Saturday, March 31, 2012

Obamamania Has Cooled

Political support from youth is fickle and fleeting. Andrew Theen writes at Bloomberg:
Obama enjoyed a wave of youth support in his run to the presidency, winning 66 percent of voters aged 18-to-29 in the race against Republican Senator John McCain. Twenty-two million young voters cast ballots, making up about 18 percent of the electorate -- two million more than in 2004, according to exit polls and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Today that passion has cooled amid gridlock and partisanship in Washington and a surge in unemployment that is souring young voters.
“There’s definitely a significant sense that this generation are more apathetic headed into the 2012 election than they were in 2008,” John Della Volpe, director of polling for Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, said in a phone interview.
Obama’s approval rating among college students dropped to 46 percent last December from 58 percent in November 2009, according to a Harvard University poll. Fifty percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would “definitely” be voting, an 11 percentage-point decrease from the fall of 2007. A third of respondents said they approved of Democrats in Congress, and 24 percent approved of Republicans. Just 12 percent said the nation was headed in the right direction

The turnout will not be great,” Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, said in a phone interview. The war in Afghanistan, a lack of progress on closing Guantanamo Bay and a dismal job picture taint Obama’s prospects, he said. The unemployment rate among 18- to 24-year-olds was 16.3 percent at the end of last year, the highest since record-keeping began in 1948, according to a February Pew Research Center report.

“There’s not the sense that four more years of Obama will change the world for the better,” Gans said. Still, Obama stands a “reasonably good chance” of winning, he said.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How Redistricting Matters in 2012: A Shrunken Battlefield

Reid Wilson writes at National Journal:
The most dramatic change that redistricting will force upon the country won’t be obvious. Republicans in many states have drawn maps that they believe will shrink the battlefield. Many once-competitive seats have added Republican voters, making them safer for the GOP, and some seats held by Democrats who narrowly won in 2010 have added Democratic voters.

Republicans believe that a total of 14 GOP-held seats and 15 Democratic seats have been shifted into play by the redistricting process. The NRCC believes that six Democrats hold districts that are no longer competitive for Republicans—Reps. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Gerald Connolly of Virginia, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, and Rick Larsen of Washington are the lucky ones.

But the big Republican-friendly shift, they say, comes from once-competitive seats that added big chunks of Republican voters. The NRCC counts 18 GOP-held districts on the list of seats moved off the table. Many Republicans in suburban seats—Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Hultgren of Illinois, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Pat Tiberi of Ohio, and Frank Wolf of Virginia—are on that list. Republicans point to an additional 16 seats they hold that will improve in their favor under new maps, although most remain competitive.

“There wasn’t going to be a lot of net movement of seats that are just won or lost, but that we were going to improve the internals of the overall maps,” said Guy Harrison, who heads the NRCC. “The battlefield has shrunk. And even within that battlefield, it has gotten a little bit better for us.”

Democrats admit that their job has gotten more difficult. The party has fewer targets for its so-called Drive to 25—the number of seats Democrats must win to take back the House—and retirements in conservative districts in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Oklahoma mean the real number of seats they must win is probably in the low 30s. But even those Republican seats that have moved away from Democrats, such as the ones held by Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, and Jim Renacci of Ohio, are not completely out of reach.

American Crossroads on Barack Obama, Secret Agent

Elspeth Reeve writes at The Atlantic:
Karl Rove wasn't mad when Dmitry Medvedev scoffed that Mitt Romney's claim that Russia was our "No. 1 geopolitical foe," sounded like a 1970s Hollywood movie -- he was inspired. Rove's American Crossroads released a James Bond-style ad mocking President Obama's hot mic moment from earlier this week, when he told Russia's president that he'd have "more flexibility" on missile defense "after my election." The ad is actually pretty well-done and funny: 
 Of course, lots of conservatives who weighed in on the issue in op-eds that took a graver tone: National Review's Charles KrauthammerThe Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, and Romney himself have all taken their shots. But sometimes the best way to take down your political foe is not with a serious critique of his policies, but by making him look like a buffoon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Would Overturning the Health Law Help Democrats?

The Washington Post reports on the possible effects of a Supreme Court decision against the health care law:
A number of allies of the measure, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said it’s possible that such a ruling could help Obama’s reelection campaign by galvanizing Democratic voters.
These Democrats did not think the oral arguments went well for the president. But they see an opportunity to rally voters who are passionate about health-care reform — and to portray the Supreme Court as a partisan body.
“If they overturn the individual mandate and undermine the central element of this bill a few months before the election, it will anger Democrats and rile up the base,” said Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning policy group Center for American Progress and a policy adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign. “People will see it for what it is: an activist court rendering a partisan decision.”
Politico reports:

Overturning President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law would be a political boost for Democrats, veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Tuesday.
“I think that this will be the best thing that ever happen to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably,” Carville told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer of a possible Supreme Court decision to strike down the law. “I honestly believe this, this is not spin.
“You know what the Democrats are going to say - and it is completely justified: ‘We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority,’” Carville added. “The public has these guys figured out. Our polls show that half think this whole thing is political.”
“Just as a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin,” Carville said.
This reasoning would be plausible if most voters supported the law.  But they don't.  In fact they want the Supreme Court to strike it down, in whole or part. At The Washington Post, Scott Clement reports:
Most Americans want the Supreme Court to invalidate at least part of the landmark health-care law that was passed in 2010, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The law’s individual mandate remains a key sticking point, with one in four hoping the court will strike down the provision but leave the rest of the law intact.

