediction is that he’ll come out the winner tonight and that it will be announced by the MSM not long after 8 pm. Exit polls are showing that among late deciding voters, 29% went to him. The next highest number, 24% of late deciders, went for Huntsman.

Shockingly enough, in the redder than red state of South Carolina, Romney is in the lead going into the South Carolina primary, which is on January 21. Months ago, I was telling friends everywhere that there was no way in the world Romney would get the nomination, what with the conservative base being fired up at trying to get Obama out of office, and fed up with what some call “establishment Republicans” like Romney. But more and more, I’m reading not just about the “electability” factor but also the “inevitability” factor – that is, once a candidate starts winning and continues winning, voters who haven’t yet had their respective primaries begin to feel that whatever candidate is winning the most is the “inevitable” candidate, and will either not vote in their primary out of a sense of resignation or will go just to say they went – and vote for the “inevitable” candidate.

It’s early still, obviously, but the momentum looks in these early stages to be headed in Mitt’s direction. I like Perry, but he’s made so many mistakes on the campaign trail at this point that not enough people are paying attention to his actual record, while many who are are not comfortable with some aspects of it (key: immigration). Newt seemed to be surging towards the end of the year last year, but has been flailing as of late the deeper people delve into his record. Santorum is known as the “social issues candidate” and that’s about it. Paul is Paul (’nuff said). And Huntsman? He may have a strong showing tonight in NH but he’s not polling well anywhere else that I’ve seen.

As I wrote on Twitter earlier, I HATE the so-called “inevitability” factor when it comes to the nom. process. The process is to let the voters, not the mainstream media (who are loving trying to pick our candidate this year- as usual), decide – even if and when it comes down to the final states (as was the case with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama). At same time, I don’t want things dragged out with the eventual nominee being battered to the point that it makes him easy prey for our demagogue President and his followers. Make sense?

What are your thoughts about the possibility of Mitt becoming our nominee? Would you vote for him in the general if the unthinkable (him winning the nomination) happened?

Related depressing reading:

Iowa Caucuses – the latest depressing developments

It’s looking like nearly a photo finish for Santorum and Romney with nearly all the results in, according to NBC Politics. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is projected to come in 3rd place.  Newt Gingrich came in fourth place.  You can read/view more complete caucus results here.

Meanwhile, Governor Perry – after a disappointing but not unexpected lackluster finish (in 5th place) – will be heading back to Texas to reassess, after saying earlier in the day that he’d go on to South Carolina, regardless of what the results were in Iowa:

(CNN) – Following a disappointing projected fifth place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he’ll return to Texas Wednesday to assess the results of the nation’s first Republican nominating contest.

“With a little prayer and reflection, I’m going to decide the best path forward,” Perry said Tuesday to supporters at his Iowa headquarters in West Des Moines.

Perry surged to the top of the GOP presidential pack when he jumped into the race mid-August but quickly saw his numbers fall in the polls after a series of uneven debate performances.

Leading up to the caucuses, Perry was competing for the fourth spot in several major polls.

“But I want to tell you, there has been no greater joy in my life than to be able to share with the people of Iowa and of this country that there is a model to take this country forward, and it is in the great state of Texas,” Perry said Tuesday night, with his family standing behind him.

Aaand to make matters more depressing for us anti-Romney types, Senator McCain is set to endorse the Mittster tomorrow in New Hampshire, according to a “former McCain aide.”  Not exactly a shock, and likely not something that will impress the conservative base.  Politico notes:

McCain’s endorsement will help Romney pivot away from Iowa, toward New Hampshire, and turn the page on the caucuses in any case. But McCain also symbolizes much of what the GOP base doesn’t want in its 2012 nominee, so it’ll be interesting to see just how closely Romney hugs the Arizona senator.

The endorsement is also a blow to Jon Huntsman, who has attempted to campaign as a McCain-style maverick and staked his whole bid on the state that made McCain a national figure.

Sigh …

One thing to remember is that Iowa is no sure predictor of the eventual nominee for the GOP, but it does appear that a disturbing number of high profile politicos are lining up around Mitt Romney which may give him momentum going forward to New Hampshire and beyond, even though he’s pretty much a sure thing in NH anyway, considering he’s been polling in double digit leads for months now.  South Carolina is a different story however.

