Monday, February 14, 2011

More on the Republican Presidential Field for 2012

Here's Nate Silver's analysis of the 2012 Republican Presidential field. His basic argument is that the potential Republican nominees for 2012 are less popular than any field of candidates in either party since at least the 2000 elections. For me, his analysis illustrates two things. One, that Obama is going to be very difficult to beat, and two, that a dark horse candidate could end up winning the nomination. Huckabee and Romney have pretty large name recognition but fail to garner high favorability ratings. If one of the lesser known candidates (Thune, Daniels, T-Paw, DeMint or Barbour) could increase their name recognition and favorability at the same time, they could potentially win the nomination. This fails to take into account a lot of other factors, but its still pretty interesting to look at. What does everyone else think?


Ryan Karerat said...
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Ryan Karerat said...
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Ryan Karerat said...

Everybody except Santorum honestly has at least some sort of shot.

The guy I'm most intrigued about is Huntsman. He has no buzz right now, but he's the guy that David Plouffe himself singled out as being a big threat in the Republican Party, hence why they tried to store him away in China.

His path to the nomination will be difficult, but if we're taking a Beltway favorite/national no-name like Mitch Daniels seriously, then there's no reason to count Huntsman out. And maybe having a Mormon frontrunner in Romney will make it a little easier for him to sell his own Mormonism. I can't begin to get inside the head of evangelical Christians and which particular religions they believe are credible when running for president, so I'm gonna punt on this particular issue.

Huntsman appeals to independents and would pose a real threat to Obama in the general. More a question of whether he can get the GOP nomination, in which case he'll have to a.) get his name out there, which I don't think will necessarily be a huge problem because none of the name-recognition guys/gals in the race look like they will run away with it, b.) finesse the whole Mormon thing and c.) win despite having served in the Obama Administration (but if they buy his 'I put my country first' argument, then all the Obama Administration will have done is give him foreign policy credibility). Definitely a guy to keep an eye on.

Pawlenty surprised a lot of people at CPAC with how fiery his speech is. Seems like he's working on refining his image to shake the prevailing wisdom that he's as exciting as a glue stick. The conservative intelligentsia loves him and as important as the Tea Party is, winning the 'Sam's Club Republicans' is just as important if not moreso, and that's a constituency that T-Paw has tailored his appeal for. Another guy that, if he finds his groove with campaigning, could be a real threat to Obama.

Daniels is going to have to answer for his role as Bush's budget director at some point, and social conservatives don't trust him. But the Politico crowd seems to be hyping him up quite a bit at this point. I think he's going to lose a lot of his core voting base to Pawlenty.

Romney is the prohibitive frontrunner and yet I don't think there's a soul in the world that actually trusts him to lock up the nomination. Gonna be an interesting race.

Palanders said...

First, polls this early as terrible predictors and it doesn't really matter if no one looks great right now- everything will change by the time of general election cycle. Look at Bush in 2000- he wasn't hot stuff in the early phases of the Republican primmary cycle but he still beat a decent candidate in Gore- and 8.2% unemployment in 2012 4th quarter is bad news for an incumbent!!!!

Huntsman might do well- there are a lot of candidates right now who However, I feel are attracting the same kind of people (Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, and partially Daniels, Thune, and Barbur). That's a problem because they represent only a minority of the Republican electorate (but one that ends up deciding how well a Republican can do in the general election cycle).

If you look at the larger segment of the Republican-base (Tea Party or stricly social conservatives), it looks to me that there are a lot less candidates appealing to that block (Huckabee, Palin, Bachmann, Demint- though I think hell would freeze over before he wins because he's pissed of so many Republicans in the past with his extra-special level of obstinancy; Christie or Perry- both who have said they're not running, and Gingrich or Barbour if they really start throwing firebombs with their rhetoric and disguise themselves as Tea Partiers). well I guess that list shows there are a lot of them, but most of them aren't the ones signaling that they are running.

Assume Christie and Perry don't break their word. I think Gingrich is old news. Barbour is not electable in a general election (doesn't have an acceptable background or demeanor to attract the moderates necessary), so even if he wins it doesn't matter because Obama's going to easily win reelection. That leaves Palin, Bachmann, Huckabee, and Demint (ignoring Santorum who we all agree is DOA). I don't think Bachmann has enough substance to survive a general election (and I don't think she's popular enough to win the primary either- who would fund her? lots of tea partiers sure, but I feel like she's a second-place favorite who'd lose if Huckabee or Palin ran- plus the Koch brothers and every other big-spender Republican is not going to give her money- I hope!!!). Also, Demint???? He just seems to bring nothing unique to the table.
Ok, so that leaves Palin or Huckabee- who I think could sweep up the nomination if the moderates don't quickly coalesce around one alternative.

Palanders said...

So thinking about moderates:
Huntsman has one big advantage in that he can self-finance (has lots of money) long-enough to survive the Republican primary cycle. Plus, he might steal Mormon money away from Romney.

Ryan, I agree with you about Pawlenty. I've recently (last week) been hating on him because he's the most blatant (besides Romney) about running for President, yet I just don't see any movement yet of supporters/energy for him. Of course, it may be that he's everyone's second favorite as people realize they don't want Palin/Huckabee or Romney and move to him- in which case Pawlenty just needs to keep his campaign alive for awhile.
And Pawlenty, with a good speech coach and the full support of the Republican campaign machine, probably would do very well in a general election against Obama.

