Pawlenty in 12?

Jon Chait makes quite a compelling case today that Tim Pawlenty should be considered the frontrunner for 2012.  Short-version, there’s the 5 not-crazy Republican candidates identified by George Will in his column earlier this week that will receive support from the Republican establishment (which you simply need to have, as they give marching orders to Fox News, WSJ Editorial page, etc., and they’ve got the money).  They are Daniels, Huntsman, Romney, Barbour, and Pawlenty.  Chait argues, fairly persuasively, that other than Pawlenty, the other four are all fatally flawed as far as the Republican nomination process in concerned.  I’m pretty sold on Chait’s logic.   Chait remains convinced that the great similarity between “Romneycare” and Obamacare dooms Mitt.  I think he’s probably right, but I would not be entirely surprised to see Romney pull away from this weak field.  I think the part where Chait lays out his understanding of Republican nominations is most useful:

My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda. The elites are the prime driver of the process; they can communicate, via organs like Fox News and The Weekly Standard, which candidates may be undeserving of serious consideration despite their emotional appeal to base voters. That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable).

But elites don’t always control the process. Sometimes they can get together and virtually determine the winner in advance (i.e., George W. Bush in 1999-2000), but, often, they can’t pick candidates without the assent of the base, which is capable of winnowing out elite-approved candidates. Think John Connally, Phil Gramm, or others for examples of candidates who made it through the elite primary but were nixed by the voters.

So, if you want to find the next Republican nominee, you need to find a candidate who’s acceptable to both elites and the base. A good summation of the list of elite-approve candidate’s can be found in George Will’s column from last Sunday. Ruthlessly purging every candidate of potential candidate lacking electoral plausibility, Will lists five possibilities. Other candidates—Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, or others—may have some appeal to the base, but Republican elites will probably be able to dissuade voters from considering them on electability grounds. Will’s five: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts Governor Romney, and Pawlenty.

As for the others… Hunstman was Obama’s ambassador to China, is weak on social issues (for the GOP base), and is Mormon.  Daniels is too obviously a sensible center-right Republican who is also weak on social issues and short with bad hair (that does matter–picture below).  And Haley Barbour?  Please.

Second time in a week I’ve narrowed it down to Romney and Pawlenty.  Time to invest on Intrade (if only my wife wasn’t irrevocably opposed to any form of gambling by me— comment from Kim in 3..2..).

Kent Conrad tells it like it is

As I may have mentioned before, my best friend from grad school chose the non-academic route and has ended up working as an energy policy expert in the office of ND Senator, Kent Conrad.  Joe has recently learned he’ll be out of a job in two years as Conrad is retiring.  Conrad is most definitely one of the smarter Senators in the Congress and has done pretty well for coming from the decidedly non-liberal state of North Dakota.  Apparently, not running for reelection has definitely freed him up to speak some truths.  Joe pointed out to me this interesting interview in Newsweek.  I love this exchange:

And the root cause of the catastrophe?

“I think it is human nature,” Conrad says. “If you go to the American people and ask them, they will tell you that they want to get the deficit under control. If you go to the next level and ask them, OK, do you want to change the entitlements? No. Do you want to touch defense? No. Do you want to increase revenue? No. They say they want to cut spending, but if you start asking them about specific cuts, they reject all of them except one—foreign aid. That’s less than 1 percent of the budget. So Congress and the White House are basically a reflection of the American people. And absent strong leadership—starting with the previous president, and including this president—to convince people of the need to deal with these issues, it’s human nature to put off unpleasant decisions.”

What a pleasant rarity to have such true analysis spoken by a US Senator.  Those sentiments are not at all unfamiliar to anyone who reads this blog.  It’s a shame it takes a pending retirement to get someone to actually speak these truths.

Voting and college kids

So, Republicans have already done what they can do go after Democratic voting blocs by their crackdown on “voter fraud” in passing state laws the require a photo ID to vote.  On the surface, that all sounds well and good except 1) actual voter fraud these days is pretty much non-existent; 2) it’s Democratic constituencies, especially poor and minorities, who are less likely to have (or have easy access to) photo ID’s.  Well, now, the GOP in NH has figured out that college students love Democrats and that obviously won’t do:

New Hampshire’s new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They’re “foolish,” Speaker William O’Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.

“Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

New Hampshire House Republicans are pushing for new laws that would prohibit many college students from voting in the state – and effectively keep some from voting at all.

One bill would permit students to vote in their college towns only if they or their parents had previously established permanent residency there – requiring all others to vote in the states or other New Hampshire towns they come from. Another bill would end Election Day registration, which O’Brien said unleashes swarms of students on polling places, creating opportunities for fraud.

Damn, correcting GOP BS just gets tiring.  Election Day Registration is the single best thing states have done for democracy in some time.  If you want to get more people voting (it is a democracy) there’s no better way.  As for the fraud, either he believes that line and he’s stupid, or he’s just plain lying and knows it.

I’m actually currently working on a conference paper looking at the generation gap in the 2008 election.  At this point, it seems that the lack of religiosity and lack of traditional values for young people, as compared to old people pretty much explains this gap.  It’s also very worth noting, that voting patterns have not always been this way.  I’ll report back with more when I (and political scientist extraordinaire, Kyle Saunders) actually finish our data analysis.

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