More than four in 10 — 42 percent — want the high court to throw out the entire law, 25 percent want to do away with the mandate alone and a similar proportion wants the justices to uphold the entire law.
Just over half the public thinks the mandate is unconstitutional (51 percent), according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week. In that survey, fewer than three in 10 (28 percent) said they think the mandate is constitutional. Nearly as many were unsure. Previous Kaiser polls found the mandate to be the least popular provision in the law; majorities supported all other components tested.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Newt: The Beginning of the End

At Politico, Mike Allen and Ginger Gibson write:
Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign’s full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO.
Michael Krull, a former advance man and a college friend of Callista Gingrich’s who took over the campaign after a staff exodus in June, was replaced last weekend by Vince Haley, who has worked for Gingrich for nine years and currently is deputy campaign manager and policy director.

“We’re focusing exclusively on what it’ll take to win what we’re going to be calling a big-choice convention in August,” DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Gingrich officials declined to specify who else besides Krull would be leaving. “Not getting into it right now besides Krull,” DeSantis said.
But another campaign official said the layoffs would largely affect junior and advance staff, the latter of which was contracted out to Gordon James Public Relations. Gingrich consultant Kellyanne Conway and political director Martin Baker will both retain their roles, according to officials. The advance staff also received word on Tuesday afternoon to submit their final expense reports.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

American Crossroads Pits Obama v. Obama

American Crossroads is running an ad juxtaposing inconsistent statements by President Obama about the health-care mandate.  The Huffington Post reports:
The spot is essentially on target. The Obama campaign, at one point, went so far as to raise the specter of the infamous "Harry and Louise" ad against Clinton's mandate plan. That ad, of course, was key in defeating Clinton's original push for health care reform when she was first lady.

"Hillary's health care plan forces everybody to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it," said a flyer produced by Obama's campaign in 2008.

What the Crossroads spot leaves out is that the Affordable Care Act includes significant subsidies to help people buy insurance if they cannot afford it.
But so did the Clinton plan that Obama attacked.  As The New York Times reported at the time: "She would create new options for buying private or public insurance at affordable rates, require everyone to obtain insurance, and provide subsidies and tax credits to small businesses and individuals who could not afford it.
 

RNC Members as Delegates


Not all of those votes are up for grabs. Rules vary by state, and RNC members in 11 states -- Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin -- must vote for the winners of their respective primary or caucus. And representatives from states that held nominating contests before party rules allowed are disqualified from voting, meaning that RNC members from Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina won't have a voice at this year's convention.
The writers reckon that 81 RNC members are neither committed to a candidate nor face a state party rule obliging them to vote a certain way. RNC member Ron Kaufman of Massachusetts is leading the Romney effort to court them.
"Calls are going very well. Members are concerned about electability and uniting the party," said Anuzis, one of Romney's RNC whips. "Most [members] do not see a contested convention as a good thing."

Primary Turnout

With 100% of precincts reporting, the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website reports that 186,377 Republicans cast a ballot in Saturday’s primary for their candidate and against President Barack Obama. That’s a record for voter turnout in a Louisiana GOP primary.
Please see the graph below for historical context:

Year Type GOP Turnout
1980 Primary 41,683
1984 Primary 16,687
1988 Primary 144,773
1992 Primary -
1996 Primary 77,789
2000 Primary 102,912
2004 Primary 72,010
2008 Primary 161,169
Just before Louisiana, Aaron Blake wrote at The Washington Post:
Reports of the GOP’s turnout problems appear to have been slightly premature.
A Fix review of turnout in the Republican presidential nominating process shows that it has rebounded in recent weeks, and GOP voters are now turning out in consistently higher numbers than they did in 2008.
In addition, in the most competitive Republican contests held this year, turnout is up almost universally, with just a couple exceptions.
Turnout is up in all four states that have held major contests since Super Tuesday — Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Illinois — and is up overall in eight of 12 contests held this month for which there was a comparable contest held four years ago.
The only states where turnout has been down so far this month have been Massachusetts and Georgia, the home states of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and in Oklahoma and Tennessee. In Tennessee, it was down 1 percent, while in Oklahoma it was down 15 percent.
FOR A TABLE OF PRIMARY TURNOUT DATA, SEE THE  UNITED STATES ELECTIONS PROJECT.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Santorum Calls BS on NYT

Rick Santorum called bs on Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times:


On the one hand, the incident raises the issues of the Santorum temper, which has sometimes flared in public.

On the other hand, we have seen that Republican primary voters hate the elite media, so it may work to his benefit.  At Slate, David Weigel writes:

I wasn't there, but doesn't it sound like Santorum had a point? Here's the Zeleny tweet:
Screen shot 2012-03-26 at 9.15.33 AMHe "says" he was? He was! Maybe it's just karmic justice for all of the dopey teleprompter jokes Republicans have been making, but for the second time in a week Santorum was making a familiar point, changing one phrasing, and getting punished for it. The campaign's response, understandably, is to stroke the conservative id. This is Santorum's CM on Twitter:
Screen shot 2012-03-26 at 9.03.17 AMThat tweet went out before a fundraising email from Santorum himself, which recast the Zeleny tiff as a St. George/dragon moment. "I didn't back down, and I didn't let him bully me," said Santorum in the email. "I think it is high time that conservatives find the courage to expose the liberal press for what they are, a defender and enabler of Romney's and Obama's liberal agendas." 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mushy Delegate Math

The delegate counts that we see in the media are, at most, rough estimates. At Slate, David Weigel explains:
How many delegates are we talking about? The states that have already held primaries and voted represent, technically, 983 delegates. Eight of these states—Iowa, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington, Alaska, and Wyoming—have not yet assigned all of their delegates. Together, they have 246 delegates waiting to be meted out at district and county conventions.

