‘Step Right up!’ Snake Oil for Sale

 

by WALTER BRASCH  

 

The Tea Party, mutant spawn of the Republicans, held their spineless parents and the nation hostage during the debt ceiling crisis, and is now demanding an even greater ransom.

Flushed with what they mistakenly believe is success, they have launched an all-out assault upon the presidency. Their generals, fattened by Iowa corn and midway schmaltz, are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Sarah Palin, hovering near the battlefields to soak up the media sunlight, much like a black hole absorbs all energy and light from nearby stars, is waiting to see how the war goes (and if she can write some intelligent sentences) before deciding to re-enter battle.

Bachmann is the winner of the strangest political non-election in the country, the Iowa Straw Poll. She won the race the old-fashioned way. She bought it.

To make sure that Iowans entered the Tents of Instant Gratification and, thus, cast their ballot the right way, the candidates, who paid $15,000–$31,000 to rent space at Iowa State, provided food, music, and carnival fun for the voters. Bachman had a petting zoo, and drew fans to a concert by country superstar Randy Travis. Cost of the banquet: $30 a ticket.

To assure there were enough votes, Bachmann’s campaign, like all other campaigns, paid the $30 admissions ticket. That would be $144,690 for 4,823 votes, plus several hundred thousand dollars in related campaign expenses. Related campaign expenses for the candidates included renting charter buses to bring voters from throughout Iowa to Ames.

But, Iowans aren’t stupid. Many wanted to see Randy Travis and eat the food of politics but didn’t plan to vote for Bachmann. About 6,000 persons took the “free” $30 tickets. Thus, she officially paid $180,000, $37.32 a vote; unofficially, with all expenses figured in, the cost could easily have been well over $200 a vote so she could be the winner and earn the title of Media Darlin’ of the Week.

The establishment media generally avoided Ron Paul, the second place winner, who “only” got 4,671 votes, 152 less than Bachmann, and 27.7 percent. Paul is a pariah in the Republican party, and something the media can’t figure out, because he actually has a core set of principles, which sometimes leads him to ally with liberals, but for different reasons.

Third place, with 13.6 percent of the vote and, according to numerous media pundits not charismatic enough to be a serious contender, went to Tim Pawlenty, who didn’t drink much of the tea and dropped out of the race after spending about $1 million in Iowa. Not dropping out were Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum (9.8 percent) and Herman Cain (8.6 percent), who lured voters into his tent with free Godfather’s Pizza. Mitt Romney, who had spent about $2 million in the 2007 Straw Poll, but skipped this year’s non-binding poll, finished behind Rick Perry, dripping tea with every statement he makes, entered the presidential race only after the Iowa Straw Poll, but did get 718 write-in votes for 4.3 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Romney is still believed to be the front-runner.

Thus, going into the primary season, the Tea Party can arouse themselves with Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and maybe Palin. Not identified with the Tea Party, but in its gravitational pull are Romney, Jon Huntsman, and whatever is left of Newt Gingrich’s chances.

The Tea Party began a few months after Barack Obama was elected president, with a stated purpose to reduce wild government spending. But its deep structure shows an amorphous bunch of white middle-class ultra-conservatives, aided by upper-class political consultants and media manipulators, who have developed the ability to sound impressive with only half-truths behind their rants and chants, and a zealous determination to keep President Obama out of a second term.

During the debt ceiling crisis, Tea Partiers refused to budge on a demand of not raising the debt ceiling, cutting numerous social and educational programs, and holding firm to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone must cut back, especially during economic crises, they bleated. Austerity is their mantra.

But, based upon their extravagant lifestyle and the wild spending they did in Iowa, shouldn’t their mantra now be “hypocrisy”?

 

[As a young reporter in Iowa, Brasch covered everything from fairs to politics to rock concerts. His current book is Before the First Snow, a powerful look at how the collusion of Big Government and Big Business can destroy civil liberties and lead to environmental destruction and health issues. The book is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, www.amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.]

