Saturday, January 14, 2012

A mysterious Santa Rita SuperPAC is dropping somewhere between $310-400K on low-tech SC ads for Ron Paul on a few topics, including the fact that Paul has ten times more donations from military personnel than Romney and 70% of the overall donations. This is consistent with the 2008 cycle, when military personnel gave the most to Paul with the then anti-war Obama second in military donations.

Since servicemen and women have been chronically overdeployed since 2003, many soldiers deployed long after what they were promised, with an enormously disruptive effect on their physical, social, and emotional lives, it will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in a military state like SC. As with other states, it promises to give Paul the most potential support amongst younger voters, while older non-combatants who benefit economically from military spending are more likely to support the status quo. Paul's own ads have not taken the offensive on this, but rather taken a pro-soldier tone emphasizing his service, not mentioning his issue positions or that he is the only major candidate to have served. I assume Paul's positions are well known, though.

Another source of free media is the soldier named Jesse Thorsen who was on CNN in his fatigues talking up Paul, who was cut off due to reported technical difficulties when he started talking about Iran, which has led some to speculate that there weren't any technical difficulties, and CNN has not rebroadcasted the full interview. The military has threatened to court marshal him for participating in a campaign in uniform, though Al Gore and Richard Nixon have made pro-war appearances in uniform which weren't met with similar threats.

BASH: We have here Corporal Jesse Thorsen, who is 28 years old, and you are active duty US Army. Why did you vote for Ron Paul?

THORSEN: I’m really excited about a lot of his ideas, especially when it comes to bringing the soldiers home. I’ve been serving for ten years now, and all ten years of those have been during wartime. I would like to see a little peace time army, and I think he has the right idea.

BASH: You’ve done two tours and you’re going to go back for a third tour. You can see — your neck right there, a tattoo, 9/11, remember, and a picture of the twin towers. Some Republicans have been saying that Ron Paul would be very dangerous for this country, because he wants to bring troops like you back from your post from all over the world.

THORSEN: Well, I think it would be even more dangerous to start nitpicking wars with other countries. Someone like Iran, Israel is more than capable of –

The other day Gingrich's SuperPAC ran out a well-produced 28 minute documentary on Romney's time at Bain Capital with strong North-South symbolism, but has since said that even though it's not his work he'll see about having the inaccuracies taken out of it. He is gaining while Santorum is dipping, and these attacks have had their effect on Romney. In the 8 months between now and the general election, Romney's work at Bain will be exhaustively discussed. Paul has risen in the polls but Romney continues to lead his GOP challengers head to head in SC.

Update 1/20 12:15 am: Just read the debate transcript.. the pundits said Gingrich won but like many debates it's hard to tell what people saw. Gingrich received most of the attacks, including from Santorum, whose truce with Gingrich is over; Santorum and Paul didn't receive any, and some Gingrich voters will move to Santorum as a result, though others will move from Santorum to Gingrich just to beat Romney, not because of the debate. Everyone but Santorum had their conservativism challenged. Romney certainly didn't win. Gingrich and Romney both faced high profile character issues which will probably have the biggest impact of the evening for different voters.

Update 1/20: I am fully aware that doing a beat column on the Republican presidential primaries is dehumanizing.

Update 1/21 11:40pm: Paul won voters 29 and under in South Carolina, 31% to Gingrich's 28%. A CNN poll had Romney running best against Obama, followed by Paul within a few points and Gingrich et al way down. So it makes sense that among the 45% that said they most wanted a candidate that could beat Obama, 51% voted for Gingrich.

Those who wanted "a strong moral character" went only 6% for Gingrich. 64% said abortion should be illegal, 24% said "illegal in all cases." Romney took only 14% of the "all cases." 65% of voters said they were evangelical, and voted for Gingrich over Romney 2 to 1. Only 21% had served in the military, and they didn't vote differently.

