He Had Pawlenty Of Time For Ames – Now Let’s Prognosticate 2012

If you hadn’t heard the news, “T-Paw”, Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who had campaigned for the chance to become the Republican Presidential contender bowed out today after a somewhat lackluster performance at the Iowa Ames Straw Poll.

Some of you don’t know a thing I’m talking about, and for the most part, that’s okay.  To be honest, I really haven’t been following the whole GOP pre-primary race either myself.

However, the events of this past weekend will likely have a major impact on what the Republican primary and nominating process/results look like and even what the presidential race in 2012 will look like and thus, who will win.

Three things happened this past weekend for the GOP.  The Ames, Iowa Straw Poll was held, Tim Pawlenty withdrew from the race and Rick Perry, current governor of Texas officially threw his hat into the ring.

Rank-wise, out of ten contestants, Mr. Pawlenty didn’t do horribly.  He came in third.  However, the numbers tell a different story.  More importantly, when you put this in light of the fact that T-Paw was pretty much the first Republican to throw his hat in the ring for the presidential race, long before anyone else, he should have had a stronger showing.

1. Michele Bachmann 4,823 votes
2. Ron Paul 4,671
3. Tim Pawlenty 2,293
4. Rick Perry 1,718 write-in votes
5. Rick Santorum 1,657
6. Herman Cain 1,465
7. Mitt Romney 567
8. Newt Gingrich 385
9. Jon Huntsman 69
10. Thad McCotter 35

Another result spread (via Wikipedia, linked elsewhere on this posting) puts it thusly:

1 Michele Bachmann 4,823 28.6%
2 Ron Paul 4,671 27.7%
3 Tim Pawlenty 2,293 13.6%
4 Rick Santorum 1,657 9.8%
5 Herman Cain 1,456 8.6%
6 Rick Perry (write in) 718 4.3%
7 Mitt Romney 567 3.4%
8 Newt Gingrich 385 2.3%
9 Jon Huntsman 69 0.4%
10 Thaddeus McCotter 35 0.2%

This isn’t a hare and turtle story.  It’s not even a gun-jumping story for having unofficially running long before he officially threw his hat in the ring two years ago!  It pretty much boils down to the point that while he’s apparently a nice guy with some good things on his resume’, he still didn’t impress.  A good resume’ is important (unless you’re Barack Obama), but so is impressing the crowds and looking like a candidate that not only wants to win, but can win.

Mr. Pawlenty was bested at the Straw Poll by two candidates that are quite different from him.  Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.  Mrs. Bachmann is effectively the Tea Party favorite in the race as well as running as a strong social conservative.  Mr. Paul is a libertarian and is warmly received by that faction.  Both are seen as non-establishment Republicans.  Both appeal to “wings” of the Republican base and party.

After two years of campaigning, Mr. Pawlenty failed to garner heavy financial support, failed to garner consistent numbers in various polls, and on and on it goes.  He was frankly the milque-toast candidate.  And so no doubt, this past Saturday afternoon, he and his staff saw the writing on the wall and did the sensible thing.

Apparently the Ames Poll rarely gets the eventual winner right, but that’s not the point of the Poll.  It’s about getting your name out there, about testing organizational skills, about proving and getting financial support.  For two years, Mr. Pawlenty had basically spun his wheels.  That’s got to be very demoralizing, especially as he saw more people enter the fray and yet find himself getting pushed to the pack of the pack in the surveys and national polls.

Contrast that with Rick Perry who had thrown his hat officially into the ring on the same day as the Ames Poll and garnered votes at the Poll purely as a write-in candidate.  Mr. Perry came in 4th.  4th out of ten candidates as a write-in, not having done any campaigning in Iowa prior to Ames, and having only officially announced the morning of the polling!

That says a lot about the current field and how it will no doubt shape up in the primaries and eventual nomination convention next year.

So, I’m going to make some speculations on what we’ll see going into the primaries and coming out of the primaries for 2012 and what that could mean in the election against Mr. Obama.

In 2008, as the primaries whittled down the pack, the GOP was left with three primary contenders, Romney, Huckabee and McCain.  The former two eventually bowed out as the latter eventually walked into the RNC convention with the nomination sewn up.  And, since McCain lost, many insiders and pundits saw the 2012 race as Mitt Romney’s “turn”, just as McCain had been George Bush’s last primary contender in 2000 going to the nomination.

Yet, Mitt Romney didn’t fare well at the Ames, there is another Mormon candidate in the pack (Huntsman) and he’s up against Michele Bachmann (who has shown herself to be a campaigning powerhouse) and now Rick Perry as well as the “spectre” of Sarah Palin hanging outside still playing with the media and crowds as to whether she’ll throw her hat in the ring.

