Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beyond Boosterism: Why You Should Subscribe to the Tower Groove Records Singles Club

Pretty soon, as in any day now, Tower Groove Records will start taking payments online for year-long subscriptions to its 2013 Singles Club.  There's a myriad of reasons why you should subscribe.  I'm just going to give you two reasons.

The first reason is the simplest and best reason: value.  A year-long subscription costs $60, and that $60 gets you a lot.  Over the coming year, you get 12 seven-inch records totaling 24 singles, plus digital download cards so that you can take your singles wherever you go.  This is a 17% discount off of the "cover price" if you bought each record individually.

And there's an even bigger value.  When you subscribe to the 2013 Singles Club, you tell Tower Groove Records which of three partnering STL record stores you'd like to make your monthly pickup: Apop Records, Euclid Records or Vintage Vinyl.  When you pick up your monthly 7", you also get 10% off the purchases you make in the store that day.  Think of that Tower Groove record that you're picking up as a record store coupon.  I'm going to be conservative, and consider a typical record store purchase to total $20.  Over 2013, you'll save, conservatively, $24 off of 12 record store purchases as a Singles Club subscriber.

Becoming a Singles Club subscriber saves you at least $36 a year.  Depending on how much of a record store shopper you are, you could save a whole heck of a lot more than $36.  (The more you shop, the more you save!)

So, that's the economical reason why you should subscribe: value.  There's another reason why you should subscribe that I want to lay out.  It might be kind of conceptual - perhaps emotional - but I think that it's an important reason.

Last September's Tower Groove Records Carnival, which was a success beyond TGR's expectations, raised the money necessary to put forth TGR's critically-acclaimed double-LP compilation.  The Carnival, in a monetary sense, served as TGR's "Kickstarter."  The double-LP, in a logistical sense, served as TGR's "Kickstarter."  TGR learned what it took to shepherd a large project through recording, production and distribution.  Without the money raised at the Carnival, Tower Groove Records wouldn't have been able to make the album.  But just as important, without the money Tower Groove Records wouldn't have learned how to put out an album.

The Singles Club is the next step.  Tower Groove Records' releasing twelve records over one year means that Tower Groove Records learns how to be a label.  This is important not only for Tower Groove Records, but also for St. Louis-based music in general.  Since Tower Groove Records is a collective, the cultural capital it accrues is dispersed to everyone.  I can't even begin to list all that I've learned by virtue of being part of TGR and how much what I've learned has benefited projects of my own band outside of the collective.  As far as the larger "scene" of St. Louis-based music, the activity generated over a year by 12 releases featuring 24 bands will foster an artistic dynamism that should spill-over outside of defined lines.  Think of the Singles Club as an artistic stimulus with a multiplier effect.

And think of the next step after the Singles Club.  That next step surely would be bigger.  But first, you need to subscribe to this step, or else there won't be a next bigger step.

I'll be sure to let you know when the subscription form goes online.  There's also a big free street party kickoff on October 20th.  I'll be sure to let you know about that again, too.     

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I have fixed baseball. (You're welcome.)

If I was commissioner of baseball, this is how I'd iron-fistedly rule: expand MLB by one team in each league, move the Colorado Rockies to the American League instead of the Houston Astros, have four divisions in each league, and get rid of inter-league play.  Teams would play 90 games against division opponents, and 72 games against non-divisional league opponents.  Every September, there would be the potential for up to eight pennant races.  There would be no wild card.


Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Toronto Blue Jays

Colorado Rockies
Kansas City Royals
Minnesota Twins
Texas Rangers

Los Angeles Angels
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners


New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Washington Nationals

Atlanta Braves
Charlotte/Norfolk/San Antonio
Houston Astros
Miami Marlins

Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals

Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Memory Lane

April 13, 2011

Obama sets deficit target, rips Republican plan

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama set a goal on Wednesday of cutting the U.S. budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years through spending cuts and tax increases on the rich and rejecting a Republican plan as too radical.

While calling for talks with Republicans on spending cuts, Obama devoted much of his speech to attacking their plan to overhaul the government health programs Medicare and Medicaid while reducing taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses. 

Obama said the Republican plan by Paul Ryan, the House of Representatives Budget Committee chairman, offered a "deeply pessimistic" view of the country's future and would change the "basic social compact." "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Obama said as Ryan listened in the audience at George Washington University.

May 15, 2011

May 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich apologizes to Paul Ryan

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich apologized in a telephone call to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday afternoon for his remarks on “Meet the Press,” where the presidential candidate referred to Ryan’s Medicare proposal as “radical change.” 

“Newt apologized,” said Rick Tyler, his press secretary and longtime aide. “The call went very well.” 

Gingrich, his nascent campaign in jeopardy, has shifted into fervent damage control following a furious conservative reaction to his comments — and is even expressing a rare bit of contrition. 

From Iowa, Gingrich held two conference calls with tea party leaders scattered throughout the nation – one on short notice Monday night, and another Tuesday morning. Aides said Gingrich started each of the half-hour calls by explaining what he meant on “Meet the Press,” and acknowledging that he could have expressed it better. “We’ve tried to correct the record and admit it could have been done better,” Tyler said. “We move on.”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reading "The Problem ..." and Dipping a Toe

This Friday night (and early Saturday morning), I had the most pleasantly wonderful evening spent with friends in a South County attached garage: cigarettes, mini-Cokes, a well-stocked iPod attached to stereo speakers and, most importantly and most pleasantly, conversation.  It was a rock 'n' roll salon in Oakville.  We talked as we listened: everything from the 70s Jamaican DJs' practice of "toasting" and its informing of American Hip-Hop to the cultural significance of Radiohead's use of electronica-informed techniques in OK Computer.  We talked as we listened to a lot of St. Louis music, too.  All of it, the global and the local, were currents on the same plane.  We were collectively charting this plane - half of us musicians and half of us "amateurs" and all of us cartographers.

One of my band mates was at the garage salon, so naturally he and I discussed our upcoming Thursday performance.  We discussed not only the performance itself, but the composing and rehearsing leading up to it, the piece itself, how our previous piece effected this piece, how our next piece might be effected by this piece, et cetera.  I suppose that we were charting some more personal currents ... some artistic currents.

Anyway, the whole night (and morning) was pleasant and truly intellectual - not snobbery, but rather giving a shit about stuff that is vital and delighting in discussing this vital stuff with loving thoughtfulness.  

My participation in Friday night's impromptu Oakville Rock 'n' Roll Salon made it so that I wasn't aware until this Saturday afternoon of Friday's RFT Music blog opinion piece, "The Problem with An Under Cover Weekend," and the ensuing brouhaha.  I think that I've since sufficiently caught up with the discussion on the Internet and on social media in order to write about it.  The discussion has taken a personal turn for some of the controversy's principals.  This is too bad.  I consider, among the controversy's principals, both the author of the RFT Music piece and the proprietor of the Firebird (each of whom are on "different sides" of the brouhaha) to be dear friends.  These two people each have shown me so much personal kindness, caring and understanding over the years.  I love and care about them both.