Gingrich ran especially well with lower income voters, with the richest 5% supporting Romney 47% to 37%. Only 28% said they had a negative view of Romney's investment background, but he of course carried only 3% of those who did and only led the rest by 4 points. The North-South symbolism regarding Bain seems to have worked and indicates that Romney has a new problem in the primaries throughout most of the country. On Wednesday, Gingrich's price on Intrade was at 2, now it's at 23, with 25.5% chance of winning the nomination. He has a real chance now because the South, Bible Belt, and Great Plains are SC Lite. It's going to be long, bloody, and Romney won't find his true self that connects with voters in three weeks. Ron Paul will have ample opportunity to plead his case about Peace, Love, cutting senior citizens off from medical care and Taft-Hartley strikebreaking..

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There is talk of having fewer GOP debates, which generally would be a good thing. This is perhaps Dr. Paul's most important function in the election cycle: where GOP debates are supposed to be a way to use free air time for an hour long ad for war drums and right-wing corporatism, Paul uses the forum to interject opinions which are not permitted on the four networks, receiving loud applause and winning over half the young voters in Iowa. Inevitably, the elites will try to emphasize the Paul opinions that benefit them, like Right to Work, and not his foreign policy. David Gregory in the Meet the Press debate asked Paul about Right to Work and then summarized the least compelling of Paul's arguments on Iran and allowed only Santorum to respond.

While the public has been desensitized to the Mitt Romney-Steve Forbes element that pays off media out of pocket to take them seriously, or media moguls like Bloomberg and Berlusconi holding office, the Citizens United ruling has brought us the first of the "Daddy, can I be president? You promised!" candidates, Jon Huntsman, whose billionaire father can spend unlimited money through a SuperPAC if his son shows that he has a chance. Huntsman will probably come in third tonight in New Hampshire and mostly be a nuisance to Romney, as they're both Mormons who are trying to stake out the "socially moderate, economically conservative, pro-war caretaker who pretends to be a little edgy like the guys in the J Crew catalog so the Northeast has no better choice" ground. Romney's a nuisance to everyone else so he deserves it. For Huntsman to be such a spoiler he has to stage a good campaign somewhere other than NH which seems unlikely.

Romney is beating all comers in head to head runoffs in South Carolina in a new PPP poll (pdf), which suggests he could put this race out of its misery soon. He has bought a lot more air time there up to this point tho and things can change. Gingrich's negatives are so high now that he's pretty much done for, but Santorum has a chance to win there if Gingrich pulls out. Paul is polling a solid fourth but anti-war is pretty much heresy there. PPP asked if the endorsements of McCain, current Gov. Nikki Haley, past Gov. Mark Sanford, or Sen. Jim DeMint would help or hurt, and respondents said each would hurt the candidate save for DeMint's, who usually comes to the attention of WKMA when he makes bizarre statements about Latin American affairs, not Gov. Sanford's kind of Latin American affairs, or if that's not good enough material as SC GOP is either funny or sad there's Gov. Sanford's eloquent response to a CNN question:

In a way that interview summarizes the last 30 years of American politics well as there's been very little difference in executive economic policy during the entire era, and you see the result.

DeMint may be even more of a nut job than Santorum and PPP suggests Santorum could benefit from an endorsement but there's bad blood there.

This is not to say you shouldn't drive 40 minutes off Route 95 to eat the BBQ buffet at Brown's in Jim Clyburn's district when in SC.

Paul is not running in Florida and will focus on Nevada and Maine in early March, where cheaper media markets reward grassroots campaigns more. Florida lost half of its delegates for moving up without permission so it's half a 'beauty contest' for well-heeled candidates that can buy several large media markets.

Update about 20 minutes later: This fact sheet on the 2000 SC GOP campaign suggests that Karl Rove may be of the opinion that being booed in NH (like Santorum) for opposing gay marriage may be good for a Republican candidate there, since rumors were spread that McCain went both ways and that he had fathered a child with an African-American maid, referring to his adopted daughter from Bangladesh. Well, whatever Rove thinks, it probably doesn't hurt a Republican in SC, but looking at Santorum's high favorability ratings there and his trailing in the polls suggests that not campaigning the extra week in SC was a very bad idea.