Just look at Iowa. That state’s Jan. 3 caucuses assigned no delegates. None. The real work there only started to happen on March 10, when Republicans gathered in 99 county conventions, picking their representatives for the four congressional district meet-ups on April 21. In their Tuesday conference call, the Santorum campaign’s delegate-counter John Yob predicted that he’d win the “vast majority” of Iowa’s 25 delegates. The AP count had Santorum winning only seven of them.

Is the Santorum campaign right? We have no idea. If anyone might know, it would be Ryan Gough, the Iowa Republican Party’s organization director. I called him on Friday to check what had happened in those March 10 klatches.

“I’m just now getting back lists of delegates from 99 counties,” he said. “They’re lists of names and addresses. They don’t have an R for a Romney supporter or an S for a Santorum supporter, or anything like that. The party can’t tell where the support is at this point.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Santorum Won Louisiana

A strongly conservative, religiously inspired Republican electorate turned the tables on Mitt Romney in Louisiana, supplying Rick Santorum with both an easy win and a sharp riposte to Romney’s victory in Illinois four days earlier.
Santorum was boosted by one of the highest concentrations of very conservative voters in any primary this year. Evangelicals, while less dominant than in most other Southern states, backed him by a record margin over Romney. And Santorum’s tally was his best to date among voters focused on supporting a candidate who shares their religious beliefs.
Even in this inhospitable environment, Romney again prevailed as most likely to defeat Barack Obama in November, by 43 to 33 percent vs. Santorum. But that was Santorum’s best score on this question in any of the nine contests to date in which it’s been asked. In previous races, voters picked Romney as more electable by a 32-point margin; in Illinois, by 38. In Louisiana, Santorum shaved that to 10. 
Though Romney has usually won the Catholic vote, Louisiana was different:  Santorum won this group 48-30 percent.
Religiously inspired voting more generally ran high in the state. Sixty-four percent of primary voters said they go to church at least weekly; they backed Santorum by 56-24 percent, while less-frequent (or non-) churchgoers much more narrowly favored Romney, 39-28 percent. More, 73 percent, said it mattered to them to support a candidate who shares their religious beliefs, and 41 percent said it mattered a great deal – more than said so in Illinois by 17 and 18 points, respectively.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Summing Up Entrance & Exit Polls So far

AEI has a nice compilation:

  • In every state in which an entrance or exit poll was conducted, voters have selected the ability to defeat Obama as the candidate quality that mattered most.
  • Romney has usually won the votes of those who checked “can defeat Obama” as the most important candidate quality for them. With the exception of Massachusetts, he has not won the votes of those who checked “true conservative.”
  •  Ideological, class, and religious divisions continue in the Republican electorate. Romney usually loses “very conservative” voters, but he does well with the “somewhat conservative” and “moderate/liberal” voters. He does better among suburban voters than rural ones and less religious than more religious voters. He has won at least a plurality of non-evangelical voters in every exit/entrance poll state except Georgia where Gingrich won them narrowly. Romney does well with college-educated and upper-income voters. He has almost always done better with college than non-college voters. With the exception of South Carolina and Georgia, Romney has won the votes of those with family incomes of $100,000 or more.
  • Romney has done pretty well with Tea Party supporters, but not with strong Tea Party supporters.
  •  Tea Party supporters have backed the winner in every contest except Ohio, where Santorum edged out Romney by 1 percentage point. Santorum and Gingrich split their votes in Mississippi.
  • In exit and entrance poll states, the Republican electorate has been about 90 percent white. In Florida, whites were 83 percent of voters. 
  • Abortion was cited as the top issue by more than 10 percent of voters in Michigan, Mississippi, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. In 15 of the 17 states for which we have exit/entrance poll data, “illegal immigration” was included as a category voters could check. In no state for which we  have an entrance or exit poll was it the top issue. In no state did 15 percent of voters select it as the number-one issue. Only in Arizona did more than 10 percent of voters check it as their top issue. The economy has been the top issue everywhere.

The table also shows that Romney has carried the Catholic vote everywhere except Tennessee and South Carolina.

Is Proportional Allocation a GOP Problem?

At Bloomberg View, Josh Putnam and John Sides dispute the conventional wisdom that proportional allocation of delegates has prolonged the GOP contest:
The Republican Party has traditionally allowed states to allocate delegates in a variety of ways. Some states used a proportional method, others used winner-take-all, still others used hybrids that fell between those two poles. In 2008, the nearly 40 Republican primary states were split about evenly among the three methods.
The 2012 campaign is essentially no different. The rules do not mandate strict proportionality but allow a mix of systems. For example, states can proportionally allocate their at-large delegates while allocating their congressional district delegates on a winner-take-all basis, according to the vote within each district. States can also use a conditional winner- take-all rule: If a candidate receives the majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate is awarded all of a state’s delegates or all of the at-large delegates.
As a result, differences between the 2008 and 2012 rules are not drastic. ...

