Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Gingrich Surges, Perry Drops Out, Santorum Wins Iowa, and Romney Fights Back

Somewhere on the road to inevitability the Romney caravan hit a bump.  How big a bump remains to be seen.

First, the Des Moines Register is reporting that the certified results from the Iowa caucuses will show Rick Santorum winning that race by 34 votes, but with the results from 8 precincts likely never to be known.  So much for Romney as the first non-incumbent ever to have won both Iowa and New Hampshire – one of the very weak pegs on which the media had hung Romney’s mantle of inevitability.  Given the margin of victory initially reported in Iowa (8 votes!), and the fact that Romney actually did no better there than he did four years ago, it was a rather lame claim, but almost every news story I read used it as a lead after New Hampshire. It was a classic case of the media shaping perceptions through the way it framed election results.

More significantly,  this morning CNN is reporting that Rick Perry , who is polling in single digits in South Carolina, will formally announce at 11 a.m. that he’s dropping out of the race.  There is no mention as yet whether he will endorse another candidate.   This is likely good news for Newt Gingrich – but perhaps not as good as you might think.  In the PPP crosstabs from a survey conducted a week ago 37% of Perry supporters listed Gingrich as their second choice, compared to 28% who chose Romney.  Given that Perry was only pulling in about 6% of the vote at the time, the marginal boost to Gingrich – based on this one survey – if Perry supporters move to their second choice is likely to be about 1%.  However, this survey predates Monday’s debate, so it may be that Gingrich will pick up slightly more Perry voters now.  On the other hand, it’s not clear that there are any Perry voters left in South Carolina.

Even that slight amount, however, could be decisive in a close race. And it looks like it is going to be just that.  Today, in the only poll taken entirely after Monday’s debate, Insider Advantage has Gingrich leading in South Carolina, 31.6-28.8%, with Paul at 15.2% and Santorum fading fast at 10.9%.  Note that Newt’s lead is well within the poll’s margin of error. Two previous polls,  however,  both of which were in the field at least in part before Monday’s debate, still have Romney ahead. First, a Politico/Tarrance poll in the field on Monday and Tuesday still has Romney clinging to a slight lead, 31-29%, over Gingrich, with everyone else polling in single digits (including Paul at 9%). Again, that is a lead well within that poll’s margin of error.  In a poll taken mostly before Monday’s debate, however, NBC/Marist finds Romney still leading Gingrich by 10% – but the lead shrinks to 5%, 31-26%, among those surveyed after the debate.   Collectively, these three polls testify to a Gingrich surge  coming out of his debate performance last Monday and heading into tonight’s crucial CNN debate, and only two days before actual voting.   As those of you who followed Monday’s debate with me know, the crucial  turning point in that event was likely Gingrich’s riveting exchange with Juan Williams regarding race, food stamps and Obama – an exchange that elicited a standing ovation from the partisan crowd.  Romney’s equivocal answer to the tax question, meanwhile, didn’t help his cause.

In looking at recent polls, several themes stand out.  First, the Bain Capital attacks are a mixed blessing for Gingrich and Romney, with South Carolina voters narrowly split on whether these attacks are fair or not.  My guess is Gingrich is going to pivot away from this topic and focus on the other elements of Romney’s portfolio, such as his taxes and off-shore investments during the next two days, in an effort to keep the focus on his opponent.  Note that most of the surge in support for Newt is coming from the Tea Party crowd.  Evangelicals, however, are still uncertain about him.  Interestingly, given the attention the media has paid to the SuperPacs, less than 1/3 of those surveyed in the Marist poll say the ads are influencing their choices, but fully 70% say the debates do.   Finally, in a sign that Paul can play a spoiler role, but no more, a substantial minority of likely South Carolina Republican voters say he is an unacceptable candidate.   Consistent with my earlier post, he is doing particularly well among independents, but not among mainstream Republicans.

Clearly, events are breaking in Newt’s direction.  Before anyone jumps on the Newt’s amphibian backside, however, keep in mind that the race moves quickly to Florida, which votes on Jan. 31, and where Romney has huge advantages in demographics, money, organization and – as of now – polling numbers.  It’s hard to see him losing there – at this point.

