Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Super Tuesday Blues Ahead For Santorum?

The impressive showing of Mitt Romney in Arizona and
Michigan will now be followed in a few days by several
primaries on Super Tuesday. The liberal media narrative
(echoed by some conservative media pundits) before the
Michigan vote was that the former Massachusetts governor
(who had been born in Michigan) "faced defeat in his home
state" from "surging Rick Santorum." While it was no
landslide, a 32,000 vote margin for Romney (it would have
been 60,000 to 75,000 vote margin without the crossover
Democratic votes intended to sabotage Romney) was not
really a "narrow" margin. The difference between Romney
and Santorum was less than 50 votes in Iowa. THAT was

The surge for Santorum lasted a few weeks, and was based on
three insignificant events, two small caucuses and a non-binding
primary in which one major candidate was not even on the
ballot. Suddenly, Mr. Santorum was leading by double digits
almost everywhere, including the respected Gallup Poll. Of
course, we had seen this "bubble" phenomenon frequently in
previous months with virtually every challenger to Mr. Romney.
Knowing Mr. Santorum's record as congressman and senator
from Pennsylvania, I immediately suggested his surge would
be brief.

Even before the Michigan vote, the air was escaping Mr.
Santorum's bubble as he was finally being vetted by the media
and his opponents. A poor debate performance and a number of
controversial statements by him were also hastening his decline,
and the last straw seemed to be his open invitation to liberal
Democrats (who would not vote for him in November) to come
into the Republican primary and sabotage Mr. Romney.

The Gallup Poll now has Mr. Romney back on top and rising
while Mr. Santorum is falling. Mr. Gingrich is not far behind, and
is also rising. Ads in Super Tuesday states where Democrats
cannot vote in Republican primaries, and where unions are not
popular, will likely show Mr. Santorum attempted cozying up to
union members in Michigan. Mr. Gingrich, almost tied by Mr.
Santorum in Georgia only a few days ago, has now opened up a
double digit lead in his "home" state (Mr. Gingrich was born and
grew up in Pennsylvania, but no one is suggesting that he "must"
win the Keystone State), and Mr. Romney is poised to overtake Mr.
Santorum for second place there. Mr. Santorum had been doing
well in several Super Tuesday states before Arizona and Michigan,
but, as in the national Gallup Poll, that was then. With limited
cash resources, a hastily assembled organization in most Super
Tuesday states (and beyond), and his surge rapidly deflating, how
is Mr. Santorum going to perform now with less than a week to go?

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


[Subscribers should check their e-mails for a
SPECIAL ADVISORY on the Michigan and Arizona
primaries, and on new developments in the campaigns
for control of the U.S. senate in 2012. These advisories
and bulletins are for subscribers only.]

(Readers who are interested in becoming subscribers
to this website should consult subscriber information
elsewhere on this page.)

[Readers who are interested in becoming subscribers
to this website should consult subscriber information
located on the right hand side.]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Too Much Polling Too Early: Caveat Lector!

I notice a chronic difficulty for many political analysts this
election cycle that is becoming particularly misleading about
probable outcomes in November. As in the 2010 cycle, political
writers and commentators are relying too much on a plethora
of polls, many of them defective in the way they pose their
questions, or their size, or most critically, the increasing
arbitrariness with which they weight their raw data before
publishing their results. The consequence is that discussions
which anticipate future results are becoming more and more
poll-oriented, and I suggest, as happened in 2010, more plainly

The volatility of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination
contest with its historically unprecedented swings in poll numbers
should be a warning not only to political analysts, but to all who
read about this cycle's political outcomes.

"What is the alternative?" some might ask. There is an alternative,
and it is more substantive examination of the candidates,
demographics, economic and political trends, and most importantly,
facts on the ground.

Two cases in point: 1. The recent poll bubble for Rick Santorum in
the GOP contest; and 2. The current discussion about control of
the U.S. senate after 2012.

A cursory look at Mr. Santorum's record as a congressman and
senator, a simple review of his controversial views on social issues,
and an examination of his performance in the 2011-12 pre-primary
campaign should have led to a great deal of skepticism about his
ability to succeed this year, even after his inconclusive three-state
primary/caucus victories recently. But this did not happen.
Instead, there was a mostly uncritical wave accepting him as a serious
candidate to win the GOP nomination.

The inescapable facts are that there are about twice as many
Democratic U.S. senate seats than Republican seats up for
re-election this year. Of the Republican-held seats only two could
be described as vulnerable, but of the Democratic seats, about a
dozen are vulnerable, many of them VERY vulnerable. Not only
that, the Republicans have recruited in most cases, strong
candidates for Democratic seats held by incumbents (in contrast
to 2010 when they did pick up six seats, but also nominated
several weak candidates who could have also won). Finally,
nothing has happened substantially which has altered the fact
that the Democratic Obama administration and the Democratic-
controlled U.S. senate are on the defensive on most hot-button
issues facing the nation, including health care, taxes, federal
spending, the over-reaching of the judiciary, government
intrusion on the private sector, conduct of foreign policy in the
Middle East, Asia, and South America, and the weakening of
the military. Of course, no one knows precisely how many net
seats the Republicans will pick up. I think it could be as few as
five or as many as eleven, but even if it were only four, that would
give the GOP control. Yet many commentators are suggesting,
based on current and very early polling, that Republican control
is in doubt.

