Tag Archives: Herman Cain

Conjuring the Ghost of Cain

If, as all signs indicate, Herman (The Herminator) Cain terminates his campaign tomorrow, this is likely more good news for Gingrich.  That is because, as I suggested in this earlier post, most of the survey data suggests that a significant plurality of Cain’s supporters will throw their allegiance to the Newtster.   Already the Des Moines Register is hyping a poll of likely Iowa caucus voters, to be released tomorrow, that shows Cain’s support dropping into single digits, down from a high of 23% last October and this is before Cain will have announced the end of his campaign.  What the news story does not say is whether Newt has continued gaining in Iowa, but I’m guessing that will be the lead when the poll is released.  If so, whither Mitt?  And will Paul continue to draw his 12%?  Stay tuned as I’ll be on with the results as soon as they are posted.

If  tomorrow’s Iowa poll does indicate that Newt is widening his lead, it will be fascinating to see how the media spins this.  Because so far, the mainstream bloggers and their media counterparts are simply not buying into the Gingrich polling results.  The prevailing sentiment is captured in Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column  from a couple of weeks ago titled, “Why Gingrich Won’t Last”.  (See also Michael Tomasky’s article here.)  Since these columns were published, Gingrich has widened his lead in national polls and in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida.  And yet today,  a poll of the National Journal’s insiders indicates that most them doubt Newt’s staying power. So, for that matter, do you.  To date none of the predictions submitted  have Newt winning this nomination.  Instead, all of you continue to put your money on Romney, despite the fact that he hasn’t broken 25% outside of New Hampshire in this, his second time around the track. (By the way, that leaves the prediction field wide open for those Not-Romney advocates!)

Here’s why I think Newt may actually win Iowa.  First, although it is true he doesn’t have much of a ground game there (he only opened his Iowa headquarters on Wednesday, although plans are in the works for an additional 6 offices), he has used his surge in the polls to begin raking in some big money. According to Gingrich aides, his campaign took in the same amount of money this past month as it did in the previous half year, and it has raised $5.5 million so far in this fourth quarter, compared to $2.9 million raised through the end of September.  And while it is true that he only has seven staff members in Iowa, Romney has about the same number, although the Mittster has much more money.

And while he hasn’t visited the state as frequently as Bachmann or Santorum, he has been there many more times than Romney.  Interestingly, as this map shows, Newt has focused most of his visits in the major media markets, particularly Des Moines, reflecting his emphasis on stretching the dollar by relying on free media as much as possible. (The dots are where he’s visited – bigger dots mean more visits.  All data from the Des Moines campaign tracker.)

Now compare that to Santorum’s visits.

And now Bachmann’s.

As you can see, Santorum and to a lesser extent Bachmann have opted for the more traditional meet and greet strategy by criss-crossing the state much more than Gingrich.  And that, I think, is going to help Gingrich because both Santorum and Bachmann are vying for the same voters, and thus are likely to split the social conservative vote in contrast to 2008, when it all went to Huckabee.  Of course, critics contend that Romney will use his money to flood Iowa with supporters come January who will go door-to-door to bring out the caucus vote. Maybe, but I can’t help remember similar predictions for Howard Dean in 2004 that proved wildly optimistic.   He also flooded Iowa with volunteers, and they proved a major problem since many of them didn’t have the foggiest understanding of Iowan’s concerns.

The wildcard here is Paul, who some say has the strongest and most committed ground game in Iowa.  The problem for him is that he seems to max out at about 15% of the vote. Let’s say he pulls in 15% and Romney, by dint of his ground game and money, gets 25%.  Assuming Santorum and Bachmann split the conservative vote at, say, 8% and 12% respectively, and Perry pulls in 10%, Newt could win this thing with only 30% of the vote.  That’s not implausible, particularly if he picks up most of Cain’s backers.  (Warning: back of the envelope musings – you shouldn’t wager on these numbers.)

