Wisconsin was conservatives Battle of the Bulge

A couple interesting posts came out today insinuating important effects from the recall elections in Wisconsin.  This might seem like old news but it still has relevance.  Similar legislation is pending recall or repeal efforts in Ohio and Indiana (reports are the Ohio GOP is now a little nervous at what has happened in Wisconsin).  Those who have read prior posts I have written know that I believe the demise of unions is inevitable.  But I view Wisconsin as but one step down this road.  The articles I found interesting, written by conservative columnist George Will (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/liberals-wisconsin-waterloo/2011/08/23/gIQArm5GcJ_story.html) and liberal columnist Greg Sargent (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/conservatives-cant-stop-falsifying-what-happened-in-wisconsin/2011/03/03/gIQANyOkdJ_blog.html radically differ in their interpretations of the results.

To quickly summarize each article (for more details read them) Will believes that unions went all in, in Wisconsin.  That the majority of protestors and supporters of the recall were, shocker, union members and young voters.  On purely technical grounds he is not wrong.  Independents were not swung to vote one way or the other on this single issue, as evidenced by Democratic candidates hitting Republicans on everything but the kitchen sink.  But Will also believes this marks the end of the power of unions.  That the voters of Wisconsin supported Walker and his policies.  Not surprisingly, Sargent has a different view.  Sargent does see the results as a defeat for the Left, but not as a conservative victory.  Sargent views the results as a draw in the broader sense.  Voters in WI mostly kept the status quo but by making GOP control of the state senate so tenuous there voted urged Walker to stop pushing such conservative and divisive policies.

It could be said that Sargent views the results in Wisconsin like Operation Market Garden (keeping with military comparisons here).  The entrenched forces in the Netherlands (the Germans or GOP here) bent but did not break and inflicted enough casualties on the enemy (unions) to force them to retire from the field.  A draw for the Germans (GOP) and a loss for the allies (unions).

I take a slightly different view of these results.  I have openly said I view the results in Wisconsin as a victory for the GOP and a defeat for the unions and Democrats.  I still do.  But I think the more apt comparison for the results would be the Battle of the Bulge.  Unions and Democrats launched an assault (recall elections) in a last-ditch effort to forestall defeat in the war (or through legislative action).  Democrats and unions knocked out two GOP incumbent senators both very vulnerable out of 6 senators (like Germans utterly demolishing thin portions of the allied line in 1944).  The allies line bent but did not break (hence 4 GOP senators holding their seats).  In the final result the aggressors were pushed backed to the German border with heavy casualties and the action was considered a victory by the allies and a loss for the Germans.  Same here with the results in Wisconsin.

What we have in Wisconsin in the aftermath of the recalls (bringing this out of military comparisons) is a political climate in the state that is politically polarized.  If Walker pursues more controversial conservative policies such as tort reform and education standards it his likely there will once again be a major fight.  Of course, with a presidential and US Senate election at the top of the ticket turnout will be up in 2012 and it is unclear what effect Walker’s policies will have on votes in federal elections.  But at this point, whatever Walker does even if it is a moderate policy will like angry the Left in some way.  That is just how polarizing the climate is in the state.

Bringing this back to the articles both Will and Sargent, in my mind, make big assumptions I believe our inaccurate.  Comparisons aside, Will believes that the recall elections subverted democracy.  I don’t.  It is democratic.  Get past all the threats, rallies and protests the recalls were decided through democratic means, elections.  That is what elections are for after all.  To decide elections peacefully.  That whole peaceful transition of power thing.  I can think of a few countries that would love to have it.

Sargent makes two big assumptions.  The first is that Walker overstepped his bounds and that second he never clued in voters on his ultimate plans.  On the first point I could asily argue against.  Walker won in 2010 by a 53%-46% margin (leaving out rounding up).  Republican candidates won the overall popular vote in the recalls 53%-47%.  Not much of a difference.  As stated earlier, the two GOP incumbents successfully defeated either a) sat in a deeply Democratic district and b) had serious moral and martial failings.  So maybe Walker did not overstep his bounds but just pushed the button of a large and well-funded special interest machine, unions, and they fought back.  This strikes me as more likely.

On Sargent’s second point I have to say from a personal perspective I here this again and again.  How many times have I heard the left say the GOP candidate/s never clued in voters on what they are doing?  Apparently campaigning on cutting budgets, slashing funding, and fixing education was not clear to the liberals in the election.  Guess that is why they vote Democratic.  Walker made very clear his plans.  He openly campaigned on education reform (yes specifics on the ultimate legislative proposal were left out), slashing the budget and reforming pensions and benefits for government workers.  I have to wonder whether liberals and Democrats seriously expected him to not act on them, especially in a time when states across the nation were drowning in debt.

I could ramble on but I won’t.  Both Will and Sargent make very broad assumptions here I am not comfortable with.  I don’t agree with Will that the recalls subverted democracy.  Sure, some of the acts the unions and protestors did before the recalls were thuggish but they did not change the voting results.  That is what counts.  And as for Sargent, I think one of his assumptions is very dubious and his second patently false.  If any Democrat or union thought Walker would not act, especially when unions and Democrats have tried to scare the bejesus out of the public on the Tea Party and conservatives, they were deluding themselves.  That is not Walker’s or the GOP’s fault.

Wisconsin was the conservatives Battle of the Bulge. They withstood an onslaught from an angry enemy and came out more or less whole (with some losses).  Unions I believe will eventually fade into the dust-bin of history.  The Left’s desperate fight here proves it just as the Germans struggled to change the inevitable in France in late 1944.  In 1944 the allies did not know it yet but the Battle of the Bulge had signified the eventual end of the Nazi Regime.  Twenty years, fify years, one-hundred years can we look back and say the same of this is where unions started to fall?  We will see.

