Showing posts with label 2012 GOP Primary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2012 GOP Primary. Show all posts

Monday, May 09, 2011

Rastetter and the Gang jeopardize First in the Nation status

Yesterday's disclosure that ethanol executive Bruce Rastetter and a group of Iowa donors travelled to New Jersey could not better demonstrate the extent to which the small but powerful donors display contempt for the Caucus process and the importance to Iowa of our "First in the Nation Status" (FINS)

Bruce Rastetter
As a backdrop, let us remember who is making the trip.  Mr. Rastetter runs a business that is almost completely dependent on government largesse.  Ethanol claims it cannot compete without government assistance (usually known as "corporate welfare").  As a capitalist myself, I am of the mind that businesses that need tax dollars to survive probably should not exist.  At the same time, all of the other energy industries should not have their tax subsidies and special tax status either so ethanol gets a more fair market in which to compete, but I digress. 

Mr. Rastetter and the gang are smart people and they know that the mood of the GOP primary electorate, even in Iowa, is increasingly hostile to crony capitalism; they also know that Republican candidates will mirror that mood if they want to win.  Ultimately, the direct benefit that Mr. Rastetter derives from your tax dollars is not the point.  The Rastetter Mission is an appropriate exercise of its participants First Amendment rights-but at what cost?

Back in my Party days, working on the 2008 Caucuses and the 2007 Ames Straw Poll I recall our battles to belie the meme, constantly iterated, by foes of our first in the nation caucuses, that Iowa is a small insider state and the Caucuses are an unfair representation of a candidate's strength. 

The labor was neither easy nor pleasant.  Everyone who wanted to steal our prized "First in the Nation" status repeated the same attack line, best described by our former Political Director: "the Iowa GOP had a reputation for being a political juke box-put your money in and we would play any song you want."  By early January we had to essentially remove our then Chairman for promising to terminate staff members who crossed the Romney campaign. 

FINS is entirely dependent on not just the integrity of the process but the perception of integrity itself.  All that blood, sweat and tears last cycle disproved the national image of a desperate juke box.

Now, with Republicans in control of much of the apparatus of state government our position is much stronger for local issues.  Unfortunately, so are the facts that can form the basis of a meme that Iowa is in the pocket of a few oligarchs close to a virtually regnant Republican governor.  Even if the Rastetter Mission was wholly altruistic the image and spin it will generate does nothing but load the shells about fifteen other states will fire at us.

After all those battles and skin shed over 2007 and 2008 this one image of Iowa oligarchs picking the candidate our state will support in the Straw Poll to Caucus cycle could provide the justification for any number of candidates to withdraw or minimize their effort in the Hawkeye State.  Mayor Giuliani and Sen. McCain both used a similar argument to justify their respective minimal efforts and participations in Iowa.

If we lose FINS our state will be as interesting to Republican Presidential candidates as Kansas and Wyoming. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

... and they're off! (GOP SC debate

The 2012 Presidential race officially started in South Carolina last night.  Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Congressman Ron Paul and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain were in the starting gate at the Greenville Political Paceway.  What a race it was.

Win:  Herman Cain.  The Hermantor entered the evening as more of a gimmick than a serious candidate.  He emerged as the most Presidential sounding candidate.  Throughout the evening the Hermantor's answers were on point with the audience almost every time.  More importantly, Mr. Cain's answers showed an incisive mind that grasped the job of the President as America's CEO.   Mr. Cain also displayed a decisive personality that knew how to prioritize and solve problems, not just blame someone else for creating them.  On substantive issues Mr. Cain gave the best immigration answer a Republican has given in any similar format, or anywhere else for that matter.  The identification of foreign policy problems was  followed by actual real world solutions.

Mr. Cain's best answer came when asked about his lack of political experience.  After pointing out that all of the nation's problems have been created by professional politicians, the next line said it all: "How's that working out". 

Mr. Cain left Greenville with the audience behind him.  Two separate focus groups (one SC, one national) felt Mr. Cain rocked the debate.  The most ironic aspect of the Cain eruption was the love from the Gamecocks.  After electing a black Republican in a white majority district (Tim Scott) the South Carolina audience and focus groups loved another black Republican.  How long will people give credence to the liberal racism rants?

Place.  Gov. Pawlenty.  Tim Pawlenty came into the debate as the most serious of the competitors.  The major downside of the Pawlenty presentation was simply a willingness to lapse into meaningless political speak.  The electorate really is angry and scared.  The average Republican typically finds biography or tag lines unrewarding and this year that desire for substance is greater than any time since 1980.

On the upside, Gov. Pawlenty did express plenty of substance, especially on foreign policy questions.  The Governor massaged the anti-union question quite well.  Gov. Pawlenty seemed Presidential and the power of that imagery is incalculable.  The candid manner in which he admitted error in his initial position on "cap and trade" was wrong went over well with the audience and apparently most after action focus groups.

The most obvious and most significant difference between Mr. Cain and Gov. Pawlenty was the Governor's tendency to talk about what he had done and Mr. Cain's focus on what he would do.  This is not a conventional election cycle and conventional campaigning just may not work.

Show:  Sen. Santorum.  Rick Santorum surprised both the crowd and this author.  The ex-Senator's attack on the Obama foreign policy was spot on, particularly the distinction between new strategic policy and the tactical execution of the UBL take down.  Sen. Santorum also well presented the very reasons Republicans cannot back down on the "social issues" agenda.  We are defined by the nature of our society.  Killing babies, homosexuals marrying, celebration of secular or invented holidays rather than traditional holidays is not the society that Republicans want.

The downside for Sen. Santorum was more stylistic and rhetorical.  The Senator's demeanor and manner of speech betray, or perhaps misportray, a degree of impatience and petulance that will not play well with the electorate.  The Obama seems cool, serene and Presidential (although also given to petulance and condescension from time to time) and our candidate needs to walk a fine line between aggressive attack and calm leadership.  Both Mr. Cain and Gov. Pawlenty portrayed such demeanor, Sen. Santorum did not.  This is a fixable problem and time will demonstrate if and if so, how quickly, the shine appears on the Santorum campaign.

The Libertarians:  This author must express a degree of bias, I too tend more toward libertarian philosophy than most conservatives.  Hence, I find the more radical domestic ideas expressed by Cong. Paul and Gov. Johnson rather attractive.  Ron Paul is one hundred percent right, sixty-five percent of the time and about zero percent on target on the remaining thirty-five percent.  The paleo-isolationism urged by both Cong. Paul and Gov. Johnson, while a popular feature of American history, is so out of place in the modern world of Jihad, terror and energy policy as to disqualify both gentlemen from the Presidency.


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