The Horse Race for This Week

I think I’ll start doing this every week. The feedback, both from you guys and from others who are trying to keep up with the pulse within the conservative grassroots has been very positive. Feel free to disagree. I’m just giving you my honest take on where I see the 2012 horse race right now.Last week I took a bit of heat from Dan Riehl and a few others for failing to list Bachmann. With a dozen or so candidates in the race it is getting hard to keep up with them all and it was simply a matter of forgetting, not disliking her.So, to make the conspiracy theorists happy, I’ll start doing these in alphabetical order.


Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann will apparently declare her bid for the Presidency this week. She’s going to excite perhaps the most excitable bit of the base not already enthused by Herman Cain. Like with Palin, she’ll have to overcome the myth that she is stupid, which I think she can do in short order. Friends who know her better than I do say she is a quick study.Given her besting of Paul Ryan in response to President Obama’s State of the Union this year, she’ll do well on the stump and it would not surprise me if she, out of the box, gives the most “numbers” oriented pitch instead of big themes. Look for Republican colleagues to start a whisper campaign against her. They are both jealous of the affection the tea party movement has for her and also are not supportive.

Herman Cain

He will announce for the Presidency this Saturday, May 21, 2011, in Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park. A Daily Caller tracking poll has Cain surging into a solid position to the point where he can no longer be easily dismissed by critics as a fringe candidate. With Huckabee now completely out, I continue to believe Cain is going to be a candidate Huck’s Army could rally to. He has the outsider credentials, the evangelical street cred, and the messaging. Others are going to start attacking Cain as being great with a one liner, but shallow on policy. He’s going to need to start focusing on the policy. In some sense, Cain does know the policy, but he presents it so simply and in a way the press isn’t used to, they take over simplification in a pitch to the public as actual policy shallowness.


Mitch Daniels

If he gets in, he is going to be the serious contended against Mitt Romney, but he will also not be a shoo-in like some think.His problem is going to come from a couple areas. First, conservatives are already deeply distrustful of him personally. And right now, the “he’s not one of us” is more signal while the “have you seen his actual record” rebuttal is more noise. He has a great record. But his tin ear of late with conservatives and the continuous dribble of new YouTube clips is hurting him.Second, I think Mitt Romney is right now the front runner and the race will rapidly shape up to be a Romney vs. Daniels death match to prove who is the wonkier reformer. The buzz for Daniels has been so strong for so long, it has given Romney and others plenty of time to get their ammo loaded for the moment Daniels gets in. In fact, I suspect we’re already seeing the fruits of Romney’s operation at work.If Daniels gets in and does not seemingly play nice with broad spectrum conservatives, there will be a real push to draft another candidate. Daniels’ entry and how he accomplishes it does, I think, set or open up the list of candidates. If he does it well, we’ve got our slate. If he rocks the boat with social conservatives too much, there’ll still be a willingness for more.

Newt Gingrich

I don’t think we’ve seen such a terrible entry into a Presidential Primary since Ted Kennedy failed to answer Roger Mudd’s question, “Why are you running for President?” The statements on Sunday’s Meet the Press and the subsequent retreat have signaled a level of disarray in the campaign.But anyone who thinks Gingrich is out of this is out of their mind. Gingrich has staying power on name brand alone. There are a lot of people not yet paying attention. And while it may make it tougher for him and certainly gives him the “loser of the week” award for this week, this week is not the race. The most interesting thing about his unforced errors was seeing long time conservative pundits come out after Gingrich. That suggests to me he has very few friends among conservative opinion makers willing to carry his water. And that will hurt him if he can’t rebuild bridges there.


Jon Huntsman

As much I wish otherwise, keep your eye on Huntsman. For all the talk that Mitch Daniels is the media’s darling, Huntsman is the real media darling. John Weaver, his and McCain’s consultant, is a master of media generated imagery of positive candidate press. It may all be fluff pasted to bull, but it gets out there.There is, however, a level of silliness about the candidate wanting to be both Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah while buying a house in Washington and running a race from Disney World. Certainly it is convenient to be in the Eastern Time Zone, but Utahan with a D.C. address whose running a campaign from Orlando signals a great level of manufacturing an inauthenticity.

Gary Johnson

He and Ron Paul will go nowhere except at each others’ throats competing for the slim pickings of college students not too stoned to stay home and libertarian voters too ashamed to vote libertarian. It will amount to a lot of hot air and the aggravation equivalent of termites and lice, but in the end, actual primary election days will function like turpentine to the scalp of the Republican Primary.

Sarah Palin

Palin remains the absolutely wild card now with Huckabee gone. If Palin comes in, she fundamentally redefines the race. She’ll draw from Santorum’s crowd, Cain’s crowd, Pawlenty’s crowd, and especially Bachmann’s. It’s too soon to tell her full impact, but I do think if she gets in, she winds up helping Mitch Daniels by drawing fire away from him to her.People fear this woman. They should. She aims to win.


Ron Paul

See Gary Johnson above.

Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty is the guy I’m keeping my eye on. He’s holding his fire, keeping his head down, and working hard to raise money. His money is going to be one of the things I’m most interested in seeing. The conventional wisdom is that he is not doing a bang up job. Relatedly, he has low name identification. When Daniels gets in, it will suck a good bit of oxygen out of Pawlenty’s flame, but I think it will also draw away a lot of attacks from Pawlenty that would otherwise be there.Keep your eye on this one as he continues to intentionally float under the radar.

Mitt Romney

Romney is the front runner, but arguably is going to start having a harder time after that healthcare speech. That’s one reason I think the Romney camp made such a big deal out of his Las Vegas, NV take of $10+ million. Most of that money was already scheduled to come in prior to the healthcare speech. Future events are going to be a better estimate of what the healthcare speech did to him.He’s still the odds on favorite to win right now just because of name ID. He does not have terrible negatives. If his campaign is able to take out Mitch Daniels as the wonk, he’s on a good glide path to victory. But he’ll have to keep an eye on Huntsman who has capital to spend, hates Romney, and wants to beat him. Huntsman may turn more into Huckabee than Cain in the sense he stays in the race just to hurt Romney.


Rick Santorum

I still don’t see him making it to Iowa, but he is pulling in voters who were with Huckabee largely on the strength of his social conservative credentials. Left-wing media attacks on his prior statements are only helping him.But he is still going to have to overcome the stigma of losing his Senate seat in a swing state in a year Obama was not on the ballot. Likewise, coming from the Senate continues to be a drain on Republicans. I continue to have a hard time trying to figure out exactly why Santorum is in the race.If Palin gets in, I think Santorum’s run ends sooner rather than later. Without her, he’s got some basic staying power, but I don’t think he’ll have the funds to compete effectively.


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