I read "The Problem with An Under Cover Weekend" not as criticizing (e.g. "hating") An Under Cover Weekend but rather as critiquing (e.g. evaluating) the way in which AUCW is curated and mediated.  Interestingly, the piece's conclusion shifts to the second person voice, and is directed neither toward AUCW nor the Firebird, but rather directed toward St. Louis bands:
You guys [STL bands]: please remember that you can put on your own shows and have fun with it and not have to deal with any bullshit rules. And while I think there are things that you can learn from AUCW's quality control standards (for example, it's nice to see those professional band photos; they're beautiful), you might be better off doing it on your own. Or consider taking all of the time and effort you are putting into this one 30 minute gig and apply it instead to your own original music.
I understand and appreciate this conclusion, because it is a conclusion that speaks to more than just whether AUCW is "good" or "bad" or just whether AUCW's 2 month blackout rule is "good" or "bad," et cetera.  I understand and appreciate this conclusion because it speaks to considerations of what kind of music you want to make, how you want to go about making it, and how you want to go about getting people turned on to it.  The conclusion speaks to artistic considerations - mapping the currents and trying as one can to chart a course.

In 2010, my band had the good fortune of participating in An Undercover Weekend (in the parlance, AUCW4).  AUCW had invited our friends Theodore to play, and Theodore in turn invited us to play with them.  A couple of months before while moving a piano up a narrow flight of stairs and almost killing ourselves, we'd discussed how much we all loved Van Dyke Parks' Discover America album.  Apparently, all of us had gotten that "you've got to hear this" presentation from a friend, and all of us of course made that same "you've got to hear this" presentation to other friends.  Parks' work was something that we all loved and by which we were influenced.  We decided to cover his songs - to make that "you've got to hear this" presentation to an audience.  (Oh yeah ... we knew that there was something about a Firebird "blackout" rule but we promptly ignored it and nobody from the Firebird ever brought it up anyway.)

I, for one, dove deep into Parks' work.  I even finally mustered up the courage (thanks to my friend Kelly's prodding) of emailing Parks and informing him of what we were up to.  Parks wrote back with a lovely note of encouragement.  We played first on night three.  Theodore drummer Jason made sure that there was a recording through the soundboard so that we could give Van Dyke Parks an mp3, and it turned out well enough that we gave the sound file to I Went to a Show to post.  Our friend Lauren took some pretty good video, too.  (As you can see, we're not dressed up in seersucker suits playing pianos.)  I think we were all rather proud of the performance.  I was, anyway.  The audience seemed to really like it.

For the next year and thereafter, AUCW decided to curate the bands and covered artists in a different way.  Instead of AUCW being invite-only as it had been previously, bands now would submit applications describing themselves and the artist whom they wished to cover, as well as a second choice.  There was also the explication of what probably was previously a curatorial guideline into a hard-and-fast rule:
The artist chosen by each band must be a "popular" artist. Basically, think of a band with radio hits and not that obscure Norwegian band from the sixties that your Dad really liked but no one knows who they are. Bands are asked to submit their first and second choices.
AUCW's new application process coupled with the new "'popular' artist" rule shifted AUCW from a more curated annual event to a more programmed one.  An analogy to a television network board meeting seems apt.  For this most recent AUCW, reportedly forty bands pitched their 30-minute show by application to AUCW.  Out of those forty 30-minute show pitches, two evenings of  five slots of prime time programming were hashed out.

I think that the television network analogy is apt, but I don't mean it harshly.  Programming rather than curating is an excellent way to run something like AUCW.  Ensuring overall quality programming over two evenings helps each individual band get maximum audience and maximum exposure.  A band selected to play AUCW should expect that.  That seems to me part of the deal between the band and AUCW if AUCW wants to program rather than curate.

This seems to me part of the deal because AUCW advertises it as such.  The RFT Music piece reads AUCW's recent "five-part docudrama" as self-congratulatory videos.  I read the "five-part docudrama" as five advertisements to St. Louis bands of the benefits in terms of exposure that come from participating in AUCW.  This message is particularly explicit in video #4, entitled "The Community." Watch and listen:  

I neither doubt nor discount the benefits of exposure for the bands who participate in AUCW.  According to AUCW's organizer via Facebook, AUCW sold out on Friday night.  I'm sure that they sold out or came close to selling out on Saturday night.  I remember a big crowd when we played AUCW two years ago.  It's a great party.  It's an excellent production.  Apparently, AUCW has an official videographer and photographer this year.  Participating bands should expect that.  That's part of the deal if AUCW wants to program rather than curate.

I'm thankful that my band got to get in on An Undercover Weekend when we did.  It was a lot of fun.  We got to tell a bunch of people "you've got to hear this Van Dyke Parks guy."  It was a statement.  Jason made sure to record through the mixing board and Lauren was thoughtful enough to videotape it.  And thanks in no small part to our statement of affinity two years ago, this happened in April:

Map the currents and try as you can to chart a course.  Just like at an impromptu Oakville rock 'n' roll salon, it's all on the same plane.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Prayer in cathedrals may get you seven years.

"Patriarchy Riot"
This year, Patriarch Kirill’s personal wealth has come under scrutiny too. First came the mysterious tale of the ‘disappearing watch’. A photo showed him sitting at a table bare-wristed, but his reflection in the shiny table clearly showed him wearing a Breguet watch worth at least $30,000.


Politically, the Church has returned to something like its old tsarist role as the Kremlin’s bosom partner. Putin’s rule is ‘a miracle from God’, the patriarch said in March, and he has advised his flock to vote for the president. When some liberal-minded clerics expressed support for the protest movement, arguing it was part of a moral battle against corruption, the church’s hierarchy was quick to back the Kremlin. ‘The first revolutionary was Satan,’ Archpriest Smirnov said. The Church has a militant arm full of burly, leather-clad activists with a penchant for burning ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘sacrilegious’ novels (including Harry Potter) and attacking gay rights marches. There are also Orthodox Hells Angels who staged a Harley Davidson ride through Moscow as a response to Pussy Riot’s punk prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

The cathedral, demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1931 and rebuilt in 2000, is the most potent symbol of the Church’s return. A Consumer Rights NGO has accused the Church of only using 7 per cent of the cathedral for religious purposes: halls are rented out for private parties and corporate events; in the basement there is a car-wash, car repair shop and car-park. The courts have said that it isn’t commercial activity but ‘gratuitous mutual gift-making for a recommended price’.

"Virgin Mary Mother of God (Punk Prayer)"

Virgin Mary Mother of God
Chase out Putin
Chase out Putin
Chase out Putin

A black robe with stripes on the shoulder
All your parishioners crawling to the altar
A ghost of freedom up in the skies
But Siberia in chains for Gay Pride

The Head of the KGB is their big saint man
Loading the protesters in a prison van
If you don’t want to insult the most Holy Lord
Women! Know your place is in the birthing ward

Shit shit holy shit, shit shit holy shit

Holy Mary Mother of God
Be a feminist to us
Be a feminist to us
Be a feminist

The Church pays homage to degenerate bosses
A black limousine in the procession of the crosses
If a Priest comes to your school today
Take in your purse – you’ll have to pay.

