Politics: National Security

VIDEO: Are U.S., Libyan Opposition ‘Just Friends’?

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
May 13, 2011, 11:34 a.m.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) won a WH ‘12 straw poll at a tea party gath­er­ing 10/8 in Rich­mond, VA, tak­ing 14% and nar­rowly upend­ing Tea Party fa­vor­ites like ex-AK Gov. Sarah Pal­in (R), who earned 13.5%, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who took 12.5%.

The 15-way poll, con­duc­ted among 1,560 con­ven­tion at­tendees (more than double the count at the Val­ues Voters Sum­mit last month), was pro­jec­ted to be the good in­dic­at­or of the WH ‘12 cli­mate.

VA Tea Party Pat­ri­ots Fed­er­a­tion chair Jam­ie Radtke: “This poll is unique be­cause, for the first time, it takes the pulse of a num­ber of Tea Party Pat­ri­ot and 9/12 or­gan­iz­a­tions. While it is early in the 2012 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion cycle, Amer­ic­ans are en­gaged and en­er­gized about the lead­er­ship of Amer­ica.”

If noth­ing else, the num­bers re­veal the pref­er­ences of fisc­al con­ser­vat­ives—as op­posed to so­cial con­ser­vat­ives who favored Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) in the Val­ues Voters Sum­mit poll—who are un­doubtedly wooed by the ac­col­ades sur­round­ing Christie for his hand­ling of NJ’s eco­nomy. Cur­rently, he main­tains the highest ap­prov­al rat­ing of any politi­cian in the coun­try.

Oth­ers on the bal­lot in­cluded ex-Speak­er Newt Gin­grich (R), Sen. Jim De­Mint (R-SC), LA Gov. Bobby Jin­dal (R), ex-AR Gov. Mike Hucka­bee (R), IN Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), Rep. Michele Bach­mann (R-MN), Pence, ex-MA Gov. Mitt Rom­ney (R), MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), and ex-Sen. Rick San­tor­um (R-PA).

The out­come is sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing that some names on the bal­lot had faces to ac­com­pany them at the con­ven­tion—Paul and San­tor­um both made ap­pear­ances—and the fact that Christie has re­it­er­ated his dis­in­terest in the bid time and time again. What’s more, it could stir up prob­lems for Christie, who has care­fully hedged any dir­ect in­volve­ment with the Tea Party, giv­en that the line the move­ment is at­tempt­ing to draw between its mem­bers and es­tab­lish­ment GOP­ers is get­ting thick­er all the time (“On Call,” 10/9).

Gin­grich fin­ished third with 8.4%, while De­Mint, a Tea Party fa­vor­ite, took fourth with 7.3% (Cain, Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch, 10/10).

Ex-CNN com­ment­at­or Lou Dobbs key­noted the event, “which, ac­cord­ing to co­ordin­at­ors, had 2,800 re­gistered at­tendees.” Speak­ing at the end of 10/9, “Dobbs ad­dressed the crowd on the prin­ciples of the Tea Party move­ment and how grass­roots or­gan­izers can’t give up now.” Dobbs: “That is a les­son both polit­ic­al parties will learn from you. It is now time for you, the ma­jor­ity, to be heard in our na­tion’s cap­it­al.”

Mean­while, “Paul fo­cused much of his speech on the strength of the Tea Party move­ment - hon­ing in on how he be­lieves it’s an in­tel­lec­tu­al move­ment, not a polit­ic­al move­ment.” Paul: “Isn’t it great that we’re talk­ing about the right for states to nul­li­fy bad fed­er­al laws?”

An­oth­er ma­jor theme of Paul’s speech to the con­ven­tion was the im­port­ance of in­di­vidu­al free­dom from gov’t tyranny. Paul: “I be­lieve gov­ern­ments re­flect their people.”

