Saturday, November 19, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

It will be a fairly brief look at the past week in Presidential politics, as I do not consider much in the way of major developments occurring.

Earlier today, most of the GOP candidates met in Iowa for a forum sponsored by a social conservative organization, but without the presence of either candidate Mitt Romney nor television cameras, it does not seem like anything that will bring about great headlines.

Instead, political observers spent much of the week looking at all sorts of primary and general election polls; both national and from key states, to determine the lay of the land.

Rick Perry, who has been down in the polls for quite some time, now seems to have slipped even further, following the debacle of his Michigan debate performance. There are also reports that his once mighty fundraising numbers have gone way south.

Joining Perry in having seen some pretty bad poll numbers this past week is another candidate who once seemed to be flying high. The aftermath of the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations now appear to have had an effect on all sorts of public opinion questions on Cain. Continued problems as well with his grasp on the issues also are likely contributing to that. This week, during an editorial session with a Milwaukee newspaper, Cain appeared confused on the issue of Libya when asked about. While he eventually managed to give a reasonably appropriate answer, it took a good deal of time and discomfort to reach that position, and the video of the moment went viral. Cain spent the rest of the week proclaiming that he should not be expected to know much about foreign policy at this point, and that he would have a wise and capable staff as President who would assist him. Cain said that we need to elect a "leader, not a reader."

On the heels of that, Cain requested that video cameras not be present, as they have been for the other candidates, when he was scheduled to meet with New Hampshire's influention Union Leader newspaper. Cain later skipped out on the interview all together. The candidate, who has done better as candidate than any other black Republican in history, became the first GOP contender this cycle to receive Secret Service protection. While threats to Cain were cited as the reason (a horrible and believable reality), some say that the presence of the agents on the trail may allow the candidate to both stay better on a time schedule and to be able to avoid pesky media inquiries as he campaigns.

With both Cain and Perry having fallen off the candidate who received by far the most buzz this week is an older name and older face. While Newt Gingrich was once written off as having no prayer for the nomination, he is suddenly at the top or near the top in just about every state and nationally, as the newest "non-Romney" alternative. Not all of the polling data is clear though as some have him trailing Barack Obama by double digits in a hypothetical general election, while others actually show him ahead of the incumbent. (I am of the opinion that if nominated, Gingrich would lose in a landslide.) Similarly, while most polls show Gingrich still well behind New Hampshire frontrunner Mitt Romney, one poll late this week showed it a two person race, which if true, would be a very interesting development. We will have to wait to see other polls out of New Hampshire to determine if it really is a race there or if that one poll was just an outlier.

With his campaign surge, the Gingrich campaign will face a great deal of media scrutiny (perhaps pushed by other candidates) regarding his very colorful personal history as well as his financial and business dealings after leaving elected office in 1998. One example of that is the fact that Gingrich was paid millions as an "advisor" to the highly controversial Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac agencies. Gingrich seems unapologetic about his status as a Washington insider.

I continue to maintain that Gingrich's poll numbers are due to his name recognition, and the impression he has had on conservative voters in debates. That is not the same though as having money and organizations in place to actually be able to turn out votes when the calender hits 2012. It is interesting though that the long-counted out Newt is now considered one of the top two in the field. A year ago at this time, the "big four" who were considered the major potential Republican candidates were Romney and Gingrich, along with two candidates who opted not to seek the nomination; Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

It will be worth looking at Gingrich's poll numbers a week from now, as media focus on his marriages, business relationships, and past positions on issues such as global warming and health care mandates may cause conservatives to sour on him, as they have several others before this cycle.

In the meantime, the Obama White House seems to be fairly certain (justifiably so in my opinion) that their opponent will be Mitt Romney, as they and the campaign organization frequently make negative reference to their would be opponent. As would be expected, the Romney campaign is attempting to capitalize on this attention saying that Democrats are "obsessed" with Mitt.

As we conclude, another interesting poll this week has shown that voters have very much soured on the so-called "Occupy Wall Street Movement", which has spread this autumn to cities across the country. Headlines in recent weeks have included reports of shootings, assaults, drug use, deaths, and general lawlessness in camps where the hygiene challenged left-wing anarchists have set up. One young man, who had taken part in Occupy events took a gun and fired shots at the White House, and is now charged with attempting to assassinate the President (who was thankfully safely across the country at the time.)

For several weeks, the White House seemed to be counting on the Occupy Wall Street goings on to captivate their base and motivate voters to their side. The fact that this movement has been been co-opted by counterculture forces, appears to have turned the country off and potentially robbed Obama backers of something they had hoped would work in their favor.

It all sounds pretty similar to how Democrats were hurt back in 1968 and 1972.