The South Carolina Primary has come and gone, and I wasn’t able to post my thoughts before the voting started. Sorry about that everyone.
Before the vote, there were some news items that arose which may have had an impact on the voters in South Carolina before they went to the polls. The first item was the performance of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich during the debate two days before voting. In that debate, Gingrich faced a question over his ex-wife’s controversial interview that was to be aired following the debate. Gingrich, taking the question and turning it around against the moderator and the media, won a lot of praise by the audience for standing his ground and challenging opportunism media. Romney, on the other hand, didn’t have as good of a performance. He waffled when it came to questions on his taxes, with his responses making it sound more as if he had something to hide in the wake of media attention of his time at Bain Capital.
Another news item was that Rick Santorum and not Mitt Romney won the Iowa Caucus. When official vote tallies were certified, Romney’s 8-point lead vanished with Santorum winning by 34 votes. While this wasn’t an Earth-shattering change of events, it did quell the discussion of Romney running the table on the first-three elections (something that would have been a first in the Republican primary process). You no longer heard the talking points about Romney being the inevitable nominee, with the discussion turning to the vulnerability of Romney.
Both Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman decided to drop out before the Primary, leaving only Gingrich, Santorum, and Ron Paul serving as the anti-Romney candidates. With fewer candidates, and with Perry backing Gingrich, the public opinion polls showed that the Gingrich was the anti-Romney candidate of the week, with his support rising while Romney’s was dipping.
Lastly, and what is the “most important” item before the voters was the return of Herman Cain. That’s right. Cain returned on the campaign scene (with the help of comedian Stephen Colbert). In what was a prank on South Carolina, Colbert asked people who would support him for President to vote for Cain, since Cain’s name was on the ballot (South Carolina bars write-in’s, and Colbert was not on the ballot). So how did Cain/Colbert do? Let’s go to the results:
Notes on the results:
Stephen Colbert – Surprisingly, Colbert/Cain received more votes than Huntsman, Perry, Johnson, and Bachmann combined! While the 6,329 votes wouldn’t have changed the results for the four candidates that came above Colbert/Cain, I do have to question the practice of using the election system as a comedic bit.
Santorum – In a state that should have favored Santorum, he came in a distant third behind Gingrich and Romney. I would have to argue that if he doesn’t do well in Florida (he doesn’t have the funds to do a heavy ad campaign), he will be in a position where dropping out will be his only option. Gingrich has shown to be fallible, so there is always potential for Santorum to rise.
Paul – This was the worst showing for Ron Paul this election, come in with just 13% of the votes. He has the funds and the support to continue campaigning for many more states, but if he fails to gain silver in the next few primaries, he will drop out of the discussion as being in contention for the nomination.
Liberal Values: On top of these problems, Romney has now lost his two major selling points–inevitability and electability. Losing in Florida would put an end to any claims of inevitability. The attacks on his years at Bain Capital and his mishandling of the calls to release his income tax returns cast serious doubts as to whether Romney is competitive in a national election. His offers to release a single return from 2010 only raises further questions as to what he has to hide. His tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and speculation that many years he paid far closer to zero percent than the fifteen percent he claims, make him a weak candidate in a year in which many voters from both parties are fed up with Wall Street. It also doesn’t make it easy for Romney to run against Obama after his repeated admissions that the economy is getting better under Obama, even if he tries to deny Obama the credit.
There was a lot in this short article that I could choose from, but this one covered a sore issue of mine. The author states “[his offer] to release a single return from 2010 only raises further questions as to what he has to hide.” No it doesn’t. For starters, there is no requirement for candidates running in the general election (let alone the primaries) to release their financial records. It has come a common practice over the past few decades, but it isn’t a requirement. And choosing not to release them cannot be taken as an attempt to hide anything. (This is the same logic used by the Obama campaign for choosing not to release the birth certificate and college transcripts early on in the 2008 campaign.)
CATO @ Liberty: Freedom of speech, like all public things, has risks. The real question should be: is such freedom better on the whole than the alternative, i.e. giving government officials the discretion to suppress speech? In this case, a ban on Super PACs would give the government the effective power to decide who loses and when in a party presidential primary. I do not believe that such power, even if it were constitutional, would be exercised on behalf of the general welfare of the country.
This election cycle is serving as a test case for the influence of Super PACs. As the author notes, Newt Gingrich can thank his candidacy’s survival and success in South Carolina in part to the spending by the Super PAC “Winning Our Future.” I think at the end of the 2012 election, it would be nice to see a comparison of not only the amount of funds raised by the campaigns, but also by the PACs supporting the campaigns.
Sic Semper Tyrannis: I, too, am curious about Paul’s actual opinions about foreign policy. It is one thing to advocate withdrawal of troops now in Germany and Korea, withdrawal after negotiations from Afghanistan and a cessation of foreign aid by the US. It is another to advocate a pacificim and isolationism that will not respond forcefully to ACTUAL aggression against American territory, territory of actual treaty allies or our essential economic interests.
