Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | August 14, 2011

2012: Are the decks clear yet?

My colleague Karl writes today about the retirement from the GOP horse race of Tim Pawlenty, and the settling of the race into a “Romney vs. Not Romney” dynamic.  Pawlenty didn’t succeed in being crowned Not Romney in the Iowa straw poll yesterday, but how secure is the tiara on Michelle Bachmann’s head?  Is Rick Perry destined to step into a phone booth and turn into Not Romney?  What will the voters’ judgments be in the bellwether states of South Carolina and Florida?

The whole question is interesting, and begs in turn the question whether the 2012 campaign will be the clear-the-decks, all-bets-off political turning point that many are hoping for.  I think, to begin with, that a lot of people would find the “Not Romney” category an incomplete formulation.  It’s not so much “Not Romney” as “the category voters are looking for that Romney doesn’t fit into.”  Which, granted, has no future as a bumper sticker – but the point is that the thinking of non-Romney voters isn’t “anyone but Romney,” it’s “where’s the candidate who reflects what I want and believe in?”

Rick Perry may fill that bill for an electorally useful number of voters.  I don’t think he’ll have much trouble with Romney in South Carolina, and I’d call it even-Steven for the two candidates in Florida.  There are a lot of retired Northeasterners there to whom Romney appeals, but Perry can expect to do well with Florida’s Cuban-American Republicans, small business owners, and military.  Jeb Bush’s and Marco Rubio’s endorsements will carry weight.  I think I know which way Rubio will go, but I’m not sure what Bush will do.

I’m also not sure Florida will be a make-or-break state.  Assuming its primary is in January (as proposed), the early vote and the likelihood of a close split will mitigate the impact of a loss for either Romney or Perry.  Other states are likely to be more significant tests of the dynamic Karl outlines; the primary schedule has Missouri probably voting in early February, and the very interesting states of Illinois, Tennessee, and Virginia voting in March, along with the Colorado precinct caucuses.  Those states may well be a better test of the electorate’s mood.  Will Romney win where we would expect him to?

The campaign may well come down to the convention vote, as it did in 1976.  It’s very possible Romney and Perry will both have good reason to consider themselves “still alive” when Pennsylvania votes in April, and Indiana and Ohio in May.  (I’m using the proposed primary schedule; not all dates may come off as currently envisioned by the states.)  If Bachmann stays in the race, racking up strong third-place finishes, the likelihood of the decision being delayed to the convention goes up.

It’s tempting to say that the question in 2012 is whether there will be a single Republican brand the voters will line up behind.  I think a more basic question is whether we have reached a tipping point in the popular sentiment that things not only have got to change, but that they already have.  We saw some evidence of that in the primary nod to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware last year, as well as in Florida’s revolt against the national GOP establishment in picking Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist, Nevada’s choice of Sharron Angle to face off against Harry Reid, etc.  There are multiple factors at work in the ongoing saga of Wisconsin, but one of them is the major shift in voter sentiment:  voters are willing to endure civil unrest, and the unhappiness of taxpayer-dependent constituencies, and continue to endorse the political leaders who are standing against those eruptions and doing what the voters asked them to do.

Have we reached the tipping point?  Are voters ready to buck conventional expectations and do things differently?  If they aren’t, and they hand the nomination to Romney, even a GOP win in 2012 will be taken as evidence that politics as usual is what people really want.  Opinions will differ on whether endorsing Rick Perry instead is a signal that voters seek real change.  It’s possible that he will function as a sort of operational pause for GOP voters and the republic:  conservative enough that he’ll get a lot of Bachmann and Palin supporters, but with a standard political resume of reassuring length and girth.  A Perry candidacy could well serve to postpone the kind of transformative reckoning the GOP had between 1976 and 1980.

The coming primary season is likely to be the most significant, informative one the GOP has had in decades.  We will know some things at the end of it that we don’t know today.  The biggest thing, I think, will be whether voters are still hoping to identify a standard-bearer for the “Reagan consensus,” or whether they see a need to rewrite the consensus.  If it’s the latter, my money is on an updated “Coolidge consensus”:  something starker, simpler, and purer than the Reagan consensus.

Are we ready for that consensus to emerge yet?  That is the question.  We’re closer than we were four years ago.  Because words matter, I don’t even want to hazard a guess about 2012.  But I do think there will be a sign one way or the other: whether Sarah Palin gets into the race, and what happens if she does.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.



