Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Up to 11

WaPo/ABC Iowa: Newt 33, Romney and Paul 18, Perry 11.
NYT/CBS Iowa: Newt 31, Romney 17, Paul 16, Perry 11.

Yes, I'm focusing on the last name on that list. Perry's within ten points of second place in Iowa? And still has plenty of money to spend?

I'm not predicting anything; in fact, I should note that the two polls above, both released yesterday, were much better for him than the two over the weekend, which had him below 10% and behind at least one other longshot. So he could be moving up, or it could just be random variation and he's really in a pack with Bachmann and Santorum, and that's not where anyone wants to be. But still...if those numbers released yesterday are accurate, Perry's certainly within hailing distance of getting one of the proverbial three tickets out of Iowa.

And if he does that? Hard to tell. One real possibility is that after a Newt/Paul/Perry trifecta in Iowa, Romney could actually just collapse, finishing behind at least two of Newt, Perry, Paul, and Huntsman in New Hampshire, and basically hitting the end of the line right there. Another is that Newt's bubble pops (we've yet to see how his support lasts once he's targeted, and supposedly Paul is about to run ads against him in Iowa). There's no guarantee that Newt even finishes in the top three in Iowa. Even if he does win, the expectation game could hurt Newt coming out of Iowa, especially if GOP elites are looking to take him down (which of course I believe they are); they could treat a win by him in the caucuses as a foregone conclusion, and support a pro-Romney or pro-Perry spin coming out of that state. That matters. Everyone remembers that Bill Clinton won the spin game in New Hampshire in 1992 by famously declaring himself the "Comeback Kid" after finishing second, but that sort of thing is a lot easier to sustain for a candidate who has plenty of surrogates repeating the message. And it's even easier if many of those in-effect surrogates are technically neutral party elites who just happen to buy your message and not the message of your opponent, not just on air but in how they influence TV producers and correspondents. If there are lots of those people who are ready and willing to jump on you...well, you can get the Howard Dean Scream.

(Granted, Dean was already sunk before the Scream, but it's still an excellent example of how post-primary spin can be spun).

Again, not predicting anything, other than that I'm fairly sure that the contest in Iowa is still very interesting. And that among the still-viable possibilities coming out of Iowa in addition to the Gingrich/Romney contest everyone is anticipating are a Gingrich/Perry, a Romney/Perry, or a Romney/Perry/Gingrich race, in each case with Ron Paul as a plus-one. It's even possible that one of the others will spike up and wind up the "other" candidate to Romney, or even to Perry -- we could have, for example, a Perry/Huntsman race after New Hampshire. Or I suppose a Romney/Santorum battle, although I really don't see that one coming. And note that all of those potential races would be in the context of what we do already know, which means that we would know a lot about the likely outcomes.

Long way to go. Even if it is just a month.


  1. Roy Perkins, impartial dogcatcherDecember 7, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I am dubious about the assumption, often stated here and common in the blogosphere, that Gingrich will start losing support once journalists and his opponents start bringing up the less pleasant facts of his past. There seem to me to be two major objections to that. One is that the facts in question are not revelations, such as the sexual harrassment charges against Cain, but common knowledge that has long been a matter of public record. One cannot assume that Gingrich's supporters do not already know it all. The other objection is that, even if the supporters do not know it, they do know Gingrich, in a general sort of way. It is a basic element of human nature that, when confronted with new information about an acquaintance, one accomodates the information to the impression one has already formed; one seldom throws that impression out and evaluates the person anew, unless the information is especially shocking (which I do not think Gingrich's past really is).

  2. First, wanted to say this is one of my favorite Plain Blog posts. I love the level of analysis, call it "semi-meta", not quite 30,000 foot but not in the muck of day-to-day slings and arrows. If the Plain Blog had a suggestion box, I would recommend more posts like this one.

    Speaking of which, this got me wondering why cable news is so focused on said slings and arrows, why they rarely take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If you watch CNBC or Bloomberg, you know that their guests are almost always reading the tea leaves of the economy or markets or governments, so why don't the cable newsies? Why must they treat politics like an episode of Inside Edition? Oh. That's why. (*WARNING: NSFW language in the link).

    One other aside to Roy Perkins, I'd modify your second good point about Gingrich and say that Gingrich's personal failings matter less than his commitment to the cause where evangelicals and other zealots are concerned. His thrice-divorced, morally indefensible life is not a showstopper if they're convinced he will fight for the cause. (IE, the problem with Romney is not that he has from time to time seemed liberal, its that he seemed to like it and seems to still want to be one).

    What would haunt Gingrich more is his allegedly abrasive personality, which should result in a shorter shelf life for his support from the kingmakers.

  3. In the case of Cain, Mr. Perkins, the various personal charges may have been a convenient way of getting rid of him without having to confront the inanity of his enunciated positions, and the inanity of his enunciations - that is, without having to confront the other main reasons he briefly ascended in the polls. The Cain candidacy was an harrassment of the body politic, turned by dream logic and denial into a confusing affair of the conservative heart better forgotten and to be spoken of as little as possible going forward.