Bet your bottom dollar, Mrs. Palin throwing her hat in the ring could be a game changer.  In the short-term it will definitely shake up the field of contenders.

The primaries don’t go down the line for a single candidate.  The results are dictated by the make-up of the constituents of each state who holds a primary, caucus or what-have-you.  So, in 2008 it wasn’t surprising that Mike Huckabee did so well in the south as he was a social conservative and Southerner.

But back to 2012.  Often, within the first couple of primaries, you begin to see candidates dropping like flies.  Sometimes all it takes is a single primary, and like Pawlenty with Ames, a candidate can figure out how much of the rest of the primaries are going to go for or against him/her.

Rick Santorum apparently said he’d drop out of the race if he didn’t place in the top 5 at Ames.  Mr. Santorum squeaked by in 5th place.  I fully expect that Mr. Santorum’s campaign will not last past the first couple of primaries.

I think the same can be said for Herman Cain’s campaign.  He seems likeable and no doubt he’s got great business acumen – which this country needs.  It’s great to see him in the race, but I recall hearing of staffing/organizational problems before.  Compound that with heavy hitters like Bachmann, Romney and Perry, and I just don’t see him gaining traction.

I also don’t see Ron Paul lasting until the end of the primary season.  Oh, he’ll probably stick it out for a while like he did in 2008 and he’ll probably even win a couple of states, but he is just “too” fringe.  Even if I agree with some of his positions and understand others, on the whole, he’s seen as a fluke and a flake.  His strong showing in many ways is not surprising.  He continually does well in many polls because he speaks to people’s gut reactions, but voters are often pragmatists in the end.

The principled voters would stick with Bachmann, Paul and maybe a couple of others, but the pragmatists who want to win more than anything, will put Michele and Ron to the curb.

Yes, you read that correctly, I don’t see Michele Bachmann standing on that stage next fall at the RNC convention as the nominee.  She, like Mr. Paul is a fringe element.  This isn’t to say that I don’t like her or agree with much of what she stands for.  In many ways, I believe she’s the best candidate view/platform-wise of the whole pack.  She has the drive, she has the organizational skill and she has strong support.  But sadly, principles don’t win elections, pragmatism does, because voters come in every ideological shade and many of them are in that muddling middle.  Independents and moderates.  Michele Bachmann will not appeal to them.

Let’s look at the past two Ames Poll results and see if they portend anything.

In 1999/2000, George Bush took the grand sweep.  He won the Ames and then Iowa’s Caucus.  He went on to win enough primaries to garner to nomination and eventually the presidency.  In the history of the Ames Poll, he is the only candidate to do so.  I think this might be a “fluke”.  It wouldn’t be applicable anyhow since the dynamics of the nation, economy and race have changed since 2000.

In 2007, Mitt Romney won the Ames while John McCain came in 10th – out of 11.  McCain went on to win the most primaries, thus the nomination, though losing the election.  Right behind Romney in rank was Mike Huckabee.

Similar to Barack Obama, John McCain came out of nowhere with a limping, troubled campaign to win the nomination.  Why?

While that question is really for another topic and post, in short, I believe it boils down to the fact that Mr. McCain was the establishment candidate – and the Tea Party did not yet exist.  Furthermore, while the economy was tanking and the Republicans had taken a drubbing in 2006, most Republicans were just not going to get in line behind an unknown turncoat from a “foreign” religion (Romney) nor another southerner (Huckabee) who not only was a strong social conservative but wore his Christian faith on his sleeve (that’s a media/secular sin).  Giuliani was just too left socially for the Republicans, Fred Thompson – who I liked – didn’t have the fire, and the rest of the pack were frankly either too far right for the pragmatists or just unknowns who were never going to gain financial traction.

Barack Obama won his nomination and the election for the precise opposite reasons that John McCain won his nomination yet lost the election.  Barack Obama was the anti-establishment candidate, he was the complete anti-Bush and he managed to convince enough people that he wasn’t too far left while every Democrat would tap their nose and wink… though many are now wishing they’d gone their own establishment route with Hillary Clinton.  But, I digress.

Back to the current pack of Republican contenders.  Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are the establishment candidates.  Specifically, of the group, Newt is the most establishment of them all, and as it stands in comparison to 2007, Mr. Gingrich’s standing looks very similar to Mr. McCain’s.

The question is, considering Mr. Gingrich’s own campaign/staffing meltdown similar to McCain’s, will he be a McCain redux?  While anything is possible, I doubt it, if only because of the Tea Party movement which has made many Republicans wary of old Republican warhorses, of which Newt is most certainly, no matter how much he tries to rebrand himself.

