Friday, March 30, 2012

End Game, And Then.......

The high profile endorsements of Mitt Romney by major figures in the
Republican Party, and representing various wings of the party, signals the
end of the nomination contest, even as numerous primaries are yet to be
held between now and the end of June. Three other candidates remain in the
contest, but even they have now received the message from voters that a choice
has been made.

As I have recently suggested, it is not necessary for these candidates to
withdraw immediately. What will be important for them is how they
withdraw when the time comes. It also costs a lot of money to run a campaign
for president, and necessity may be a major factor in the timing of their
withdrawals. In the case of Rick Santorum, he faces his home state primary in
Pennsylvania on April 24, and indications are that his initial big lead there
has evaporated, and that if he does not withdraw before that primary, he might
suffer the humiliation of defeat from voters who presumably know him best.
It is already clear that, even if he could win a plurality of that state's vote, Mitt
Romney is now likely to win the largest share of the state's delegates because of
Pennsylvania's unique direct ballot election.

Mr. Romney, while keeping up the pressure on his opponents through his
political advertising, has wisely moved on personally to confront his
November opponent President Obama on the major issues of the 2012
campaign. Already there is a sense that Mr. Romney has waged a more
strategic and effective campaign than first thought by both Democrats and
many Republicans.

Aside from inevitable small incidents that will be deliberately magnified by his
opponents on both the left and the right, Mr. Romney's campaign from now
until the end of the primary season should be mostly anticlimactic.

Republican Party leaders and officials can now turn their attention, in the
interim, to important matters in the still-forming campaigns for governor,
U.S. house and U.S. senate. A dramatic confrontation lies ahead in Wisconsin
where embattled GOP Governor Scott Walker now faces a recall vote
in the summer. Incumbent GOP Senator Richard Lugar also faces a primary
challenge within his own party. In Maine, following the surprise retirement
of GOP Senator Olympia Snowe, a three-way race for her successor includes an
independent candidate who is favored to win in November. Many other
primaries featuring congressional races made uncertain by redistricting also
are ahead. Several nomination races for probably close November U.S. senate
races have also not yet been held.

When this remaining political cloud clears, we will have a better picture of
the 2012 national elections. With the huge and historic decision of the U.S.
supreme court in the matter of Obamacare now set to be written and made
public before the November campaign begins in earnest, the continued weak
recovery of the economy,and the ominous developments in the Middle East
moving closer and closer to its next crisis, this autumn campaign promises to
be one of the most momentous in decades.

Barring unexpected developments in the economy and in the world (always
quite possible), the nation will now have just a bit of a breather before the
final confrontations between the candidates, the political parties, and the
world views now entering the open field of American history's latest and
periodic arena of electoral battle.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Senate Will Not Be The Same (Part 2)

In late 2009, I wrote that the 2010 national elections would be a blow-out for
the Republicans. The polling did not then indicate this, and contemporary
political commentary certainly did not suggest this. Why did I stick my
political neck out then? Because it was obvious to me by that time that a
significant majority of Americans had not only rejected both the tactics and
the substance of the so-called Obamacare legislation, but had been noticeably
turned off by the Democratic congressional leadership of Nancy Pelosi and
Harry Reid which had strong-armed not only Obamacare, but other
legislation through the Congress.

Some months ago, I wrote that, under almost any circumstances (including
the re-election of President Obama), the Republicans will regain control of
the U.S. senate in 2012. This was not all that difficult a prediction inasmuch
as almost twice as many Democratic seats are up for election this cycle than
Republican seats. In recent days, however, I have noticed much commentary
by more than a few colleagues that Republican control is in doubt. This was
probably due to the bitter current GOP presidential nominating campaign,
doubts about Mitt Romney, and various polls that matched Democratic
incumbents or replacements of incumbents against Republican challengers.
Announcements that former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey would run
again in Nebraska and that GOP Senator Olympia Snowe unexpectedly
would retire further seemed to shake up the Republican "inevitability"

As it turns out, the Kerrey announcement has barely affected that race. My
savvy friend and colleague Stu Rothenberg slightly (and I think perfunctorily)
moved the race from "Safe Republican" to "Republican Favored." Mr.
Kerrey, more than 20 years from his last race in Nebraska, himself was in,
then out, then in again. Nebraska Republicans have not yet settled on a
nominee, but whoever it is will be heavily favored in November. Mr. Kerrey
was a good senator, and in 1992, a serious candidate for president, but many
years living in Manhattan and serving as president of one of the most
ultraliberal colleges in the nation, will not help him regain favor in
conservative Nebraska where many younger voters do not remember him.

In the case of Maine, the Republicans will likely lose a vote for organizing
the senate, but not necessarily lose a vote on much legislation. The first
reaction to Mrs. Snowe's retirement was that a liberal Democrat would
replace her. But former independent Governor Angus King has announced
he will run, and he is favored to win. A political centrist, Mr.King might
be a better vote for some GOP legislation than Mrs. Snow, a liberal
Republican, was. Almost certainly, Mr. King would organize with the
Democrats, and many local party officials now favor him. But there will
be a Democratic nominee in November, and there is even the possibility
that in the resulting three-way race, the Republican might squeak through.

