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The GOP’s tricky electoral math for 2012

Right now, there’s plenty of ink and binary characters being spilled on both parties chances in 2012. Some are comparing this to 1992, others to 1996 in terms of the incumbent’s chances. Some have the Republicans on an unstoppable comeback, others have the GOP nearing implosion. However, we all know that few elections are an exact replay of the one before it. What exactly constitutes a swing or marginal state can change from election to election. Why, in 1980 Hawaii was thought to be winnable for the GOP, as it was in 2004, if only momentarily. Same with Maine in other elections. With that in mind, 2010 did at least give us an idea of which states may still be marginal, given Republicans winning it last year but the Democrats in 2008, often by similarly large margins. And so we present to you Dr. Larry Sabato of UVA’s first projection for 2012.

There’s plenty for both sides to take exception to–Republicans would say New Mexico is much closer to being a marginal state and two straight landslides (thanks to VA’s unique position on the electoral cycle) should put the Old Dominion in the leaners category, while Democrats would argue that Montana at least leans a little closer to them and that there’s no way they lose Maine.

Regardless, however, the map shows just how tricky the math is for Republicans. The fact that New York and California are almost completely out of Republican reach means that Democrats start with a big built in advantage. If you give each party their “leaning” states, Democrats start with 247, while Republicans have just 180. One interesting way to digest these results is to input them into 270towin.com, a fun site that presents an electoral college calculator. Color each state the way you think it will go, and the site will calculate the number of ways, if you give both parties less than 270 votes, the number of ways to get to the magic 270.

The big problem for Republicans? If you input this map into the site, giving both parties their leaning states, there are 14 different combinations that lead to a Republican victory. The problem? All of them require Florida. Again, both sides will have their talking points. Republicans will point to congressional pickups and Rubio’s win in 2010, while Democrats will point to Rick Scott’s cratering approval ratings in the state. However, the fact of the matter is that Republicans just don’t have the same sort of EC base built in that the Democrats do, largely due to the fact that their safest states are amongst the largest. In fact, Texas is the only red or “reddish” state that has more than 12 electoral votes.

That said, 2010 was a positive movement in that Republicans made important gains in PA, WI and MI, as well as North Carolina and New Mexico. The last two aren’t as important–if you give both to the GOP, FL is still a neccesity. However, take any of the first three out of the Democratic column, and a Floridaless path to victory emerges. Again, this is all just the analytical talk of shooting the breeze for the time being. We have quite some time to go in this cycle–more than a year, in fact. However, it should point to the importance of a) nominating a ticket that has a wide personal appeal to a large swath of Americas, both suburban and rural, and b) running on issues that appeal to pragmatic, more centrist voters that do not betray our core principles.

But, until we have a better idea of who those candidates might be, kill some time and come up with your own path to victory. For the record, I’m not 100% on the above, so if you can find a Floridaless path to victory that does not involve MI, WI or PA, by all means, please share! But do note that the the site won’t calculate scenarios where there are more than 12 states in play, as the number of possibilities increases exponentially. Again, many of these are far fetched, but hey, welcome to life with the electoral college!

2012 Odds and Ends

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I take a great interest in primary fights and how they help define our party. This is certainly the case with the 2012 fight. However, not every little thing I read is going to lend itself to a full post, and sometimes I’ll post a compendium of recent news from the various contenders. This is one of those times.

–Former PA Senator Rick Santorum told ABC News yesterday that he is “absolutely” looking at running in 2012. I still believe that Santorum is not the candidate we need right now, but he will certainly shake the race up for social conservatives if he gets in. However, he also mentioned fiscal issues as part of his “traditional values” platform:

“I think I’ve been very clear that you know, we need to stand foursquare on the traditional values. When I say traditional values people think, ‘Oh that means, you know, social conservatism and the family. It also means the free enterprise system and that government shouldn’t be large and controlling things — I mean, those are all core Republican principle.

–Sarah Palin signed books in Fairfax (a county where she and Senator McCain were clobbered in 2008), and the enthusiasm that has been noted at previous stops continued in full force. From the WaPo:

Palin fan Greg Williams, 46, of Springfield said he hasn’t felt so strongly about a politician since Ronald Reagan. He spent Friday night in a tent rigged with a tarp to keep out the rain, to make sure he got his chance to see her Saturday. He joined several other campers until about 7:30 a.m., when Fairfax County police made them break down their tents so people near the front of the line could cross the street and stand closer to the store entrance.

