October 16, 2007
More Clarity in the Presidential Race
Recent news about Republican fundraising totals and the most recent debate didn't in and of themselves do much to change the GOP nomination contest, but the totality of recent events has brought the race into clearer focus. That view is shaped by four emerging facts:
1) Mitt Romney has to win Iowa and New Hampshire to achieve the full springboard effect he needs to be truly competitive in Florida and February 5th. If he gets stopped in either state he's essentially done. A tempting notion for rival campaigns to consider.
2) Rudy Giuliani doesn't have enough money to properly execute a strategy that minimizes the importance of early states in favor of relying heavily on Florida and the February 5th uber-primary day (in fairness none of the GOP candidates probably has the money they were hoping for at this point in the cycle). He has $11.6 million in primary cash on hand, after raising $10.5 million in primary contributions last quarter. Trouble is, he spent $13 million over the same time period without being on TV like Romney (or having Romney's checkbook). He has a negative burn rate even before going on the airwaves and his apparent later-state strategy leaves him needing to advertise in a wide array of media markets, some which are quite pricey. Thus, he has to make a mark somewhere in the early states to get some free media rolling. Paid media won't be enough.
3) Fred Thompson's first month on the campaign trail wasn't quite a fizzle, but isn't quite good either. His multi-state roll-out tour was plagued with blunders, he hasn't been impressing the red-blooded conservatives he needs to woo, and he hasn't rallied the social conservative base that was a presumed foundation for his candidacy (indeed, there are a couple potential signs that some otherwise undecided Evangelicals may align with Romney). More telling are the national poll numbers. After cutting Giuliani's lead in the RealClearPolitics average in half, Thompson is right back to the same point he was prior to his official announcement, approximately 10% behind. He's likewise drifting back down in the pollster.com national chart . Worst of all, Rasmussen's latest weekly polling also has Thompson ten points back, his worst showing in that poll since late May, and a significant change from the twelve of nineteen intervening weeks where he led or was tied with Giuliani.
4) John McCain is broke. Translation: he'll have to take matching funds and the accompanying spending limits that go with them. Tough to beat three other candidates who have more financial resources than you.
What all these facts mean is that while the Republican race is still very much in flux, the lay of the land in the early states shows pretty clearly where candidates are going to spend their time fighting.
Iowa - who is going to step up to battle Romney? At worst there's a nice little second place ribbon to be had that will almost guarantee some much needed good press for the recipient. Giuliani's schedule tells the tale for him. It won't be said publicly, but he's not making a major play there. Thompson probably will. His campaign is talking about a "strategic bridge into South Carolina." Recent polling shows Thompson right in the scrum for second, odds are his campaign ups the ante here. Even McCain seems to be considering a serious effort in the absence of others doing so, but given his buried-in-fifth poll position that probably means it's a waste of precious campaign funds. The question remains for Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson: who finishes behind Mike Huckabee? Bad news awaits whoever suffers that fate.
New Hampshire - for all the talk about big states leaping forward in the election cycle, this contest may be the most decisive of the primaries. Here's why.
Look at the fast and furious calendar of early primary contests (note Iowa is likely to move to January 3rd). After New Hampshire come Nevada and Michigan in short order. In both states Romney and Giuliani are bunched at the top of the polls with Thompson and McCain lurking behind. Consequently, if Romney or Giuliani win New Hampshire it's quite likely they'll ride the resulting good press to wins in the next two states as well. Three states in row for Giuliani, or four by Romney, is a whole lot of momentum that puts anyone else not in those shoes at a serious disadvantage. It would fundamentally dominate the dynamics of the race.
For those reasons it might be turning into a Giuliani versus Romney race. Not because they had a front-runner like extended exchange after the debate, on the heels of an immediately preceding front-runner like exchange on fiscal policy. But because based on the above discussion, those two are the only Republican candidates who control their own destiny.
John McCain is making a last stand in New Hampshire. Running low on cash and hamstrung by spending limits, he probably can't knock out Romney and Giuliani by himself. Even if fortune shines and he wins, his lack of campaign cash means he's prone to succumb to the same battle of attrition that defeated him in 2000. In short, the only way he wins is with a ton of help.