Polls have shown that the Democrat is favored in the open Hawaii senate
seat, that incumbent Democrat Sharrod Brown is ahead in Ohio, and that
incumbent Senator Bill Nelson in Florida leads in his race. I am prepared
to predict now that Republicans Linda Lingle in Hawaii, Josh Mandell in
Ohio and Connie Mack in Florida will win their races in these states.

The seat of Incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in Missouri and the
open Democratic seat in North Dakota (Kent Conrad retiring) even now
heavily lean to their Republican opponents. These will also be GOP
pick-ups. Likewise, incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester in Montana
trails his challenger GOP Congressman Denny Rehberg, and will probably
not be returning to take the oath next January.

In Wisconsin, liberal Democrat Herbert Kohl is retiring, and although
the recall vote of Governor Scott Walker complicates this state's vote in
November, if former Governor Tommy Thompson becomes the GOP
nominee (he now leads in primary polls), he will be the favorite to win
in November against Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.

There are a few incumbent Republican senators who are potentially
vulnerable this cycle, but I predict that Senator Scott Brown in
Massachusetts and Senator Dean Heller in Nevada will be re-elected.
In both cases, their Democratic opponents have turned out to be
controversial or weak.

Senator Richard Lugar is facing a serious primary opponent this year.
If he wins, his re-election is certain. If he does not, the Republicans
are ultimately likely to retain the seat although it might be close. I think
Republicans are also likely to keep the seat held by retiring GOP Senator
Jon Kyl in Arizona.

This leaves the contests in Virginia (where an incumbent Democrat is
retiring), Michigan (where incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow is
running for re-election), New Mexico (Democrat also retiring), and
possibly Washington (where incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell is
also running for re-election). Democrats probably would retain these
seats (although Virginia and New Mexico could yet go to the

My math adds up, then, to a net gain of at least six seats for the GOP
in the U.S. senate. It could be as many as ten, especially if President
Obama fails to win re-election, now a distinct possibility. A major reason
why I am predicting victory for the Republicans has been not only the
continuing negative voter reaction to the Democratic agenda but the GOP
success in recruiting so many outstanding challengers this year. This
includes Linda Lingle, Dennis Rehberg, Josh Mandel, John Berg, and
Tommy Thompson (assuming he wins his primary)

With redistricting not yet finalized, and so many nominees in both
parties not yet chosen, I am not yet ready to predict control of the U.S.
house, although the Republicans now hold a large majority.

We now know the Republican nominee for president, but the full
character of the presidential contest is not yet known. There will be
much to discuss about that, and its consequences, in the days ahead.

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Moving On To Tampa

As subsequent primaries will increasingly demonstrate, Mitt Romney will have more
than enough delegates for a first ballot victory in Tampa in August. All but partisans
of other candidates, ideologues living in denial, and media colleagues milking an old
story for one more squirt, are moving on to the next and final stage of the
presidential election of 2012.

The next wave of endorsements will probably come (and have already begun to
come) from Republican senatorial and congressional candidates who have not yet
endorsed Mr. Romney, but who obviously have a stake in a united and strong GOP
ticket in the November campaign.

Likely now to nominate their strongest candidate for the November campaign,
especially in terms of appealing to the broadest possible general electorate, I
continue to see that the GOP has bright prospects, both for maintaining control
of the U.S. house, and winning control of the U.S. senate. This circumstance arises
not only from the weakness of support throughout the nation for the Obama
administration's record and policies, but also (and importantly) from the quality
of Republican challengers, particularly in the senate, recruited against the
numerous vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Of course, the nominees for numerous races are yet to be determined, and the
state of the U.S. economy remains ambiguous in terms of recovery, so nothing is
etched in marble about the results in November. There does remain a path for
re-election victory for Mr. Obama, and there are circumstances in which the
Democrats could win back the U.S. house.

There will continue to be occasional residues from the nominating campaign season
over the summer. Some social conservatives will not immediately "get on board."
Some may indeed not get on board at all. There is always the possibility of third
party candidates, but the prospects of a serious one from either the left or the right
has been diminished.

A national election is serious business. There is not only the prize of residency in
the White House at stake, and control of the Congress, but also the question of
who will name and confirm future supreme court justices. Several of the present
members of the court are now very old, or ailing.

A decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare is almost certain to come before
the election, and that decision will have major impact. There was no greater issue
than this controversial legislation in the 2010 elections, and there does not
appear to have been any shift in the large majority of voters who oppose it.

We now have several weeks of contests immediately ahead until the end of June.
There will be some inevitable drama, specifically in how the remaining opponents
to Mr. Romney withdraw from the race. There will be a surprise or two, here and
there, perhaps, but the outcome (barring the usual caveats of the unforeseen) is
now clear.

On to November!

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Romney's Vice Presidential Choice?

One of the time-honored (but usually fruitless) practices of pundits at this stage
of the presidential campaign (that is, when it first becomes obvious when a
non-incumbent is going to receive his or her party's nomination) is to speculate
about the vice presidential choice.

Being the out-of-the box contrarian that I am, I cannot help but throw out a few
names that may not be mainstream and well-known choices. At the same time,
having observed so many presidential elections professionally (since 1972), I
know a few pragmatic rules for the choices that many others might ignore.

