Sunday, October 30, 2011

GOP Caucuses: Welcome to 1996

Splintered Field Helps Romney

As a self-respecting Iowa political writer I have no choice but to comment on this morning's Iowa Poll of the GOP caucus field. My 140 character take on the top line last night: "Herman Cain: This month's way of saying Not Mitt." That may be better for Cain than my take on his announcement: "Morrie Taylor+Alan Keyes=Herman Cain."

Sorry for flashing back to 1996 there with the Taylor and Keyes references. But more and more, compared to all of caucus history, this contest is starting to look like that year. The Democratic side is uncontested and the Republican field is splintered. The poll's top line numbers:
Cain 23
Romney 22
Paul 12
Bachmann 8
Perry 7
Gingrich 7
Santorum 5
Huntsman 1
Eerily similar to the 1996 final results:
Dole 26
Buchanan 23
Alexander 18
Forbes 10
Gramm 9
Keyes 7
Lugar 4
Taylor 1
Dornan < 1

Once upon a time, I had a little money.
Government burglars took it long
before I could mail it to you.
Still, you are the only one.
Now I can't let it slip away.
So if the man with the ticker tape,
he tries to take it,
well this is what I'm gonna say.

Blame it on Cain.
Don't blame it on me.
Oh, oh, it's nobody's fault,
but we need somebody to burn.
Sounds like a concise description of 9-9-9 to me. And as Michele Bachmann says, 9-9-9 upside down is...

Need to get that all-important Republican caucus Satanist vote.

Perhaps Newt's 7% is just 6.66% rounded up.

But back to Elvis Costello. He changes the last line of the chorus to conclude the song:
Blame it on Cain.
Don't blame it on me.
Oh, oh, it's nobody's fault,
but it just seems to be his turn.
That's how Republicans choose their nominees, and the other names who might have claimed that inheritance (Huckabee, Palin) aren't in. That leaves only Mittens, and while he may be a reluctant choice, so was Dole in `96.

The Pizza Man is peaking right this minute. (UPDATE: Didn't think he'd crash THIS fast. That's even faster than Bachmann post-Ames.) I'm not being flip, I really do think "Cain" is just the latest way to say "Not Romney".

(There's a Godfather's just two blocks from my home and we never go there. Not a political boycott - does ANYONE know if the pro-choice Domino's boycott is still on? - but I had a bad experience with Godfather's in Toledo, Ohio in 1985 when our whole college speech team got sick off it. Of course, at that point in my life beer may have been involved.)

Santorum, who's quietly gathering social conservative support, will overperform. Not well enough to survive past New Hampshire, unless he happens to be the latest Not Romney around New Year's. But he'll bump that 5 up. Ron Paul will also overperform, benefiting from organization, fanatical devotion, and the inconvenient caucus date. You could have scheduled it Christmas morning and the Paulistas would be there. They'll also stick around past the non-binding presidential "vote" and pack the committees and delegate slates. So let's call that 12 more like 15 or 16 which is absolutely indigestible (like Godfather's Pizza) and will probably vote third party in November.

Perry is a big enough player that he'll keep some residual support. I don't see Bachmann or Gingrich pulling a Tom Tancredo and dropping out at the last minute.

Subtract a couple more points for Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger and Buddy Roemer combined. Also, if I remember right (at least it was this way in 2008) the Republican caucus ballot is blank. All votes are write-in. That means X percent will be soaked up by die-hards for Huckabee or Palin or Christie or None Of The Above, thus lowering the percentage needed for a win.

It won't take much to "win" in a splintered field. Romney needs to work on the organization, and stop out here to say to bump that 22 up to say 24 or 26. That'll do, just like it did for Dole.

So, 1996 all over again. Two big differences: I'm definitely NOT running for the legislature this year, and please lord don't let the Macarena make a comeback.

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