Fred Thompson simply isn't happening in New Hampshire, which his campaign tacitly acknowledged when it canceled a recent planned trip to the state. Thompson has to do well enough in Iowa to keep himself visible, then hope no one breaks out of the pack in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan on their way to South Carolina, where Thompson absolutely has to win. Can he do it? Maybe. Is it an enviable position? No.
Rudy Giuliani is in surprisingly good position in South Carolina and leads in Florida. If he wins in New Hampshire he not only devastates Romney, he also sets himself up for a roll of victories prior to Florida that can seal the nomination right there.
Mitt Romney's need to win Iowa and New Hampshire has been stated. It's as simple as that. He controls his own destiny but given the absence of a margin for error it's only a matter of time before another candidate makes a serious, sustained effort to knock his campaign off course.
Add it all up and it amounts to the fact that while it's still a tremendously fluid race, Iowa and New Hampshire are still not only important, but potentially decisive. Sure, things could change. An atrocious candidate blunder could throw all the above on its head. But with only two and half months to go until Iowa's caucuses kick off a whirlwind of primary contests that's how it looks.
Posted by Eric Earling at October 16, 2007
09:42 PM | Email This
I am sure it was by accident that you forgot to mention that Paul was second in the GOP in fundraising in the key state of NH this last quarter. Or that he was first in fundraising in the GOP in our state of Washington.
You probably also just happened to forget that he again appears to have raised more money from the military than any other republican candidate as well.
Did you also forget to mention he has no debt unlike all of the candidates you mentioned. Or that he has more cash on hand than McCain.
Or was it intentional since Ron Pauls support is not real, it is only on the internet?
2. Oh gosh... Here I chastise you for forgeting to mention Ron Pauls achievements and then I forget to point out that Paul essentially raised the same amount of money as Romney in Iowa, tying for second place. Silly me!
3. Ron Paul against Hillary, now that would be a hoot!
Eric, I think you've got it essentially right here. One quibble: what if two old Senate buddies team up on Romney? on Rudy?
As I've said before: McCain and Thompson are the most benefit to each other. They also have the least to prove in terms of their record; for better or worse, they're known commodities. They have more "showing" to do, and less "telling."
Romney and Rudy are still vulnerable to being defined as too liberal -- regardless of whether you think they are, were, or have ever been of that Republican stripe.
If anyone comes out of the ether, in my analysis it'll be Huckabee. I think what happens this weekend in D.C. is also important -- at the premiere gathering of conservative values voters. This crucial block seems like as close to destiny as we're going to get at the moment.
The Romney campaign is $8 million in debt, with $0 donation dollars left. Mitt's got them on life support, giving $17 million in loans so far.
Huckabee is also broke, with only a few hundred thousand in the bank.
Ron Paul made an impressive showing, and ranks third in cash on hand (after subtracting all debts). He has also received more donations from our troops than any other candidate for six months straight.
But Giuliani is obviously the powerhouse in fundraising right now. The only way Romney can match him is with more loans from his personal savings account. The only way anyone else can match him... is with a miracle.
GS @ #3
Yes it would be great to See Ron Paul vs Hillary in a debate. Ron would tear her apart when she tries to claim she is against Bushes war. He would point out how it is congress that declares war and she voted for it so it is HER war and he has opposed it since day one. Then when she tries to run with Hillary care he would explain how government is not the answer, point how he as a doctor understsand things much better than any lawyer does, and points out that in his own distrcit he has offered reduced and often free service and never accepted medicare or medicaid becuase it complicates things and makes business too expensive.
A couple of questions: when are the Rs going to start giving or getting campaign donations? It seems they are sitting on the sidelines. You could say they are being fiscally conservative by keeping their powder (money) dry till the nominee emerges or is it something different?
Romney looks pretty and I don't like voting for pretty; I like the street fighter type. When or how did Romney seal the deal in Massachusetts without appealing on the gut level? Or did he? Was it Massachusetts and his physical beauty like the Kennedys that won the day?
