Live Free or Die: New Hampshire Primary Day

Well here we are folks, it’s the first primary in the 2012 presidential election. In many ways, it should all begin here; after all, as John Huntsman reminded us recently, ‘they pick corn in Iowa and presidents in New Hampshire.’ Cute line and only offensive to the 122,000 Republicans that may have voted for him out of 3,400,000 Iowans. Cute and sometimes true. This year things may get interesting. The press are trotting out a nice line to the effect that no Republican has won Iowa and New Hampshire and that at present, Mitt Romney is on course to do just that. Let me stress the last two words; ‘just that.’ Recall his winning margin of 8 votes in Iowa? When LBJ won an election in Texas by a similarly close margin he was tagged ‘Landslide Lyndon’ for the rest of his career (or ‘Lyin’ Lyndon in less polite society). Such is the onus on the front runner, to stay running and to stay at the front.

The problem for Mitt Romney (who appears to have been running for president since, well, forever), is that his fellow Republicans don’t appear to be convinced in any way shape or form by his candidacy. He ‘won’ the Iowa Caucus by 8 votes, and in the process gained the same amount of electors as second place Rick Santorum, who spent far less in the state and who may well have been denied victory by the stone age voting system employed in the state. (Did anyone tell them it’s now the 21st century?)

As a virtual favourite son Romney was 20 points ahead in the New Hampshire polls and a sure thing to win, thereby becoming, as the press have mentioned, the first Republican to win Iowa and New Hampshire. His capacity to win both states is something of a geographical fluke in reality; having thrown money around like it was going out of fashion in Iowa and relying on his local status for victory in New Hampshire. Truth be told, you don’t get many Republicans in Massachusetts.

One of the tricks in an election is to peak on Election Day, as George W. Bush arguable did on Election Day 2004. It really doesn’t matter how popular you are the following day, just as long as more people vote for you on Election Day than anyone else. Romney may well win tonight, indeed, he probably will, but the margin of victory will be telling. Until last week he was 20 points ahead and cruising. Then came Iowa and since then his numbers began to slide and slide and slide. Romney therefore faces the problem of being more popular two weeks prior to the big day than on the day itself, which raises the challenge of what George Herbert Walker Bush called, the Big Mo, or in language adults would use, Momentum.

In coming in 8 votes clear in Iowa and with his numbers cratering in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is singularly failing to develop any momentum to carry him into the far from welcoming southern states of South Carolina and Florida. Perception is everything in politics, and the perception/truth of the matter, is that currently, anywhere between 70-75% of Republican voters are voting for someone else. Out of a weak field of candidates, Mitt Romney is constantly the least bad candidate, a point beautifully captured in the season premier of Saturday Night Live.

In many ways Romney and Obama have a similar situation; both are lucky in terms of their opponents.

If the Republican right could coalesce around an agreed upon candidate (as high ranking members of the party are meeting to arrange) then Romney’s candidacy could be doomed. However, if the 75% of Republicans who won’t vote for Romney continue to split their preference between the likes of Gingrich, Paul, Perry, huntsman and Santorum, then Romney can keep on making gaffes about (“I like firing people”) all day long, before losing in the general election to an even luckier candidate, President Barack Obama.

Today, then, is all about the final number. It would appear impossible for Romney not to win the vote tonight. It is, however, entirely possible, that just like Iowa, he could win the battle of the vote and lose the war of perception

Reflecting on New Hampshire Debate

After a series of interminable debate amongst the Republican Party presidential candidates, life was finally breathed into the contest this morning in New Hampshire in the NBC/Facebook debate. Coming less than 24 hours after the previous such event (yes, really) this clash of contestants threatened to be a weary affair with all concerned having debated so soon beforehand. Instead, the opposite occurred with all parties running on adrenaline or coffee to ensure a lively and memorable debate.

One constant through all of the debates has been Mitt Romeny’s capacity to appear serene and above it all. He knows he’s got the nomination in the bag and is determined not to blow it by getting down in the mud with his challenges. He’s content to let them scramble around looking to win cheap debating points, whist he lords it up above them all as the Nominee in Waiting.