Your thoughts, my dear readers?  Are we seeing the beginnings of “Mittmentum” or will Iowa and New Hampshire be exceptions to the rule?

Why I’m not worried about the Paul/Santorum “surge” in Iowa

There are any number of polls out right now which show either Romney (coasting), Ron Paul (surging), or Rick Santorum (surging) “leading” in Iowa, with Gingrich “fading.”  With the GOP’s Iowa Caucus happening next Tuesday, those poll numbers have got some conservatives panicking over the thought of any of the three “top pollers” (especially Ron Paul) being our eventual nominee.  Michael Barone, writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, reminds us that Iowa’s track record on picking the eventual GOP nominee isn’t very good:

But the Iowa Republican caucuses have a poor record in choosing their party’s nominees. In the five presidential nominating cycles with active Iowa Republican caucus competition, the Hawkeye State has voted for the eventual Republican nominee only twice—in 1996 for Bob Dole, in 2000 for George W. Bush—and only once was the Iowa winner elected president.

The state’s Democrats have a better record, producing a surprise victory for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and a big victory for eventual nominee Walter Mondale in 1984. They faltered in 1988 as Dick Gephardt and Paul Simon came in ahead of nominee Michael Dukakis, and in 1992, when Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin swept the field. But they gave big victories to Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

One reason Iowa Democrats have been better prognosticators than Iowa Republicans is that more people participate in their caucuses. About twice as many people showed up for the Democratic precinct caucuses as for their Republican counterparts in 2008. In a state of three million people, a bare 119,000 Republicans showed up for the caucuses. Some 60% of them identified as evangelical or born-again Christians—a far higher percentage than in any presidential contest in any large non-Southern state that year.

The small, skewed turnout resulted in a victory for Mike Huckabee, who ran ads identifying himself as a “Christian leader.” In later contests in other states, Mr. Huckabee, despite sparkling performances in debate and impressive command of popular culture, failed to win more than 15% of the support of those who did not identify themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, and he lost to John McCain.

Other early voting states have a better record than Iowa of picking Republican winners. New Hampshire primary voters gave victories to eventual nominees Richard Nixon in 1972, Gerald Ford in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H. W. Bush in 1988. South Carolina, whose early contest was concocted by Bush operative Lee Atwater in 1988, has done even better, backing the senior Bush in 1988 and 1992 primaries, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and John McCain in 2008. In both states the primary electorate is a much larger and more representative sample of the Republican voting population than in Iowa.

As it stands now, Romney leads in the polls in New Hampshire by an average of almost 20%. It’s really not even close there for any other GOP candidate. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, at this stage in the game Newt Gingrich is in the lead in the polls by an average of 16%. So if Barone’s scenario plays out, one of those two states may turn out to be bellwethers for us in the coming months and either Romney or Gingrich will be our eventual nominee.

BTW, it’s not exactly surprising but worth noting anyway that the make-up of Ron Paul’s supporters are not exactly your average run of the mill Republican. In fact, many aren’t Republicans at all:

Given Paul’s views on the Fed, the gold standard and social issues, not to mention his isolationist foreign policy, the polls have left some politicos wondering whether Republican voters have somehow swerved off the rails. But there’s another question that should be asked first: Who are Ron Paul’s supporters? Are they, in fact, Republicans?

In an analysis accompanying his most recent survey in Iowa, pollster Scott Rasmussen noted, “Romney leads, with Gingrich in second, among those who consider themselves Republicans. Paul has a wide lead among non-Republicans who are likely to participate in the caucus.”

The same is true in New Hampshire. A poll released Monday by the Boston Globe and the University of New Hampshire shows Paul leading among Democrats and independents who plan to vote in the January 10 primary. But among Republicans, Paul is a distant third — 33 points behind leader Mitt Romney.

In South Carolina, “Paul’s support is higher among those who usually don’t vote in GOP primary elections,” notes David Woodard, who runs the Palmetto Poll at Clemson University.