To gauge the effect of the 2012 rules, we calculated what the 2012 delegate count would be so far using the 2008 delegate rules. Any such simulation rests on the tenuous assumption that all other things about the process are equal -- an obvious drawback. Still, the results are instructive.
Using the 2008 rules, we found, would have produced a slightly slower primary process. What’s more, Romney above all should be grateful for the change. Far from elevating the current front-runner, the 2008 rules would have reduced his current delegate count by 56. Under the old rules, Newt Gingrich would have earned 5 fewer delegates and Ron Paul 8 fewer. Rick Santorum would have come out with 15 more delegates.
But the rules do count in one important way:
If anything is extending the Republican nomination process, it’s the new, longer primary calendar. In 2008, more than half of the delegates had been awarded by the first week in February. In 2012, the halfway point won’t arrive until this weekend’s Louisiana primary.

GOP Getting Ready for Fall

Alex Roarty writes at National Journal that conservative groups and the GOP are taking the fight to POTUS:
Just this week, as the president has been touting his energy policy in the swing states of Ohio, New Mexico, and Nevada, Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of the conservative outside group American Crossroads, made a six-figure ad buy blasting Obama over high gas prices. Earlier in the week, the Republican National Committee began airing TV ads in six swing states criticizing Obama on the anniversary of his 2010 health care law – part of a spate of events the group plans to tie Obama to his most significant legislative achievement.
...”
Republican preparations could be critical in this election. Already, Obama has built his own massive ground game across an array of key battleground states, an effort officials with his campaign say could carry the president to victory in the fall. Romney, meanwhile, has not had the resources or time to develop a general-election infrastructure while fending off rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich throughout the winter and into the spring.
But RNC officials say they have diligently built a nationwide network of fundraisers and volunteers that the eventual nominee can activate the moment the primary ends. It’s part of an effort the committee has made during the last year to take the president to task while the party chooses its standard-bearer for the fall.
The party’s organization is far ahead of where it was in 2008, according to RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, who disputed the notion the GOP nominee will have a lot of ground to make up because of the ongoing primary season. “What are you basing that off of?” Spicer asked. “The problem is, while that’s a great narrative, the facts don’t back it up

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Republicans v. Obama on Energy

Obama is vulnerable on energy.  Gallup reports:
A solid majority of Americans think the U.S. government should approve of building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 29% think it should not. Republicans are almost twice as likely as Democrats to want the government to approve the oil pipeline. About half of independents also approve.
A release from Crossroads GPS:
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) today announced the launch of a new national TV spot focusing on President Obama’s dramatic failure to keep energy prices down, while he has instead focused on untested and naive strategies that have virtually no impact on energy consumption or demand.
The issue ad, entitled “Deflect”, will start on Wednesday in a $650,000 buy on national cable and local broadcast network buys in three markets where the president will pitch his energy plan this week: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Columbus, Ohio; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
The ad can be viewed here. It is also available for high resolution download upon request. The ad urges viewers to contact the White House and Congress to advocate for the passage of a market-driven energy policy free from Obama’s government subsidies and interference. Crossroads GPS also launched a longer-form web-ad to complement the effort, which can be viewed here.


Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, went after Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Illinois and Aftermath

At ABC, Gary Langer sums up the reasons for Romney's double-digit win in Illinois:
An improved sense that he understands voters’ problems boosted Mitt Romney to victory in the Illinois primary, as did a less religiously focused, less strongly conservative electorate than he’s faced in other contests, especially to the south. But a shortfall among less well-heeled Republicans marks his continued challenges.
Indeed exit poll results indicated that Romney owed his victory in Illinois to two groups: voters with more than $100,000 in household incomes and those with college degrees. Among those less educated, or less well-off, he only split the vote with Rick Santorum.
Other factors helped Romney. Six in 10 Illinois voters said he has the best chance of beating Barack Obama, better than his average in exit polls this year. And Romney narrowly led Santorum as the candidate who “best understands the problems of average Americans.” It was only the second state, of seven where the question’s been asked, in which Romney’s prevailed on empathy. The other was Florida.
Among other advantages for Romney, the Illinois primary was characterized by far fewer evangelicals than most of the Southern contests and fewer voters seeking a candidate who shares their religious beliefs, two groups in which he’s struggled. Forty-three percent were evangelicals, about half their share in Alabama and Mississippi last week. Nearly half in those states were highly focused on shared religious beliefs; it was just a quarter in Illinois, fewer even than in Ohio early this month.
Bloomberg reports:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got a boost for his campaign's effort to paint his nomination as inevitable after a win in the Illinois primary led to an endorsement from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
"Now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall," Bush, the son of one president and brother of another, said in a statement today.
At  The Washington Times, Ralph Z. Hallow writes:

The organization that ignited the tea party as a national mass movement gave Mitt Romneyperhaps his biggest victory yet, deciding to drop its opposition to his candidacy, a top executive in the group told The Washington Times.
FreedomWorks, which organized the Sept. 12, 2009, mass demonstration on the Mall, says that while it will not give an explicit endorsement, the time has come for Republicans to unite around the former Massachusetts governor and focus on defeating President Obama.
“It is a statistical fact that the numbers favor Mitt Romney,”FreedomWorks Vice President Russ Walker told The Times on Tuesday. “We are dedicated to defeating Obama and electing a conservative Senate that will help Romney repeal Obamacare and address the nation’s economic and spending challenges.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Romney on "Free Stuff"

At Powerline, John Hinderaker writes:
 Campaigning in Illinois, Mitt Romney took a question from a woman who said, “So you’re all for like, ‘yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff. And ‘yay, like pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.” Romney’s answer was, I think, outstanding. The lines are drawn in this year’s presidential election with unusual clarity. 

