Thursday Reads: Primary Season is Upon Us

Good Morning!!

It’s hard to believe, but the Iowa Caucuses are just a few days away, next Tuesday, January 3. The New Hampshire primary will be held on January 10. The South Carolina and Florida primaries will be on January 21 and 31 respectively.

I’ll be focusing on the Republican primary campaign this morning, but please do post links to other stories that interest you in the comments.

Unfortunately, there’s no primary contest on the Democratic side, so we’re reduced to watching the Republicans. The good news is that the Republican candidates are entertaining to watch–that is, if your taste in entertainment runs toward the bizarre, the ironic, and the surreal and if you enjoy black humor.

Yesterday morning’s PPP poll showed Ron Paul still leading in Iowa.

The last week and a half has brought little change in the standings for the Iowa Republican caucus: Ron Paul continues to lead Mitt Romney by a modest margin, 24-20. Newt Gingrich is in 3rd at 13% followed by Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum at 10%, Jon Huntsman at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 2%.

Paul’s strength in Iowa continues to depend on a coalition of voters that’s pretty unusual for a Republican in the state. Romney leads 22-20 with those who are actually Republicans, while Paul has a 39-12 advantage with the 24% who are either independents or Democrats. GOP caucus voters tend to skew old, and Romney has a 34-12 advantage with seniors. But Paul’s candidacy looks like it’s going to attract an unusual number of younger voters to the caucus this year, and with those under 45 he has a 35-11 advantage on Romney. The independent/young voter combo worked for Barack Obama in securing an unexpectedly large victory on the Democratic side in 2008 and it may be Paul’s winning equation in 2012.

The poll showed that Paul’s supporters are much more “passionate” than Romney’s, and Romney’s approval rating with Iowa voters had dropped from 49 to 44 percent. Interestingly, Romney is doing well with Fox News watchers, while Paul does much better with voters who don’t watch Fox.

Later in the day yesterday, the CNN/Time/ORC poll showed Romney ahead of Paul with likely Caucus-goers 25 to 22 percent, with Gingrich continuing to lose support rapidly and Rick Santorum surging, as Gingrich supporters move to him.

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa’s Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker’s support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they’d most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they’d support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney’s three point margin is within the poll’s sampling error….

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich’s rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he’s come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.

Santorum’s increasing support is coming mostly from the right wing Christians.

“Most of Santorum’s gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

It certainly looks like Iowa tea party voters are still seeking an anti-Romney candidate to get behind. The CNN/Time/ORC poll also sampled New Hampshire voters and found Romney still leading there.

Establishment Republicans are rooting hard for Mitt Romney. Everyone on Morning Joe yesterday was confident that he would eventually take the nomination. At Politico, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Alexander Burns report that Romney is “within striking distance” of winning Iowa.

Even as he tried to keep talk about his prospects in check Tuesday, a slew of public and private polling and anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that Romney is within striking distance of a first-place finish in Iowa — especially as Ron Paul’s momentum spurt appears to have run into the reality of front-runners’ scrutiny.

Romney’s team is moving to make the most of it. The candidate launched a bus tour Tuesday and suggested on a conference call with Iowans this week that he’ll be in the state for New Year’s Eve. After a solid ad buy in Iowa for a month totaling more than $1.1 million, Romney’s camp has upped its spending in the Quad Cities market, sources familiar with the purchase told POLITICO. His team has dropped a collection of mail pieces, both positive about Romney and negative about the perceived closest alternative — Newt Gingrich.

In another clear sign he’s playing to win, he has quietly moved a handful of staffers from his headquarters in Boston and in other states earlier this month to give his skeleton Iowa staff a needed boost. And he’s cycling in a platoon of high-profile surrogates to rally around him in the state at stump stops and on talk radio, including Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Aaron Schock and former Sens. Norm Coleman and Jim Talent.

At Philly.com, blogger Erik Uliasz argues that Ron Paul will win in Iowa, because he has the best organization in the state.

The caucuses are not won by opinion polls alone. They’re won by the politician who can pack Iowa’s churches, libraries and community centers at 7 p.m. exactly on a frigid January Tuesday, and whose supporters won’t suddenly decide to back a different candidate during an hour’s worth of jawing, dealing and very public voting.

Unlike other “flavors of the week” of the GOP contest, Paul hasn’t surged into the lead all of a sudden — he’s grown his support gradually, earning supporters the hard way.

And that’s why Paul’s surge to first place has to be taken seriously. Alone among the candidates, he has built an organizational machine to recruit and identify caucus-goers and turn them out on Jan. 3. Paul’s rise in Iowa isn’t a bubble. It’s a mound, and it is rock solid….