So it may not surprise my readers when I say that Marco Rubio, Chris Christie,
Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush will probably NOT be Mitt Romney's selection
(announced sometime between the end of the primaries in June and the start
of 'the GOP national convention in late August.

What are my assumptions?

First, and foremost, the veep nominee should do no harm to the ticket.
However charismatic and well-known, a controversial candidate does harm.

Second, the veep nominee cannot overshadow the presidential nominee.

Third, the veep nominee must be likely to bring a large state into the GOP
column that was either unlikely to vote Republican, or a state previously in
doubt; or if not a state, the veep nominee must bring a major constituency
to vote for the ticket.

Finally, the nominee must have the stature and experience to be credible
to take over the presidency should the need arise.

While Rubio, Christie, Jindall and Bush do bring the last two requirements to
a Romney ticket, they clearly violate the first two.

Here are some names of those who I think fit all the requirements:

Susana Martinez is a first-term governor of New Mexico, a lawyer and a
former prosecutor. She has solid conservative credentials.

Robert McDonnell is a first term governor of Virginia, a former state
legislator and state attorney general. He is also a lawyer, former prosecutor
and journalist. McDonnell served 21 years in the U.S. Army.

Rob Portman is a first-term U.S. senator from Ohio. Previously, he was a
six-term congressman from Ohio; and later held two cabinet positions, U.S.
Trade Representative and director of the Office of Budget and Management.

Mitch Daniels is second-term governor of Indiana. Previously, he was chief of
staff to Senator Richard Lugar, senior adviser to President Reagan, and director
of the Office of Budget and Management. He has also been the CEO of a major
U.S. corporation and of a major conservative think tank.

Governor Daniels is perhaps the most well-known of the four since he was
frequently mentioned as a 2012 candidate for president. He declined to run,
but his glittering resume, remarkable record as governor of a midwestern
state and his obvious stature might make him an attractive choice for the
Romney team. Rob Portman has many of the advantages that Mr. Daniels
might bring to the ticket, plus he would almost certainly ensure that the
critical state of Ohio would go Republican this year. Robert McDonnell
likewise would probably ensure the electoral votes of Virginia, plus would
bring his military background to the ticket. Governor McDonnell has been
one of the remarkable Republican governors who won office in 2010, and
unlike some of his colleagues, enjoys great popularity. Susana Martinez
has perhaps the least national profile of the four, but her years as a lawyer
and prosecutor, demonstrate a maturity that, combined with being an
Hispanic woman, might make her a big plus for a ticket led by a former
governor from Massachusetts.

These are just my first thoughts, and I do not presume to know what the
Romney team will decide are its priorities, but it may be that their choice
will come from this list. I do know, however, that my four assumptions
listed above are valid and will be central to the person finally chosen.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

De Facto

With the results from Illinois, it has become even clearer that Mitt
Romney will now become the 2012 Republican nominee. There are quite
a few primaries yet to be held, including some from the states with the
largest number of delegates, but there is no reasonable scenario left in
which Mr. Romney will fail to receive the necessary 1144 votes on the first
ballot in Tampa.

As I wrote previously, there is no need for any of the remaining three
candidates to withdraw until they feel it is appropriate. In 2008, Mr.
Romney withdrew in favor of John McCain when he realized he could not
win that year. Mike Huckabee remained in the race for a longer time.
Nontheless, when losing candidates withdraw, and even more importantly,
HOW they withdraw, are of some importance to how they and their campaigns
will be remembered, not only by voters, but by history.

Mr. Romney has not been a media favorite, and some of this is by his own
hand, that is, his reluctance to reach out to the media. The conservative
media will now, however, need to treat him and his campaign with more
respect, if not affection, as the primary season comes to an end and the
preparations begin to take place for the autumn campaign between Mr.
Romney and President Obama. I believe there will be a new appreciation
for the campaign strategy so far, especially in light of the necessity of the
Republican nominee to face the whole electorate, including the critical and
huge group of non-aligned and independent voters in the political center.

Rick Santorum may yet win Louisiana and Pennsylvania (although regardless
of the popular vote in the Keystone state, its unique direct election of delegates
who are not identified by the presidential candidate they will vote for, thus
making it likely that Mr. Romney will win most of the delegates in Mr.
Santorum's home state) plus a few more states. Mr. Gingrich might even win
one or two. Those who study the history of primaries and caucuses know that
it is quite common for voters in individual and late-voting states to vote for
someone other than the presumptive nominee. (Believe it or not, Jerry Brown
is still governor of California.....)

As a practical matter, the most serious political attention will now turn to
planning the November campaign. There will be the usual speculation
about who will be the Republican vice presidential nominee. Another major
election issue to be resolved is whether there will be one or more major third
party candidates, and if so, whether they will hurt more the prospects of either
of the major party candidates.

There is now, in my opinion, a de facto Republican nominee for president. It
will be interesting to observe not only how and when Mr. Romney's opponents
face this reality, but also how conservative and independent voters, as well as
the punditocracy in general deal with it as well.

And deal with it they must.

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

Newt Should Stay In

I have known Newt Gingrich for 27 years, beginning at a time when he was
relatively obscure except to C-SPAN devotees who saw him chronically
criticizing the majority leadership in the U.S. house of representatives (he
was a minority backbencher). That continued to the Republicans’ surprise
upset victory (much of it designed by him) in the 1994 elections which led
to him being elected speaker of the house, and then to his resignation four
years later, followed by a decade-long career in speaking, creating public
policy think tanks and authoring and co-authoring numerous books on
American history.