Newtworld

Organization has never been Newt Gingrich's strong suit.  At Politico, Jonathan Martin and Ginger Gibson write:
To a degree rarely seen in presidential politics, Gingrich is his own strategist, scheduler and press secretary.
“He makes the decisions about 99.9 percent of the campaign,” said one Newtworld insider, recalling Gingrich’s logistical audibles, the most recent of which was when the candidate scrapped a Kansas swing entirely and decided to focus only on Alabama and Mississippi. “We could be headed to one place and he says, ‘No, let’s go somewhere else.’ It turns that fast.”
...
Gingrich officials complain of a dysfunctional decision-making process bereft of a single leader, besides the candidate, atop a sprawling organization.
Up through last month, Newtworld consisted of three layers of advisers. There were the longtime loyalists (his family, old friends like Randy Evans and Walker and aides such as R.C. Hammond, Joe DeSantis, and Vince Haley); operatives he added to bolster his bare-bones operation (Kellyanne Conway, Kevin Kellems, Martin Baker, Tony Dolan); and then there were the additional staffers he absorbed from Herman Cain when the former pizza CEO’s campaign collapsed (Bo Harmon, Jamie Brazil, John Yob).
The problem: Baker, the campaign’s political director, was hired to do the same sort of field and state-by-state work that Harmon, Brazil and Yob were brought on to do and they inevitably clashed. Harmon and Brazil were pushed out from the campaign in mid-February. Yob, a Michigan-based consultant, quit Gingrich and went to work for Rick Santorum.
Because of the in-fighting and Gingrich’s seat-of-pants decision making about where he wants to campaign, it’s been difficult to develop robust state operations.
“They never build any structure to live past the next state,” complained one GOP strategist who advised Gingrich in one key state earlier this year. “They’d go to the next state and have to reinvent the wheel.”
It has always been so. In the 1990s, Gingrich drew pictures (here and here) where he literally put himself at the center of his universe.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Romney Crushes Santorum in Puerto Rico

Romney won the Puerto Rico primary with over 80 percent of the vote. James Hohmann writes at Politico:
SENADOR PUERTORIQUENO GETS WHIPPED IN PUERTO RICO: Two days of campaigning on the island netted Rick Santorum just eight percent of the vote in yesterday’s primary. It means he gets zero of the 20 available delegates. The campaign sent him there after his two big wins in the Deep South last Tuesday because they thought his Roman Catholicism would be a good fit, but considering how badly he bungled questions about mandating English it seems obvious that he would have received more votes had he NOT gone at all. 538’s Nate Silver tweeted last night that the trip “might be the worst tactical choice of the campaign so far.” In our view, there’s no need to qualify the statement.
What were the Santorum people thinking?  Romney has been winning the Catholic vote.

The opportunity cost for Santorum was large.  The two days he spent in Puerto Rico were two days that he could have spent in Illinois or some other place where he might actually have won some delegates.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Romney's Illinois Cleanup

An earlier post suggested that Mitt Romney's Illinois guy had screwed up by failing to strike Santorum delegates.  This failure stemmed from one that was different and much worse, as Politico explains:
Mitt Romney’s vaunted organization nearly failed him in Illinois, where he only remained eligible for delegates on the ballot after a negotiated truce between his campaign and Rick Santorum’s people.
The problems stem from the campaign relying on Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He struggled to acquire enough signatures to qualify for Romney’s delegates and then had the statement of candidacy notarized out of state, a violation of state election rules.
...
Once the Romney campaign challenged Santorum’s petitions, the Santorum campaign counter-challenged, pointing out the “fatal error” of the Romney petitions being notarized in Massachusetts instead of Illinois, said Santorum’s Illinois state director, Jon Zahm.
“It’s a pretty serious mistake and I filed that challenge and they eventually asked me to withdraw my challenge in exchange for them withdrawing theirs,” Zahm said. “It was all a big waste of people’s time and money. But I didn’t use a law firm like they did, I did it on my own.”
Rutherford, who is widely expected to have ambitions to run for governor in 2014, then urged Romney’s Boston headquarters to withdraw the challenge to Santorum’s petitions, a request the campaign granted as part of what one Romney adviser called “home rule.”

Will California Matter?

