Saturday, December 29, 2007

C minus 5 - a snowball's chance?

... in hell seem to be what many pundits are giving Fred Thompson, to win the nomination. However, Fred, in his own inimitable style, seems to have taken that snowball thing to heart, and be using it to hit back at the media! Way to go Fred! I got a tip, via the comments, for folk to try out a web site called Theelectionproject. I do not know if it is any good, but FYI there it is. There is another site that will be of value once the caucus/primary process gets started called Election 2008. It will track who has how many delegates.
And, to ensure that she stays on track with her tone deaf campaign management, it now appears that Hillary's campaign is using sock-puppetry to try and generate support and interest on the Internet. Wow - talk about dumb!

Friday, December 28, 2007

C minus 6 - and it's snowing again

Would you believe it - snow, in Iowa, in late December - wow! Of course, the only people who will get excited about that are exactly the same folks as will get excited about the latest polls from the LA Times (be warned - it is in Adobe pdf format). However, as noted by Captain Ed, the numbers are less than compelling. A grand total of 174 likely Republican caucus goers were sampled, of whom 37 supported Huckabee, 23 supported Romney, and 11 supported Thompson. In other words, Huckabee has three times the support (or a little more) than Thompson - or NOT! The sample size is so small as to be meaningless. With so few people polled, there is almost no way of being certain that the sample is representative. While the standard measure of error for such things (root n over n) suggests an error of plus or minus 7.5% the reality is that a much higher degree of error is likely as a result of how the interviewees were selected. In short, the race remains as wide open as ever, and the only polls that count now are the results.
Hillary continues her tone deaf campaign by not taking any questions at her campaign stops in Iowa. Does the woman not get it, or is she simply believing her own press releases? The whole point of the early caucus in Iowa and the early primary in New Hampshire is that the candidates make themselves accessible to the public in ways that they cannot do later in the campaign. Accessibility means answering questions not brushing people off. And given how seriously folks here in Iowa (and, I have heard, in New Hampshire too!) take their responsibility in the caucuses, brushing them off like this will only result in pissing them off. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It is no wonder that Theo Caldwell of the National Post in Canada (h/t Captain Ed) states quite bluntly that the only possible choice for President is a Republican - in fact, almost any of the current crop of Republican candidates:

An obvious choice can be unnerving. When the apparent perfection of one option or the unspeakable awfulness of another makes a decision seem too easy, it is human nature to become suspicious.

This instinct intensifies as the stakes of the given choice are raised. American voters know no greater responsibility to their country and to the world than to select their president wisely. While we do not yet know who the Democrat and Republican nominees will be, any combination of the leading candidates from either party will make for the most obvious choice put to American voters in a generation. To wit, none of the Democrats has any business being president.

And that's from Canada, eh! Will it hold true in Iowa? Who knows...