It goes without saying that we don't know about all the events
and circumstances that might appear between now and November.
Historically, there are usually one or more major surprises, any of
which can affect the outcome of a presidential election or of some
congressional elections. In 2008, it was the mortgage banking
crisis which doomed Mr. McCain's bid for the presidency. No doubt
there will be one or more this year, affecting either Democratic or
Republican candidates. It was mathematically possible for Mr.
Santorum to win his party's nomination (although it is now
meaningfully very unlikely). It is mathematically possible for
Democrats to retain control of the U.S. senate, but barring some
extraordinary circumstance, it won't even be close.

Polling and well-run polls can be useful, especially close to the
actual voting when they are often reasonably accurate. But
excessive speculation based on a grab-bag plethora of polls is
not responsible discussion and journalism.

Caveat lector!

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Friday, February 24, 2012

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Another Day, Another Bubble

Readers of this column know that The Prairie Editor said right after
it filled with hot air that the poll bubble of Rick Santorum would not last
long. Nevertheless, the former senator from Pennsylvania has enjoyed
several heady days of leading in many state and national polls, and of
shaking up the Republican establishment which had anticipated Mitt
Romney winning his party's nomination for president. As the last of
more than six or seven persons mentioned for the top GOP spot on the
2012 ticket, and to have "bubbles" showing them briefly ahead of the
long-time frontrunner, it was probably inevitable that Mr. Santorum
would have his moment in the political sun. But there was a reason he
did not emerge earlier, and had to wait until everyone else had their
turn in the spotlight.

That reason was telegraphed in 2006 when Mr. Santorum, after two
terms in the U.S. house and two in the U.S. senate, was defeated by 18
points for re-election in Pennsylvania. Although Mr. Santorum worked
hard and persistently in Iowa to gain attention and votes, and ultimately
did win the Iowa caucus, he was not vetted until very late in the process.
That vetting has revealed someone who held contrary views on social
issues when he entered politics to the ones he now so passionately
espouses, and who behaved as a typical politician throughout most of his
time in the nation's capital. In regard to the views he now holds, many of
them are expressed in such absolutist terms that, while they may please
some in the Republican "anybody-but-Romney" base, they are almost
certain to turn away most in the political center that is the vital component
of victory every U.S. presidential election.

Predictions are always a risky endeavor in politics, but it now appears that
Mr Santorum's bubble is bursting in advance of the Arizona and Michigan
primaries, and Mr. Romney will win both. If this happens, the media, so
sensitive to its own opportunities to create melodramatic news environments,
will proclaim Mr. Romney "back on track" until Super Tuesday when, like
a "ghost of Christmas past," Newt Gingrich will likely arise one more time
from the media-created political ashes to be that "last" obstacle to Mr.
Romney's nomination in Tampa.

In fact, Charles Dickens could have not written a better script for this cycle
of the presidential election. Mr. Obama says it is "the best of times," and
the Republicans contend it is "the worst of times." The Prairie Editor does
not have to labor with difficulty to suggest that the latter argument will
likely prevail in voters' minds on election day.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Greek Ruins

The latest "bail out" of the Greek economy should fool no one.
The agreement is a band aid on top of a band aid, and only delays
an eventual collapse of the Greek situation and further deterioration
of the whole European economic crisis.

The seeds of this financial disaster in Athens were sown at the very
beginning of the European unity experiment when, soon after World
War II, the visionary dream of Jean Monnet and others was to create
an economic structure that would be followed by a political structure,
each step that would unify the continent and eliminate a millenium of
violent conflicts between the nations originally created by the various
barbarian tribes which lived in the region.

As Euroskeptics have warned throughout the many decades of the
development of the European Common Market to the present
European Union, the strategy at the outset, however well-meaning,
was flawed. It was understandable that, after two unspeakably violent
and murderous wars in the 20th century, following countless brutal
conflicts over many centuries in the region, there was a desire to
restructure the continent so that instead of jealousy and revenge,
religious persecution and totalitarianism in many forms, there would
be commercial cooperation, tolerance, mutual respect and democracy.

M. Monnet and his colleagues, however, proceeded to construct a
top-down structure of the New Europe. Perhaps knowing that modern
democratic forms were mostly unknown to the populations of the
various surviving nations of Europe, they did not have confidence in the
European masses, and assumed a paternalistic attitude of recreating the
region without building what we Americans call "grass roots" support.
It is probably true that the only major European nation which resisted
this, and only gradually found its way fully into the Union (minus
accepting the Euro, the new currency of most of the continent) was Great
Britain which had been the mother (albeit a reluctant one) of the
American democracy. (Most Americans, for whatever shortcomings U.S.
democratic structures have, would find the political process which Europe
has taken to be unthinkable and unworkable.)