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin –
The dog would be better off believing in God!
The Virgin Mary’s belt - no replacement for protest
The most holy Mother of God is at the rallies with us

Virgin Mary Mother of God
Chase out Putin
Chase out Putin
Chase out Putin

Matthew 21:12-13

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Revue" Cantata: Personal Preliminaries

Of the six poems comprising Wallace Stevens' "Revue" published in the July 1922 edition of The Dial, it appears that only one poem, "Bantams in the Pine-Woods," has an author-read recording (two different recordings, actually) on PennSound.  Fortunately, there are enough author-read recordings of Stevens' other work to get his metrical tendencies while he read his work aloud.  This is helpful, because getting these metrical tendencies from the page won't be enough.  If you give two poets the same poem and ask each to read it aloud, you'll get two often very different metrical interpretations.  The differences in metrical interpretations especially seem to occur in interpretations of the temporal length of the pauses, both inside the line and in between the lines.  It's not that I think that we will necessarily marry ourselves to Wallace's read-aloud metrical tendencies, it's just that some kind of fidelity through familiarity seems in order.

Buder Branch had the Literary Lives for Stevens.  I checked it out today and I'm about a third of the way through it.

In a box somewhere in the basement is a dog-eared copy of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.  I'll dig around for it tomorrow.

This won't be anywhere near as physically, logistically or technically demanding as scoring and accompanying a 100-minute feature film.  This kind of thing is very new for us, so it'll be creatively demanding.  I hope that I can get my part of it right.

The premiere will be Thursday, September 13th at the Pulitzer.

My plan is to keep an online diary of sorts about how it's coming along with regard to my part of it here on the ol' blog.

'Til next time ...

Saturday, June 9, 2012


When I went to the 7-11 this afternoon for a Big Gulp and cigarettes, a woman whose hair and build reminded me of you was pumping gas.  I wonder whether you're ever, say, at the grocery store and there is a man scanning the canned vegetable aisle, and his hair, his build, the way that he stands, or walks or something like that about the man reminds you of me.  Maybe that happens on occasion.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Cloud cover uncooperative for photographing tonight's eclipse.  Very late last night in the back yard I looked up and saw a meteor flash through a small patch of the sky.  I cannot share the meteor.  It will always be only mine. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


To what extent Kanye West and Chris Milk were in dialogue with Jesse Thorn with the "Touch the Sky" video; to what extent the New Sincerity is a Bourdieuian field of play; to what extent the rules of the game are malleable; to what extent field implicates an industry; to what extent the consumer's motivation is palliative.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Whether Seau shot himself in the chest for the same reason that Duerson shot himself in the chest; whether the term athlete is a pretense; whether these men are de facto gladiators; whether there are moral implications of being entertained by these men; whether the Gridiron and the Sandbox are equidistant; whether "over there rather than over here"; whether foreign trauma leads to domestic violence; whether the beatification of Pat Tillman; whether this is what empire looks like.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I'm basically just a trombonist along for the ride, so I feel I can write this and not be boasting:

Over the last four and one-half years, the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra has composed a body of work, in both scope and volume, that is remarkable. In total, 10 hours and 43 minutes of music has been composed over the last four and one-half years. If the average length of a symphony is roughly 30 minutes, then that's 21 symphonies-worth of compositional output.

More remarkable is that the vast majority of this 21 symphonies-worth of composition is the work of two people: Matt Pace and Brien Seyle. (Each of the ensemble's other members have contributed slivers of score here and there, and Kevin O'Connor has written two 20-minute scores.) Even with most of the compositional work split between two people, that's a remarkable amount of output for each person.

Still more remarkable (to me, anyway) is that the entirety of this gigantic body of work has been composed without grants, or fellowships, or stipends. It's truly phenomenal. It's been truly phenomenal for me to see and to perform. Again ... I'm not boasting. I'm really just along for the ride.

That's not to say that the ensemble hasn't received crucial support and encouragement from the film arts and music community. The Webster University Film Series, Cinema St. Louis and the Lee School in Columbia, MO each in a very real sense have commissioned most of the ensemble's work, offering the ensemble sponsorship, space, and what amount of scratch they can gather for the ensemble to premiere new work to the public. Local "rock" venues including Off Broadway, El Lenador and the Heavy Anchor (as well as some backyard owners who shall remain nameless) have welcomed the ensemble with open arms. The Ragtag Cinema in Columbia has hosted the ensemble several times. Ragtag has become the ensemble's "home away from home" in many respects.

And, of course, all of the people who bother to come and see and hear us, and all of the bands who have been nice enough to share a bill with us.

The photograph above was taken roughly two years ago. I love this photograph. It was taken after we performed our score to Go West for the students, parents and faculty of Lee School in the Missouri Theatre in Columbia. It was a beautiful performance in a beautiful place. The students laughed hysterically at every gag. Their laughter filled up that big room as much as and often more than our music did. We were all making the soundtrack together.

I love this photograph for a lot of reasons, and one big reason is that the photograph depicts us as if we've just arrived at some new place - as if we're all peering at something ahead of us. That performance really felt like that to me: an arrival for the ensemble.

Next Thursday April 5th at the Luminary, I feel that an arrival of sorts will happen again for the ensemble. The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra opens for the legendary songwriter, composer and arranger Van Dyke Parks. It's a remarkable opportunity for us, and a remarkable event as our admiration for Parks has now come full-circle. It feels like another arrival.

So ... back to the phenomenal ... and here I will boast (because it's a civic boast):

None of this - not the 21 symphonies-worth of composition - not the ensemble's beautiful show in Columbia - not the ensemble's opportunity to perform on the same bill as a bona fide genius - none of this would have happened without St. Louis. None of this would have happened without an arts and music community that cares less about who you know and more about what you do. Our willingness to support each other's endeavors is a willingness to cultivate the best out of each other. Take it from me, this is very rare and special for a "scene."

There's been a lot of talk lately that our town's arts and music scene is at or close to a tipping point - that it has or is about to "arrive" on a more national profile. I think that talk is correct.

If and when we do "arrive," let's remember how we arrived. Let's remember how to sustain ourselves toward the next arrival.

(Maybe I'll see you Thursday, April 5th at the Luminary?)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(Sorry, Pundits) GOP Primary Turnout Slightly Increased in Illinois

Do yourself a favor and don't watch cable news on a primary election night. Well, don't listen to cable news on a primary election night, anyway. It seemed to me that every twenty minutes or so a panelist would mention that turnout in Illinois was down compared to 2008, the implication being that Illinois Republican primary voters aren't "enthusiastic" about their choices for the nomination (and their frontrunner).

The first part of this observation is technically true: primary turnout indeed was lower in 2012 than it was in 2008. The reason for this was that in Illinois there were two major-party contests for president in 2008 and only one this year. One of those major-party contests happened to have a local politician running as well. Perhaps you remember that.

So, let's look at the numbers:

In the 2008 Illinois Republican Primary, 899,422 votes were cast for the presidential nomination.

In the 2012 Illinois Republican Primary, 922,146 votes were cast for the presidential nomination. 2012 Illinois Republican Primary turnout was 103% of what it was in 2008. Turnout slightly increased.