Update 1/10: Politico just ran a headline "Romney may face long, hard slog." My point above is that if no one can beat him in a poll one on one in SC than there isn't really much of a race left. Is Gingirch or Santorum going to be viewed more favorably in a month? How could that possibly happen? I obviously want Paul to get his message out and win the nomination. Later in the article, party figures say that it's not in the GOP interest to give up the free media of a race, which may be more to the point.

Update 1/10: Obama's new Chief of Staff "told a Senate panel in 2010 that he did not believe that deregulation led to the financial crisis. He said that 'the problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation'." Before deregulation... that'd be what? The mid-70s?

Update 1/10 9:30pm: Paul outperformed every poll that was ever taken in NH, tho there a few polls which had Paul close to his final number that showed 10% or so undecided. Though a lot of this has to do with 47% of voters being Independents and 4% being Democrats, he ran a close third amongst voters who decided in the past few days, something which was a problem in Iowa as the stern lectures of TV spin doctors about the newsletters were hitting the news cycles. What's interesting is that the 4% that were Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Huntsman (41%) to Paul's 24% and Romney's 14%. It's not clear whether this was a vote for gay civil unions or people thought that Huntsman was the best way to make mischief, as he can only cause problems for Romney... I'd guess the latter. Paul led amongst Independents by 3 percentage points over Romney.

Paul took 47% of the voters 29 and younger and lost only 32%-36% amongst ages 30-44, not bad considering he's as Lightnin' Hopkins says "a long way from Texas" and Mitt is a quick helicopter ride from his old governor's mansion.

Santorum campaigned in New Hampshire but didn't run TV ads, which has turned out to be a blunder as WKMA predicted, especially if Gingrich continues to narrowly beat him out for 4th place.

Update 1/11: As I said below, Paul is eyeing a two man race: "National campaign chairman Jesse Benton called on Paul’s conservative opponents to drop out of the race and get behind Paul as the conservative Romney-alternative. 'It’s been our goal to consolidate this into a two-man race, and we’re there now,' he said."

I'd assume that's directed at the voters because there is no chance of Gingrich or Santorum endorsing Paul, as Paul has been attacking the two much more than Romney, and the two have institutional and K Street ties to defense and the financial industries. But as I also said, Paul can use the debates and events to redefine conservatism in his image as much as can be pulled off.

Update 1/12: Santorum getting booed in NH and then taking 5th behind Gingrich may have been what gave Gingrich a bounce in SC polls, and when the word spreads that Gingrich has a better chance to beat Romney there he will bleed more supporters from Santorum, which may be enough for Gingrich to win SC.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ron Paul had a bounce on a New Hampshire Zogby poll coming out of Iowa but in two other polls has reverted to his earlier second place margin.. he has to hold off a Santorum surge to stay in second. Gingrich is rumored to have a non-agression pact with Santorum with whom he's friends, and apparently doesn't like Mitt (McCain had that moment with Mitt four years ago) but has actually made substantive policy arguments against him. At some point, Gingrich or Santorum will concede and probably endorse the other, and in SC, Mitt's lead is contingent on the vote splitting between the two.