I am not suggesting that Mr. Monnet's impulse and goals were not good
ones, even necessary ones. After so much human slaughter and suffering,
there had to be a better way to conduct the affairs of this large and
important part of the world. Democratic capitalism, a child of the
Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, in fact was born in
the cities of northern Europe. But another child of Europe, socialism,
had greater influence on the new nations of the continent, and a new
form, the social welfare state, emerged as the dominant economic
model. In this model, the needs of the populace were relegated more and
more to the central government of each national state, particularly in
providing unemployment insurance, education, health care, industrial
controls, taxation, old age pensions, etc. Prominent economic theories in
this period asserted that these costs and services could be provided
indefinitely by postponing growing debt resulting from them into the
future. (The same theories were temporarily put in practice on the other
side of the Atlantic, but soon after the Viet Nam War were primarily
rejected as destructive to an ongoing healthy economy.)

In Europe, however, the economic model was increasingly imposed on
the intranational structure that was becoming more and more political
as well as financial. But two main factors were working against this
process. First, of course, the economic model was fundamentally
flawed. At some point, the accumulated national debts would be
confronted by the "Piper" who would demand to be paid. The notion
that debt could be put off indefinitely was a fantasy. Second, although
it was an obvious improvement to eliminate passports, tariffs and other
impediments to free trade and passage between the European nations,
the top-down structure did not accommodate over time the different
languages, traditions and customs, and self-interests of each component
of the New Europe, the former nations developed over centuries from
the original barbarian tribes. One major reason this happened, I have
suggested, was that the "visionaries" who created the New Europe had
done so without building and receiving a slow and careful approval from
the populations of each nation. As long as the New Europe was bringing
apparent prosperity, of course, objections were relatively few and isolated.
But as the original group of nations, most of them recovering nicely from
the catastrophes of world wars (thanks in part to long-term economic and
military aid from the U.S.), were expanded to poorer nations, economic
crisis became inevitable. Large waves of immigration from outside Europe
to provide labor for the post-war European boom profoundly has
complicated this crisis, as Europe evolved from its traditional Catholic and
Protestant constituencies to much more secular ones whose traditions were
challenged by the immigrants.

In short, there is now an economic and political crisis in Europe which
cannot be resolved by "bail outs" and other economic sleights of hand.
The problems are not only endemic in the newer "Euro" nations of Greece,
Portugal and Spain, they now reach farther and farther into Germany,
France and The Netherlands, some of the more successful economies,
as well as Italy, chronically one of the financial and political "trouble
spots" of Europe.

Whether now or at some "postponed" date, the "Piper" will have to be
paid. Those who will have to pay include most of the citizens of Europe,
i.e., the pensioners, the shareholders, the small businesses and those
dependent on public welfare. These are most of the voters in Europe,
and thus we understand why the politicians continue to delay resolving
the crisis.

The United States is not immune from many of these problems, nor
more immediately, would it be unaffected by a worsening of the
European crisis. Americans hold European debt and American
business depend on European trade. This is why the Obama
administration acts in ways that resemble European administrations.

Behind the "bail outs" is a massive deception, that is, that everything
will turn out all right if only we can postpone dealing with the Piper
who wants to be paid. Greece is the focus of today, but the crisis
will emigrate quickly wherever it can, like a river exceeding its banks,
like a volcano emitting merciless lava in all directions.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Romney's Problem, Romney's Opportunity

If Mitt Romney has what it takes to be president, and I suspect he does,
he will use his present predicament to overcome his greatest vulnerability
in the presidential contest for his party’s nomination, that is, his failure
so far to connect emotionally with voters.

That does not mean that the former governor of Massachusetts will
suddenly say he “feels our pain,” or that he will make teenage girls and
grown men swoon with incendiary rhetoric. Mr Romney’s personality
is not naturally outwardly warm or empathetic; that is not going to change
overnight or suddenly, as if by a political consultant’s wand. But where is it
written in American political history that the nation’s chief executive is
supposed to be the First Therapist or the National Teddy Bear?

In fact, few presidents have been like Bill Clinton. Yet most presidents did
have the knack to relate to voters, that is, voters have found them ultimately
likable. Mitt Romney is a rich man, but he is a self-made rich man. He is
a problem-solving businessman. His greatest problem now is restoring his
campaign for president, subjected for months to “bubble” assaults in the
polls from rivals. He has recuperated from each of these, but the
Republican nomination is now in its decisive stage, i.e. , delegates are
being chosen, voters are finally making up their minds.

Although I have written for months, without endorsing him, that I
thought that Romney would ultimately win his party’s nomination,
nowhere have I suggested that his victory was absolutely inevitable.
In politics, nothing is absolutely inevitable.

What is Mr. Romney’s problem? It is a lack of connection. It is not that
voters cannot “like” him, but they are having difficulty “connecting” to
him. His remoteness is the distance he appears to place (intentional or
not) between himself and voters. Does it come from his personality, his
wealth, his upbringing, and his political circumstances? Yes, all of these.
He can’t change his wealth, nor his upbringing, and his political
circumstances have been thrust on him. But he can share with voters his
obvious dilemma, and invite them to help him solve his problem.

