Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post-Iowa Speculation and Questions

I posted earlier at Plum Line about the 20% of Iowa caucus-goers who have been with Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich in recent polls but could wind up elsewhere if -- if -- those two candidates collapse. Which I think is very possible, but hardly certain.

But suppose it happens. And suppose that this week's flavor, Rick Santorum, benefits, jumping solidly into the top three and perhaps even winning.

So here are some questions...

1. Could Rick Perry keep going? Under this scenario, Perry doesn't melt down, but also picks up little or nothing from voters who had been undecided or with Bachmann or Newt. That gives him a solid 4th place. Is it enough for him to get past a dismal showing in New Hampshire and on to South Carolina? I suspect not, but it sort of depends on....

2. What do Republican party actors think of Rick Santorum, anyway? My impression is that so far they've basically ignored him, believing (as I did) that he was just an implausible nominee. That was true. But if he can finish third (or better!) in Iowa, and better than everyone but Paul and Romney, do those who don't want Romney start breaking sharply for Santorum? The general reaction I'm hearing to the Santorum semi-surge so far has been to dismiss him, but I'm increasingly unsure that's correct. As I said earlier this week, if the only real black mark against Santorum was that he got clobbered for re-election, it seems to me that his surge (if it happens) will be a lot less hollow than most of the others this year. Although he'll still, of course, have to perform well to keep it going.

3. Will Bachmann and Newt drop out? Again, this is on the assumption that they collapse down to 5% each, give or take a few points. Normally, both would, but neither is necessarily playing by the normal rules, or constrained by the normal forces that push losers to stop going.


  1. Crazy conspiracy theory of the day, as the ubiquitously unlikeable Romney passes 75% for the primary on intrade:

    Republican powerbrokers are trying to lose the 2012 election.

    The motive would be to hang around Obama's neck all manner of unpopular Republican policies that are in said powerbrokers' interests, if vehemently opposed by the ideologues within their tent.

    Take the ACA. That legislation, and its descendants, will likely hurt the well-set-up average folk in the Republican tent. We conservatives would prefer something like a high-deductible plan for the uninsured, to bring price transparency to health care, but deep down we're not sure that what works for elective procedures like lasik will be as effective for costly, desperate, end-of-life care.

    And if you're a deep-pocketed Republican power-broker, you recognize that the 20% of the population with virtually no health insurance creates problems that will sooner or later catch up with your enterprise, the one that is the source of your wealth. So in a respect Republican powerbrokers "like" the ACA, though of course they officially don't.

    Or take taxes. Rich rightwing powerbrokers don't like taxes. But if the historic US consumer class is to be kept afloat, it will take continued high, progressive, taxes. The blame for this state of affairs may reasonably be laid at the demotivating effects of the Great Society, but for the rich Republican, it is what it is, and they arguably care more about the long-term survival of their businesses than making cheap ideological points. In any event, if they get a cut of long-term capital gains to go with their ordinary income tax increases, they may nevertheless end up ahead.

    Cap and trade, regulation, etc., indeed perhaps most Obama policies may be seen by the powerbrokers as being in their long-term interest, even if they are ideologically anathema. As a result, they "want" these policies, even though they don't, and the best way to square that circle is to get those policies instituted in the regime of the enemy.

    It seems crazy, but is it any crazier than the increasingly high likelihood or "Ladies and gentleman, presenting your Republican presidential nominee, Willard Mitt Romney!"

  2. CSH, are you suggesting that wealthy GOP donors really think that Obama's policies will be, in the long term, better for their business?

    That they believe doing something to fix rampant inequality and social immobility is more important than retaining their Bush-era marginal tax rates?

    That they don't really care about the divisive cultural issues that animate the party base?

    Sounds like your "deep-pocketed Republican power-brokers" have just turned into Obama Democrats.

  3. On second thought, CSH.... I'm wondering... what action could wealthy Republican donors possibly take that would signal to you that they actually want the GOP to win in 2012? After all, don't you agree that Romney is the most "electable" viable candidate?

  4. Andrew, thanks for taking up the your 10:03 post, I believe your first question could be answered "yes" while replying "no" to the 2nd and 3rd. Perhaps the Koch brothers are a good illustration of the difference.

    In their public political lives, the Koch brothers are pretty obviously not worried about rampant social inequality or cultural decay, preferring low taxes to ameliorating either. Privately, they're the owners of Koch Industries, a ~$100 B conglomerate among whose subsidiaries is Georgia-Pacific.

    According to wikipedia, G-P is around 20-25% of Koch revenues and more than 50% of the workforce. GP makes paper brands we all know, such as Brawny, Quilted Northern, Dixie cups, etc. At issue is whether, 20 years hence, GP sells more Brawny in an ACA-world then one in which the marginalized are left to wither on the health care vine. The assumption here is that GP will be better off (i.e. sell more branded, somewhat-more-expensive paper towels) with ACA and similar policies, and further that the Koch Brothers are well aware of this fact.

    I suspect the Koch brothers and those like them are serious about their ideology, but at the same time I suspect they love their business quite a bit more than the gasbags at their annual conservative retreat. Its almost a tautology to say that Obama's policies set up better for the long-term health of their company than the laissez-faire alternatives they openly espouse.

  5. (continued)

    Continuing with the second comment, I'm really just having a bit of fun here, given the cover of anonymity its fun to think about the possibility that the donors aren't rooting for a win, but I'd not likely push that argument if I were on the hook for I'm not sure what the donors would do to make it appear they want to win, since, in reality, they most likely do as it stands now.

    That caveat aside, Romney's an interesting frontrunner, no? I agree that he's the most viable of the current crop of misfits (though I have a soft spot for Ron Paul), but he earned that stature largely through his own resources. Not that there's anything wrong with that, other than the deep-pocketed insiders didn't pull Romney to the front of the pack; he pretty much pulled himself. I find that curious, particularly since, as you note, he's the most electable candidate (or would seem that way).

  6. Jonathan,

    The only real party actors that I see having driven Newt's fall have been the big donors that didn't give him money (for months) to return fire on the better funded Romney and Ron Paul (the latter whose funding is mostly fanatic small donors). Yes George Will ripped him, but Giuliani defended him and ripped Romney. And Cheney defended Newt too.

    The other thing is who counts as "party actors"? It sounds like the Vander Plaats endorsement, whirling questions notwithstanding, boosted Santorum (though TPM suggests Paul is winning the Evangelicals in Iowa right now). Does someone who attempts to subvert the party but attracts influence in the process, like Paul or Vander Plaats, count as a party actor if he can move voters?

    And the media moves the most voters. Nate Silver wrote a piece that the Santorum surge was sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy: they speculated about it enough until it happened. I suspect he's right. In fact, Drudge began pushing him before his polling rose. Is Drudge and the media party actors? They seem to have the most influence and their interest seems less in pushing their approved candidates than in making a shiny new story to attract ratings be it Santorum or Cain.

  7. I don't know if Santorum is going to be seen as a viable candidate for November. I think he comes across as too much of a religious conservative to win over the independents.


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