GOP turnout wasn't down in Metropolitan Chicago either. In 2008, GOP primary turnout in Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties was 496,014. In 2012 for those counties, GOP turnout was 509,785. 2012 GOP turnout in the Chicago area was ... wait for it ... 103% of what it was in 2008. So, both in "Chicagoland" and "Downstate," GOP turnout was slightly up, and up rather evenly throughout the state.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spirit of '76 (in which I come up with a new adjective: "coalitional")

There is a small but nevertheless significant chance that the front-runner for the GOP nomination this year will not have won 50% + 1 of the delegates to allow him to have a lock on a first-ballot nomination at this year's Republican National Convention. The last time that this happened was at the 1976 Republican National Convention. In 1976, Gerald Ford was the "front-runner," but nevertheless fell short of a delegate lock. Ronald Reagan was close behind. A floor fight ensued at the convention before the first ballot, and the story goes that, after Reagan announced that he would pick a "liberal" running mate, the Ford team was able to convince an unbound Mississippi delegation to throw its support to Ford (Gerald Ford, with his career spent mostly in the U.S. House of Representatives, had a team who knew how to whip a floor vote). The Mississippi delegation put Ford over the top and secured the nomination on the first ballot. That's the story, anyway.

Here and now in 2012, there's a chance that Romney could go to Tampa without the requisite 50% + 1 delegates to clinch the nomination on the first ballot. Even if this should be the case, the Romney team, as did the Ford team, could still easily clinch the nomination on a first ballot. It would be a matter of lobbying and convincing unbound delegates to shift their support to Romney. While the political junkie geek in me would relish a bona fide floor flight with multiple ballots (what theater!), the rational political science geek in me believes that such a floor flight with multiple balloting likely would not occur. The very well-organized Romney team, like the very well-organized Ford team, would have it covered.

In this modern (post-modern?) era of political parties and the political primary system, it's exceedingly rare that even the possibility of a contested nominating convention could come about. The last time there was a real possibility of multiple convention ballots for either party was 1976 - some 36 years ago. (I'm an old man ... and even I wasn't alive in 1976!) In other words, even the possibility of a contested convention isn't "supposed to happen" in the modern system. By now, there should be a "solid front-runner." And, even if there isn't a solid front-runner, as was the case on the Democratic side in 2008 when two candidates seemed near-evenly matched, there should be very little talk of a "contested," "brokered," et cetera convention. But this year, there is such talk.

So, why is there so much talk as there was in '76? Why in 2012 are the dynamics of Republican Party's presidential nomination process similar to the dynamics in 1976? The one big similar factor that I can think of is that both 1976 and 2012 occur in the wake of a very unpopular twice-elected Republican President. George W. Bush's second-term approval ratings were right down there with Nixon's.

The difference within the similarity between 1976 and 2012 is this: Nixon was forced to resign the presidency two years before '76, while George W. was not forced to resign at all before 2008. Bush Jr. finished his second term.

So, only now in 2012 is the Republican Party working out how to proceed as a national party after its de facto leader and the leader's coalitional regime has collapsed. In 1976, the GOP had a head start on this process because its de facto leader (and the leader's coalitional regime) had stepped down two years prior. In 2012, the GOP can only now work it out. At the time that the Republican Party could have worked it out in 2008, the de facto leader of the party (and the leader's coalitional regime) was still in place. A party can't really work out its "post-failed-regime plan" until the failed regime has actually stepped down.

This isn't the type of observation that has any bearing on which party will win in November. The Democratic Party went through this process of "working it out" to a large extent in 1960 (a year when the Democratic Party won the Presidency with Kennedy), and to a lesser extent in 1992 (when the Democratic Party won the Presidency with Clinton). Going back to 1976, Gerald Ford almost defeated Jimmy Carter in November for a full term - a shift of a couple thousand votes in Ohio was all Ford needed, but Ford came up short there.

So, putting predictions aside, this seems to me what's going on in the Republican Party right now: A debate as to how to proceed as a national party after the fallout from George W. Bush. This was the same process that occurred in 1976: a debate as to how to proceed as a national party after the fallout from Richard Nixon.

The 2012 Republican primaries are a manifestation of the Republican Party's debate as to how to proceed after its coalitional regime has collapsed. It's coming a little bit late this time as compared to '76, because unlike Nixon, the Bush regime left office after the last presidential election, not two years before.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Nate Silver has a post that buttresses what this blog has been harping on since it's made amateurish attempts at analyzing the Republican primary/caucus race: geography has been destiny ... much more than basing analyses on other demographics, especially the "demographic" of whether an exit poll respondent describes her/himself as "very conservative," "moderately conservative," "liberal," et cetera. Anyway, it's nice to have one's observations confirmed by a true expert.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What are the certain code words, Ford O'Connell?

From TPM:
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who’s helped Republicans win in both states, told TPM that the national candidates need to tread lightly.

“You can’t really avoid talking about social issues in those states,” he said. “There are certain code words you can use down there that don’t come back to haunt you in the rest of the country."

What are the certain code words, Ford O'Connell?

Ask him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"The Dude Alludes"

I'm going to have to re-read the story and re-watch the film, but I think that the way bowling is a big part of each is a tell that "The Dude" consciously alludes somewhat to Rip.

This will be fun. Hopefully, there will be enough for a blog post out of it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Southern Strategy

Nixon first consciously pursued it as a national strategy. Later, Atwater codified its rhetoric. (Oh right ... let's not forget Saint Ronald, either.) Then in 1994, Gingrich's "revolution" retired what was left of the "boll weevils" who hadn't yet retired. (One boll weevil was smart enough to switch to Republican before it was too late.) The Old South was now decidedly Republican. For his House leadership team in 1995, Speaker Gingrich (R-Georgia) brought on Dick Armey (R-Texas) as his Majority Leader and Tom Delay (R-Texas) as his Majority Whip - a Southern leadership for a Southern party.

It's kind of fitting, then, to see Gingrich make what very well could be his "last stand" in the heart of Dixie. It's Dixie that what made him.

Los Angeles Times:
Montgomery, Ala. — A day after losing all but one Super Tuesday contest, Newt Gingrich retreated Wednesday to the Deep South, abandoning plans to campaign in Kansas in a gamble that victories next week in Alabama and Mississippi can salvage his quest for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We clearly have limited resources, and we decided that it would make sense to focus those limited resources on Mississippi and Alabama,” the former House speaker told reporters here after a rally in a hotel atrium.

Shall the Newt rise again?

The Romney Campaign's Cash Problems

Romney could always loan his own campaign money (which Hillary had do for her campaign in '08), though this year there are "Super PACs" to help pick up the slack in terms of media buys. The Romney campaign proper has quite the "burn rate."

Huffington Post
, 02-21-12:
If January's trend lines held through February, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign ran out of money two days ago.

The former Massachusetts governor announced Monday night that he had raised roughly $6.4 million in January. More significantly, however, he reported having only $7.7 million cash on hand -- which means that over the course of 31 days, his campaign spent approximately $18.7 million.