This probably cannot be done alone with massive political advertising by
his own campaign (nor by the SuperPac he does not control), nor by
pretending he does not have a problem. It cannot be solved alone by
superior organization. It cannot be solved simply with his resume.

Mitt Romney needs to get a large number voters to be part of solving
his political problem, and that begins with a simple heartfelt appeal directly
to voters. Voters, I have observed over many presidential cycles, are not
looking for perfect candidates. They look for candidates who agree with
them, but they also like candidates who can admit mistakes, who ask
forgiveness for their personal shortcomings, and most of all, voters
in America like candidates who acknowledge, simply and humbly, that
they, the politicians, ultimately need them, the voters.

I do not presume to say what Mr. Romney should say, and how he should
say it, to accomplish this, but at some point he will, if he is to prevail, have
to do this. If he does not, Mr. Gingrich may yet overcome his own problems
and win this nomination. If neither of them do it, there may yet be a
so-called “brokered” convention, and no one now in the contest may
suddenly emerge.

This election is bigger than personalities, and someone who can do the
job, even if he or she is not now on the ballot, will contend to be
commander-in-chief this November. Mr. Romney earned his fortune,
as they say, ”the old-fashioned way.” If he is to be president, he must
find his way to do this again.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mood Swings

Poll numbers in the Republican presidential nomination contest
have become no more than mood swings of conservatives who have
allowed political emotion to supercede political common sense.

How else to explain the huge swings in poll numbers in the form of
"bubbles" that have now culminated in a surge for the weakest possible
candidate to oppose President Obama in November?

Let me remind anyone who is interested in the outcome of this year's
presidential election that the vote in November when an incumbent
is running for a second term is always a judgment by the voters on the
record of the incumbent. The only time that is not true is when the
opposition party nominates someone so weak and inappropriate that
he or she becomes the focus of the election, and the incumbent's
campaign can successfully transform their own candidate's weakness
to voter alarm over the challenger.

As the vetting of Rick Santorum's legislative record is now revealing,
this record does not resemble the persona that he has put forward in
his presidential campaign. His voting record is replete with
inconsistencies, from the conservative point of view. His justification
so far is that, hey, he was a senator from Pennsylvania and he was only
representing his constituents. But wait a minute, conservatives, haven't
you already rejected that alibi from Mitt Romney who has argued that
his apparent past moderate record was because he was governor of
Massachusetts, arguably the most liberal state? At least, Mr. Romney
has a valid point, Massachusetts IS the most liberal state. I'm originally
from Pennsylvania, and I can testify to the fact that the Keystone State
is one of the least liberal in the eastern U.S. If Mr. Santorum's alibi had
any validity, how can he explain losing he 2006 re-election by 18 points?

There was a reason that Mr Santorum was so lightly regarded at the
outset on the 2012 campaign, He had been in Washington, DC for almost
two decades, and was known as a political lightweight who took extreme
views on controversial subjects.

I would agree to the point, made by many, that some of the best GOP
candidates this cycle (including Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Bobby
Jindal, Jeb Bush, et al) chose not to run. But that point is moot now.
There are only four candidates for the GOP nomination left. One of them,
Ron Paul, is totally unelectable. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have
each political warts and shortcomings. But they at least have both
the stature and a political history which makes them serious candidates
for president.

To his credit, Rick Santorum has worked hard, and unlike some of his
2012 colleagues, did not abandon the race because his poll numbers were
low. Unfortunately his current political personality does not resemble his
own record, a fact that would make him a mortally weak opponent to
Mr. Obama who would easily make Mr. Santorum the issue in November,
especially to independent voters, the ones who ALWAYS make the difference
in a presidential election.

Unless they are suddenly suicidal and timid, the campaigns of Mr. Romney
and Mr. Gingrich will not fail to point our Mr. Santorum's huge
vulnerabilities. Mr. Paul has already said "it is time to take the cover off"
the former senator from Pennsylvania. If he is nothing else, Mr. Paul is a
man of his word.

As I have pointed out time and again in the past year, no bubble against Mr.
Romney has lasted for than a few days. Far more substantive candidates
than Mr. Santorum learned this the hard way. Both the liberal and the
conservative media have lots of motives to promote this latest bubble.
But I remember when Mr. Cain, Mr. Perry and Mr. Gingrich were each
ahead of Mr. Romney suddenly by double digits, and everyone seemed to
ooh and ah over this remarkable circumstance.

Lest they become intoxicated by this phenomenon one more time, may I
suggest to those who read this that we are now only days away from when
the calendar will produce large numbers of actual delegates for one
candidate or another. Like anyone being wooed, voters understandably
are subject to wild mood swings just before they have to make a decision.
But the time comes when a decision must be made.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sticks And Stones

When I was a little boy, and we heard either erroneous or
cruel comments made by one child to another, we were told to
respond "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words
will never hurt me." It was a simple nursery rhyme device, but
it contained an important basic truth.

In the current presidential race, as in previous ones, competing
candidates hurl tough charges against each other. Some are
valid, many are false, most are only partially true and taken out
of context. In today's age of the internet, text messages,
as well as the usual print and broadcast media, direct attacks
by candidates and their political advertising, or the relatively new
phenomenon of "SuperPacs" which are not controlled by the
candidates themselves but which work on a candidate's behalf,
there are brutal verbals attacks 24/7 seemingly everywhere,
especially in those states which are conducting primaries or
caucuses in the near future.

