I have thought a lot more about Mike Huckabee’s departure from the race on Saturday and then Newt Gingrich’s Meet the Press appearance Sunday. They raise a few questions in my mind that I want to explore here. Admittedly, a post like this pulls from my own biases in how I see the candidates, but I’m going to do my best to be as objective as possible, even when dealing with a guy like Huntsman.
I just think it is helpful to explore natural constituencies to see who is fighting over what.
Mitt Romney & Newt Gingrich
I think Mitt and Newt are fighting for the same group of people. They are the smart guys, the ideas guys, and the establishment guys. If you are voting Republican and not necessarily conservative, these are your guys. They are the safe picks. Mitt is much more the technocrat and Gingrich is much more the bold thinker, but ultimately you wind up with guys who play it safe and are establishmentarian. Look at Newt and Romney both favoring an individual mandate or Newt’s distaste for Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “radical.”
This will come off harsh with me saying it, but I think the natural constituencies for Romney and Gingrich will be the most “elitist” of voters. Were you to survey voters and ask if Sarah Palin is dumb, I suspect the Romney and Gingrich voters, followed by Mitch Daniels’s voters, will have the greatest propensity of saying yes. If you ask a voter if we must raise the debt ceiling, I suspect the Romney and Gingrich voters will have the highest propensity to say yes. In other words, Romney and Gingrich voters will put party ahead of ideology — an irony considering how the media views Gingrich.
You want a conservative Mitt Romney? Mitch Daniels is your guy. He has the same bias as Romney toward putting the smartest guys in the room to come up with the solution, but he actually has a conservative record of governance to stand on that Mitt doesn’t have. The big downside? He won’t let conservative shibboleths get in his way if he decides he has a better way — whether on fiscal or social policy. He is probably the closest we have this cycle to George W. Bush. Conservatism will be what he and the smartest guys in the room say it is.I think Daniels’ natural constituency is the voter who wants the wonk who does not trust Mitt Romney’s or Gingrich’s conservative credentials and who also does not care much about social issues. The voter going here leans establishmentarian, but puts a value on conservative street cred.
Pawlenty’s natural constituency is going to be the social conservative voter. With Huckabee out, Pawlenty’s pro-life, evangelical credentials will help him tremendously in Iowa. Pawlenty’s fiscal record is not great and his ethanol love will do him no favors with the Club for Growth types. He can overcome those.I think Pawlenty becomes a safe pick for a lot of anti-Romney people who think he’ll be okay in office on fiscal issues, but trust him more on social policy, judges, etc. than Daniels. Pawlenty could benefit from the Indiana Supreme Court decision last week that said citizens could not keep the police out of their homes, even if the search was not legal. A Daniels judge was involved.
Palin & Bachmann
They aren’t fighting for the women. They are fighting for the diehard grassroots who want to fight and fight hard. I think their constituency is very vocal, but also small — too small to win unless they work on outreach to some of the other pools of voters. But to do that might mean toning down their rhetoric, which might alienate some of their voters.
Palin and Bachmann’s voter pool is largely the same, though some will go for Bachmann and others for Palin largely on the view that the other is unelectable. Because of the small, but vocal pool of voters, the people in this group are, outside the Paul/Johnson constituency group, going to give people online the biggest headache.
Interestingly, I think Palin and Bachmann will have a better chance of pulling people from the Pawlenty and Cain camps than any other because the people most likely to vote for Daniels, Gingrich, or Romney are also the people most likely to view Palin and Bachmann as too shrill or too stupid to win. There is a superiority issue with Daniels, Gingrich, and Romney voters — particularly Romney and Gingrich voters.
If you want a real outsider who is uncompromising on fiscal and social issues, but who plays up the fiscal issues, Cain is the guy. I think Cain is going to be the “think tank” favorite. He’ll be the guy who gets the crowds within the state policy network excited. He will draw from libertarian oriented voters who are more stable than Paul or Johnson voters, he’ll draw from evangelicals, and he will draw from those who want a businessman in the White House instead of a politician. I hope you do not underestimate Cain this year. There is a real anti-Washington mood that he is going to capitalize on.
While the Romney, Gingrich, and Daniels camp puts a price on winning based on where candidates are right now, the Cain constituents think a winning message will get you far and, polls be damned, they are going all the way with Herman Cain.
While I’d never support him, Huntsman has a shot because his natural constituency isn’t likely to go far into the other camps. He’ll get the moderate, largely secular crowd in those primary states that allow independents to participate. In effect, he is the John McCain of this year. Those who are focused on foreign policy will have a guy to go to unless John Bolton makes a big showing. All of the other candidates, by and large, will be fighting for conservatives’ votes. Not Huntsman. Given his recent statements on religion and his record as Governor, he’s the guy who will be seen as the adult by the media and the “reasonable” man by Democrats. But, I doubt he can make it through Iowa or South Carolina because of it. He could, however, give Romney a stiff challenge in New Hampshire.