Thursday, September 1, 2011

Is the Perry Surge for Real?, Dangerous Voter Disenfranchisement

Is Perry Really the Front-Runner?
The newest national polls are all in and they confirm one fact, if the primary elections were all held today, Rick Perry would be the GOP nominee for President. Fox News has Perry at 26% of likely primary voters versus 18%, CNN has the margin at 27% to 14%, Gallup 25% to 14%, all well outside the margin of error. There is only one major problem for Rick Perry...the primaries aren't being held tomorrow. Perry's appeal to the GOP base is obvious: he's a conservative, well in line with the Tea Party voters who dominate GOP primaries and he brings the credibility of 10 years of experience as Governor of Texas, much stronger qualifications than, say, Michele Bachmann, who has never held an executive office. Perry possess good looks, a charming and unassuming southern drawl and a great economic story from the State of Texas. But to my eyes, Rick Perry has some major obstacles from turning this polling theory into reality: (1) He Appears Unready for Primetime He fumbles when asked about foreign policy, calls Ben Bernake (a Bush appointee) a traitor and seems to have a poor command of the national issues of the day. You don't have to be a genius to be President, but you do have to appear Presidential. And trust me, as much as the GOP is Tea Party-tilted these days, they also want to win a national election and party loyalists have to be worrying right now whether Perry would get squashed like a bug in a debate with Barack Obama (who, lest we forget after 3 painful years of governing, is very good at the whole campaigning thing.) (2) He Has to Debate Mitt Romney has utterly owned the GOP field in the first couple of debates. He's polished, sharp and behaves like the next President. Perry is going to have to stand on a stage with Romney and convince the GOP he's the better guy. (3) Romney is the Next Guy All of recent history would indicate that the "next guy in line" usually gets the GOP nod -- either a previous candidate who came up just short or a guy with a powerhouse name brand connection to the party. Perry has neither. Consider: 1968 - Richard Nixon - previous Presidential candidate 1972 - Richard Nixon - incumbent 1976 - Gerald Ford - incumbent 1980 - Ronald Reagan - previous Presidential candidate 1984 - Ronald Reagan - incumbent 1988 - George H-W. Bush - sitting VP and previous Presidential candidate 1992 - George H-W. Bush - incumbent 1996 - Bob Dole - previous Presidential Candidate 2000 - George W. Bush - powerhouse name brand 2004 - George W. Bush - incumbent 2008 - John McCain - previous Presidential candidate Of the whole bunch, only George W. Bush in 2000 hadn't previously run for President. And the name "Bush" ain't no hay. (4) The Open Primary Effect There is no Democratic Presidential race of any consequence and in many states (such as South Carolina), there are "open" primary systems, meaning that Democrats and Independents can choose to participate in the Republican primary if they choose to sit out the Democratic one (which won't be meaningful.) In many other states with "closed" primaries (such as New Hampshire), Independents still have the choice. Even in the states with "completely closed" primaries (such as my home state of New Jersey), you can still switch party registration very close to primary day to vote in the GOP primary and then switch back afterwards. My point in all of this is that there will likely be a sizable contingent of Democrats and Independents voting in GOP primaries this season. Does anyone think they will be backing Rick Perry? Don't get me wrong...Perry is the definitive betting favorite at this stage. But so was Rudy Guliani. My money is still on Romney, but it's still early and a lot can still happen.  

Why Asking for ID Isn't a Good Thing
In Rolling Stone this month, Ari Berman writes an excellent piece on a recent campaign by the GOP in some states to place additional requirements on voters in 2012. The story is linked here. Requiring ID to vote sounds fantastic in theory -- who wouldn't want to stop ineligible voters from showing up? But it creates huge problems in states where 10% of the population has no state issued photo ID card and that population is largely poor and minority. I'm all for stopping voter fraud, but there is zero evidence of any election in the US in the past 20 years where widespread voter fraud existed. If we are truly worried about the wrong person showing up and a poll (and believe that someone would risk 7 years in prison to cast ONE false vote), there are simple checks that have been in place for years in many states, including cross-checking actual signatures against ones recorded on a voter registration form or requiring commonly available non-photo ID such as a utility bill (who, after all, is going to NOT vote but give their utility bill to someone else to vote falsely?) Does the Tea Party really believe that you should be REQUIRED to get a government ID in order to cast a vote, often at a cost? Doesn't that sound a lot like requiring people to buy a product or service, something they are suing the Obama Administration over as unconstitutional? If you like this site, tell your friends.

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