Tag Archives: Ron Paul

Perry Endorses, Newt’s Divorces, and Santorum’s Remorses

Since I posted this morning, four more South Carolina polls have come in, three of which were in the field entirely after Monday’s debate.  Each of the three most recent polls has Newt in the lead, albeit within the polls’ margin of error.  Note that all three are automated polls, which may or may not be significant. Mark Halperin conveniently summarizes them for us at his Pollster.com website:

As you can see, they support my earlier assertion that Newt has pulled into a de facto tie with Mitt two days before Saturday’s South Carolina primary.  Note that Newt has pulled even despite the fact that Romney’s support is holding pretty steady.  This is really a case of the late deciders all breaking for Newt after Monday’s debate.  If the trend lines hold, Gingrich is poised to eke out a narrow victory, which would put a crimp in the pundits’ prevailing narrative.

But that’s a big “if” given two additional developments since I posted.  First, Rick Perry gave a strong endorsement for Newt, saying, “I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country. We’ve had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”  As I indicated this morning, I don’t think this will provide a huge boost to Newt’s likely support, although even a modest boost may be critical in a close race.  But what it does do is provide some political insulation for Newt against any fallout from today’s second big story:  ABC’s interview with Gingrich ex-wife Marianne (the second one).  Among the explosive allegations purportedly contained in the interview, perhaps none is bigger than the report that Newt asked Marianne for an “open marriage” so that he could be with Callista (now his third wife) without divorcing Marianne.  It’s hard to say what impact, if any this story will have.   Obviously this steps on the Perry endorsement, which is not great news for Newt, but will it actually cost him votes?  I suspect it will give some social conservatives pause – but I simply don’t know how many will reconsider supporting Newt.  My gut says not many – the same gut that said Rick Perry would be a strong candidate, mind you.

In this regard, a greater proportion of women than men are undecided about Newt’s candidacy, according to the latest polls.  On the other hand, there’s the possibility that conservatives will seek this as a thinly veiled plot by the “liberal” media to destroy Newt’s candidacy.  And, of course, there will be the inevitable questioning of Marianne’s motives – why now?  What’s in it for her?  Who is really behind the story?  I don’t pretend to know the answer to any of these questions, but I’m pretty sure it will come up in the form of a question at tonight’s debate.   If so, Newt has to turn the other cheek with his response.  He should avoid questioning Marianne’s motives at all costs, and indeed mentioning her at all.  Instead, he should repeat the Christian mantra: “I am not worthy. I ask for forgiveness.”  Then he should remind voters it happened a long time ago, and proceed to wax eloquent about his wife, his grandchildren and his new found maturity.  He should finish by saying, “Rick Perry was right when he endorsed me today. I’m not perfect.  None of us are.”

Keep in mind that neither Santorum nor especially Romney can bring this issue up on their own, but they will certainly be given the opportunity to pile on. Romney in particular has to be careful in this regard – he can’t look like he’s trying to score points at Newt’s personal expense.  A simple, “it’s something each voter must think about in her heart” will suffice. Then he damn well better go on the offensive about all of Newt’s other baggage:  immigration, ethics violation, Fannie Mae, etc.

On any other day, of course, the big story would be the belated acknowledgment that Rick Santorum had won in Iowa (don’t give me any of the media’s CYA “virtual tie” crap).  Poor Rick!  As it is his poll numbers have been dropping, and this may well be his last debate.  At this point there’s not a lot he can do to reverse those numbers, I don’t believe, short of major gaffes by Newt and Mitt.  Paul, meanwhile, has to make sure his medication kicks in in time to prevent him from going on one of his Wacky Uncle diatribes regarding currency, the Fed and how we are going to withdraw into Fortress America, with defense bases dotting the countryside.  He needs to stick with what got him here: deficit reductions, spending cuts and LIBERTY!  Although, as I look at the polling numbers, I think his core support is so solid that he’s relatively immune to any fallout from a weak debate performance.  Indeed, what I consider weak may not even matter to Paul’s true believers.  He’s going to get his 15%, medication or not.

I’ll be on at 7:50 for the live blog.  It promises to be a good one. Please join in….


Who Really Won New Hampshire, and Why

The on-site comments* to my post yesterday for the U.S. News “debate club” remind me that perhaps the biggest story coming out of the New Hampshire primary was not Romney’s decisive win – it was Ron Paul’s unexpectedly strong second-place showing.  You will recall – and undoubtedly remind me in months to come – that I had Paul coming in a very close third, just behind Huntsman, with about 18% of the vote.  Although I nailed Huntsman’s vote totals, Paul did better than I projected, winning 23% of the vote to finish a strong second.

And yet despite his strong finish, very few if any commentators bothered analyzing why Paul did so well in New Hampshire.  That oversight is consistent with the more general media view that Paul is no threat to win this nomination, and that he has committed but relatively small support consisting of a core group of “Paulistas” who contribute to Paul’s moneybombs and lurk on every website, but who don’t constitute much more than 10-15% of likely Republican voters.

