"In contrast to the vitriolic rants you'll find on some political blogging sites, Palmer gives in-depth analysis and commentary." --Dan Cook, The Free Times


The Ramifications of Huckabee's Departure

trading online The latest statements of non-candidacy from Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee leave a very thin Republican field and have significant implications for the remaining declared candidates. The absence of Trump is less significant than the absence of Huckabee because Mitt Romney was also running as the "competent businessman" Republican. The void Huckabee creates, however, is much more significant, particularly for the political fortunes of the strongest Republican remaining, Mitt Romney.

To start, the absence of Huckabee likely heightens expectations for Mitt Romney in Iowa because he no longer has a credible excuse for not competing and finishing well in the caucuses there. Had Huckabee stayed in the race, Romney could have ceded Iowa to Huckabee and concentrated on New Hampshire. That option is no longer available. For Romney, losing to Huckabee in Iowa is not a mortal blow. Losing to Tim Pawlenty or Rick Santorum, on the other hand, would be a strong repudiation of the former Massachusetts governor.

Huckabee's departure also raises the stakes for Romney in South Carolina because anything other than a victory there (or perhaps a very close second-place finish) could be fatal for his candidacy by illustrating how strongly some in the GOP dislike him. Whether such dislike is based on evangelicals' suspicion of his faith or on conservatives' suspicion of his ideological consistency, a disappointing finish in South Carolina, a state Huckabee clearly could have won, could call into question Romney's general election viability in Outer South and "less ruby red" Southern states with growing Latino (Democratic) populations that any Republican must win in order to defeat President Obama. States like Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and perhaps Texas could potentially be more competitive if disaffected or unenergized Huckabee voters don't support Romney and stay home.

cheapest online trading platform Pakistan A third consequence is that it leaves a large conservative constituency without a top-tier candidate to rally behind. Mike Huckabee was a staunch social conservative who believed that the social conservative wing of the GOP should not be secondary to the fiscal conservative wing. While other Republicans emphasize fiscal issues while trying not to antagonize social conservatives too much, Huckabee was not afraid to embrace these voters. It would seem that the obvious beneficiaries of Huckabee's absence are former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Of course, it has been more than 120 years since a presidential candidate has gone from the House of Representatives to the presidency. And Rick Santorum lost his last race by more than 15 percentage points. But they now have a lot less credible competition for the voters Huckabee could easily claim.

Fourth and perhaps most ironically, Huckabee's departure may push social conservative issues to the center stage as social conservatives clamor for more attention to be paid to their causes, such as restricting gay marriage and curbing abortion rights. The current Republican field now consists of two blue-state governors who are trying to run as pragmatic business leaders (Romney and Minnessota Governor Tim Pawlenty), two longshot libertarians (Texas Congressman Ron Paul and New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson), a businessman who has never held political office before (Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain), a Tea Party congresswoman (Bachmann), and a second-tier social conservative candidate (Santorum). Social conservatives are a major constituency in the Iowa caucuses, and they will likely not be silent regarding the lack of attention paid to their issues. This could lead other candidates to overcorrect by paying more attention to the social issues that may give them short-term success in the Republican caucuses and primaries at the expense of giving them long-term problems in a general election with a more moderate electorate. Santorum would seem to be a natural fit for this group, but it should be assumed that the other candidates will challenge him for these votes.

Surely other political analysts have noted that this creates a huge opening on the cultural right. Romney cannot be defeated from the center; he can only be defeated if he is not deemed conservative enough. So watch for Romney to try and cover his right flank by continuing to criticize Obama's policies, but this might not be enough for voters searching for a candidate who has more allegiance to the social issues he is reluctant to address. Huckabee had the best chance of doing this, but now that he is no longer a candidate, do not expect these voters to be content with not having a sufficient crusader for their causes.