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Rick Perry: Establishment, but not

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been in politics for over thirty years.  He has been in the Texas assembly, a two term agricultural commissioner, the Lt. Governor for two years and the Governor for ten.  In terms of establishment it does not get more establishment than that.  But Perry is unique in that he is establishment without being establishment.  What I mean by that is that Perry, despite being a career politican does not belong in establishment circles.  He shoots from the hip, he takes joy in in Texas twange and takes potshots at the media and pundits when he can.  This has endeared him to the voters of Texas.

So how is Perry establishment without really being so and will it help him in 2012?  To answer the first we must compare Perry’s life and actions with the ultimate establishment in Texas, the Bushes.  Specifically, George W. Bush.  Then I will analyze the repercussions this will have for the 2012 race.

Perry’s beginning was very, very modest.  He gew up in Pain Creek, TX, not far from Abilene Texas.  His family scraped and saved as ranchers.  When Perry attended Texas A&M it was on his dime.  His family had little money to give to him.  Perry worked an assortment of jobs until his interest in politics was kickstarted back in the 60s.  Contrast that with G.W. Born in New Haven Connecticut, Bush’s family had to scrape for little.  Well established, the family had deep ties and pockets in the oil fields of Texas.  When Bush went to Yale and then the Harvard School of Business his family paid for it.

Early life aside, the different political tracks each took also explains how Perry is so non-establishment/establishment.  G.W. got his start in politics through his family.  Following a defeat in a 1974 congressional race Bush returned to the oil fields of Texas.  In 1988 he was given a highly coveted campaign advisor.  In 92 he became a major campaign manager for his dad.  In 1995 when Bush first ran for Governor he biggest claim to fame was not winning the nomination, he faced no-name opponents and was flush with cash, but the fact he beat Democratic Governor (popular at the time) Ann Richards.  In 1999 Bush easily won reelection as Governor while actually almost letting Perry lose.  This would breed animosity between the two camps that has lasted well over a decade.

Contrast this with Perry’s political road.  Perry ran as a Democrat in 1984 for the state legislature.  Easily winning Perry ran until 1990 as a Democrat.  Sensing the shifting partisan winds in the state and wanting to face an incumbent agricultural commissioner Perry switched to a Republican.  Receiving little outside help Perry won the race, surprising many.  But Perry’s greatest claim to being anti-establishment began in 1998.  When Democratic Lt. Governor Bob Bullock died the GOP nominated him as their candidate.  Facing a well known two term State Comptroller Perry’s campaign reached out to the Bush campaign.  It was rejected.  Reportedly the Bush campaign did not want to get involved in the close Lt. Governor’s race and focus solely on racking up a big win in their race.  Thus making Bush look more attractive for the presidency.

This rift has lasted long into Perry’s tenure.  As Governor Perry has riled the feathers of the Texas establishment several times.  His hardline stances on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and immigration early in his career set him apart from many in the state GOP.  In 2009 the rift between Perry and the Bushes became full blown.  Perry had avoided a 2002 primary challenge by then Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson for his first full term as Governor if he agreed to serve only two terms as Governor.  In 2009 he broke that promise and announced his intention to run for reelection.  This sparked outrage among the Bushs circle and Hutchinson entered the race anyways.  She subsequently lost the primary by a wide margin and Perry even avoided a run-off. 

This split between him and the estabishment has lasted even after 2010.  When Perry hinted he was exploring a run for Governor former Bush advisors and staffers either completely ignored it or laid out groundwork in the media for a narrative on the Governor.  Less then a week after Perry announced, speaking to a crowd in Iowa, the Governor called what the Fed is doing under Ben Bernanke, “treacherous, treasonous.”  Major Bush advisors such as Karl Rove hit him for sounding so unpresidential. 

But in the final analysis this is what helps Perry so much.  In his thirty odd years in political office Perry would appear to be the ultimate politican.  An ambitious, charismatic, rha rha speaker that can excite crowds and get votes.  True, he is.  But the other facet of his candidacy is that Perry has had a running fued with the Texas GOP establishment.  And by default, with a former Governor from Texas being in the WH from 2000-08 the Texas GOP establishment became national. 

Perry has tried very hard to cultivate anti-DC and anti-status quo support.  He was among one of the first to court Tea Party support and won his 2010 primary campaign in Texas largely on these grounds.  This deflected criticism of some controversial actions Perry took as Governor.  But now Perry is going national and that means a whole new level of scrutiny from a multitude of new GOP voters.  Some our favorable to the establishment, others are not. 

Perry’s establishment/not establishment credentials help him in the final analysis. They give him the ability to reach two distinct kinds of voters.  The establishment Republican who is more Republican then ideological.  And the conservative,libertarian, etc. who is fed up with DC, politicans and business as ususal.  Even considering the fact Perry has dozens of former Bush surrogates, most notably “The Rove,” running around bashing him he is still in better shape then if he was easy to categorize.  Rick Perry, establishment, but not.

Can GOP in redistricting do as well as they did in 2000 election?

In 2000 the Idaho legislative numbers were absolutely atrocious.  If you thought  having a Senate that is 28-7 in favor of the GOP and a House 57-13 in favor of the GOP was bad then 2000 for Democrats was a complete nightmare.  After the 2000 elections Democrats had a mere three of 35 state senators and a paltry nine state reps in a chamber of 70.  It was the Democrats low point in the modern era of Idaho politics.  Following the redrawing of the lines in the 2002 elections Democrats shot up to 7 state senators and 15 state legislators.  They would remain constant in the Senate and lose two house seats by the end of the decade.  So can the GOP make Democrats as inconsequential in terms of elected members in the state legislature in 2012 as in 2002?  Probably not.  Here is why.