Mr. Gingrich is one of the few men or women in American politics who is
truly sui generis, and it has come to no surprise to those who know him
that he would close out his elective career with a serious run for the
presidency. That campaign, while not yet concluded, has included some of
the characteristic ups and downs, highs and lows, brilliance and blunders
that have marked his political life begun almost 40 years ago.

Newt Gingrich’s place in American political history is secure whether or
not he wins his party’s nomination for president. It would now appear that
he will not be the Republican nominee in 2012 (although in a political year
such as this one, nothing is absolutely final until the delegate tally in Tampa).

Twice in this political cycle, Mr. Gingrich’s candidacy was written off, and
twice he has re-emerged by force of his ideas, his debating ability and a
gritty persistence. One more time, many in the media, both liberal and
conservative, have decided his candidacy is over, or to employ a baseball
analogy, that a third strike has been called on him, and he is out.

Thus, there are calls for Mr, Gingrich to withdraw gracefully from the
contest, and allow Rick Santorum to duke it out with frontrunner Mitt
Romney for the remaining delegates. I think nothing would be more

To those who view a presidential nominating campaign as purely a horse
race and a clash of personalities, it is logical to call for Mr. Gingrich to
withdraw. But there are fundamental flaws in this thinking at this time.
First of all, although anything is possible, there is no reasonable chance
that Mr. Santorum will be nominated in Tampa. He has had recent success
because he was the only remaining candidate who spoke to the social and
religious wing of his party, a wing which has felt its issues have not yet been
expressed in this political cycle. But these concerns, however legitimate, are
not the primary concerns of the majority of the Republican electorate.
Nor even more conclusively are they the concerns of the majority of
American voters, including the almost one-third who belong to no party and
ascribe to no formal ideology. Why should Mr. Gingrich, who has received
almost as many popular votes as Mr. Santorum so far, and who represents a
much broader conservative view than the former Pennsylvania senator, now
stand aside for him?

Secondly, it is a misunderstanding of Mr. Gingrich’s political personality to
think he would withdraw at this point without what he would feel was his full
contribution to the political conversation in such a pivotal political year.

Without Mr. Gingrich, the debates would have been far duller. Without some
of his ideas, the GOP campaign would have been less original. And without
his historical perspective, the critical nature of November election would have
been less urgent and clear. My point is that, while the eventual GOP nominee
may have been determined (Mr. Gingrich will understandably strongly disagree
with me on this), the full nature of a potentially successful Republican
challenge to President Obama has not been determined.

Count me as one of those who feels that a GOP nomination contest finally
settled too early is neither good for the party nor good for the country. It will
be apparent soon enough (probably in May or sooner) who the nominee will
be. Meanwhile, let the conversation and the debate continue. Mr. Santorum
should remain in the contest, as should Ron Paul. I don’t agree with some of
what they advocate, but they represent legitimate points of view within their
party. And most certainly, Newt Gingrich should remain in the race until he
feels he has had his say and presented fully his case.

Mr. Gingrich has made his share of political mistakes, both before this
campaign and now during it. He is a volatile personality who appeals to some
voters, and turns others off. He is probably now not going to be president of
the United States. But the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party, for that
matter, have no one with comparable a vision of the past, present and future
of this “exceptional” nation among the nations.

So let Newt Gingrich finish what he began. Let history write the truest account
of what he has done.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Now What?

This presidential campaign season is showing more and more signs that
it is going to be a watershed event. It is breaking certain patterns from
recent elections while at the same time confirming other patterns associated
with past electoral turning points. Moreover, in its calendar journey through
the primaries and caucuses, the Republican side is becoming less like a
prearranged political soap opera, and more like the complicated society it is
supposed to reflect.

If you are a Democrat and a partisan for the re-election of President Obama,
there are numerous short-term pleasures to be obtained from the week-to-week,
state-to-state antics of the Republicans as they take turns throwing water
balloons at their own frontrunner and probable nominee Mitt Romney while
dunking him routinely in a pool of water as if he were the target at a booth
in a carnival midway.

Many of these same Democrats believe that the delay in the Republicans
coalescing around Mr Romney also greatly enhances Mr. Obama’s chances to
win in November. The problem for that view is that Mr. Romney keeps
surfacing out of the pool, white sideburns intact, always a bit stronger than
before, all the while continuing to accumulate delegates.

These Democrats also forget their own extended nomination battle, perhaps
even more bitter, in 2008 when the final determination of Mr. Obama came very
late in primary season, even as the Republicans had settled on Mr. McCain much
earlier. There was some disappointment in, and resentment of, newcomer Obama
after he had finally defeated Hillary Clinton, and many of Mrs. Clinton’s women
supporters were thought by some Republicans not to be willing to vote for him only
a few months later. But this did not happen.

If you are a supporter of Mitt Romney, and impatient for the Republican Party to
rally around him as their standard bearer, the Alabama and Mississippi primaries
may have been frustrating events. No matter that he virtually tied two opponents
with much more natural appeal in the region, and that he walked out of the day's
voting with more delegates than those opponents (when the night’s full counts
from Hawaii and American Samoa were tallied). You have also done the simple
math, and know, clever anti-Romney posited tallies aside, that your candidate
will almost certainly go into Tampa with about 1200 committed delegates (60
more than the necessary majority to win).