Ron Paul is putting up a negative against Santorum in South Carolina as well as a pro-soldier (Called "He Served," perhaps attempting to strike contrast with Romney, who tho supporting the Vietnam war was permitted to focus on his Mormon mission in a Paris mansion trying to convert the staff chef and housekeeper) and an anti-choice ad. The negative isn't as good as the Gingrich negative, because it starts out gloating about attacking Gingrich which just makes the voice-over guy seem like he complains about everyone. It then hits Santorum on voting against the National Right to Work law, as SC is Right to Work. Before people start to think of Santorum as a champion of labor, someone paraphrased an early Iowa appearance thus-ly: "On Right to Work – He doesn’t support a national right to work law. He thinks states can handle that. He said he would take on the unions, but he is focusing on federal marriage amendment. He noted was the only conservative senator elected in a heavy union state. That he was focused on the life issue, No one in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania has taken on the life issue. He said not only was his votes in the Senate prolife and pro-marriage, he said he led on those issues. He felt that in order to represent his constituents well he needed to be neutral on labor. If he were President if Congress sent him a National Right to Work bill to sign he would sign it." Now this is not on camera, but according to this account, he starts out saying he's against National Right to Work, but then said he'd sign the bill as President, and that "he focused on the life issue." This is very true: Santorum's reelection bid lost by 17.4 points or 700,000 votes, the largest margin of defeat for a GOP incumbent since Abraham Lincoln joined the party, and the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator since 1980, because the folks in the Commonwealth wanted a Senator that did more than make strident arguments on behalf of foetuses. His Pennsylvania advisers no doubt told him not to vote for Right to Work, and the Whip may have told him they don't have the votes for passage so don't risk your seat.

TARP was an issue where both party's leaders agreed it would pass and then, since every Congressman was getting calls against it 20-1, traded off which party's members could vote against it to preserve their incumbency in close districts. Santorum wasn't in Congress, so when he decided he wanted to run for President he started talking up his opposition even though he didn't feel the need to raise his voice in advance of the vote. Perry also tried to talk up his opposition but got busted, having co-signed a letter in its support the day of the vote.

Without question, TARP had something to do with Santorum's performance in Iowa and will help him against Romney and Gingrich hereafter, an effect that I thought in my preliminary analysis here would have benefited Huckabee. Huckabee is a better candidate because even if he may be out of his league in a national election, Santorum isn't only out of his league he's the guy you move away from in the nosebleeds. Despite The New York Times' hopes they can prop up a new demagogue to incite the hoi polloi to scapegoat Islam for another decade, columnists across the country that have maintained some semblage of self-respect are taking aim, and Santorum has the ability to offend almost everyone in the most ignorant manner possible. Like I just heard his response to environmental concerns: “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that America will be here 100 years from now.” His candidacy will put the evangelical base to a test of how loyal they will be to someone who is being jeered everywhere he goes, much more so than Huckabee would have been, and as with Glenn Beck the time comes when it isn't cool for Caucasians to quote him at the water cooler any more.

On other labor issues, Santorum voted against NAFTA but for CAFTA, and had a close working relationship with WalMart (like the Clintons) that prompted him to support shipping jobs to China and a lower minimum wage. In 2011, he was asked about his "no" vote on NAFTA, which is a softball for a talking head with an IQ higher than a guinea-hen since the public now overwhelmingly opposes it, and what he came up with was "I didn't think Mexico was a trustworthy trading partner." Yes, work your mistrust of Mexicans in there, too.

Update: I have a nagging feeling that with Santorum's decision to campaign in New Hampshire rather than go straight to SC, culture has finally produced the mirror image of The Sex Pistols' concert tour of the American South.