Many folks decry these tactics, although they are as old as the
Republic itself, and few can quickly determine whether or not
they are true or false. The SuperPacs particularly seem to be an
unfair innovation in the presidential election cycle, and probably
should be eliminated in new election reforms in the future, but
for now, they are part of the election cycle.

As candidates have learned one more time in the 2012 election
cycle, negative ads can indeed hurt. Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney
have experienced this personally, and now that Mr. Santorum is
enjoying some recent success, he will no doubt experience this, too.
But the basic insight of "sticks and stones......" remains fundamentally
true as well because voters pay a lot of attention to how a candidate
responds to verbal attacks. Mr. Gingrich began the campaign calling
for the "Reagan rule" of no attacks, and he put this into practice by
praising his rivals while calling for them to debate the issues. As his
political fortunes soon soared, he was predictably attacked by most of his
competitors, particularly Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul. After these attacks
seemed to work in Iowa, and Mr. Gingrich fell behind, he promised to
respond in kind, and he did. This did not seem to help him anywhere
but South Carolina, and Mr. Gingrich's standing steadily declined in the
polls. It may seem unfair that Mr. Romney, for example, does not seem
to be criticized for his attacks, but part of this may be accounted for by
the fact that Mr. Romney stays carefully on his message. Mr. Gingrich,
on the other hand, seems to take the attacks so personally that they
distract him from his message.

With about three weeks to Super Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich has one more
major opportunity to stage another political comeback. He continues to
be attacked in ads by both Mr. Romney and now Mr. Santorum (who
understandably tries to claim he is now the alternative to Mr. Romney).
Mr. Gingrich has been one of the most interesting candidates in this
cycle, has staged two dramatic comebacks, and through the debates and
some of his proposals, helped greatly make the Republican contest more
interesting to voters nationwide. His suggestion of a colony on the moon,
initially ridiculed by his opponents and some in the media, may turn out
to be the most original and lasting idea presented in the 2012 election.
But he still seems to be hypersensitive to the attacks made against him
and the tactics of his opponents. I would suggest that presidential
politics is as "hardball" as it gets. and that allowing the tactics and words
of others to keep a candidate from pursuing his best course is a grievous
mistake and a formula for defeat.

I have repeatedly said that Mr. Romney remains the favorite to win his
party's nomination, but there is plenty of hard evidence that the nomination
contest is not over. Mr. Santorum continues to enjoy his latest "bubble"
(although there are indications that he is already beginning to fade), and one
more time, Mr. Gingrich has been written off by his rivals and the pundits.
Super Tuesday lies ahead, and after that the delegate-rich states of Texas,
Pennsylvania, New York, California and most of the midwest. If Mr.
Gingrich cannot return to his original plan, and show his strengths to
voters, including his mastery of the issues, his new ideas, his fearless
populism, the voters, too, will write him off. From that, unlike the opinions
of the punditocracy and the spinmeisters, there can be no recovery.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


[Subscribers to The Prairie Editor should check
their e-mails for a new SUBSCRIBER-ONLY ADVISORY
following the announcement of results from the
CPAC straw poll and the Maine caucus.}

(Readers who would like to receive and read The Prairie
Editor's subscriber advisories, special bulletins and
other subscriber-only features should consult the
information on how to subscribe elsewhere on this website.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three Weeks To Change The World

The contest for the 2012 Republican nomination for president
has entered a curious interval. The basic conditions of the race
are unchanged, that is, Mitt Romney is the frontrunner and the now
reduced number of his challengers are still chasing his lead. This past
Tuesday's results in which a hitherto minor candidate won two
caucuses and a non-binding primary did not change this fundamental
condition, although media coverage has attempted to suggest that it

Super Tuesday, at which a large number of delegates will be chosen
for the first time, is about three weeks away, and will begin a series
of primaries in large states that will choose delegates on a
winner-take-all basis. This will soon lead either to the presumptive
nomination of Mr. Romney, or should he fail then, it will lead to an
open convention in Tampa (at which recently withdrawn candidates
might resume their candidacies, and even new candidates might enter
the race).

The latter scenario would be the first truly open convention in more
than 50 years, and the outcome, from the view of the present point in
time, would be uncertain. The former scenario, the nomination of Mr.
Romney is more likely, but of course anything can happen in a political
cycle such as this one.