First Read, 03-07-12:

[Campaign advertising spending by state:]

: Restore Our Future (pro-Romney $840,000), Winning Our Future (pro-Gingrich) $290,000
: Paul $39,000
: Restore Our Future $660,000, Gingrich $16,000
: Winning Our Future $144,000
: Restore Our Future $460,000, Winning Our Future $3,000, Gingrich $1,000
: Restore Our Future $750,000, Winning Our Future $240,000, Santorum $4,000


Notice that the pro-Romney Super PAC -- but NOT the Romney campaign -- is advertising in these states. It's yet another sign that the Romney campaign doesn't have much money left (the FEC report on March 20 will be interesting to see).
Romney, as do all of the candidates, fits in fundraising events practically everywhere he goes. The problem for Romney is that he seems to have mostly tapped out his big-money donors for the primary season (the individual maximum is $2,500). Check out the chart (red = $2,500 donors):

Does anybody want to bet that the Romney campaign's March 20th FEC report will show that Mitt Romney loaned his campaign some money? At the moment, I'd say that it's even odds.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Romney Campaign Canvassed Better in Ohio

This year's Ohio Republican Presidential Primary was truly contested. In 2008, the Ohio Primary occurred roughly a month after Super Tuesday. McCain had for all practical purposes wrapped up the nomination by then. Huckabee was still in it, but there was nowhere near the level of contesting that there was this year. Ohio GOP primary turnout in 2012 as compared to 2008 was greater. 1,196,566* votes were cast in this year's Ohio GOP primary. That's 113% of the total votes in the Ohio GOP primary in 2008.

Romney barely edged Santorum in a squeaker, 38.0% to 37.0%.

As has been the pattern in previous contests this year and as was expected in Ohio, Romney won the metropolitan areas while Santorum won the rural/small town areas. The possible exception to this pattern in Ohio was Toledo (if you consider Toledo and its surroundings to be metropolitan). Santorum narrowly beat Romney in Toledo's Lucas County and tallied sizable margins in the counties immediately surrounding Lucas (Fulton, Henry, Wood and Ottawa).

Though Santorum lost the big metropolitan areas (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati) to Romney, it appears that Santorum was able to cut into Romney's metropolitan margins. This was especially true in Franklin County where Columbus is located. Romney bested Santorum in Franklin County 40.7% to 36.1%. While that's certainly a win for Romney, it wasn't equal to Romney's drubbing of Santorum in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County 48.7% to 29.6% and in Cincinnati's Hamilton County 48.9% to 29.3%.

Santorum, meanwhile, dominated the more rural areas of Ohio. It was almost enough for him to win - almost, but not quite.

Here's what's interesting in comparing the Ohio GOP primary vote in 2008 with 2012. Turnout in 2012 was higher everywhere, but it was a tad higher still in the metropolitan areas. If you add up the total 2012 vote in the "Cleveland area" counties (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Summit), the "Cincinnati area" counties (Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, Warren) and the "Columbus area" counties (Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Pickaway, Union) you get 596, 457*. That's 49.8% of the total Ohio vote in 2012. If you do the same for 2008, then you get 514,655 votes - 48.6% of the total 2008 Ohio vote.

So, while turnout increased across the board from 2008 to 2012, the share of the vote coming from "metropolitan" areas of Ohio increased from 48.6% to 49.8%.

What this increase in "metropolitan" share of the vote suggests to me is not necessarily that the Romney campaign made an effort to turn out metropolitan voters generally. Instead, it suggests to me that the Romney campaign had a larger, more organized and more effective canvassing effort than did Santorum. Romney voters tend to be more suburban/urban than Santorum voters. If the Romney campaign did a better job at identifying and turning out its likely voters (wherever they may reside), then a good (albeit correlative) piece of evidence confirming it would be an uptick in the "metropolitan" share of the primary vote from 2008 to 2012. There is indeed an uptick.

In Michigan, Romney's endorsements and support from local and statewide elected officials gave his campaign the ability through the officials' campaign apparatuses to dominate Santorum's campaign in the early voting/absentee campaign. Romney's 2-1 margin in the early vote (some 16% of Michigan's total vote) provided for Romney the cushion he needed to eke out a victory. In Ohio, Romney's more organized campaign appears to have done a better job than Santorum's seat-of-the-pants campaign in identifying its likely voters and turning them out. When the margin of victory or defeat is 1 percentage point, organization is all the difference.

Of course, money helps an awful lot too.

*At the time of this writing, 81% of Medina County's precincts have reported. I have extrapolated Medina's as well as Ohio's total vote accordingly.Link

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lent and Resentment

Resentment is an attempt at comfort. It's a way of thinking and of feeling that obscures one's feelings of disappointment in oneself. It's an easy habit of thinking and feeling for one to fall into. The list of targets for resentment is inexhaustible. Everyone has been slighted or transgressed upon by others thousands of times. One can always point to a person or a group of people and construct a reason that one should be indignant toward that person or group of people. It's an easy habit.

It's a bad habit. It's most apparently a bad habit in how it makes a person static. The more one thinks and feels in a resentful way, the more such a person hides from and obscures his or her own personal failings and disappointments. Such a person can never grow and live as well as she/he could.

There's another perhaps less apparent but certainly more insidious reason it's a bad habit. It's horrible on a person's spirit. It makes a person a little ugly inside. When theologians talk about sin and its effects on the soul, I think that this is what they're getting at.

I have this bad habit in a big way. It's as tough to quit as smoking. It's a habit just as dangerous and unhealthy as smoking. If you believe in anything like a soul, then the habit of resentment is even more dangerous and unhealthy than smoking.

We're already a couple of weeks into Lent. I'm a little late to the game, but I think I've found what I'm going to try and give up for Lent, and what I'm going to try and give up after Lent too.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rick and Mitt Got Rush's Back

"A Statement From Rush" (03-03-12):
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity [Thanks, Rick], three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best [Thanks, Mitt], and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Profiles in Courage

Neither Santorum nor Romney really criticized, condemned, et cetera Limbaugh's verbal assault on Sandra Fluke. Santorum explained it as a piece of absurdist radio theater from an entertainer. Romney said that he would have chosen different words than what Limbaugh used ("lady of the night," perhaps?). That's it.

I set it out in my previous post, and whether it's true or not, there is a perception shared by both Limbaugh and by Republican presidential hopefuls that if a GOP presidential candidate gets on Rush's "bad side" in any way, then that GOP presidential candidate will lose. Limbaugh believes that he has this power. More importantly, the 2012 GOP candidates believe that Limbaugh has this power. Hence the exercise in apologetics on behalf of Limbaugh from Santorum, and the lack of criticism from Romney on the substance of Limbaugh's three days of vicious attacks on Fluke.

Rick Santorum's college-aged daughter is a campaign surrogate on Santorum's behalf. Mitt Romney's mother ran for the Senate from Michigan. Each of these men have or had close female family members engaged in the public discourse. That neither man was willing to go any further than criticize Limbaugh's choice in semantics in his assault on Fluke not only indicates Limbaugh's power within the Republican Party. That neither man was willing to criticize Limbaugh also indicates from each man a lack of family values and a lack of courage to stand up for those values.

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Your campaign is in trouble ... your candidate is in big, big trouble."

