Sorry Mike

When I listed possible GOP candidates one I forgot to include was Mike Huckabee.  The former Arkansas Governor is certainly popular with Evangelicals and has one of the more likable personas of the any of the party’s candidates.  In many polls he does well.  CNN found him to be the leader in Iowa in a September survey of Republicans.

For some reason I just can’t see him running.  First, he knows he’s not going to win.  Second, there are other candidates who espouse his views on cultural issues like abortion, gay marriage, and guns.  Third, and most importantly, he’d have to give up the TV show and the money that comes with it.

Let’s be honest Mike did well by running in 2008.  He got a tv show, wrote a book, newspaper columns, and had radio show because of it.  All of which paid well for him.  He now has a big house in Florida and probably stays somewhere very nice when he goes to the New York City to tape his tv show.  Not bad for someone no one outside of Arkansas had heard of this time in 2006.

You think he wants to trade that to work 16 hour days and trudge from event to event in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over the next year?

I didn’t think so either.

Say Goodbye to Iowa and South Carolina

Rand Paul may have earned the undying love of Reason Magazine and GOProud but the following quote may kill him in Iowa and South Carolina:

“I don’t want my guns registered in Washington or my marriage. Founding Fathers all got married by going down to the local courthouse. It is a local issue and always has been.  Society’s changing. I mean, people change their minds all the time on this issue, and even within the Republican Party, there are people whose child turns out to be gay and they’re like, oh well maybe I want to rethink this issue. So it’s been rethought. The President’s rethought the issue. So I mean, a lot of people have rethought the issue.”

First, this is a no-go with social conservatives.  If you don’t believe me go back and watch the Values Voter Summit from last week. You simply cannot win Iowa or South Carolina without the support of Christian conservatives.  Exit polls from Iowa show and South Carolina show they made up the majority of voters.   You can bet this issue is going to be stoked by people like Huckabee, Cruz and Santorum.  They know social conservatives panic when they see the progress gay rights has made in the past decade and are looking for a champion to stand up and fitgh against this.

Third it adds to the narrative that Paul is not really one of them.  Take his wanting to eliminate aid to Israel and his position on drugs and a theme starts to form that Paul isn’t really someone social conservatives can call one of their own.  Certainly Cruz and Huckabee will push this message.

Lastly, Paul equated himself to Barack Obama in the quote.  That’s a not a winner with today’s GOP.

The GOP fight is going to be nasty and Paul has given his opponents some ammo with this one.

Iowa is Cruz’s to Lose

You heard it here first.  Ted Cruz is the favorite to win Iowa.  Oh, I know he is not top of any poll among likely Caucus goers.  He certainly is not topping any national polls.  Sure there is no Cruz Fever About to Sweep the Country articles about to appear in Time, the Washington Post or New York Times that libertarians seemingly get for blinking these days.  But none of that matters now.

What matters?

As he demonstrated at the Values Voter Summit this weekend, Cruz is emerging at the choice of social conservatives.  As Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum showed with their wins in 2008 and 2012 that is the key group in Iowa.  Granted both Huckabee and the New Robert Evans will run again (seriously, what else do they have to do with themselves) but they are both retreads.  Cruz is a new fresh face and a much more skilled debater and speaker.

As for the crop of younger challengers, this weekend as demonstrated that Washington-media darling Rand Paul has a great deal of work to do.  His support for legalizing drugs and cutting foreign aid to Israel will remain barriers for him to build support among this social conservatives.  In addition, Paul’s recent ambiguity on gay marriage doesn’t help with social conservatives.  You notice he didn’t even come in second in the straw poll.

Before you know it it’ll be January or February 2016 in Iowa and Ted Cruz will be making his victory speech and the Bush Republicans will be freaking out.  Just remember you heard it here first.

Prayer and Loathing In Iowa

Over the weekend Christian conservatives in Iowa were treated to pandering to 5 potential GOP candidates.  The audience got to hear Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal.  It seems Ted Cruz got many of the biggest applause lines, it helped that he told the crowd that they were actually winning.

Interestingly many speakers took shots at Rand Paul, who was not in there that day.   Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats said  U.S. Rep. Steve King doesn’t run from conversations — a reference to King arguing with young Latina who crossed the border illegally as a child while Paul grabbed his beer and hit the bricks.  In addition, conservative author Joel Rosenberg said people in both parties “are turning against Israel.”

I am guessing that unanimous approval of increased funding Israel doesn’t count.

Going after Paul shows two things.  First, people see him as a threat to the nomination.  Second, they know he is vulnerable to attack on issues involving Israel and his inability to take criticism.