First, the 1990-2000 legislative lines were drawn prior to the formation of a bipartisan “Redistricting Commission.”  This Commission was created in 1994 when an amendment to the Idaho Constitution was supported by the voters.  Up to this point Democrats had no say in redistricting.  The state legislature had always redrawn the lines and massively outnumbered each time Democrats had little offer to the discussion.  It is worth noting however that in 1991 when the old lines were redrawn the state had a Democratic Governor, Cecil Andrus.  Still, with no mechanism in place for what would happen if the lines were not redrawn by the end of the year the Republicans would have been perfectly fine.  Likely Andrus caved in the face of united GOP pressure in the legislature (Andrus served one more term before stepping down). 

This bipartisan redistricting commission rigs the system in the favor of the minority party or makes it “fairer” depending on your ideological views.  Better for Democrats it sets up a mechanism that if the commission cannot come to an agreement by the end of September (simple majority which means a Democrat or Republican has cross-over and support another sides plan) of 2011, 2021, etc, the Idaho Supreme Court will redraw the lines.  That puts pressure on the GOP commissioners to fight not to give Democrats additional safe or swing districts and simply try to keep the status quo.

The second reason is population shifts.  People move in, out and within a state a lot in ten years.  This means it is harder to simply find lines that match the old’s partisan composition and say done.  Instead, it means the commission has to spend more time identifying the shifts and then GOP and Democratic appointed commissioners debating the lines.  In between these debates are also different views on splitting up counties, precincts, highways and local municipalities but the undercurrent of partisan gerrymandering is rampant in these discussions (thank god for computer software).

For the GOP the population shifts in the state benefit the GOP far more than Democrats, but not to the point they can significantly weaken Democratic numbers.  GOP leaning suburbs in Ada and Canyon County have grown, which might allow the GOP to shift these voters into metro Boise districts which are Democratic.  Low population growth in Northern Idaho means the districts there, all GOP at every level, do not really need to shift that much.  Southeastern Idaho has also not seen much growth.  But this also means that districts that encompass Nez Perce County in the North and Sun Valley in the Southeast did not shed enough numbers for the GOP to dissect them.  And this is assuming that the Democratic appointed commissioners would allow them to do so.

Thirdly, geography and legal requirements hinders the GOP’s ability to gerrymander.  This geography is population as well as physical.  The Idaho Constitution has statues and requirements of what districts can be and look like.  So for example, legislative districts cannot split up more then a certain number of counties, highway districts, urban renewal districts, etc,.  On top of that are layered legal requirements for how big a district can be and how much the legislative district can deviate from the mean population in Idaho (House: Idaho pop/70, Senate: Idaho pop/35).  So the GOP commissioners even if they had absolute power could not simply draw lines around Sun Valley or Nez Perce County that simply benefitted them.  Geography and legal requirements would hurt them in this regard.

So even though the population shifts favor the GOP in Ada and Canyon Counties and Northern Idaho; elsewhere not so much.  Democratic commissioners have also made clear their intention not to give up any metro Boise Democratic district (four out of nine) and want an additional swing district in the state (plus the four currently in existence, one in Ada County with a split delegation).  GOP commissioners aren’t going to take this plan lying down and instead have a plan that would actually cut Ada County’s legislative districts in the state down to seven and give Canyon County two more for a total of six.  Not surprising both left and right leaning advocacy groups (Chamber of Commerce and Idaho ACLU) have cried foul at this idea.  Lines elsewhere around the state are in flux but the representation around Boise and Southwestern Idaho is the major sticking point in the debate.

The very existence of a bipartisan redistricting commission, population shifts, and geography/legal requirements impair the GOP’s ability to build on their 2010 legislative numbers for the next decade.  It does bode well, however, for the GOP to continue to dominate the state legislature in straight up numbers (I personally feel sorry for Democrats who are so thinned on committees).  But in terms of the GOP building on their numbers in the state senate and house in the near future the odds are extremely low they can let alone hit 2000 numbers.  It was the apex of GOP domination of the state legislature and the low point for legislative Democrats. 

There is little debate Idaho is a red state well into the next decade.  By how much is the only question?

Caveat: I advocate the complete elimination of the bipartisan redistricting commission.  It is a joke and has changed little about Idaho politics.  Why we fund it, pay the salaries of the commissioners and their staff is beyond me.  We know Idaho is a red state, voters need to accept it, they made it that way and move on.  Funding “fairness” programs, and let us not kid ourselves, this is what it is, is a waste of money that can be better spent elsewhere.  Repeal this Amendment to the Idaho Constitution!

The convergence of left/right foreign policy under Obama and former presidents

The campaign of 2008 for president of the United States was defined by two issues.  The first and foremost issue was the economy.  But it was also defined by the stark differences between John McCain and Barack Obama on foreign policy.  Obama staked out his claim to the “Peace” wing of the Democratic party in the primary with rival Hillary Clinton.  John McCain battered all challengers to his record on the issue by touting his war record and experience in the GOP primary.

When the two met on a debate stage three times when foreign policy came up they went after each other like rabid wolves.  McCain criticized Obama on his doveish instincts and his lack of experience on the issue (McCain was right, Obama later chose longtime Delaware Senator Joe Biden to be his VP for this reason).  Obama attacked McCain on his support of the Iraq War and letting Afghanistan go to hell for lack of a better description.  Voters trusted McCain on foreign policy, but in the end the economy determined the campaign.

