Republican women straw poll results

UPDATE: The results have been updated.

This weekend, the convention of the National Federation of Republican Women was held in California. They held a straw poll. I don’t have complete results yet, but the top-line result is pretty solid. Rudy Giuliani won an outright majority. Giuliani did speak to the convention.

  1. Rudy Giuliani: 50%
  2. Fred Thompson: 21%
  3. Mitt Romney: 14%
  4. Huckabee: 7%
  5. Hunter: 4%
  6. McCain: 2%

Working on more complete results. My understanding is that the convention was actually contested, so there was high turnout.

My source at the NFRW says that John McCain has had historically poor relations with the organization, explaining his results. I don’t have any details though.

Punditry versus activism; False dichotomy?

Patrick Ruffini, former E-campaign director for the RNC, and Dean Barnett, former driver for Mitt Romney in his 1994 Senate campaign, are debating the relative merits of activism (Ruffini, an activism activist, here and here) and punditry (Barnett, a punditry activist, here and here). I basically agree with Patrick, as my framing should indicate, but I think that is mostly because Barnett doesn’t understand what he is doing.

In the last several months, I have had to explain to people in the private sector and in the European political class why I think that the new media matters. I have also given a presentation at Heritage on this subject, focusing primarily on blogs. The fundamental fact is that technology has made information cheaper to distribute. It is easier to link up supply with demand in smaller and more specialized markets. Blogs create content on one or more subjects, and they get readers. Other technologes have similar effects. For example, social networks allow people to externalize their likes and dislikes and match them with others’, whether it is jobs and expertise (LinkedIn, Xing, etc.), dating (Match.com, etc.), or social interaction (Facebook, etc.), and increasingly these are all commercialized.

Some blog content is new. For example, Dan Rather’s forged documents, Trent Lott’s unfortunate comments, NZ Bear’s making the text of the immigration bill available in a useful way, or nearly everything out of TPM Muckraker. These create new information. Others frame and redistribute information. This is mostly what Barnett does. Marc Ambinder makes a good distinction when he refers to his blog as a “reported blog”. He is trying to break news, as opposed to repeating narratives and facts.

The point of this is, in part, to clarify what is going on. Barnett is not really a pundit. He is a distribution mechanism. Contrast this with Fred Kagan, who he points to as a pundit. But Kagan isn’t a pundit. He is an expert. He creates ideas, which he has to peddle to people who redistribute it. Barnett, or really Hugh Hewitt, offers a way to get out facts that other mechanisms, such as the MSM can’t or won’t distribute. Of course, distribution channels can be activist. Just look at the New York Times or Fox. Full of (often dishonest) spin with an agenda.

Getting back to a standard question that I like to address, the deficiencies of the online right. We need more people creating good information. For example, state and local bloggers, issue specific bloggers, etc. And we need more people distributing and framing good information in a way that is politically useful.  We have plenty of people who distribute information that they like, with their own personal biases. For example, Barnett attacks Ruffini’s support for a Massachusetts Republican who is, to Barnett’s mind, soft on the war. Of course, Barnett doesn’t attack Mitt Romney, also soft on the war, he never claimed to be consistent. There is no unified conservative movement framing online, although Redstate tries sometimes. There is no establishment Republican framing. There is no framing that is driving the message of the House or Senate leadership or the White House. Etc. This is a form of activism that we don’t have and that Barnett is not interested in participating in. Neither are Glenn Reynolds, James Joyner, Ed Morrissey, or most other leading conservative bloggers.

Now, often attracting attention to something is enough to change the perspective of our politicians (that is, change legislative votes or actions) or of voters (getting them to elect new politicians). Sunlight hasn’t stopped John Doolittle, John Murtha, or Ben Nelson. Many conservative bloggers argue that they stopped immigration. It seems more correct to say the the conservative groups expressed their anger through blogs, meetings, phone calls, etc. Coordinated activism was more valuable in driving the actions of the politicians than a bunch of self-appointed (and market reinforced) opinion leaders. So sometimes you need to generate energy or anger on legislation or money and volunteer energy during campaigns. And we need tools to harness the energy that is out there.

