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I’ve recently started reading my second biography of Calvin Coolidge. The more I read and learn about him, the more he climbs up my list of personal presidential favorites. He was a man of few words which he turned into an asset. As a lawyer and legislator, clients and constituents alike valued his brevity.

That trait carried though to his political ideology, once famously advising his father, who had just been elected to state-wide office in his own state of Vermont:

“It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.”

Some might argue that’s a rather pessimistic way to legislate. However, when a government already has thousands of laws on the books, why wouldn’t it be a good thing to thoroughly examine each law and err on the side of caution? Or even entertain the thought that we might have too many laws already?

Those same people might argue that Congress is already practicing that idea, passing only 61 bills in 2012. That’s out of 3,914 bills introduced which means less than 2% of all bills. This is the information citizens point to when remarking how ‘never been this bad.’ I’m always amused by that statement. I think back to the election of 1824 when opponents of Andrew Jackson accused his wife of being a polygamist who had not yet divorced her husband before marrying Jackson. In reality, she hadn’t because the divorce wasn’t finalized yet and they had to re-file their marriage papers. But that was REALLY dirty. By today’s standards, that story might not even get published.

Politics today is fairly benign. Sure, politicians do stupid things but the game of politics is cordial. When veterans of the Senate are chastising Rand Paul for exercising his right as a United States Senator to filibuster against drones attacking Americans on American soil, you have to believe it could be worse.

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While the Republican nomination may seem like it’s dragging on this is nothing like past nominating campaigns. In fact, before the modern day election (anything involving radio, TV or long distance campaigning) they didn’t even nominate a candidate until the summer of the election year! Imagine that.

The book I’m currently reading, 1948, tells the story of the presidential election of 1948. As a pre-text, it also describes the story of the nomination process of the challenging Republicans along with the plight of Harry Truman just to stay atop the ticket.

That particular election was extremely important as it was the first election after the conclusion of World War II and the first in which Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn’t nominated (although I’d be willing to bet if he’d live he would have). It was also the first election in which the Cold War was an issue and how to deal with Communism, Russia, and all they encompassed. Every elections has its issues but this was the first where the US was the sole leader of the free world and isolationism was no longer an option. In every election since one could argue that foreign policy plays just as important a role as domestic.

In reading about the Republican nominating process it reminded me of the current campaign and the struggle of one man to fend off his challengers and critics. Thomas Dewey and Mitt Romney share a lot of similarities as the Republican front runner for their respective elections. Both had struck out in the previous election to be the nominee but quickly set their sights on the next. Both are viewed as ‘typical’ politicians who lack personality and charisma while carrying the resume of someone who appears made for the Presidency. Both had fought off similar flavors of the week while trying to maintain front runner status.

  • Dewey had to content with a conservative, lifelong politician who led his respective wing of Congress in Robert Taft. Mitt also had to contend with a conservative, lifelong politician who led his respective wing of Congress in Newt Gingrich.
  • Dewey also contended with a perennial candidate who doubled as an outsider and, unexpectedly, had more support than he should have in Governor Harold Stassen. Likewise, Mitt has had to battle a perennial candidate who doubles as an outsider and, unexpectedly, has more support than he probably should have in Ron Paul.

The list goes on but, in the end, Dewey outlasted them all as I suspect Romney will. Both played the delegate game as each primary and caucus took place, insuring they were well ahead in pledged delegates going into the convention. And while public perception was against Dewey and Romney, they were both firmly in the drivers seat all along.

Both

Since my initial post about the contrast of Rick Perry and Mitt Romney was quite popular I thought I’d describe their differences during their first debate together.

First, as most outlets are reporting, this debate proved that Rick Perry was the one to watch as most of the questions and attacks were directed to him. You could chalk that up to being the newest entrant but I don’t think that would be the case if he were polling where other candidates stand.

Both Perry and Romney had good performances and their delivery was well received. Being the front-runner, Perry attempted to cut off attacks before they were launched. One example was his ideas for border security after some of his opponents had labeled him soft on illegal immigration. Before his opponents could mention his name he headed it off by supporting ‘boots on the ground’ along with Predator drones securing the border – definitely a step-up over the wall other candidates have proposed. And Perry should know; he’s been governor of a border state for 10 years.

But unlike his plans for border security, Mr. Perry still needs to flesh out his plan for the economy. If he sticks with his strategy of ‘less is more’ than he’ll need to connect the dots between less government action equaling a better economy. His experience and record has gotten him this far but he has to develop a tangible strategy for voters to support since all indications are it will be the main issue all the way up to election day.

