Thursday Reads: Primary Season is Upon UsPosted: December 29, 2011
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?