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Saturday, October 8, 2011
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

A few weeks can be a long time, especially in Presidential politics. Back in late August, just as Hurricane Irene was about to hit the East Coast, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had just announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination, and had soared to the top of the polls. But now, after a few rough weeks of inter-mural jousting with Mitt Romney and an admission that he sometimes governed Texas like a reasonable politician and not a rabid Tea Party animal, Perry has lot his luster.

And then the liberal press opened fire with an accusation that Perry’s family used a patch of hunting ground that had a prominent rock monument with an offensive racial epithet painted on it. Perry said that his dad immediately painted over the bad word as soon as they started using the place, but the Washington Post claims to have spoken with people remembering that he didn’t. It’s mostly a “did so, did not” confrontation, but that still doesn’t do Perry much good with the northern moderate swing voters that he would have to attract in order to beat President Obama in Nov. 2012.

So, to extend the meteorological metaphor, the high energy levels in the conservative currents of the GOP have found their way to another brewing storm, and they seem to be building up to hurricane levels. Yes, I mean Herman Cain, the “Herminator”. He has three polls now showing him at 17%, versus around 23 – 25% for Romney (and with Perry sinking back to 17% or less). But the pundits note that Mr. Cain has not put much of a campaign operations network in place, a bit odd for a former business C.E.O. And he hasn’t talked much with the big Republican donors either (although the guy does have some $$ and could keep going for a while on his own). And then there’s his new book, This is Herman Cain, which has already entered the 10 best sellers list on Amazon. Cain is scheduling much time over the next month or so to promote it (versus promoting himself as President).

I can’t help but wonder if the Herminator is just doing this mostly for the money, just like any other venture capitalist. Because of his growing fame as a candidate (however inexperienced Cain is with the workings of government leadership), I suspect that he will sell a lot of books and make a nice penny on it. Oh, and don’t forget his gospel album, “Sunday Morning”, actually put out in 1996; downloads available on the Cain campaign web site. Cain does a rather jazzy cover of the old black church classic “This Is the Day”, a real finger-snapper! I doubt if Michelle Bachmann would have the guts to do a cover of, say, Best of Abba! (Albeit, she does make me think of “Dancing Queen”.)

Various other political pundits are saying that Romney is going to win by default, and deserves to. He is doing a good job thus far, putting in confident performances at the debates and not otherwise saying too much (which means that he isn’t saying anything stupid). The polls show him to be Obama’s strongest opponent, and a few polls even show Romney ahead of Obama by two points or so (although this is all basically within statistical error; best to say that he is about tied with Obama in the match-ups at this time).

And yet, the GOP is so fickle these days. Romney’s poll numbers have flat-lined at around 25% most of the year. Once some of the other candidates fold and the undecideds finally decide, Romney will certainly pick-up strength. Newt Gingrich holds about 9 percent, and I suspect that 6 or 7 points of that will wind up with Romney. And then there’s Huntsman and his 1 to 2 percent; they have no where else to go. So that takes Romney up to 34%. Usually around 25% of Republicans tell the pollsters “undecided” or “other” at present. If half of them break for Romney, he’s up to 46%. Which means that 54% right now appear ready to back someone more conservative than Romney. The question is, can they agree on one candidate?

There choices are down to Perry, Cain and Bachmann. Ron Paul’s supporters will hold out until Paul decides it’s time to play king-maker (or queen-maker, if Bachmann gets her groove back), and Santorum will have to face facts and save face at some point. I personally don’t see Michelle Bachmann getting her groove back, as she doesn’t have the ‘tough old bird’ persona a la Hillary Clinton, the look that might have convinced enough male voters to overcome their natural fear of handing the keys to the free world over to a woman. Yea, many men are still sexist in their political outlook, what a surprise.

The more interesting question is whether the typical white GOP voter can get over the buried sub-conscious remnants of their fear of black men, to consider putting Herm in the driver’s seat. It’s not impossible that they will, as Cain knows the routine that blacks have to go through in order to overcome underlying white fears (come on like a straight-shooter, confident, ready to criticize his own occasionally). And yet, it still doesn’t look like Cain himself is taking his candidacy seriously enough to last through a long, grueling primary season. Perhaps now that he is being taken seriously, all that will change; perhaps he will put his book aside and get down to building a real campaign organization to go the distance. But that remains to be seen.

