I’ve been so busy lately I’ve mostly ignored politics. I’ve ignored the Tea Party altogether since it is making no inroads whatsoever in the state where I currently vote. But recently a couple of items caught my attention.
One is what appears to be a Doug Wead endorsement of Ron Paul [link]. If I read Wead correctly he seems to be saying that he thinks the Tea Party is the natural conduit for voters who want to vote for Ron Paul in 2012, whether they know it or not.
What the American people want is something new. Someone who will not mortgage away their futures. Someone who will pay the bills. Someone who will not spend trillions of dollars on foreign adventures that make more enemies than friends. Someone who will not use government to rule their lives. Someone who will honor the constitution and the original ideas of liberty that directed the Founding Fathers. Those issues cut across Democrat and Republican.
What the American people want is Ron Paul.
They just don’t know it yet.
This is a strange article from Wead; as far as I can tell he’s only talking about fiscal conservatism as being a good reason to vote for Paul and taking some predictable shots and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t mention any of the issues important to social conservatives, particularly those important to religious conservatives. This is odd for two reasons: one is that pitching candidates to conservative evangelicals is Wead’s specialty. The other is that at first glance Ron Paul’s a good fit for a pitch to evangelicals, better than everyone ahead of him for the 2012 Republican nomination with the possible exception of John Thune (graduate of Biola) and Mike Huckabee (former Baptist preacher).
Ron Paul is that rare former Libertarian (he defeated Russell Means to become their Presidential nominee in 1988) who actually matches up well with evangelical talking points; most Libertarians tend to part ways with evangelicals on social issues, including the legalization of drugs, gay rights, and abortion [link].
The other interesting item I stumbled across this week asks the difficult questions about the religious attitude of the Tea Party [link]. Here’s the pull quote:
For example, [Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association] recently interviewed Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, on his nationwide radio program. Fischer told her that evangelicals want some signal that the Tea Party movement supports their views on abortion and marriage.”Can we hear that message from the Tea Party leadership?” he asked.
“You’re not going to hear it from me,” she responded. “I’m sorry, I’m going to disappoint you.”
In an interview, Kremer explains that the Tea Party movement is a big tent, including not just religious people but atheists and libertarians.
“As long as we stay focused on the fiscal issues, that’s the glue that holds us together,” she says. “If we start delving into the religious aspect or social aspect, that’s when we’re going to become divided and when people are going to disagree.”
But Fischer says this strategy could alienate Christian conservatives.
“And if they begin to discover that the leadership of the Tea Party movement isn’t going to fight for them on those issues, then I think they’re going to lose their enthusiasm for movement,” he says. “And they’ll go back to being disengaged or they’ll invest in that energy in some other direction.”
In other words, the Tea Party is happy to have religious conservatives along for the ride, but they shouldn’t expect it to return their loyalty. I suspect Kremer is taking the same calculated risk other fiscal conservative groups take regarding religious conservatives: that either they will continue to project their values onto candidates without good reason, or they will decide they have nowhere else to go. I hope folks like Fischer will keep asking the difficult questions so religious conservatives remember where their values really lie.
For the record I don’t think Paul is a viable candidate; he will be 77 in 2012, the only candidate in the current Republican field older than John McCain. With due respect to his experience and wisdom, I think he’s too old to campaign and too old to serve. Also, InTrade still has his chances at 5-6% [link], more than a point behind Newt Gingrich, and I’m still sticking to my arbitrary decision that anyone who doesn’t rank equal to or higher than Gingrich isn’t a viable candidate.
Here are the most recent numbers from InTrade for the 2012 Republican nomination:
- Romney Bid 26.2 Ask 27.9
- Palin Bid 18.5 Ask 18.7
- Thune Bid 16.7 Ask 20.7
- Pawlenty Bid 10.9 Ask 12.5
- Gingrich Bid 9.4 Ask 10.4
- Daniels Bid 8.5 Ask 9.9
- Huckabee Bid 6.7 Ask 7.9
All these quotes can be had by typing the appropriate string (e.g. 2012. REP.NOM.ROMNEY) into a search engine. Navigation to the appropriate aggregate listing at the InTrade site is a bit cumbersome.
First of all, Mitt Romney is looking more like 2012′s version of Bob Dole: inevitable winner of the Republican nomination, inevitable loser of the election to an incumbent Democrat; right now InTrade has the Republican nominee at about a 40% chance of winning the Presidency. Second, I think the Thune and Palin numbers only look like a dead heat; if Palin lasts until the primary season starts in earnest the primary schedule favors her over Thune at least.
Finally, I don’t understand why there’s any buzz surrounding Mike Huckabee; see e.g. this article from GOP12, where his favorable/unfavorable numbers couldn’t be distinguished from Romney’s in a blind test and this Mark Byron article, where Byron picks Palin and Huckabee as favorites. If I could I’d happily short Huckabee, since he’s two below “the Gingrich line” (any viable candidate must poll as well or better than Newt Gingrich), he has someone to hurdle to reach each of the three major Republican constituencies, he apparently does not have a natural constituency even among the Religious Right, he has to explain how Maurice Clemmons got out of prison, etc.
