Diary

The Horserace for July 14, 2011

IA Caucus: Feb. 6, 2012
NH Primary: Feb. 14, 2012 (expected)
SC Primary: TBD
NV Caucus: Feb. 18, 2012

For the first time in a month, Michele Bachmann is on the decline, though slightly. It’s a brewing situation in Iowa her competitors are using to get the best of her. There’s more rough water on the horizon.Of all things, people close to Sarah Palin are now saying they think she might get into the race. I’m still not sure, but given the chatter there’s got to be something to it. Rick Perry, as well, may actually soon be getting in.Along the way, Tim Pawlenty has found his footing again and, though he’s going to have a tough time combatting recent polling trends, he’s making a show of it in Iowa. Jon Huntsman is going after Mitt Romney, but Romney is holding his lead.And then there is Ron Paul. Ron Paul is suddenly surprising a lot of people, including me.We’ll get into it all in this week’s horse race on the road to the White House.

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann is down this week, but only slightly.In Iowa, Michele Bachmann signed a pledge supporting traditional marriage. The pledge contained a preamble that said children born of slaves in 1860 were more likely to be raised in a two parent household than black children born in 1960. The statement, in addition to being highly offensive to many people, is factually not true. The researcher cited in a footnote says it is not true.It seems very clear that Michele Bachmann did not see the preamble. It was on a separate page from the actual pledge. But the damage is done. She and Rick Santorum signed it. Now, the other candidates are making a big deal out of not signing it. It’s a minor issue and one she can overcome. But it throws her off her game this week.I suspect we’ll see Bachmann come out strongly for Cut, Cap, and Balance and opposition to Mitch McConnell’s deal. Given her rise in the polls and that she is now beating Romney in Iowa polling, she’ll be a force to contend with on this and has the potential to show real leadership the other candidates are suggesting she does not have.Then, of course, there are her fundraising numbers, which are pretty much guaranteed to get her a lot of good press.But all this could change if the rumors about Sarah Palin are true.

Herman Cain

Herman Cain has bottomed out, but still can’t find momentum to get in the air again.I hate to be the bearer of bad news. I want Herman Cain to do well. He must do well in Iowa. If Cain cannot do well in Iowa, he is finished. And with six months to go, Iowa caucus goers are referring to him as a “supernova;” i.e. a great flash of brightness soon to go dark. There are only around 125,000 caucus goers in Iowa. And many of those who were going to go with Cain are now going to Bachmann or waiting for someone else. He’s losing staff in Iowa and New Hampshire. I no longer see a path to victory for Herman Cain. There are, at present, too many variables outside of his control that must break in his direction that are instead breaking against him.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich’s campaign is over. He came out against the McConnell “Pontius Pilate Act” earlier this week, but was not able to get traction from it. I’m not writing him off yet. If he can seize the moment on the debt ceiling fight, he might be able to get back in the game. But right now, I’m having a hard time finding a pulse.

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman is like the Duke of York, neither up nor down.Jon Huntsman’s media girlfriends who serenaded his entry are now lamenting that he got in too late. The two term governor of Utah is losing Utah to Mitt Romney. He’s got no traction in Iowa. He’s barely got a pulse in New Hampshire. He’s being superceded in South Carolina by Bachmann and others. He’s relying on Florida, going so far as to issue statements denouncing Democrats’ statements at the county level in Florida.There is an incredible lameness right now about Huntsman and no issue on the front burner for him to take advantage of. He can’t take advantage of the spending issues when he supported Obama’s stimulus. There’s no pressing foreign policy matter for him.Right now he is training his fire on Mitt Romney and more and more seems to be just a spoiler, not a winner.

Thaddeus McCotter

I will hold my position from last week on McCotter. From his statements thus far, I suspect McCotter is running to be a spoiler against Romney more than he is running to be President. He’s not going to be the nominee. His pro-union baggage is already getting him attacked by right to work folks. He’s got no long term viability as a Presidential candidate because his ability to impact others in the race.