It is interesting to note how Obama has pivoted from his positions on foreign policy from the primary to the general election.  Whereas in the primary Obama campaigned hard against war and only made passing reference to Afghanistan being the “Right war” (he did say it in a few debates) once the general election hit Obama tacked hard to the right on the Afghanistan War.  One can remember in the late summer when Obama had locked up his nomination and Russia had invaded the small state of Georgia.  McCain, came out strong on the issue, condemning the action and coming close to threatening military action.  Obama did not come out until in a much more measured response.  This seemed to assure liberals he would be the exact opposite of a Clinton/Bush presidency.

Well how the world changes ones views.  Obama came into office promising grand things on foreign policy to liberals.  He promised to close Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay), wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and practice a more humble foreign policy.  He also promised to rebuild bridges supposedly damaged by G.W. Bush during his presidency.  Almost three years into Obama’s presidency none of this has been done.  And contrary to limiting the US’s military involvement in the world Obama has upped it, immensely.  The US is now involved in Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and perhaps soon to be Syria.  The number of conflicts the US finds itself in under this president has risen twice if not three-fold.

So what changed?  Why did Obama pivot so damn hard to the right (or neoconservativism for you people who use the term) on the issue?  What drove him to do so?  One word.  Reality.  It is very easy to promise the hungry masses of liberals and independents angry at war one thing but then deliver.  Look at Guantanamo.  The conundrum the president faced on the issue was prevalent when the deadline was expiring for when he wanted it closed.  The whole of the GOP, many hawkish Democrats and even some liberals questioned the move in Congress.  Military experts warned of the consequences and the liberal masses grumbled as Obama backed away from the issue.  Faced with reality the president backed off.

Let’s look at another example shall we?  Afghanistan.  The president in his tenure has given two major addresses on the subject, first to announce a surge of troops in the country and second a drawdown of forces.  In both cases the president’s speeches were far more doveish then the reality.  More troops were sent into the country then promised in the speech.  Likewise, fewer troops have left the country then the timeline permits, though the president says he is allowing his generals “Flexibility.”

Realities like these, practical, political, as well as security based have stood in the president’s way on implementing his doveish policies.  But it is perhaps most amazing that the president has embraced the right’s interpretation of foreign policy in the way he has.  Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as his SofS or Susan Rice should have been a stern warning to liberals where he was going.  Neither Hillary nor his National Security Advisor Rice are exactly doves.  In fact, they are strong promoters of the idea the US should continue to be the world’s cop, under the UN’s supervision of course.  It was reported they pushed Obama into Libya and have been actively promoting the drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen on terrorism grounds.

To conservatives and realists who promote this view of foreign policy they should be proud.  They have yet another convert to their cause.  Obama is not the first president to come into office promising something on foreign policy he did not do.  Look at the history of presidents from Reagan on who have promised a “Humble Foreign Policy” they never followed through on.  Reagan’s presidency is a good starting point considering that by this time the USSR was weakening and was not the only calculus in US foreign policy implementation anymore.  In 1980 Reagan campaigned on a pragmatic approach to foreign policy.  While Reagan was less interventionist then his successors he was the first true neoconservative.  He threatened military action against Iran if they did not release their embassy hostages.  He bunked marines in Beirut until 1983.  He invaded Grenada and Panama to remove dictators.  In 1989 his successor H.W. Bush doubled down on the idea.  Bush liberated Kuwait in 1991 and got the country involved in humanitarian work in Bosnia and Somalia in 92.  Clinton’s foreign policy was distinguished from H.W.’s by the fact he had the US enter things but never finished them.  In 93 he pulled US troops out of Somalia.  In 95 he had the US bomb Iraq for four days then stop.  In 1998-99 he had the US bomb Albanian and Bosnian targets to prevent the genocide going on in the region of Kosovo.  

The election of 2000 was meant to herald a new kind of president on foreign policy.  Both Bush and Gore backed off on strong foreign policy stances and preached limited views.  Bush narrowly won.  For the first year of his presidency Bush was true to his word.  Then 9/11 came and his presidency and world-view changed.  Bush and the US/NATO invaded Afghanistan.  In 2003 the US and the “Coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq.  Along the way the US started bombing targets in Pakistan when Al Qaeda and the Taliban fled there.  By the time Bush left office the US was also getting involved in Yemen. 

Since Obama became president the world has only grown more dangerous.  Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, Al Qaeda now has no central head (doubtful Bin Laden still was when he was killed) but dozens of smaller splinter cells across the globe.  De-centralized the organization may be more dangerous.  The Taliban continues to operate out of Pakistan.  Al Qaeda affiliates are numerous and present across the Mideast and North Africa.  And I didn’t even get into Iran and its funding of Hezbollah and Hamas, let alone the whole Israeli/Palestinian mess.

If there is one thing the left should love Obama’s foreign policy on it is his divisive stance on Israel.  This has always been a fault line among Democrats.  Many of the rich, party faithful are old Jews who stick with the party out of a belief in social justice.  But on foreign policy they made a pact with the devil and they are paying for it.  Obama has snubbed Israel more than once and even called for them to go back to the ridiculous pre-1967 boundaries as a starting point in negotiations with Palestine.  This is a break with older Democratic presidents tolerating Israel but not going out of their way to antagonize the country.  It does not help Israel elected a center-right government and their new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, does not take crap from the US president lightly.

Those who criticize the prevalent foreign policy of the right claim that it creates more enemies than it eliminates.  It breeds new foes for the future, costs vast amounts of wealth and leaves the US military stretched thin.  All true.  But that calculus ignores the simple fact of what all modern presidents want to avoid (and sadly G.W. could not) during their tenure.  Having an attack on US soil.  Toward that end Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama alike have pursued aggressive foreign policies to keep the battles abroad.  Bush didn’t have to invade Afghanistan but he did to prevent Al Qaeda from planning another strike.  Obama does not need to strike Yemen and Somalia but if those countries fall an entire nation-state could be a pure breeding ground for terrorists (though one could make the case Syria and Iran already are).