I hope all the R candidates begin to point out differences between themselves and Clinton. Giuliani threw a haymaker at Clinton last week questioning her 'experience' which is even less than a governor of Arkansas.
I don't dispute the issue you say Giuliani and Romney face. Any Republican who was elected in such liberal environs would inevitably face the same problem at the national level.
I suspect it's more likely based on events of the last couple weeks that Thompson will go after Giuliani (and to a lesser degree Romney) while McCain and Giuliani take swings at Romney in a bit of a tag team effort. Everyone wants to win NH.
I didn't forget Ron Paul. You have to start winning states to win the nomination and since he isn't competitive in any of the early states at this point I didn't include him.
Romney's "debt" is loans to himself which aren't going to be repaid. So, he's functionally debt free and has greater financial resources than any other candidate. Giuliani, for all his many strengths as a candidate, does not have the diversified fundraising base one would expect of a national frontrunner.
Romney has raised more in total primary funds than Giuliani, even excluding Romney's personal contributions. The under-reported story of the cycle is despite Giuliani's skill maintaining his frontrunner status, he doesn't have the financial resources to back it up right now. That's why his campaign is eventually going to get very, very serious about NH.
@3 and 6
I agree with you both. The only chance in hell the Republicans have of winning in '08 is by nominating Ron Paul. He attracts people from all political persuasions. He's the only Republican that could take the angry-left away from the Democrats. He's the only Republican that could take the minority votes away from the Democrats. He's the only Republican that could bring the evangelicals and the tin-foil hat crowd out to vote in large numbers.
As Dr. Paul says, "freedom is popular."
There has been talk lately that liberals wouldn't like Ron Paul if they knew more about him, especially on the abortion issue. I disagree. Ron Paul clearly stated his personal position on abortion, but also puts the Constitution above his personal beliefs by insisting that we take a federalist approach. The constitutional notion that the more controversial an issue is, the more local the solution must be is spot on. Alabamans are never going to agree with Californians, so why try to force them to follow a single, federal law. The Constitution only demands that for basic liberties.
If you're a liberal who is concerned that Ron Paul wants to make social issues like abortion a state issue, just ask yourself, would all 50 states ban abortion in any form? No. There will be a few of course, but the other states will fall somewhere on the spectrum between totally banned and totally legal with most states landing somewhere in between.
Having most social issues resolved at the state level creates a marketplace for governmental policy. If one state becomes draconian, people will leave to other, less restrictive states and take their money and labor/businesses with them.
If Ron Paul doesn't get the nomination, at least he will have educated so many people on the traditional structure of our government.
Even if you strongly disagree with Ron Paul on some issues (as I do), he still gives you hope for the future because he is not hell bent on forcing all of us to conform to some socialist or theocratic vision of America.
Oh yeah, and he isn't owned by corporations.
Where is Ron Paul polling in Iowa? I can see him pulling a Pat Buchanan (or John McCain) trick and winning the independently minded NH. If this happens, then the above down to two race (e.g., Romney vs Guiliani) may not happen. What happens if after the initial round Ron Paul is still in the race? My opinion on this if it comes down to the big two versus Ron Paul after the dust settles on the first few contests (i.e., everyone else is broke and can't continue on), then that is when you see the big money of the Republican coffers come out. The only question is who will they contribute to? This is a toss-up. I could debate either of the big two. A monkey wrench would be if it is the big two and Ron Paul left, does the evangelical branch move to Romney, to Ron Paul, or sit on their hands. They won't move to Guiliani, and Guiliani doesn't really need them if he can get the nomination without them. He polls well enough among independents and moderate Democrats that he can withstand the Nader effect of evangelicals sitting on the sideline or voting for a third party candidate.
Leave it to the Republicans to make the race a lot more interesting. It should be a fun next several months.
Gezzzzzzzzz You Ron Paul supporters just crack me up.
On all the polls he's dead last.
He maybe a great person, but if you think he can get elected you must be kidding.