  1. The better moniker is “not money.” Look at the name, Romney. You’ll see it: Romney, money, Romney, money.

    A name can tell you a lot.

  2. Ok, here goes.

    1. The Bachmann “victory” at the Iowa straw poll says one thing loud and clear: “Yeah, we know it’s not going to be her… or the nutcase Ronpaul, but Romney is not “IT”, not by a long shot….. (sorry in advance for attracting paulbots to your party but when one lights a fire in the dark one must expect to attract suicidal insects to the glow of the light…)

    2. The Pawlenty drop out probably aids the Perry campaign the most. I expect that T-Paw’s troops in Iowa will be mostly busy masking out the “awlenty” and replacing it with “erry”.

    3. I expect a slow dribble of the lower tier candidates to start dropping out as money and time dwindle. Most of that drop off will go to Perry. Rick Perry will be cast as the “acceptable” non-establishment, establishment candidate. I suspect that he is the most conservative candidate acceptable to the Northeastern Establishment (especially if Rudy Giuliani starts hanging with him.)

    4. By January/February Perry will do well enough in Iowa to have stuck, finished in good order in New Hampshire, and then creams Romney in South Carolina… which sets up the big showdown for Super Tuesday and Virginia. Perry will take Virginia, and probably win the lion’s share of the delegate vote on Super Tuesday. With Texas and Florida in his back pocket.. He’ll be the presumptive nominee by April.

    Of course the Dem squack wagon will be out pooing up everything in The One’s sights. The time between April and August/September 2012 is going to be really difficult.

    Of course there are warnings to be had:

    A) Palin getting in puts her in direct competition for Bachman voters. She will go no where with the Establishment, and create serious rifts that will make a smooth entry into the Convention with a “settled upon” nominee, rather difficult.

    B) Will the Dems talk some third party gadfly to run? They are going to whisper in every ear that Bloomberg or Trump have…. The need a Ross Perot Effect very badly. Their only hope of winning in 2012 is to split the ticket, which was Boy Bill’s only hope as well. The Dems hold a 42-44% solid plurality. If they can get a split ticket with a good portion of the independents and conservatives voting against each other or staying home, they could eek out a plurality win.

    Hence the crushing need for the GOP to ditch Romney, get Palin do do something that she would be good at, like Chairman of the GOP…. and get working on a Perry southern and mid west strategy. Getting Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia back will make all the difference.

    But August 2012 is one year away, and that makes 26 political lifetimes to live. Dicey.. really Dicey stuff coming.


    • Pawlenty gave it up after he put all his eggs in the basket of de-throning bachman and failed miserably at it.

      Good riddance. Who wants to back a guy who looses a fistfight to a girl…?


  3. Romney is the least qualified to win against Obama. His inability to sound sincere and his lack of credibility on Obamacare are dispositive.

    The tipping point HAS been reached. Romney won’t be the nominee.

    • you may not find Romney qualified to win, but he’s a lot more likely to beat Obama than is someone coming from the far right.
      Perry’s not gonna look all that attractive to moderates.

  4. “There are a lot of retired Northeasterners there to whom Romney appeals…”, says opticon. Boy, is that saying a lot! And, by the way, it’s very true.

    But, what I am hoping for is a revolution in the conservative voter’s state of mind. One that says that it is better to risk losing everything in pursuit of a worthy goal than it is to accept much less than what’s needed and expected.

    In other words:

    “IF you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it in one turn of ‘pitch-and-toss’
    And lose and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss.”

    The conservatives, never mind the GOP because that is not the same thing, have long negotiated way too many core concept because the choices have been rather lacking and they promised, often without delivering, only very partial gains in very isolated areas of the conservative’s concept book. That game has seen us loose more and more ground to the liberal side who are not willing to negotiate anything and who are dedicated to policies that they squarely stand behind. I have actually come to admire the liberal’s staying power and dedication to greater global gains. If only conservatives were as strictly partisan with their votes as some liberals are…

    On the other side of the equation are the “ambivalent conservatives” who are “conservative” only in certain aspects of the socio-political aspect, not realizing that this ambivalence is not the way to win anything or, from where I stand, to risk it all in one game of pitch-and-toss.