I think that characterization, while not completely inaccurate, fit Paul better in 2008 than it does this time around.  In fact, the New Hampshire exit polls suggest Paul has expanded his base of support beyond his libertarian core by attracting conservatives and Tea Partiers who are worried about the deficit and who want to reign in government spending.   Let’s take a closer look.

By now, it is clear that Paul does well among younger voters.  Interestingly, that support is not just among the very young; he edged Romney, 11%-10%, among all voters 44 years or younger who voted in New Hampshire’s Republican primary (based on exit polls).  Romney racked up his winning margin by relying heavily on the much larger 45 year and older vote.

But the most intriguing findings come when we look at the breakdown of the vote by income.  As the table below shows, Paul’s share of support in each income category drops in linear fashion as you climb up the income scale, while Romney’s is the mirror opposite – his support climbs as you go up the income ladder:

Income Paul 2012 Romney 2012
Under $30k (11%) 35% 31%
$30-50k (15%) 28% 31%
$50-100k (37%) 22% 35%
$100-200k (27%) 20% 47%
$200k or more (10%) 12% 52%

In the aggregate, Paul ties Romney at 31% support among wage earners below $50,000, but Romney trounces him, 41-20%, among those earning over $50,000.   If we look back at 2008, however, we see a slightly different pattern of support by income for Paul:

Income Paul 2008 Change In Share of Income Category from 2008 to 2012
Under $30k (10%) 8.4% +26.6%
$30-50k (14%) 8% +20%
$50-100k (39%) 6.5% +15.5%
$100-200k (29%) 6.4% +13.6%
$200k or more (7%) 7% +5%


Although Paul shows gains across the board from 2008 to 2012 in each income category, the gains are larger in the lower income brackets.  His coalition now has a distinct economic skew in a way that it did not four years ago. Much of Paul’s New Hampshire support in 2008 came among voters who strongly disapproved of the Iraq War, who thought the economy was doing very poorly and who were self-identified liberals.  This year he again drew heavily on self-identified liberals and moderates who formed a slightly higher (47% to 45%) proportion of the voting pool than they did in 2008.  But he increased his support among independents, winning 31% of that category, compared to in 2008 when he won only 13%, even as the percentage of independents voting in the Republican primary climbed 10% from 37% to 47% in four years.

Note that Paul’s overall support does not correlate very well with opinions regarding the Tea Party movement; among New Hampshire Tea Party sympathizers; he wins 22% of those who support the movement, 27% who are neutral, and 19% who oppose.  (Interestingly, Huntsman won the most – 41% – among the 17% of voters who opposed the Tea Party.)  What this suggests then, is that Paul was able to draw on a subset of Tea Party voters: those most concerned – particular lower and middle-income voters – with government spending and the deficit.  These are the economic populist voters that Santorum appeared to make some inroads with in Iowa.  My guess is that Santorum’s social views, particularly toward gay marriage, made him anathema to New Hampshire voters who might otherwise have backed him for his economic policies.

What does this mean as we head into South Carolina?  I think Paul is unlikely to fully replicate the success he had in New Hampshire, with its favorable mix of libertarian, middle and low-income fiscally-minded voters. But he could still do well – if the trio of Gingrich, Perry and Santorum let him.  There is an opening, I think, for someone who can reclaim the economic populist portion of the Tea Party vote and still appeal to social conservatives.  So far, Paul doesn’t seem to attracting much support among social conservatives, and his foreign policy views may play less well among South Carolina’s more traditional Republican voters.

The degree to which Paul can replicate his New Hampshire success, then, depends in part on whether someone contests his claim on the economic populist vote.  At this point, I think Gingrich is best positioned to do so. If he is to win back these voters, however, he needs to have a much better answer to the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac lobbying connection than he has given so far.  If he can provide one, and if he hones his Romney-as-job-destroyer campaign theme without appearing overly negative, he is going to give Mitt a run for his money in South Carolina.  The key to attracting the grass-roots Tea Partiers is for Gingrich to successfully paint Romney as part of the Wall St. banking crowd that benefitted from government bailouts and engaged in “predatory capitalism”.  Even then, however, Gingrich won’t beat Romney if Perry, Santorum and even Paul effectively appeal to the same Tea Party faction.

*The Paulistas were none too happy with my U.S. News piece because I dismissed Paul’s chances of winning the nomination.  Here’s a representative comment:

“Stopped reading this article after bracketed sentence in first paragraph. Author, you are an unpatriotic American, someone who will say anything as long as you can collect money for doing so. You have the integrity of Newt Gingrich.”

Latest Iowa Results: Tim Tebow Haters Back Ron Paul!

