Mitt’s Low Ceiling

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll is one of the better media polls. This morning they show Herman Cain leading by one point over Mitt Romney:

The power of Cain’s likability has vaulted him to the top of The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll, with 23 percent of likely caucusgoers saying he is their first choice. The durable Romney, on part two of his presidential quest, coasts in with 22 percent.


The former Massachusetts governor earns the support of just 10 percent of those who say they definitely plan to vote in the caucuses (Cain is at 27 percent). And Cain dominates Romney among those who identify themselves as very conservative, by more than 3 to 1.


Another factor favoring Cain over Romney: More than half of likely caucusgoers think a representative of the core conservative base can win the White House in 2012. Only a third see a need to select a more moderate candidate with appeal to independents.

It’s not too surprising to see the other candidates–none of whom is even close to being as impressive as 2008 first-time presidential candidates and Democratic also-rans Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden–bounce up and down in the polls. Few people outside their home-states knew much about Rick Perry or Herman Cain or Rick Santorum prior to them running for president. But Romney ran for president in 2008, spent tens of millions of dollars and got more votes than everyone except John McCain. Since voters already know him there’s little reason to think he’ll benefit from a big surge of support based on people liking him and wanting him to be the nominee. His best bet is that the rest of the candidates split the votes between them or that Romney benefits from an “anybody-but-that-candidate” surge. But if there’s going to be that kind of surge, it’s as easy to imagine it being against Romney as one that benefits him.

It’s imperative a campaign have a sound caucus organization to scoop up the support of delegates whose first choice doesn’t clear the 15% threshold and who then have to choose a second choice. Romney’s campaign is the most capable of putting together a sound ground game (although he’s currently holding back from investing resources and political capital in trying to win Iowa).

But even if Romney does go for the win in Iowa, he may simply have too low a ceiling to pull it off. At this point in 2007 Romney lead the Iowa Poll with 29%–7 points better than his percentage in this latest poll. On caucus night he performed worse than he had polled in October:

On paper Romney seems the most likely nominee, in part because prior to this election none of the other candidates would have seemed a plausible nominee. [By the way, Ron Paul finished third in the new poll with 12%, better than he performed in 2008.] It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around the possibility that Herman Cain or Rick Perry or–gasp–Newt Gingrich could be the Republican nominee. But with Mitt Romney languishing and a GOP electorate hostile to what they perceive as technocratic, moderate elitists, it’s just as hard to wrap my head about the possibility that a plurality of Republican voters want Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee.

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2 Responses to Mitt’s Low Ceiling

  1. If you are suggesting Cain will be the nominee, Obama could not get that lucky. Cain has albatrosses around his neck that are not apparent to people who don’t know his tax plans well. They aren’t just problematic, they are bat-poop looney.

    It’s possible, of course, but my guess is FOX SPEWS is trying to figure out how to derail Cain already, without admitting they knew he was goofy all along. True, FOX can’t decide the nominee, but since nearly every Cain supporter is a FOX SPEWS viewer, Herman will have a hard time dodging real questions from them, if they ever decide to ask any.

    Cain’s albatrosses are his tax plans. Not his, but the plans he has been paid to push, namely Fairtax. Though Fairtax has been exposed by it’s own researcher, most Cain supporters have no clue. Cain has been paid to push this farce for years now. In fact, his 999 plan, he says, is just a stop toward it.

    But Fairtax and 999 (the same people are apparently responsible for both) has been exposed as pretty much goofy nonsense, by National Review. Bruce Bartlett said — without hyperbole –that if Herman’s Fairtax somehow passed, there would be “rioting in the streets”. I won’t go into the validity of Bartlett’s claim, other than to say, understated it, there would be riots everywher, by Fairtax own duped supporters.

    You can get pretty far fooling people, if you remain vague and promise the moon. But Herman’s tax plan made the fatal mistake of being specific in their math and fine print. So just wait till Houston Texas city council finds out Herman’s plan would force them to pay 620 million dollars, 200 million in advance. Yes, advance. Every city, every state, every county government has to pay. Oh, and by the way, the tax plan fine print calls for state and local government “to raise their tax rates appropriately”.

    How appropriate? Well, enough to cover just shy of a trillion dollars.

    So the very thing that Herman’s followers love him for — honestly, lower taxes, transparency — are the exact things Herman is not. And when that’s exposed, he is done for. Can you imagine Texas state legislature thanking Cain for his goofy plan that THEY pay 14 billion dollars, but hid that in the fine print and tax tables?

    It’s unlikely Herman has any idea his own plans are bat poop. He was paid by Fairtax to hawk the nonsense, as were Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity, and others. He is not the intellectually curious type to dig into details, tax base tables, or footnotes. And his staff is too busy buying menthol cigarettes to read National Review.

    Cain won’t be the nominee. And Mitt, should he win the nomination, is smart enough to pick someone without the goofy needless weights around their neck, to run with him.

    • Dana Houle says:

      I’m not suggesting Cain will be the nominee; I honestly don’t have a strong feeling for who it will be, a point I think I made in the post. And all of the Repub candidates have albatrosses around their necks, although maybe none have as many potential problems with their own primary electorate as Romney.

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