    You simply can not be a conservative, one that is actually committed and works to earn something worthwhile, if all you care about is, for instance, national spending but don’t give a hoot if more babies are killed by abortions, if religious freedoms continue to be eroded, if marriage is redefined by special interest groups, if government continues to gain holds over individual responsibilities, or if immigration continues to be a self-serving political tool not a worthwhile social tool.

    I say all that because the nation is not here to grant us economic happiness and safety only. I also say that because we should be concerned and actively pursuing the safety and fair treatment of the innocent, the as yet unborn, the about to be born or the legal, constructive immigrant. But, also, we should be concerned with the perseverance of our key forming traditions and our basic moral concepts and culture as well. Because you simply can’t have one without the other.

    These partial “conservative” gains that we seek in every election, the ones in areas that only affect our economy or our own immediate well-being while we forget the traditional morality of the people of this nation are not simple bargaining chips to be traded for in search of “some” quick personal comfort. Any more than we were justified in giving up half of Europe in the name of “freedom” for those lucky enough to fall in one list of nations instead of another.

    Who, after all is said and done, gives the diplomat-politician the right to choose what nation lives free and what nation is served up to another? Who gives the voter the right to choose one moral right over another? Who gives the citizen the right to support one article in the Constitution while he or she cheers the trampling of another because it happens to be convenient at the time?

    Truth is not a part-time thing. Honor is not a part-time thing. Loyalty is not a part-time thing. And neither are they the nation’s “playing chips”. Playing Chips that are too often used only to serve for the personal convenience and comfort of the “player”.

  5. Bypassing the legislative branch and issuing an executive order that all 11 and 12 year old girl MUST receive Gardisil vaccinations ?

    This is your great conservative Christianist hope? This is a guy who is a small-government game-changer?

    • Ok… lets put a stopper in the Democrat “See he’s a hypocrite – but we’d do the same – nah” poo shooter. All links to MSNBC are links to the Democrat National Committee Ministry of Propaganda.

      1. HPV is a family of viri that exist in the environment. Everyone has it, everyone carries it, and everyone can transmit any one of them to anyone else…. and even from one area of the body. Got a wart? Congrats! You are a carrier of one or more of a number of HPV viruses… Are you a virgin with a wart? Gee you still have HPV and can transmit it from one place on your body to another.

      2. Cervical cancer is caused by one or more of several HPV viri. That is what the PAP test is looking for that most smart women get once a year… My mother had the problem, and mother-in-law had cervical cancer… both were virgins when they were married, and both were married to virgins… gee… ok.. TMI? No… hiding behind ICK FACTOR does not protect you from the problem.

      3. The HPV vaccine is a measure of protection against a group of HPV viri that do cause the warts that can develop into cancerous lesions. Guess what? They have started to get smart and are recommending the vaccine for boys now too… since they can get the boy version of the girl problems.

      4. Texas as some pretty strict laws about what the state will pay for and what it will not pay for as a matter of public health. Governor Perry, by making the vaccine “mandatory” set in motion the ability of the State of Texas to administer the vaccine to girls without the means to pay for the shots themselves.

      Gee, and you know what Fuster? If some dumb idiotic parent who has some weird “belief” that their daughter was going to be sexually corrupted by the protection offered by the vaccine, gee they could just “opt – out” of the vaccination program by signing a little piece of paper that opts their poor daughter out of the program. Wow!!! really hard… no penalty, no fuss, no muss… just a parent saying, nope, I want my daughter to risk it.

      As the parent of a daughter I chose to pay and vaccinate my daughter against a threat, just like measles, mumps, chickenpox, Hepatitis, tetanus, whooping cough, polio… you name it… My son just got his meningitis shot because if you get it, there is a 30+% death rate for the disease, and a guarantee of serious bodily harm if you survive…

      Not vaccinating your children is STUPID. The Governor Perry gave poor Texans a choice to protect their children… If the parents are stupid enough to waive their child’s chances… well that’s for other laws.. That is not hypocritical its called leading, and governing.


      • blow that “MSNBC are links to the Democrat National Committee Ministry of Propaganda.” out yer tailpipe. just point out where the link deviates from facts on public record.

        you just consider whether if tomorrow Obama issues an executive order that all 11 and 12 year old girls have to be inoculated with Gardisil you’ll explain that bypassing a legislative vote and issuing a directive was the right thing to do.


          • That sound you’re not hearing is the sound of Fuster deflating. Yes, it does happen, but always in private.

            Knock, knock.
            Who’s there?
            Fuster who?
            Blow it out your tail pipe!