‘04 GA SEN can­did­ate/ex-God­fath­er’s Pizza CEO Her­man Cain (R) kicked off the 10/9 events with a head­lining speech - and he hin­ted the most of any po­ten­tial WH ‘12 can­did­ate at a run for the WH. Cain: “I might do something crazy. I might just run for pres­id­ent” (Boyle, Daily Caller, 10/9).

Down To Busi­ness In Bakersfield

Mean­while, three po­ten­tial GOP WH ‘12 con­tenders “tested their mes­sages” 10/9 in the San Joa­quin Val­ley, “mix­ing pat­ri­ot­ism with at­tacks” on Obama and the polit­ic­al left “for an ap­pre­ci­at­ive crowd at the Bakersfield Busi­ness Con­fer­ence.”

Gin­grich, Rom­ney and Pal­in all spoke at the event, “which was held for the first time in five years.”

“None men­tioned the oth­ers, fo­cus­ing in­stead on at­tack­ing” Dems “and hit­ting broad-based themes on how the U.S. has fallen down — but can be great again.” Rom­ney: “Who ever thought that we’d look back at the Jimmy Carter years as the good ol’ days?”

Gin­grich hit not only on Dems in D.C., but the Dem-dom­in­ated CA Le­gis­lature, the city of Los Angeles, ten­ured fac­ulty at the Univ. of CA at Berke­ley and the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals.

“Pal­in, however, ruled the day.” Bakersfield atty George Mar­tin — the host and driv­ing force be­hind the busi­ness con­fer­ence — in­tro­duced Pal­in by say­ing: “You’re look­ing at the next pres­id­ent of the United States.”

“In re­sponse, she offered up the most par­tis­an speech of the day.” She called the Dem-backed health-care re­form bill that passed earli­er this year a “job killer” and the “moth­er of all un­fun­ded man­dates” that will res­ult in “ra­tion­ing health care.”

She summed up by call­ing mod­er­ate GOP­ers “the cock­tail-party wing” of the GOP and cast the cur­rent Tea Party move­ment as “com­mon man” versus “rul­ing class.” Dur­ing her speech, “ap­plause rang out in­side the massive tent” (El­lis, Fresno Bee, 10/11).

Polls these days show an un­usu­ally large de­gree of volat­il­ity. In the nine most re­cent polls covered by Real­Clear­Polit­ics.com, Pres­id­ent Obama’s job ap­prov­al rat­ings have ranged from 44 per­cent to 53 per­cent, the highest any na­tion­al poll has shown since last May, soon after Osama bin Laden was killed. In gen­er­al, in elec­tion match­ups between Obama and former Mas­sachu­setts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, the range is from a tie in the new Gal­lup/USA Today na­tion­al sur­vey to a 10-point lead for Obama. When matched up against former Sen. Rick San­tor­um, the range has been from a San­tor­um lead of three points to Obama be­ing up by 11 points.

In such situ­ations, the first thing to do is to knock out the high and low polls and av­er­age the rest; it’s the easi­est way to provide a con­trol for the in­ev­it­able out­lier sur­veys. In terms of Obama’s job ap­prov­al, the re­main­ing sev­en av­er­aged 47 per­cent. It should be noted, though, that the three highest, all 50 per­cent, were from two weeks ago. Go­ing in­to Elec­tion Day, an in­cum­bent wants to see a job ap­prov­al rat­ing of 50 per­cent or high­er. But one with 48 or 49 per­cent ap­prov­al can still win by a nose. Pres­id­ent George W. Bush did this, with a 48 per­cent job ap­prov­al rat­ing in the fi­nal Gal­lup Poll be­fore his nar­row, 51 per­cent-to-48 per­cent win over John Kerry in 2004.

In the Obama-Rom­ney tri­al heats, the av­er­age of the sev­en rep­res­en­ted a 7-point lead for the in­cum­bent. When up against San­tor­um, it was just un­der an 8-point lead. Tri­al heat fig­ures this far out do not have as good a track re­cord of in­dic­at­ing elec­tion out­comes as later ones. The takeaway from these num­bers is that the elect­ab­il­ity premi­um that Rom­ney had over San­tor­um has, for now, vir­tu­ally evap­or­ated. It’s not to say there isn’t a lot more for Demo­crats to ex­ploit run­ning against San­tor­um than against Rom­ney. But the nat­ur­al edge is largely gone, with very dif­fer­ent res­ults from a few months ago — though ad­mit­tedly, San­tor­um was an un­known then.