This is in contrast to Mr. Romney who has unveiled a very detailed, 59-point plan to get the economy going. You can even get it in Kindle form. And while Politico reports that its standard Republican ideals, at least Romney can go into a debate with the knowledge that he has a plan in place from day one, something Perry can’t say just yet.

From watching previous Perry debates, you can bet he will make the necessary adjustments to his style for Round Two – more definitive answers to better visualize for viewers what a Perry Presidency would look like. If he can convert the hope (to borrow a word from a previous election) to solid support in the party, he’ll cruise. For Romney, his campaign will live and die by the strategy of promoting his electability versus Obama. If they can paint Perry as too far right than he’ll have the advantage.

With over four months until the first official test, both will have plenty of time to stake their claim.

With the Iowa caucus just months away, the daily polls are becoming unavoidable. Rick Perry had a slight lead today in Iowa. Barack Obama’s approval index rating (his strongly approve rating minus his strongly disapprove rating) is at -26. Even a generic Republican is beating Barack Obama by five points (even though I think it’s like comparing apples and oranges).

While these polls are meant to do nothing more than provide a snapshot in time of where a candidate stands they can be repetitive. Plus, they don’t necessarily provide any insight on what will happen a year from now. For historical perspective, consider the examples since they began such polling data:

  • During August of the year before re-election, only two Presidents have had approval ratings above 70% – Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush. Only Eisenhower was re-elected.
  • FDR, Truman, Bush 43 had approval ratings in the 50th percentile at the same point. All three were re-elected.
  • Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton had approval ratings in the 40th percentile with all being re-elected with the exception of Ford.
  • The lowest approval rating in August of the previous year was Jimmy Carter at 32%. He was not re-elected. Not even close.

Currently, Obama sits at an aggregate of a 43% approval rating. Certainly nothing to be proud of but not cause for alarm either. Luckily for Obama, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to polling data from more than a year out.  Just consider that in a year’s time, we’ve caught Osama Bin Laden, the stock market tanked (again) then rebounded (again), and we’ve had a handful of dictators overthrown. There is plenty of time for the determining factors of the 2012 election to materialize.

With Barack Obama’s approval ratings hovering in the lower 40 percentile and the economy remaining stagnant at best, some have called for Hillary Clinton to run opposite Obama for a fresh start. Supporters cite her need to run, her experience in government and the current conditions noted above as reason enough to challenge her boss and give Democrats an alternative. Whoever the winner, some will say the candidate left standing will be made tougher and could withstand a GOP challenger.

This line of thinking usually pops up when times are bad and the prospects for an incumbent are less than promising. There are many reasons why this is silly (fund raising being the primary factor) but the ultimate one is it doesn’t work. The last incumbent who had to fight off a challenge to their party’s nomination was Jimmy Carter in 1980. Ted Kennedy came  closest to the White House that year when Jimmy Carter’s approval rating was barely above 30%. However, Carter won with a 2-to-1 margin in delegates but went on to lose to Ronald Reagan in the general election.

Speaking of Ronald Reagan, he challenged incumbent Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. Given, Ford wasn’t elected to either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency from which he ascended but, nonetheless, he was the leader of the party. His poll numbers were even above 50% but the country was tired from Watergate and Reagan saw an opening. He even came close, ultimately losing the nomination with 1,070 votes to Ford’s 1,187. But Ford did pull it out only to lose to Carter in 1976.

In modern times, while it might seem like a good idea to replace the top of the ticket when times are hard, it just doesn’t pay.

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With Michele Bachmann’s recent win in the Ames Straw poll, the media now mentions her among the elites of the GOP nomination process. By all accounts, it’s been an uphill battle just to get here for Bachmann but she has stuck with it and earned her place in the conversation.

By contrast, Sarah Palin has managed to keep her name relevant a whole three years after she stepped on the scene. Some would even argue she’s more known than her running mate John McCain all while holding office for a whole year after bursting on the national stage in the Summer of 2008.

After their different paths to this stage of the GOP nomination, there are actually many similarities between the two which is why I think the first official nominee, Bachmann, is the reason the other, Palin, will not run. Bachmann fills a similar niche to Palin which would only be cannibalized should Palin enter the race. It would be very difficult for either one to carve out a unique position among the current batch of nominees. Hell, even their poll numbers are similar!

To start, they both have limited experience in their legislative careers, a trait that both of  them tout as a positive in contrast to the culture of Washington, DC. Bachmann has served as United States congresswoman since 2006. Coincidentally, that was the same year Sarah Palin ran for and won the governorship of Alaska. Both blame the old guard of Washington DC politics and run on the platform of the new sheriff in town. They’re both high on rhetoric but not a track record. This strategy has worked in the past (i.e. Obama ’08) but when you’re trying to set yourself apart from your fellow candidates, and your angle is that Washington is broken, not only are you campaigning against the establishment, you’re campaigning against who, out of the two outsiders, is in the better position to clean house.