A final thought. Throughout the fall, when badgered by friends and students to predict who would win the Republican nomination, I always made three points:  First,  I didn’t know, and no one did.  It was too early to predict.  However, if pushed,  I thought Romney’s support was overstated, Gingrich’s understated, and that Perry was potentially the strongest candidate.  Clearly I was wrong about Perry.  I based my assessment of his strength on three factors: his record winning elections, his fundraising prowess, and his record as Texas governor, particularly on jobs.  However, I made my assessment without ever seeing him debate!  As it turned out, he never really recovered from those early stumbles and, in a crowded field of non-Mitt candidates fighting for the same slice of voters, the debate gaffes proved fatal.  This is a reminder that, particularly in the invisible primary when first impressions matter, outcomes turn on more than resumes and issue stances.  Candidate qualities count too.

Keep my Perry assessment in mind the next time I make a prediction.

In the meantime, however, in what is shaping up to be a potentially pivotal event, all eyes will be on South Carolina tonight.  As always, I’ll be live blogging.  The debate starts at 8 p.m. on CNN. Participation was up during Monday’s event, which saw some memorable exchanges.  Tonight there will be only four candidates, the stakes will be even higher , and the potential repercussions from a Perry-like gaffe even larger.   So please join in!

Addendum (11:00 a.m.): Several media outlets are now reporting that Perry plans on endorsing Gingrich.  Stay tuned.

Tebow-mania Strikes Iowa (But Wouldn’t Rick Perry Rather Be Tom Brady?)

A couple of days ago I posted an analysis of the last Iowa polling results that showed the race there tightening.  In the process of analyzing the crosstabs of one of these latest polls (something I know you’ve come to expect here) I uncovered an interesting result:  PPP had included a question gauging candidate support by whether one favored Tim Tebow or not.  This struck me as both an odd question to ask, but also a gauge of just how big a news  story, and a potentially polarizing figure Tebow had become.  For those of you not yet acquainted with Tebow-mania, he’s  the quarterback who has led the Denver Broncos to a series of rather improbable victories during the last six games, despite the fact that the football moves through the air like a drunken cormorant when Tebow throws it.  He has led his team to victory, moreover – and perhaps not coincidentally? – while being rather open about his strong Christian beliefs and lifestyle, going so far as to acknowledge that he’s “saving himself” for marriage.  Between the miraculous victories and openly religious beliefs, Tebow has become something of a controversial figure, which I guess explains why PPP decided to include him in a political survey.  Somewhat tongue in cheek (who, moi?) I noted that the survey indicated that among those who disliked Tebow, Ron Paul was favored by 38%, easily leading all other candidates.  No one else even broke double figures.  However, among those who looked favorably upon Tebow, Newt Gingrich topped the polls with 29%.  I suppose the explanation is that Tebow’s detractors are more likely to be the libertarians and moderate Democrats who are uncomfortable with overt displays of religiosity, and of mixing God and state…er….football.  Tebow supporters, in contrast, are more likely be social conservatives who, so far, prefer Gingrich.

Whatever the explanation, the post did attract more than a bit of attention in the blogosphere , but I’m not going pretend to take credit (or blame!) for what happened at last night’s debate.  In all likelihood, Perry’s campaign staff saw the same favorability numbers toward Tebow among Iowans that I did and decided to wrap themselves in Tebo-mania. Here’s the relevant survey question from the PPP poll:

Q30 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Tim Tebow?

If favorable, press 1.

If unfavorable, press 2.

If you’re not sure, press 3.

(Asked only of 171 respondents)

Favorable……………………………………………….. 48%

Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 13%

Not Sure…………………………………………………. 40%

You saw what happened next.  When Rick Perry was asked in last night’s debate  if, given his uneven debating performances to date, he could do well in this format one-on-one with President Obama, Perry decided to try to create his own come-from-behind victory, proclaiming that, “I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa  caucuses”.  Let’s roll the video:

Hey, no one thought Tebow could start in the NFL either. Truth be told, while many pundits wrote Perry off after his initial disastrous debate performances, he has bounced back both on stage – last night’s debate performance was his second strong one in a row – and in the polls.  As this RealClear composite polling graph shows, Perry (in blue) is beginning a (so far) modest climb in the Iowa polls.

