Election 2012: December 2011 Archives


Several recent poll results suggest that Texas Congressman Ron Paul could be in for a good result this coming Tuesday, the night that Iowa voters gather for Republican precinct caucuses, the first step in a series of conventions that will lead to the selection of delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Paul is running 1st or 2nd in the most recent five polls tabulated by Real Clear Politics, with anywhere between 17% and 24% support.

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night's straw poll of precinct caucus attendees, Iowa's delegates and alternates will not be bound to a presidential candidate, and there's at least one scenario in which the "winner" of Tuesday's straw poll won't have any representation at all in Iowa's RNC delegation.

Journalists who don't have the patience to read party rules or the intelligence to appreciate careful distinctions will wrongly assume that Iowa's RNC delegation will be allocated proportionately to the straw poll result (because that's how the Democrats do it) or that all the delegates will be awarded to the first-place finisher (because so many Republican primaries are winner-take-all).

This isn't a primary. It's a non-binding straw poll of those who show up for the precinct meetings. It's more representative of grassroots opinion than the Ames straw poll, because people don't have to be bussed in or pay a significant fee to vote. For the Iowa caucus straw poll, Republicans will vote near their homes, all over the state, for free. Turnout will be higher than Ames by an order of magnitude -- about 17,000 votes were cast at Ames, about 120,000 were cast on caucus night four years ago. Media interest in the outcome is reasonable, especially with no previous hard numbers from any state to indicate candidate strength, but media attempts to estimate delegate count based on Tuesday's GOP result are baloney. The true count of bound delegates on Wednesday morning will be goose-eggs across the board.

Oklahoma Republicans will have caucuses just like Iowa, only four weeks later. On February 1, we'll gather in homes, churches, and cafes, elect delegates to the county convention, vote on potential party platform planks, and conduct a straw poll. Turnout won't be as high, and there won't be any media attention, but functionally, there's no difference between the Oklahoma caucuses and the Iowa caucuses. Unlike Iowa, however, Oklahoma's delegates will be bound to vote for the statewide winner and congressional district winners in our presidential preference primary in March.

That's not to say that Tuesday's caucuses accomplish nothing beyond manipulating public opinion about the GOP horserace. Real decisions are made that will affect what happens in Tampa.

Each precinct will elect delegates to the county convention. The county conventions, held on March 10, will each elect delegates to the state convention.

At the state convention on June 16, state delegates will caucus by congressional district to elect three delegates and three alternates each to the national convention. The state convention as a whole will elect 13 delegates. Three ex officio delegates, Iowa's members of the Republican National Committee, complete the total of 28 delegates -- the State Chairman, the National Committeeman and the National Committeewoman.

At that June convention, a majority of delegates might decide to elect a slate of national delegates who are inclined to support a particular candidate. That could happen if no candidate has a majority of national delegates sewn up at that point.

More likely, by June the nomination will already be decided, and the privilege of being a national delegate will be bestowed on hardworking volunteers and generous donors to the state and county parties, for the most part without regard to their presidential preference. In 2008, John McCain finished 4th in the Iowa caucus straw poll with 13.7% of the vote, but at the national convention, all 40 Iowa delegates voted for John McCain. By the time the state convention was held in July (delayed a month due to massive flooding), John McCain was the only candidate who hadn't withdrawn from contention. Thompson and Guiliani dropped out in January, Romney dropped out in February, Huckabee in March, and Paul in June.

So back to the situation I suggest in the headline to this post. Let's say Paul's support holds and he finishes first in a close race, with about 25% of the statewide caucus vote. That vote won't be evenly distributed. Some precincts will have a majority of Ron Paul supporters in attendance, and I would expect those precincts to elect Ron Paul supporters as their delegates to the county convention and to pass platform resolutions reflecting Ron Paul's distinctive opinions.

But in this scenario, in the vast majority of precincts, Paul's support will be far below 50%. In these precincts, I would expect supporters of "Non-Paul" candidates to band together and ensure that no Ron Paul supporters represent them at the county convention. There will be exceptions -- a Paulistinian who is a long-time party activist or a community leader might be advanced to the next level.

At the county level, there may be a few counties with a concentration of Paul supporters where the majority of county delegates will be Paul fans and will elect their own to the state convention. But at most county conventions, Paul's support will be less than 25%, and "Non-Paul" delegates will band together to keep Paul supporters away from the state convention.