Monday, December 24, 2007

C minus 10 - the Christmas Eve Special

A Merry Christmas to everyone, and if you are reading this instead of spending quality Christmas time with your family, then step away from the computer, get yourself some egg nog (fortified or not) or another beverage of choice, and dive in there. If you are really stuck, do what we have just done - sit down with them all and watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (a tradition for us on Christmas Eve!).
While driving around on errands today, which I was glad to do since it got me out of the house, and Kath was glad for me to do for exactly the same reason, I heard adverts for Hillary a number of times. All were the same, and the theme was how marvelous she was because the Des Moines Register endorsed her. Frankly, that is lame in a major way. Fine, if you let the Register do all your thinking for you, then this endorsement means something. But most folks here in Iowa don't. The Register serves primarily as a paper for people to complain about. The advert will have done nothing to encourage undecided voters to support Hillary, and at this stage, she needs those folks pretty seriously.
And that was not the only error of hers that I learned of today. Apparently, the campaign has been handing out supporter cards with a caucus date of January 14th on them - major oops! That is an act of supreme incompetence for a campaign. If it were the only such act, that would be one thing, but the campaign has made a number of these errors of late. Why? Well, perhaps they believed their own press releases that Hillary was the inevitable candidate, and forgot to actual work at making that happen. Contributing to that may have been the media tendency to give those they favor a pass when it comes to the hard questions. That means the media favorites are not battle tested, and so in the real fight, they come up short. A similar thing may be happening to Mike Huckabee, as we get from his campaign a daily dose of bad news. The latest bad news for him, and this is I think fatal in terms of his candidacy, is that he has received significant speaking fees ($35K) from Novo Nordisk "one of the world's largest embryonic stem cell researchers." As noted in the link, the MSM seem to be burying this one, which in the long run will only serve to weaken Huckabee (just as Kerry was weakened because the press did not ask him more detailed questions about his experiences in Vietnam - had they done so, and had his campaign responded appropriately, there would have been nothing for the Swift Boat Veterans to say. But, they didn't and the rest is history).
Given all of which, a further reminder that the polls are basically rubbish for things like caucuses is served up here. The only polls that matter are the numbers that come out of the caucuses, not those going in!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

C minus 11 - blizzard is an Iowa word

Yep, this morning we awoke to find lots of snow, on top of a nice layer of ice. The snow had drifted, as after it stopped falling the temperature dropped like a rock and the wind picked up. Shoveling was a joy we could have done without!
How all this will affect the caucuses is unclear. If the caucuses had been last night, would I have attended? Yes, absolutely. Would everyone who plans to attend on January 3? Who knows - caucus goers are a pretty dedicated bunch. So, who will win if the weather is bad? Probably the same person as will win regardless! Probably naive of me, but there you go.
So, what to consider on a day like today, which first of all is a pre-Christmas family day, and second is cold, snowy, windy, and full of driveways to be plowed? How about considering immigration!
Of my four remaining possible choices (Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain) this is probably an issue in which Thompson is strongest. His proposal for dealing with this is clear, and in many ways similar to the others (enforce the laws, reform the current system so it works efficiently, and then, and only then, consider making changes). As an approach it is eminently sensible, and as noted, the four candidates all pretty much agree on this, so why does Thompson have an edge?
Put simply, the issue is credibility. Both Giuliani and Romney have incidents in their past in which their commitment to the enforcement of the immigration laws were less than stellar. While both are currently talking the talk, and both sound credible in what they say, there is a question that can fairly be lodged against both candidates about their past practices. With McCain, this issue is magnified. Earlier this year McCain was strongly in favor of a bill that essentially granted amnesty, in all but name, to illegal immigrants. He claims he has "heard the people speak" and will thus change his approach in the future, but...
So, on the issue of immigration, the award clearly goes to Thompson. Not that the others could not do a good job if they actually do what they say they will do, but he has a much better record than any of them on this issue.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

C minus 12 - polls and stuff

A couple of interesting results from on-line polls on right leaning web sites. The first, on Michelle Malkin's site, has Thompson leading with 37% of the vote, more even than Ron Paul (who normally manages to dominate such on-line polls). The second poll, still active, on Captain's Quarters, also has Thompson leading, although to be fair this one is about which candidate you would like to have an egg nog with, rather than which you would vote for!
So, what do these on-line polls mean? Traditionally, the answer has been not very much, and indeed that may well be the case today, but...
Maybe on-line polls are not much less accurate than traditional phone polls. The phone polls today face a number of challenges (e.g. people not having land lines, multiple candidates and small sample sizes, etc.) and we know that the folks who take the on-line polls are likely reading about issues relating to the race on the blogs where they vote. Of course, the on-line polls can be deliberately skewed if a single candidate's campaign gets a bunch of people to go to the blog and do Chicago style voting (early and often) and there is some evidence that the Paul campaign has done this in the past. However, I think in this case the on-line polling may be hooking into a strong phenomenon of growing support for Thompson. I think he will get a very pleasant surprise come early January!