Sarah Palin

I’ve been saying for a long time that she is not running. There is now a growing sense that Palin might have, or might be on the verge of, changing her mind.A lot of the buzz stems from the Newsweek interview. It was quite a favorable interview and probably, should she run, the last time anyone would accuse Newsweek of giving her favorable coverage.Some people close to Palin say they think she might now be running. Palin says her daughter wants her to run. There still are no signs of an effort to build a big team around her to run. At this time, I still lean toward her not running, but readily admit that could change rapidly. My guess, however, is she is waiting on the Governor of Texas. If he gets in, the rationale for a Palin campaign diminishes except to the role of spoiler against Bachmann and Romney.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul gets a bump up this week in the horserace.People are waking up to a surprising new ad by Ron Paul today. His first ad. And it is about the debt ceiling. It is a brilliant and well done ad. As I’ve said in the past, Paul won’t be the nominee, but he could be hugely influential on the fiscal message.Ron Paul’s ad sets the bar very high today and is going to, thankfully, force the other candidates to get into the fight over the debt ceiling, probably starting with Bachmann. The frontrunners cannot afford for Paul to get ahead of them on this issue and, given the political climate, this is actually a way for Ron Paul to creep up in the polls.

Tim Pawlenty

He’s back up for the first time in weeks.He’s got his footing back. He’s on message in Iowa. His “faith and values” message is being well received. He has upped his willingness to differentiate his record with Michele Bachmann and the other candidates. Some people are crying foul over Pawlenty doing this. But he is doing it politely and focusing on records, not personality. That’s the way it must be done. His nice guy appeal still comes through.The problem for Pawlenty is that he’s falling behind in Iowa and must largely move to the state and camp out there for the next six months. It is a must win for him and he knows it. But by focusing so much on Iowa, he’s not on South Carolina. He could potentially rely on momentum, but it is a gamble.For several months I have said Pawlenty is the guy to keep an eye on. I’ve now got a growing sense that Pawlenty’s chances at the top slot are fading while his chances for Veep are growing. There’s time to turn it around, but it becomes more complicated with a Palin or Perry in the race. And he needs money.

Rick Perry

Speaking of the Governor of Texas, I hear that the machine is in motion for a Presidential run, though a decision has still not been made. With over half of New Hampshire’s political operatives, donors, fundraisers, and activists who were active in 2008 still on the sidelines this time, Perry can still get in. Likewise, in Iowa, I hear that a good number of the caucus goers are waiting for Perry to get in.There are a few media reports out there that the Perry campaign, in surveying the landscape, has decided it is too late for him to get in. Those reports are fatuous nonsense. In my surveys and those of others of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, there is a massive amount of sideline sitting by operatives, donors, grassroots activists, etc.I think Perry runs.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is the front runner and continues holding steady.The press has started running to Romney to ask him his opinion on matters of policy, which adds to the psychological air of inevitability that helps Romney. Right now, no candidate has put a dent in that air of inevitability. And to beat Romney, that’s the first thing that must be dented.There are dark clouds on the horizon though. Huntsman is ganging up on him. Bachmann is gaining on him in key early states. Bain is going to become a problem for him. Ultimately, Romney’s biggest problem right now is that he is the front runner and its six months from Iowa.He’s played it really safe and got a lead, but his lead still seems capped. If candidates start dropping out, their supporters seem ready to rally to someone other than Romney, thereby closing the gap. And if he starts to fall behind now, it’ll be tougher for him to get back the lead.Romney’s play it safe strategy is also going to hurt unless he starts coming out with some bold pronouncements on this debt ceiling fight. He is the front runner. He should be leading. Instead, we’re seeing Ron Paul take the lead and I suspect Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty are about to rise to the challenge.In most years, Presidential candidates get to avoid talking about pending policy matters until they are the nominee. Not now. Not when conservatives are insisting on leadership and a fight. They’ll remember what Mitt Romney did or did not do.

Rick Santorum

The only relevant question regarding Rick Santorum is whether he drops out before or after Newt Gingrich. He’s done.