 

 

 

‘Step Right up!’ Snake Oil for Sale

 

by WALTER BRASCH  

 

The Tea Party, mutant spawn of the Republicans, held their spineless parents and the nation hostage during the debt ceiling crisis, and is now demanding an even greater ransom.

Flushed with what they mistakenly believe is success, they have launched an all-out assault upon the presidency. Their generals, fattened by Iowa corn and midway schmaltz, are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Sarah Palin, hovering near the battlefields to soak up the media sunlight, much like a black hole absorbs all energy and light from nearby stars, is waiting to see how the war goes (and if she can write some intelligent sentences) before deciding to re-enter battle.

Bachmann is the winner of the strangest political non-election in the country, the Iowa Straw Poll. She won the race the old-fashioned way. She bought it.

To make sure that Iowans entered the Tents of Instant Gratification and, thus, cast their ballot the right way, the candidates, who paid $15,000–$31,000 to rent space at Iowa State, provided food, music, and carnival fun for the voters. Bachman had a petting zoo, and drew fans to a concert by country superstar Randy Travis. Cost of the banquet: $30 a ticket.

To assure there were enough votes, Bachmann’s campaign, like all other campaigns, paid the $30 admissions ticket. That would be $144,690 for 4,823 votes, plus several hundred thousand dollars in related campaign expenses. Related campaign expenses for the candidates included renting charter buses to bring voters from throughout Iowa to Ames.

But, Iowans aren’t stupid. Many wanted to see Randy Travis and eat the food of politics but didn’t plan to vote for Bachmann. About 6,000 persons took the “free” $30 tickets. Thus, she officially paid $180,000, $37.32 a vote; unofficially, with all expenses figured in, the cost could easily have been well over $200 a vote so she could be the winner and earn the title of Media Darlin’ of the Week.

The establishment media generally avoided Ron Paul, the second place winner, who “only” got 4,671 votes, 152 less than Bachmann, and 27.7 percent. Paul is a pariah in the Republican party, and something the media can’t figure out, because he actually has a core set of principles, which sometimes leads him to ally with liberals, but for different reasons.

Third place, with 13.6 percent of the vote and, according to numerous media pundits not charismatic enough to be a serious contender, went to Tim Pawlenty, who didn’t drink much of the tea and dropped out of the race after spending about $1 million in Iowa. Not dropping out were Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum (9.8 percent) and Herman Cain (8.6 percent), who lured voters into his tent with free Godfather’s Pizza. Mitt Romney, who had spent about $2 million in the 2007 Straw Poll, but skipped this year’s non-binding poll, finished behind Rick Perry, dripping tea with every statement he makes, entered the presidential race only after the Iowa Straw Poll, but did get 718 write-in votes for 4.3 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Romney is still believed to be the front-runner.

Thus, going into the primary season, the Tea Party can arouse themselves with Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and maybe Palin. Not identified with the Tea Party, but in its gravitational pull are Romney, Jon Huntsman, and whatever is left of Newt Gingrich’s chances.

The Tea Party began a few months after Barack Obama was elected president, with a stated purpose to reduce wild government spending. But its deep structure shows an amorphous bunch of white middle-class ultra-conservatives, aided by upper-class political consultants and media manipulators, who have developed the ability to sound impressive with only half-truths behind their rants and chants, and a zealous determination to keep President Obama out of a second term.

During the debt ceiling crisis, Tea Partiers refused to budge on a demand of not raising the debt ceiling, cutting numerous social and educational programs, and holding firm to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone must cut back, especially during economic crises, they bleated. Austerity is their mantra.

But, based upon their extravagant lifestyle and the wild spending they did in Iowa, shouldn’t their mantra now be “hypocrisy”?

 

[As a young reporter in Iowa, Brasch covered everything from fairs to politics to rock concerts. His current book is Before the First Snow, a powerful look at how the collusion of Big Government and Big Business can destroy civil liberties and lead to environmental destruction and health issues. The book is available at www.greeleyandstone.com, www.amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble.]