So that leaves Perry – can he be forgiven and make a comeback? The history-minded pundits point out that the Republicans usually take a look at the field but then settle down with the ‘old standard’, the solid and unexciting option such as McCain in 08, Bob Dole in 96, and George H Bush in 92. And so they expect an eventual collective sigh of resignation as the party turns once more to the obvious, i.e. Mitt Romney. But I wonder if things are different enough this year. There is much more emotion in the process this time; the sweet taste of revenge is on offer here, revenge for all the Democrat hubris that emanated from the Obama movement (back when there was an ‘Obama movement’; hard to believe that ‘yes we can’ has become a quaint, ironic memory). And then throw in all the fire from the young, ill-defined Tea Party movement (the evil mirror-image of the ‘Obama movement’, with it’s own ‘yes we will’ spirit). This does not look like a normal year for Republican politics.

And yet, the firebrands eventually will have to compromise or see all their works and achievements to date co-opted and pushed to the sidelines by Mitt Romney. I believe that Perry might yet be the beneficiary of the “settle for what’s practical in the GOP” trend and not Romney. Perry could win the GOP nomination, if the right-wing enthusiasts can bury their differences and come to an agreement. Thankfully, he would be a tougher sell against Obama, unless he is given enough room himself for practical compromise (i.e., allowing him to back-off on his rabid statements on Social Security and defend the reasonable things he did in Texas such as college tuition for immigrant children and HPV vaccinations).

So, back to the hurricane metaphor and the warm currents of the Caribbean, for a moment. The debates were to Perry like dry, cool land is to a growing hurricane. They bled off his energy. But as with many tropical storms, he might still get back over warm waters and re-energize, as he still has “cell structure” (which tropical storm Herman does not). We shall see if Perry can pick up energy in the next debate, which will focus on the economy. That should be home turf for him. We shall see if he has used his time wisely to practice up on his debating skills, and if he can take advantage of the fact that Romney now has to use some of his ammo against Cain.

And to make a long-range forecast, admittedly subject to high error probabilities: I still think that Chris Christie would be Perry’s VP pick, even though the smart money keeps saying Marco Rubio. Rubio certainly would nail Florida down for the GOP, and would help loosen Obama’s hold on the Hispanic voters in the west who will otherwise swing some key western states into the Democratic column on Nov. 4 (i.e., New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada). But there is some question as to whether Rubio, a Florida Cuban (not a big surprise about a Florida Cuban being a Republican) would mean that much to the Mexican and Central American communities in the West. Christie probably could not deliver his home state (good old NJ) to the GOP, but he might make a difference in some high-unemployment northern states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which might re-think their usual loyalty to the Democrats this time around.

Some say that global warming is making hurricanes more frequent and powerful and unpredictable. The modern world with it’s 24 hour news cycle and hyper-linked communication networks seems to be doing about the same thing to the political hurricanes of today. The swings in voter sentiment are faster and more dramatic than ever. After the big change from Republican dominance to Democratic hegemony in 2006 and 2008, we are now looking at a big GOP swing-back. Batten down the hatches!!

(But if the trend continues, the Democrats will be back by 2016!!).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:43 pm      

  1. Jim, I am sorry but I just can’t get myself that worked up about the GOP and who they will choose. I think in the end it will probably be Romney, and the country will have a doozy of a time fussing about his being a Morman. Shades of 1960 and JKF and the country fussing about his being an RC.

    Last I heard Ron Paul won some poll. The thing about these polls is that none of them mean much except that the people who participated in the very non-random survey picked the person that has won that particular poll. I don’t know about other people; but I tend to cringe when I see on the phone ID some “survey” regarding public opinion. I tend to not answer the phone. Such surveys are always loaded in some way—pretend to be in favor of how they see you have predominately voted in the past, phrase their questions in such a manner as to hope to lead the respondee to think they are asking about how they think you think, yet are really seeking answers to the opposite side’s position. (I’m not sure that sentence makes any sense, but I can’t figure out how to say it better in writing this.) The upshot of this whole thing is that I tend to not believe anything the so-called “polls” publish in these early times. When it comes close to voting time, such polls tend to ask straight forward questions such as: Who will you vote for? Even then I tend to prefer to keep my preference to myself—when it comes to such polls.