If Paul is to have any backers at all at the state convention, it will only happen if the campaign successfully mobilizes its supporters to constitute a majority of the caucusers at a majority of the precincts in at least one county. If Paul's 25% support is spread evenly across the state, he will have no delegates at the Iowa state convention and no delegates from Iowa in Tampa.

This outcome would not be the result of a grand establishment conspiracy against Ron Paul. It would be a reflection of how Paul polarizes the Republican electorate. While Santorum, Perry, Bachmann, and Gingrich supporters may disagree about the relative merits of their candidates, they are all likely to agree with each other and differ strongly with Paul supporters on issues like Iran, Israel, drug legalization, and whether 9/11 was an "inside job."

The supporters of these four candidates may likewise band together to prevent Romney supporters from advancing to the county convention, so that, if there's still an active contest in June, the convention would pick national delegates who will back the non-Romney and non-Paul candidate still in the race.

This sort of thing happened in Oklahoma in 2008. Ron Paul supporters dominated some county conventions and attempted to get their people elected as national delegates and placed on the statewide slate nominated by the state executive committee. A certain amount of stealth was used -- they didn't identify themselves as Paul backers when campaigning for delegate slots and they stayed away from his distinctive issues. They succeeded in capturing two delegate slots in the 2nd Congressional District, which was the first of the five district conventions. At the the 1st district convention, "Non-Paul" supporters circulated lists of Ron Paul backers seeking delegate slots.

Since the majority of delegates at Oklahoma's district and state conventions were conventionally conservative Republicans who backed Huckabee, McCain, Romney, and Thompson, they voted for their fellow conventional conservatives for delegate, and Paul backers were shut out. Although all the Oklahoma delegates were bound to vote for the primary winner (6 for Huckabee, 32 for McCain), the worry was that several state delegations full of Paul backers would have created a lot of upset at the national convention, reshaping the platform in disturbing ways and possibly overthrowing rules that bound them to vote for other candidates. In the end, the two Ron Paul supporters in the Oklahoma delegation, bound to vote for Huckabee, were released when he dropped out of the race, and they voted for Paul in the roll call, two of Paul's 23 delegates.

Ron Paul may "win" the Iowa caucuses straw poll by a narrow margin with a tiny plurality, and that result may boost fundraising and volunteer activity, but it won't boost his delegate count at all.

RESOURCES: The Green Papers website does a great job of getting the details right on the American political process. Some pages that served as information sources for this entry:

MORE perspective on Ron Paul:

Eric Dondero, long time Ron Paul aide, speaks out about the Ron Paul newsletters

David Bahnsen: The Undiscerning and Dangerous Appreciation of Ron Paul: "Ron Paul knows full well that his closest connections are a mixed bag of the most extremist sort of anarcho-capitalists...."

I spent several hours speaking with Ron Paul shortly after 9/11. He informed me that the Islamicist threat was a made up one, just as the Communist threat of the 1950's and 1960's was. He told me, to my face, in his own words, that Lew Rockwell and his people were the only ones calling a spade a spade: America did deserve what the Islamicists were trying to do to us, and if we simply learned to leave them alone, they would in turn leave us alone. It was among the most despicable and disappointing conversations I have ever had with another adult....

My concern is not Ron Paul's errors on this subject. My concern is that he has used the freedom movement to generate name recognition and fame, and then through sleight of hand converted the popularity over his limited government rhetoric to promote an agenda of anti-Americanism and military isolationism.

HotAir: Paul: I did write parts of the newsletters but not the bad parts. In a radio interview with WHO, Paul changes his story about his newsletters, and effectively disavows only a "total of eight or ten sentences" from his newsletter output, while claiming that he didn't see the edited newsletters and didn't know about the objectionable sentences for years. When I was writing a weekly column that someone else edited, you can bet that I read the published version of the story as soon as it hit the streets and squawked when an edit put something even mildly objectionable in my mouth. As I wrote on one such occasion in 2007:

When words appear under my byline, they are identified with me, and they speak for me, whether I wrote them or not. I don't appreciate having my name associated with opinions or attitudes I don't share....

I appreciate what copy editors do. I'm grateful when they fix my typos, add transitional sentences when I lurch too quickly from one idea to another, and make me look smarter, Charlotte's Web style, by putting brilliant headlines over my words. And when they get carried away, I'll handle it as I did this time -- let the readers know of the discrepancy and mend fences with the individuals who might have been offended by what someone else wrote under my name.