Obviously, part of that platform comes from both being regular supporters of the Tea Party movement. In regards to the Tea Party, the feeling is mutual. Palin gave the keynote address of the first Tea Party convention in Nashville last year. Meanwhile, Bachmann gave the Tea Party’s first ever response to the State of the Union this year. However, when push comes to shove, which way will the Tea Party go (assuming they can organize behind one candidate)? Both candidates are inherently tied to the Tea Party and will ride that wave as far as it will take them. But what separates the two when choosing a candidate? It doesn’t appear there is much.

Most Americans are getting their first impression of Rick Perry after he jumped in the GOP nomination race Saturday. Perry’s thick accent, service in the military and current position as governor of Texas have brought back memories of previous Texas governor, George W. Bush. This seems to be a popular comparison and, while on the surface that may be true, their background and politics are quite different.

For starters, George Bush came from an affluent family and attended the best schools in the country. He spent time owning a baseball team, working the oil fields and advising his father’s presidential campaign. Perry, meanwhile, grew up on a ranch in west Texas, joined the Air Force, then came back to the family ranch to farm cotton before getting into politics. One came from a privileged background with one political office to his name while the other came from humble beginnings and made a career out of politics.

As for their politics, let’s look at their philosophies on the budget. George W. Bush can be partially blamed for starting the U.S. on the road to default with his billions added to the deficit through tax cuts and defense spending. Perry has pledged to balance the budget and…

“…stop spending the money, unless I run out of ink in a veto pen.”

Giddy up.

Next up would be social issues. For this example we’ll look at gay marriage. During the 2004 election cycle, Bush made it known that he supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in all 50 states. The issue was a major part of Bush’s re-election campaign and rallied social conservatives. Perry is just as Christian, we all heard of the prayer rally, but he still advocates such issues as gay marriage being relegated to the states via the tenth amendment.

These are just the main contrasts but they are significant. To anyone who thinks a Perry presidency would be a third term of George W. Bush would be mistaken.

With Rick Perry’s handlers confirming the obvious, he not only draws attention to his now official campaign but he steals the thunder of the GOP debate this evening and any attention gained by their participants. Additionally, with his speech on Saturday in South Carolina kicking off his campaign, he steals any thunder gained from the Ames Straw Poll winner.

It’s clear Perry’s organization knows what they’re doing, at least initially. They held out until the Texas legislature concluded so he could avoid any charges of bolting but still have enough time to make inroads in Iowa. Additionally, his entrance is not nearly as anticlimactic as Newt Gingrich’s YouTube video or Jon Huntsman failed attempt to emulate Ronald Reagan. Even before the official announcement he was polling near the top and, with this announcement, should get a decent short-term boost.

Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is doing all the necessary things before running for a major political office. She’s raising money and criticizing potential opponents in the media all while touring the country on an unofficial campaign tour. But she has yet to announce a run and my prediction is she never will. In short, she has too good of a gig going now and she probably couldn’t win anyway. Why would she risk what she has going for her for a grueling campaign that would take her away from her family and life as she knows it?

Ever since losing the 2008 general election as a vice presidential nominee, Palin has stood out as a polarizing, attention-getting figure. She always seems to have an opinion on current events and uses various tools (Facbeook, Twitter, etc) to express those feelings all while fueling speculation that she’ll run for the GOP nomination in 2012. Her actions, however, have also led her to make a lucrative living after resigning the Governorship of Alaska approximately two years ago. In 2010 alone she reportedly earned approximately $12 million between book and TV deals. $400,000 a year for a presidential salary is peanuts compared to what Palin could and has made on her own.

She also has the freedom to speak out when she feels inclined, about an array of issues, then settle back in to the privacy of her own home whenever she wants. As President, your every word, movement, facial expression is analyzed and interpreted by millions of people. And let’s face it, she doesn’t handle it well. Furthermore, when she does speak out, it’s usually to deride the President, Democrats, or journalists without ever actually offering a solution or pointing to her previous experiences as Governor. Speaking of…

Let’s say she does enter the race where experience is sure to be an important factor. Palin herself concedes how important experience is when she criticizes Barack Obama (again) for his lack of it dealing with the recent labor protests in Wisconsin. But what experience does she bring to the table? Very little, in fact, in either the public or private sector. In terms of political experience, she’s had two, three year terms as mayor (if you count that) plus two years as Governor. By comparison, Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator for seven years, a US Senator for four (probably closer to two as an actual legislator since he spent the last two campaigning) and four years as President by the time of the election. Her experience in the private sector is even less when you combine her time as a sportscaster and assisting husband Todd in his commercial fishing business before running for Wasilla city council. This will pale in comparison to the likes of Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and just about any other candidate. In short, there is very little to point to when making a case for a President Palin other than rhetoric.