Results from the first two polls to come out of Iowa since last Saturday’s debate were released today and both show that Mitt Romney is in deep trouble.   What is perhaps more interesting, however, is that at first glance, the two polls do not seem to agree regarding who will occupy the “Not-Newt” position in this key caucus state.  The first poll, by Insider Advantage, has Gingrich leading the field with 27.1% of the vote, and Ron Paul in second with 16.5%. (The poll was in the field yesterday.) This is entirely consistent with most recent polls that were in the field prior to Saturday’s debate.  However, the Insider Advantage poll also shows Rick Perry climbing into third place, at 13.2%, ahead of Romney who has fallen to 4rth, with 11.9% support, followed closely behind by Michelle Bachmann at 10.3%.  With the poll’s margin of error at 4%, this suggests that Perry, Romney and Bachmann are grouped together in the “Not-Newt” bunch, behind Paul.  Note that Paul only gets 13% support among Republicans – his second place standing is based primarily on support among independents; he leads among the latter group in Iowa with 27.3% of the vote, just ahead of Gingrich at 24.5%  In addition, Paul leads among the youngest voters age 18-29 with 39.6% (interestingly, Bachmann is second among this group with 22.6%).  All this suggests that Paul is not going to go much beyond 20% in contests restricted to Republicans.   More importantly, the Insider Advantage results are not good news for Romney, who only a few weeks ago was leading in Iowa, and as recently as last week seemed to be the most likely “Not Newt” candidate.   If, as I have long surmised, Paul does have a ceiling of support at roughly 20% among Republicans, whoever wins the remaining slot in the top three in Iowa has the upper hand in  claiming the “Not Newt” slot in the weeks ahead.  As loyal readers know, I have been suggesting that Perry, by virtue of his record as Texas governor and his fundraising prowess, is well positioned to overtake Romney for the “Not-Newt” slot.  What has held him back to date has been a series of dismal debate performances.  On Saturday, however, his exchange with Mitt  “All In” Romney may have boosted Perry’s standing in Iowa (more on that below.) Before we blame Romney’s “bet” for his decline, however, note that his support had already been dropping prior to Saturday’s debate.  Moreover, Perry’s rise is likely also a function of his strong media presence in Iowa; he has been blanketing the state with advertisements in recent weeks.

But wait. Before you  go online to Intrade and place $10,000 of your child’s tuition money on Perry, what are we to make of this second poll by Public Policy Polling?  It shows that Gingrich’s lead in Iowa has dropped from 9% to 1% since the debate; Gingrich is now at 22%, essentially in a dead heat with Paul who has 21%.  Romney is third at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%,  and Rick Santorum is at 8%.  As I’ve noted several times before, polling a caucus is very tricky business; because turnout is so low, it is imperative that the pollster get an accurate sample.  And that’s hard to do.  In looking at the crosstabs of the PPP poll, we see that Paul leads among those who voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008 with 34% support. Mitt Romney is a distant second among these voters with 18%.  However, if we look only at those who participated in the Republican caucus in 2008, Gingrich is comfortably in the lead at 26%, 8% ahead of Paul. Paul also leads among those who describe themselves as very liberal, liberal or moderate, and among self-identified Democrats – but Gingrich is ahead among all conservative groups and he is comfortably ahead among Republicans. What this suggests, then, is that how well Paul does in Iowa come January 3 will depend on how many independents and Democratic-leaning voters show up in the Republican caucus.   I can’t tell from the PPP cross tabs what percentage of those surveyed voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008.

My point is that we shouldn’t overreact to the increase in Paul’s support.  Although it certainly bodes well for his performance in Iowa, much of his support comes from independents and those who voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008.  Neither bloc of voters is likely to determine the outcome of the Republican nomination. It does suggest, however, that Paul may be a formidable third-party candidate.

A couple of other interesting tidbits from the PPP poll:  Consistent with my read of the debates as reported in my live blog of that event, Gingrich leads at 30% among those who paid a lot of attention to Saturday’s debate, followed by Paul at 23%. Romney, on the other hand, leads among those who did not pay much attention at all to the debates. (Interestingly, given his marriage woes, Gingrich draws equal support among women and men.)  Again, this suggests that the debate bet may have adversely impacted Romney’s support at the margins, at least in the short run.

At this point, the number of those polled who say they may change their mind has dropped to 40% – still a large number less than 25 days before the Iowa caucus, but 20% less than the number of potential undecideds a week ago.  Nonetheless, this race is far from over.  Thursday’s debate may be the most important one to date, particularly for Perry and Romney, who are duking it out for that coveted top three performance.

Perhaps the most telling result from the PPP poll, however, is this: among those polled in Iowa who view Tim Tebow unfavorably, Paul is the first choice of 38% of them!  Among those who view Tebow favorably, however, Gingrich is ahead with 29%.  (Paul is second among this group with 25%)  To me, that is as clear a sign as any that Paul cannot win the Republican nomination.  Because among Republicans, if you don’t like Tim Tebow, you don’t like Mom, Apple Pie and, uh, er…..America.