(Here's another example from my farewell to Michael DelGiorno;I protested the editor's gratuitous aside backhanding author Michael Wallis, whom I greatly admire.)

Not Mitt, not Newt

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The Daily Oklahoman used Sunday morning's editorial to shout at Oklahoma Republicans to rally 'round Mitt Romney. In a nutshell, the editorialists said we need to stop wasting time flirting with other possibilities. We need to forgo the frivolous notion of a competitive primary season. Instead, ve musst alles goosestep in lockstep in support of the Only Candidate Who Can Restore America's Greatness. "Now!" they shouted. Heil Romney!


Yes, that is the wire-service photo that the Oklahoman used to illustrate their online endorsement. My copy appears to have a rectangular smudge.

We in the Heartland wait and watch as the Republican debates rage on -- as if we will all text in our votes and pick a winner to stay on the island. This must stop! It is maddening to those of us with strong conservative convictions in the middle of the country. It is enabling Obama to fatten what is already the plumpest campaign war chest in history while the Republicans drain their resources battling each other.

We believe in the primary system, but even a good system can be detrimental when carried too far. To unseat the incumbent, we need total focus on November, not sideshow politics that will dilute the Republican efforts.

Hear that, Republican grassroots volunteers, contributors, and voters? Your deliberating about the best candidate for our party's nomination is mere "sideshow politics." Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!

Good people do the right thing at the right time regardless of party politics. They don't wait for others. The time to unite behind Romney is now, not after Iowa or New Hampshire or the Oklahoma primary in early March. Now!

"Dad-blast it! I said, now! now! now! you cretinous mob!"

I was fascinated to see that there was a joint editorial meeting involving Romney and the Oklahoman and the Washington Examiner. Were Oklahoman editorial writers summoned to Washington for an audience? Or were they conferenced in on speakerphone? Did Oklahoma not even rate a visit for an endorsement?

There has been a steady stream of Romney endorsements in recent days. It's almost as if a desperate candidate, conscious that he is no longer regarded as inevitable, conscious that a majority of Republican voters want someone besides him to win the nomination, is trying to restart the bandwagon. What do you suppose he is saying behind the scenes to these editorial boards and elected officials to get them to jump to his side?

Even columnist Ann Coulter has gone from saying Romney would lead us to sure defeat against Obama to saying he's the most conservative candidate in the race and the best one to beat Obama, while insulting conservative Tea Party voters in the process.

Romney's fluidity in moving from one position to its near opposite on social and fiscal issues makes it hard for me to trust him. In 2007, Joan Venocchi of the Boston Globe documented Romney's extreme flip-flops on abortion.

Paul Rahe says Romney a chameleon and documents even more statements of the earlier version of Romney which contradict the current Romney's views on a wide range of issues. Rahe's conclusion is that he can't be trusted and that he's not that hot a candidate anyway.

I cannot see how any conservative can support Mitt Romney. I can see how conservatives might vote for him - certainly, if he is the only alternative to Barack Obama, and also if there is no other plausible Republican candidate, as Ramesh Ponnuru argues on National Review Online. But if we do vote for him, we should not lie to ourselves about what we are doing, and we should keep the heat on him if he is elected.

I should perhaps add that I do not regard Mitt Romney as a shoo-in. He is not an especially accomplished politician. He is a man who won one election. When he ran for Senate, he lost. When he considered running for re-election as Governor, he chose not to do so because he knew that he would lose. When he ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, he lost. If you watch his debate with Ted Kennedy and his interview with Bret Baier and consider the manner in which he misrepresented Romneycare in the Las Vegas debates, you can see why he lost. His responses, when he is not mouthing boilerplate that he has memorized, seem contrived. He is evasive and sometimes petulant. One can see him calculating with regard to what would best play with the general public, and what he says and does is often inept. He often looks like what he is: a man with no political principles who is pandering, and he is actually pretty bad at pandering. He is not quick in discerning which way the wind is blowing. He spent the last four years preparing for the 2011/12 campaign, and he blundered and blundered badly in the manner in which he positioned himself for the race. It is perfectly possible that Barack Obama will make mincemeat of him in a televised debate. Ted Kennedy did.

Michael Barone, who went to high school with Romney, relates a quote from a Romney colleague:

Asked by friends what Romney was really like, one Bain Capital veteran responded, "Which four or five of the Romneys do you mean?"

Flexibility of strategy and tactics are fine; flexibility of principle is not.