Similar to McCain, Jon Huntsman is at the bottom of the stack, and while he’s been around the political arena for a while, he’s an unknown, he’s “another Mormon” (not to denigrate his religion, but Mitt was the ground-breaker, so Jon just looks like he’s jumping on the bandwagon of Mitt’s trailblazing) and he formerly worked for Obama’s administration.  That last part I believe isn’t going to sit well with many voters.  He’s also frankly, an unknown, something John McCain was not.

Mitt Romney did far worse this go-round at the Ames than his earlier time, but the difference now is that he’s sitting on a mountain of campaign funding, he has a strong support network no doubt carried over from 2008, and he’s now minor establishment.  He can appeal to the moderates and independents.  His record will appeal to them.  However, he’s got Rick Perry to contend against.  I believe it’s entirely possible that money and networking of supporters will not help Mr. Romney.

As it stands now, I would not at all be surprised to see Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney going down the final stretches next spring.

As it stands right now, I believe we could well see Rick Perry getting the Republican nomination.  While he officially entered the race this past Saturday, similar to Tim Pawlenty he’d been dipping his feet in the water for some time, even if he says he wasn’t.  He had made himself known on the national stage for a while, putting himself as a counter-Obama.  His resume’ is strong.  Where the nation is weak, Texas is strong.  He’s a southerner, and a Texan to boot.  Republicans are going to be getting just nostalgic enough that they’ll want Bush back, never mind that apparently Perry and Bush do not see eye to eye at all.  Never mind that Bush was part of the reason our economy got into the situation it did.  Furthermore, Mr. Perry is tapping into the newest version of a Christian Right political movement.  I believe The Response was evidence of this.  Apparently Sarah Palin and more importantly, Michele Bachmann have ties to some of the religious/denominational movements primarily behind the event in question.  Mr. Perry is trying to muscle into the ladies “territory” and I believe he could well do it successfully.  With this new support, network and money, he’ll be able to not only appeal to the moderates and independents, but the further right, which is territory now held by Michele and Sarah.  I do not think it was coincidental at all that Mr. Perry was involved in The Response, and then a week later, oh, The Ames Straw Poll… and oh, by the by, I’m throwing my hat into the ring.  Pure assumptions on my part, but doesn’t it look suspiciously calculating?

This leaves Mrs. Sarah Palin.  What about Mrs. Palin?  She’s the wild card in this whole deck.  If she enters the race, she could instantly change the line-up.  If she does enter the race, I suspect that she’d unseat Michele Bachmann.  Handily.  The primary reason Michele is in the position she’s now in is because Sarah is not running, I believe.  I believe that if Mrs. Palin were to enter the race, most of Bachmann’s support would instantly go to Sarah, as would potentially some of Perry and Romney’s.

That said, I don’t think she’ll get the nomination for the same reason I don’t see Michele getting the nomination.  Pragmatism over principle.  Centrism over the wings.

And that brings us to the election of 2012.

If Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul or Sarah Palin were to somehow win the nomination, I believe it’s entirely probable that Barack Obama could squeak out another win, even in the face of a horrible economy and very lackluster polling and support – even from his own party and far left base.  Why?  Pragmatism over principle.  The same reason that drove moderates and independents to Obama in 2008 would keep them with him in ’12, especially if there were Republican candidates running against him who are far more conservative than John McCain.

If Rick Perry or Mitt Romney wins the nomination, I believe it’s entirely probable that Barack Obama will lose.  Why?  As noted above, his support structure is crumbling.  Just as many pundits – myself included ( a complete nobody at that) – predicted when he won, he’s a Jimmy Carter redux.  For the same reasons Obama won because he was the anti-Bush riding on the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in 06 and 08, now the pendulum has swung fully back.  2010 was largely a referendum not only of the Tea Party movement, but also against the Democrats and Mr. Obama.  That wave could well continue into 2012 and is highly likely to do so.

For me, principles come before pragmatism, and frankly, Perry is a pragmatic candidate from what I see now.  I haven’t done my homework yet to figure who I like and who I’d support.  Suffice to say, it most certainly is NOT Barack Obama and I’ll be more than glad if/when Mr. Obama is retired from office.

And so there you have it; my analyses and predictions  – for whatever half-pence they’re worth – as they now stand.

Update: Considering Erick Erickson’s article concerning the campaign team for/behind Mr. Perry, I believe my analysis is even stronger looking at 2012.

This article is cross-posted at Wading Across .