This foreign policy has gained increased prominence with the growth of terrorist cells across the globe.  Whereas during Reagan’s tenure the worry was a group like Hezbollah might hit the US in some way by Clinton’s time Reagan’s funding of the Taliban in Afghanistan had bred a new and dangerous terrorist group.  To their credit, both Bush and Clinton tried to exterminate this group, with limited success. 

So this brings us back full circle.  This is not offered as a defense of an aggressive foreign policy nor a comprehensive investigation.  God knows dozens of books have been written on the topic.  Rather this article is to explore some explanations about why the supposed “Peace” candidate Barack Obama suddenly moved right on his foreign policy.  Toward that end we analyzed up to the beginning of President Reagan’s tenure the new and developing view of foreign policy (neoconservatism for those who like the term) and the changing aspects and threats the world has offered  up to modern presidents to explain Obama’s move to the right.  In reality, it should not come as a shock to anybody.

GOP nomination is now a Romney vs. Perry contest

Sorry Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann supporters but I am going to go out on a limb and say the race is now a contest between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.  What do I have to back up this early assertion?  Not much, except a Rasmussen survey,the records of the three to compare, GOP voters want inga nomine that can beat Obama and gut instinct.

First let’s take a look at the Rasmussen Reports survey released today: (http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2012/election_2012_presidential_election/gop_primary_perry_29_romney_18_bachmann_13).  Perry has jumped into a significant 11 point lead over Romney in the national race.  Bachmann is third at 13% and Paul comes in at 9%.  But what is far more significant is the cross-tabs.  Whereas Bachmann was widely considered to be the Tea Party candidate in the survey Perry now has a 38%-21% lead over Bachmann among the group.  Perry even leads non-Tea Party GOP voters 27%-24%.  Now surely some of Perry’s support is simply a bounce in support of him for getting in the race but the poll also foretells of the formidable candidate Perry can be in a GOP field yearning for a politician who yet does not speak like a politician.  I guess Ron Paul fits this bill to some degree but call me crazy I still don’t see him having any route to the nomination short of Romney, Bachmann, and Perry having their campaigns implode.   It is also worth noting that new PPP (D) surveys in North Carolina and Colorado find Perry and Romney deadlocked in the lead with Bachmann a distant third in each state (though Palin was surveyed).

When you get right down to it the records of Romney and Perry can be as much a curse as a blessing.  While Bachmann can tout her conservative bono-fides to the ultra-conservative GOP electorate in Iowa both Romney and Perry have things they will have to explain.  For Romney the looming issue to explain is RomneyCare passed in Massachusetts when he was Governor.  Currently the plan is bankrupting the state although to be fair Democrats have made the plan far worse since it has been passed.  For Perry he will have to fend away attacks on his history of raising fees on cigarettes and certain business activities, his actions with the drug Gardasil in 2007 (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/06/04/rick_perrys_gardasil_problem_110089.html), and the growth of government in his state over the last 10 years.  It does help Romney that he has led a successful business company for 15 years and Perry that his state has seen unbelieveable job creation (yes, much of it minimum wage jobs occupied by illegals).

F Perry and Romney, despite the obstacles an examination of their records present it also creates great opportunity that Bachmann’s cannot.  As I said, Bachmann is very conservative, I have no doubt of that, but she has yet to demonstrate she has an ability to lead.  Instead she has shown when she is a conservative with a chance to vote no on any bill that will pass with a Democratic majority in Congress she will.  Perry and Romney by contrast can tout both executive and business experience that Bachmann cannot.  Perry has been in elected statewide office since 1990 while Romney has been a governor and a businessman.  I don’t think it is a stretch to say the GOP electorate is clamoring for a principled conservative as well as one who is experienced in executive government. 

Thirdly, the GOP electorate desperately wants to beat Obama.  It is why candidates like Gingrich and Santorum, both smart policy thinkers, have made little to no head-way in the GOP primary.  Instead they have lagged in the back of the pack despite two solid debate performances by each.  Bachmann, for all her appeal to conservatives in Iowa, has yet to reach outside the state or her conservative support to consolidate her support in the GOP primary.  Instead, candidates like Romney and Perry are left to get most of the establishment vote as well as get some of the conservative vote.  For Bachmann, if she survives Iowa this will not be a problem as it is likly Cain and Santorum voters would move her way.  Gingrich supporters would likely flip to Perry and Romney.  Paul supporters, well come hell or high-water they will back their candidate to the end.

This analysis is important because the GOP voters who are paying attention want to defeat Obama and that means going with the candidate they believe can best beat Obama.  In Iowa, with its GOP following the number of these voters is significant and can swing the race.  So far, nationally according to the new Rasmussen survey voters are supporting Romney because he can beat Obama.  Romney is expected to compete with Obama and so far GOP voters expect Perry to do so as well.  The verdict is still out on Bachmann.  As the race in Iowa and New Hampshire nears support for the three candidates can flip if voters feel that a candidate is ideoloigically right but not up to the task of defeating Obama.

