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 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 and ITalk FM Spain

Following a brief hiatus I am delighted to be teaming up with Richie Allen once more as he makes his triumphant return to the airwaves on the all new ITalk FM, broadcasting to the European continent across the Iberian peninsula and to the world on the internet at:http://www.italkfm.com/

I am delighted to have been asked to join in on their first day on air and wish Richie and the team even success in this new and exciting venture.

I’ll be discussing a range of issues with Richie during his show on Monday November 7, including the current state of politics in the US, where I have been recently, taking the pulse of all that is going on over here, and I have to say, it’s not looking good for the president right now!

Tune in on Monday to find out more!

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!

JDB Addresses ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement on Talk Radio Europe

Ahead of my departure for Los Angeles I have recorded an interview with Lisa Grant of Talk Radio Europe addressing the growing unrest across the United States that is occurring under the banner of Occupy Wall Street.

With reports of unrest and disturbances on both sides how will this ply out in light of the forthcoming presidential election? Will the protestors get their way or will their very efforts undermine their aspirations for change and contribute instead to a backlash akin to the Silent Majority of the late 1960s?

Tune in on October 12 at 20:20 GMT to hear my thoughts on this.

http://www.talkradioeurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1676&Itemid=125

You may also be interested in this piece by Tim Stanley in the Telegraph.

JDB addressing Salzburg Global Seminar

I am in glorious Salzburg this week for the annual Global Seminar on American Studies. I will be one of a small number of keynote speakers at this year’s event, which is headlined by William Leuchtenburg.

The Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) was founded in 2003 to build upon the positive momentum stemming from thirty-two sessions organized by the American Studies Center between 1994 and 2002. The purpose of SSASA is to provide a forum for anyone working in the field of American Studies to interact with experts in the field by meeting annually at Schloss Leopoldskron to attend symposia devoted to broad American Studies themes. The annual symposia are attended by distinguished professionals from a wide number of countries around the world. Through such American Studies symposia, the Salzburg Global Seminar continues to make a vital contribution to the promotion of open, international dialogue.

The 2011 symposium is entitled “Continuity and Change in US Presidential Foreign Policy; Plans, Policies and Doctrines” and will take place at Schloss Leopoldskron from October 6-10, 2011. The program will focus on comparative developments, continuity and changes in the international role and policies of the United States of post-war presidential administrations, with a special emphasis on the Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

Those of you familiar with my work will recognise how central these themes are to my ongoing research which is being showcased this autumn at a series of conferences in Europe and the United States.

Republican Turmoil Following Florida Straw Poll

Across the United States, party members are turning out for non-binding but nevertheless influential ‘straw polls,’ designed to provide an indication of voting intent and overall levels of support for the various candidates seeking to challenge President Obama for the White House next year.

So far the only pattern that has emerged is one of chaos, with no single individual emerging to dominate the crowd, ensuring that Republican divisions continue unabated.

Reputations are being made, lost and recast on a weekly basis, as the would-be candidates crisscross America searching for the magic moment that will propel them to the nomination in 2012. Thus far voters have singularly failed to coalesce around any single candidate.

Last night’s big winner was Herman Cain, the Godfather Pizza king, in an indication of how bizarre this race threatens to become. He romped home with 37% of the vote, leaving second placed Rick Perry feeling stuffed crust with just 15%. Moderate Mormon, Mitt Romney managed a mere 14%, despite having been in the race as long as anyone can recall….

The biggest loser however appears to have been Michelle Bachmann who managed a pitiful 1.5%. That’s not a typo. The woman portrayed as the next Sarah Palin failed to register in a state that will be central to any Republican efforts to secure the White House. 

This is, of course, all window dressing until the voting begins in the new year, but such events have a big impact on the direction of funding at this stage.  Money follows success so failure at this stages is a harbinger of hard times ahead financially. It will be fascinating to see who is left standing when the polls open in Iowa and New Hampshire next year, and whether the lack of a leading candidate draws other candidates into the race… 

US Governmental Shutdown Looms Large Again

Earlier in the summer the threat of a government shutdown loomed large in Washington with wild predictions in some circles that President Obama would be forced to implement the 14th amendment to the Constitution to keep the government ticking over. That didn’t happen of course. Instead, as I suggested on Sky News, the politicians in DC merely kicked the problem into the long grass in the hope that the issue would be resolved. It hasn’t been and the issue is back once again as the end of the fiscal year arrived on Friday. Continuing resolutions are no way to run the United State’s government.
At a time when world markers are plummeting and investors and citizens are looking for signs of confidence in the market, politicians in Washington are doing their utmost to worsen the situation. Blame can be spread around and suggestions that this is simply a Tea Party roadblock are misleading, if for no other reason than that such a party doesn’t really exist as a single entity. Leaders from both sides of the aisle need to unite for the long term interests of the nation.
Policymakers and lawmakers need to recognise the damage that is being done not only to markets but also to the long term reputation of the United States by their actions. Critics enjoy analysing American hegemonic decline. Their work is made easier by the very individuals sent to Washington to prevent such an event.