One has to wonder how Palin would have been received at the Advance. As Chairman Mullins pointed out, though, this past weekend was for Virginia, though two names that have been floated for 2012 spoke: Minority Whip Eric Cantor (and as even he’ll say, far too prematurely) Bob McDonnell. However, I expect we’ll see her raising money for a Virginia politico very soon. Palin also experienced a good weekend in the polls. CNN has Palin at 46% favorable to 46% unfavorable. This is up from 42% in mid-October.

–Mitch Daniels was in Chicago raising money for Indiana pols. That prompted Race42012 to right this about the burgouning My Man Mitch movement:

While Public Policy Polling has yet to post the results of its online poll of second-tier Republican candidates from earlier this week, Daniels was coming in a strong second just before the polls closed, beating better-known Republicans like Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani while only Pawlenty edged out Mitch for the top spot. Daniels’ assumed, effortless conservatism combined with his ability to apply his philosophy to the issues of the day, all packaged in a personality that provides voters with a stark contrast with President Obama, may mean that Mitch Daniels is in the perfect position to re-assemble the Fred ‘08 movement, only this time led by a candidate who can actually go the distance.

–Finally, outgoing Minnesota Governor and 08 Veep mention Tim Pawlenty has hired a finance director. Pawlenty would certainly make for a solid choice policy wise, but does he really have the charisma for the national stage? One can make a case that Daniels would make it because of his down to earth nature and modesty that real people can relate to. Pawlenty, though, seems to have the ambition and policy chops without a real defining character trait–probably the reason he was passed over for Palin in 2008.

–Finally, Race for 2012 has a chilling recount of Huckabee’s clemencies as governor, including an unusual 12 murderers. In his time in office Huckabee granted more clemencies more than every surrounding state combined.

Our Man Mitch?

December 3, 2009 1 comment

For someone who recently has begun making sport out of saying no to a possible presidential bid, Mitch Daniels sure is making a heck of alot of sense whenever he does speak (though some may argue that commonsense’s natural momentum is away from those seeking higher office). From the Washington Times (h/t Brothers Judd), Daniels of fiscal conservatism as a moral issue:

“The essence of our nation is the protection of individual liberties,” he says in an interview with The Washington Times. “That means, for example, never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose.

“And then we have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom. Otherwise, that citizen could spend that dollar on something he or she chose. This is an obligation of everybody who serves in government.”

On the issues any 2012 contender will need to address:

For one thing, “a colossally unsustainable [national] debt load — an unfair, even immoral burden we’ve deposited on our young people,” he says.

“The threat of Islamic fundamentalism coupled with its ability to take advantage of modern technology,” for another.

And then there’s “our reliance on energy purchased from people who use the money in ways contrary to American interests.”

And perhaps most refreshing–modesty and austerity (a topic he gave an entire commencement address on this past spring):

A Princeton graduate from a modest family background, he conveys in conversation the image of the quiet-spoken libertarian-populist for whom braggadocio is simply unthinkable. Getting him to talk about his accomplishments isn’t easy. “I want to look to the future,” he says.

….

Ask him to crow about his gubernatorial accomplishments, and he flatly refuses. Press him by asking if there’s anything he’s proud of having done in office, and you learn he is “pleased” he took a state that was in bankruptcy when he came into office “and put it in the best fiscal position ever,” though he acknowledges that holding on to that status is tough in this economy.

The article goes on to cite some of his accomplishments as Governor. He has been able to govern the way Bob McDonnell promises to–conservative principles guiding real results. Through initatives such as privatizing the state’s toll roads and keeping an eye on state payroll (actually managing to REDUCE it, of all things), Daniels has been able to cut property taxes by a third statewide and affect the largest tax cut in state history.

Perhaps his biggest watchword? Accountability. The state’s DMV went from being a joke to winning an award for the best in the nation. The average time spent in an office is SEVEN MINUTES. How was this accomplished? By rewarding good employees and punishing or removing bad ones. Sorta sounds like a business, no? Yet Mitch Daniels seems to be the only one with the courage to do it.

