Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
Guest Host: Tom Gjelten
After New Hampshire, G.O.P. rivals move on to South Carolina. Profiles of the big winners and key factors dividing them.
- Ramesh Ponnuru Senior editor for the "National Review."
- Michael Dimock Associate director, Pew Research Center
- Isaac Dovere Deputy politics editor, POLITICO
- Mark Maremont Senior editor, Wall Street Journal
- Kate Zernike National correspondent, The New York Times.
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. The Republican presidential field solidified overnight with a strong showing for Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire primary. All eyes now turn to South Carolina, which holds the next primary 10 days from now. To discuss who the big winners were in New Hampshire and what the key issues will be in the race ahead, I'm joined by Isaac Dovere of Politico, Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review, and Mike Dimock of the Pew Research Center.
MR. TOM GJELTENOn the phone from New York is Kate Zernike from The New York Times. And you can join our conversation. Call us with your questions and comments, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email. It's email@example.com. And join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everyone.
MR. ISAAC DOVEREGood morning.
MR. RAMESH PONNURUGood morning.
MR. MICHAEL DIMOCKGood morning.
MS. KATE ZERNIKEGood morning.
GJELTENRamesh, let's begin with you. Primary races are often about expectations. Mitt Romney, of course, was always expected to win in New Hampshire. Did he win by enough of a margin to convince those skeptics who weren't convinced of the enthusiasm behind his candidacy? Thirty-nine percent seems pretty impressive.
PONNURUWell, you know, Gov. Romney has some pretty hardcore critics in the Republican Party, and they're going to say that this was an unimpressive win. I think they're continuing to say that. But, I think, for people who are on the fence, it's going to look pretty impressive. And it's not just that he got 39 percent, that he improved on his showing last time, that he's the first Republican to win Iowa and New Hampshire. It's also that there's -- he left the competition in the dust.
GJELTENWell, speaking of the competition, Isaac, let's consider the rest of the field: Ron Paul, 23 percent, second place; Jon Huntsman, 17 percent, in third place; Newt Gingrich, 10 percent; Santorum, 9 percent; Rick Perry, 1 percent. What are the headlines there for you?
DOVEREWell, it's -- that Ron Paul did much better than he was even looking like he was going to do last week, did better than he did in the Iowa caucus, which is important for his campaign and shows that he's probably going to stick in this race for a while to come with the ability to say that he's drawing support. Jon Huntsman, who, if he didn't do that well last night, would have had real trouble continuing.
DOVEREHe's going to have trouble still, but he will be in the race and continue to be a factor for Romney going into South Carolina. What you see, though, importantly is that, though, yes, it was a big a win for Romney last night and will be taken as such by the Romney campaign, you're right. The action does go to South Carolina, and a knockdown, drag out fight that Romney should be expecting there as Perry, Gingrich and Santorum all compete with each other and very much with Mitt Romney going after him as hard as they can.
GJELTENMike Dimock, from the perspective of a demographer and survey researcher, what are -- what stands out for you? I mean, one of the interesting things that we have seen throughout this primary season has been the low level of enthusiasm among Republican voters for their candidates -- 44 percent in your latest poll saying that they are not convinced that these are the best candidates that they could have.
DIMOCKRight. Right. Forty-four percent saying it's only fair or a poor quality field they have to choose from. That's a stark contrast to four years ago where they felt pretty good about the field by this point. It was -- McCain was starting to do better. People felt good about the options they had in front of them, and they were showing a little bit more enthusiasm than they're showing this year, which is interesting because there's a lot of reasons for Republicans to be enthusiastic this year.
DIMOCKThey're really angry about Barack Obama's leadership. They just came off of big successes in 2010. But there's -- this field somehow hasn't yet really drawn the spark that people are looking for. And, in particular, the front-runner has not really drawn the passion that a lot of Republicans want to express in this election.
GJELTENWell, Kate Zernike, a year ago now, we were just in the aftermath of those very impressive 2010 wins in which the Tea Party and Tea Party-backed candidates were featured so prominently. What's your assessment, Kate, of how the Tea Party is doing as a phenomenon now in Republican candidates now that we've had these two races in Iowa and New Hampshire?
ZERNIKEWell, I think, it's important to note, first of all, that, according to exit polls, Mitt Romney actually did win 40 percent of people who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters, which is kind of a surprise, given that he -- you know, his health care plan as governor of Massachusetts was a model for the health care plan -- the Obama administration health care plan that so many Tea Partiers really don't like.