Rahe writes that Newt Gingrich is no better than Romney -- the two are "peas in a pod":

In short, Gingrich is a lot like Romney. Neither man recognizes that the source of our problems is government meddling and the distortion that this produces in what would otherwise be a free and relatively efficient market. What they think of as a cure is, in fact, the disease. Fannie and Freddie, with the help of a Federal Reserve Board that kept interest rates artificially low for a very long time, produced the subprime mortgage bubble and the subsequent economic crash. If healthcare is outrageously expensive and health insurance can be hard to get, it is because of the manner in which the federal and state governments structure and regulate the market. What these managerial progressives in their desperation to manage the lives of the rest of us fail to understand is that the intellectual presumption underpinning the aspiration to "rational administration" that they embrace is the principal cause of our woes....

It is a scandal that the Republican Party cannot do better than these two at a time of opportunity like the one in which we live.

The last word goes to Mark Steyn, who believes that neither Romney nor Gingrich is capable of the kind of leadership we need in these perilous times:

So, for me, it's not enough merely to replace Obama: He's a symptom of the problem, rather than the underlying cause. The ship of state has become encrusted with barnacles upon barnacles, and, if the next guy isn't committed to getting rid of them, we're still going to sink....

This next term is critical for America, not just because (if the IMF is correct) it may mark the end of America's long run as the world's leading economy but because, if Obamacare is not repealed in the next four years, it will never be repealed.... Once the Obamacare goodies kick in, getting back across the Rubicon will be a tough job. Nothing in Mitt's past suggests he's got either the stomach for that fight or the savvy to win it....

So, if these are "crazy and extraordinary times," go with the crazy, right? Newt certainly thinks bigger than Mitt, but unfortunately he thinks in the same direction of unbounded micro-managerial faux-technocracy.

Steyn's concluding paragraph sums up the reason behind my futile attempt to get Tom Coburn to file for the Oklahoma primary. It seems we're stuck with two mediocre choices before the voting begins (and it has nothing to do with Mitt's Mormonism or Newt's adultery):

It's a tragedy that the Republican nomination has dwindled down to a choice not worth making. Yet not a single real vote has yet been cast. Iowa and New Hampshire will do us all a favor if they look beyond the frontrunners and keep genuinely conservative candidates in the game.

Me? I'm pulling for Santorum.

CoburnPresidentYardSign.pngDear Sen. Coburn,

Today, Monday, December 5, 2011, marks the opening of the three-day filing period for school board seats in Oklahoma. It's also the filing period for Oklahoma's March 6, 2012, presidential preference primary. I am writing to urge you to file, to put your name on the Oklahoma ballot as a "favorite son" candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

In 40 years of watching presidential politics, I've never seen so many credible candidates leave the race (Pawlenty, Cain) or rule themselves out (Daniels, Ryan, Christie, Palin, Giuliani, Jindal, Jeb Bush, etc.) so early in the process, before a single real vote has been cast. At the same time, I've never seen Republican activists so reluctant to commit to a candidate. We're wary of investing our time, our money, and our hearts in a candidate that won't stay in the race for long. Here in Oklahoma, we're used to having our choices severely narrowed before our turn to vote; in 2012, Iowa and New Hampshire may know the same experience.

The remaining options are less than attractive. Mitt Romney is not a reliable conservative on any issue. Rick Santorum couldn't win re-election in his own state, and he endorsed RINO Arlen Specter for reelection over a solid fiscal conservative primary challenger, Pat Toomey, in 2004. Rick Perry can't seem to think on his feet, and there are some trouble things in his record as governor, as recent as his obstruction, subtle but effective, of Rep. David Simpson's anti-TSA-groping bill. Michele Bachmann says all the right words but doesn't display much depth of thought. Jon Huntsman seems to be more interested in impressing the mainstream media than connecting with the Republican base.

Ron "Free Bananas!" Paul's foreign policy views are naive and dangerous. In every interview I've heard of Gary Johnson, he seems to have a terminal case of the giggles. As incumbent governor of Louisiana, Buddy Roemer finished third to a crook (Edwin Edwards) and a Klansman (David Duke), and finished fourth in a comeback try four years later. Roemer naively believes that limiting campaign contributions will limit the influence of money in politics, but as long as politics has so much power to influence results in the private sector, money will find a way to flow into politics.