Elec­tions and pub­lic at­ti­tudes to­ward elec­tions tend to have a lot of mov­ing parts. Now, not un­ex­pec­tedly, there are a lot of con­flict­ing dy­nam­ics at work. Keep in mind that 90-plus per­cent of the voters who con­sider them­selves Re­pub­lic­ans will vote for the GOP nom­in­ee, re­gard­less. The same can be said for self-de­scribed Demo­crats vot­ing for their can­did­ate. The volat­il­ity comes with the third or so of voters who con­sider them­selves in­de­pend­ents. Poll­sters say that these in­de­pend­ents are ser­i­ously cross-pres­sured.

Most in­de­pend­ents like Obama per­son­ally, but are un­der­whelmed by his per­form­ance so far. Some are dis­ap­poin­ted; some dis­agree with some of his de­cisions or pri­or­it­ies. With Obama’s job ap­prov­al rat­ings among in­de­pend­ents run­ning at just 45 per­cent — well un­der the 52 per­cent of the vote he re­ceived from in­de­pend­ents in 2008 — that dis­en­chant­ment is clear. Obama clearly be­ne­fit­ted for a time from the now-21 weeks of more pos­it­ive than neg­at­ive eco­nom­ic news, as re­por­ted by the ISI Group. But at the same time, gas­ol­ine prices are at an un­pre­ced­en­ted high for this time of year, more than a dol­lar high­er than this sea­son’s av­er­age over the last six years. Gas­ol­ine prices also al­most al­ways go up over the spring and early sum­mer.

Not only does the “pain at the pump” polit­ic­ally hurt an in­cum­bent, but with so many Amer­ic­ans liv­ing on pinched budgets these days, money spent filling up their tanks is money not spent in stores. The neg­at­ive eco­nom­ic im­pact of high gas­ol­ine prices is in­dis­put­able. Thus, the dy­nam­ic that drove Obama’s job ap­prov­al rat­ing up this year is now threatened by high­er gas­ol­ine prices. In the ab­sence of a res­ol­u­tion of ten­sions in the Mideast and spe­cific­ally Ir­an, fall­ing gas prices and climb­ing rat­ings aren’t likely to hap­pen.

At the same time, these in­de­pend­ents feel in­creas­ingly es­tranged from Re­pub­lic­ans. GOP pres­id­en­tial con­tenders are fall­ing over them­selves to curry fa­vor with the party’s con­ser­vat­ive base and tea party act­iv­ists. These in­de­pend­ents are cool­ing to­ward the party they sup­por­ted by an 18-point mar­gin in the 2010 elec­tion as well.

There is no ques­tion: Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t look­ing so good at the mo­ment. But just as things looked pretty bleak for Obama and Demo­crats four and eight months ago, what is far more rel­ev­ant is how things look four, and most of all, eight months from now, head­ing in­to Elec­tion Day. Re­pub­lic­ans cur­rently suf­fer from self-in­flic­ted wounds. Pres­id­ent Obama and Demo­crats are hurt by factors largely bey­ond their con­trol. Those who are act­ing as if this elec­tion is over are be­ing very pre­ma­ture. But, at the same time, each side has plenty to worry about as they look for­ward to the next eight months.

What We're Following See More »
Gen. Kelly Rips Rep. Wilson for Criticism
2 hours ago
Bush Slams Trump, Implicitly
2 hours ago
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
3 hours ago

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Trump to Hill Next Tuesday
4 hours ago
Longtime Progressive Members Pushed Out at DNC
5 hours ago

"A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez. The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge this year to unite a party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary race."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.