Update 1/7: I don't watch the debates but read through a few liveblogs: with Romney's lead, it was sort of like four guys fighting over a cab while Romney gets into his limo. Paul didn't focus his attacks on Romney and generally hasn't done so - I believe his chicken hawk remarks were directed solely at Gingrich this time. Paul's attacks on Santorum seemed to be effective and defended his second place standing, and he may be thinking that Santorum and Gingrich are legitimate menaces to the country so his days of negativity are justified. Strategically, he seems to be eyeing a two way race with Romney after Paul has used the race to redefine conservativism in his image as much as he can, taking advantage of the weak field to become the anti-Romney choice. When asked about his racist newsletters, he gave a quick rehash of his response (which seems to me to be less than forthcoming) then pivoted into saying the Drug War is racist, and I can't remember any other candidate save for maybe Nader saying that. That's a nice way to call everyone's bluff: "oh, are you concerned about racism? Here's what you can do." "Oh no, we want to lock up more black kids for crack but call you a racist." The most important part, I think, is planting the chicken hawk meme on Romney and Gingrich for SC. Many SCers won't agree with Paul's military budget cuts but he's not going to change his position and no one is emphasizing that issue. He has ground to make up down there but is employing a sound strategy. As you have noticed I like it when tactics are formed around regional strategies, serving good causes (tho many of Paul's positions are not so), and making sure the bad guys go back to K Street where they belong. Santorum called Paul a liar when Paul brought up the hospital chain that paid him $400K, which will hurt Santorum more, and someone made a chart saying Paul is the most truthful of that bunch:

Update 1/8: I'm leaving the above up, but heretofore I'm not commenting on debates until I read a transcript, because all the live blogs I read said that Ron Paul was attacking Santorum and Gingrich, when both criticisms were prompted unavoidably by the questions. Stephonoupolos introduced the Santorum criticisms and then asked follow-ups, and then McElveen asked about the chicken hawk comment. These are, of course, charges that Paul has made on his own, and I don't have a major objection to those questions though the public would be better served with questions on policy.

Stephanopoulos' questioning about the newsletters didn't focus on the racist content but about credibility: "the speaker said that you’ve had a history of inaccurate statements" "a number of comments that were perceived as racist, as inaccurate" "you don’t necessarily stand by them." The chart above on credibility was compiled by an non-partisan journalist. By focusing on credibility rather than the racist content, which is the reason why people are talking about the newsletters in the first place, Stephanopoulos sidesteps having to ask Santorum and Gingrich about statements that both have made in the past week about African-Americans on welfare, when government records show that most welfare recipients are white.

Update 1/8, ten minutes later: Listen to me: "the reason why people are talking about the newsletters in the first place." Corporate journalists who talk about the newsletters and not about Santorum and Gingrich's comments do so because Paul is anti-war. Many people who write about the newsletters have done so with good intentions, but my inclination not to read into Stephanopoulos' intentions makes me repeat the same garbage. Paul is being punished for being anti-war. McElveen's lecturing Paul that "foreign policy is something that a lot of people think is your Achilles’ heel," all the hypothetical questions and false assumptions of the ABC debates from the last two presidential cycles speak unquestionably to their pro-war bias.

Update 1/8: If you didn't see Stephanpoulos' and Charles Gibson's April 2008 questioning of Obama and Hillary Clinton you missed the worst questions in the history of political debates, which included the introduction of the Bill Ayres association, Rev. Wright questions from both moderators, a question about Obama not wearing a flag pin on his lapel, and questions about Iran's nuclear program which were based on evidence that they should have known was incorrect. Seymour Hersh's recent New Yorker column cited the 2007 NIE that was made available to members of Congress: "In mid-February, [Lieutenant General James] Clapper’s office provided the House and Senate intelligence committees with an update to the N.I.E. on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. The previous assessment, issued in 2007, created consternation and anger inside the Bush Administration and in Congress by concluding, “with high confidence,” that Iran had halted a nascent nuclear-weapons program in 2003. That estimate added, “We do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

In April 2008, Stephanoupolos asked: "Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat on Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack against the United States?" Despite the fact that a National Intelligence Estimate shared with Congress said the exact opposite, the claim is made without any degree of uncertainty.

Hersh then mentions "bitter infighting within the Obama Administration and the intelligence community's [2011] N.I.E. update... centered on the Defense Intelligence Agency’s astonishing assessment that Iran’s earlier nuclear-weapons research had been targeted at its old regional enemy, Iraq, and not at Israel, the United States, or Western Europe. One retired senior intelligence official told me that the D.I.A. analysts had determined that Iran “does not have an ongoing weapons program, and all of the available intelligence shows that the program, when it did exist, was aimed at Iraq. The Iranians thought Iraq was developing a bomb.” The Iranian nuclear-weapons program evidently came to an end following the American-led invasion of Iraq, in early 2003, and the futile hunt for the Iraqi W.M.D. arsenal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Iran, like Libya, halted its nuclear program in 2003 because it feared military action."