Ron Paul is an interesting candidate. On one hand, you have the domestic policy candidate that many (including his detractors) agree with. On the other, you have the foreign policy candidate that many cringe over. Paul is an idealist who has remarkably have stuck with his beliefs over years of service. As such, his non-interventionist views don’t line up with the post 9/11 world. However, he seems to have more followers this year than at any point before hand. Is it only because of the economic mess the country (and the world) is currently facing, or are more people identifying with his foreign policy positions?
awaken the elephants: Newt Gingrich talks a good game, in fact, he talks a great game. No one can sell an idea like this former Speaker of the House. He’s smart, he’s witty, he’s sarcastic, he’s authoritative. Newt not only has all of the facts, he can rattle them off like a quick-tongued auctioneer at your local auction house. He’s the smartest man in the room, and he knows it. When he speaks , we are somehow hypnotized into suspending our own beliefs, our own common sense, our own values because he appears to have “true wisdom.”
The author goes on to discuss the “true Newt”, but this section hits at a good point. You will get the candidate that exudes so much confidence and knowledge on stage that it can easily sway you from your personal beliefs. I know many people who felt that they were swept off their feet by then-candidate Obama and his wonderful stage performance that they weren’t comparing his positions on the issues against their own. So, do what you can to disengage your emotional side for a moment and examine the positions the candidates are taking during the primaries. The candidate that best matches yours might not be the strongest or flashiest candidate, but it will be the one that represents “you”.
Capitol Commentary: Whether they believe it or not, a U.S. president is the nation’s moral leader. How can a president like Reagan stare down the Soviet Union and call them the “Evil Empire” if they themselves are corrupted by financial or personal vice? Where would the moral authority be if a leader tells the American people to trust them to find the answers when they told their wives the same thing as they betrayed that trust?
There is a point to be made about the President serving as the “best” of what our nation can be. We want our President to be honest and respected, and not morally challenged or hypocritical. However…
A Disgruntled Republican: If only people who never committed adultery were elected president we would not have had Thomas Jefferson, FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, or Bill Clinton. And, those are only the ones we know about. I do not think these allegations of Newts long-ago infidelity and the relationship with his former wife hurt him in the general election.
This is a good bit of history that people should look at. While there are voters who do hold morals to a higher regard than other issues, there is proof that a candidate that has committed adultery in the past can win the general election and be successful as a President.
Atheist Revolution: As you have almost certainly heard by now, a large and influential group of Christian extremists met in Texas yesterday with the goal of choosing a Republican presidential candidate behind which to unify in order to prevent Willard “Mittens” Romney from receiving the nomination. They worry that he’s not conservative enough and that he’s the wrong kind of Christian (i.e., Mormon). And which candidate did this who’s who of Christian hate decide to endorse? Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, a man so anti-gay he’d probably be happier in Uganda.
I could continue on the “morals” aspect, but I used this clip more to discuss the “wrong kind of Christian” issue. Maybe I am too open-minded, but I do not see why a small segment of society have an issue with a Mormon becoming President, much like I don’t understand why people were against John F. Kennedy because he was Catholic. There are so many protections built into our government structure that blocks the formation of a theocracy, so there is little that a President can do to alter the religious course of the nation. In fact, it’s hard enough to get issues such as gay marriage and abortion banned in this country, so why sound people be concerned about a Catholic or Mormon President?
Questions and Observations: I was under the mistaken impression that the interminable debates were really not having much of an effect. The South Carolina debates and results changed that impression for me pretty dramatically.
What Gingrich accomplished, with those two debates, was electorally remarkable. He literally changed the course of a primary that all the polls told us was Romney’s – and pretty comfortably too.
The author does point out how debates (in general) can definitely sway the voters. If a candidate stumbles during a debate, it could weaken their position in the polls. Conversely, if the candidate shines (as Newt did before the polls open), it can give the candidate much-needed boost right in time to capture the voters attention. The problem with the latter, however, is the viewership might expect the constant high-level performance each time, and failure to hit home-runs can quickly lose support for the candidate in kind.
Connecting.the.Dots: The process has been transformed from a relatively civilized exchange of views on issues, with the usual political posturing of course, into an ugly spectacle of candidates under pressure to tear down one another (and the President of the United States) with unchecked (until the next day, when TV viewers are gone) exaggerations, distortions and lies—-anything to stir up the partisan blood.
Like the author, I am not pleased with the audience participation in the debates. While striking the right chord with the crowd (causing them to cheer and clap) can make your challengers alter their scripted responses, I think in the end it does a disservice to the viewer. The debates are to allow a closer screening of the candidates on the issues, and their responses should be provided in an honest manner without influence by the audience.