At The Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes:
California’s June 5 primary, despite being the second-to-last contest, is looking more and more like it may determine whether Mitt Romney can win the Republican nomination or whether the party goes to its August convention without a nominee.
...
Part of the reason is the state’s sheer size. Because states are given three delegates to the Republican National Convention for every congressional district they have, California has a whopping 172 delegates. That’s more than 15 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination.
California is technically a winner-take-all state, but because basically all of its delegates are awarded by congressional district, there is the possibility that they get sliced up any number of ways.
That said, Romney is a strong early favorite in the state, leading every poll there this year and by 20 points in the most recent poll. What’s more, the state’s more moderate brand of Republicanism and highly urban population seem to play right into his hands.
The last line is not quite accurate.  Though some of California's Republican leaders have been moderate, its GOP primary electorate is conservative.  (Despite an open top-two primary for other offices, only registered Republicans may vote in the GOP presidential primary.)  A 2011 Field Poll found:
More California Republicans now identify themselves as strongly conservative in politics than did so twenty years ago. About half of all registered Republicans (49%) currently describe themselves
as strongly conservative in politics, up from 34% who said this in 1992. By contrast, the  proportion of this state’s Republicans who are middle-of-the-road in politics has declined from 39% to 28% over this period.
In the 2010 Senate primary, for instance, moderate Tom Campbell got only 21.7 percent of the vote despite a long and prominent public record.  In the gubernatorial primary, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman tried to shed their moderate backgrounds and ran as conservatives.

 



Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Impact of the Calendar

At The Weekly Standard, Jay Cost explains the impact of the 2012 GOP nomination calendar:

Right now, we are in the tenth week of the GOP primary battle, and about half of the delegates have been allocated. But check out the lines in 2008 and 2012, at this point in those cycles roughly 80 percent of the delegates had been allocated!
What does this mean in terms of Romney’s political strength? Put simply: it blunts it. This slow allocation of delegates gives poorly funded candidates time to stake out ground in smaller states, pick up a surprising win or two, gain momentum, and challenge the frontrunner.
He also compares Romney and McCain:
There have been to date 17 contests in the 2012 GOP battle that occurred on or before Super Tuesday in 2008. This gives us 17 apples-to-apples comparison of how Romney is doing this time compared to McCain last time. 
So what we see is that Romney actually has done better than McCain in 60 percent of the common battles so far. What’s more, Romney won 43.4 percent of the delegates in these contests, compared to 39.5 percent for McCain. And if we take the average vote haul in these states (weighted by number of delegates), Romney has won 35.0 percent of the vote compared to 29.3 percent for McCain.
In other words, Romney ’12 is running a pretty solid 4-to-6 percent ahead of McCain ‘08. Again, not the sign of a particularly dominant front-runner, but also not the sign of a uniquely weak one, either.
Though this article doesn't mention it, another change has enabled Gingrich and Santorum to stay in the race:  super PAC spending. Four years ago, their candidacies would have withered for lack of money. This time, Romney is outspending them by a large margin, but the super PACs are providing them with enough airtime to remain viable.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gingrich Withdrawal Might Not Automatically Help Santorum

Gallup reports:

Republican voters who prefer Newt Gingrich for the party's 2012 presidential nomination are as likely to name Mitt Romney as their second choice as they are to name Rick Santorum, suggesting the race would not tilt in Santorum's favor if Gingrich dropped out.

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted March 8-15 with more than 1,900 Republican registered voters, including a sample of 290 Gingrich supporters.
Some conservative Republicans have called for Gingrich to drop out of the race on the assumption that conservative primary voters would then unite behind Santorum as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney. But Gallup data indicate that Gingrich voters would not be likely to coalesce behind Santorum, suggesting that factors other than candidate ideology may be attracting voters to Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney.
Gallup can simulate Republican preferences without Gingrich in the race by removing Gingrich votes and reassigning them to his voters' second-choice candidate. The results of this procedure suggest that national GOP preferences would change little if Gingrich dropped out. The reconfigured preferences show Romney getting 40% of the vote and Santorum getting 33%. That seven-percentage-point Romney lead is essentially the same as the six-point (34% to 28%) Romney lead in March 8-15 interviewing with Gingrich support included.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Romney's Bad Luck and Good Luck

On p. 122 of Epic Journey, we discuss the role of chance and circumstance -- not exactly a new theme.  In this light, a couple of items about Romney are worthy of note.  In Politico, Alexander Burns notes several things that went right for Romney:
  • Several potentially strong opponents decided not to run;
  • Perry screwed up;
  • Iowa caucus vote-counters screwed up, giving Romney a psychologically important win on caucus night, even though Santorum won the final count.
  • Newt stayed in the race;
  • Newt and Santorum both failed to get on the Virginia ballot, and Santorum didn't file a full slate in Ohio;
  • Newt and Santorum failed to do some basic oppo on Romney.
At BuzzFeed, Zeke Miller reports that Romney's guy in Illinois failed to take advantage of what could have been another lucky break:
Mitt Romney could have assured himself victory months in advance in the now-crucial primary state of Illinois, but instead his Illinois campaign operation chose to allow Rick Santorum's delegates to remain on the ballot despite a failure to meet signature requirements.
Santorum, who has also failed to reach the ballot in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and parts of Ohio, fell short of the required signatures in 10 of the state's 18 congressional districts —and didn't submit any in four of them — Romney's campaign confirmed.
But Illinois Treasurer and Romney state chairman Dan Rutherford withdrew challenges in those districts, allowing Santorum the opportunity to win 30 delegates he would have missed out on.
The decision produced a quiet storm of outrage among Romney's allies in the state, who were bewildered by the decision to make a slam-dunk race competitive, and to grant an opening in the desperate scramble to reach the 1,144 delegates required for the Republican nomination.
"When there is a challenge filed because a campaign doesn't file the required number of signatures, it’s pretty much a no brainer," said a senior Romney supporter in Illinois. "The conservative folks started screaming bloody murder, and Rutherford caved."
"This isn't about Romney, it’s about Rutherford," he said