 

 

 

Mitt's Big Spending Ways Don't Bode Well for His Candidacy

The folks within the Beltway seem content with their diagnosis that Mitt Romney won the Ames, Iowa straw poll over the weekend by a sufficiently large margin, meeting (though perhaps not beating) expectations. But I'd like to take a moment to challenge that assumption.

Earlier today Todd posted an interesting metric: the number of votes each Republican candidate garnered per visit that candidate made to the Hawkeye state. By this measure, Romney performs fairly well, trailing only Ron Paul in number of supporters per trip to Iowa. But USA Today's Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence, writing in the newspaper's On Politics blog, post another interesting metric: how much each candidate spent per vote. The numbers are decidedly different.

The top three finishers in the Iowa Republican Party straw poll are on talk shows today. We'll be back later with a report on what they said. Meanwhile, here's our own cost-benefit analysis of how they did yesterday at the Ames event:

  • Third-place finisher Sam Brownback says he spent about $325,000 to win his 2,192 votes. That's $148.27 for each vote.
  • Second-place finisher Mike Huckabee spent about $150,000 and received 2,587 votes. That's $57.98 per vote.
  • Winner Mitt Romney has not said how much he spent. The reporting in this Washington Post article suggests at least $2 million and possibly more than twice that much. Assuming $2 million for 4,516 votes, that's $442.87 per vote. But it could top $1,000.

The fact that Romney won the Ames straw poll somewhat convincingly will likely provide a boost to his campaign, even considering the fact that his main rivals did not participate in the event. But the numbers posted by USA Today nonetheless bode rather poorly for the Romney campaign.

Clearly, Mitt Romney is a wealthy man. We didn't have to wait for his remarkably belated financial disclosure today, which showed he is sitting on a pot of money of upwards of $250 million, to figure that out. Indeed, because of this personal wealth Romney has been able to invest about $9 million of his own money into his campaign as of the end of June, money that has allowed him to stay on-air (in Iowa and elsewhere) and generally keep his campaign going (without the money his campaign finance filings would look a lot like that of John McCain -- too much spending and not enough fundraising).

But while Romney is clearly wealthy, he is not wealthy enough to buy a general election on his own, as he may be able to do a Republican primary. At the rate that Romney spent per vote in the Ames straw poll this last week he would have to spend between $27.5 billion and $62 billion in order to win the popular vote (assuming George W. Bush's roughly 62 million votes in 2004 would be sufficient to win in 2008). Romney doesn't have nearly this kind of cash, nor would he spend it if he did (one would hope).

Now of course it isn't going to cost general election candidates the type of money per vote that it will cost candidates in the primaries, and certainly not what it cost the Republican candidates participating in the Ames straw poll. Nevertheless, the fact that Romney spent perhaps as much as 17 times more per vote this last weekend than did second-place finisher Mike Huckabee indicates that Romney is not nearly as strong as some might believe and that, what's more, his win over the weekend was not nearly as impressive as some might have you believe.

There's more...

Iowa Straw Poll: Votes Per Visit

Chris's post at Open Left on the number of visits each candidate has made to the various early states inspired me to compare the number of votes each Republican competing in the straw poll on Saturday actually received with the number of trips they've actually made to Iowa. The results show a somewhat different picture than merely the finishing order.

                 Votes     Visits   V/V 

Ron Paul          1305      15      87 Mitt Romney       4516      90      50 Mike Huckabee     2587      71      36 Tom Tancredo      1960      67      29 Sam Brownback     2192      115     19 Tommy Thompson    1039      143     7 Duncan Hunter     174       24      7

Ron Paul got the most votes per visit of any candidate, showing clearly that a. pounding the flesh is not the only way to move Iowa voters and b. the online movement that has sprung up around Paul's candidacy can translate to offline real world metrics. While certainly Paul would have liked to have gotten higher than 5th place, this puts his finish in some perspective, although it's unclear whether he'll gain any appreciable momentum from his 5th place finish since the expectations going into Saturday were high. This also seems to indicate that Huckabee's finish was a strong second and Brownback's a weak third. Brownback just did not get the return on his investment of time in the state. Chuck Todd brings us yet another measure of the strength of Huckabee's second place:

In terms of surprises at a straw poll that Romney was destined to win, Huckabee was it. He actually received more votes than he bought, a noble feat in the straw poll. Huckabee's campaign tells First Read they didn't rent one bus...
While this is an imperfect measure since it's not clear how long each visit lasted and how many events were held, it's an interesting way to look at Saturday's results. Brownback may say he's sticking in this thing but despite finishing just behind Huckabee, I'd argue they're actually in different tiers in Iowa. It will be interesting to see if the next statewide poll reflects that.

Update [2007-8-13 16:18:30 by Todd Beeton]: Well, the Huckabee campaign may not have had buses but that doesn't mean a good portion of his supporters weren't bused in (h/t mcjoan):

From Iowa Independent:

Voters bused to the Ames Straw Poll by Americans for Fair Taxation helped give a boost to suprise second-place poll winner Mike Huckabee, according to both a spokesman for the group and Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman. Asked about things that might have made the difference for Huckabee, who did not bus voters to the poll and purchased about 1,850 tickets for supporters, Saltsman said, "We talked a lot about the fair tax." The group, better known as FairTax.org, bused about 500 voting Iowans and 1,000 other supporters to the Straw Poll today, according to FairTax.org national director of grassroots Mike Rose.
Eye on 08 has more.

There's more...

Iowa Straw Poll Results Open Thread

The results of the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, which Iowa Independent is reporting resulted in a mere 14,000 votes (they were expecting 30,000,) were supposed to have been announced at 7pm Central time but there's been a delay of indeterminate origin. Let the conspiracy theories commence. I like this comment from their liveblog:

Maybe they're trying to figure out how to announce "none of the above" in a positive way.

This event is a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party so I take it the low turnout means that their coffers are not exactly overflowing today, for which we can thank Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain, who bailed out of the event.

The hollowness of the event notwithstanding, the results are interesting to the extent that they impact the field. We could actually see some candidates drop out today. So wait with me, won't you, as the votes are tabulated.

Thoughts on what's causing the delay? Predictions of who's in 2nd-4th? Who drops out today?

Update [2007-8-11 21:12:11 by Todd Beeton]: From NYT Caucus:
Party officials say there is a problem counting ballots. Foul play is not suspected. It is, after all, an event sponsored by Republicans for Republicans. The latest estimate? 8:30 p.m. Iowa time.
And this from Iowa Independent:
The Iowa GOP just confirmed that one voting machine malfunctioned during today's Straw Poll, and some 1,500 ballots must be recounted by hand.
You'll recall that supporters of Ron Paul had petitioned for the voting machines -- made by Diebold -- to be prevented from being used to count the votes in today's straw poll, a request that was denied. When are these guys going to learn that these machines are crap? And why does this discredited company get any business at all?

Update [2007-8-11 21:24:41 by Todd Beeton]:Results:

Mitt Romney       31.6%
Mike Huckabee     18.1%
Sam Brownback     15.3%
Tom Tancredo      13.7%
Ron Paul          9.1%
Tommy Thompson    7.3%        
Fred Thompson     1.4%      
Rudy Giuliani     1.3%  
Duncan Hunter     1.2%
John McCain       0.7%
Jon Cox           0.3%
Update [2007-8-11 21:47:57 by Todd Beeton]: I updated %'s per DesMoines Register

Update [2007-8-11 21:35:0 by Todd Beeton]: Big day for Huckabee. Can't wait to hear how much he spent compared to Romney. 32% is all Romney could draw with all that money and organization? Pretty weak. Solid showing by Ron Paul as well (as compared to expectations.) Hopefully Hunter and T. Thompson will bid farewell after this.

There's more...

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