Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Palin, Huck, Romney, and Pence...It's 2012 Time!

You know, ranking the contenders for a presidential nomination that is months off is a mug's game; only willfully naive reporters such as my brother -- oh, and the folks at National Journal -- would be willing to do such an obviously foolhardy thing.

Wild speculations about such a list?  Well, that's very different; that's what every responsible analyst political junkie should be doing.

That said, let's go!  After all, it's only about fourteen months to the Iowa Caucuses.

The first thing that I think these sorts of things should do is eliminate the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, dreams.  Two categories, here: those candidates who do not meet conventional criteria for a plausible run for the White House, and those candidates who are essentially disqualified by a position on the issues that runs up against a party faction with veto power.

I don't see any pro-choice picks on either list, so I don't think any of the candidates fails the latter test.   There is no precedent under current conditions for a Member of the House, or a former Member who achieved no other high office, to win a presidential nomination.  That suggests Mike Pence (#4 on David S. Bernstein's list, #8 per National Journal), Newt Gingrich (DSB #22, NJ #7), Paul Ryan (DSB #23), and Ron Paul (NJ #15, sort of) are highly unlikely to win. 

I'm a little less confident of the next category, but once again there's really no precedent for someone to jump from achieving statewide office in the midterms to winning a nomination.  Impossible?  As with the Members of the House, no.  But highly improbable?  Yup.  So I'd eliminate Rand Paul (NJ #15, sort of), Marco Rubio (DSB #12, NJ fifth on the unnumbered  also-rans list, so #20), John Kasich (DSB #10 (!)), and Pat Toomey (DSB #14).

Going back to issue disqualifications...David put local (for him) hero Scott Brown at #24.  Hey, if you insist on going to 25, you'll get some oddball picks, but Brown's voting record has been very moderate; there's no chance he's going to win the nomination.  Libertarian Gary Johnson (NJ #17) is clearly veto-bait for multiple party factions.  Ah, National Journal included George Pataki at #19...he's knocked out on abortion, if I recall correctly.  Also, is it really likely that Condi Rice (DSB #19) holds no veto-bait positions?  Last one: it's not about issues, but John Cornyn (DSB #16, NJ #16) certainly made plenty of Tea Party enemies as NRSC Chair without having a majority to show for it; I think that means he'd be vetoed by that party group.

So out of 28 names on the combined lists, I'd put 12 on the improbable-to-impossible list, leaving 16 some of whom have shown little apparent intent to date (Jindal, Jeb Bush, Kyl, Quayle).

So what's left?

Heavyweights...candidates who have been on a national ticket, or run before with some real success, or otherwise qualify as heavyweights for some reason: Romney, Palin, Huckabee.  OK, so they're light heavyweights; there's no '88 Dole/Bush here.  On top of relatively weak "heavyweight" credentials, each has serious problems with one or more GOP factions, and it's not clear yet whether they can overcome that.  (Quayle and Jeb Bush would be in this group, and it's not really clear that either has any such problems, but they're not running.  Right?).

Middleweights: candidates who are or were recently statewide elected officials with either a serious campaign in place, or or leaders of important party factions, or appear well-positioned to put a serious campaign in place, mainly because it's a big state: Pawlenty, Perry, Thune, Barbour, Christie, DeMint. 

Longshots: candidates who don't quite fit in the above category, perhaps because they aren't really running, or because their "recent or current statewide elected" is iffy: Daniels, Santorum, McDonnell.  Jindal and Kyl would go here, too.

The odds are very good that the nominee will come from one of the top two lists.  The more I think about it, the more Perry, DeMint, and Barbour appear to me to be very serious contenders, although I wouldn't rule Romney, Palin, or Huck out.  Our of the second list...I can't quite see why any GOP faction picks Pawlenty over the other choices; the same basically goes for Thune, plus he has the disadvantage of votes to defend.  Christie?  Well, it's not quite clear yet how he plays if he's an actual candidate; truth is, he really belongs on the longshot list.  As for the other three: DeMint is a clear leader of the conservative wing of the conservative party, without straying (as far as I know) into the kind of territory that gets some of the candidates he endorses into trouble.  If they insist on supporting a factional candidate, and can agree on one, they may be able to pull it off, especially if Palin (whose Palin faction overlaps with the conservative faction) drops out well before Iowa.  Perry and Barbour, on the other hand, appear to me to be acceptable to every faction within the party, as well as being better positioned (through fundraising potential for Perry, and good personal relationship for Barbour) to cash in on it than others.

Of course, we're also talking about a party that cheered on O'Donnell and Angle and Buck and Miller, so perhaps they'll do something totally off the wall.  But that's how I see the field so far.

(I talked about the Palin faction here, and about Thune and DeMint here).