Ian Thresher said...

I think both of you are spot on for the most part, but I just do not see Pawlenty doing well at all. I think you are making too much of this appeal to “Independents.” The reality is that true Independents (people who have no leaning one way or another) are only a small fraction of the American population. Most people who consider themselves Independent consistently vote for the same party. Besides, any GOP candidate CANNOT win by being a moderate. I realize the problems with trying to predict the political climate a year from now, but all signs point to the continued growth of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has consistently endorsed the politicians who use the strongest rhetoric and propose the deepest cutbacks. Previous GOP candidates, like Mike Castle of DE, lost in the primaries because they were seen as moderates. Come primary time, “Moderate” is a bad word and while Pawlenty may do well in a general election, he will get creamed in the primaries. This is an enormous problem for the GOP as the most likely candidates to come out of the primary are the most unelectable. Currently, my money is on Obama.

Patrick_Landers said...

moderates and independants are code words I (and everyone else) use to refer to uninformed voters who have very little knowledge about political and policy realities (because they have jobs, children, mortgages, etc. to take care off- actually pressing material needs). These voters move according to economic trends and general perceptions of the nation's prospects (which are heavily influenced by media perceptions and the story frameworks politicians argue with. Bush's compassionate conservatism or Obama's Hope campaign are examples of this). And these voters are the ones that matter and decide elections. I'd say you underestimate (or misunderstand Ryan's and mine) discussion of how this group is so pivotal.

TJE said...

Ryan Karerat said...

Patrick already made a pretty good case for what the importance (and real meaning) of independents is, but I also wanted to touch on a couple of other points. The political landscape for the 2010 Congressional primaries was drastically different from what we will probably see in 2012. The basic monopoly that the Tea Party had on enthusiasm in the midterms is unlikely to be matched, in part because now that they've sent their first wave into office, the realities of legislating are being realized and friction is already developing (see: the icy response to Bachmann making a Tea Party response to SOTU, the inability of a Senate Tea Party caucus to get off the ground). Presidential election cycles will attract a different sort of turnout than Congressional races, with the voting bloc guaranteed to be significantly younger on average, for one thing.

Pawlenty has the potential to appeal to the sorts of 'independents' that Patrick alluded to, the type most likely to get swept up in compelling narratives. The whole Sam's Club Republicanism thing is basically an attempted re-creation of Nixon's silent majority, with a folksy undertone to it, and if Pawlenty can get it to stick, it could be a useful tool for attracting confused and anxious voters looking for a solution.

Among higher brow undecided conservatives, he packs appeal because he governed in a blue state and earned high plaudits for that (an 'A' for fiscal responsibility from Cato, took on the teacher's union successfully, etc.) It's the Romney angle minus the overwhelming stench of skeaziness and, at least right now as far as I can tell (and this can change once opposition research goes into its full steam when the campaigning heats up), not really the sort of flip-flopping reputation that Romney dealt with as his Massachusetts identity clashed with his national one. The biggest liberal stain Pawlenty has on him is his previous interest cap and trade, but I just don't see that being baggage he can't overcome when you put it in the context of Romneycare or even Huckabee's Willie Horton moments.

He's a pretty ardent social conservative and my guess is that he'll be pretty loud about that when campaigning, too, because those are voters looking for a candidate to get behind right now (the only reason why people are even trying to act like Santorum should be taken seriously), and that combined with his Midwestern roots makes him a possible contender in Iowa. And a strong showing in Iowa changes the whole game.

What I'm trying to say is that Pawlenty's appeal to independents doesn't come from him not really being conservative enough. I think most of it comes from the fact that his glum nature does help him in one way, in that he is perceived as being the adult in the room (appealing to the sorts of anxious voters that Patrick alluded to) and the fact that he was governor in a blue state. He's not a firebrand, but it definitely looks like he's trying to move in the direction of being a more 'angry' candidate, and if he can strike the right balance, he'll be able to court the harder conservatives as well.

Ryan Karerat said...


I want to reiterate my point that you run the risk of reading too much into what happened in 2010 in using it as an indicator of what'll happen in 2012. Look at how much things changed between '08 and '10, for example.

The landscape shifts, turnout shifts, different qualities become more appealing (nobody is talking about national security right now, but if things in the Middle East de-stabilize further or there's another attempted attack on the US, that will come right back to the forefront), etc. The assumption that the Republican primaries in the presidential election will follow the same pattern as they did in the Congressional elections is a little misguided, especially when you consider the impact of open primaries. Keep in mind that John McCain did not win a closed primary until Super Tuesday last time around. But on the backs of wins in open primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida (where he either tied for or lost the vote among registered Republicans), he was the perceived frontrunner and all but locked up the nomination on Super Tuesday. The Tea Partiers matter too, but there are other voting demographics that can and will have an impact on the race.

None of this is to say that I think Pawlenty will be the nominee. Way too early to be making concrete predictions, for one thing. But I think Pawlenty is an interesting dark horse to consider. If he can prove the caricature of him as dour and lifeless to be false by bringing some zeal to the campaign trail, and if he can break through and boost his national profile a bit, I don't see why he can't make a credible run.