The Rush Limbaugh Show, 12-20-07 ("Huckabee Forces Attack El Rushbo"):
Huckabee forces are attacking me, ladies and gentlemen. Yes siree, Bob, the Hucksters are on the warpath! From the Atlantic magazine, this is from their blog. The author is Marc Ambinder. "What's the Huckabee universe's take on why Rush Limbaugh does not like the man from Arkansas? I asked a prominent DC-based Huckabee ally," and here's what the "prominent" Washington-based "Huckabee ally" said: "'Honestly, because Rush doesn't think for himself. That's not necessarily a slap because he's not paid to be a thinker -- he's an entertainer. I can't remember the last time that he has veered from the talking points from the DC/Manhattan chattering class. If they were praising Huckabee, he would be, too. Also, I have to think that he's dying to have Hillary in the White House. Bill Clinton made Rush a megastar. Having another Clinton back in power would make him the Leading Voice of the Opposition once again.'" Now, this is so off the mark, I can't believe that Huckabee would have somebody this ignorant on his staff -- somebody on the campaign staff or supporter or what have you, that's so ignorant about this program and what happens on this program. Part of the DC-Manhattan chattering class? When was the last time I was for illegal immigration, for example?

This is absurd, but look, I think it's funny. Huck forces are attacking El Rushbo.


If you really are a Huckabee supporter, whoever said this, your campaign is in trouble, because if that's what people on Huckabee's team thinks, your ignorance is going to get your candidate in big, big trouble.


I realize that there are a lot of you out there: You got a candidate, and you think that if I got behind your candidate it would put 'em over the top, and you might be right. But, at this point, it's just an age-old belief that I have, and I remain true to my beliefs and principles. Now, some people have written me, "I hear you say this, but you're full of it. What about 2000 with Bush and McCain in South Carolina?" Special circumstance. You had a two-man race, and what was happening in South Carolina, McCain was going so far off the conservative reservation, so far off of it, that it was necessary to step in. Huckabee is getting close, I'm going to have to tell you. Huckabee's getting close to the same stuff. Huckabee is using his devout Christianity to mask some other things that are distinctively not conservative. He is against free trade. He's really doesn't believe in free market. Well, let me read what George Will wrote today. This is when I go along with "the DC-New York axis." But I just want to read from George Will's column, a paragraph today. "Huckabee's campaign actually is what Rudy Giuliani's candidacy is misdescribed as being -- a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs. Giuliani departs from recent Republican stances regarding two issues -- abortion and the recognition by the law of same-sex couples. Huckabee's radical candidacy broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America's corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity. [C]onsider New Hampshire's chapter of the National Education Association, the teachers union that is a crucial component of the Democratic Party's base. In 2004, New Hampshire's chapter endorsed Howard Dean in the Democratic primary and no one in the Republican primary. Last week it endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary -- and Huckabee in the Republican primary." It likes Huckabee on education.

The Rush Limbaugh Show, 01-16-09 ("McCain Campaign Manager Blames Rush Limbaugh for McCain's Loss"):

RUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, have you thought back to the 2008 election? Have you asked yourself who was responsible for that loss? Have you asked yourself who really should shoulder the blame and the burden for the defeat of Senator McCain? A lot of people have been speculating this, a lot of postmortems on the election. Let's go to the BBC. BBC World Service, host Stephen Sackur spoke with former McCain campaign manager Rick Davis and asked Rick Davis on whose shoulders rests the burden of the McCain defeat.

DAVIS: We didn't successfully reach out to them. I mean, but you look at the leadership John McCain gave which is counter to the direction that the party was headed, when you have the Rush Limbaughs of the world who, you know, literally almost feed the nativist attitude toward immigration reform, what do you think the Hispanic voter, the Latino voter is gonna remember? They're gonna remember the attacks, not the efforts by people like John McCain to try and reform.

RUSH: So there you have it, Rick Davis, the campaign manager for McCain, has dumped on my shoulders the reason McCain lost and others like me alienated Hispanic voters. This is so wrong on so many levels, but it explains why this campaign was so inept. A brief time-out. Just wanted you to hear that so you could stew over it.


McCain lost people because he couldn't generate enthusiasm for his candidacy. You know, people have long memories, something that you... Rick Davis, you know what you ought to stop and think about, too? When your guy went into the tank with the mainstream media and did everything he could to make the mainstream media love him, calling the mainstream his "base."

You Republican consultants, you're going to have to learn something very fast: Republican voters that you need to win elections think the mainstream media is as much the enemy as any Democrat candidate is going to be. And sidling up and trying to get the approval of a bunch of incompetent boobs who have sided with Democrats for the last 50 years is not the way to engender support, ongoing support and get a mandate. This campaign never had a prayer and everybody knew it from the get-go. It never had a prayer. (sigh) I mean, for crying out loud, McCain became Sominex. There wasn't any caffeine until Palin came around and it just wasn't enough. I'm glad that at least he didn't blame Palin. I think he's a little off message. The Republican Party's message is to blame her!

[A caller asks Limbaugh why Limbaugh did not support Huckabee for the nomination in '08]

RUSH: Let me help you with something here. You are asserting here that I had the power to coalesce people around Huckabee, and since I chose not to do it, we got McCain, and therefore you are somewhat blaming me --

CALLER: Yes, I am.

RUSH: -- that we lost because McCain is the nominee. All right, you tell me what I am supposed to do when I am sent an e-mail quoting a Huckabee campaign advisor speaking anonymously saying, "We don't care about Limbaugh, he's just part of the Republican National Committee talking points, he just says what he's being fed to say by the Republican establishment." I mean the e-mail I got was entitled, "Huckabee Forces Attack Limbaugh." Now, what am I supposed to do there, Ivan?

CALLER: Well, Rush, what I want to say is --

RUSH: I don't endorse people during primaries anyway. Candidates are supposed to win elections, not me.

CALLER: You're absolutely right, Rush, and I'm gonna say I agree with what you said, but at the same time I believe that for the sake of the country, I believe that you are bigger than that, to jump past it, and you have to look at what's best for the country, and I think, you know, while I don't know a lot about Huckabee, I just know that Huckabee would have been a better candidate than McCain.

RUSH: Well, I should be a bigger man than that. It's not that it insulted me, it's not that I was being petulant and saying, "Oh, yeah, you're sending your guys out to anonymously insult me, then screw you," that wasn't my attitude. My attitude was why did these guys need to start taking shots at everybody else in the Republican Party? It showed a temperament and a campaign organization that kind of did not inspire confidence. So it had nothing to do that I was offended and decided I wasn't going to support.


But what it boils down to, and the reason the Republican primary -- and I will agree with you, by the way, Ivan, I will agree with you that I have the power you have assigned to me. I don't doubt it at all, and it's just a question to me of the responsible use of the power. And I must tell you as I -- well, I'm long here. I gotta take a time-out. Nobody inspired me, is the point.

CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, 03-02-12 ("Santorum to Blitzer on Limbaugh: 'He's being absurd.'"):

[BLITZER:] But let me - let me play this little clip, because he's - he's - Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that by supporting government insurance, paid insurance for contraceptives, birth control pills or whatever, Rush Limbaugh suggesting she's a slut or a prostitute. And then he even goes further.

Listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you femi-Nazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and, thus, pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.


BLITZER: All right, go ahead.

I - I want you to respond to Rush Limbaugh.

SANTORUM: Well, he's taking - you know, he's being absurd. But that's, you know, an entertainer can be absurd. And - and he's taking the absurd, you know, the absurd - absurd, you know, sort of, you know, point of view here as to how - how far do you go?

And, look, I'm - he's - he's in a very different business than I am.