Paul’s campaign has built a sophisticated voter turnout machine. With its intensely dedicated core of youthful followers recruiting non-party regulars to the caucus electorate, it is reminiscent of nothing so much as Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa campaign, which was his springboard to the Democratic nomination.

In addition, the fact that there are no candidates competing with Obama in the Democratic caucuses will help Paul. Much of his support comes from Democrats and Independents (see PPP poll results above), and they can attend the Republican caucuses.

At CNN though, Micah Sifry writes that “Paulbots,” who sound remarkably like the Obots of 2008, might “torpedo” his campaign by being too obnoxious and too up front about Paul’s real beliefs, as reflected in the recently released old newsletters. Sifry writes that

there’s a paradox buried inside Paul’s rise in the Republican field, a time bomb ticking away. Call it the curse of the “Paulbots.”

The more Paul rises, the more he needs to temper his rhetoric and fine-tune his message (especially given the kind of baggage he carries). And the more he needs a fine-tuned message, the more he has to control his fractious fans. But people who organize themselves online today are notoriously hard to control.

They sure do sound like Obots:

Recall how in 2007, the “Paulbots” were everywhere: running up the numbers on every online poll they could find, generating one-day fundraising records in a desperate bid for national attention (they coined the word “money-bomb”), and creating massive amounts of voter-generated media on his behalf. They made everything from viral videos to a Ron Paul blimp….

This year the Paulbots have been a bit calmer and more under the radar says Sifry.

But things are about to get a bit crazy. Paul’s late surge and possible win next week in Iowa are going to generate a huge burst of national media attention and plenty of hard-edged questions about his past and views. And the Paulbot base doesn’t handle criticism very well.

The other day, for example, my techPresident colleague Sarah Lai Stirland reported on a growing battle breaking out on the massive social news filtering site Reddit between Paul supporters and critics tired of their efforts to “spam” Redditors with slanted news favoring Paul. Vocal Paul supporters outnumber their critics on the site, but their language and tactics are often arrogant and ugly. Passion can power a campaign, but self-righteousness can also cripple it.

Here’s a little sample of the kinds of information the Paul people might not want spread far and wide in the national media. From Talking Points Memo:

Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising “the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.” But Kayser’s views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.

“Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just,” he argued. “But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before.”

Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals — including the death penalty — even if he didn’t see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul’s federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser’s own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.

And this is interesting: Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager has switched horses and joined the Ron Paul campaign.

In a surprise move, and a blunt reflection of the shifting fortunes of Republican presidential candidates ahead of the opening vote in the 2012 nominating contest, Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman defected Wednesday night to Ron Paul’s campaign.

State Sen. Kent Sorenson, a tea party favorite, was hired as a Bachmann staffer in Iowa even before she announced her candidacy. He helped lead her campaign to victory in the Ames straw poll in August. Ever since, however, Bachmann’s popularity has been in decline….

“It’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do,” Sorenson said, announcing his decision before a crowd of several hundred at a Veterans for Ron Paul rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Sorenson predicted that Paul would be the object of attacks by the Republican establishment in the days ahead, and said he wanted to help defend him.

The Texas congressman welcomed his newest staffer in understated fashion, thanking Sorenson for “stopping by. That was very nice.”

So, there’s lots of intrigue in Iowa, and next week the focus will move to New Hampshire. If Ron Paul really does pull off a win or even a close second in Iowa, I would not be at all surprised to see him do very well or even win in New Hampshire. At least it might be fun to watch the Republican insiders squirm if that happens.

What do you think? And what are you reading and blogging about today?


41 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Primary Season is Upon Us”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Here’s the thing:

    First off these presidential races run far too long. We are talking almost 2 years of non stop campaigning which begins almost from the time the current nominee is sworn into office!

    Second, why is so much attention given over to a state that lies within the boundaries of the bible belt that prefers to choose candidates on how they feel about homosexuality, women’s rights, and biblical references? Why is this considered a benchmark for future POTUS office holders?

    It is difficult for me to conclude that a bunch of fundies from a small state gather in various structures in bad weather with the outcome based more on social issues that involve a few thousand people than it does on issues that include 49 other states.

    This is the same state that handed “wins” to Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson for pete’s sake.

    And lastly, why is Iowa considered “relevant” at all based solely on those choices alone? It is baffling since all this hoopla that happens every 4 years in Iowa is really not a true index of where the rest of us stand when it comes to issues that have far more importance than who is the “most religious” since that only leads to who is the “more outrageous” when it comes to boosting their creds by appealing to these yahoos.

    Rick Santorum? Ron Paul? Puleeeeeze!