            BTW, Mighty Fahvaag, you made good points and they show there were mitigating reasons for Perry’s heavy handedness. I find more disconcerting an AT article today which details some of Perry’s seeming coziness with Islam deceptors.

            • MegaT,

              Not something that we can do much about, until we can elect people who will actually allow us to drill for, and use our own petroleum resources. Though we get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico (there’s a reliable trade partner…) The Saudis control the current oil commodities market…

              They also control lots of other things, because they control lots of long green. Unfortunately when you have the money, you have people who must pay attention to you in order to operate… Wow, Fuster can tell you all about having to deal with shady people, he lives in one of the most corrupt cities on the planet… you don’t do anything major in that Crap Hole without greasing the right palms.

              Texas is still a major oil producing and refining state. The business contacts, and yes some social contacts for that particular business are going to introduce you to some people that you might not otherwise like too much. OPEC is run by an Iranian General, or some such thing, at present.

              Coziness is sort of a poor choice of descriptors… If you are going to ding Perry for it.. Then you will have to be wary of a large part of the military, who have to deal with such people all the time, just to survive.


              • Points well taken. How about Perry supporting Gore and is his “apostolic” connection of concern?

      • again, Perry’s order made it MANDATORY or the girls couldn’t attend school. it just wasn’t an option he was offering, it was a requirement.

        and only became an option and an offer after the state legislature overturned his order.

        • Fuster… That is a medical marketing web site… Their opinion is merely that.

          Having friends in Texas doesn’t hurt… Parents were free to opt out. Sometimes that means opting out of school, as well… That is local policy… but The Stupid could still endanger their children by not vaccinating them.

          The Anti-vaccine fools are swimming right along with the Global Warming believers, the Black Helicopter crowd, and the “Neo-Con” Haters…

          The next issue is the FEDERALISM issue.. The STATE of Texas and its governor sorted out the policy. Perry was within his powers as governor to issue the order… The legislature was within its powers to change the law as it saw fit. Not a Fed was involved…

          Gee, Perry isn’t blaming anyone else, making excuses, or using goons and cutouts to cover his tracks.

          He made a leadership decision that some folks didn’t like. And that policy was changed by legislative methods…. Gee that’s actually governing.

          But then what would New York know about real honest government? It hasn’t had a whiff of it since Rudy and up until 911 Rudy wasn’t riding a huge wave of popularity. He was too tough and mean…. and anti-homeless…

          Perry will do just fine….


          • The medical marketing website reported that Perry’s order was overturned. that’s not an opinion, buddy. that’s ‘xackly what happened. you could look it up.

            the opt-out thing was a reversal of usual procedure for when things are really meant to be optional… of course.

            “some folks didn’t like??????????

            a reversal of the fatwa by a vote of 30-1 might mean that it was more than “some”.

            it ain’t “governing” when you don’t have the consent of the governed and when your attempt to impose your will gets slapped down nearly unanimously. that’s actually making a jackass of yourself.

  6. I think a convention floor fight, whle not impossible, is still unlikely. Firstly, states could still delay their primaries to maintain their WTA status. Secondly, even if most states end up operating a PR system for allocating their delegates, the evidence from the Democratic primaries is that once a candidate establishes a clear lead in the first few primaries, voters quickly move to the other side. Indeed, since the PR system was adopted after the 1972 election, none of the primary contests went all the way (though 1984 and 2008 came close).

    Saying that, I think there is ample opportunity for another candidate to enter in the next few weeks. Perry’s candidacy is weak, Romney lacks enthusiasm, while none of the other candidates have the credibility. If Giuliani ran – and ran as a moderate rather than pretending to be a fiscal conservative – he would be a strong contender.

    • Giuliani is never going to be a strong contender for a Republican party that is leery of big-city Northerners, Catholics, guys currently married to women they were dating while still married to their previous (second) wife, and people who are pro-abortion.

  7. The presidential races are always fascinating and of course very important. Nevertheless, conservatives should keep their eyes, dollars and hands on the Congressional races for 2012. Remember that Bush proposed Social Security reform during his second term, and was met with resounding silence from Republicans in Congress.

    Congressmen have a set of incentives quite different from that of presidents. They face no two-term limit, and never reach the point of not having to campaign any more. Buying the votes of constituents, or at least not throwing them away, is always a huge consideration. So conservatives need to be as vigilant about Congress as lobbyists and special interest groups, a very tough assignment as the latter are involved with their speical issues as a matter of daily professional life, and so are informed, disciplined, and willing to spend money.