Looking at RCP data comparing the major nominees against Obama, Palin has the widest margin of defeat among Republican candidates. There are many reasons for this but the main one is this: there is nothing to support in a Palin presidential campaign. No experience, no plan, no nothing. But with the kind of cash Palin is making and the celebrity she has become, she has no reason to risk those things on something silly like a run for President.

Mitt Romney appears to have a firm grasp on the 2012 GOP nomination. In terms of polling and, just as important, money, Romney has no competition among the official nominees. Tim Pawlenty and Michelle Bachmann appear to be going after each other for 2nd (and a possible VP nomination) while the other official nominees aren’t even close. There is no doubt that Romney is the default option among Republicans when they nominate.

Chris Christie  is not currently an ‘official’ nominee, though neither is Rick Perry. But Christie doesn’t seem to have interest in running and is further along from jump starting a campaign than Perry, who has already begun laying the groundwork and is gaining traction without even announcing yet.

So, assuming Perry does announce, and Romney doesn’t do anything to derail his solid lead until then, what are the major differences between them and what will determine the nomination? Many would consider them even in categories such as fund raising, looks, etc. They do, however, diverge on several key issues.

Each one will tout their experience as governor. This trait seems to be popular among Presidents as 17 were Governors at some point in their political career. However, Perry has been a governor for ten compared to Romney’s four. Perry also presides over four times as many people as Romney did. But the major difference in their respective runs will be that Perry’s tenure included the recession the country currently faces while his state has done its best to avoid the turmoil and actually enlarge payrolls. Romney? Not so great. Potential negative aspects of Perry’s tenure will include the low standing Texas has when it comes to education. However, with Romney having to defend his state health care plan, I think the education argument gets drowned out.

While the economy will play an important, if not the most important, role in the 2012 election, what happens if Romney manages to poke holes in it or deflate it altogether? Is there anything Perry can fall back on besides his tenure as governor? In my opinion, not much. He’s a lifelong politician who has little experience in the private sector with the exception of a brief stint in the Air Force. Romney co-created the investment firm Bain Capital which was generating over $4 billion in revenue annually by the time he left. He also headed the organizing committee for Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. If you’re looking for a variety of non-political experiences, I believe Romney has the edge. Even if Perry wanted to play the ‘Washington outsider’ card, he couldn’t do it any better than Romney. 

There’s also stigmas that both will have to face if they are to become the nominee. The obvious one facing Romney is whether America is ready to elect a follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints , i.e. a Mormon. Perry will have to fight the political ghost of George W. Bush and the thought of another Texas governor with an accent telling people what’s best. W had an approval rating hovering around 20% at the lowest when the economy was tanking and people realized the war in Iraq was a mistake. Now, he’s enjoyed a bump in his ratings since leaving office, partly because of the post-presidential bump that all presidents get but the stigma is still there. I think opponents on both sides can do more damage with that material than with one’s Mormon faith much like people first thought Barack Obama’s race would have more of a negative affect than it did.

Lastly, and most importantly, who is more electable in the current political climate? Whoever gets it will have a formidable foe in Obama and needs to be just as dynamic. When comparing personalities, I think Perry has this wrapped up. Take his appearance on the Daily Show from last year where he was enthusiastic and didn’t give traditional political answers. Even appearing on the show as a conservative from Texas was a feat. Additionally, you have to consider the demographic that determines these elections –  the independents. Sure, Obama has the inside track from 2008 but when Perry made recent comments about ‘being ok’ with New York’s gay marriage legislation, that was a big step for a major party presidential nominee let alone a Republican. It falls in line with recent polls that suggest more Americans than ever are ‘ok’ with gay marriage and could be a contributing factor to those independents looking for something different. By contrast, the Romney campaign is about as ‘by-the-book’ as you can get as far as a campaign goes. Regarding gay marriage,

“I separate quite distinctly matters of personal faith from the leadership one has in a political sense,” he said. “You don’t begin to apply the doctrines of a religion to responsibility for guiding a nation or guiding a state.”

Yawn. Maybe the campaign has viewed this thing as wrapped up and has, therefore, not taking many chances as of yet. Maybe that will change when/if Perry gets in the race. But one thing is for sure – he’ll have a significant threat to his nomination should Perry decide to shake things up.

UPDATE WITH POST REAGAN LIBRARY DEBATE ANALYSIS: http://getmoorepolitics.com/2011/09/09/the-difference-between-rick-perry-and-mitt-romney-post-reagan-libary-debate/