It’s early but storm clouds are already starting to brew.

That Old Time Religion?

mike-huckabee-ric-flair

Huckabee on the trail with the Nature Boy, WOOO!!

Stories are surfacing that Mike Huckabee is thinking about running in 2016.  In 2008 Huckabee came from nowhere to win the Iowa Caucuses and take primary victories in states like Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kansas.  A pretty impressive showing for a guy who had less money, name recognition, and organization than his more well known opponents like McCain or Mitt Romney.

Part of Huckabee’s success was a mixture of his strong support from religious conservatives and his candidate skills.  Huckabee could be funny, engaging, and seemed to be one of the few people who actually enjoyed being on the campaign trail.  How many people could get the support of Bob Vander Plaats in Iowa and Ric Flair.

But will it work again?  Huckabee is not a fresh face anymore and won’t be coming from nowhere to score surprise wins.  No, in 2016 he will be a well known face with very high expectations.  The guy has had a tv shows for several years after all.

This time he won’t be the only solid social conservative out there. Do the names Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Mike Pence ring any bells?

Huckabee had a great run in 2008.  It shook up the race and changed his life.  To think he can repeat that magic in 2016 would probably require a miracle.

Why Iowa Matters – $$

Today Washington Post writer Sean Sullivan has a piece questioning how much the Iowa Caucuses really matter.  He makes a few interesting points about how long it’s been since the GOP caucus winner won the nomination and even dares to question the importance of the Ames Straw Poll (may the Lord have mercy on his soul).

One thing he doesn’t mention is money.

Iowa is a place you don’t have to break the bank to win.  In fact, the kind of personal contact and direct organizing it takes to win limits how effective tv ads can be in moving voters.  For example, here’s some data showing how much candidates spent last time per vote:

CANDIDATE $ SPENT     VOTES WON $ PER VOTE
R. Perry            6.15M      12,604              78.40
M. Romney     4.2M        30,015              154.90
R. Paul              2.7M        26,219               103.30
N. Gingrich     1.3M        16,251                89.84
R. Santorum   111K        30,007               20.50
M. Bachmann 24K          6,073                 3.95

It seems pretty clear that spending levels were not directly connected to vote totals.  RonPaul and Mitt Romney spent a great deal and came in 3rd and 2nd respectively.  The Ricker spend the most and came in 5th. In contrast Rick Santorum didn’t spend a tenth of what Gingrich did and came in first.

That is what makes Iowa special.  If a candidate, like Santorum, is willing to spend the time and go at all 99 counties it can pay big dividends in ways that spending boat loads of money on ads doesn’t.

If you complain about Iowa going first and the level of spending on politics what state would you have go first instead?  Any state with a big city is automatically going to make the race more about spending because the cost of buying even limited television and radio time will shoot up.

Some will say Iowa is not representative of the country.  Well politically it’s closer than most people think.  Since 2000, Iowa has been a pretty competitive state in the general election (minus 2008).  Also its two U.S. Senators are both inline with the mainstream of their parties.  Harkin is the 15th most liberal member and Grassley is the 25th most conservative member of the body.  So especially for the Republicans the kind of person who can win a statewide caucus or primary in Iowa would seem to be a good reflection of the party nationally.

We will hear more criticisms of Iowa and New Hampshire as the process moves along.  Hopefully the critics will receive the lack of attention they deserve.

The King of the Caucuses

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) has been in the news recently for saying:

He has been criticized by Speaker John Boehner and other House Republicans.  While many in the national GOP would like to see him go away and never come back, for those running in the Iowa Caucuses he is a fact of life they have to live with.

IA113

King’s district is #4

Looking at the map on the left we see that King now represents the North Western quadrant of the state.  Before Iowa lost a congressional seat King used to represent the western third of what is now the 3rd District in addition to what he now has.

This part of the state is also where a large percentage of GOP caucus goers came from.  In fact this is an area Rick Santorum (before he became the new Robert Evans) won over Mitt Romney.  Without his support in this region Santorum wouldn’t have the race – albeit two weeks late.

If you want to win the Iowa Caucuses you have to be at least competitive in this region of the state.  That means you can’t piss King off, who is very popular with the Iowa Republicans – especially the kind of grassroots conservatives who show up to vote in the caucuses (remember last time on 19% of Iowa Republicans turned out to participate which was a record).

So while people like Christie, Walker, the Ricker and Paul may not like what King has to say they are crazy if start pushing back on him – unless they want to forget about winning the Iowa Caucuses.   Of course the downside is that by failing to stand up to King these candidates help reinforce the belief that the GOP is insensitive to Latinos – which is just a bit of a problem in the general election.