On Shirley Sherrod and Sarah Palin's Missed Opportunity

The Shirley Sherrod saga has crowded other stories out of the media over the past few days. The details of the saga are well known and easily available on other Web sites. The 7-10, however, wishes to focus on an unreported political angle to the story.

best trading platform in Pakistan Many politicians, particularly those who do not hail from safe congressional districts, have understandably been a bit gun shy about responding to this story. Expressing condemnation at Andrew Breitbart, the conservative activist whose edited video served as the catalyst for this story, would presumably lead to criticism among other conservatives who feel that politician is "siding with the NAACP" or is somehow "against Whites." Expressing support for Sherrod may lead a politician to be seen as "playing the race card" or "being in lockstep with the NAACP."

These types of political calculations are understandable, but unfortunate. However, that's the state of today's political and media climate. But this story also affords a few gutsy politicians, particularly those with presidential ambitions, a unique opportunity to distinguish themselves for the right reasons. Sarah Palin in particular could easily increase her political capital by coming to Sherrod's defense. After all, Palin commonly ridicules the "lamestream media" and enjoys her freedom to criticize and avoid them:

"With the shackles off, I relish my freedom to call it like I see it, while starving the media beast that was devouring the false reports about me, my staff and my loved ones."

"The lamestream media is no longer a cornerstone of democracy in America. They need help. They need to regain their credibility and some respect. There are some pretty sick puppies in the industry today. They really need help."
Based on this quote, Palin and Sherrod have a lot in common. While some of the critical stories about Palin may have merit, such as her awkward interview with Katie Couric, Palin is right to be offended at the media frenzy that surrounded her daughter's pregnancy.

Being a public figure, Palin naturally commanded (and still commands) public attention. Sherrod, however, did not seek the media spotlight and has had her character and identity destroyed by an influential conservative activist whose personal vendetta against the NAACP renders her as nothing more than collateral damage. If Palin was a victim of the "lamestream media," then Sherrod certainly was too even though some conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, believe the media are at fault for going too easy on Sherrod, whom he believes is "playing the race card."

Should Palin courageously come to Sherrod's defense and criticize Breitbart and the media outlets that piled onto her, she would show her independence, a sense of leadership, and her willingness to "defend what is right," not just what is convenient. It would also earn her a lot of respect from Black voters, moderates, and uncommitted Republicans who may be skeptical about Palin's ideology and political loyalties. Given that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and other potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates have not exactly been making significant inroads with Black voters, this presents a fantastic opportunity for Palin to separate herself from her rivals and earn plaudits from voters who may not have been inclined to vote for her in the first place.

This story is on the verge of leaving the front pages and will likely be finished by the start of next week. There's still an opportunity though for politicians to take a political risk by defending Sherrod and criticizing those who sought her ouster. Palin likely stands to benefit the most from doing so on the GOP side, but as long as she remains silent on this matter, she will be unable to expand her base of support beyond people who are already fervently in her camp.


An Altnernative View of Obama's Poll Numbers

Quinnipiac released a new poll showing that President Obama's approval rating has fallen to 44%, which is a record low for the second-year president. This has led to increased chatter among the media about how Obama is politically threatened, losing support among independents, and even trailing potential Republican challengers in hypothetical 2012 matchups.

This news is surely encouraging for Republican presidential hopefuls, Republicans seeking to recapture control of Congress, and conservative allies seeking to boost their fundraising. However, a threat to these gleeful Republicans is not that this polling is inaccurate, but rather that this polling lacks sufficient context about why Obama is politically weak to begin with. Weakness on behalf of President Obama does not translate into strength on behalf of his political rivals. President Obama is not weak because of a lack of legislative accomplishments or because he is personally unpopular. He is weakened because those who are attacking him have nothing of their own to defend.

Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and other 2012 presidential contenders are getting a free pass right now, and that is what limits the value of these polls. None of these candidates, save for Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, currently holds public office. As a result, these potential candidates have little for which to be held accountable. They can reflexively bash the president for anything he does without having to make any decisions of their own that they must defend. They can appear before friendly audiences, grant interviews to friendly media outlets, give speeches and not take any questions, or simply not take a definitive position at all on the major political issues of the day (e.g., bailouts, illegal immigration, health care reform, financial regulation, spending cuts) and get away with it.

Obama is taking heat from Republicans and conservatives who claim he is spending too much money, growing government too fast, and taking the nation too far to the left. While Obama can respond to these criticisms, he cannot respond to his critics, at least not directly, because increasing their visibility would not be politically prudent. One rule of politics is that you should never shoot down. In other words, it is common for a governor to attack the president. But it is much less common for a president to attack a governor because that would elevate the governor and diminish the president at the same time. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for example, is faring a lot better politically after getting into a tussle with President Obama over her state's tough new illegal immigration bill.

Similarly, should Obama respond directly to Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney, for example, it would show that his rivals are getting under his skin. This would generate more media coverage that could only be a net positive for his opponents' coffers. Further compounding this is the fact that Obama is politically isolated in that he has few people on whom he can rely to defend him and his accomplishments. Congress, currently controlled by Democrats, has an approval rating of about 20%.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cannot take a more active role in defending the president because he has his own re-election concerns in Nevada. He is effectively making his race against Tea Party conservative Sharron Angle a referendum on her and her ideology, so the last thing he wants to do is change the focus of the race to Obama and defending the Obama record.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a bogeyman whose name is commonly invoked by conservatives who don't like her "[liberal] San Francisco values." Her taking a more public role in defending the president might do more harm than good in that she may alienate moderates who reluctantly voted for Democrats because they disliked their Republican alternatives. She would also give conservative activists more fodder they can use to gin up their own base.

Other liberal-leaning organizations have branding problems that limit their effectiveness beyond their bases. The NAACP, for example, is viewed with suspicion by many Whites who fear the civil rights organization plays the "race card" too often and seeks to advance the agenda of Blacks at the expense of Whites. MoveOn.org released their infamous General BetrayUs advertisement in 2007 which harshly criticized General David Petraeus, who is possibly the most respected person in uniform today. Environmental groups may have a bit more credibility with the electorate in light of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, but public skepticism of climate change legislation and reminding voters of the public perception that Obama mishandled the BP disaster could blunt their messages' effectiveness.

Republicans have the mobilized Tea Party, the influential National Rifle Association, the well funded Chamber of Commerce, conservative talk radio, and a vocal minority in Congress with no legislative responsibility that all get to attack President Obama and his agenda with impunity. The Republican Party's approval ratings are actually worse than the Democrats' and Obama's approval ratings. But by relentlessly attacking the president and the majority party, the Republican Party and their allies are making Obama look increasingly unattractive and increasingly unelectable.

But despite this, Obama (and congressional Democrats by extension) should find solace in the fact that Obama will be running against exactly one Republican opponent in 2012. And that opponent will have to articulate his or her own policy proposals that go beyond the usual bromides of "smaller government, lower taxes, and less spending." Republicans criticized Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign for not offering specifics beyond "hope" and "change," so it would seem hard for them to get away with taking the same approach in 2012. Until a credible Republican begins to put forth specific policy proposals of his or her own, Obama will retain a political advantage regardless of how vulnerable his poll numbers may make him appear now--two years before the next presidential election.

In short, Obama's poll numbers seem more a reflection of his opponents' piling on him without having to worry about taking a hit themselves for not offering any solutions of their own. In addition, despite his legislative accomplishments, until the unemployment rate begins to fall and oily water stops spoiling the beaches and marshes along the Gulf Coast, Obama should expect to have great difficulty seizing control of his political narrative. This combination of external events and the lack of accountability that comes with not holding any elective office or being in the congressional minority should make Obama's poll numbers appear artificially low while his opponents' poll numbers appear artificially high.

Copyright 2007-2010 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.