In a hotly-contested Republican race, it appears that only about half of Paul’s supporters are Republicans. In Iowa, according to Rasmussen, just 51 percent of Paul supporters consider themselves Republicans. In New Hampshire, the number is 56 percent, according to Andrew Smith, head of the University of New Hampshire poll.

The same New Hampshire survey found that 87 percent of the people who support Romney consider themselves Republicans. For Newt Gingrich, it’s 85 percent.

So who is supporting Paul? In New Hampshire, Paul is the choice of just 13 percent of Republicans, according to the new poll, while he is the favorite of 36 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats who intend to vote in the primary. Paul leads in both non-Republican categories.

“Paul is doing the best job of getting those people who aren’t really Republicans but say they’re going to vote in the Republican primary,” explains Smith. Among that group are libertarians, dissatisfied independents and Democrats who are “trying to throw a monkey wrench in the campaign by voting for someone who is more philosophically extreme,” says Smith.

And with the way you can switch parties in the Iowa caucus virtually on a dime, the “first in the nation” state may very well be a primetime target next week for exactly the type of “mischief” voters described by the Washington Examiner’s Byron York above. As CNN notes (bolded emphasis added by me):

While Iowa Democrats famously caucus by literally standing up for their chosen candidate, the Hawkeye State’s GOP holds secret ballot votes.

Here’s how the unique process will work: On caucus night, would-be voters will gather in 809 locations across the state — school gyms, churches and auditoriums of all shapes. To participate, each person must be a registered Republican who will turn 18 by the general election on November 6.

But, in a closely watched twist, voters can switch party affiliation at the caucus and register as Republicans that night.

“From a process standpoint, it’s a nightmare,” said Dallas County Republican chairman Mike Elam, “but I think it’s a good thing. People can decide they want to be involved up to the very last minute.”

Republicans this year hope that ability leads to a surge of registrations from disgruntled Democrats and independents. But the practice also allows potential cross-party sabotage, where members of one party can participate in a rival caucus in order to vote for the candidate they see as the weakest potential opponent.

In other words, if you wake up next Wednesday morning to see/read the media hype about Ron Paul’s win (if indeed it happens), don’t be surprised. And don’t panic.

With that said, and with months of campaigning and politicking and researching in the background, where do you stand on the candidates at this point?

Iowa Caucus 411:

Gov. Haley’s endorsement may not help Romney out that much

In case you missed it, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney for president yesterday – just a little more than a month before her state’s first-in-the-south Presidential primary. Will it help Mitt? The National Journal thinks so:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Mitt Romney gives the ex-Bay State governor a crucial tea party imprimatur in a state that holds a critical Jan. 21 presidential primary. But Haley’s endorsement might be even more helpful by solidifying the perception that Romney’s campaign is on the rebound after a downturn.

Consider where Romney stood at the beginning of the week. Republicans and other critics were hammering him for offering Texas Gov. Rick Perry a $10,000 bet, and national polls showed Gingrich leading the GOP race by double-digits. The news was just as pessimistic in the Palmetto State: Romney trailed the ex-speaker of the House by 20 points there, according to an NBC News-Marist Poll. And on Tuesday, state party Chairman Chad Connelly questioned his commitment to the state.

The outlook for Romney is improving. National polls have shown Gingrich’s standing slipping (from 37 percent to 29 percent in roughly a week, according to Gallup), raising questions of whether Gingrich is following in the footsteps of onetime front-runners Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann. Romney also turned in a strong debate performance Thursday night.

Haley’s support puts an exclamation mark on Romney’s revived prospects. He still is in a dogfight against Gingrich — nowhere moreso than in South Carolina, where his organization is still lacking. But Haley is a favorite of many conservative activists and could bolster his chances in the state that has voted for the eventual GOP nominee in every contested primary since 1980.

Maybe, but Haley’s also facing a backlash over her endorsement, if the reactions from conservatives on Facebook and Twitter, and in pundit world are any indication.   True, she backed Romney in 2008 and went on to become Governor of the state two years later thanks to a wave of popular support from SC conservatives, but Haley’s not the popular political figure she once was in South Carolina, if this poll is any indication.  Not only that, but if there’s one candidate the Tea Party despises the most, it’s Mitt, so her endorsement is not necessarily Mitt’s Golden Ticket to winning SC.