Friday, December 21, 2007

C minus 13 - miscellany

The Inestimable Iowahawk explains here, as only he can, why it is that Iowa has the first in the Nation caucuses. Eat your heart out, those of you on the left and right coasts - the heartland is where it's at!
Bob Krumm explains who he has endorsed, and why, at this post. He uses an excellent system of analysis for this, but I have to admit to skepticism, if only because of this quote of his:
Depending on how you look at it, I am either blessed or cursed with an analytical mind. So when making big decisions I’ve long attempted to quantify the relative merits of the choices available to me. One simple tool I have found useful is the decision matrix. Even my wife has become a convert to its utility. We’ve used decision matrices to buy three different cars, select a dog breed, and choose our vacation destinations. And so, I have again turned to a decision matrix to help determine who I support for President.

I have bolded the sentence I find particularly troublesome. If, indeed, he has persuaded his wife to use decision matrices, he owes it to all other males on the planet to share his methods for doing so!
Tancredo has dropped out and endorsed Romney, which is a little bit surprising. Tancredo's main concern is, and has been consistently for a number of years, illegal immigration. I am not sure that Romney is the one I would choose as being the strongest on illegal immigration, but then again, the endorsement is Tancredo's to give, not mine!
And I am thankful to learn that I am not the only one who was deeply troubled by the Hillary Christmas Ad. Ann Althouse has put it splendidly (ht: Instapundit):
Isn't this like when you get presents from family members and you know they charged it on your credit card?

Exactly! After all, it IS our money that is paying for all those gifts Hillary is wrapping - not hers...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A thoughtful choice by someone else

A blogger I sometimes read, who goes by the name of Beldar, has written an extensive column on who he has chosen as his Republican candidate to support in the primaries. He came down for Thompson, but his column goes into great detail as to why him, and why not one of the others. Well worth a read...

C minus 14 - discovery of media bias

I am shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that there is gambling going on in Rick's Casino there is clear evidence of media bias against Fred Thompson (great roundup of it all here with suitable links), but it would appear that there is! A report about his bus tour on Tuesday covered a trip to a fire station, and seemed to show a grumpy old man who could not relate to his audience. The video of the event was rather different. When will mainstream media folk learn that the world in which they and they alone controlled the content is no longer with us? (sorry - a rhetorical question).
Anyway, I went to the Thompson event in Coralville yesterday, a Town Hall type meeting on one of the local radio stations (KCJJ) and was suitably impressed. Thompson gave very thoughtful and complete answers to his questioners, but most impressive of all was when he was asked a question by a member of the Meskwaki tribe about relations between Native American Tribes and the Federal Government. Thompson said he did not know enough about the particular issue to respond, but he would find out so that he could act appropriately. In other words, he was willing to say that he did not know - a huge and potentially dangerous admission for a politician to make, but also absolutely the right thing to do. This is I think part of what makes him a very impressive candidate, plus, as others have noted, his wife is indeed extremely cute (not, of course, that that should make any difference :)). Oh, and I do know the photo is not exactly the best in the world. Getting a clear shot was almost impossible - the traditional media photographers were like piranhas with a crippled cow for lunch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

C minus 16 - the endgame begins

I think that we are starting to see the final shape of the caucuses begin to take form. Now, all that is highly speculative, so what makes me think that? Well, time is an issue - only about two weeks left for folks to make decisions. Also, we are beginning to see some movement in various ways. A lot of endorsements are coming out. Some (e.g. Congressman King for Thompson) are your political endorsements, others are the old media (e.g. the Des Moines Register for McCain) and still others are the new media (e.g. Redstate for Thompson). Do these matter? In one sense, no. Most voters will not be swayed by what a single politician or a newspaper thinks. However, it does create a sense of time running out, which is appropriate!
Given that, it begins to look like Fred Thompson may be surging at the right time. He began his bus tour of Iowa yesterday in Dubuque, and tomorrow will be in this neck of the woods, so I will try to hear him. There is a little bit of a buzz that he might well be on the rise, but is it real? Time will tell.
This ties in with a sense that the momentum for Huckabee may be stalling (but as noted in the link all it shows is that his support is not increasing, rather than that it is decreasing). I remain confident in my predictions, but given my track record on such things, I would strongly suggest that nobody puts any money on said predictions!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