ABC's The Note, 03-02-12 ("Romney on Rush: 'Not the Language I Would Have Used'"):

CLEVELAND – Mitt Romney responded for the first time this evening to comments made by Rush Limbaugh in which he referred to a college student as a “slut,” saying that it’s “not the language” he would have used.

“I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used. I’m focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today, and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs and Ohio,” Romney said to reporters on a rope line after a rally at Cleveland State University.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


"'Why do you grant a BULLY special status upon his death? This isnt lib v con.'"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Can't Lose What You Never Had

To borrow a well-worn word of Newt Gingrich, there's been a "fundamental" misreading of Tuesday's Michigan GOP Primary results. Here are two examples [bolding by me], first from TAP's "Ringside Seat":
Conceding his narrow defeat in Michigan, Santorum set aside the culture-war logorrhea that likely cost him a narrative-changing win over Mitt Romney ...
And second, from TPM:
On the national level, Santorum lost the establishment when he pulled out his social issue trump card to take on Romney by courting the evangelical vote.

That process reached its peak when he told a tea party crowd outside Detroit that President Obama wants to send more kids to college so he could turn them into liberals. The comment went viral, and likely did not do Santorum many favors outside the ultra-conservative base.

The social issues fight has left Santorum severely wounded when it comes to courting independents and moderate Republicans.
Wait ... there was "establishment" support for Rick Santorum that he ended up losing? There were scores of "moderate Republicans" and socially moderate "independents" who were going to vote for Rick Santorum but then decided not to? I don't remember either ever being the case. Santorum never had such support, and he was never going to get it. You can't lose what you never had.

In Michigan, "Romney Country" is the Detroit Tri-County Area of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. This is where one will find the heaviest amount of "moderate" Republicans and Republican-leaning "independents" in Michigan. Romney cleaned-up here in 2008 (versus an arguably more "moderate" candidate named John McCain) and in 2012. Santorum could have moderated his rhetoric all he wanted, but there was no way that Santorum was going to win these votes. These are Romney votes no matter what. Santorum would have been wasting his time in attempting to win them.

Santorum worked Michigan to a virtual tie in votes and an actual tie in delegates because of his social conservative rhetoric. He racked up big margins in socially conservative western Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. There is no way that Santorum would have done so well especially in western Michigan without his "culture warrior" rhetoric. At the same time, a more "moderated" rhetoric wouldn't have done Santorum any good in winning over Romney Country. Santorum was, you know, trying to win the primary election and crafted a strategy and engaged in tactics designed to achieve that goal. He knew that he had to enthuse his "very conservative" base, and he did a pretty good job at it. He did such a good job at it that he very likely won among those voters who cast ballots on Tuesday ... but ended up losing the total vote count due to the superior early voting campaign of Mitt Romney - the "favorite son" and "establishment" candidate.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Romney's Early Voting Campaign May Have Been the Difference in Michigan

According to Sunday evening's PPP tracking poll, 16% of Michigan's likely GOP primary voters had already early voted by mail. Of that 16%, 62% had cast their votes for Mitt Romney, and 29% had cast their votes for Rick Santorum. If PPP's numbers were right, then before the polls opened on Tuesday morning, Romney had roughly a built-in 5-point lead on Santorum (10 points to 5 points).

Romney ended up besting Santorum in Michigan by a 3-point margin: 41% to 38%. So if PPP's likely voter model for Michigan was correct, then Santorum bested Romney among those votes that were cast on Tuesday, because Santorum narrowed Romney's 5-point lead to a 3-point lead. Romney still won, though, because the campaign had banked enough absentee votes to serve as a cushion against the Santorum insurgency.

I can't say it for sure, but it looks to me like the Romney campaign's early voter aspect of its campaign in Michigan was the difference-maker. If Romney hadn't had such an early voting advantage when the polls opened on Tuesday morning, then it would certainly have been very close on Tuesday night.

Absentee vote campaigns are the kind of thing where organization and state official endorsements really make it happen. Romney had both. Santorum had neither.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Existential Angst of the 27%

Rick Santorum, Faith, Family and Freedom of the 27% Incarnate, wants to throw up. He wants to throw up after hearing words that were spoken by a man some 52 years ago - words spoken by a man whose success later in the Autumn of that year allowed an Italian-American immigrant father to tell his young son "Rick, you can grow up to be President of the United States of America" and actually, confidently mean those words.

Rick Santorum, Faith, Family and Freedom of the 27% Incarnate, stands at the edge of the cliff.

Rick Santorum is nauseous.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lacking Enthusiasm from Moderate GOP Voters, Romney is Forced Rhetorically Rightward

Have you ever heard of the Front Range Urban Corridor? It's a "Megaregion" of the United States consisting of urban/suburban counties whose northern end is Laramie County, Wyoming and whose southern end is Pueblo County, Colorado. Denver and its surrounding counties are in the middle. Here is what it looks like (the blue county is Laramie County, Wyoming, the red counties are "North Central" Colorado and the green counties are "South Central" Colorado):
Excluding the one non-Colorado county (Laramie) from the region, the Front Range Corridor is populated by roughly 4.2 million people. The state of Colorado is populated by roughly 5.1 million people. So, roughly 80% of Colorado's population is in the Front Range Corridor. It's where the bulk of Colorado's votes are, whether in a general election or in a party caucus/primary election.

In the 2008 Colorado Republican Caucus against John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, Mitt Romney swept the Front Range Corridor on his way to winning the state caucus. Romney tallied 36,231 caucus votes from the Front Range Corridor, accounting for 85% of Romney's state-wide tally of 42,218 caucus votes.

70,229 caucus votes were cast state-wide in the 2008 Colorado Republican Caucus, with 58,759 of the votes cast in the Front Range Corridor. 84% of the state-wide GOP caucus vote came from the Front Range Corridor.

In the 2012 Colorado Republican Caucus against Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, Romney did not sweep the Front Range Corridor. Romney lost the northern and southern ends of the Front Range Corridor to Rick Santorum. Romney did win Denver and most of its surrounding counties. Nevertheless, Romney's margin of victory and raw caucus vote totals in this central part of the corridor were dramatically lower. Romney tallied 18,790 caucus votes from the Front Range Corridor, accounting for 82% of Romney's state-wide tally of 23,012 caucus votes. Romney lost the 2012 Colorado Republican Caucus to Rick Santorum, who tallied 26,614 state-wide caucus votes.

66,027 caucus votes were cast state-wide in the 2012 Colorado Republican Caucus, with 52,176 of the votes cast in the Front Range Corridor. 79% of the state-wide 2012 GOP caucus vote came from the Front Range Corridor.

So, here's what's interesting to me about comparing the Colorado GOP Caucus vote in 2008 to the GOP caucus vote in 2012:

State-wide, the 2012 Colorado GOP Caucus turnout was 94% of what it was in 2008. That's not all that dramatic of a drop in turnout, especially given the fact that there wasn't a buzz-creating concurrently contested Democratic caucus as was the case in 2008. In fact, 2012 GOP caucus turnout was down only in the Front Range Corridor. Front Range Corridor GOP turnout in 2012 was 89% of what it was in 2008. Meanwhile, "out-state" GOP caucus turnout in 2012 was 121% of what it was in 2008. "Out-state" turnout increased. But just as importantly, Front Range Corridor turnout decreased.