 I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: given his record and funding, Perry is not out of this race by any means.  Even a fourth place finish in Iowa may position him to “solve” the coordination problem raised by my colleague Bert Johnson regarding which candidate the social conservatives will eventually settle upon.  If Perry is that man, he potentially becomes the leading anti-Whoever is Leading candidate.   Know this – he is ramping up his media presence in Iowa, and except for a three-day holiday break , he has promised to plant himself in Iowa from now through caucus day.  And when it comes to winning a caucus, it’s better to finish strong than to start strong.

And what of Tebow? He has a more difficult task ahead than winning the Iowa caucus: he needs to beat Tom Brady –arguably the greatest quarterback since Joe Montana – and the Patriots this Sunday.   That will take a true miracle.

Which leads to the question: why wouldn’t someone want to be the next Tom Brady of the Iowa caucuses?

Oh, that’s Ms. Tom Brady getting…er….sacked.

A Perry Candidacy: How Late is Too Late?

With all signs indicating that Texas Governor Rick Perry is about ready to throw his hat in the ring,  national polls already place him near the top of the Republican field (see here  and here ) along with Romney, Palin and Bachmann.  As many of you have heard me say for several weeks now, if Perry enters the race, he is in my view the strongest Republican candidate – one who, in contrast to the media-created boomlets regarding the candidacies of Jon Huntsman and perhaps Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, has the record and stature to beat President Obama.

But will he enter the race?  Already he has missed getting on the ballot for the overhyped- Iowa straw poll, to be held next month.   Rumors now indicate a late August start date for Perry’s official announcement.  Perry, so far, is playing coy. With most of the other Republican candidates (all except the Moosemeister herself, and Rudy Guliani) already officially in the race for several months now, how long can Perry wait?  If we look at the average announcement times of presidential candidates going back to 1948, we see that, historically speaking, Perry appears to have no need to rush a formal announcement. The following table shows how long before their party’s conventions, on average, the major presidential candidates formally announced their candidacy for each election back to 1952.  .

Year Democrats Republicans

1952

90

182

1956

193

1960

125

1964

86

160

1968

142

136

1972

231

1976

365

228

1980

269

431

1984

442

1988

427

436

1992

316

219

1996

475

2000

384

466

2004

407

473

2008

625

534

Across 15 presidential campaigns, the “average” presidential candidate during this period makes their announcement about 314 days before the start of their party’s convention.  Based on this, Perry has plenty of time; the Republican national convention doesn’t start until August 27, 2012 – about 390 days from now.

But this average masks wide variation both within years, and across elections.  First, if we show the data graphically, it’s clear that presidential campaigns began growing increasingly longer with the switch during 1972-76, from a party-dominated caucus-based nomination system to today’s primary-based, media-driven system.

Moreover, the three most recent elections (combining both parties) have seen the earliest average announcements yet (along with 1988).

In 2008, the average Democrat announced their candidacy 625 days before the Democratic Convention – the average Republican 534 days in advance. Both were records for earliest announcements in the post- 1948 campaign era. (Thanks to Anna Esten, Sarah Pfander and Owen Witek for locating the announcement data for 2000, 2004 and 2008). By these standards, Perry (and Palin and Guiliani, if they decide to run) are rather late to get in the race. Still, when John Kerry won the Democratic nomination in 2004, he didn’t formally announce until a scant 329 days before his party’s convention.  So there is historical precedent for waiting several more months.   But Kerry’s announce date is an anomaly in the post-reform nominating era.   In recent elections most candidates jump in – as was the case this year – closer to a year and a half before the nominating conventions.   By this standard, Perry is getting a late start.

Keep in mind, however, that in making a presidential run, the formal announcement is the icing on the cake – what really matters is how much preparation the candidate is doing in the run up to formally announcing their bid. If media reports are accurate, Perry is already putting together a fundraising infrastructure and is courting party leaders and activists in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Both Guiliani and Palin possess the benefit of having run national campaigns before and both have national name recognition, so the pressure on them to announce early is much less.  Perry, on the other hand, has less name recognition, and has never run a national campaign.  For these reasons, I expect him to announce sooner – by the end of August at the latest.  That would put him within a year of the Republican convention – still plenty of time to mount a serious challenge for the Republican nomination. When he does announce, it will leave only Palin and Guiliani on the sidelines as likely Republican candidates. Of the two, I think Palin has the most leeway in terms of waiting – indeed, the longer she waits, the more the anticipation builds, at least to a point.  Guiliani, on the other hand, probably needs to jump in earlier than Palin.

Let the games begin!