With this weekend's Horserace, I'm adding in Giuliani, who Bill Kristol says is days or a couple of weeks from getting into the race. I'm not putting in Rick Perry or Sarah Palin this week, though the implications of them possibly getting in are mentioned.As always, I put the candidates in alphabetical order. This is, again, my objective take on the candidates based on the news of the week and how I see things shaping up based on conversations with various operatives, activists on the ground, donors, etc.Which major candidate's campaign is disintegrating? Which candidate could be setting himself up not to win, but to hurt Romney? Go below the fold to find out.
Congresswoman Bachmann had one of the biggest weeks in a good way. A lot of people are heaping burning coals on Ed Rollins for his comments about Sarah Palin. Most people are characterizing Rollins's statement as meaning Sarah Palin is stupid. Rollins did not say that. He said she had not been serious and done the work she needed to do.Whether you like it or not, this attitude is pervasive among just about every single campaign. Rollins just dared say it. What's more, the new Washington Post/ABC poll that has Romney beating Obama also shows almost two-thirds of Americans view Palin as unqualified and almost half of Republicans have qualms with voting for Palin.Rollins' pre-emptive statements on Palin set up the Bachmann campaign to run as, for lack of a better way of putting it, "the Sarah Palin who can win." The media, already predisposed against Palin — along with 1/2 the GOP and 2/3 of the public — is going to revolve around a Palin v. Bachmann feud whether or not there is one. So why not be pre-emptive in setting it up and casting Bachmann as the viable choice?You can disagree with Rollins's statement. But I think it ultimately helps Bachmann get more favorable press compared to Palin and, should Palin not get in, will not be long remembered except by a minority of primary voters. What's more, I am hearing from a growing chorus of conservatives unwilling to "settle" that Bachmann is the "only person I can support." I'm surprised who all keeps telling me this. It's going to help her build credibility.If I had to declare a big winner this week other than Mitt Romney, it was Michele Bachmann
I don't really see any movement for Cain this week, but I have to note that there is a growing buzz related to his viability as a candidate. His performance at Ralph Reed's event left a lot of people stunned and more people willing to accept him as this year's Mike Huckabee. The problem now for Cain, as he continues going up in polls, with some having him in fourth place ahead of arguably better known and more seasoned politicians, is that he is running an insurgent campaign with an insurgent campaign staff. If Cain's campaign shifts into overdrive into the level of "respected by the DC-GOP elite", he is going to have to shift quickly from an insurgent, grassroots, low budget campaign into one that donors feel comfortable giving money to.
I believe we have seen the end of the Greater Newt Gingrich Presidential campaign and have moved to see the Lesser Newt Gingrich Presidential Campaign. Over the past few weeks, Newt went into near hiding, keeping a very low profile. He's now gone on a "long planned" Mediterranean cruise — something arguably no candidate save Fred Thompson could ever get away with. More troubling is growing buzz among high level donors and politicos in Washington that his campaign is disintegrating while Gingrich is out of the country.I think the odds of Newt being able to conduct a viable, sustained campaign are rapidly diminishing unless he does something bold quickly or has a knock out performance in the New Hampshire debate on Monday.
Bill Kristol says Giuliani is getting in. I see no rationale for a Giuliani campaign this time. National security is not the big issue and killing Osama helps inoculate Obama.Donors are antagonistic toward Rudy, given what happened in 2008. Should he get in, he will cause all sorts of problems for Romney. Polling reflects this right now. In fact, I think if he does get in, the press could easily characterize it as a bid to shut down Romney, not to actually win. I think that would be a legitimate characterization.
Huntsman had dinner in Wasington last night with the TARP caucus -- Lamar Alexander, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr, and Tom Coburn. Not exactly dazzling. The glowing press he has gotten from liberals in the media continues to play to type for a John Weaver run campaign. But we should remember that John McCain had to ditch Weaver to get momentum going.PPP polling noted that the one person — not one percent, but one person — who they found in Iowa who backed Huntsman was an 2008 Obama voter who is undecided on how well Obama is now doing and who hates the rest of the GOP field, e.g. a disgruntled Democrat. I expect Huntsman to get momentum with the squishes, which will help him get up and going. I am also hearing he's attracting positive attention from the Bushies. That right there should disqualify him. But despite my bias against him, I think Huntsman could have a good showing in New Hampshire if he can keep making in road there.
I do not see this man getting any traction.
I have to say that while I have dismissed Ron Paul and I do not see him winning, I do see him running a much more professional outreach and messaging operation. I've been pleasantly surprised by communications from his campaign. He is not, at least for now, focused on issues so far outside the mainstream that he fails to connect. He's actually doing a better job staying on issues that resonate with voters right now. I still don't see him winning.
Pawlenty has been the boldest of the top tier candidates in the past two weeks. Should Rick Perry or Sarah Palin get in, it could really hurt him. Likewise, if Bachmann picks up steam in Iowa, Pawlenty's chances go down. But I am hearing more and more people say they are "settling" for Pawlenty. That's probably not the word choice the Pawlenty campaign would love to hear, but I hear it a lot.His economic and jobs messages have been bold and Reaganesque with a strong streak of optimism and refusal to accept what so many alleged intelligent people presume to be our impending or already arrived second class revised destiny in the world. The danger right now for Pawlenty is that he be so bold that all the other candidates saw off the limb he climbed out on. As one person told me though, right now the only guy pandering to conservatives is Pawlenty. A lot of conservatives who feel dismissed by Romney and others appreciate the attention. I won't say Pawlenty is up or down this week, but he's staying steady, which is what he needs to do. Joe Wilson in South Carolina (of "you lie" fame) is endorsing him. I think we'll see a continued drumbeat of endorsements that might surprise us.
Mitt Romney had the biggest week and if the primaries were held tomorrow, he would be the nominee. I think his global warming position is going to hurt him. I think Romneycare will hurt him. And I think ethanol will hurt him. But I don't see any of them hurting him enough right now to deprive him of the nomination and those positions won't hurt him in the general.Polling shows Romney beating Obama, but I believe that is mostly a product of his high name recognition coupled with relatively low unfavorable ratings. The other candidates are, after Labor Day, going to have to force Romney off his game. Right now, they can only do it indirectly and hope for more unforced errors. Romney is too experienced to give many.But, should Giuliani get in, he becomes a real game changer for Mitt Romney and could potentially cost Mitt Romney the nomination.
I'm changing my position on Santorum. I think he can make it to Iowa . . . for now. I do not think his launch was strong. Nor do I think it generated a lot of buzz among the grassroots. Both of those are troubling signs. But, the more people are exposed to Santorum, the more they like him. His performances this week have been strong and refreshing.That said, I see no path to victory for Santorum, but he could be a real spoiler for someone like Michele Bachmann as Santorum continues to gain steam among evangelicals. Santorum has a repository of good will among major conservative leaders I failed to estimate. I think drawing on that could position him as someone to not win the race, but to certainly influence the field.