C minus 19 - snowing again

And looking mighty pretty while it does it, I might add! However, this does mean that the drive will have to be shoveled - chances that the children will do it (those living at home)? Close to zero - ah well, such is life as a parent!
We are now less than three weeks until caucus night, and the race seems as interesting as ever. Right now, it looks like Huckabee is leading, Romney is second, Thompson and Guiliani are pretty close for third place, with McCain running in fifth, at least in part because he, commendably, insists on telling us here in Iowa that subsidies for ethanol are a bad idea. Good policy, but probably less good for his chances in the caucuses!
However, I do not expect the race to finish this way. I think that Huckabee will begin to fade fairly rapidly from here on in. His conservative credentials are lacking in some important areas and the scrutiny he is receiving is beginning to demonstrate these. What I think we will see happening, and I am not alone, is Thompson beginning to get a lot of interest and support. In part this will come from his bus tour across Iowa, but I think it will also come as support drains away from Huckabee to Thompson. Obviously, a lot can change in this time, but I will stick my neck out and predict Thompson wins Iowa, with Romney second, and Guiliani and Huckabee pretty close together in third place. Likely I am totally wrong, but remember, you saw it here first!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

C minus 21 - ice storm recovery, and a narrowing of the field

Having been without power part of the last two days because of the ice storm, it is a great pleasure to be back on the grid. However the two days were not without value. In the gloom and dark of a house without lights, I was able to think about the five candidates and consider which of them I should drop (to help me narrow my choice to four, now that the caucuses are only three weeks away.
I think that at this time, if one of my five potential choices is to be dropped, it should be Mike Huckabee. While he has the executive experience of running the State of Arkansas as governor, the record would suggest that from the point of view of fiscal policy, he was not particularly conservative. I am also concerned that he seems overly committed to a "nanny state." So, given that, I am now down to four candidates, and I shall see how my thinking develops on them over the next three weeks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

C minus 24 - the ice storm cometh

After struggling yesterday to try and set down my thoughts on leadership, I came across a piece today that typifies the obverse, or what might be called anti-leadership. The piece discusses concerns raised by hard core democratic voters about Hillary Clinton. Here are some typical quotes:

The concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics.

Those are a lot tougher to overcome.

It was revealing, too, when Hart pushed them to envision these senators as leaders of the country or, as he put it, their ``boss.'' Obama, they say, would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary.

Now in some ways, this is unfair. A scary leader may not be a bad leader, but there is unfortunately more bade news for Senator Clinton:

Candor and authenticity were repeatedly cited. ``I don't feel like I look at her and see someone who's telling me the whole truth,'' says Allison Lowrey, a 30-year-old human- resources consultant. ``I'd like to see her approach a problem without the polls'' helping her make her decision, says Andrew Alebergo, a 39-year-old tanning-salon operator.

Even strong Hillary supporters acknowledge the electorate's deep-seated concerns. ``She is walking a fine tightrope now, because she is such a divisive personality,'' says Lynda Connelly, a thoughtful 58-year-old Red Cross manager. She plans to vote for Clinton while fearing that, if elected, ``the right- wing noise machine is going to do everything it can to derail her.''

This isn't an anti-Hillary crowd. She gets high marks for her experience, intelligence and toughness; these qualities, they suspect, are what voters demand.

Their hopes and dreams, though, are with Obama, 46. If he can dispel misgivings about his electability or experience, the formidable Clinton forces may be powerless.

This is one reason why I was so impressed by Obama speaking out about social security. That was the mark of a leader - someone willing to tackle difficult issues even if they know that what they say will not be popular. If you are poll driven, then you will never have the courage to speak out like that.