If you are a social or religious conservative who supports Rick Santorum, you feel
warm and toasty all over, having thwarted one more time the schedule of the party
“establishment“ and upset the celebration of those who think your concerns are not
as important as you think they are. The fact that your candidate is an electoral
disaster waiting to happen in November (should he be nominated) is of much less
consequence to you than feeling warm and toasty.

If you are a supporter of Newt Gingrich, you feel that your candidate just missed
a clear opportunity to make another political comeback. But two second-place
finishes, both ahead of the despised Mr. Romney, were no small prize for the
evening, especially with potentially fertile territory in Texas and California ahead.
You greet the predictable calls for your candidate to withdraw with appropriate
disdain. “Why should the smartest candidate, the most experienced in government
and the best debater withdraw?” you ask with your best incredulous face at what
you perceive as obviously self-serving gambits of Mr. Santorum and his supporters.
(Of course, it was not so long ago, after South Carolina, that Mr. Gingrich was
asking the same of Mr. Santorum.) No matter, you know that Mr. Gingrich is
going to Tampa.

If you are a supporter of Ron Paul, all of this posturing leaves you feeling it is so
much about nothing, since your candidate is the only one making any political
sense this year, notwithstanding his relatively tiny percentage of support in primary
after primary, and his even lower percentage of support in the polls. YOUR
candidate is also going to Tampa, and that’s all there is to it.

As noted, then, partisans of all stripes and colors are making recent developments
fit their personal expectations and desired outcomes.

But what of the voters, perhaps at least one-third of all those who will cast a ballot
in November, who do not yet have a favorite horse in this race? What of those who
belong to neither major political party, nor even to a third party. What of those
who feel they are so far only uninvited spectators to a sporting event which neither
excites them nor overwhelms them with dread?

In my view, these are the true beneficiaries of the “protracted” contest for the
Republican nomination for president. Neither Mr. Obama nor any of his
Republican rivals have yet put forward to this critical group of voters a coherent
plan for getting the nation out of its long-lasting slump that is frankly attributable
to actions of both parties, their recent presidents, as well as both houses of
Congress. Mr. Gingrich has come the closest to presenting such a plan, but he
has had to turn away from this recently to restore a positive relationship with the
voters. Mr. Romney has been so busy attempting to convince GOP voters he is
truly a conservative that he has not yet presented a persuasive overall plan. Mr.
Santorum has been preoccupied with social and religious issues in spite of many
years in Congress., and has no plan at all. Mr. Obama’s presentation so far is that
he will offer more of the same (of 2009 to the present), including fairly radical
changes in the economic system that have very little appeal to the political center.

Having exhausted themselves contriving to make themselves loved and adored by
voters in their respective political bases, the nominees will now have to turn their
attention to the large number of uncommitted voters, and that will mean their
hardest work lies ahead.

So what was changed by Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii? Very little. The
delegate trajectory remains the same. The media, both the liberal Old Media
and many in the conservative New Media have a self interest in trying to suggest
that their preferred candidates have new hopes and dreams to be fulfilled. But the
true innovation of this campaign season, yesterday notwithstanding, is that 2012
will not merely be about political personalities, nor about parochial ideologies of
one flavor or another. It seems to me, that 2012 is increasingly about transforming
the model of the presidency and the legislative branch through an historic election.

More about all this later. Much more.

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Most Underestimated Qualification For President

Presidential candidates usually like to advertise their qualifications
for the Oval Office with the obvious intent of assuring voters that they
can handle the extraordinary challenges and pressures of being the nation's
and, in effect, the Free World's chief figure.

There are exceptions to this, most notably the 2008 Barack Obama campaign
for president in which the candidate understandably focused on rhetoric and
promises for the future. Mr. Obama had briefly been a state legislator, and
had not yet finished half of his first term as U.S. senator. In fact, the 2008
Obama campaign was the inverse of the rule. His grades in college were kept
out of sight, his records as a legislator were somehow destroyed, his activities
at Harvard (as a recently-released video confirms) were "hidden," and his
life and associations in Chicago were down-played. Most of the Old Media,
eager to elect a Democrat to replace George W. Bush, became complicit in
this inversion of public vetting. On the other hand, Mr. Obama's chief rival
for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, had been excruciatingly vetted as First
Lady for two terms of her husband's presidency, and during her later tenure
as U.S. senator from New York. A form of "suspension of the rules" thus
took place, and the least-prepared person to become president of the
United States went on to election in November.

But Mr. Obama was perceived to have one prerequisite, albeit an invisible one,
for the presidency. He was seen to have the TEMPERAMENT for office. Much
of this was perceived by his speaking style, and his apparent coolness under
pressure. His opponent, John McCain, also had the temperament for the job,
but his inadequate response (perhaps no adequate response was possible)
to the late-breaking mortgage banking crisis doomed his chances (he had
been winning the race just before the crisis occurred).

In 2012, looking at the various Republican candidates for president, the
question of temperament looms, in my opinion, quite large. Although
Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain (and even Donald Trump)
enjoyed brief poll popularity "bubbles," none of them demonstrated the
kind of temperament that would make their surges last. Tim Pawlenty, who
many thought did have some temperament, withdrew from the race very
early, an irrevocable demonstration that he did not have it.