PS How come the truthers support him and he has no problem with that? ( You guys think GW has something to do with 9/11)
12. tc - if you look at the links I provided above for Iowa and New Hampshire you can see Paul is sixth, with under 4%, in each state.
13. He's the only Republican that could take the angry-left away from the Democrats.
It may not have been your intent, but you just clearly stated the reason I would never, ever vote for Ron Paul.
I don't want a candidate that appeals to the unhinged left. Got that?
Doesn't matter, Guthrie. Your candidate will lose regardless.
of course Paul is last in the polls. They are polling the 6% of Republicans that bothered to vote in the primary in 2004. Given that fact, his 5% (most recent national poll) is actually surprisingly high.
A better judge would be actual supporters promoting him on the streets, or number of donators, or dollars on hand, or straw polls, or post debate polls which give a better indication of how excited voters are about the candidates. in all these categories Paul is a strong candidate.
If IA and NH go against Rudy in early primaries, they'll end up being rebuked by the states where the real people live. In that case they'll be discredited both as early harbingers and as bell weathers or averages of Americans.
It's time the numbers spoke instead of the polls.
Out of curiousity, what state do you think has 'real people'?
Ivan @ 14: That wasn't me.
Eric, I'll make you a deal: if you keep not mentioning 4th place Ron Paul in your articles, Travis and I will keep flooding the comments dialogues with Ron Paul comments.
That way you will keep getting lots of comments to your blog posts!
It is WAY too soon to narrow the field down to three candidates. And when you mention 5th place McCain but not 4th place Ron Paul, you really show your bias.
Really, you are a conservative, not a liberal. Bias is primarily the province of liberals and other who can't win arguments with reason. I expect better from good conservatives like you.
Your market wants to hear about Ron Paul. Most journalists know they need to keep the desires of their readers in mind, or face declining readership.
Just a mention with a fact or two about Ron Paul in your articles. Is that too much to ask?
I am sure it was just an honest mistake that Paul keeps getting forgotten. When he is all the way at the top of GOP lists like Most money raised in WA in Q3 it is really easy to just overlook him.
20. Thompson's best chance may be at convention, which is where the winner will likely be selected, unless Romney can run the table early and pick up steam. Giuliani could do it, but it is going to be extremely difficult for him under any circumstances. Thompson could do it if he really catches fire, but that's unlikely too.
You're forgetting how those polls are conducted. They randomly call those of you who still have hard-wired telephones, then ask if you participated in the '04 Republican primary. If you make it that far, they read four names, and say "press '5' for more candidates."
So, in summary, to vote for Huckabee or Paul in a survey, you must be over twenty years old, have been active in the Republican party for at least four years, and press '5' to hear the entire list of candidates. Oh yeah, and you must be using old technology to even get the call.
I predict that Ron Paul will also be a factor at the Convention. Could he get the VP nomination? What would happen if he gets to speak? Remember how Reagan galvanized the party? Remember how Barry Goldwater won the nomination? Anything can happen!
Check out this link:
It shows how skewed samples for the polls under-estimate Ron Pauls support. They are using 2004 R primary voters as the sample. But back in 2004, GW Bush was running for re-election and there was no serious primary challenge! All those who voted were die-hard GW Bush supporters. If you poll those same people today, it is not surprising that only 5% have changed their view on the war enough to support Ron Paul.
USA Today reported that 2004 R primary turnout was only 6.6%: a record low! Of course! GW Bush's nomination was a foregone conclusion. Why bother voting?
But the Republican Party of 2007 is VERY different! Thousands of new people have registered R and a different group will vote in 2008. The sample is skewed!
Ron Paul's support is WAY more than the polls indicate. He DOES have a good chance of winning the R nomination!
I'm proud to say I would vote for him.
Go Ron Paul!! Join the R(evol)ution!
Bruce: no way in hell will Paul get the VP nomination. No moderate or liberal will back him -- period -- and that's far more important than the few conservatives/libertarians who wouldn't consider voting for anyone BUT Paul.
However, yes, he could be factor, if he endorses another candidate, his supporters could make a difference. It'll be less than 10% of the convention, probably less than 5%, but that could be enough to really push it one way or another.