In the long run, I think that leadership is what counts. There is a lot of discussion, for example, on right wing blogs about the stance that Bush took on embryonic stem cell research. Some agreed with him, and some did not, but as far as I could tell everyone thought that he did well to speak about it.

So, which of the Republican five have the most leadership quality in this regard. I think Fred Thompson has shown a willingness to tackle awkward topics well and has demonstrated leadership by doing so. I think Rudy has shown this by his forthright manner of addressing the differences he has with some on topics of abortion. McCain has shown leadership by the stance he has taken on immigration and campaign finance reform (although I think he is wrong on both counts). McCain may well be the one who shows the limitations on such leadership. People will follow a leader up to the point when that leader's views on critical issues diverge from their own too much. How much is too much? A very personal issue that each one of us has to decide! Sorry, but on that score there are no easy answers.

My apologies too for the rather cryptic title to this post. A major ice storm is forecast to start in about three hours, and will likely close down much of eastern Iowa, including Iowa City. I may or may not get to blog tomorrow - I know, the suspense is killing you!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

C minus 25 - the leadership conundrum

It is quite possible for an aspiring presidential candidate to have excellent policy ideas, and yet fail utterly to capture the imagination of the voters sufficiently to persuade them to vote for said candidate. Obviously, a certain sort of personality is needed to encourage people to give you their vote, but on top of this, especially with the Presidency, a candidate must persuade voters that she or he is a leader.
Leadership is one of those things that are difficult to define, but obvious when seen. It is sometimes confused with good management, yet the two are fundamentally different. In a discussion over Thanksgiving (and a good malt whisky) a good friend of mine and I decided that leadership is to management as vision is to strategy. This, while no doubt very profound (as such deep thoughts, spawned in a good malt, so often are) is still less than illuminating.
So, given this tricky issue, what sort of leadership do I see in the five Republican candidates that I am considering? Clearly Huckabee, Romney, and Guiliani all have governmental executive experience, having been either governor or mayor themselves. This is no small thing. In the last 40 years, only President George H. W. Bush (Bush the elder) has been elected President without having been a governor, and he had executive experience running the CIA. The fact that Guiliani has only been a mayor rather than a governor is irrelevant, given that he was mayor of New York, which has significantly more residents than either Arkansas or Massachusetts.
However, not having been a governor (or big city mayor) need not be a barrier to the Presidency (in spite of recent history). Clearly, the Democrats do not think so, since their last two Presidential nominees have not been governors, nor do any of their current front runners have gubernatorial experience. And certainly, John McCain's experience in the Hanoi Hilton was clear evidence of significant leadership under the most appalling conditions. Whether Fred Thompson has that leadership experience is less clear.
And yet, in these words I am making the same confusion between managerial skill and leadership as I warned against above. Leadership is something more than running a large organization, whether that be a state, one of the world's great cities, a major government bureaucracy, or a corporation. It is the ability to inspire people under the worst possible conditions. And that is why both McCain and Guiliani are such formidable candidates, because both have shown that ability to lead. McCain's demonstration was in the darkest of days, and was conducted under almost invisible conditions. Guiliani's leadership took place on the world stage, under the spotlight, and was singularly effective. Those who are now trying to attack Guiliani for his role as mayor in the aftermath of 9/11 are doing so because they recognize, whether explicitly or not, just how important and appealing the leadership he showed then is to the presidential race.
Clearly leadership is not the only desirable quality in a presidential candidate, nor do I wish to diminish the possible leadership qualities of Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson, but McCain and Guiliani are both very clearly leaders. Next November, that could be critical.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

C minus 26 - has Huckabee peaked?