Sawyer introduced the same topic last night this way: "And Governor Huntsman, you have already said for us that -- that the Iranians have made the decision to go nuclear. You think they want a nuclear weapon. Tell us why you would be better as commander-in-chief than the other candidates on this stage?"

Jennifer Epstein's article in Politico (the networks don't mention Hersh's columns) attempted to discredit Hersh based on an anonymous source in the Obama administration, and then wrote "Hersh has faced criticism for his heavy reliance on anonymous sources," despite the fact that the New Yorker article is full of named sources. Hersh referred to Obama officials that were strongly against disclosing the NIE, and Epstein cited the unnamed administration source's only counterargument, a new IAEA report, which Hersh spoke to: "Well, the word "evidence" was not in what the IAEA said. What the IAEA said is something it’s been saying repeatedly, even under ElBaradei. And I must say, the new director general, Mr. Amano, is, I think, more willing to please us than ElBaradei was, just in terms of speculating more. There was nothing new in that report. They’ve been saying repeatedly that they have concerns about certain information they have. They don’t describe it as evidence.

"The new trigger is a very complicated device that was used by us maybe 30 years ago to trigger a hydrogen — a fusion weapon, and it went nowhere. And it’s a, as I say, extremely complicated device that there’s no evidence that anybody in their right mind would want to use that kind of a trigger. It would involve creating a different kind of reactor. The technical problems with that kind of a complicated device are enormous. And anyway, are you really going to be — are you going to make a trigger before you know what kind of gun you have?

"I mean, it’s just — the word "evidence" was nowhere in the report. It’s been going on a long time."

Later in the ABC debate, McElveen asked: "I want to give Congressman Paul a chance to weigh in here, because foreign policy is something that a lot of people think is your Achilles’ heel when it comes to getting elected. You have said that you wouldn’t have authorized the raid to get Osama bin Laden. You think that a nuclear Iran is really none of our business. How do you reconcile that, when part of your job as president would be to..." Paul replied "Well, I think -- I think that’s a misquote. I don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. I voted to go after bin Laden, so that, you know, takes care of that." A transcript of the context of the interview with Simon Conway where the bin Laden comment is made appears to be nowhere online:

Q: Are you asking us to believe that a President Ron Paul could have ordered a kill of bin Laden by entering another sovereign nation?
Paul: I think things would be done somewhat differently. I would suggest that the way they got Khalid Mohammed, ... probably the ring leader on 9/11, we went and cooperated with Pakistan, they arrested him actually and turned him over to us, and he's been in prison, and in a matter of fact the same thing happened with the people who were involved with the bombing of 1993. They were all captured, brought and tried before a civilian court, and they've all been punished, so no, what's wrong with that? Why can't we work with the government?
Q: I just want to be clear, a President Ron Paul would not have ordered the kill on bin Laden.
Paul: I don't think it was necessary, no. It was absolutely not necessary, and I think respect for the rule of law and international law... What if he had been in a hotel in London? If we wanted to keep it secret.. would we have sent the helicopters into London? Because they were afraid the information would get out? No you don't want to do that.
Q: I think you've been very clear, sir, you've been very clear, I definitely don't want to put words in your mouth, but you're telling me that a President Ron Paul would not have ordered the Ron Paul kill to take place as it took place in Pakistan.
Paul: Not the way it took place. And you know he was unarmed and all these other arguments...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My general disposition to the Republican primaries has been "wake me up when it's over" but the Ron Paul factor is making it interesting. WKMA predicts a Paul victory in the Iowa caucus this evening. Though Romney is winning in some polls, the fact that voters in the caucus conference and discuss their choices before writing the candidate's name on a piece of paper benefits candidates that have grassroots supporters with a passion and a clear understanding of their candidate's views, especially when their candidate has been dismissed and demonized by the corporate media. There is also the possibility that conservative evangelicals will come together and coalesce around a candidate, most likely Rick Santorum, who in such a scenario has a chance of winning the caucus.