And forth, I just cannot explain it but I have a gut instinct Perry vs. Romney is where the race is now.  Bachmann and Perry have the retail politics appeal Iowan voters want and expect of their candidates.  But Romney has the business experience as well as business manner of a candidate voters want in New Hampshire.  Perry and Bachmann play well in South Carolina, though unlike Bachmann Perry plays better there for regional reasons.  Another reason my instinct is telling me this is that many of the big GOP donors are starting to line up behind either Perry or Romney.  This marks a departure from many big GOP donors earlier remaining on the fence.  Meanwhile  Bachmann’s camp has not been able to get much of this new support.  She continues to be mainly a grassroots candidate.  Lastly, despite conservative claims about media bias the media still plays a role in the nomination process.  The media is already excluding Ron Paul and is now starting to sense it is between Perry and Romney.  Add to that the fact Bachmann’s camp is starting to become pushy and close lipped with the media and the relationship is not likely to improve.  Finally, the primary season calender just is not condusive to Bachmann being able to win enough delegates to stay in the race before Super Tuesday.

So there it is.  My bold prediction.  Whether I am right or not remains to be seen.

The Mommy/Daddy divide

You might have noticed an interesting trend in American voting habits.  Not on ideological or partisan grounds but based on gender.  This trend has been called the mommy/daddy divide.  In essence women have been voting more Democratic in recent years (excluding 2010) and men have been voting more Republican (excluding 2006 and 2008).  This phenomenon has gradually been increasing from 1984 when elections became more ideological and not just partisan.  Landslide elections with 55% of the popular vote and 400 or more electoral votes have become a thing of the past.  The mommy/daddy divide helps explain why.

But first some possible causes need to be explained.  The first is psychological as well as social.  The prevailing social model of the Western world up to the millenial generation was of the nuclear family.  But that model has become increasing less prevalent in the latter parts of the 20th century and early 21st century.  And as this model has become less prevalent societal norms values and values have changed.  This in turn has affected women’s status in our society.  There are now an unprecedented number of single women with children in our society.  Democrats have increasingly courted this women who are struggling to get by.  Programs like Medicare, Social Security and aspects of the new HC Reform law these women will rely even more in the coming years, especially due to the economic downturn. 

These issues are not just important to single women though.  A Pew Survey in January 2010 asked Americans to prioritize 21 partisan issues.  For self-identified Democrats the five most important issues were Healthcare, the environment, helping the poor, education and securing Medicare.  For Republicans it was strengthening the military, stopping illegal immigration.  influence of lobbyists, terrorism and the moral breakdown of society.  Notice a pattern here?  Democratic’s most important issues have a distinct maternal aspect while Republicans have a paternal aspect.

The second factor, pyschological, which is devoid of social context can also be displayed by another study.  Tufts University pyschologists showed people headshots of white Democrats and Republicans.  People correctly guessed the partisan affiliation of each group 55%-60% of the time.  Not bad.  But when asked what each party projected a majority of participants said Democrats projected “warmth” and Republicans projected “power”.  Guess this explains why Republicans chose an elephant as their party symbol and Democrats a donkey (just kidding).

Studies like this are insightful.  They point to a psychological aspect of voting habits that rarely gets discussed.  That is not to say that prevalant issues at the time are not important to women however.  Indeed, the 2010 election results showcased this.  For the first time in over a decade, the Republican party according to exit polls won a narrow plurality (49%-48%) of women voters.  This contrasts with overwhelming numbers towards Democrats in 2006 and 2008 when voters saw the corruption of the GOP in 2006 and economic downturn in late 2008.

But in changing cycles of governance in DC government has alternated to reflect the interests of the genders.  Women in general view government as a means to instill good.  Men in general view government as a way to instill order.  This brings us to the third aspect, the historical aspect, to the mommy/daddy divide. 

The modern context to the mommy/daddy divide starts in the 20th century.  Woodrow Wilson as a president was unique.  Not only did he create the modern administrative state but he projected order and good at the same time.  In WWI he went all out to win, but at home he also created dozens of new programs and bureaucracies designed to create safety and good in society.  This carried on through Republican presidents and FDR.  After WWII the US GDP grew by leaps and bounds.  Programs established for years to promote societal good became more entrenched.  Programs started by Democrats mainly.  It would seem that Universal Healthcare would be a logical next step.  Indeed, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an insightful column on this very topic during the Healthcare debate in 2010.  Said Brooks “This is what happens when a civilization becomes wealthier, they attempt to buy civilization.”  For better or worse that is what the modern welfare state attempts to do.

But the patterns of governance as well as voting can change.  By the 60’s Americans began to view this kind of society as to costly and wanted to see a shift in governmental policies. President Johnson (D) changed the welfare state from direct-relief programs to direct-benefit programs.  This cemented the welfare state (public good programs) into US Society.  The Great Society, President Johnson’s crowning achivement soon succeeded in driving Americans away from public good programs.

It is a truism in politics that active-state governance depends on self-interest.  By the late 60’s and early 70’s Americans were far better off, for the most part ethnically and culturally homogenous and viewed the Civil Rights era as a success.  Thus, views on what government should do shifted.  But Nixon, Ford and Carter continued on with active-state governance.  It was not until Reagan in the 80’s that paternal preferences returned to the WH.  Reagan deregulated dozens of programs, implemented tax reform, stregthened the military and put the onus of wealth back on the individual.  But even so, Reagan and politicans balked at cutting back on maternal preferences such as Social Security and Medicare.  Even Reagan’s predecessor, H.W. Bush only projected power but did not pursue a cutback in government.

There were exceptions to this rule.  President Bill Clinton (D) after a shellacking in the 94 elections worked with a Republican majority in Congress to reform welfare and cut back on government.  In 2000, President George Bush took the reins of power and instead of reducing government expanded it.  Like previous Republican presidents (minus Reagan) he expanded the government.  He created a new Medicare Program (though modeled on the free-market) and the Department of Homeland Security.  He responded forcefully to 9/11 and went to War in Iraq.  In a way this appealed to maternal and paternal instincts.  But by 2008, after a brutal 2006 elections self-interest fully returned to DC after a devasting market crash many blamed on lack of regulation in the market.