Also consider this: Prime time endorsements from prominent, news-making political figures are not an automatic indicator of a “sure win” – whether the endorser is popular or not.  Remember, Ted Kennedy created a stir in Democratic circles when he endorsed the young, politically inexperienced Senator Barack Obama in 2008 over longtime friend and political ally Hillary Clinton.  But in spite of the weight Ted Kennedy’s endorsement carried with liberal Democrats in Massachusetts and beyond, Hillary Clinton still won the Massachusetts primary handily.

As to poll numbers for the GOP presidential primary? Newt’s got a double digit lead average over Romney with just four weeks to go.  Of course, as we’ve seen many times this year already, it doesn’t take four weeks for a candidate’s campaign to take a nosedive but unless some blockbuster scandal breaks about Newt like it did for Herman Cain, I suspect all the effort in the world from HaleyCo. is not going to get a majority of SC conservatives to vote for Romney.  I don’t even think Senator Jim DeMint’s endorsement of Romney, if it were to happen, would make much difference. Southern conservatives are understandably hesitant about supporting a Yankee (heh) for political office – especially one who most realize is a “progressive” in conservative clothing.

As they say, stay tuned …

If I had $1 million I might try to bribe Mike Savage off the air

Well, probably not. I could find much better uses/causes for that money. But it would be mighty tempting considering his latest stupid stunt, as noted below.

Hey, Savage – how about letting, you know, primary voters decide whether Newt should be allowed to continue on and challenge President Obama in the general election next year, moron?

Via Memeorandum

The Savage bribe

Newt won’t take him up on this, of course, but the audacity of this clown to think he knows what’s in the best interests of primary voters by thinking the best way to decide who the candidate WON’T be is by trying to personally buy him off is disgusting.

Via Memeorandum.

Like: In new Rick Perry ad, candidate pokes light fun at “brain freeze” moment

You don’t see political ads this one often:

Politico’s Maggie Haberman describes it, and speculates on the main reason for it being released today:

Rick Perry is heading to Jay Leno’s couch tonight, and he’s making the most of it – airing this campaign ad in Iowa, in which he takes on his own “oops” moment from the CNBC debate in which he couldn’t remember the third agency he’d cut (it was the Dept. of Energy, as he notes in the ad).

The spot itself opens with the brain freeze, and then pivots to Perry poking fun at his own gaffe, noting it happens to everyone, but not quite on that scale. He then ends by pretending to forget the disclosure signoff of “I’m Rick Perry and I approved this message.”

[…]

But the clear goal of the spot is to show Perry not taking himself too seriously, and with an ability to demonstrate an ability to take blows and keep fighting, at a time when the rest of the GOP field is either battling fresh allegations related to sex, or battling each other over who is the least consistent candidate in the field.

Ads are not the primary, or even secondary reasons I vote for or against a candidate, but they are part of the “total package”, so to speak (the awesome Reagan ads from his two successful Presidential runs come to mind) and I have to give the Perry campaign some clever points on this one. That brain freeze moment was widely regarded as the death of Perry’s campaign for the presidency, yet his ad people are turning it around and trying to paint it as a positive. Can you imagine our “perfect” celebrity President ever doing something like this with, say, his “corpsman” gaffe?

In other GOP candidate news, Newt’s arrogantly declared himself the nominee already. Seriously. The Bachmann campaign is under fire for allegedly gaining access to a homeschool email database in Iowa and using it to send campaign information. Meanwhile, Herman Cain told the NH Union Leader paper that his wife did not know about his “friendship” and financial aid to Ginger White, who has alleged a 13 year affair with Mr. Cain. Cain also said in the interview that dropping out of the race “is an option.”

As they say, stay tuned …

Uptwinkles: Gingrich on #OWS

**Posted by Phineas

First it was arrogant, ignorant debate moderators who felt the wrath of Newt; now it’s the turn of the arrogant, ignorant (1) Occupy movement to be sliced and diced:

I’ve been resistant to a Gingrich candidacy for various reasons, but, if he keeps this up, I may have to take a second look at Newt on the strength of the entertainment value, alone.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about that whole up- and downtwinkles thing, an Occupier explains.

via Steven Hayward, who wonders if Newt isn’t having an “I paid for this mike” moment. Video courtesy of RuBegonia.