    Yes, it’s our government, but we have to buy it back in the same way, with hard work and lots of money.

  8. sorry Meg but fuster still aloft. the reasons why vaccination is desirable aren’t being argued. I’m questioning whether advocates of limited government and whether executive order rather discussion and a vote in the legislature might be preferable on something such as this.a program where the government bypasses parental consent for a non-emergency situation might really call for a good deal LESS of that heavy-handedness and more of what we call … consent and personal choice rather than an order to comply.

    it’s right fine and dandy that Perry admits the error, but, again, this is something that would not easily be forgiven if a socialist Kenyan issued a Perryesque fatwa.

    Perry’s judgment is pretty poor and he presents himself as having a great deal of confidence that he thinks that he knows better than the rest of the folks.

  9. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Rubio would be the ideal VP choice for whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be. Even though people don’t typically vote for the VP portion of the ticket, I have to think that Rubio would probably deliver FL and, more importantly, probably pull in a good portion of the Hispanic vote that no other VP choice could. At the very least, he would neutralize any demagoguery Obama would like to aim towards the Republican ticket in the Hispanic community. And this has nothing to do with the “rising star” status that Rubio is already achieving.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents for a phase of the process that’s down the road some.

    • Ritchie, the political landscape is littered by tickets where a VP choice looked good at first blush, but didn’t work out well…..

      some folks thought that a McCain wasn’t pulling female voters and a female VP offered a chance picking up a lot of women disappointed that Hilary got aced out. As well, young and attractive were things that Mccain didn’t have on offer.

      none of that worked out too well, as we know, but she did pull in a bunch of people who thought McCain too centrist and too establishment.

      • You are undoubtedly correct fuster that many a VP choice looked better at first blush than at “last blush.” However, don’t forget the enthusiasm that came with the Palin VP choice – especially after that speech she gave. McCain/Palin were ahead in the polls in September. I happen to think that they would have won the Presidency if the financial collapse came after election day.

        • It would have been pretty close, Ritch.

          I thought McCain a better choice than Obama

  10. Perry Brings his “TEXAS UGLY” to Iowa….

    —-” At a meet-and-greet Monday night he said, referring to the Fed chief, “if this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we – we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion.”

    Obvious follow-up questions here include, is the governor of Texas threatening the head of the Fed with physical violence? “—-

    Hey, I’m sure that Perry doesn’t really want to execute government officials, I think, I guess.

  11. Maybe Perry was reinforcing Bernanke’s decision to not do another round of printing. At this stage, Perry is playing a safe song: few want to solve the deficit problem by merely printing money. The “pretty ugly” remark shows Perry’s political smarts: it’s not direct enough but will still bring out the shouting netroots; and it plays well, very well, to all except those few aforementioned.

    • I agree, Meg, that Perry’s remark with its lovely hints about “(them type of) bankers stabbing the nation in the back” might be good politics and play real well to “the base” of Republican primary voters who have strong feelings for the Fatherland.

      • Sure, but these Fatherland voters are Christian and pro-Israel who find repugnant any anti-semitic, big banker, Protocols of Zion smears.

        • Good. Perry’s remarks and candidacy require a good hard look.

          Some of the things he says sound pretty questionable upon first hearing.

          • Like what?

            • if the Bernanke thing didn’t raise an eyebrow, and Perry’s dismissal of three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission 48 hours before they were about to open an investigation into the invalid evidence used to convict a guy that Perry ordered executed, then I guess that conducting a big ol’ prayer meeting right before announcing his candidacy is cool.

              • Sounds like good stuff to me. Printing money and purposefully creating inflation is treasonous. That’s what TJ would think. And what’s wrong with a big ol’ prayer meeting? Are you a prayerophobe? About dismissing the three members, I’ll take a look into that. Thanks for the info, but so far, nothing presents here that is objectionable unless you’re a progressive.


                Sounds like Perry knew the fire issue was a political ploy by progressives with nothing better to do.

  12. Fuster, do you have a lot of time on your hands?

    J.E.:Heavy rain greeted the Westboro folks in Edmond for the funeral.
    Your Military Reps were there in masse. One of the Texas chapters was also represented. Regards.

    • nope. my time on earth is down to the ragged end.
      but thanks for asking.

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