The social safety net society had built to help people in times like these failed.  Free-markets were scary as home prices plummeted and jobs disappeared.  But for all this the paternal aspect of governance remained alive with an active oppositional minority in Republicans in Congress.  So eager was the left to engage in social and maternal policies that they quickly overreached, misinterpreting the fear of the public as a mandate for government-growth of the nanny-state.  As a result, Democrats acted as if the public had shifted to an FDR-esque era.  But voters had not.  Voters accepted the modern welfare state but wanted their interests looked after through opportunity and job creation.  Instead, Democrats went nuts and passed a massive Stimulus Package, Healthcare Reform and Financial Reform that did not answers voters needs.  The result was the 2010 elections.  Voters, men and women worried about the economy and actually government run-amok flocked to the opposition.

The 2010 elections showcase that preferences change, not instinct or views.  The debate continues to remain the same.  Democrats continue to fight for the mother of all maternal programs (no pun intended), Healthcare Reform, while Republicans oppose it.  Democrats continue to want tax increases on the wealthy and cuts in military spending, Republicans continue to oppose both.  Both parties represent different instincts and views.  And as Democrats and Republicans spar over these views they reveal a deeper divide in American politics.  The mommy/daddy divide.

Special thanks goes to David Kuhn (realclearpolitics) whose reseach I borrowed from.

GOP candidates: Quick Handicap and look at race as is

With the GOP field all but settled a quick handicap of the race is in order.  It has been an interesting last week with the GOP debate in Ames and the results of the Straw Poll that saw Michelle Bachmann edge out Ron Paul.  Both Bachmann and Paul believe that Ames has given them momentum to push forward with their campaigns while those that finished in disappointing finishes quit the race (Tim Pawlenty).  After three debates the GOP field is without a clear frontrunner.  Mitt Romney has led the pack consistently in the polls but his leads have been shallow.  Bachmann has surged in the polls as of late.  And Rick Perry who just announced has access to a sizeable donor base and can tout robust job growth in Texas.  These candidates are Tier 1 candidates.  Businessman Herman Cain, Congressman Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are Tier 2 candidates.  The remaining candidates, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, businessman Fred Karger, former Louisiana Governor Charles Roemer, Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Congressman Thaddeus McCotter are Tier 3 candidates. 

Tier 1 Candidates

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann: Fresh off her narrow win in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa Michelle Bachmann looks poised to win the first caucus state.  But there are major caveats with that victory.  Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry contested the Poll.  And Bachmann only got 28% and narrowly beat the fervent following of Congressman Ron Paul.  No House member has ever successfully won the presidency in the 20th or 21st century and she faces further headwinds.  Bachmann is already being announced to the public by a news media that has destroyed conservative women like Sarah Palin.  Bachmann also has a limited record of accomplishments to stand on.  It is interesting to note that all Bachmann can trumpet between 2006 and 2010 is that she voted “No” on many liberal bills.  Yet none of those bills failed because of her vote or efforts.  Bachmann’s last two weakness are fundraising and appeal to independents.  Bachmann is able to raise money through grassroots efforts and the aid of the RNC’s network of donors but she has yet to prove she can bring in the big bucks.  Lastly, Bachmann has sat in a safe suburban Republican district.  That has allowed her to sharpen a very conservative message.  But with little to tout for accomplishments, her strong social and fiscal conservative credentials and limited national ties her appeal has yet to be tested outside of Iowa.

Former MA Governor Mitt Romney: The former Governor of Massachusetts and 2008 Republican primary candidate Mitt Romney has to be considered the front-runner.  But by how much?  Pawlenty’s exit out of the race should have helped Romney but instead with the entrance of Texas Governor Rick Perry, Romney’s front-runner status is even more in question.  With Romney not even seriously contesting Iowa he is falling back on the fiscal conservative/social moderate wing of the party based in New Hampshire.  But with Perry in the race, boasting more credentials than Romney for job creation is NH even safe for the front-runner?  Romney has appeal in moderate, open primary states like New Hampshire.  But his appeal to conservatives in caucuses and primaries in the South and Midwest to conservatives is a serious question.  In Iowa, Bachmann now leads in the polls.  His lead in New Hampshire polls, while sizeable, is shallow once the cross-tabs are checked.  His leads in national polls are narrow and usually based on the fact he wins moderates and the conservative vote is split several ways.  For Romney to win the nomination he needs to carry big states by sizeable margins to rack up the delegate count.  Romney is not going to win the nomination without a fight, and he would be the first GOP front-runner to have to win the nomination this way in decades.

Texas Governor Rick Perry: Perry’s entrance to the race if nothing else has shaken up the field.  Perry was already polling in 2nd or 3rd place in national polls before he even announced and he has made clear he is going to challenge Bachmann in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire and staked a claim to South Carolina.  Perry has access to a deep donor base in Texas if he can tap it and has what Michelle Bachmann lacks, a solid, consistent record of accomplishments as Governor.  Jobs, lowering taxes, eliminating regulation are just a few.  Perry also has an appeal to Romney’s fiscal conservative base by his record.  Social conservatives also have a record in Perry they could go for once they learn more about the candidate.  The big question mark is Perry’s debut on the national stage.  If he can handle the limelight outside of Texas and do well in his first debate, as well as woo voters with his retail politicking skill then Perry could vault over Romney to be the front-runner.

