January 11, 2012

Election 2012: On to a Bloodbath in South Carolina

 After the American Century

Romney managed to get 39% of the votes in New Hampshire, a little less than expected but a decent showing. Ron Paul increased his percentage to almost 23%, however, and Huntsman showed that all his hard campaigning in the state paid off, with just shy of 17%. That left Gingrich and Santorum in a dead heat for fourth (and fifth) place with a bit over 9% each. The divided opposition favors Romney. Indeed, it would probably we worthwhile for him to pay some of these candidates to stay in the race, to prevent anyone from getting close to challenging him. What New Hampshire also sugggests is that these voters wanted moderates (Romney and Huntsman) who got 56% of the vote, while the more extreme candidates amassed only 44%.

Now that the New Hampshire results are in, we can look forward to glory combat in South Carolina. This is not going to be nearly so friendly to Romney as New Hampshire. Look for some hard-hitting campaign ads that focus on Romney, who will be attacked by all the other candidates, who are chasing him like a pack of hounds, and they getting more vicious the longer the hunt continues. This may be their last chance to bring him down. for if Romney wins all of the first three contests, the battle will really be over.

In particular, watch Newt Gingrich. He has received $5 million from a single donor, a rich Jewish casino owner from Las Vegas. He and Newt agree on Israel and the need to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. He is reportedly an extremely wealthy man, so one wonders why he waited so long to make the giant contribution. Gingrich has been almost running on empty (in financial terms) for some time. He has also been running empty of new ideas, which is no problem given his opposition. Newt is preparing some strong attack ads that apparently will position him as the populist defender of the little guy against the ruthless and heartless Romney from Bain Capital. Romney was expecting such an attack, but in the fall, coming from the Democrats.

Instead, however, the attack has surfaced now, particularly in a 28 minute film, "When Mitt Romney Came to Town" which can be seen here:


Governor Perry has also bought lots of airtime, and he has been showing just what a good ole Southern boy he is, skipping the New Hampshire cold to cozy up to like-minded folks in the cradle of the Confederacy. South Carolina is still proud that it led some other states out of the union and into the Civil War. This is the sort of place where they kept flying the Confederate flag on courthouses until quite recently and were angry when pressured to take it down. In short, good Southern credentials are essential here, and Romney will never have them.

Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, is only 39. She has endorsed Romney
Expect Romney to appeal to his core constituency, the bankers, who are think on the ground in Charleston and other cities, and the retirees from the North. who are baking on the beach at Hilton Head. Otherwise, he has the endorsement of Nikki Haley, the attractive young governor (above) who was elected with Tea Party support. At 39 and part Native American, she is breaks the stodgy Republican mould. He will have to leave the rural and small town voters to Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry.

Huntsman is reinvigorated after his strong finish in New Hampshire, but he will be out of his element. Being a Mormon from Utah who speaks Mandarin Chinese is not what South Carolinians are looking for in a politician. In many ways, he is but another version of Romney - rich Mormon, former Governor, non-Southern. Perhaps he should be dubbed "Romney-light." I think he is positioning himself for 2016, should the Republicans lose in 2012.

Ron Paul will presumably keep working the universities and colleges, which pays a double dividend, not only recruting voters but campaign workers as well. He should find South Carolina congenial. They will doubtless respect a doctor from Texas who wants to make the Federal Government weaker. That sounds like a Confederate policy position. However, Paul has had a problem attracting women voters so far, and this may be decisive if a close race develops.

Right now, however, Romney has the organization, and he certainly has the money, needed to roll over his opponents.  South Carolina is his crucial test of electability in the South. If he fails that test, then Republicans will rightly fear that he cannot beat President Obama, and the other candidates will have the chance to discredit him further in the Florida primary.