Ron Paul has a 60% disapproval rating amongst GOP voters but had at the last filing date the third most money, behind Romney and Perry, and he uses that money effectively to get the message out in primary states with ads like this one:

Even if Paul runs second in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will raise a mint on the internet which will enable him to run ads in larger media markets. Paul is interjecting arguments into a campaign that otherwise weren't there (save for the more liberal but less successful Gary Johnson) and there's no model for predicting his success. He's run before but there are two policy-related factors that are in his favor, that the media doesn't mention: a vast majority of GOP voters were against the federal bailout of Wall Street, and Paul is the candidate who has most persistently agreed with them; and a majority of GOP voters have actually become anti-war in recent years, and only Paul agrees with them. It is unclear how many of the 60% who say they disapprove say so because of a rigid disagreement with Paul's radical economic and foreign policy views rather than as a result of the media's characterization of him.

Paul and Perry have ran negative ads against Newt Gingrich in Iowa and Paul's in particular have struck a lethal blow to Gingrich's chances, which in and of itself is a service to the union:

With potentially poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich, whose campaign has always had little money, is counting on a Jan. 21st South Carolina victory to revive his candidacy going into the Jan. 31st Florida primary, where has maintained a lead. Santorum has had little support in those states but a strong Iowa performance would potentially anoint him as the evangelical conservative choice in those states. Most likely, the outcome of Iowa will cause Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry to stay in the race, splitting the conservative field in SC to enable Romney to either win or finish a strong second, then win Florida, and then argue that the party should coalesce around him. Santorum, like Gingrich, has little or no money. Perry has money as he is a natural at peddling influence but, unfortunately for his presidential chances, resembles a parody of a politician in a B movie comedy.

One thing I want to emphasize is that W. proved in 2000 that evangelical, conservative voters constituted enough support in the Republican primary to win outright with a little help. Having the most money and being the son of a president didn't hurt either. But my point is that Romney probably couldn't win a two person race with a well-funded, well-organized evangelical conservative candidate. His strengths in the primaries are in the Northeast and the Midwest, which in such a two person race would not be enough. The fractured, unfunded field of lackluster conservative candidates is the reason why the folks at Intrade are giving Romney a 80.2% chance of winning the nomination at the moment. I emphasize this, though, because very few delegates are actually chosen this month, and if such an evangelical conservative consolidates unified support against Romney they would have a chance. The problem is that candidates who appeal to evangelical conservatives are invariably utter hypocrites who have used religious symbolism to feast on the weak of the world and make a ton of money from bribery, and that only needs to be pointed out in each case, as Paul did for Gingrich and which will inevitably be done for Santorum, before their PR house of cards collapses.

I have caught up with only a bit of the ink that has been spilled on the "Ron Paul bargain" for anti-war liberals (I note this and this). Whether it's a question of Obama having leverage to reduce foreign imperialism or undermining his excuses for foreign imperialism, a general election showdown with Paul is just the ticket. Such a blow to American military imperialism would be an major boost to labor movements around the world, who are literally subject to extrajudicial killings as I write this in far-flung places like Egypt, Honduras, and Colombia, with the tacit support of US operatives. The Paul candidacy represents the most significant historical opportunity for the public to overcome the military-industrial complex since Ike's speech (below), with the possible exception of 1968 which like this year had the element of youth activism, and this opportunity coming from the Republican party gives it a unique strategic component. The Paul candidacy provides the campaign cycle's only critique of the rollback of the Bill of Rights which has been even more horrifically rapid in the Obama administration than Bush's. Even though I agree with those that say Paul has a chance of beating Obama which is at least comparable to other GOP candidates, Obama would most certainly hammer away at Paul's opposition to Social Security (which pays for itself and is not in trouble, often raided for other programs) and Medicare, and the result would be beneficial to Democrats in close legislative districts concerned about too much power in the hands of Paul to eliminate the social safety net.