    Gingrich is different kind of relationship altogether, a serial monogamist politically as well as personally, offering a Tiffany collection of shiny ideological baubles to the conservative who doesn't want to be alone this Xmas. Going out with Mitt falls into a different category: It does nothing for your self-image or your status. Metaphors that come to mind for dating Mitt are kissing your sister, going to the prom with your brother, getting your date from an "escort" service, as well as some others less printable in a nice blog like this one.

    Gingrich will fizzle, it's just a question of how disastrously, which is also a question of timing, and also a question of just how desperate things really are (or turn out to be) for his movement, his party, and/or the country. Perry will not be much of an improvement, if he ends up coming from behind as JB thinks is possible: He represents conservatism in its most bullheadedly stupid form, pure government-destructive-governance, the perfect (oxy)moron.

  4. Roy, saying that Gingrich's supporters already know about Gingrich begs the question, which is the extent to which he's likely to gain NEW supporters going forward, and also hold on to those who currently "support" him but only weakly because they haven't really thought about it yet. Presumably there are people who are going to vote in GOP primaries who are either uncommitted at this point or willing to switch based on new information. And for most voters, just about any political information is "new" because most people don't focus much on politics -- it's just a lot of background noise most of the time. So, for example, there may be voters picking "Gingrich" right now when a pollster asks them, just because they have a vague memory that he was an important Republican leader in the past, or because of the impression they got from one recent debate (or brief news clips thereof). They may know very little beyond that, and therefore be quite willing to change their minds based on information from oppo advertising and the upcoming saturation media coverage.

  5. I understand Erick Erickson is reconsidering his opposition to Huntsman. And someone out there seems to be pushing a whispering campaign to the effect that Huntsman is really a lot more conservative than people think. Do you suppose this is the next surge on the horizon?

  6. Scott M - personally I see no reason why it couldn't be.

    Huntsman and Obama both present as cool (in the colloquial, not McLuhanesque sense). If no great exogenous shocks intrude, if the economy continues to flat-line or improve at a glacial pace, then it could be a straight-up ideological comparison.

    If conservatives (and liberals, too) really want a grown-up comparison of views, an ideological test, then Huntsman v Obama might fit the bill (and it might test the usefulness of economic determinism a la Matt Jarvis, too). The thing is, do conservatives really WANT their views fully explored and tested? Do liberals? The passionless affair might turn into the most explosive contest of all, with little opportunity to deflect the real contradictions of our general situation via personal baggage and mere contingencies.

  7. Ron Paul will win Iowa; a combination of notRomneys, notNewts and true Paul believers will put him on top.

    Remember, tactical voting is a big part of the caucus setup; it's reasonable to assume that Bachmann, Santorum, Huntsman and fringe candidate caucus-goers will vote Paul as a placeholder, confident that Ron Paul's ceiling will remain intact. Their candidates will live to fight another day. The notRomneys aren't really a good fit for Gingrich, and the notNewts (aka establishment GOPers) have failed to support Romney with any amount of enthusiasm to date.

    Kicking the can down the street is the most likely Iowa result.

  8. "the problem with Romney is not that he has from time to time seemed liberal, its that he seemed to like it and seems to still want to be one"

    This attack has been utterly devastating to Romney, and to me is entirely baffling. Unusually for a political attack, it has come not so much from other candidates or campaigns as from Republican voters themselves, acting in a seemingly undirected way (though no doubt with contacts of some sort with Tea Party colleagues).

    Because of it, Romney has had precious little opportunity to fight back - the idea that Romney is some sort of Manchurian Candidate Liberal is totally bizarre, but his competitors to the extent they are saying it are doing so quietly and under a lot of code.

    I don't think, unlike Anon 5:51, that Bach/Frothy/Hunt supporters will vote Paul as a placeholder; the aim will be to push them ahead of each other, no? Maybe I misunderstand the caucus process.

    And yes, I think Huntsman is the next one to get a push, as I've thought all along. But to be honest, I thought Gingrich would be done in a week and he's had much more staying power.

    Though if he lasts a month longer, it will be interesting to see how Gingrich's numbers in IA and NH will be spun; he is sure to get well below his polling numbers in both places.

  9. I still think this whole thing ends up in a deeply unenthusiastic embrace of Mitt Romney as the nominee, but with him pulling everyone together as the economy continues to founder through the winter and spring. It'll end up a conventional election.

  10. You're usually really good with pop culture references. So I was disappointed when you didn't include a Spinal Tap reference with a title like that. Though to be fair, the exact quote is, "These go to 11". Still, you could have done something like, "Rick Perry goes to 11. Is that loud enough to get the attention of Iowans".

  11. Yeah, I have to apologize for that. I was actually having a lot of trouble with a title, and then thought of Tap and 11, but was too lazy to look up the exact wording. Not good. I did try to make up for it by looking up the correct wording for my tweet on my Plum Line post later -- for those of you twitter-resistant..."Begun, the Ad War has."

    Actually, I'm not sure whether I need to apologize more for not knowing every line of Tap without looking or for knowing lines from Ep 2.

  12. Thanks for acknowledging that. I'll give you credit for having thought about it though. And that's a decent effort with the tweet.

    Yeah that's a tough one. There are so many lines from both that I can understand not knowing every line. I'd say not knowing Tap lines is more forgivable since the dialogue seems to run together more than it does in Ep 2.


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