This leaves us with the remaining "serious" GOP hopefuls, Mitt Romney,
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. But before examining their claims to
presidential temperament, let me discuss the phenomenon itself.

Temperament is the most subjective of presidential qualifications. Franklin
Roosevelt was once described as a man of "second-rate intellect," but a
"first-rate temperament." Temperament is an essential quality of personality,
and not seemingly directly related to intelligence or reasoning skills. It is
more about self-confidence, communication skills, persistence and the
ability to remain calm and organized under pressure. It is the ability to
assume command. Self-deprecation, humor and originality are often
associated with it. In relation to the presidency, I suspect that the elements
of self-confidence, command and persistence are the most powerful.

In the most significant innovation of the early 2012 campaign, the televised
debates between the many GOP contenders, the greatest success was
achieved by Newt Gingrich whose well-informed and self-assured responses
made him stand out from most of his rivals. But Gingrich's temperament in
the debates was often not replicated on the campaign trail where his
statements often revealed insecurities that were first noticeable during his
tenure as speaker of the U.S house (1995-98). These insecurities showed
Gingrich to be hermetic (his criticism of Paul Ryan early in the campaign)
and mercurial (his statements of overconfidence after South Carolina).
While he showed savvy maturity in his handling of the marital controversies
brought up against him, his angry animosity to Mitt Romney (after Romney's
SuperPac attacked him so relentlessly in Iowa) has continued to diminish
public perception of his self-confidence.

Rick Santorum showed himself in the debates to be someone feeling himself
perpetually undervalued, and his style of complaining and whining kept him
from being highly regarded. But Mr. Santorum showed hard work and
persistence, and he eventually had his moment in the political sun. Having
achieved that, he has shown himself as a skillful opportunist, but revealed
little presidential temperament. His continued standing in the primaries is
more about his ideological conservative views than his performance on the
campaign trail.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney. I don't think he would be be generally
described as a "first-rate" intellect, but throughout the campaign so far,
including the debates, he has demonstrated qualities of temperament, that
have maintained him through the periodic challenges from each of his
opponents, and which brings him to the verge of his party's nomination.
Of course, he does not seem to have the communication skills that his
supporters might wish he had (and which Mr. Roosevelt, as well as Ronald
Reagan and Bill Clinton had). If he does win the nomination, Mr. Romney
will need to work on those skills. His November opponent, Mr. Obama, has
already demonstrated his ability to communicate.

The November election, I continue to suggest, will turn on the American
voters judgment on Mr. Obama's first term. There will be considerable
discussion of that first term in the weeks and months ahead.

As for Mr Romney (or Mr. Gingrich, for that matter), presidents are rarely
truly great before they take office. The character of their conduct in office,
as well as the nature of the times, determines great or even outstanding
presidents. The presidency of Abraham Lincoln established this rule.
Only the first president, George Washington, entered office as a truly
great man.

Perhaps we do not need a "great " man as our next president, but
considering "the trouble we've seen," we do need someone who can
lead us very ably through the unimaginable difficulties which lie ahead.

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

Friday, March 9, 2012

There Seems To Be Little Accuracy This Year, And Lots Of Unwisdom

Because of the Old Media's thoughtless bias against the Republicans, the absence
of a nominating contest on the Democratic side, the manipulative obsessions of
many conservative commentators and groups, and the presence of too many
polling organizations (many of them invisibly biased or distorted), there is a
noticeable absence of ACCURACY in the discussion of the 2012 presidential
campaign so far. There is the usual number of partisan charges and
countercharges, but the institutions and figures who might give perspective,
apply facts, and explain assumptions and presumptions, seem to be reduced
or ignored in the political atmosphere which exists on all sides.

I think this partially explains the volatile behavior of the American voter this
year. In the end, of course, the liberal voters will cast their ballot for
President Obama, and conservative voters will vote for the Republican
nominee, but I don't think any of us has any true idea yet of who the centrist,
independent and alienated partisan voters will choose. There always are third
party candidates in any presidential election, but it is also not clear if there
will be any (on the left, right or in the center) who will make much of a
difference in the final outcome.

There is, as well, an enoromous amount, as a consequence, of "unwisdom"
circulating in the American political public square. This conventional
unwisdom has set the stage for incessant "polling bubbles" and
melodramatic political surprises in the campaign year so far, and there is
no reason to believe they will stop until the Republican nomination is
finally secured. Among the items which form the "unwisdom" are
prognostications of late entry presidential candidates, a brokered
convention in Tampa, serious third party uprisings on both the left and
right, the inability of a particular candidate to win in November, and the
complaint that the GOP contest has gone on too long.

For example, it was "gospel" that Mitt Romney could not do well in the
South, and he did not fare well in South Carolina and the border state of
Tennessee. Yet latest polls show him holding his own or even leading in
Alabama and Mississippi, the very heart of the South. The current
unwisdom is that (if you manipulate the numbers) Mr. Romney is likely
not to clinch his party's nomination before the convention in late August.
Well, yes, this is possible in very unlikely circumstances (and the unlikely
is always possible in a presidential year), but most arguments for this do
not reflect an ACCURATE assessment of the political calendar and
geography. Even these distorted scenarios all seem to concede that Mr.
Romney, in the worst of circumstances, would be very close to the
required majority of votes he needs to be nominated. The unwisdom is
then advanced that some grand "conspiracy" will coalesce to deny Mr.
Romney the nomination at the last moment.