The big, and good, news for Mike Huckabee over the last week or so is his meteoric rise in the polls. A Newsweek poll now has him at about twice the support of his next closest rival (Romney) in Iowa, although some think the poll (of only 275 people) is a bit suspect. Nonetheless, it must feel good to go from nowhere to everywhere in nothing flat!
Of course, what goes up, must come down, both in gravitational fields and in politics. And with more than three weeks to go before caucus night it maybe that this rise is too soon. With good numbers come increased scrutiny, and the scrutiny has not been kind so far. News has come out that he supported an AIDS quarantine, in 1992, and is also on record as saying that homosexuality is sinful (again, in 1992 - by which I mean that he said it in 1992, not that homosexuality was sinful, according to Huckabee, only in 1992 - clearly my grammar needs work!). Various other issues are being raised, such as his role in paroling a rapist who subsequently raped and killed someone, his fiscal actions while governor of Arkansas, and his tendency toward "Nanny Statism" with regard to health care. None of these may hurt him with his base here in Iowa, but they may limit his ability to grow beyond his base.
A ripple effect of the surge of Huckabee is that it may make life a little easier for Romney. Romney did very well with his speech on Thursday (see here for some quotes) and will likely see a bump in the polls as a result. The Sunday morning news shows tomorrow will likely focus on this a lot, along with another recent development, which is...
That Fred Thompson has decided to roll the dice in Iowa in a major way (hat tip to the Corner). He will be in the State, traveling around by bus, every day between now and the caucuses except for Christmas day. I, and others, have been waiting, with increasing impatience, for Fred to get moving. His policy statements are great, his ideas are excellent and exciting, but he needs to close the deal. Perhaps, by bus, he can do it! His Senatorial campaign succeeded on the basis of a state tour in a red pickup - maybe the bus will do the same for him.
So, lots of excitement in the coming weeks here in Iowa. And on the home front, I got a visit this evening from a couple who are the precinct captains for Obama. Very friendly and pleasant, and if this is indicative of the level of organization of the Obama team, a good sign for him. It should be noted that while I am a registered Republican, my daughter, who is living at home at present, is a registered Democrat, and it was her they were coming to see!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

C minus 29 - a long break caused by failing technology

My apologies for not blogging for a while. As noted in my last comment, I headed to England over the past week, and had hoped to be able to blog there by means of various bits of technology. Sadly, this did not happen, and since I cannot blame this on any of the Presidential candidates, I will say no more!
On the Democratic side it looks to me as if the wheels are falling off the Hillary campaign. She still has time to fix the problems, although Iowa may have slipped beyond her grasp, but her response to her falling poll numbers has been incredibly incompetent to date. Attacking Obama because he wrote an essay about wanting to be President in kindergarten is pathetic. The only reason she has not been buried already is that her opponents have been slow to hammer her. I can only speculate that Obama in particular is waiting for a particularly heinous example of Hillary panic, and he will then strike - the closer the caucuses get, the more payoff this might give him, but it is a somewhat risky project.
In terms of the yard sign watch, the number is still small. The only new one I have seen lately is for Biden, so things are just as uncertain as before.
The big news on the Republican side is the surge of Huckabee in Iowa, and nationally. It is quite clear that he has suddenly hit the prime time. The good side of this for him is obvious, but the drawback will be the attention his ideas now receive. I say this not as an implied criticism of Huckabee, but more as a general comment. Jim Geraghty examines his foreign policy, noting where it particularly differs from the conservative mainstream. In contrast with Huckabee's rise, there is the apparent disappearance of team Fred from the radar screen, almost totally. About the only thing I have seen about Fred recently is a quote from Rush Limbaugh, that Jim Geraghty thought was pretty close to a non-endorsement endorsement by Rush. If Thompson wants to do well enough in Iowa, he needs to start being more "present" in the news, regardless of his pollster's valid comments.
Romney is due to give his big "religion" talk tomorrow. Whether this helps him in Iowa remains to be seen, but it will likely give him a boost nationally. Guiliani has taken some hits of late, and McCain does not seem to be moving much in either direction.
In short, on both sides, the race is extremely volatile, so the excitement continues to build.