The point, in the end, is that you need a basket of tools and information. The internet gives you the tools to target information with increasing precision and leverage with decreasing transaction costs the responses to that information into the kinds of actions needed to actually change what politicians do. This is clearly not an either/or debate. It should be a both/and debate. Synergies lie ahead.

I suspect that people like Barnett poo-poo this thinking because, in the end, it marginalizes them. He, Hugh, and a couple of others are the voice of the online right. If the online right were truly functional, I don’t think that they would be that important. This is perhaps too psychologized and intentional of an explanation. They like what they do and think it works. The hammer and nail problem. Ruffini, on the other hand, being a campaign guy, in addition to a great blogger, recognizes the need to mobilize to effect change.

McCain blogger conference call

John McCain gave a conference call from Michigan where he had spoken to a Hispanic business group.

He says that the campaign is moving along well. "We have a long, hard slog." He talked about Iraq, and described Petraeus as "convincing enough to give our troops more time." McCain calls on ASEAN to kick Burma out of ASEAN. … Slaughter of Buddhist monks is unacceptable. Had the great honor of my life to meet this person [ Aung San Suu Kyi]. … Thugs running that country."

Jennifer Rubin of Human Events. Says she is asking petty political questions. Asks if he is shifting resources out of Iowa. She also asks about money. McCain responds that he has a "comfortable amount to do what we have to do. … We still have a tough fight in Iowa. … Our plans certainly are to compete in Iowa. We have a lot of work to do in Iowa. … "

Dan Nowicki of McCain Central. Asks if there are any events to commemorate 40th anniversary of McCain being shot down. McCain says that he won’t do anything. The Forrestal fire is more important to him.

James Joyner. Asks about Burma. "Tell the Chinese that they have to stop supporting the Burmese. … Call on ASEAN to through them out. … Asian leaders said that [Burma being in ASEAN] would help democracy, human rights, etc. It hasn’t turned out that way. … They have a lousy economy because they have a lousy government."

Ed Morrissey. Asks about skipping the debate last night. McCain says that he would try to reschedule. Morrissey follows up and asks if we need to reach out more to African Americans. McCain basically says yes.

Jim Geraghty. Asked about the Democrats in Iraq. Why did the top Dem candidates not announce that they would pull out. McCain points out that "we have troops in the Balkans, we have troops in South Korea, We have troops in Okinawa. Americans don’t care about whether there are troops, they care about results. We have troops in Kuwait. … This insurgency is going to be fought for a long time."

Philip Klein. Asks for comments on Hillary Clinton’s baby-bond idea. McCain asks how it can be paid for. "I’d like to give every child $100k, but I’d like to know how to pay for it. … How are we going to pay for it?"

Fausta Wertz. As a Hispanic entrepreneur, how do you propose to reduce the costs. "We have the spending. We have to stop the spenidng. We have to stop the corruption. …  Americans no longer trust their government, and we have given them good reason… Katrina, failures in Iraq, corruption. … If we stop the spending, we can go to the American people with clean hands. … I know that the overall impact [isn’t that big] but we need to get the faith back. … Look at the restructing of Congress. Different from Congress, in these townhalls, there has been a tremendous erosion in the trust in government."

Calendar implications; Iowa less important?

Jan. 5: Iowa caucuses both parties
Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary both parties
Jan. 12 Nevada caucuses both parties
Jan. 15 Michigan GOP primary; Dem beauty contest
Jan. 19 South Carolina primary both parties
Jan. 29 Florida GOP primary; Dem beauty contest

Marc Ambinder reports the schedule.

The most interesting thing that I saw was 3 days between Iowa and New Hampshire. Is that going to dampen the effect of (presumably) Romney’s Iowa win. Candidates are just going to move straight to New Hampshire, and there will be little chance for people to see much impact. With three days to go, people in New Hampshire are going to be making their minds before Iowa.

The same thing applies to Nevada, but I am not sure that anyone is really going to care about Nevada anyways.

Two new Iraq talking points?

Yesterday, the Biden-Brownback plan passed the Senate with 75 votes. For the first time, someone on both the left and the right can claim genuine progress on pulling out troops.

As Marc Ambinder points out, this is a good talking point for Biden,  where Joe Biden is counting that liberal activists in Iowa are less extreme than people think.