This was replicated again, as the other candidates (Gingrich, Paul, Santorum etc) were left to win debating points, which to their credit they did when presented with the opportunity. Governor Perry won the prize for Most Engaging speaker with a good line in self-depreciating humour that won a lot of laughs. Only when the polling is over will we know if the laughs were with him or at him.

Newt Gingrich (Mr Speaker) was happy to remain the Teacher In Chief, filling his answers with facts and history and dropping Ronald Reagan’s name whenever possible, even when it was to defend Trickle Down economics. Ron Paul (Dr Paul) remained as committed as ever to Libertarian principles and the defence of liberty even whilst Rick Santorum mocked his inability to get anything done or to work with anyone. When Santorum was able to get a word in edgeways he appeared to be balanced and rationale, though he did little to overcome his comments on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on Fox News recently.

The biggest loser today may have been Huntsman who did little to distinguish himself. It was always going to be difficult for someone who was an Obama appointee to seek the nomination this year, and Huntsman has repeatedly done nothing to make his job any easier.

What emerged from this debate is that the candidates believe Obama to be a socialist with a secular view of the nation who is weak in the Middle East and a threat to national security. Not mush we don’t already know, but the extent to which these views are being so openly espoused makes for fascinating viewing. What it says about the Republican’s understanding of socialism, however, is another matter.

The latest polling out of New Hampshire does not make for comfortable reading for Romney who has now dropped steadily to 35%, down from the low forties whilst Paul and Hunstman are gaining ground, though remain far behind on 20% and 11% respectively. Texan governor Rick Perry, who many expected to thrown in the towel last week after his poor showing in the Iowa caucuses remains on 1%. His only hope remains what it always was, a string showing in the South Carolina Primary on January 31. Without it, he will be forced to withdraw, though he will doubtless not be alone in that prospect by the end of the month. Romney may have done enough to secure a points victory today, but once more, the true victor was probably Barack Obama.

 

JDB interview on Voice of Russia

On January 6 I joined Nick Adams and Alexander Nekrassov in an on-air debate with James Reinl on the Voice of Russia, addressing the US Military Cuts, and whether this constitutes the decline of the United States.

 

JDB Update

With all of the comings and goings with regard to the Iowa Caucuses I have been rather busy. First Sky News, then ITalk FM, then copious amounts of tweeting and now two more appointments: I will be talking with Lisa Grant this evening on Talk Radio Europe, addressing the fallout from the Iowa result and the implications for the GOP race. Listen live from 19:15 GMT this evening at: http://www.talkradioeurope.com/

Tomorrow I will be a guest on the Voice of Russia, discussing the defence cuts that President Obama is announcing today and their implications for the United States military capability. The show is recording tomorrow, and I will post once I know an air time.

I am also working on a paper addressing the use of warfare to gain and secure elected office, which I anticipate getting to print later in the year.

I hope that you have all had a great Christmas break and that you all have a wonderful 2012.

JDB on Sky News this Evening

Happy New Year everyone!

In what I hope will be the first of many such appearances this year, I am marking the first day of 2012 with a trip into the Sky News studios for an interview on the impending Iowa Caucus.

As the Republican campaign begins in earnest I will be providing input and observations into all of the latest twists and turns that make the U.S. elections the spectacle that they are!

 

 

JDB on London’s LBC 97.3FM Tonight with Iain Dale

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America. All across the world, Americans will be gathering to give thanks for their lives and to celebrate with their families. But does the world have reason to join in and give thanks for America, Americans and their foreign policy?

I will be returning to the airwaves tonight to address these issues with Iain Dale on LBC 97.3 fm.

I will be addressing the long record of US international relations, the nation’s commitment to the defence of the western alliance during the Cold War and the many benefits that are derived from the ongoing Special Relationship. Above all I will be noting that it was America who fought hardest to ensure the very freedom that allows us to question the direction and intent of the world’s greatest superpower

These issues and more will be addressed in what will no doubt be a fascinating interview. Tune in online at: http://www.lbc.co.uk/listen-live-3578

JDB on London’s LBC 97.3 fm Tonight at 21:20 GMT

I will be returning to the airwaves for the second time today to be in discussion with Kevin Maguire, sitting in for Iain Dale on LBC 97.3 fm.

Not surprisingly perhaps I will be addressing the international reaction to the events that have transpired in Libya, and the expected American reaction in particular. With allegations of having ‘led from behind’ how will the White House react now that the ‘Mad Dog’ has been overthrown?