Thirty days and counting.  The next two Republican debates may prove crucial.  Meanwhile, what of Herman Cain?

He’s paying the ferryman to take him across the river….let’s hope that will ease the pain.

And no, I’m not related….

The Cain Mutiny

As the  vultures begin to circle over Herman Cain’s candidacy, one has to wonder where his supporters will go if, as the media speculation suggests, Cain will end his presidential bid.  Early indications are that Newt Gingrich will be the primary benefactor if Cain drops out of the race.  According to the pollsters at Public Policy polling Gingrich is the second choice of Cain voters at both the national level, and in key states.  Discussing Gingrich’s ascendancy in the polls, PPP writes: “Gingrich’s leads are a result of Cain’s support finally starting to really fall apart.  For an 8 week period from the end of September through last week Cain was over 20% in every single poll we did at the state or national level.  Over that period of time we also repeatedly found that Gingrich was the second choice of Cain voters.  Now that Cain has slipped below that 20% threshold of support he had consistently held, Gingrich is gaining.”  This suggests that if Cain does suspend his campaign, a significant proportion of his support will move to Gingrich, bolstering his front-runner status nationally and, perhaps more importantly, in the early nominating contests.

If so, this raises an interesting possibility – as the pundits continue to debate whether Romney can deliver the knockout blow and clinch the Republican nomination within the first few primaries, or will instead have to endure a rather protracted battle before finally emerging as the Republican nominee, events are conspiring to put Gingrich, and not Romney, in the better position to close this race out.  As this Gallup poll indicates, Mitt’s “positive intensity score” has declined, while Newt’s are on the rise:

In short, it’s not clear to me that Mitt is any position to even consider delivering a knockout blow, although the Republican establishment is desperately trying to make his nomination appear inevitable. In fact, based on the latest polling data, it is conceivable that if Gingrich can parley his recent rise in the polls into the resources need to put boots on the ground in Iowa, he might actually win that event come January 3.  That, in turn, might give him enough momentum to finish a strong second to Romney in New Hampshire the following week, which the media might conceivably spin as a defeat for the Mittster.  Then it is on to South Carolina, where Gingrich currently leads in the polls, and where he expects to do well.  If he wins South Carolina, Mitt would go into Florida needing a victory.  Should he lose there, it is possible that the Republican race would be over – with Newt, and not Mitt, as the nominee.

This is all speculative, of course, and as I have repeatedly cautioned, nomination races – unlike the general election – are inherently less predictable.  Moreover, we need to keep in mind that the Republicans have changed the manner in which they allocate delegates; rather than the winner take all format that they have used in the past, they have opted to adopt a proportional allocation system this time around, at least for the early nominating contests.  This should make it harder for a front runner to deliver a knockout blow, so conceivably Mitt can survive early losses and hope that he will prevail in the long run due to his superior resources.  But I can’t help but think that events are far outstripping the conventional wisdom as embodied in the prevailing sentiment among the pundits that Mitt is the default nominee. While the pundits contemplate how Mitt’s inevitable march to the coronation will play out, Republican voters seem determined to write their own script.  And right now Newt – not Mitt – has the leading role.

Is Cain Able? (Previewing the New Hampshire debate)

Of winning the Republican nomination, that is.  Since his unexpectedly strong showing in the Florida straw poll a little more than two weeks ago, Cain has vaulted into the top tier of Republican candidates, along with Romney and Perry, as measured by national polling data.  Much of that support has come from Tea Party supporters who have been the most volatile voting bloc among likely Republican voters surveyed so far.  After initially embracing Bachmann after the Ames poll, they then danced with Perry and now are giving Cain a whirl. To his credit, he has taken advantage of the current media exposure to trumpet his “Main Street.” business credentials and lack of political experience – both selling points with the Tea Party activists.  This CBS poll is consistent with several recent polls showing that Cain’s growing poll support appears to have come at Rick Perry’s expense.