I may as well come out and say that either Huckabee, as a pastor, had no business leaving his church to become a politician or he was never called to the ministry in the first place. Either way I have no interest in voting for him, sight unseen. The job descriptions for “pastor” and “President” are just too different for anyone to be qualified to do both.
There’s a discussion going on among Liberty alumni on LinkedIn about who should be the 2011 graduation speaker at Liberty. In summary, most of the nominations are either Fox News personalities, politicians (mostly right of center, natch), or Christian authors. My suggestion that former Moral Majority lieutenant and Liberty dean and professor Ed Dobson would make a good selection did not meet with universal approval, partly because of Dobson’s appearance on Good Morning America in 2008:
Here’s a list of Liberty graduation speakers from 1985 on; I’d appreciate any help in filling gaps
- 1985 Senator Bill Armstrong, R-Colorado
- 1986 Donald Hodel, Secretary of the Interior
- 1988 Lt. Col. (Ret.) Oliver North
- 1989 W. A. Criswell
- 1990 President George H. W. Bush
- 1991 Rep. Newt Gingrich
- 1992 Pat Buchanan
- 1993 Dr. James Dobson
- 1995 Sen. Phil Gramm
- 1996 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
- 1997 Billy Graham
- 1998 Dr. John Borek Jr. (outgoing President of the school)
- 2004 Karl Rove
- 2005 Sean Hannity
- 2006 Sen. John McCain
- 2007 Rep. Newt Gingrich
- 2008 Chuck Norris
- 2009 Ben Stein
- 2010 Glen Beck
I think it’s interesting to note that during the heyday of Moral Majority the speakers were relatively minor figures; it’s important to note that during those days Liberty was still a school of less than 6000 students. Resident enrollment has doubled since then, and total enrollment has increased eight-or-nine-fold. It’s also interesting to note that the three speakers selected since Jerry Sr. died have all been commentators and entertainers. I have no idea what that means.
Among the names above only two are preachers: Criswell and Graham, so I’d be really surprised to see Liberty select another high-profile Christian preacher or author who isn’t also involved in politics somehow for 2011.
Video for the 1996, 2004, and 2006 addresses are available at C-SPAN [search].
Finally: it’s interesting to note that of the twenty or so names commonly mentioned as possible 2012 Republican Presidential nominees, only Newt Gingrich is listed above. That may or may not be significant; I do think it’s interesting that Mike Huckabee isn’t on that list. Mitt Romney not so much.
I had never heard of Doug Wead until a few days ago, when I heard Russ Baker, the author of Family of Secrets, suggest that Wead was the man who pitched to George W. Bush what became his literal come-to-Jesus story, complete with Alcoholics Anonymous overtones. Baker did not clarify whether Wead also suggested the Billy-Graham-on-a-beach part of the story. I’ve long been fascinated with the way politicians appear to promise so much to evangelical Christians, deliver so little, and still get their support election after election, so I found the story interesting even though I have no way of knowing whether it’s true or not.
A little digging online and I found this article from Wead’s on blog, from 2008, on how to court the evangelical vote and how Mike Huckabee blew it.
When seeking to establish a base among evangelical voters, presidential contender, Governor Mike Huckabee, made a big mistake. It is one that many presidential wannabes have made before him. He went over the heads of the evangelical leaders of influence and talked directly to the people. It works well with most constituencies, Catholics, Labor, Jews, Hispanics, Women but it never works with Blacks and it never works with evangelicals either. It cost Mike Huckabee the presidential primary in South Carolina and it will probably cost him the nomination.
I recommend the entire article; it makes for unpleasant reading, but it’s helpful for understanding e.g. why voting instructions go from politicians through Richard Land to Southern Baptist voters and not the other way around.
Oh yeah: Mike Huckabee. For Huckabee to become a viable candidate he needs to get past Sarah Palin among evangelicals and past Newt Gingrich (and Sarah Palin again) among Fox News viewers. And he has to rid himself of the stink of failure from his loss to McCain and Romney in 2008. And he has to explain to law and order non-evangelical voters why they should trust him as head of the Executive Branch after he pardoned Maurice Clemmons, who went on to shoot four police officers in Washington state. The phrase “Huckabee’s Willie Horton” doesn’t just alliterate; it’s just too good to pass up.
Intrade has Huckabee at about 7% chance of winning the 2012 nomination. That strikes me as a bit high.
