Friday, January 7, 2011

Blogging Brothers (and some Housekeeping)

For those of you who just can't get enough 2012 nomination talk, or for that matter just can't get enough of me, I'll pass you along to a back-and-forth between myself and my brother the award-winning reporter, in which we talk Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Gary Johnson, and the rest of the motley gang.  Enjoy!

As long as I'm doing a quasi-housekeeping post anyway, I might as well apologize for various comments that were eaten up by whatever it is that blogger does.  Just for the record: I delete spam, and a (very) few times I've deleted comments that I thought were abusive or otherwise inappropriate.  I do notice that long comments bounce, at least sometimes, so you might want to think about breaking up a longish comment into two pieces -- or at least checking back to see if it posted successfully.  If you really can't get through, email me and let me know.   As I've said before, I always read every comment on this site, although I don't always have a chance to respond.  And of course feel free to email me with anything you don't want, for whatever reason, to post on comments.


  1. I'd have commented on the Boston Phoenix if they let me do it without giving my email.

    I disagree with you that these races are usually wrapped up before Iowa (and am unsure if you mean primaries in general or just the GOP). For the GOP, in the open primaries since 1980, the eventual nominee lost Iowa 3 out of 5 times, and the 2 that didn't lost New Hampshire, leaving the race somewhat in flux. There is usually a consensus frontrunner (who is usually the "next in line"-provided they have sufficient gravitas- though I know that that's meme has been criticized here.) In any case, that frontrunner has most of the time gets thrown for a loop where their winning becomes a genuine question. In any case, it strikes me as fairly obvious the conditions and candidates for 2012 make that unlikely, that Romney will play the frontrunner role but substantially more vulnerable than past ones.

    As for your brother's rankings, 2 of his top 5 (Perry and DeMint) have said they're not running, and one (Pence) has scheduled Lincoln Day dinners all around Indiana through the winter which suggests a guber. run. I agree with him that in today's world a rep. could win, especially Pence who Erickson endorsed and George Will raved about and would excite multiple GOP factions. Anyway, you have to move down in rank people like this who at least on the face of it seem unlikely to run. This includes Jeb at #9. Barbour is also too high at no. 2. It's not about his race comments. He can't win the nomination. I don't know that Palin isn't running as a Tea Party candidate but she has a gravitas problem and the CW even among the party is becoming that she's unelectable. I think the odds of her skipping the race are higher than people realize. Which makes the whole thing somewhat hard to predict because she has a huge effect if she runs or endorses someone else. He also has Huckabee too low. Huckabee may well skip the race but if Palin does and/or Obama looks vulnerable in 6 months, he may get in and would have good odds of winning IA and SC. I'd rank them:
    1. Romney
    2. Pawlenty
    3. Thune
    4. Huckabee
    5. Palin
    6. Daniels
    7. Pence
    8. Gingrich
    9. Barbour
    No one else so far.

  2. The first thing that leaps out at me is David Bernstein's assertion that criticism of Sarah Palin makes her 'more popular among the base'. Is there any evidence for this cliche?

    Palin, Romney, and Huckabee have been neck-and-neck in primary polls for months. If all the criticism Palin gets is making her more popular with 'the base', wouldn't she have broken out by now?

  3. "Is there any evidence for this cliche?"

    Well, I think there's evidence that full-on attacks don't make her LESS popular. Look at 2008- it wasn't the initial salvo about her family and light experience that hurt her, it was the later revelations that she didn't know what she's talking about (crystallized by the Couric interviews, but there was a lot of other stuff).

    The first were more typical political hit-jobs- stories planted in the press, sharp-elbowed press releases, deep oppo research- and while I wouldn't say it backfired (the McCain-Palin ticket rose in the polls, but correlation =/= causation, and all that), it didn't HELP her opponents, y'know?

    The second, though, the thing that seemed to sink her popularity and bring the ticket down with it (again, a slight correlation proviso, but there was a lot of polling showing that she made people less likely to vote for McCain), wasn't really your typical political attack. Couric's questions, for example, just weren't that probing; it was almost a perfect example of a "give 'em enough rope" strategy. Now, an opponent can use that in an attack (pretty sure Obama-Biden did) and can even possibly BAIT Palin into doing more stuff like that, but it requires a lot more subtlety, a defter touch, and a pretty major affirmative move from Palin herself. Her refusal to go to any media outside the conservative bubble indicates that that exact trick won't even work again. And while such a closed-down media strategy poses it's own problems, those problems aren't really attacks, y'know?

    Okay, continued below, 'cause I can't stop myself...

  4. As for the last two years, I feel like there have been few real attacks on Palin. No Republican had an incentive to attack a potential rival before the Midterms, and the highest Dems seemed content to ignore her (the lower level Dems get little attention). You've seen a few more things like the Couric interviews (the reality show seemed to prove that she doesn't even know what she's talking about in hunting) and she wins few plaudits for only talking to Fox and Hugh Hewitt, but again, I don't feel like those are real attacks.

    So, I don't feel like there's evidence that attacks help her, but there's some evidence that traditional attacks don't hurt her. The problem is, the things that don't work are probably the most likely kind of attacks for Republican Primary Opponents. Few of the Republicans seem to have the kind of deft touch to bait her into revealing her own character weaknesses, and just coming right out SAYING she has those weaknesses seems ineffective so far. And it's not like they all really disagree on policy. You could probably get some leverage on "Authenticity" attacks- she's not who she says she is- but who can carry that message? Romney can't call out someone else for being inauthentic, and even guys like Huckabee and Barbour would have trouble saying, "Her 'common sense' is really just simplistic bromides".

    So I guess my bottom line is, several traditional attacks don't seem to help, though it's unclear if they hurt other candidates. She certainly often exposes her own weaknesses, and that hurts her. But Republican candidates are a lot better, and a lot more apt to use, traditional attacks rather than wait around for her to hang herself. So it IS an interesting challenge.

  5. Palin is now holding a great hand to deter attacks from fellow Republicans. Her star status gives her the freedom to get in the race as late as next Fall. No other candidate will attack her because she may or may not run (and she's a vindictive person). Having Palin mobilize her supporters against you or for a rival could be politically catastrophic. Note the excerpts from Pawlenty's new book that leaked heaping praise on her and interviews where he does the same and says she absolutely can be president. While Haley Barbour insulted her when asked if she's qualified to be president. If she skips the race now, he's screwed. Of course, even if she runs and drops out, she'd wield the same influence that would disarm all her rivals. So everyone will kiss her ass.

    But the party establishment, conservative press and other are undermining her without fear: Eric Erickson and George Will dismissed her as unelectable, Rove has slammed her gravitas, Bush 41 and wife were dismissive. Those attacks may not widen her popularity but they probably make her base of support more motivated, which still helps her. Liberal attacks on her really help her with the GOP electorate. The smartest thing Democrats could do would be to have Nancy Pelosi dismiss Palin as a non-entity during an interview just before the primary.


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