  1. We are there (2012). Candidates are already jockeying for position and will begin announcing in early 2011. Pundits are already 2012 gazing (Geez, they are already speculating on candidate strategy and wrongly at that.). State governments will also start considering the positioning of their states' primaries once the new session convene in December and January (and beyond).

    There will be ups and downs, but I think you've got the right candidates in the right categories here, Jonathan. Let the fun begin.

  2. Yeah, I can see Perry being serious in the way that Shrub was serious. Hopefully, though, people will realize that "Governor of Texas" is not a good stepping stone for President...this time.
    The candidate will either be annointed by Palin, runner-up to her when she drops out, or Palin herself. She commands 15-20% of the population, can bring them to the polls, and can do no wrong in their eyes. Not enough to win, which should scare the other 10-15% of the population in the GOP primary system, but enough to make her the sole front-runner here.

  3. Who's the best hater? Ceteris paribus, they'll nominate the best hater. (Nixon's Law)

  4. DXM,

    I'd call it resentment, not hate. It doesn't always work, though, or else Bob Dole would have won a lot more GOP nominations. But I agree it's something that's always played well among GOP primary voters, and accounts for the popularity of Palin's "I'm a victim" act.

  5. I think DeMint is emerging as the biggest middleweight fish. I think Barbour won't play well in the primary system because, honestly, he LOOKS too Southern, and I don't think it'll play that well in IA and NH. Palin has a shot at IA, sadly, but I really think that she'll finish FAR from contention in NH: so far, that her epitaph will get written, and that will allow DeMint and Romney to slug it out for SC/NV. I could VERY easily see the primaries playing out like this:
    IA: Palin, Palin, Palin. (Media still writing their early narrative)
    NH: Chaos. Palin "loses." Media now call it wide open again.
    SC: DeMint is so much a favorite son, that the media essentially ignore the contest.
    NV: Romney wins, the media somehow forget that Mormons make up a significant portion of NV Republicans, and he gets Joementum.

    Where does that leave it? YIKES. A super-Tuesday contest, with DeMint, Romney, Palin and perhaps Huckabee (the lovable 2nd place finisher in 3 of those 4?) all scrambling.

    We could very easily still have meaningful Republican primary politics in the 2nd month, folks. That doesn't happen too often in the modern age. In fact, I can't remember it EVER happening, but I'm willing to admit my memory could be fuzzy.

  6. We could very easily still have meaningful Republican primary politics in the 2nd month, folks.

    Two months of them all playing 'Get me to the right of thee' and we'll see a colors-reversed version of the McGovern Opening, Mondale Variation.

  7. You need to strike the following people who have personal characteristics that make them unacceptable to the Republican primary voters:

    Romney (Mormon)
    Rice (Black/Unmarried Woman)
    Bush (Surname)
    Perry (He has a secret)

  8. William,

    I think Romney's religion is a negative for some, but I don't think it draws a veto from organized groups, and so I think he could win. I see no evidence that Republicans won't vote for a Bush. As for Perry, I was wondering whether to mention the rumors...but on the whole, I think rumors (true or not) are not a deal-breaker for organized Republican groups.

  9. Aside from the same-sex angle, there have been similar rumors about the Palins - adultery, divorce in the offing.

  10. DeMint and Pence voted against TARP. That will be a big selling point for many on the right, much as Obama's timely opposition to the Iraq war was for liberals.

    @William Ockham

    Off topic for the thread, but I'm curious about your thoughts on the midterms. You once predicted, 'confidently', a different outcome.

  11. Hasn’t Perry made comments about succession from the USA? That won’t play well with a lot of people. Easy to make ads about that too. Barbour was a tobacco lobbyist for god sakes.

  12. I doubt Perry will run. Here in Texas it is a poorly kept secret that Perry is not heterosexual.

    It doesn't matter to me, but he would never survive a primary in the Republican Party and he knows it.

  13. Yeah, during the sesquicentenary of the Civil War, a pro-secesh candidate is a real winner, right.

    The fact that Perry's pro-secession comments have been ignored recently, when they would have automatically rendered him unfit for national office from 1865 until, say, 2008, is telling about the moribund nature of the American commentariat.

  14. I think this group is why Democrats are less hysterical than to be expected after getting stomped last week. The combination of a pretty weak field with the rightward sprint the primaries will require should make an Obama reelection pretty easy so long as the economy doesn't tank again. The influence of the Tea Party, which undoubtedly helped this year in thinly-sliced House elections, will come back to bite the party on the ass in 2012.

  15. More on Perry...

    1. If the rumors didn't slow him down at all in the GOP primary against a serious opponent in Texas last year, why should they affect him among GOP primary voters nationally? Is Texas more tolerant?