ZERNIKEI mean, I think the Tea Party -- I think this is just one that the Tea Party has shown itself to be pragmatic, and we've seen this before. Remember they, you know, worked very, very hard to elect Scott Brown in -- again, a senator from Massachusetts who is not, by any measure, a Tea Party candidate, but they wanted him to be 41st vote in the Senate. They now want to beat Barack Obama so that's may be why they're coalescing behind -- coalescing, to a certain degree, behind Mitt Romney.
ZERNIKEBut I think the other thing to remember about the Tea Party is that it's really -- it was much more of phenomenon of a midterm year, for two reasons. One, a midterm election has much lower turnout, so a smaller group, a smaller influence can have more of an effect. And, also, a midterm election year tends to see voters who are disproportionately older and white as compared to a general election year.
ZERNIKESo -- and that those, as we know, that's sort of the profile of many Tea Partiers is, is disproportionately white and older. So I think the Tea Party should not have been expected to sort of have too much of an impact, but at the same time, I think, also it's lost some of its favor. I think, you know, a lot of people who went to the polls in 2010 and supported Tea Party candidates four in 10 voters, 40 percent of voters, sort of elected these Tea Party lawmakers and then didn't so much like what they had done.
ZERNIKEI think the Tea Party lost a little bit of -- a lot of favor in the debt ceiling debate and in the deficit reduction commission. Went a lot of -- even Tea Party voters said we want you to compromise. We want you to reach you across the aisle, and Tea Party lawmakers said no. They drew a very hard line of sand.
GJELTENWell, Kate, let's talk for a moment about -- Ron Paul's the second place finisher, 23 percent. You are suggesting a lot of Tea Party voters are already looking ahead to the general election and figuring which is the candidate that's most likely to defeat Barack Obama. But Ron Paul had a fairly strong showing both in Iowa now and in New Hampshire. Is he not getting Tea Party votes? Are those more independents, do you think, who are going to Ron Paul?
ZERNIKEWell, that seems what the exit polls say, but, you know, there's certainly a huge asterisk next to Ron Paul. I do think that the people who are going to Ron Paul, you know, are a lot of Tea Party voters, but this reflects the split that we've always seen in the Tea Party. There were some people who came to the Tea Party largely so that people who are very intensely involved in it who came to it from a very ideological perspective, they were coming at it, you know, really wanting a sort of strict constitutional interpretation, how do you focus on debt reduction, deficit reduction.
ZERNIKESo I think those people tend to support Ron Paul. But there are also a whole -- the Tea Party ranks are sort of swelled by much people who didn't really come to it from an ideological perspective. They came to it because they were angry about various things. Maybe with health care act, they weren't so much. They weren't coming at it from this more hard-line perspective. So I think that is the split that we've always seen in the Tea Party.
ZERNIKEThere has been sort of the Ron Paul strain of the Tea Party, and then there's been the sort of diffused anger, frustration with the economy side of the Tea Party. So, yes, the Tea Party is motivating Ron Paul, but that percentage, that sort of strain of the Tea Party is a limited one.
GJELTENRamesh Ponnuru, let's look ahead now to South Carolina. What do these results mean for the South Carolina race? Do we still have a big deny Romney phenomenon out there or was Romney showing in New Hampshire enough that he can actually now begin to develop some momentum going forward?
PONNURUWell, I think we're going to see the answer to that last question fairly quickly by looking at polling in South Carolina and seeing if Romney gets a bump out of his performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. I think if you're one of the anti-Romney candidates, your first task is to try to muscle aside the other folks who are trying to be anti-Romney candidates, and so there's going to continue to be tussling there because there's been no consolidation behind one, single, anti-Romney candidate.
PONNURUAnd then I think what people are hoping who are trying to take Romney down is that the South Carolina electorate is going to be more hostile than the New Hampshire electorate to Romney because it's a more southern electorate, a more evangelical electorate. Although, interestingly, there are evangelicals in New Hampshire, and they did reasonably well for Mitt Romney last night.
GJELTENIsaac, did you -- have you had a chance to look at the turnout data from New Hampshire? I mean, in these -- because enthusiasm is such an important factor in this election, I would think that turnout data are pretty important. How did the turnout in New Hampshire in this primary compare to one four years ago?