Mr. Romney could make a big mistake in the next few weeks that might
cost him some important support, but so far, most of these kind of
mistakes have been made by his opponents. I agree that a small window
exists in the remainder of March to slow his momentum. If he does well
in the remaining southern states, however, the main strategic political
argument against him will fizzle.

Perhaps it is unwise for Mr. Romney to call for his opponents to throw
in the towel just now, as it is unwise for either Mr. Santorum or Mr.
Gingrich to ask the other to withdraw. (By the time either of them would
realistically withdraw, the contest would probably be over, nor is it
reasonable to say that they could tell many of their voters who to vote for.)

Finally, I think the greatest unwisdom this year is the suggestion that the
November election will not primarily be a plebiscite on President Obama.
Some Democratic optimists and Republican pessimists seem to subscribe
to this notion. But American history does not work that way. Only if the
challenging party puts up a candidate who cannot win broad-based
support, holding views too controversial, can an incumbent president and
his party achieve such a deflection. On the other hand, should the U.S.
economy improve dramatically, with a significant drop in real
unemployment, and the stock market soars, accompanied by surging
retail spending and no acute inflation, then the Democrats and their
incumbent have nothing to worry about. No Republican could defeat
President Obama in those circumstances.

In spite of some current wild speculation, the Republican nomination
contest is going to proceed and be settled. The domestic and economic
well-being of the nation, and the (highly) volatile international
environment will take its course.

No one wins the presidency in the spring. Presidents are elected in

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No White Puffs Of Smoke Yet

The puffs of smoke from Super Tuesday's primaries and caucuses are becoming
lighter and lighter. The moment when those puffs become white, as they do
when a papal conclave selects a new pope, is perhaps not far ahead.

Super Tuesday kept its reputation as a critical date in the presidential
nominating calendar. Final totals showed that Mitt Romney won 6 states, Rick
Santorum won 3 states and Newt Gingrich won 1 state. Each of these candidates
could thus claim some kind of victory from the results, but the bottom line is
that Mr. Romney won the lion's share of delegates to the national convention in
Tampa, and remains considerably out in front in this all-important aspect of
the nominating campaign.

It was not the dispositive night for Romney that he and his supporters might
have preferred, but he did dominate the Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts
primaries, and the Idaho and Alaska caucuses. His win in Ohio came after
several hours of counting in which rural Ohio votes came in early and gave
Santorum an early lead. But Romney had large margins in Cleveland,
Cincinnati and Columbus, the state's largest cities (and suburbs), and
overtook the initial deficit to finally win by more than 12,000 votes. It was
not a bad night for the former Massachusetts governor, although much
media/pundit narrative now will probably focus on what he did not
accomplish on Super Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich won Georgia impressively, but his vote totals were not
especially impressive elsewhere. He will not now automatically be "the
last man standing" between Mr. Romney and the nomination, and must
now do very well in the coming week in Alabama, Mississippi and
Kansas to reestablish some momentum.

Rick Santorum survives to run in more primaries and caucuses, but
geography and the calendar are not favorable to him, with many
southern, western and northeastern states remaining. Although he
did win Tennessee and Oklahoma, and came very close in Ohio, his
poll numbers in each of those states had been much larger only days
before Super Tuesday, and his "bubble" was clearly collapsing.

Ron Paul goes on, coming in fourth most of the time, and having
only small opportunities to win in the few remaining caucus states.

Large blocs of delegates remain in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois,
Texas and California, states which will likely require significant
organization and cash. Mr. Paul has both, but so far they have not
brought him a single victory. Mr. Santorum has limited amounts of
both, and is currently likely only to do well in his home state of

Super Tuesday was important, but it did not mount to a de facto end
of the nomination campaign season. Some will continue to talk about
a "brokered convention" in Tampa in late August, but that remains
very unlikely unless Mr. Romney unexpectedly falters in the weeks

The next few days might well see much wringing of political hands
and words about Mr. Romney's apparent inability so far to "close the
deal" with Republican voters, but as Super Tuesday demonstrated
one more time, he clearly remains the man to beat.

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


[Subscribers should check their e-mails for a
SPECIAL BULLETIN for subscriber only on the
results just in from voting on Super Tuesday.]

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Critical And Closer

This is the only day of the year which is a command, and it is a positive one at that, especially if you're Mitt Romney who just won the Washington state non-binding caucuses decisively. Rick Santorum, who only days ago led this race by double digits in the polls, finished third behind Ron Paul. Santorum had his brief bubble primarily because he stayed in the race as long as he did; once he got it, it was readily apparent he was not ready for prime time.

The "last man standing" now is Newt Gingrich who planned it that way. Mr. Gingrich almost certainly will win Georgia on Tuesday, but he will need to win more than that to head off Romney who is now very close to becoming unstoppable for the nomination. Santorum had been ahead in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Ohio (and by double digits in each), but now could lose two of them, or all three. Romney appears to be erasing Santorum's lead in each of these states. Gingrich has a very good issue, his promise to lower gasoline to $2.50 a gallon, and his critique of President Obama for the current high price. He, or his SuperPac, will likely run a lot of ads on this just before Super Tuesday, but will it be enough to win more than Georgia (including Alabama and Mississippi the following week)?