    2. As for impression is that there's a fair amount of Confederacy worship, or at least faux-admiration, among Republicans even in states outside the South. I doubt it would be used against him (and he was fairly careful in his wording, IIRC; he didn't actually say anything treasonous).

  16. If these are all the Reps can offer, what a sad lot. Obama in 2012 for sure.

  17. Maybe because Perry's been in Texas politics for a long enough time and so through exposure whatever rumors there are have been balanced against other considerations?

    If so, that dynamic won't necessarily apply in a national race.

  18. An overlooked point about Palin is that, like Huckabee and Ron Paul, she has a donor base that will probably continue to support her after she is clearly no longer viable. She can stay in the race as long as she wants, splitting the conservative vote. That means Romney wins, unless another candidate effectively competes with him for the moderate/establishment vote.

  19. Perry's biggest vulnerability may be his flip-flop on TARP. He denounced it in his recent book, but the AP reported that as head of the Republican Governors Association he joined with his Democratic counterpart, Jim Manchin (now newly elected WV senator), in writing a letter to members of Congress supporting passage of TARP.

  20. It doesn't matter if Perry wrote the TARP bill.

    The only questions any respectable entrail-reading haruspex needs to ask about any (not-gayer-than-a-French-tromonbone) prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidates: "Does he or she piss liberals off? To what extent does he or she piss liberals off?"

    There are no actual policy differences on the right worth fighting over. Everything, everything else has boiled away except ressentisment, spurred by blind rage that there's a colored man in their White House.

    They're going to nominate their McGovern. Relax and enjoy the ride.

  21. A couple of minor things to keep in mind.
    First, this is the Republican primary system. That means that while you get style-points for seeming "electable" and "looking Presidential", that doesn't actually get any votes directly; it's only a consideration. "Sensible moderate" may play well to the media but you gotta fire up your supporters to actually, you know, vote.
    Second, these primaries are mostly open, but will, to some extent, be closed so that only registered Republicans can vote. This will be funny dynamics with the voting populations involved.
    Third, and maybe this most importantly, the people that the GOP "won over" with the Tea Parties, are not interested in compromise, electability, etc. This is the red-meat-eating, fired-up base. Looping back to the first point, A Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee will command more fervent support, important in getting bodies into voting booths.
    Fourth, this is the principle game in town. No Democratic contest that year to compete for attention. All eyes on you, so every thing you've ever said or done will be poured over. In public polling, "undecideds" will drop, and "unfavourables" will most likely rise because you can't please everyone all the time. Consequently, those with rock-solid support, no matter how large, have an advantage because they can only gain.
    Fifth, its a full year away from starting in earnest. That's a long time, politically-speaking, for things to go wrong. Especially for elected officials having to defend votes, policies *and* outcomes over the next year and change. For recently-out-of-office officials, you have to keep a profile high up, which includes major media exposure. Expect that that'll loop back to #3.
    Finally, sixth, the President pays $400k, which isn't small potatoes, except when compared to FOX's salaries. The job is also harder than an AEI-endowed Chair that pays $200k to give $10k speeches. Some people will be running to get those perks, some people won't really run in order to avoid those perks. The list of candidates is second-hand speculation.


  22. Pawlenty is said to poll well with moderates despite being anti-TARP. If that holds up he may be able to bridge the conservative/moderate gap and be a serious threat to Romney.

  23. David Tomlin said...
    Aside from the same-sex angle, there have been similar rumors about the Palins - adultery, divorce in the offing.

    Even if true, those are not things Republicans hold against other Republicans. Does anyone pretend to think Gingrich is faithful to his third wife?

  24. @David Tomlin

    Well, I was wrong. Really, spectactularly wrong. I think I know now why. It doesn't change my opinion that the R's are doomed in the long run. Look at the votes of Hispanics in this elections and then look at the demographic projections for 2030.

    Here is where I went wrong. I believed that White, non-Hispanic voters had outgrown the "economic" voting that have largely determined the outcome of elections in the last 60 years. I now believe that I understand the mechanism underlying the relationship between economic performance and voting behavior. Here is what I think happens for white voters. Strong partisans show up and vote no matter what, but weak partisans (independent leaners) are motivated to vote against the other side by bad economic news. They may be motivated to reward their side in good times, but the evidence there is more iffy.

  25. @Jonathan Bernstein

    You don't know the foot soldiers of the religious right if you think being Mormon isn't disqualifying.

    You might be right about Bush, but I have my doubts.

    As for Perry, it is not the rumors he has to worry about. It is the fact that Karl Rove knows what the truth is. Rove wants to play king-maker and he won't support another Texas governor. Have you seen what Rove is willing to do? And now he can use money to fund front groups to do the real dirty work.


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