DOVEREThe turnout was pretty good, but this -- it's New Hampshire. They take their voting very seriously. What, I think, matters more going forward is what the turnout -- where the turnout comes from in South Carolina. And, because this was really in New Hampshire, so much Romney's race to lose, he'd been working the ground there for seven years. And Ron Paul has people who turn out for him no matter what. Hunstman had been the ground also for the last six months non-stop.
DOVEREWhat I think what Ramesh was saying is that there is certainly a conservative socially -- socially conservative electorate in South Carolina. There's also a long history of the establishment support for candidates coming together in South Carolina. It's been the state that has chosen -- has gone with the candidate who eventually becomes the Republican nominee forever, basically. And so that's what's going to be at war here in South Carolina.
DOVEREWhat you see, I think, going forward is, as Ramesh was saying, Perry, Santorum and Gingrich trying to coalesce that support, trying to turn out voters who are very enthusiastic about not liking Romney, but Romney will have the ground almost to himself to turn out people in South Carolina.
GJELTENOf course, Mike, South Carolina is a very different place from New Hampshire, isn't it?
DIMOCKRight, very different. And in the evangelical vote that Romney did OK with in New Hampshire, it's not quite the same group of evangelicals in South Carolina. They're going to be more social conservative, have different values and priorities. So not every victory that Romney scored in his own backyard in New Hampshire will necessarily carry over to South Carolina.
GJELTENWell, we'll be discussing throughout this hour the New Hampshire primary race and what's coming up ahead in South Carolina.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And on this day after the New Hampshire primary, we're discussing the results in New Hampshire. We're looking ahead at the race in 10 days in South Carolina. In the studio with me this morning are Isaac Dovere. He's deputy politics editor for Politico. Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for the National Review. And Mike Dimock, he's associate director for research at Pew Research. Kate Zernike, national correspondent for The New York Times is on the phone with us from Portland, Ore.
GJELTENAnd now we're joined by Mark Maremont. He's a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal. He's on the line from Portland, Ore. And, Mark, you've had -- you've written an article recently on Gov. Romney's time at Bain Capital, which has emerged as a big issue in this campaign. Of course, Bain Capital is a private equity firm that buys troubled companies, sometimes saves them, sometimes dismantles them. What is his record? According to your research, what is his record at Bain Capital as a job creator, or as his critics would suggest, a job destroyer?
MR. MARK MAREMONTGood morning, Tom. Yes, we -- there have been a number of articles, attacks over the years on Gov. Romney over his Bain Capital record, but a lot of it was based on what I would call anecdotal evidence or one-offs. So we set out to do a somewhat more comprehensive assessment, and we looked at 77 companies that Bain Capital invested in while Romney was in charge. And we followed them to see what happened to the companies by the end of the eighth year after the investment.
MR. MARK MAREMONTAnd the first thing is that we found that the overall, you know, portfolio produced spectacular performance for Bain's investors. I mean, really, really great. We should all do so well in the stock market. Fifty to 80 percent annual returns, which is quite amazing. But on the flip side of that was we found that there were some casualties along the way and -- or after Bain had profited.
MR. MARK MAREMONTTwenty two percent of the companies either filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors, sometimes with substantial job losses, and another 8 percent essentially were so troubled that Bain lost all of its investor's money. And one other thing that we found quite interesting is that a small number of the deals, just 10 of the deals produced 70 percent of the profits, which one might expect.
MR. MARK MAREMONTBut four of the companies that produced all these profits for Bain ended up in bankruptcy court as well, sometimes three of four years later after Bain has extracted some of its profits. So the concern among people that we talk to is that, you know, private equity firms claim they sort of revived these companies and turned them around, but the concern is if, in some cases, maybe they were leaving them.
MR. MARK MAREMONTBut it's vulnerable to the next economic downturn, too much debt and that sort of thing. So, you know, I think from a political perspective, this is clearly a double-edged sword for Gov. Romney.
GJELTENRight. Well, of course, Mark, Gov. Romney has not been running on his record of returns to investors because investors really don't measure up as a big voting bloc. But what about a return to workers? What about the jobs that -- the sort of a net job creation? Is there any way to assess his record purely from the standpoint of jobs that have been added or jobs that have been destroyed?
