Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hoping for a Ron Paul win in Iowa

The latest polling in Iowa suggests that Ron Paul is well-positioned to make some noise in the caucuses that are occurring next week. More importantly, the peculiarities of the process in Iowa, it seems likely that Paul will even outperform his improving poll numbers.

In Iowa, voters meet in 1,784 different locations across the state. They actually debate, in these small groups, why those in attendance should vote for their guy. The main advantage that Ron Paul possesses is a devoted following of Atlas Shrugged-wielding libertarians, as demonstrated by his frequently-successful "moneybomb" fundraisers and his legion of supporters on social media sites like Reddit. The ferocity of his support is extremely useful in any contest that is usually low-turnout, such as the caucuses in Iowa. More importantly, many Paul supporters have lived and breathed his ideas and philosophies since his 2008 campaign and are able to . In a setting where debate is allowed immediately prior to caucus-goers casting their votes, Paul-ites will disproportionately swing undecided and weakly-affiliated voters to their guy.

So I'm predicting a Ron Paul victory in Iowa. It will throw the Republican race WIDE open.

Looking at the primary calendar, a Ron Paul win in Iowa would be followed by New Hampshire, where a Mitt Romney victory is almost guaranteed. Next up are primaries in the South, in South Carolina and Florida, where Newt, from neighboring Georgia, has big leads. Then they move out west to Nevada, where Romney will likely win. After that comes Colorado and Arizona, where Newt's polled well. Then a likely Romney win in Michigan, where his father was a popular governor, takes us to Super Tuesday, where anything can happen as 11 states vote.

The only way the Republican race ends quickly is if Mitt Romney runs the table. Based on how the map looks now, it is unlikely that he will do so, ruining his inevitability/electability argument, which is his strongest pull with Republican voters. A Ron Paul win, coupled with early Gingrich wins in states he holds advantages, ensures a long contest.

Which would be great for the President. The longer the primaries go, the longer Obama's eventual opponent will have to cater to the Republican Party base. Unlike the 2008 Democratic contest, where Obama and Hillary Clinton got loads of free press taking not-over-the-top-liberal positions, the Republicans will be forced to take hard-right positions for months. Obama will have millions upon millions of dollars to run a general campaign from the beginning, claiming the center while Republicans fight with each other for the base.Link

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Iowa up for grabs

(note: apologies for not posting for 2 weeks. Started my new job w/ Akron Children's)

We're now 12 days away from the Iowa caucuses. Here's a summary of all the polling in the state since April. The lead has gone from Romney, to Bachmann, to Perry, back to Romney for a couple days, then to Cain, then Gingrich, now Ron Paul.

The prospect of a Paul win has been scaring the hell out of the Republican establishment, with the Iowa governor advising voters in other states to ignore the result if Paul wins. And he very well might pull it off, given his current lead in the polls and the strength and dedication of his organization. A major factor that's been holding back his campaign is a lack of media coverage. A win in Iowa would change that.

But a win is far from a certainty. As we saw after Newt Gingrich's rise, the knives will come out against whoever the frontrunner is. And, at least among the Republican electorate, Paul is extremely vulnerable to attacks. While voters would respect his economic views, his non-interventionist foreign policy is diametrically opposed to the traditional Republican approach. The other candidates' campaigns, and their super-PAC, will likely spend much of the next 12 days exploiting this vulnerability.

So I don't have a fucking clue who's going to finish anywhere from 1st-6th; pretty sure Huntsman will be 7th, but that's it. I think it's unlikely that Bachmann, Perry or Santorum would win it all, but any of them could finish a strong 2nd. With Romney's big New Hampshire lead, the result there almost certainly won't be "news", so the Iowa winner will likely get an even bigger boost than normal.

While I still think Romney wins the nomination, the shape the race will take is very much up in the air.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Freezing government spending" not an easy fix

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is on CNN right now. He advocated a budget plan which would not touch Social Security or Medicare and would not raise taxes. It would accomplish this by freezing federal spending at its current level for 10 years. A similar plan, called the Penny Plan, which would actually reduce spending by 1% each year for the next six, has been proposed by Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) and supported by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Sounds easy, right? Just keep things where they are (or cut a penny), and presto, it's all fixed! No sweat.

This might indeed be a relatively easy, were the United States demographically-stable. Unfortunately, ours is an aging population. In the midst of either DeMint's or Mack's plan, millions of Baby Boomers will retire, further swelling the Medicare and Social Security rolls and of course leading to a huge increase in government spending. Were one of these "freeze" plans in place, there would have to be dramatic cuts in discretionary spending to stay under the caps these Republicans would impose.

Rep. Mack and Sen. DeMint are of course well within their rights to present these cuts. But it is dishonest to present these cuts as easy and painless.

As discussed in my very first post of this cycle, most voters are woefully ignorant about the federal budget. When people don't know anything, it's easy to say "let's just freeze spending" and have voters think "Yeah! The government spends too much already! It would be easy to just not grow for a few years". With our clueless electorate, it just might work.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cain out; good news for Newt

Herman Cain suspended his campaign today. He said "suspended" so he can continue to raise money, but he's done. He says he will endorse a candidate "in the near future". Based on his recent appearance with Newt Gingrich at a "debate", as well as Newt's current status as frontrunner, makes Newt most likely to pick up a few more percentage points as a result of today's announcement.

He'll also become more likely to beat Romney. Cain being out of the running means the "anti-Romney" vote is split one fewer way, meaning Romney's amazingly-stable 20-25% in the polls less likely to hold up.