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Crossroads Groups v. Kerrey and McCaskill

Wednesday Math

Santorum got the headlines for winning Mississippi and Alabama. But  Romney seems to have won more delegates for the night.  From this morning's RCP count:







R
S
G
P

50
11
19
12
0

40
12
13
12
0

20
8
3
1
0

9
9
0
0
0

Total



40
35
25



Romney screwed up by letting expectations rise about Mississippi and Alabama.  But the result vindicates his decision to follow the Obama 2008 strategy of steadily building up a delegate count by getting a big chunk of big primaries and overwhelming chunks of smaller caucuses.

Byron York lays out Gingrich's strategy: keep Romney from winning 1,144 delegates and then overtake him in a contested convention.
"Our goal first is to keep Romney well below 1,000," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said an hour before Gingrich addressed a small crowd of disappointed supporters gathered at the Wynfrey Hotel. "It doesn't have to be 1,000, or 1,050 -- it has to be below 1,100." If Gingrich succeeds, Hammond continued, "This will be the first time in our party in modern politics that we're going to go to the convention floor."
...
To buttress the case, top Gingrich aide Randy Evans sent a memo to reporters on Tuesday noting that the Republican race is about to reach its precise mid-point in the awarding of delegates. By the time the race reaches Louisiana on March 24, about half of the required 1,144 delegates will have been awarded. Will Romney win at least half of those, or 572 delegates? If not, then what is the case that Romney is the inevitable nominee?
"Mathematically, the numbers are just not there," says the Evans memo. "Instead, with four candidates remaining, the GOP nomination now moves into uncharted waters, with history in the making."
The Romney campaign disputes Gingrich's calculation: "His math is wrong -- we've won OVER 50 percent of the delegates thus far," writes one Romney aide. But the fact is, Romney's lead is not overwhelming, as long as a rival candidate is thinking not about overtaking Romney but just about keeping him from reaching 1,144. Whatever the case, Gingrich's delegate argument is a rationale for his staying in the race, even after losing two states, Alabama and Mississippi, that some Gingrich advisors called must-win, at least before he didn't win them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Romney Ahead in Organization and Technology

Team Romney was confident going into Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio. As Sasha Issenberg writes at Slate, Romney already was ahead in the vote:
Even a late surge or Romney’s own collapse was unlikely to redraw the outcome. “You want to get as many people to vote absentee-ballot as you can—it saves money and banks votes,” says Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director. “So no matter what happens in the last week you have votes in the bank they can’t take away.”

Once-meaningful distinctions between early voting, voting-by-mail, and absentee ballots are being erased as 32 states now offer voters the chance to cast their ballot before Election Day without a justifying excuse (as traditional absentee balloting required). It probably amounts to the most radical change to American voting culture since the abolition of poll taxes. In 2008, one-third of Americans are believed to have voted by a method other than showing up in person at a polling place on the first Tuesday in November, some doing so as early as September.

Romney’s canny and competent handling of these varied early-voting processes this year has helped him accumulate a seemingly insurmountable lead in delegates. He is running the only modern, professional campaign against a field of amateurs gasping to keep up, and nowhere is that advantage more evident than in his mastery of early voting. Capitalizing on early-voting procedures demands formidable investment up front in the service of later savings.
The Guam Republican official tells NRO that one reason for Romney’s success was his organization. He earned [Governor Eddie] Calvo’s endorsement after organizing a conference call between his policy staff and the governor’s aides and chatting with Calvo himself over the phone. He also sent his son Matt to address the delegates. Santorum, meanwhile, did not reach out to the governor, though he did call in to a local radio show and hold a conference call with legislators.
The conference call, however, was less than successful. While chatting with them, Santorum revealed he knew little about the territory’s political problems — such as the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to the island, for example.
Santorum also paid dearly for a joke he had made at Guam’s expense while in New Hampshire. Pledging to eliminate the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Santorum had told a crowd that, since judges had life appointments, he would ship them to Guam to keep them as far away from the continental U.S. as possible. Guam Republicans weren’t pleased, and they showed their displeasure by giving a unanimous vote of confidence to Romney.
UPDATE: Another Guam Republican points out that Santorum and Newt Gingrich sent letters to be read at the convention. Santorum’s arrived on time for a reading, but Gingrich’s was a tad too late. It was mentioned in today’s papers.
And why was it such a smart move to organize little Guam?  Nate Silver tweets:
Based on turnout in Guam and Florida, a vote in Guam was almost 1,500 times more powerful under G.O.P. delegate rules.
At the Los Angeles Times, Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta sum up:
Romney has built an operation unrivaled in its vigilance and precision, which has allowed him to raise more money, reach more voters and rack up more delegates than any other candidate. Santorum has reveled in his paper-clip-and-baling-wire effort — relying on grass-roots supporters and low-dollar donors to propel his campaign.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The GOP and Afghanistan