MAREMONTWell, unfortunately, I think it may take us quite a while to look at the bankruptcy records which are in the public domain. A lot of these companies were small, private companies. They got sold and then resold. You know, it's very, very difficult to come up with a real net, net, net job number. I will note that Gov. Romney has been talking about 100,000 jobs created, and his campaign has clarified that to at least 100,000 of these three main companies that he constantly cites, one of which is Staples.
MAREMONTAlso, Sports Authority and Domino's Pizza, which all -- you know, a lot of people in America, of course, know those familiar brand names. But those are jobs created today, which is, you know, over a 20- or 25-year period, so it's just -- it's difficult to know whether all those jobs should be attributed to Gov. Romney or to Bain Capital or what have you. I mean, if one were to look at the bankruptcies of all those companies over that same period, if we went all the way to the date, I'm sure it would be well over 40 percent.
MAREMONTBut, you know, it's -- and Bain and Gov. Romney would say, that's not fair. Those companies, you know, gone on to new ownership. But by the same token and 100,000 jobs number, you know, is pretty removed from what happened with Bain Capital 25 years ago.
GJELTENWell, we already know that some of Gov. Romney's rivals intend to look specifically at the record of Bain Capital acquisitions in South Carolina. And, Mike Dimock, there have been some companies in South Carolina that have not done so well after having been taken over by Bain Capital. What's -- given the profile of South Carolina voters, the large working class population in South Carolina, what's your expectation of how this issue will play out in South Carolina?
DIMOCKI think it's a fascinating thing to have come up now in the campaign. I think the Romney campaign knew this was going to come up. The Obama campaign was going to go after among these themes in a competition for independent voters, but it's coming up in a Republican primary race now, and it puts the other Republican candidates in an awkward position of, in a way, attacking capitalism and attacking Wall Street, which is not necessarily comfortable with the overall themes of the Republican Party.
DIMOCKBut it does speak to a core of the Republican base, which is working class and struggling and really doesn't have very positive feelings towards feelings Wall Street, and the more they can attach Romney to Wall Street, that could be damaging. But there's a second aspect to this that I think is almost more telling or more of a concern because I think a part of the hesitance or the sticking point with Romney is his genuineness or what a lot of campaign advisors would call empathy, you know? It's a critical factor for candidates. Is this someone who can understand the needs of people like me?
DIMOCKAnd at the end of the day for a lot of voters, that's what it comes down to. I don't know about all the issues and particulars, but do I really get the feeling that this person came from the same place I came from, knows the kind of problems that I faced. And this conversation has put Romney in the position of talking about his history and his past, in a way, sort of claiming that he's had to worry about getting a pink slip himself, which puts him, I think, that statement almost more than some of the others brings to the forefront this empathy problem.
DIMOCKIs he really someone who I can connect with, I can trust? And that's an issue, certainly for independent voters, who are more than anybody likely to be evaluating candidates in that kind of way rather than on policy positions. But I think it matters in a state like South Carolina, again, where you have a lot of working class, blue collar voters who are not necessarily into the specific details of this policy in that policy debate, but really looking for the candidate they can trust.
GJELTENWell, it just seems to me that I can imagine anyone who really can be convinced that Mitt Romney ever really worried about being fired when he's got a millionaire father and that kind of a legacy that he has. Kate Zernike, you know the Tea Party voters so well. This has to be a difficult issue for Tea Party voters. I mean, on the one hand, as you said, they're very anxious to find the best candidate to put up against Barack Obama, but these Wall Street connections must raise some concerns for Tea Party voters.
ZERNIKEWell, again, I think we have to remember sort of the vague nature of Tea Party voters. So, yes, there will be some Tea Party voters for whom this is an issue, and that sort of authenticity gap is going to be a problem for Romney. But remember that Tea Party voters actually don't -- they aren't the sort of antipathetic to Wall Street as you might think. When the bailouts happened, they were, you know, the Tea Party sort of got it start in opposition to the bailouts and to the to the stimulus.
ZERNIKEBut what -- Tea Parties objected to the bailouts, but they did not think that the solution to the mortgage crisis was more regulation to Wall Street. They thought that the solution was less regulation of Wall Street, and they tended to blame Congress, not Wall Street. They're actually fairly sympathetic to big business. They sort of see this -- they see big business as, you know, as -- and people like Romney as job creators and wealth creators. They don’t'-- they look at government as the problem, not necessarily the private sector.
