Archive | January, 2012

Historical reenactment

Here’s what happened with President Obama stepped off Air Force One this morning, and was greeted by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer:

I applaud Governor Brewer on her reenactment of this classic photo:

I also applaud the President’s patience.

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Why the Florida Republican primary is important, and why Paul and Santorum don’t matter

I know this may sound a bit odd coming from a Texan, especially after the other 49 states’ impression of Texas has now been altered to mean “25 million yahoos just like Rick Perry,” but Florida is totally weird. And that’s precisely why Florida is absolutely key to the Republican nomination for President.

It’s why you see Newt Gingrich talking about building a moon base – it’s to help gain support in space-crazed Florida by pandering to voters there. If Gingrich doubles down and also promises to move to the moon base, he’ll gain even more support among Florida Republicans.

It’s why you see Romney talking about Fidel Castro croaking. Extra credit for anybody who explains in the comments section what Mormons think happens to people after they croak, because Romney is hinting that it could be bad for Fidel.

And it’s why Santorum and Paul matter not one bit.

Florida Republicans apparently love breaking rules. They moved their primary date up in the batting order, which broke one RNC rule. As a result it has cost them half their delegation to the Republican National Convention. So they will presumably get 50 delegates instead of 99 delegates.

But here’s the other rule they broke, and it’s why nobody matters except Romney and Gingrich: it’s a winner-take-all state, not proportional. Nobody gets any delegates unless they come in first. So unless somebody goes to court and wins on that point, one of the leading candidates is about to go way ahead, with more delegates than all the previous states combined.

Ron Paul’s campaign recognizes that, and it’s why he’s not even competing in Florida, instead looking ahead to Nevada, Colorado, and Minnesota. Santorum is the odd man out — too serious a candidate to ignore such a major state, and not serious enough to reap any delegate benefit from it.

Add to that the fact that Florida is a big huge expensive complicated place, with expensive media markets, and you’ll see why the stakes are so high for Gingrich and Romney – it is not without considerable investment and organization that somebody is about to go down big.

Keep and eye on the Florida primary – it’s a big deal.

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Buzz from the TV show: Perry’s post-Presidential fortunes

On last week’s “Capital Tonight” on YNN Austin, Paul Brown asked me about Rick Perry’s fortunes looking forward. Here’s what I said. It’s a theory that’s out there.

You can watch the entire show online here, and you can catch us on Thursdays at 6 pm and 10 pm, and Sunday mornings at 11 am, on YNN Austin, or on Time-Warner’s Texas Channel (channel 888) in other Texas media markets.

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Presidential primaries: what a difference a week makes

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday when there were six major Republican candidates leaving New Hampshire heading full-steam to South Carolina, despite a near-universal feeling of inevitability of a Mitt Romney nomination?

Fast forward to today, voting day in South Carolina. Suddenly there are only four candidates instead of six. By all recent measures, Romney (AKA “Cayman Islands Tax Shelter Lay’er Off’er Dude”) is collapsing, and the guy with all the momentum is Gingrich (AKA “The Vagina Whisperer”).

Don’t get me to explaining Republican primary voters in South Carolina. But if you look at the history of Republican presidential primaries in South Carolina, it is clear that the state is where Republican candidates’ hopes and dreams go to die.

It appears that revelations of Mitt Romney’s tax shelter scheme have stopped his momentum, which really doesn’t surprise me. It probably doesn’t surprise many Texans who remember the 1990 Governor’s race here, in which Republican Clayton Williams was in the lead a few days out from the election, when he suddenly admitted that he hadn’t paid any taxes recently. In a related story, odds are that unless you’re reading this in Texas, you’ve never heard of Clayton Williams, and there’s a reason for that: he lost the election. Bet you’ve heard of the woman who beat him: Ann Richards. Voters don’t like rich guys who don’t fork over their fair share.

More surprising is the likelihood that evangelical voters in South Carolina are simply shrugging off revelations that Gingrich apparently told his second ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage. This, according to his second ex-wife, who before she was his second ex-wife, was his second wife, and before that, she was his first home-wrecker. She was replaced by his second home-wrecker, who is now his third wife Callista, and who will in all likelihood someday be known as his third ex-wife, to be traded for a third home wrecker to be named later, perhaps as a first round draft pick of future Newt staffers. Take notes and keep up, this is confusing.

