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Iowa Straw Poll: Let The Fight For The Right Begin

Technically, the margin of victory for Michele Bachmann at Saturday’s Iowa straw poll was slight, with second-place finisher Ron Paul falling just 152 votes (or 0.9 percentage points) short of her tally.

But everyone knows that Paul is a niche candidate. The 27.65 percent that he earned on Saturday is impressive, in that it speaks to the sizable and devoted following he has built, but it’s also probably the same share he would have received if there’d only been two candidates on the ballot, instead of nine.

Bachmann’s real competition was Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who had poured massive time and energy into the straw poll, hoping to post a breakthrough victory — and to stave off an early elimination from the GOP race. As the stakes had crystallized for Pawlenty in the days leading up to the straw poll, he’d even gone on the attack against Bachmann in a desperate effort to peel support from her. Saturday’s results demonstrated forcefully just how futile Pawlenty’s strategy was: He finished a very distant third, with just 13.57 percent, winning fewer than half as many votes as Bachmann.

In other words, this was a very big win for Bachmann. She crushed her biggest mainstream competitor and she avoided the indignity of finishing behind Paul. In the run-up to the straw poll, there was talk that she might be a victim of her own early success — that by making so much noise this spring and summer and moving up so quickly in polling she had set the bar too high for herself. Finishing behind Pawlenty (and Paul, for that matter) would have encouraged this view, raising questions about whether Bachmann really had the staying power and organization to win the Iowa caucuses this winter. But now she’ll leave Ames with the political world taking her more seriously, not less.

And her victory was doubly significant in light of the day’s other major political development: Rick Perry’s formal entry into the GOP race. The Texas governor made his long-expected announcement early in the afternoon at a conservative blogger conference in South Carolina. Perry is a heavyweight candidate, to be sure, and enters with considerable momentum. But he would have even more momentum right now if his announcement had been followed hours later by news of an unexpectedly weak straw poll showing for Bachmann — a development that would have created the immediate possibility of defections of Bachmann supporters to Perry’s side. Perry, after all, is supposedly Bachmann’s worst nightmare — someone who appeals to the same rigidly conservative base she does, but who is far more acceptable to the party’s establishment. Perry may yet end up taking the wind out of Bachmann’s sails, but the straw poll outcome suggests that she’ll put up a whale of a fight.

Thus, the stage is a set for a fascinating battle for the loyalties of the “purist” wing of the party between Perry and Bachmann. Which is very good news for the other major candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, who has also stood to lose by Perry’s emergence. The threat to Romney is that Perry might marginalize Bachmann and gobble up most of her support and that the GOP establishment will then rally around him, judging him to be a safe enough choice and more acceptable to the base than Romney. So the longer Perry is tied down in a fight with Bachmann for the true believer vote, the better Romney has to feel.

And no doubt Perry himself would much rather focus his attention on Romney, whose ideological credentials have long been in doubt and who would be relatively easy to run against from the right. But trying to convince Bachmann supporters to abandon her is far trickier — especially now that the straw poll results have lifted their spirits to the stratosphere.

So if you’re keeping score at home, Saturday was a very good day for Bachmann, and a decent one for Romney. And it wasn’t bad for Perry, either, although he would have preferred to see Bachmann lose the straw poll. It was, however, a dreadful day for Pawlenty, who’s now pretty much run out of time to demonstrate that a candidacy that makes sense on paper is remotely interesting to Republican activists.

 

By: Steve Kornacki, Salon War Room, August 13, 2011

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Circular Firing Squad: Boehner Bill Is Showdown Between House Republican Purists And Realists

The run-up to the vote expected Thursday on House Speaker John A. Boehner’s proposal to provide a short-term increase in the national debt limit is quickly turning into a time of clarity for the chamber’s Republicans.

If GOP leaders are unable to muster enough support to get the plan out of the House, the only measure left would be a Democratic proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), and voting with Reid is not a concession many House Republicans are willing to make.

“There’s only three choices,” said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close Boehner ally. “One is to vote for Senator Reid’s plan. One is to default. And one choice is the Boehner bill. It should be pretty self-evident what the best choice is to someone who’s a Republican.”

Increasingly, the vote on Boehner’s proposal is shaping up not as a test of wills between moderates and conservatives, but as a face-off between political purists who scorn the bill and realists who prefer it to the alternative.

“We came here to reduce the size of government and reduce spending, and this bill, I think, begins to accomplish that goal,” said Rep. Sean P. Duffy (R-Wis.), who decided Wednesday that he will vote for the measure. “It’s by no means perfect. But it’s the best bill we have.”

At a closed-door meeting for House Republicans on Wednesday, where leaders tried to rally support for the measure, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) read from a blog post by conservative commentator Bill Kristol. “To vote against Boehner is to choose to support Barack Obama,” Kristol wrote.

But it is not an easy sale for a party that won back control of the House last year on promises to vote without regard to political consequences.

Boehner’s bill would postpone major entitlement reform and other deep cuts by passing such decisions to a new committee that would report its recommendations by year’s end. The proposal also would not require Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, but only that it vote on one.

Some Republicans have vowed that they will not raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

Others preferred a conservative bill dubbed “cut, cap and balance” that passed the House this month but was killed in the Senate. It would have required Congress to vote to send the amendment to the states for ratification.

“The credit rating agencies have been clear that no matter what happens with the debt limit, the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating unless we produce a credible plan to reduce the debt by trillions of dollars,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee. The group comprises more than 170 House conservatives. “Cut, cap and balance is the only plan on the table that meets this standard,” he said.

House leaders expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that they were convincing members that the plan advanced by Boehner (R-Ohio) is the best that Republicans can hope to get.

It would avert a government default, take a bite out of the deficit and require Congress to adopt $1.8 trillion in additional cuts before the debt ceiling could be raised again next year.

Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), whose district in Staten Island and Brooklyn is home to many Wall Street professionals, said he decided Wednesday that he will vote for the bill after he was convinced that its failure would hand Democrats control of the debate.

“I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think it’s close to perfect. I don’t think it’s in the realm of what I expected to get,” he said.

But, Grimm said, it would require deep spending reductions over the coming years. “That’s historic. And that’s a step in the right direction.”

The public infighting has served to rally some Republicans. Behind closed doors, members erupted Wednesday over an e-mail that a staff member of Jordan’s Republican Study Committee sent to outside conservative groups. It listed undecided members who could be pressured to vote against the Boehner plan.

“I think it’s offensive when a group that you’re a part of uses your bullets to shoot you,” said Rep. Bill Flores (Tex.). “So I have a problem with it.”

Those entreaties did not quiet conservatives who are urging that the plan be abandoned: On Wednesday, the head of the group Tea Party Nation accused Boehner of surrendering to Washington’s status quo and called for him to be replaced.

The House proposal was panned at a small rally held at the Capitol by the Tea Party Express and the American Grassroots Coalition. The GOP that rode tea party energy and activism is hoping that some of it members can look past that relationship.

“Some people are new here and this is part of the learning curve,” LaTourette said. “At times you have to say ‘no’ to people you represent who are yelling at you, if you’ve reached the conclusion that it’s in the best interests of the country.”

By: Rosalind Helderman and Felicia Sonmez with Contribution by David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post Politics, July 27, 2011

July 28, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Revolution, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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