Given the historic role that the United States has played with regard to Libya what will the direction of policy be under the new regime? Will President Obama seek to exploit this event in the presidential election of 2012, coupled with his administration’s success in killing Osama bin Laden?

What will the reaction be of the European powers who were at the forefront of efforts to remove Gaddafi from power? Where will this leave the relationships between Cameron and Hague, between Downing Street and the FCO? And spare a thought for Liam Fox, forced to resign before a potential hour of glory.

These issues and more will be addressed in what will no doubt be a fascinating interview. Tune in online at: http://www.lbc.co.uk/listen-live-3578

JDB on BBC Three Counties Radio Today

I will be returning to the airwaves today in discussion with Ronnie Barbour’s The Other One Show on BBC Three Counties’ Radio. We will be addressing the degree to which American citizens have a greater access to the presidency than their British counterparts do to become prime minister.

I will be considering the history of the American presidency in an attempt to place this long held believe to the test. Can Americans really go from a log cabin to the White House in the twenty-first century? Was this ever really the case? What impact do structures, party unity and union powers have in the process?
These issues and more will be addressed in what will no doubt be a fascinating interview. Tune in online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001d7nr

Of Ambassadors and the enforcement of Free Speech

So I’m here in southern California and I can’t lie, it’s fabulous. The weather is perfect. This morning was almost too perfect. I drove down from a meeting at Pepperdine University in Malibu, former residence of the witch-finder general, Judge Kenneth Starr, taking in the fantastic views from the Pacific Coast Highway, through LA, Santa Monica, Long Beach and other such places that I had long heard off from one classic rock track or another, but never gave much thought to ever driving through…

So I arrived in Irvine about an hour south of LA. I’m here for the International Studies Association regional conference addressing security issues. I’m delving a paper in the morning on the development of the UK national security council and the parallel rise of the transatlantic body set up by Obama and Cameron in the summer.

This evening I was invited to a reception with former US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, something I anticipated very much. I was expected an evening of fascinating personal insight drawn from his career in the service of his country overseas in some of the most vital postings available.

Disappointed doesn’t cover it…

Instead of what could have been an erudite performance, we were treated to a bland, colourless and limp discourse on the state of the world today. No attempt was made to address his own insight, based on his experiences or engagements with the great and the good, or with the truly rotten.

The real low point however, came when he stated that the situation in Iraq was essentially the fault of, guess who, the British, since we had created the ethnic conditions that allowed for Saddam to be in power! How easy it is to have the Brits to kick whenever necessary. How easy it is to forget America’s own woeful tale in Iraq, or their sending of Donald Rumsfeld as President Reagan’s emissary in the early 1980s, or the curious case of arming both sides when circumstances suited in the eight year Iran/Iraq War. Shocking doesn’t come close to covering it!

To compound matters the ambassador was late arriving, not realising apparently that traffic in LA tends to get somewhat congested in rush hour. One wonders how long he has been in his diplomatic bubble?

Late,bland, boring. Other than that it was a great experience!

Needless to say the sycophants were running around congratulating him on a magnificent job. The tell-tale sign was the mass exodus of students from the well guarded auditorium. That’s right, the auditorium was being patrolled by a uniformed member of university security, looking for all the world like a police officer. I cannot confirm whether he was armed with a firearm not. The students left, deciding that they had less important things to do, leaving us under the watchful glare of the failed police officer, there apparently to ensure freedom of speech! Past experiences had apparently led to protests that had prevented speakers from talking, thereby denying them their first amendment rights.

Can you see the contradiction here? We have apparently reached a point whereby security is being employed on university campuses to ensure the enforcement of first amendment rights for invited guests, whilst denying them to attendees. Does this strike anyone as odd?

Land of the free and the home of the brave.

Right.

JDB returns to California

Update from the flight deck: I’m returning to California for meetings at Pepperdine University, USC and a conference in Irvine. I’ll be attending a talk with US Ambassador Chris Hill and delivering my latest paper, this one on the development of National and Transatlantic Security Councils. I will also be taking the political pulse of California ahead of the forthcoming election season, which should add depth and colour to my upcoming media appearances. See you on my return!