Despite Cain’s impressive biography, however, as I noted in an earlier post his current strong showing in the polls may say more about the media’s ability to influence perceptions of candidate viability in the absence of more concrete measures than it does about the depth and breadth of Cain’s support among likely Republican voters.  In this vein, consider the coverage of Saturday’s Values Voters Summit straw poll in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Family Research Council. In that straw poll, Ron Paul easily bested Cain, 37 % to 23%, but the media could barely muster a yawn.  In part, their disdain for the Values results reflects the fact that Paul’s supporters evidently mobilized en masse to boost his vote total. Rather than see this as a positive indication of the intensity of Paul’s supporters, however, the media chose instead to dismiss Paul’s victory as not really representative of Republican voters’ sentiments more generally. Of course, this type of strategic voting also took place in Florida’s straw poll, where many Romney supporters cast ballots for Cain (Romney wasn’t competing) in order to derail Rick Perry’s front-running campaign – a tactic the media largely fell for when reporting those results. In both straw polls, of course, barely 3,000 people participated, and they had to pay to play.

All this should be a reminder that we need to be cautious not to make too much of Cain’s recent surge to the top of the Republican leader board.  It likely says more about the tepid support for purported front-runner Mitt Romney, who with only a couple of exceptions has never polled higher than 25% in any national survey that I have seen, than it does about any deep-seated fervor for Cain.  My broader point – one I’ve made before – it that it is still too early to handicap the Republican race with any degree of confidence. Indeed, in most polls, “undecided” or “don’t know” continue to do very well.   Even in the critical primary state of New Hampshire, where the latest polls indicate that native son (at least in the summer!) Mitt Romney continues to lead the field with support in the mid-30% range, almost 70% of those surveyed indicate that their vote is still very much up for grabs.  Only 11 percent said they have definitely settled on a candidate.   With more than two months before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary (which will likely be held in the second week of January), this widespread uncertainty indicates there is still time for anti-Romney support to coalesce behind an alternative candidate.  Who might that be?  Coming off his recent surge nationally, Cain is running second in recent New Hampshire polls, but I suspect this overstates his support in the Granite state.  As an indicator of how fluid the New Hampshire race is, Rudy Giuliani, who has not even formally entered the race, nevertheless continues to run a strong third in many New Hampshire polls.

Giuliani’s support reminds us that independents can vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary and are likely to do so in high numbers, given that President Obama is not likely to face a Democratic primary challenge.  (One recent poll indicates that 57% of independents are planning to vote in the Republican primary.)  That potentially provides more fertile soil for libertarian Ron Paul and the more moderate Jon Huntsman, but will not likely help social conservatives like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Huntsman has practically staked his candidacy on a strong New Hampshire showing, but so far despite spending far more time there than any other candidate, he hasn’t cracked single digits in any poll.

All this makes tomorrow’s New Hampshire debate at Dartmouth College of particular interest.  While not a make-or-break moment for any single candidate, some have more at stake than do others.  In particular, Huntsman is looking to break into the top-tier with a strong debate performance, but he has a steep hill to climb because he’s competing for Romney voters.  Cain will undoubtedly be under greater scrutiny as he tries to build on media-generated momentum coming off his Florida “victory”.  But the individual with perhaps the most to gain is Rick Perry, whose stock fell in the wake of two tepid debate performances and sagging support among conservatives due to his policies toward immigration and education as Texas Governor, but who was running strong in New Hampshire prior to those performances.  Perry has just launched perhaps the slickest ad of the campaign so far, one aimed at New Hampshire voters and which targets Romney as a flip-flopper and a supporter of Massachusetts’ version of Obamacare.  A strong debate performance tomorrow may help him regain some of his luster among the media pundits.  Look for him to come out more energized tomorrow, and with a better defense of his immigration policies.

For the interested among you, I’ll be on Vermont Edition today at noon to discuss the Republican primary and to preview tomorrow’s New Hampshire debate.