Explanations for conservative evangelicals not caring about this sordid soap opera? Beats me. Maybe more people than I thought have second ex-wife problems. Maybe they believe Rush Limbaugh when he says Newt is the real victim here. Maybe Mittens’ tax issue is so pervasive that voters don’t care what Newt’s ex-wife says. Maybe Republican primary voters are more worried about the Second Amendment than the Seventh Commandment.

The news could not be better for President Obama’s campaign. The longer this Republican clown car process is in question, the better off Obama’s reelection efforts look.

No matter the results tonight in South Carolina, I still think Tax Shelter Dude has the edge over The Vagina Whisperer. Up next in the batting order of primary states is Florida, which for the geopolitically impaired, is a really big expensive complicated state. Gingrich has, so far, been unencumbered with such trifles as raising money and building a campaign infrastructure, which is a lot easier to get away with in smaller states with inexpensive media markets. Mittens should arrive in Florida with an advantage, if campaign mechanics mean anything in the Republican clown car show.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul (AKA “Dr. Wackadoodle”) hasn’t really caught on in South Carolina (but might still come in ahead of “Santorum The Hapless”) and is skipping Florida and looking ahead to early February, to Nevada, Colorado, and Minnesota.

Get more popcorn. The show’s not over yet. And the longer it drags on, the better the nicknames will get.

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Headline of the day so far

Now that America has dispatched with Rick Perry’s campaign for President, we can get back to the important stuff around here. And by that of course I mean the headline of the day.

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Post-Perry Presidential pontification

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Don’t think for a minute that I’m not above saying…

I told you so.

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Bad ideas: SOPA and PIPA

You may have noticed the protest pop-up, my part in keeping a free and open internet, on your way to reading the blog today. Find out more:

What Google has to say.

What Wikipedia has to say.

Sign the petition to cut the crap.

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Happy birthday Edward Blumingfield, wherever you are

Every January 15th, wherever I am I raise my glass in a toast to Edward Blumingfield, for his birthday. Why? Who the hell is Edward Blumingfield? I’m glad you asked.

In second grade at Kolter Elementary School in Houston, I tossed caution to the winds and decided to throw my hat into the ring and pursue a life of public service. That’s right: I ran for class weatherman.

I lost. By one vote. To Edward Blumingfield.

You see, Edward went negative. He claimed that he would make a much better class weatherman because, as he put it, he was older than me.

Edward was born on January 15, in the evening. I was born 4 hours later, in the early morning hours of January 16th. Same hospital, same floor.

Edward taught me, way back in 2nd grade, an important lesson about negative campaigning. I am eternally grateful. So every year on his birthday, I toast his memory.

And by the way, the forecast in Austin today is for mostly sunny skies. High near 70, low of 43, winds out of the Southwest at 10, gusting to 20. And I bet wherever Edward Blumingfield is, he didn’t freakin’ know that, the little asshole.

…but I’m not bitter.

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Political palace intrigue – Perry’s next steps

Yesterday, Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka wrote a provocative piece in which he mulled over whether Rick Perry wants Mitt Romney to lose. The crux of the piece is, if Perry is now attempting to set himself up for another Presidential run in 2016, then Obama would need to win re-election, since otherwise Romney (presumably) would be an incumbent Republican seeking re-election in 2016.

I have no idea if Burka’s theory holds water and neither does he – it’s just one possibility. But if if he’s on the right track, let’s add to the palace intrigue.

If Governor Perry wants to run in 2016, he’ll need to do something different than he’s been doing between now and then. Something which keeps him in the public eye, but also adds to his experience and credibility, so that Republican primary voters will see him in a different light down the road, and take a second serious look at Perry when the time comes.

It’s pretty obvious that Perry’s candidacy is over after South Carolina, which is 8 days from now. It’s difficult to imagine him coming home, returning to his job as Governor, and continuing the status quo as if nothing had ever happened.

But if 2016 is really on his mind? Guess what – go read the court order on filing deadlines from the San Antonio Federal Court. It apparently means that when and if the Congressional and legislative maps are ever cleared up, filing will re-open for all offices, not just the ones for which the maps may change.

Perry could unexpectedly file for the U.S. Senate when filing re-opens, and, arguably, would immediately be the frontrunner in the race. The current frontrunner, David Dewhurst, could merely withdraw as a Senate candidate, wait for Perry to win in the Senate race, then Dewhurst would automatically move into the Governor’s office. And, if for some reason that big plan doesn’t work out for Perry, it’s a free ride and he’s still governor for 2 more years.