Footnote:
(1) I’m detecting a theme, here…

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

In which the Master schools the ignorant student and leaves him whimpering for mercy

**Posted by Phineas

I don’t know how many of you watched the Republican debate on foreign affairs and national security last Saturday (1); I caught only parts, but I have to share this gem, which came when arrogant prat CBS anchor Scott Pelley (2) asked Newt Gingrich about the rule of law and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki last September. The former Speaker starts to answer, and then Pelley kicks his moderator role to the gutter and begins to argue with him. (3)

Let’s just say that, when Gingrich was done with him, Pelley looked like Daffy Duck after yelling “Duck! Fire!

Thing. Of. Beauty.

RELATED: ST surprises herself by taking a second look at Newt. Much to my surprise, so am I.

Footnotes:
(1) I had been avoiding them up until this point; I hate the quiz-show format. I will be watching the AEI-Heritage-CNN debate on the 22nd, however, since it will deal with foreign policy, one of my main interests.
(2) Pelley infamously compared skeptics of Man-caused global warming to Holocaust deniers. As you might imagine, he’s one of my favorite people.
(3) Thus displaying again the renowned impartiality of the MSM.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Can’t believe I’m saying this but … second look at Newt?

Yeah, I know I’ll probably get chastised for even thinking it, but Newt’s impressed me a lot in the last several debates. I know he has a lot of baggage, there’s the Pelosi ad disaster, and the fact that he could not exactly be presented as a “family values” candidate – but options are kinda limited right now, in my view. Perry has been a huge disappointment at the debates, in spite of the fact that he is extremely likable and has – in my opinion – been a good Governor for the state of Texas and would make a good POTUS. The fact that he can’t debate well is a huge problem considering he’d be tackling the maestro of debates in Barack Obama. Never thought I’d see someone who was worse than GWB when it came to debating. No, we’re not electing a skilled debater but we DO need someone who can effectively counter the Obama spin machine without breaking a sweat.

Romney is out of the question for obvious reasons, and Cain, whose fierceness and never-say-quit spirit is inspiring to me, nevertheless isn’t doing it for me. That may change, but for now I’m not on the Cain Train. Michele Bachmann lost me over the whole Gardasil issue.

Which brings me back to Newt. Rich Lowry at NRO wonders if now is “Newt’s moment”:

It’s counterintuitive to categorize a former speaker of the House and the builder of a sprawling archipelago of Beltway organizations as an outsider-populist. But Gingrich never lost his genius for the outré. In his prickly hostility to representatives of the media at the debates, he’s trained his fire on the institution that unites all Republicans in their disdain. He can be as inflammatory as Donald Trump and as populist as Sarah Palin. Yet he brings to the table the wellsprings of knowledge of a history Ph.D. and an incorrigible — insufferable, perhaps — policy wonk.

No politician has spent so long saying we need such fundamental change. It is typical of Gingrich that his 21st-century Contract with America is conceived as “a larger and more complex developmental challenge than any presidential campaign has undertaken in modern times.” Cue the eye-rolling. But the country now has such grave challenges even beyond the headline problems of joblessness and spiraling debt that there’s a place for a candidate devoted to upending 20th-century structures in health care, education, and more. Never have Gingrich’s extravagant overstatements seemed so apt.

In many ways, Gingrich would be better-suited as an intellectual ombudsman of the GOP race than as a candidate himself; he has more baggage than Queen Elizabeth II on a road trip. But the hour is late and the pickings are slim. He ran when others didn’t, and his outsider-populism is tinged with brilliance. Republican voters not sold on Mitt Romney might have to decide that you go to political war with the alternative you have.

Bear in mind that I’m not in anyone’s “camp” just yet. My vote has yet to be earned by any of the candidates. But Newt is looking like a viable option more and more every day (my friend Matt Margolis has already endorsed him). Can you imagine a Lincoln/Douglas-style debate with him and Obama? It won’t happen, but drool …

Thoughts?