GJELTENRamesh Ponnuru, does that sound right for you? Do you think this issue will really not be big in South Carolina, for example?
PONNURUWell, I think that's certainly true about the Tea Parties in general. I mean, if you look at poll data, folks who say they are strong sympathizers of the Tea Party will tend to say that they favor cutting corporate tax rates, for example, so there really isn't this kind anti-corporate sentiment. What I think is interesting that's happened in the last day or two on the Bain and this whole debate about it is that Sen. Santorum is not on the same page as Gov. Perry or Speaker Gingrich.
PONNURUSantorum is declining to criticize what Bain Capital has done, so apparently his bet is that this kind of rhetoric, which can sound pretty anti-free market, is not what Republicans are interested in, and that's going to be a sort of an interesting sub-debate among these folks positioning to be the not-Romneys in South Carolina.
DOVEREAnd you see at the same time that...
DOVERE...actually, Ron Paul has defended...
DOVERE...Romney in ways. But I do think that what this brings up is it puts Romney in the crosshairs on two of his big vulnerabilities. One of them is the authenticity gap, which he has with Republican voters. He doesn't connect, in a way, with voters, with his own experiences. He grew up wealthy. He's a man of great wealth now. And he -- there's a suspicion of him among a lot of people in the Republican base for some of the positions he's changed, so all of those authenticity questions that come up are really troublesome for him. And the Bain questions bring to -- bring those forward.
DOVEREThe other thing that comes in off of this is that Romney doesn't do as well when he's under fire, as he has been for the Bain questions in the last few days. He tends to stumble, make gaffes, say things that are phrased not so well, like he did on Monday morning when he was speaking to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce and was talking about a pretty standard comment about how he didn't want government-controlled health care because he likes the idea of being able to choose your own health care. But he said that he likes to fire people who provide services for him that he doesn't like anymore.
DOVEREWell, that's a kind of comment that will -- was within 40 seconds, basically, taken by the Democratic National Committee, turned into a campaign video, will continue to show up, I'm sure, over the course of the campaign in between now and November. And the comment that you were talking about of saying that he's been fired, that he knew what it was like, it's a strange and awkward moment for him.
DOVEREHe's talking about how when he was a freshly minted Harvard MBA, he was worried about being let go from his equity firm. That's different from what a lot of workers are thinking about when they think about being fired. And saying those sorts of things doesn't really help Romney's case in connecting with people.
GJELTENWell, Mark Maremont, do you think that this Bain Capital issue and Romney's record as a job creator or job destroyer, you know, is probably going to run its course? I mean, South Carolina would seem to be a critical test of that. How many more unanswered questions are there out there, at this point, about Romney's record at Bain Capital? And, you know, is this issue likely just go away?
MAREMONTI suspect that it may tone down a little bit. Republicans are probably going to get -- their grandees are probably going to -- already is trying to reach out to Gingrich and Perry, saying, you guys need to tone this down. This guy is likely to be our nominee. You know, it's not helping the party, and it's, you know, sort of destroying our message, to some extent. But I'm quite sure that the Democrats will bring it up.
MAREMONTI mean, Ted Kennedy used this exact same issue at the closing part of the 1994 campaign against Mitt Romney when he defeated him. And they were polling reasonably close, and then they trotted out some workers from a Bain investment called Ampad who have been laid off at a factory. And, you know, it was a fairly effective attack that I'm not sure that the Bain -- excuse me, the Romney people had expected.
MAREMONTBut, you know, I think it's -- in a certain way, it's similar to what happened to John Kerry, is that the other side was trying to undercut what he perceived as his greatest strength, which is his war hero status. I mean, that was, you know, to some extent, outrageous, but -- the way he was being attacked for that. This is, you know, a bit more subtle.
MAREMONTBut I think, you know, Romney -- Gov. Romney has been running largely based on his ability as a private sector investor to turn around the economy. And then, you know, it's -- unfortunately, when you start doing that, private equity, which was the business he was in, which is essentially a Wall Street creature, is an inherently, you know, messy business. It's like the sausage business. You get some great sausage. At the end...
MAREMONT...it forms, you know, hot, huge profits for the investors and partners. And they probably did make some companies more efficient, but, you know, necessarily what the voters perceive a sausage making process of job cuts and pension slash...