Notwithstanding all of the most recent events, the "significance" of
which I have been suggesting is overstated and overwroght, it is very
difficult to see anyone but Mr Romney or Mr Gingrich accumulating
enough delegates to assure victory in Tampa. Mr. Santorum's "bubble"
of successful fundraising and rising poll numbers should continue for
several days now. If Super Tuesday were next Tuesday (February 14),
he might indeed supercede Mr. Gingrich. But it is Ron Paul who is
likely to be Mr. Romney's principal challenger in Maine, and Mr.
Romney now has the money and time to recover in Arizona and
Michigan, two primary states that precede Super Tuesday. For now,
Mr. Santorum has some mini-momentum in some of the Super
Tuesday states, but the overriding pattern of the 2012 primary cycle
is that no challenger to Mr Romney can sustain his or her "bubble" in
the polls. Mr. Gingrich is not likely to turn suddenly into a political
marshmallow as he faces his last serious opportunity to win his
party's nomination before Tampa. Moreover, Mr. Santorum will now
be "vetted" as he has not been before, and his 12 year-record in the
U.S. senate will be measured against his claims of success in that time.
Voters will also be able to assess why Mr. Santorum, with two senate
terms behind him, was able to lose his re-election in Pennsylvania by
an astonishing 18 points in 2006.

On the other hand, Mr. Romney, with all his organization and available
campaign funding, cannot fail to pull his campaign together as he has
not done before, address his communication problems with doubters in
his own party, and assert himself as the nominee. Mr. Gingrich has
finally adopted a more appealing tone to his campaign, and a less brittle
response to the steady stream of criticism from his rivals. But is it in time,
and enough to give him a third comeback? Can he win in Georgia,
Alabama, Tennessee and Oklahoma (states where he is expected to do
well), and then surprise in Ohio (where Mr. Romney or Mr. Santorum
might be expected to beat him)?

The next three weeks will have few voting events, and will be the final
"slow" time before many primaries will take place in rapid succession.
But the course of the 2012 Republican nomination contest may well be
determined by what happens in this interval below the surface and
behind the scenes.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Republican Bubble Baths

Last Tuesday, a small number of voters in two caucus states, and
voters in a basically meaningless primary (it did not choose any
delegates, and one major candidate was not even on the ballot) created
one more in an endless series of"political" bubbles in the Republican
contest for the 2012 presidential nomination.

Rick Santorum won all three of these events. He was expected to win
two of them. He defeated Mitt Romney by a narrow margin in Colorado
where he was expected to come in second. Now we will have a second
Santorum "bubble" (the first occurred after Mr. Santorum tied Mr.
Romney in the Iowa caucus). The first bubble lasted only a few days
because in the next voting, the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Santorum
trailed far behind. In subsequent voting, including South Carolina,
Florida and Nevada, he did not do well, coming in a distant third or fourth.

First, I want to give Rick Santorum some personal credit for the campaign
he has run this cycle. No one gave him any chance to emerge at the outset
of the campaign, and he was not impressive in the early debates. But he
persisted and worked hard, and he stuck to his guns as clearly the most
consistently social conservative candidate in his party. Other candidates
had better resumes, were more colorful, and had much more resources, but
one by one they fell by the side of the political road. Mr. Santorum is now
"somebody" in his party, and he earned it the old fashioned way. Mr.
Santorum, it needs to be added, has not yet needed to defend any personal
baggage as the hitherto major candidates attacked each other with bitter
personal attacks and advertising.

Mr. Santorum, as certain as his poll numbers will now rise, will also
receive the vetting he has not had until now. A two-term U.S. senator
from Pennsylvania, he was defeated for re-election by 18 points in 2006.
Subsequently, Mr. Santorum went to "K" Street in Washington, DC,
and became a millionaire in short order. Both his serious rivals, Mr.
Romney and Mr. Gingrich (as well as Barack Obama), became self-made
millionaires, so that in itself is not an issue, but now there will be a
serious examination, as happened with his rivals, of how he made so
much money. One of Mr. Santorum's strengths is also one of his
vulnerabilities, that is, his dogged persistence of many of his very
conservative ideals. An example of this occurred in the recent debates
when Mr. Santorum confronted Mr. Romney on the issue of restoring
voting rights to convicted felons. Mr. Santorum tore into Mr. Romney's
position of not restoring those rights, but as Mr. Romney pointed out,
the vast majority of voters, no matter the compassionate principle, will
not respond to a candidate who makes this issue into a big deal. Mr.
Santorum is also much admired in the pro-life community as one of
their most consistent champions, but his views on the subject are
absolute. All of the Republican candidates are pro-life, but Mr. Romney
makes an exception in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
This is where the majority of Americans are, particularly independent
voters, and it is a certainty that Mr. Obama's campaign would make
much of this should Mr. Santorum be the nominee.

Since a true vetting has not yet taken place, I am not going to make any
judgment on any character issues regarding Mr. Santorum. Like Mr.
Romney, he appears to be a model husband, father and family man.

The punditocracy, left and right, as well as the partisan spinmeisters,
will now suggest that Tuesday was further proof that Mr. Romney is not
nominatable because the Republican base does not trust or like him.
While this may ultimately have some validity, Tuesday "proved" nothing
of the sort. The relatively small number of voters on Tuesday were events
ideal for fringe candidates. Ron Paul and Mr. Santorum did well because
their base of energized voters showed up. Mr. Romney and Newt Gingrich,
who have larger bases of support in the party did poorly, but their
showing does not necessarily reflect what lies ahead when the largest
number of delegates are selected.