    As to Mr. Cain: Seems like he’s another version of Sarah Palin. That is, eager to present himself as concerned about the wellbeing of the country yet underneath it all simply concerned about celebrity and “how much money can I make by giving speeches?” Turns out it’s very much easier to make speeches about what should and should not be done about this and that and much more prolific in the money department; yet these people seem very short on the ability to actually DO something about it in any real way.

    And talk about Bachman brings me to the very sorry situation of women in politics. Seems the glass ceiling for women in politics in America is the Secretary of State. Any woman of any real substance who has run for either President or VP has soon been “put in her place”—either by simply being shut out of the whole process or by losing in the vote—think Geraldine Ferrera (sp?). It’s enough to make a grown woman cry, I say.

    I must say I do have to admire your man in NJ, Chris Christie. Seldom does one hear a person say, hey, I committed to doing this, and I’m going to stick to my commitment. There’s a Republican who would make me sit up and listen to him, maybe even vote for him.

    As to Perry: Am I correct in thinking that no one has ever won the presidency without a good percentage of the Black vote? How do you think his name calling “rock” is going to sit with the Black vote? I doubt that will go over well with that group.

    And to go off on my own tangent here: Congress has done to Obama what Congress did to JFK back in the 1960s—simply said “no” to anything he proposes/d. It happened with JFK and it’s happening again with Obama.

    And to go off on another tangent of my own: Today I see in the paper an article on the problem of exactly how to define “rich”—as in extra taxes for the “rich”! What a problem! Lately, I’ve noticed that there seem to be entirely too many people—or maybe they are just more noticeable as they promote themselves in the now—who have too much money. For instance: This week I heard the actors who voiced the characters on the “Simpsons” simply refused to go back to work if they took a pay cut from $400,000 down to $125,000—an episode! OK, that IS a huge pay cut. If I read it correctly, they made $8 million a year. Somehow, I just couldn’t feel sorry for them if they made only, what? 2 or 3 million a year. I wondered how many people who are living in their cars because their houses were foreclosed on would work for the less amount of $125,000—an episode?

    I would define “rich” quite easily. Let’s say anybody who makes over $5 million a year. I think that would be reasonable when it comes to defining “rich.” OR should anybody who spends $35,000 on a handbag be considered “rich”? OR should anybody who spends $445,000 (or thereabouts) on a large vase (pronounced Vahhhhse at that amount) be considered “rich”. (Read about a recent “anonymous buyer” who spent that much at some auction.) See what I mean by some people just have too much money, so much money that they just have no clue what to do with it?

    I say let Romney take the GOP nomination. Now he’s another one who I could define as “rich”; the last time he ran he spent I forget how many millions of HIS OWN MONEY on running. Let him do it again if he wants to. Then let the country carry on about his being Mormon; all the fuss and fuming will mean nothing. Then let Obama get his good old Chicago “machine” working again and take the next election. That’s what I’m hoping for. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — October 9, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  2. Jim, And one more thing: Among the “persons” considered “rich”, first and foremost should be corporations. The law counts corporations as “persons”; thus, it seems to me that they should get the same treatment as any other “persons” do when it comes to defining who is “rich.” MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — October 9, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  3. Jim, Guess you hit a nerve on this blog. One other thing and then no more comments from me. Tonight on the news I heard a snippit of Herman Cain speaking. He said (likely not an exact quote but as close as I can remember), “if you don’t have a job or aren’t rich, it’s your own fault.” Kind of left me speechless for a moment–until I sat down to write this, I guess. There is something really wrong with that picture. Can you see him as president–somewhat like GWB: Don’t have enough money? Go out to the money tree and get some more.

    Then too, I wonder what the reaction of people who work 2 and 3 jobs and still have trouble making ends meet is to that statement. I’ve worked 2 jobs for over 20 years in my life, spent many of those 20 years working 18 hour days. His statement just doesn’t go over big with me.

    I believe I mentioned just a short time ago, where is the altruism in the rich–or something like it. Well, seems not only has altruism flown out the window but it’s been replaced by simple greed, greed, greed. I say again, some people just have too much money. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — October 9, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

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