Mark Byron has a post defining the field for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012 on his blog dated this past Monday. It looks like he’s lining up to say Palin-Romney-Pawlenty-Huckabee maybe Daniels or Jindahl and a bunch of dwarfs. I like his reasoning; I’d like to think Gingrich won’t still be in the conversation a year from now. I’m disturbed to see Gingrich e.g. flogging the Ground-Zero-Mosque issue as a fundraiser; I don’t believe for a second that giving a dollar to Gingrich’s political action committee will make Cordoba House less likely, slow the spread of sharia in the Western world, or touch any of the scary stories Gingrich tells in his article.
I don’t know why Byron doesn’t mention Thune; I’m guessing it’s a result of his picking a Pawlenty-penned list as his starting point, and that list doesn’t mention Thune. Intrade still has Romney 30%, Palin 18.5%, Thune 15%, Pawlenty 11.5%, Gingrich 11% and nobody else going off at better than 8%.
Mark Byron noted a social conservative objection to Mitch Daniels on his blog the other day, and Byron separates out the three constituencies in the Republican party this way:
modern conservative economic thought is essentially modified libertarian thought with some of the more chaotic and anti-traditional parts tamped down. If I can borrow Postrel’s framework of dynamist versus statist, modern conservatives err on the dynamist side, except where it runs afoul of drugs, sexual or sanctity-of-life issues.With those exceptions, libertarians and standard conservatives are fairly similar in their policy prescriptions. Thus, they’ve been able to make common cause politically in many cases.
What differentiates things is the roots from where their values flow. Libertarians tend to be more secular in their outlook while conservatives tend to have a stronger religious component in their framework.
The article is mainly about how Mitch Daniels (and to a lesser degree, Newt Gingrich) needs to reach across one divide or another to win the 2012 nomination; Daniels is either presenting himself as a libertarian while being more or less an establishment conservative or coming out of the libertarian closet. He’s already picked out a position with the third group by calling for a truce on social issues.
I’m already thinking about the 2012 Republican nomination for a number of reasons. One is that people I know socially from my days at Liberty started talking about 2012 in November 0f 2008; another is of course Glenn Beck’s appearance at Liberty graduation this year and Jerry Falwell Jr’s subsequent comments about political priorities. But personally I’m interested because the field appears so wide open and the candidates are so poor.
The Republican party has for the last several election cycles (say since 1976 or 1980) had three big constituencies (and a host of minor ones). These three are more or less
- The former fiscal conservatives: the captains of industry, pro-business types, so-called country-club Republicans.
- The social conservatives: the Religious Right, the Theocons, what-have-you.
- The libertarians.
Among these three groups it’s hard to win the nomination without strong support from one of the three and at least middling support from one of the others. The art of the campaign involves pitching messages that will be heard a particular way by one or more of these groups without coming back to haunt the candidate in the general election, and/or finding groups that overlap these groups and getting their support without alienating others. Breaking down the party this way explains why for example Ronald Reagan needed George H. W. Bush or maybe George W. Bush needed Dick Cheney, but why John McCain had a tough job motivating his base even with the help of Sarah Palin.
Wikipedia lists about twenty current candidates, which I think is about the size the list was a couple of months ago. I’ll use that as my baseline. If I had to pick first and second tiers of candidates from that list I’d probably pick the following:
- Romney, Palin, Huckabee, Paul
- Gingrich, Daniels, Pence, Pawlenty, Thune
And at the moment I don’t consider any of the others viable candidates. I’d probably break those nine down as follows:
- Pro-business/establishment Republicans: Romney, Gingrich, Daniels
- Social conservatives: Palin, Huckabee, Pence, Pawlenty, Thune
- Libertarian: Paul
Among the pro-business types, Romney is probably the prohibitive favorite. Unfortunately for him he doesn’t currently have much appeal among social conservatives (apart from other Mormons, of course). Gingrich has reached out to James Dobson and been on his radio show, so he has at least made overtures to the Religious Right. Daniels is probably just Vice Presidential material.
Among the social conservatives, there’s Sarah Palin and everybody else. Huckabee has experience but has already run one failed campaign. Thune, a graduate of Biola, probably has the best evangelical credentials, but he’s from a small state. Palin, because of her appearances at various Tea Party events, stands a good chance of overshadowing Ron Paul as well.
I don’t really consider Ron Paul a real candidate; he’s older than John McCain and might fail to win the primary in his home state if Rick Perry were still in the race, but he’s the most solidly libertarian of the bunch.
Here are the InTrade bid/ask values for everyone with a bid of ten or more:
- Romney 24.2/27.6
- Palin 17.0/19.2
- Thune 13.3/16.7
- Pawlenty 11.0/20.1
- Gingrich 9.1/11.4
A bid of ten is an arbitrary cutoff but it does a pretty good job; the other four cluster around 5-7%.
The real challenge for any candidate is to appeal to two of the three groups; Palin has crossover appeal at the moment between the Religious Right and the Tea Party crowd; everyone else is in for a tough road. At the moment it’s hard to imagine how Romney can manage to appeal to the Religious Right or the libertarians, unless of course he can package himself as a Mormon who is acceptable to evangelicals, a la Glenn Beck.