Tier II Candidates:

Businessman Herman Cain:  Among conservatives that want a businessman that has never been a politician to be their nominee than Cain is the man.  Being an African-American also does not hurt the candidate’s chance.  But Cain’s performances in the first three debates so far (SC, NH and Iowa) have been lackluster.  He sounds more like a cabinet secretary then a nominee for president.  Cain also suffers from having few political connections.  His donor base is limited, he is only polling in the low to high single digits and has yet to be able to claim a single constituency as his.  Instead it seems to be a hodge-podge of social and fiscal conservatives as well as members of the Tea Party.  Cain needs to break out of the pack soon and become a force if he wants to survive Iowa.

Congressman Ron Paul: Congressman Ron Paul has run for president three times.  In 1988 he ran as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, then ran for the GOP nomination in 2008.  Now he is trying his luck one more time.  The fervent following Paul picked up among libertarians and conservatives in the GOP fold from 2008 has not dissipated.  Instead, it landed Paul a solid second-place showing at Ames.  But Paul’s appeal is limited.  While he has helped push the GOP rightward with calls to audit the Fed and getting most candidates to oppose Afghanistan he has yet to be able to win mainstream conservative votes.  Instead, he seems more a curiosity then a serious candidate.  Regardless, Paul has a well-tapped grassroots base of donations but it is not enough to seriously challenge the fundraisers of Bachmann, Perry or Romney.  For Paul to win, well the GOP electorate would have to become a lot more libertarian on social, fiscal and defense policy then they are currently.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich:  The architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution and co-architect of welfare reform and a balanced budget (Clinton the other) Newt Gingrich looked well positioned to stake a strong claim to the GOP nod.  But a Sunday interview later and the words “Right-wing social engineering” and Gingrich was on the down-hill.  Then things got worse.  His entire staff quit to run to Rick Perry.  His campaign was revealed to be at least a million dollars in debt and his wife has developed a reputation of doing what she wants.  Even worse, it nows seems Gingrich only campaigns when he wants.  Gingrich still has limited access to donors and has some good policy ideas.  His problem is that GOP voters are more ideological than ever and they stand by their own.  That means his comments about Paul Ryan’s Medicare Reform Plan are not likely to go away.  And with limited campaign cash and some serious damage control still to do it is hard to see Gingrich every moving up to challenge any of the Tier I candidates. 

Former Senator Rick Santorum: Rick Santorum has a record for knocking off tough Democratic incumbents as he keeps saying in the debates. He won a heavily Democratic House district in 1990 and won his Senate seat in the GOP Revolution of 1994.  But after winning in 2000 with a less than stellar 7% margin Santorum was utterly annihilated in 2006, 59%-41%, by Bob Casey Jr.  Since then Santorum has been making policy speeches and gearing up for a presidential run.  He is best known for his confrontational style of politics and like Gingrich is a policy-wonk.  But he is not well-known to most GOP voters and appears to be right on the cusp of being a Tier III candidate.  He polls very low in national and state surveys, has little to no donor appeal and his campaign is deeply in debt.  Like Gingrich, Santorum needs a strong showing in Iowa to win enough support to keep going and that does not look very likely.

Tier III Candidates:

Former Utah Governer Jon Huntsman: When Jon Huntsman announced for president the media went crazy.  The White House even went out of its way to say they feared him the most.  Perhaps that is because they do (though it is not because they understand the electorate the best).  Huntsman has served two terms as Governor of the redder then red state of Utah and was for the former Ambassador to China for the administration.  His record has both help and hurt him.  He has a record of job growth in Utah and historic victories, but he has a left leaning streak that makes conservatives wary.  He initially supported the individual mandate, he helped implement a regional cap-and-trade system, and supported a Healthcare plan by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Orren Hatch (R-UT) that would have created Healthcare Co-ops that would be government controlled.  To moderate Republican voters Huntsman might have a shot if Romney was not running.  But his rollout has been less than splendid and he lacks much charisma.  Moreover many big GOP donors in Utah are backing Romney, seeing him as the better shot to unseat Obama.  For this Huntsman is relegated to a Tier III candidate. 

Businessman Fred Karger: A former campaign consultant for Ronald Reagan and HW Bush Karger is a self-identified Republican.  He has since retired from consulting and now works as a gay rights activist which kills his chances in Iowa and South Carolina, if he had any already.  For Karger to even win some votes in Iowa or elsewhere he needs to show up at a debate and actually raise some cash.  Yet another face but not a contender.

Former Louisiana Governor Charles Roemer: The former Democratic Governor of Louisiana Roemer has an interesting history.  He was elected to the US House in 1981 as a Democrat.  In 1987 he ran against politically corrupt and weak Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards.  In 1991 to survive a bruising primary fight with his party Roemer switched to a Republican.  But the state GOP refused to endorse him and he subsequently lost the general election.  During his tenure as governor he had few accomplishments, limited appeal to lawmakers and voters.  Since then he has tried a political comeback in 1995, failed, and run a bank successfully for over 15 years.  Roemer is a perfect example of the realignment the country has had in the last forty years but he is not a serious candidate for the nomination.

Congressman Thaddeus McCotter: Known for his chain-smoking, guitar playing hobbies McCotter recently just got into the race.  While he admits he wants to win he also admits to wanting to simply drive the debate in the nomination process to job creation.  McCotter sits in a suburban Republican and has only had a couple tough reelections, 2006 and 2008 being notable.  With little name ID and no donors to speak of McCotter appears to be more a curiosity in the race than contender.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson: A libertarian in GOP clothing Johnson was the former two term Governor of New Mexico.  In fact, until 2010 he was the last GOP Governor to serve the state in 8 years.  Johnson claims to be a fiscal conservative and socially liberal.  He even acknowledges he cannot win the GOP pro-life vote.  Well without that he would likely need a clean sweep with every other GOP voter to get the nomination.   Put bluntly, he has no shot.