A lot of ink and pixels have been spent discussing Romney's difficulty winning over voters who consider themselves to be "very conservative," e.g. the "Republican Base." What's been less discussed is Romney's difficulty since the very beginning in Iowa with turning-out the more moderate urban and suburban GOP voters who, on paper at least, should be Romney's "base." And looking at the 2008 Colorado caucus results, Romney indeed used to turn out these GOP voters. In 2008, Romney tallied 36,231 caucus votes from the Front Range Corridor. In 2012, Romney tallied 18,790 caucus votes from the Front Range Corridor. In 2012, Romney's performance in the Front Range Corridor was 52% of what it was in 2008. Romney lost 17,441 caucus votes from 2008 to 2012 in the Front Range Corridor.

Granted, some or perhaps even most of Romney's lost Front Range Corridor caucus votes from 2008 to 2012 may have gone to Santorum, Gingrich and/or Paul this year ... but all 17,441 caucus votes? Moreover, how many of Romney's lost 17,441 Front Range Corridor caucus votes are the 6,583 FRC caucus votes that were cast in 2008 but not 2012?

Romney's secondary problem is that he can't enthuse self-described "very conservative" GOP voters. Romney's primary problem is that he can't sufficiently enthuse self-described "moderate" GOP voters. Romney lost to Santorum in Colorado this year by 3,602 caucus votes. If Romney had been able to tally caucus votes in the Front Range Corridor in 2012 at only 62% of his tally there in 2008, then Romney would have won the Colorado caucus.

Over this past week, it appears that the Romney campaign has given up on spending its time and resources on motivating suburban/urban GOP voters. Perhaps the campaign has decided that it's not worth it. For whatever reason, Romney just isn't enthusing the moderates as much as, on paper, he should be. So, without being able to get the kind of margins in the Detroit suburbs to beat Santorum's margins in Western Michigan, it's time for Romney to try and out-conservative Santorum, or at the very least constantly depict Santorum as not a "true" conservative to depress enthusiasm for Santorum.

Headlines from Saturday's Michigan campaigning:

Romney, Santorum battle over who's more conservative


Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney battle for upper hand in Michigan primary

TROY, Mich. — Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney tried vigorously to undermine each other’s conservative bona fides Saturday in a bid to rally new supporters ahead of a crucial primary for the two leading Republican presidential candidates.

oh ... and ...

Rick Santorum Labels Romney An ‘Elite’ And Obama A ‘Snob’

So much for moderation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prominent Party Actor Alliances, GOP Voter Enthusiasm and Santorum's Rhetorical Doubling-Down in Michigan

Steve Kornacki:
[Santorum's] Wednesday night [debate performance] clearly hurt Santorum’s standing with GOP elites. The Huffington Post’s survey of “Power Outsiders” — GOP leaders and activists around the country — found that 44 percent of them judged Romney the winner of the debate, compared to just 15 percent for Santorum.
Kornacki here puts the cart before the horse. Santorum has had very little support from GOP "leaders and activists from around the country." Santorum has very few elected official endorsements, and consequently very few surrogates to spin for him post-debate. Without that "opinion-shaper" spinning on behalf of Santorum, stuff like this becomes the debate performance conventional wisdom (Kornacki again):
Santorum came across as hesitant and defensive, lapsing over and over again into DC-speak as Romney blasted him for his past support of earmarks, No Child Left Behind and Arlen Specter. Santorum’s defense of his No Child Left Behind vote — “Sometimes, you take one for the team” — was particularly damaging, and has given Romney a weapon to wield for as long as the campaign lasts. To the casual observer, it seemed like Santorum, and not Romney, was the candidate facing a skeptical party base.
The candidate without spinning surrogates is at a disadvantage in "winning" a televised debate. Jonathan Bernstein looks at GOP media figures' reactions to the Wednesday debate:
Even with debate ratings relatively high this year, far more voters are likely to hear sound bites after the fact than they are to sit through the whole thing. Even the memories of those who watched it will fade and recycled sound bites will be what lingers. And for Republican primary voters, that means what Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the Republican Party press talk about now will matter most. By that standard, Rick Santorum seems to have been a clear loser.


[I]t harms Santorum that he has virtually no prominent support from Republican officials who have endorsed him and are willing to spin for him — the kind of official who may be well-positioned to influence the Republican partisan press. No governors, no senators, nothing.
Rick Santorum isn't stupid. One doesn't get as far in the process as Santorum has without having at least some political intelligence. I'm quite sure that he's aware of his lack of prominent party official endorsements and lack (save for Glenn Beck, which I'll get to later) of prominent media figure alliances. At the same time, I'm sure that Santorum is aware of this particular and important Romney problem that Nate Silver identifies:
In states and counties that would appear to be strong for [Romney], turnout is generally running below its 2008 pace. But in [Romney's] weaker areas [...] it has been steady or has improved some.
In terms of the universe of GOP primary/caucus voters, Romney does best in urban and suburban counties where GOP primary/caucus voters tend to be much less socially conservative and less doctrinaire in terms of economic conservatism as compared to voters in exurban counties and rural counties. Throughout the primaries and caucuses, Romney has been winning the urban and suburban counties percentage-wise, but the overall (e.g. aggregate) turnout in these counties consistently has been lower than it was in the 2008 primaries and caucuses. In other words, Romney's GOP primary/caucus "base" is not as enthusiastic about Romney as, on paper, Romney's "base" should be.

Meanwhile, GOP primary/caucus voters in rural and exurban counties (who tend to be more conservative) in 2012 have been turning out at levels equal to or greater than the 2008 primaries and caucuses.

So, if you're Rick Santorum and you want to win Michigan's GOP primary (which, by the way, is critical for you in terms of momentum toward Super Tuesday), then what do you do to try and win it? You're not getting any endorsements from any elected officials willing to be your surrogate spinner in the media and you're not getting any support from GOP-friendly "opinion-makers," while Mitt Romney has both of these things going for him in spades. Still, the urban and suburban population centers that should be Romney's base aren't all that enthusiastic about Romney. Romney isn't going to get the turnout that, on paper, he should get.

If you're Rick Santorum trying to win the Michigan GOP primary, then you double-down on your social conservative rhetoric. You try and turn out more of your base than Mitt Romney's base. You go on Glenn Beck's show and say stuff like this:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Thursday that President Obama wants more young adults to go to college so they can undergo “indoctrination” to a secular world view.

In an hour-long interview with conservative television host Glenn Beck, Santorum also defended his record on abortion and his vote in favor of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law.

On the president’s efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring that universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.

And you double-down on the rhetoric because the rhetoric is what got you here in the first place. You know that there was never going to be any winning-over of "opinion makers" because if you hadn't won them over by now then they'd never be won over. The "opinion-makers" cast their lot with Romney a long time ago. What you need are votes - more votes than Romney. You might not succeed, but this is the only way that you can try and get those votes. You're hoping that you can enthuse Western Michigan GOP voters more than Romney can enthuse Detroit suburban GOP voters. It's your best strategy.

It looks like a close one next Tuesday night. It'll be all about how enthusiasm translates into turnout.