The advantage for Perry is that he’d be pressing the reset button, and the U.S. Senate could be the national stage from which he gains foreign policy experience, proves he can fight against bloated budgets, show the extent to which he can out-Republican other Senate Republicans in fighting the President’s health care policy, and anything else Perry dreams up to upset D.C. apple carts.

I don’t pretend to know anything about Rick Perry’s plans, but if there’s any truth to Burka’s musings on 2016, the scenario is one which might work as well for Perry as any other.

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New Hampshire wrap, South Carolina preview

The big news in New Hampshire was that there was no big news in New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire surprise is that there were no surprises. Everybody did what they were expected to do in the state.

The “Not Romney” crowd was hoping Romney would come in significantly below the 40 percent he expected. He didn’t.

The “Stop Paul” establishment Republicans were hoping for an upset in which Huntsman, who bet it all in New Hampshire, would pass up Ron Paul in a late surge and come in second. Huntsman didn’t – while there was, indeed, a mini-surge for Huntsman, there was also a surge for Paul.

All-in-all, the entire New Hampshire exercise was a big snore. That’s very good news for Mitt Romney, and very bad news for the conservatives trying to stop him. There is plenty of evidence of growing dread among the ultra-conservative leadership of the Republican Party that Romney cannot be stopped, and even more evidence that increasingly, most Republican primary voters are just fine with a Romney nomination.

In other words, the Tea Party may end up being reduced to a Tea Happy Hour, in which the kegs floated early and everybody went home well before curfew.

One microscopically-interesting factoid in the results is the growing worry among establishment Republicans that Ron Paul and his supporters will be freshly-energized by Paul’s distant second place finish, which will only serve to push back the inevitable future date in the primary calendar by which Ron Paul goes away.

Also interesting is that nobody quit after last night’s results. Jon Huntsman should have, but didn’t. Last week after the Iowa Caucuses, Rick Perry shouldn’t have, but sort of did (but he took it back early the next morning while jogging…apparently all manner of interesting crap happens to Rick Perry while jogging).

Here’s the run-down:

Romney: got everything he needed in New Hampshire; it’s hard to argue with a clear win in which he got almost twice the votes of the second place finisher. Exit polling indicates he enjoyed significant support from all segments of the Republican establishment, including those which the more conservative candidates have been betting would never go for Romney.

Paul: got what he deserved, plus more, a likely recipient of all the support he would normally get, plus protest votes from among others who would otherwise have supported one of the collapsed not-Romneys. He has a lot to crow about as he leaves New Hampshire, but has nowhere to go after this. He’ll never have so few votes in a future state to be anything less than a hot bridesmaid, and he’ll never have so many votes in a future state to be even the frumpiest of brides.

Huntsman: he bet it all in New Hampshire for over a year, and all he has to show is a distant third place finish and a lousy t-shirt. While he enjoyed more support than other candidates, he’s the biggest loser, if only because all his money and organization was in New Hampshire.

Gingrich: wait, am I going out of order? Apparently not – while the election returns are still trickling in, it appears Gingrich squeaked in ahead of Santorum. A tiny moral victory for Gingrich, who needs moral victories. One thing Gingrich doesn’t need is money – a casino-owning angel has dumped a pile of it into Gingrich’s super PAC, and the lion’s share will be spent in South Carolina viciously attacking Romney for being predatory. Setting aside the irony of a casino owner accusing somebody of being predatory, Gingrich hopes the attacks chip away at Romney’s support, but even if it works, it’s less clear if it will be to Gingrich’s benefit. The Newtster, however, remains one of the two not-Romneys still relevant. The other, of course, is…

Santorum: here’s the most interesting not-Romney at the moment. Santorum got about half of his 15 minutes of fame in Iowa, and I expect him to play out his second half in South Carolina. He was never really expected to do well in New Hampshire, because Republicans there are shockingly sane, which ain’t Santorum’s crowd. He didn’t modify his message to accomodate the New Hampshire country club crowd, because it would have alienated his natural constituencies in upcoming South Carolina – a smart move on his part. Look for Santorum to quickly regain footing in South Carolina and perhaps emerge as the only viable not-Romney left in the field.

Perry: I don’t mean this ugly or anything, but honestly, who cares? Few outside the Texas media are even following Perry’s campaign any longer, except for a few stray embeds hoping for gaffe entertainment. He chose not to compete in New Hampshire, and as a result, he got fewer votes than most reporters and many observers have twitter followers. Skipping New Hampshire was the best strategy available to him, which mostly means that there aren’t any decent strategies left available to him. Unless Romney makes a fatal mistake (unlikely, since Romney has been running for President since the Earth cooled), Perry will drop out after South Carolina when the money runs out.