Mr. Paul is a fringe candidate in any case. Like Mr. Santorum, he has
stuck to his principles throughout the campaign, but there is no
evidence that beyond his small base he has any support among the
Republican electorate. He has made some excellent points on the
domestic economy, but his foreign policy and national defense views
are in direct opposition to the widely-held views of the great majority
of Republicans of all stripes.

Mr. Gingrich seemed to be left out of Tuesday's voting. He did not
even appear on the ballot in the only primary, Missouri. But the next
important day of voting, Super Tuesday in early March, will include
states he might win, including Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Mr. Gingrich himself has had a serious of extreme ups and downs,
debate triumphs, attacks on his character, and miscues. He must do
well on Super Tuesday. If he does not, his only hope then would be a
brokered convention in Tampa. Mr. Gingrich' challenge now is to
reach deep down inside himself to discard his oft-cited insecurities
and make himself not only the smartest candidate and the best debater,
but someone genuinely appealing to voters.

I am amused by the "new" conventional wisdom that Mr. Romney
is now not only no longer the frontrunner, but not acceptable to his party.
All this based on three states where a small number of activist voters
dominated the elections. (Only two days before, the "old" conventional
wisdom had him almost the inevitable nominee.)

Let me use the Minnesota caucus to prove my point. I live in Minnesota,
and have been critical of its precinct caucus system for decades. Less
than 1% or 2% of eligible voters show up at the caucuses. The vast
majority of Minnesota voters gave up on them years ago when it became
obvious that, in both parties, these caucuses were being used by tiny
minorities of special interest voters to impose themselves on the majority
of voters. The vote totals in these caucuses chronically reflect an elitist
and anti-democratic system in Minnesota, one that has worked time and
again against majority voter opinion. Neither Mr. Paul nor Mr. Santorum
could carry Minnesota in a general election while, in my opinion, either
Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich could.

A "bubble" for Mr. Santorum over the next few weeks is inevitable. No
doubt he will also receive an infusion of cash, and an influx of campaign
volunteers. Perhaps he will survive the vetting he will now receive. But we
have been through these "bubbles" before, and as I suggested in a recent
column, winners of GOP primaries and caucuses find their momentary
triumphs easily turn into a negative political "curse."

Nor will Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich stand quietly still during the next
three weeks. They and their supporters are not going to passively default
to a tiny number of activist voters and let them dictate the Republican
nomination for president. Is it possible that Mr. Santorum to follow through
on Tuesday? Yes, but the patterns of this campaign year suggest that to obtain
the nomination in Tampa and win the general election, the Republican
nominee will have to have broader appeal than just a party base.

If the Republican Party does not appeal to a majority of voters, especially
to the most voters in states with the most electoral votes, they will not win
next November. The opponent of the Republicans may be, as I have
suggested, a failed president who cannot bring the nation out of its
current crisis, but he is not yet a failed campaigner. In fact, he has shown
himself to be an effective campaigner. Give him the "wrong" opponent, and
he will take him to the showers.

This year's campaign has just begun. As befits a truly historic election, the
battles ahead will be epic and extraordinary.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


[Subscribers to The Prairie Editor should check
their e-mails for a new SPECIAL ADVISORY
entitled "The Night of the Living Fringe."]

(Readers of this website who wish to receive
special advisories, bulletins and subscriber only
benefits should consult instructions for
subscribing to The Prairie Editor elsewhere on
this website page.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


[Subscribers should check their e-mail for a
"Special Subscriber Advisory" on the aftermath
of the Nevada caucus and a preview of upcoming
Republican presidential primaries and caucuses.]

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Curse Of Winning A Republican Primary/Caucus in 2012 And Other Curiosities

There is a curious phenomenon happening in the Republican contest
for the party’s nomination in 2012. No sooner has someone won an
early caucus or primary than something bad happens, and someone else
wins the next one.

Rick Santorum surprisingly tied Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus, the
opening voting event in this four year cycle, and in fact, several days later,
following a recount of the ballots, was declared the winner. He did receive
a great deal of media attention as a result of this, and an increase in
campaign cash contributions, but came in a distant third or fourth in New
Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida the next three weeks. He has
has no current prospects of winning another primary or caucus, including
his home state of Pennsylvania in April.

The winner of the first primary, the next week, was long-time frontrunner
Mitt Romney who had almost tied Mr. Santorum in Iowa, and won by a
large margin in the Granite State. Leading in the polls in the next primary,
in South Carolina, many pundits began talking of his quickly sewing up the
nomination in Florida. But before he got there, Newt Gingrich, who had
not done well in Iowa or New Hampshire, made a sudden surge and won
South Carolina by 13 points.

This was now reversed in Florida when Gingrich, who initially had been
leading there by a large margin, faded under a media ad blitz by Romney
and his fellow rivals (as he had in Iowa), and lost the Sunshine State to
Romney by 15 points.

Once again, many pundits declared that frontrunner Romney was now back
on track to sew up the nomination early despite statements by Gingrich,
Santorum and Ron Paul that they would remain in the race. Too late, these
pundits declared, Romney was back on top and heading for more victories.