I encourage any conscientious conservative serious about cutting government size and scope to look into this man.  I will admit he has one mark against him–in his first year in office he proposed a 1% income tax hike. But when the state legislature balked, he simply took out his scissors and not only made state government work with less but work better. His humility may prevent him from talking about higher office, but one things for sure: I’d rather spend the next two years convincing him to run only to see him decline than to jump on the Cheney 2012 bandwagon.

Shake-up for Huckabee

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Mike Huckabee appeared to many to be prepping another White House run. However, one could argue that Huckabee’s newly minted celebrity status as a Fox News host and an author could very well be far too profitable and fulfilling for Huckabee to really want to deal with the headache of another presidential run. However, this past weekend he stated that he’s currently leaning against another run. From the Associated Press:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he’s leaning slightly against running for president in 2012 but says it’s far too early to say what he will do.

Huckabee says how the 2010 congressional elections turn out will affect his decision. He also will be looking at whether the Republican Party is willing to unite behind him as a candidate. Another consideration, Huckabee says, is the status of his weekly TV show on Fox News.

Given those factors, Huckabee says mounting another presidential bid is “less likely rather than more likely” at the moment.

However, that was before the news broke that a man that that Huckabee pardoned in 2000 is being sought in the slaying of four Washington State police officers. The Seattle Times has the story. (H/T racefor2012.com):

“Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing of four Lakewood police officers this morning, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protestations of prosecutors.”

The fact that this is actually the SECOND clemency that has gone wrong for Huckabee (an issue that Romney used in the Iowa caucuses) does not inspire much confidence in the Governor’s judgement. Certainly oversights and poor decisions occur during the clemecy process in any state (Dukakis anyone?), but two will start a narrative that Huckabee  will find it difficult to escape from.

With bad news and good fortune, Huckabee will probably be smart to sit this one out, particularly with Palin’s backers chomping at the bit to get her in as the social conservative candidate. At any rate, one hopes that Huckabee sends his condolences to the grieving families of the police officers.

Another ’12 Opening for Richmond?

April 19, 2009 2 comments

In this week’s RPV Chairman’s update (btw, I’m still undecided if I like the new format–it’s easier on the eyes yet a little too formal) Mike Thomas wrote that RPV is working on securing another “big” star for the RPV Breakfast on May 30th, the morning of the convention and the day on which actual voting will take place. Could this be another 2012 contender? Any guesses on who it might be?

The Huckster Endorses The Cooch

February 11, 2009 Leave a comment

At this point this is old news, but I still wanted to comment on it. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor/Presidential Candidate/Populist TV crusader has endorsed Ken Cuccinelli. From the Washington Post:

“Ken Cuccinelli is a rare breed of leader who boldly stands up for conservative principles,” Huckabee wrote in an email. “I would have been honored to have served alongside a leader like Ken.”

Huckabee mentioned that Cuccinelli is “pro-life” and drafted the Senate parental consent law, which passed in 2003, supports the Second Amendment and will fight for lower taxes and to slow down the growth of government.

“Virginia is blessed to have such a capable and proven leader like Ken,” Huckabee wrote. “I am committed to doing what I can to help make sure the people of Virginia have Ken as their next attorney general.”

It’s interesting to see Huckabee get involved in a downticket race in a purple state. As the “last man standing” amongst the more conservative (i.e. non-McCain) candidates, Huckabee earned a reputation as a kind hearted but opinionated populist. The odd thing is that Huckabee is not exactly a fiscal conservative–he earned the wrath of The Club for Growth for his actions during Arkansas own fiscal crisis. However, he is extremely popular right now and seems to be reforming on that front, particularly railing against the stimulus. Indeed, he was the talk of the bus on the trip to Richmond with AFP. 

Will the race for 2012 run right through Virginia, or is this simply a coup by the Cuccinelli campaign? Only time will tell. 

Also of note is the fact that Southwest Virginia was Huckabee’s strongest pocket of support in last year’s primary. Southwest Virginia is also believed to be Brownlee’s biggest base. Will the Huckster’s endorsement count? 

Again, time will tell.