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Terrible news for Republican primary voters

Your ability to stomach the Presidential primary process just got tougher.

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Just in time for Michelle Bachmann’s withdrawal from the race…

She may be comforted by this important scientific advancement.

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The Texans in the Presidential race

As useless as the Iowa Caucuses seem some years, this election’s contest at least clarified some things.

First, it demonstrates the extent to which Republicans remain divided. It is the rare Iowa Caucus in which nobody breaks 30 percent. The Republicans would have to go back to 1996, when Bob Dole was the top vote-getter with 26 percent. The Democrats (under different caucus rules) failed to break 30 percent back in 1976, when only “uncommitted” got 37% as a “not Jimmy Carter” vote.

Second, the Iowa results are likely to rid Republican primary voters in subsequent states of the yapping chihuahuas at the bottom of the vote heap. This year’s version features Michelle Bachmann, and Texas’ very own Rick Perry.

Rick Perry. Ain’t his mamma proud?

Ironically, Bachmann and Perry each had their turns at the top of the heap in Iowa, and both blew it. But the extent of Perry’s failure is the more spectacular fall from grace. He’s a longstanding major state governor. He spent millions. Turns out, he wasted millions, and squandered everything.

Perry, who has long bragged of his organizational ability, turned out to have an Iowa organization which accomplished exactly nothing. By the eve of the caucus, the last poll out showed Perry at 10.1 percent of likely caucus-goers. Typically, if a candidate out-performs his polling in a caucus system, that difference can either be attributed to late-surging enthusiasm (as was the case with Santorum) or superior organization. Perry’s Iowa results – 10.3 percent – almost exactly mirrored the pre-caucus polling.

So, as the Governor of Texas returns home to “reassess his campaign,” he undoubtedly does so because you can’t fix a campaign in which the problem is the not-ready-for-primetime-gaffe-prone candidate. There’s nobody to fire. There aren’t budgets to adjust. There will be no more money to raise. It’s just him.

As he exits the Presidential race, Perry may have also created a problem for himself back home in Texas. It’s bad enough that he embarrassed himself and his state when company was invited to the house. Add to that who Perry lost to – fellow Texan Ron Paul.

If the National Republican establishment sees Paul as a big problem, the Texas Republican establishment sees Paul as a buffoon. The big business guys who have kept Republicans in Texas propped up for years want nothing to do with Paul and his ilk, and never have. It will be interesting to see what happens, now that Rick Perry has demonstrated that in a head-to-head knife fight against a back-bencher just-barely-even-a-member-of-Congresss fringe candidate like Paul, Perry with nearly unlimited resources can’t even get half the votes Paul can. That undeniable fact will not sit well with the owner’s box back in Austin.

The biggest irony of all, is that Republicans like Rick Perry created Republicans like Ron Paul in the first place. Paul’s fans are genuine, and carry an intensity more closely resembling a religion than a political campaign. That’s because what Ron Paul says sounds to them like a tiny island of truth in the middle of a sea of lies. It’s what passes for courage, when other Republicans, Rick Perry among them, only vomit meaningless platitudes designed to hoodwink voters into supporting them.

Without a doubt, Ron Paul is nothing more than a fringe candidate. Ron Paul’s voters are the canaries in the Republican mine shaft, screaming at the top of their lungs at the Republican establishment, “we are not stupid, and we see through your shallow crap!”

With the Iowa Caucus in the rear-view mirror, Ron Paul is the Republican establishment’s biggest problem. Rick Perry’s biggest problem, meanwhile, is Rick Perry.

So now, the Republican primary process for President grinds on, with a new Iowa-declared top tier of three, two of whom aren’t real.

Santorum, who should get the biggest boost coming out of Iowa, seems to be just another flavor-of-the-week, whose week happened to peak when people were casting votes. He may not have the resources to carry that momentum forward, and he, like others before him, may not be able to fade the heat of new frontrunner scrutiny. And Ron Paul is, tragically for Ron Paul, Ron Paul. He’ll always have a very high base of support, and a very low ceiling of support. He cannot be made to go away, his supporters cannot be made to settle down, and he also cannot lead the Republicans to the promised land.

Chalk it up to more reasons I’m glad I’m not a Republican.

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