Sam Brownback, the other half of Biden-Brownback, is counting on Republican activists being less pro-war than public opinion holds. There is polling evidence to support this.

Interesting strategy. We will see if it catches on.

Lech Wa??sa: Clarity and inspiration from Europe

This weekend, I was an attendee at the European Ideas Network, an annual 3 day seminar of center-right European politicians, think tankers, academics, and business leaders. There were sessions about a huge range of topics. I can’t imagine a similar forum in the states in either party.

One of the speakers was Lech Wa??sa, the former President of Poland. He is, perhaps, the last remaining great Cold War leader. His speech might have had a subject, but what I heard was moral clarity and a kind of leadership that you don’t see today. He started with a story about Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Poland after becoming Pope. He said that the KGB needed lessons about how to cross themselves like regular Poles. The fact that they could learn, that they could bring themselves to cross themselves, was a sign that athiestic communism could be defeated. Even KGB officers had to cross themselves; thus there was hope.

Here was a man who was there to settle deep, long-term, moral and existential questions, not technocratic ones. Would someone trust the electrician from Gdansk to fix the healthcare system? Probably not. He certainly had nothing to say about globalization and the challenges of today. He said this to a room of technocrats. Many of those technocrats thought he was a fossil, even if he was once inspiring.

It occurred to me while I was listening to that Wa??sa was the right man the for his time.  Ronald Reagan was also the right man for the right time. A time with 18% inflation, confiscatory taxes, a sense that the West was losing the Cold War, and a deep, deep malaise. He fixed all of those. (perhaps Volcker fixed the inflation…) Reagan left office in success. However, Wa??sa entered government in later, and, eventually, left office in 1995 in disgrace. Building a post-Soviet Poland was not a task that he was suited for.

This made me wonder what the various candidates on the GOP side were "the right candidates" for.

  • Rudy Giuliani is clearly the candidate of a muscular response to the War on Terror. There isn’t much subtlety in his policies, but that may just be the theater. Most likely, they will be somewhat generic Republican policies.
  • Mitt Romney is clearly the leader for a time of technocratic questions. He celebrates burying himself in data and comes up with answers. He is not the candidate that you want to lead a country at war. He still strikes me as the sort of person you want to be chief of staff. Brilliant administrator. He is probably the right guy for our country if our biggest concerns are economic ones. Trivialities about foreign policy, but probably good ideas about taxes and, even, healthcare.
  • John McCain is the candidate of a more nuanced approach to the War on Terror. Respected around the world, but in a way that would provide a very robust response to our international challenges. He is also someone to speak to a country that is at a loss about itself and its institutions. But many of his domestic policies are unclear. Healthcare? Taxes? He had made clear that these don’t drive him.
  • Fred Thompson is, perhaps, the candidate who narrowly wants the party to get more conservative. I am not sure.

Which candidate is the candidate for today? For today’s Republican party, I see Giuliani and McCain being the most natural answers. For a party that wants to step back from Bush’s interventionism — back to putting education, healthcare and immigration on the front burner like the pre-9/11 Bush — Romney would be the answer. I don’t think that’s where the party is.

Thoughts?

Terry Everett retires

Rep. Terry Everett (R-AL) just announced his retirement. I just got off the phone with a party leader in Alabama. It is looking like a two-way primary, at least.

One option is George Wallace Jr. The other is State Senator Harri Ann Smith. She is an up-and-comer, while he is very, very good at pulling Democrats. I suspect that there is an argument Wallace will make that argument in a bad environment.

Other people may show up.

The lesson of Romney’s videos

I wasn’t going to write about this, but at today’s conservative blogger lunch, Gary Marx said that I, by name, would not get to vote in Mitt Romney’s make your own ad gimmick.

Romney’s problem is, of course, his stage managed personality and values. The most remembered video out of the ones considered takes his words… And demonstrates just how weird he is.

The most watched of the videos will be Slate’s Five Brothers video.

When Gary said that I couldn’t vote, I said that it was ok. I would have voted for Five Brothers. The room laughed. Everyone had seen the Five Brothers video. Everyone got the joke. Everyone but Gary…