Political body language

How does one figure out a potential Republican party nominee’s intentions?

Consider John Thune’s recent CPAC speech. CPAC is a major Republican conference, where potential candidates can get a significant amount of media and insider attention. If one is going to make a speech and is seriously considering running for President, one wants to make a good impression, no? Yet, John Thune gave his speech while making heavy reference to his notes, and his gestures made it look like he hadn’t practiced it that much. After watching, I was left considering two possibilities: 1. He isn’t that good at delivering speeches, or 2. He didn’t think it worth his time to prepare it to a level which would be polished (which at that length would probably take hours). I compared this to Mitch Daniels’ speech, which was delivered at a much higher level.

Shortly after, Thune has announced his isn’t running for President (which I first read through Matthew Newman’s post).

Similarly, consider Chris Christie’s recent AEI speech. Many pundits said it was well-delivered and he didn’t refer to notes. I watched it, and was struck by how poorly it was delivered compared to most speeches Christie gives. He was frequently referencing his notes, and some lines he seemed to stumble over. My conclusion is: Christie is being sincere when he says he doesn’t intend to run for President in 2012. If he were intending to do so, he would have practiced the speech much more.

The basic point is: for politicians who are time-pressed, looking at whether they think it worthwhile to spend several hours rehearsing what would be an important speech (or similar sorts of things) can be an indicator of their intentions.

Newt’s and Bachmann’s Iowa Prospects

The Iowa caucuses are the first in the Republican primaries calendar. A candidate that does well in Iowa stands to gain significant national media and ‘momentum’ (barring an expectations problem).

Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican has just ranked the top 10 Republican (possible) candidates as far as their prospects in the Iowa caucuses go. Neither Huckabee nor Palin are on the list (presumably because Robinson doesn’t think that they will run). Absent those two, the top three are:

3. Tim Pawlenty

2. Michele Bachmann

1. Newt Gingrich

Based on this, I have increased Bachmann and Gingrich’s percentages in the Republican Standings (right-hand side of blog), from 1% -> 2% and 3% -> 4%, respectively.

Metaranking the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

There are now several rankings available of potential 2012 Republican Presidential candidates, and this allows us to do a metaranking, below.

At Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (the eponymous site of a University of Virginia Political Science Professor), they rank the Republican candidates while grouping them into several major tiers (so, First Tier includes Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty, Barbour and Daniels). Beside each, they gives several key advantages and disadvantages, which presumably make up part of the reason for the rankings. (Note: this ranking’s currently from Jan. 20th.)

At National Journal (via Mark Lowe), they have just released their second ranking of the Republican candidates, where they give short descriptions justifying the position (or change thereof).

Finally, there’s our ranking, which you can see on the right-side of the main blog page.

Notes: if a candidate doesn’t appear in a ranking, they are not listed. The numbers next to ranking indicate their respective rankings by Sabato, National Journal, and 270soft, and the average of those three.

So, the metarankings are:

  1. Gov. Mitt Romney (1, 1, 1 = 1.0)
  2. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (4, 2, 2 = 2.7)
  3. Gov. Mike Huckabee (2, 3, 4 = 3.0)
  4. Gov. Mitch Daniels (6, 5, 3 = 4.7)
  5. Gov. Sarah Palin (3, 8, 4 = 5.0)
  6. Gov. Haley Barbour (5, 6, 6 = 5.7)
  7. Rep. Newt Gingrich (7, 7, 6 = 6.7)
  8. Sen. John Thune (9, 4, 9 = 7.3)
  9. Amb. Jon Huntsman Jr. (13, 9, 6 = 9.3)
  10. Sen. Rick Santorum (12, 10, 10 = 10.7)
  11. Rep. Michele Bachmann (14, 12, 10 = 12.0)

Mike Huckabee’s Southern Strategy?

David Shedlock notes that Mike Huckabee’s book tour to promote his forthcoming book A Simple Government focuses on Iowa and South Carolina (both states where Mitt Romney appears weak), but includes several southern states:

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

The question I have with Mike Huckabee (as well as Sarah Palin): is he doing this in preparation for a Presidential bid, or is he doing this to seem like he’s preparing for a Presidential bid, in order to get more press so he can sell more books? Perhaps both.

Washington straw poll results

The second straw poll of the year for Republicans was held in Washington state. This straw poll, like New Hampshire’s about a week ago, is mainly an indication of sentiment among Republican operatives (= elites) within the state, and not necessarily the sentiment of rank-and-file members. It is probably more applicable to a caucus than a primary.

So, the winner is …

  1. Gov. Mitch Daniels 31%
  2. Gov. Mitt Romney 14%
  3. Gov. Tim Pawlenty 13%
  4. Gov. Chris Christie 9%
  5. Sen. John Thune 8%
  6. Gov. Bobby Jindal 5%
  7. Rep. Paul Ryan 3%
  8. Rep. Newt Gingrich 3%
  9. Sen. Jim DeMint 3%
  10. Gov. Sarah Palin 3%
  11. Gov. Haley Barbour 2%
  12. Gov. Mike Huckabee 2%
  13. Rep. Mike Pence 1%
  14. Amb. Jon Huntsman, Jr.  1%
  15. Rep. Michele Bachmann 1%
  16. Rep. Ron Paul 1%

Note: sample was approx. 300 Republican activists and politicians.

Compare and contrast to the New Hampshire staw poll:

The winner in the New Hampshire straw poll was Mitt Romney, so we have one for Mitch Daniels, one for Mitt Romney, and by similar margins. Tim Pawlenty was in the top 3 in both straw polls, and was neck-and-neck with Romney for 2nd in this straw poll. Ron Paul did much worse in the Washington poll (11% -> 1%). John Thune had a strong result at 5th and 8% (4th place if you don’t count Chris Christie, who has repeatedly insisted he is not interested in running). Mike Huckabee’s showing in both straw polls has been weak (3% -> 2%).

Pawlenty as President

I haven’t paid much attention to the former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. He was talked about as a possible Veep nominee on the McCain ticket in 2008, but outside of that I didn’t know much about him.

When I watched this interview, though, I could see him as an effective candidate for President:

Not only was Pawlenty the House Majority Leader and then two-term Governor of a mid-sized, left-leaning state (unlike Romney, who did not seek re-election in Massachusetts), but he is also an evangelical Christian, which should give him a base of support in the primaries that neither Romney or possible newcomer Huntsman – both Mormons – will have.

Because of the above, I’ve moved him into 2nd place in the Republican standings, a little above the Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels.

Palin’s course

This article by Politico’s Andy Barr on Sarah Palin’s PAC’s latest financial report with the FEC contains this interesting line:

“The filing shows no indication that Palin has started to ramp up for a potential presidential run, as no new staff shows up on SarahPAC’s expenses — which remain very low compared to a campaign of even moderate size.”

This supports the theory that Palin does not have presidential ambitions this election cycle. Because of this, I have adjusted the percentage in her ranking (right-side of page) a few percentage points downwards.