But then Mr. Romney gave an interview stating he “did not worry about the
very poor because they had a safety net.” This was both taken out of context
and carelessly stated, but regarded as further proof of Romney’s political
insensitivity and the positive aftermath of his victory in Florida was
quickly supplanted by this controversy.

This may not be quite as sensational as the “Curse of Tutankhamen” (the
series of misfortunes which befell those who discovered and opened the
legendary pharaoh’s pyramid tomb in the 1920’s), but it is a curious pattern.
Will it continue? Can Newt Gingrich make still another comeback? Can
Rick Santorum finally win a significant primary or caucus and supplant
Gingrich as Romney’s main challenger?

Mr. Romney is now expected to win Nevada easily. The votes in Missouri
and Minnesota are non-binding to delegates. Michigan is considered
virtually Romney’s home state, so the next real test will be Super Tuesday
in early March where a number of states, including southern ones (where
Gingrich, as he did in South Carolina, may win). Mr. Romney clearly now
has the advantage, but it is not clear if the “curse of winning a primary in
2012” will continue.

Speaking of the curious, which may also be a form of political outrage,
the latest unemployment figures claim that the number of unemployment
in the workforce is down a bit to 8.3%. At the same time, 1.2 million
persons who were out of work were declared non-existent because they
were so disheartened that they were no longer “seeking” employment.
This unilateral gambit is so transparent that it borders on the absurd.
Yet most in the media, all of the Democrats, and even many Republicans
made no effort at objection at this statistical fraud. That includes most of
the Republican aspirants for president. If it weren’t for the Congressional
Budget Office, Robert Samuelson and Rush Limbaugh, most would not
even know this outrage was taking place.

If the Obama administration can get away with making the public believe
real unemployment (somewhere between 10% and 12%) is only 8.3%, they
will soon be declaring there is no deficit.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Onward: Downward Or Upward?

As expected, Mitt Romney won a clear victory in the Florida primary,
and by a margin similar to the one Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina.
Of course, Florida is a much larger and more diverse state, and this bodes
well for the former Massachusetts governor. He also continues to have a
decided advantage in cash and organization. But the contest is not quite
over; in fact, if former Speaker Newt Gingrich is to be taken at his word,
the contest might go on for some time.

There are now only four major candidates left in the Republican field.
It would seem now that only two of them could win the nomination. The
presence of the other two candidates is another advantage for Mr.
Romney, particularly Rick Santorum's continued candidacy since he
shares the "Anybody-But-Romney" constituency with Mr. Gingrich.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the so-called Republican
establishment last night. Some of them did not originally support Mr.
Romney, but Mr. Gingrich's candidacy has ironically brought them all
together under the rubric of "electability."

Mr. Gingrich could not disagree more with this view. He contends that
Mr. Romney cannot beat Mr. Obama, but that he can. So far, however,
the polls do not support the former speaker's contention.

In order to press on, Mr. Gingrich has edited down his campaign, always
filled with new ideas and perspectives, to populist, anti-establishment
themes that he intends to persuade religious and economic conservatives,
Tea Party supporters, and disaffected Democrats to join his side. The
conventional wisdom, reasserted after Florida, is that Mr. Romney's
nomination is now inevitable, and that Mr. Gingrich has once more
imploded in full view.

In the long term of this contest, that's more likely to be accurate, but in the
short term (that is, the next month or so until after Super Tuesday) it may
not be so. Right now, Mr. Santorum is Mr. Romney's unintended best
friend. As long as the former Pennsylvania senator is actively on the ballot
in upcoming primary and caucus states, it is problematic for Mr. Gingrich
to overtake Mr. Romney even if he makes another political comeback.
Mr. Santorum apparently believes that if he waits long enough, as he did in
Iowa, that he could outlast Mr. Gingrich as Mr. Romney's last challenger
standing. Anything is possible, but this more likely fits the category of
wishful thinking. (He may also want to have a place in an adminIstration
led by President Romney.)

Ron Paul's role in the remaining forty-plus primaries/caucuses is not likely
to change. He will receive a relatively small percentage of the popular vote,
as he did in Florida, occasionally spiking up a bit, especially in caucus
states. Many of his voters are voting Republican because he is in the race,
and it is not clear who would be helped most if he withdrew (which, almost
certainly, he will not do).

What we are going to see now is the grand spectacle of an all-out populist,
anti-establishment campaign from Mr Gingrich, one of the most talented
communication candidates of recent times. I am not suggesting he can
pull it off and be nominated in Tampa, but neither am I categorically saying
he cannot do it.

A lot of folks are mad at him, including his party's establishment (of which
he was once a prominent member) and along with Mr Romney and Mr.
Santorum, are saying nasty things about him. At the same time, he is attracting
some conservative grass roots voters who were for other candidates. Mr.
Gingrich is a rare phenomenon; on the one hand he is an intellectual and a
self-proclaimed visionary, and on the other he is a street fighter. Given his
knack for verbal fireworks, and self-implosions, the next several weeks will be,
as I have already said, a spectacle of high (and low?) order.

I, for one, am putting aside all the current manifestations of anger, rhetorical
emotions and various noisy compulsions to take sides.

I am just going to enjoy the show.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.