Foreign policy is playing a secondary role in the campaign, but could become more importantThe Washington Post reports:
The massacre of at least 16 Afghan civilians, apparently by an American soldier, forced the Obama administration Sunday to confront yet another nightmare from the war zone and fresh evidence that patience back home is increasingly wearing thin.
A majority of Americans — 55 percent — believe that most Afghans are opposed to what the United States is trying to accomplish in that country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. About as many Americans — 54 percent — want the U.S. military to withdraw even before it can train the Afghan army to be self-sufficient, a pillar of President Obama’s war strategy.
While most Democrats and independents soured on the war a long time ago, the poll found that Republicans, for the first time, are evenly split on whether the ­decade-long war is worth fighting.
 The divide was reflected in Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s call Sunday to withdraw. “I think we’re risking the lives of young men and women in a mission that, frankly, may not be doable,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” Among Republican candidates, that view puts Gingrich closer to the position of Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), who has long called for an end to the war.
In contrast, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) have staked out the opposite position, criticizing Obama for pledging to withdraw U.S. combat troops by the end of 2014. They have said that declaring a firm timetable for ending the war is a sign of weakness and puts American troops at risk.
MSNBC reports:
Rick Santorum today said that the United States should apologize for the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians killed by an American soldier on Sunday.
"This was something that was deliberately done by an American soldier to innocent civilians," Santorum said to reporters after delivering an energy address here. "It’s something that the proper authorities should apologize for."

An often-repeated rallying cry from Santorum on the campaign trail has been that he would not apologize for America. He has been critical of President Obama for apologizing what U.S. military officials say was an accidental burning of Korans by soldiers in Afghanistan last month.
The difference, the former Pennsylvania senator seemed to indicate, is that the Koran burning was accidental, while the massacre in southern Afghanistan was not.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Romney Is Winning

Saturday was about math, as Maggie Haberman writes at Politico:
Mitt Romney wins Saturday delegate count,” read a memo from his campaign on Saturday, pointing out that while Santorum won as many as 34 delegates in the Kansas caucuses earlier in the day, Romney took in four more delegates with his wins in U.S. territories (by the campaign’s math, Romney has to win just under 50 percent of the remaining delegates, while Santorum has to take 65 percent and Gingrich has to take 70 percent).
“In what was hyped as a big opportunity for Rick Santorum, he again fell short of making a dent in Mitt Romney’s already large delegate lead,” the campaign wrote.
Romney also won 7 of 12 delegates at stake in Wyoming’s GOP county conventions Saturday.
Now, Romney’s foes are eying a different goal — keeping the front-runner from amassing the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination by the time the last votes are cast on June 26 in Utah, a winner-take-all state that is all-but-certain to be in Romney’s win column. It’s a play that would, they hope, set up a potential fight at the convention.
Nate Silver looks at county numbers:
In almost all cases, Mr. Romney’s results in urban and suburban counties have been better than in rural portions of the same states. But the urban-rural split seems to be relative to a different baseline in each region. He performed better in the most rural parts of Arizona, for instance, than he did the most well-off suburban counties in Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota.
Jay Cost has noticed a similar pattern when looking at the exit polls. In almost all states so far, Mr. Romney has performed better among voters who describe themselves as “somewhat conservative” than those who say they are “very conservative,” and better among voters who say they are moderate than those who describe themselves as conservative at all.
The geographic trends seem to outweigh this, however. In the Northeast, Mr. Romney has carried even very conservative voters by an average of 20 points so far. But in the South, excluding Florida, he has only tied his opponents even among moderate and liberal Republicans.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Island Hopping

Romney won Guam and the Mariana Islands. Go ahead and laugh: a delegate from Guam counts as much as a delegate from Kansas. AP reports:
Another victory for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. He's won the Republican caucus in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, picking up nine delegates from the U.S. territory.
Rick Santorum got 6%. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich got 3% each on the main island of Saipan.
Romney was considered the favorite. His son Matt and wife Laurie visited Saipan, and he was endorsed by Gov.Benigno R. Fitial, chairman of the island's Republican Party.
Fitial says he and the eight other delegates will support Romney at the Republican National Convention in Florida.
Romney also picked up all nine delegates from Guam during the GOP state convention there Saturday.
The outcome is another sign that Romney is following Obama's 2008 strategy:  build up a delegate lead even from the unlikeliest places, thus making it hard for the other candidate to catch up.  Four years ago, Lynn Sweet blogged:
Plouffe said the campaign--and how many covering presidential campaigns have ever delt with this--is "organizing heavily in Guam" with a May 3 contest.
In June of that year, The Washington Post reported:
With Clinton's name recognition and traditional strengths obvious in big states, such as California, New York and New Jersey, Hildebrand, Carson and Berman decided it would be more effective to deploy one volunteer to Idaho or Delaware than to send that same volunteer to Los Angeles or Yonkers, N.Y.

In short, Team Obama would make a virtue of necessity.
"It's very hard to gain a big advantage in small states," a senior Clinton staffer asserted shortly before the Super Tuesday contests, which were supposed to seal Clinton's victory.
He was wrong. The small states did matter. Between Idaho, Nebraska, Vermont, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Hawaii and Alaska, Obama would amass 118 delegates to Clinton's 57.
...
Among the states where Obama strategists worked virtually unchallenged by Clinton were Kansas, Idaho, Utah and Alaska, where Obama staffers used the Internet to reach voters in a district known as the Arctic Circle.