Coburn-BreachOfTrust.jpgNewt Gingrich is the leading anti-Romney of the moment. Gingrich has serious character problems, of which his serial polygyny is a mere symptom. (Isn't it ironic that the Mormon in the race, not the Baptist-turned-Cathoic, is the husband of one wife?) As you documented in your book Breach of Trust (and Bob Novak in his autobiography), Gingrich's character flaws extended to his leadership of the House of Representatives. For all his brilliance in the 1994 campaign to retake the House, his failures as speaker turned the Republican caucus from principled reform to careerism for the sake of power, laying the groundwork for the moral collapse of the Republican majority, the Pelosi speakership, the Obama presidency, and our current fiscal crisis.

Beyond his failures as a husband and as a congressional leader, Gingrich is a big-government conservative in an era where government must shrink to make space for private sector can grow. Being a visionary is a fine thing in the private sector, but as a self-proclaimed "Teddy Roosevelt Republican," Newt offers big ideas that depend upon massive government investment and intervention.

Sen. Coburn, you expressed your worries about Gingrich as recently as Sunday morning:

"The thing is there are all type of leaders. Leaders that instill confidence, leaders that are somewhat abrupt and brisk, leaders that have one standard for the people they are leading and different standard for themselves," Coburn said on Fox News Sunday. "I found his leadership lacking."

The best hope for across-the-board (fiscal, social, and defense) conservatives is for another candidate to emerge, but it's too late (believe it or not) for another candidate to enter and compete effectively in the primaries. Filing deadlines have already passed for New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and Missouri. Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, and Michigan close filing this week. By the time we know the result in New Hampshire, even more deadlines will have passed. Although Iowa has no filing deadline (the caucus straw poll is not binding), a win there would require creating a grassroots GOTV organization ex nihilo in less than a month.

Tom Coburn speaking on health care fraud, by Medill DC, on FlickrBut there is still a way for a "player to be named later" to become the Republican nominee. "Favorite son" candidates could file in each state, giving Republican voters a way to vote for "None of the Above" and to deny a majority of delegates to any of the currently active candidates, none of whom seem to have the right stuff to win the nomination, win the general election, and then steer the country decisively away from the fiscal Niagara Falls just around the next bend in the river.

I'm asking you, Sen. Coburn, to run in Oklahoma's primary as our favorite son.

Sure, any random Republican with the intention of serving as a placeholder for "None of the Above" could cut a check for $2,500 to put his name on the ballot. But Joe Random would have to raise huge amounts of money to publicize his reasons for running and to convince Oklahoma voters that he could be trusted with their votes.

You wouldn't have that problem, Sen. Coburn. The media, both local and national, would give a Coburn favorite son candidacy significant coverage. Oklahoma Republican voters already know and trust you (your TARP vote notwithstanding -- an error, but well-intentioned), and they know you are not driven by a lust for power. And if a win in Oklahoma turned into a national groundswell for a Coburn nomination, the vast majority of Oklahoma Republicans and fiscal conservatives nationwide would be very, very pleased.

If you should win the Oklahoma primary, as I expect you would, Oklahoma's 43 delegates would give you a seat at the table in deciding the outcome of a deadlocked national convention, helping to ensure that the Republican nominee is someone who understands the fiscal crisis that looms over our nation and who is prepared to act decisively to deal with it.

Please think it over, Sen. Coburn. Talk to your wife, your children, your closest advisers. Pray about it. Then get someone to the State Capitol, Room B-6, by Wednesday at 5 with a notarized form and a cashier's check for $2,500 -- for Oklahoma's sake, for America's sake.


Michael D. Bates

P. S. Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates has a poll (311 Republican primary voters, Nov. 29 - Dec. 1, 2011, margin of error: +/- 4.3%) showing Gingrich with a commanding lead in Oklahoma -- 39% for Gingrich, everyone else in single digits, and 21% undecided. In August, Gingrich was at 5%. If you don't want Gingrich's lacking leadership at the top of the Republican ticket next fall, Sen. Coburn, you need to give voters a better alternative now.

Newt Gingrich 39%
Undecided (volunteered) 21%
Herman Cain 9%
Mitt Romney 9%
Rick Perry 8%
Ron Paul 7%
Michele Bachmann 5%
Rick Santorum 2%
John Huntsman 1%

Photo of Tom Coburn by Flickr user Medill DC, used under Creative Commons license.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Election 2012 category from December 2011.

Election 2012: November 2011 is the previous archive.

Election 2012: January 2012 is the next archive.

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