WKMA reserves the lowest designation of presidential performance for those who suspend habius corpus and create a precedent for extrajudicial killings of US citizens and then lose to Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich in the general election.

Update - Midnight: As I write this Santorum is leading Romney by 63 votes with Paul four points behind, 4% to be counted:

Looking at state by state counts of religion, no state that has more Catholics by percentage than Iowa has more Evangelicals by percentage. So Iowa is the perfect spot for Santorum, a Catholic that has an overwhelming lead amongst Evangelicals in the Iowa exit polls. While that source has 23% Catholics in Iowa and this has 17%, the percentage of Catholics in South Carolina is tallied at 7% and 4%. No state rivals Iowa in this mix of Catholics and Evangelicals although the closest are nearby states like Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri, states that are far north enough to have received Western migration of Catholics from Northern European latitudes back in the day but are also Southern in large pockets.

Santorum won over middle class voters with some college education, Romney won the oldest and the richest, and Paul won almost half of the young voters and almost a third, a substantial lead, of voters earning less than $50K. People earning a lot of money don't want to rock the economic boat, but Paul's numbers will carry over into Southern and rural states where there are more poor, Protestant, anti-TARP voters. Some number of young voters will register Republican to vote for Paul. Do you sense I'm rooting for a candidate?

Paul suffered from a gender gap, leading amongst males while Romney and Santorum tied for the lead amongst females.

Update 12:30: Romney has taken a lead of 41 votes, Perry appears to be quitting the race, Gingrich, one to bring on the nasty, is staying in the race and planning an all-out onslaught against Romney with the help of his SuperPAC. As Santorum will receive more scrutiny, there is a benefit to not being the front runner but a win for Paul would have raised more money and garnered more publicity.

Update 12:44: Santorum up by 5 votes with 1% to be counted. Looking at county by county suggests Santorum now has the upper hand in the Great Plains primaries, while most of Romney's and Paul's support was closer to the Mississippi.

Update 12:30pm: I state the obvious in saying that the corporate media is considerably more forgiving to racist statements made by war hawks than peace activists. Rick Santorum says on January 1, 2012: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money." and "Rick Santorum racist" gets 639 results on Google News while "Ron Paul racist" gets 1,690 results for unattributed statements in his newsletters several decades ago that he repudiated (thankfully gay activists have done a nice job with Santorum's result on the main Google search). Santorum in April 2010: Evangelist Franklin Graham calling Islam a "wicked and evil religion" was a "reasonable statement at the time." Santorum last November "all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis."

Update 2:15pm: I originally said here that Perry would stay in the race then "viewed as foreshadowing" last night like the others ... "Rick Perry said Tuesday night he was headed home to Texas to “reassess” his candidacy, a statement widely viewed as foreshadowing an end to Perry’s presidential ambitions. But a tweet Wednesday morning from a Twitter account Perry has been using said: “Here we come South Carolina!” New Hampshire residents are relieved. Lots of people gave Perry lots of money and as Gingrich and Santorum inevitably self-destruct he might as well slog it out a little longer, which will help Romney and Paul in that order.

Update 1/5: The NAACP's condemnation of Santorum's remarks has received a trickle of back page coverage in the corporate press while I note "Nelson Linder, president of the Austin, Texas NAACP, says he has known Ron Paul for 20 years, and reports that he is “not a racist.” Santorum's potential voters don't like the NAACP, of course, and they have The New York Times telling them voting for Santorum doesn't make them a homophobic, witch-burning, Islamophobic bigot, which the Times knows is the sort of free pass they're looking for.