(For those who follow charts in the stock market, Romney is on the verge of breaking out on the national polls with more than 40% of the Republican vote. But if he fails to do this, his chart pattern would resemble a classic "head-and-shoulders" pattern, and that would be a very bad sign.)

Super Tuesday now looms as critical and potentially dispositive.

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

Saturday, March 3, 2012


[Subscribers should check their e-mails for a
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on the results just in from Washington state,
and their implications for Super Tuesday.]

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time To Clear Up Some Dusty 2012 Commonplaces

As the 2012 presidential campaign cycle enters a more decisive stage just before Super Tuesday, it might be useful to get out the Campaign Commonplace Liberation Broom before some popular but mistaken political notions fill up the rooms of discussion.

The first of these commonplaces is:

The longer the Republican nominating process goes on, the less likely the eventual
nominee will win in November. A stalemate is possible before the convention in
Tampa. The attacks between the GOP candidates also hurts the Republican brand,
and gives the Democrats fodder to use against the Republicans in the November

This nonsense has been advanced by some, including partisans of a certain front-running candidate, who wanted the GOP nomination settled early to avoid airing conflicts between the candidates and to avoid using up too much campaign cash before the general election. In fact, likelihood of a stalemate before the convention in Tampa is remote, and ignores the pattern of modern nomination contests in which the original field is quickly winnowed down, and one candidate before the end of the primary season accumulates enough delegates to make his or her nomination a foregone conclusion. Beginning with about 10 major candidates, the 2012 campaign so far has done this, and only 2 or 3 nominatable candidates remain in the field BEFORE Super Tuesday. It seems clear that by April, May or June there will be a presumptive nominee. Moreover, an overly short nomination season would have failed adequately to vet the most serious candidates, and would have failed to air the vulnerable issues the eventual nominee would have to face in the final contest against President Obama. Finally, Republicans are the beneficiary of the fact that the Democrats have no contest for their party's nomination. The Democrats do have the White House, and all the natural publicity and attention that goes with incumbency. As long as the Republican contest is in doubt, and there are dramatic debates and confrontations between the GOP hopefuls, however, this party-out-of-power has the nation's attention and dominates the political news. This "free" publicity dwarfs the costs of the nomination campaigns, and helps the challenging party recover some of their natural disadvantage.

A second commonplace is:

President Obama may not be a very good president, but he is a great campaigner, and will likely win re-election no matter who the Republicans put up against him.

This notion is based on Mr. Obama's successful campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2008, and on the fact that he won that election in November in spite of vague slogans and promises. In fact, successful presidential candidates of either party ALWAYS in their first election with vague slogan and promises. Think Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43. In reality, Mr. Obama was trailing Mr. McCain just before the mortgage banking meltdown in 2008, and after that nothing could have altered the outcome. Moreover, the re-election of a first-term president is almost always a referendum on the incumbent's performance in his or her first term. Lyndon Johnson adroitly made Barry Goldwater's "extremism" the issue in 1964. Gerald Ford had pardoned the disgraced Nixon, Carter ran with historic inflation and interest rates (plus the Iranian hostage standoff), Bush 41 had raised taxes and was facing a recession. First-termer Nixon was able to survive, in spite of having having failed to extricate the U.S. from Vietnam before 1972, by making George McGovern's "extremism" the issue in that campaign. If Mr. Obama would face a Republican opponent whose policies and views could be made the focus of the campaign (and not the very high unemployment, the true costs of Obamacare and his foreign policy flubs), he could indeed win in November. Otherwise, he will have to stand on his (so far unsuccessful) record.

The third commonplace is:

Only a "true" conservative can win against Mr. Obama in November. A GOP
candidate who might appeal to the political center is chasing a chimera because
the center is a political illusion.

This notion defies more than 100 years of U.S. presidential politics. First of all, A Republican who is not sufficiently "conservative" cannot be nominated in 2012. No candidate who is pro-choice, wants to raise taxes, or increase government spending, for example, could make it through the nomination process. Those who continue to call for a "pure" conservative are the ones chasing a chimera. They have an abstract agenda. Since more than a third of American voters routinely identify themselves in polls as belonging to neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party, the critical nature of the American political center is undeniable. Centrist-deniers also like to portray centrist voters as "moderates." There are moderates in each party, or at least there used to be, but the term centrist is less about ideology and more about where the majority of voters, especially unaffiliated voters, are.

The fourth commonplace is:

The GOP contest will go to a "brokered" convention where one of several major
Republican figures who did not choose to run until now will ultimately be
drafted to be the Republican nominee.

This completely misunderstands the American major party nomination process. As I have suggested above, one candidate will likely acquire enough delegates and momentum some time after Super Tuesday to clinch the nomination. If the party convention did turn to someone else, it would be an invitation to an electoral disaster. The purpose of the nomination process is to present and vet the strongest candidates. Someone new chosen in early September would be unvetted, no matter how well known, and open to easy attack on their unexamined vulnerabilities by President Obama and his campaign with almost no time to adequately respond.

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