    • bostonboomer says:

      It is pretty ridiculous, I agree.

      • Delphyne says:

        I completely agree with a national primary day, BB.

      • dakinikat says:

        I think we should have four months of primaries. Each region should have a primary day and those regions should rotate in order. That allows campaigns a month in each region and means that each region gets its turn to go first. Basically, NE, NW, SE, SW rotate in order every election.

    • ralphb says:

      Iowa is completely irrelevant and has been for a long time. The media plays it up so they don’t have to do real news. Real news is boring for modern media.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Unfortunately, these early states do have an effect on the nomination process though. It’s absolutely ridiculous. There should just be one nationwide primary day. Then we could shorten the campaign season and get all the nonsense over with quickly.

      • Fannie says:

        Agree, I think South Carolina will be relevant…………Ron Paul won’t be the candidate, and will not be selected by the republicans, and won’t even get a position in their cabinet if they do win.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Obama is gaining a reputation as distant, not interested in schmoozing–NYT.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/29/us/politics/obama-gains-reputation-as-distant-in-washington.html

    • Pat Johnson says:

      O/T: I was on the MA Pike Tuesday night around 8pm coming home from Reading. OMG!

      Between the torrential jrain, wind gusts of 40mph, and visibility of about 2 feet, it was horrendous! And you know how I “love” driving on 128!

      Christmas for me was just getting onto terra firma after coasting home at 40mph as huge trucks slammed by sending off a waves of water.

      I think I aged another 10 years.

      • bostonboomer says:

        That sounds horrible. I was probably driving home from Cambridge at about the same time. We had a very hard rain and wind too. Yesterday was really windy, and felt like winter. I haven’t poked my head out the door yet today, but it’s cold in the house.

      • Branjor says:

        The more firma the less terra, huh?
        I aged 10 years yesterday lost in south jersey and trying to keep myself from getting killed on the GSP.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        bb knows how much I hate driving on 128 here in MA. But this, I have to say, was one mad adventure.

        If it hadn’t been so wet I would have kissed the ground when I reached my final destination.

        Compare it to driving while wearing a blindfold.

    • ralphb says:

      I’ve always thought Obama was distant. It was part of his “cool” for the Obots.

  3. ralphb says:

    An epic rant by Charles Pierce. He is becoming a must read every day.

    The America Willard and Our Mr. Brooks Care Not to See

    The next time a Republican tells you how the states can do everything better than the federal government, this is what that person is talking about. It is also the beau ideal of what Willard Romney means when he talks about doing away with the “entitlement society” so that damaged people can get off their lazy asses and invent the iPod or something. It becomes harder and harder to resist the urge to point out that the basic political and economic philosophy of modern “conservatism” is flatly sociopathic, but the society with which their policies would leave us is a desiccated moonscape of blasted promises and broken citizens, a Dresden of the national soul.

    This trend is taxing emergency rooms already overburdened by uninsured patients who wait until ailments become acute before seeking treatment. “These are people without a previous psychiatric history who are coming in and telling us they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost sometimes their homes, they can’t provide for their families, and they are becoming severely depressed,” said Dr. Felicia Smith, director of the acute psychiatric service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

  4. northwestrain says:

    About the Paulbots — they are blogging — and can be found in the comment sections below political articles. Paulbots write just like the 0bots — cult like adoration of the perfect one — the leader who will make the world perfect. Very few 0bots are blogging — 4 years ago anyone who mentioned anything positive about Hillary Clinton was sure to be flamed by a hord of 0bots. Now it is all about Ron Paul being the ONE. (My hobby seems to be reading comments for cult trends.)

  5. northwestrain says:

    Congress is as bad as we think it is — according to historians.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/12/27/144319863/congress-really-is-as-bad-as-you-think-scholars-say

  6. northwestrain says:

    The Iowa caucuses — are a farce. Non democratic — wide open to manipulation.

    If the Paulbots are organized to manipulate the caucus numbers using the model provided by the 0bowma — RP could end up with the GOP nomination.

    • ralphb says:

      Republican voters, in later states, usually don’t care much about Iowa. NH makes more difference but still can get overlooked. The Democrats put a lot more emphasis on those small early states.

      • northwestrain says:

        If the new “The One” RP “wins” Iowa — I wonder if the Paulbots will demand that the rest of the GOP field give up for the ONE?

      • ralphb says:

        Undoubtedly. But the GOP establishment will smash them like a bug.

      • quixote says:

        I wonder if the Paulbots will demand that the rest of the GOP field give up for the ONE?

        If they’re like the Democrats, they’ll only demand it of Bachman.

    • foxyladi14 says:

      hope not!!!! :lol;