MAREMONT...and companies loaded up with debt.
GJELTENThanks. OK. Mark Maremont. He's a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, you could join us as well on Facebook or Twitter. Another issue we haven't mentioned -- and, again, it's going to be one that comes up in South Carolina -- is evangelical voters and Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.
GJELTENRamesh, how do you -- what do you see happening on that regard in South Carolina? I think something like 60 percent of Republican voters in South Carolina identify themselves as evangelicals, right?
PONNURUThat's right. And one thing that you haven't seen in this campaign, as opposed to last campaign in 2008, is the emergence of a strong candidate who is an evangelical himself and is running on being an evangelical, who -- I mean, that was, of course, Mike Huckabee last time, who did quite well among evangelicals. This time, a lot of evangelicals are going for the Catholic candidates: Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. Rick Perry, of course, is also an evangelical, but he has been pretty much struggling in the polls.
PONNURUSome are going for Ron Paul, and some are, in fact, going for Mitt Romney. So I see a very split vote, and it's hard to say how it's going to shake out in advance.
GJELTENYeah. Well, there are -- so there are a lot of -- there's a lot of -- there's a lack of enthusiasm for Romney, but you can't necessarily assume that that has anything to do with his Mormon faith.
PONNURUI wouldn't. You know...
PONNURU...when evangelicals voted for Huckabee over Romney last time around, there was a lot of speculation that it was anti-Mormonism. And I'm sure there was some. But a lot of it was I'm going with the guy who's like me, you know, just like a lot of black voters went for black candidate in that race and so on and so forth. And Mormons voted for the Mormon in the 2008 primaries as well.
DIMOCKWe've done some polling on the issue of Mormonism, and there clearly is an unease towards the Mormon faith among many evangelicals. They're not convinced it's a Christian faith. They're a little uncertain about it. Trying to distill whether that's their sticking point with Romney or whether it's his conservatism and where he stands on issues and his empathy and ability to connect is very hard to pull apart.
DIMOCKThe impression that we got from the polls, though, is the very people who might have the deepest concerns about Mormonism are the people who are the most opposed to Barack Obama. And if Romney ends up being the nominee, any qualms they have in the primary race are probably going to get washed out by the very deep unease they feel about Barack Obama's leadership and will probably rally to Romney fairly quickly if he becomes the nominee.
GJELTENDoes that (unintelligible) ?
DIMOCKIt does. I mean, the Mormon issue hasn't come up in this campaign in the way that it did four years ago, not from the candidates four years ago, but not really from anyone this time around as it did in the 2008 race.
GJELTENOK. After the break, we're going to be going to the phones, your calls and questions for our panels on -- our panel on Republican politics, the New Hampshire results and looking ahead to the primary in South Carolina. Stay tuned.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And we're talking Republican politics, the New Hampshire primary results from last night and looking ahead to the race in South Carolina, which is coming up next. Joining me here in the studio is Isaac Dovere. He's from Politico. Ramesh Ponnuru from the National Review, also a columnist for Bloomberg View.
GJELTENAnd Mike Dimock, the associate director for research at Pew Research. Kate Zernike, a national correspondent from The New York Times is on the phone, with us from Portland, Ore. And I'd like to go now to Ed, who is calling from Portland, N.Y. Good morning, Ed. Thanks for calling.
EDHi. How are you doing today?
EDAs a longtime Republican listener to "Diane Rehm Show," I'd like to agree with the point made just before the break that it's much disarray there seems to be now, I think, as soon as the candidate is selected, which I assume will be Romney. The Republicans are really going to coalesce behind him just to try to make sure that Mr. Obama isn't re-elected.
GJELTENAll right. Well, I'm guessing that there are a lot of -- we've certainly seen this before. We -- I mean, we saw in 2008, for example, in the Democratic race, we saw a very bitter race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And all that bad feeling seemed to disappear pretty quickly, didn't it, Mike?
DIMOCKIt did. And I think the interesting parallel here, too, is 2004, where you had a sitting incumbent president that the Democratic Party was deeply unhappy with, if not angry with, about what was going on in Iraq, a primary campaign that sorted out to a candidate who just never quite excited everybody. Did they rally behind him? Certainly. Democrats voted, and turnout actually wasn't that bad for Democrats in 2004.
DIMOCKBut the energy wasn't there and the ability to really get that base mobilized, get them out there and going. And I think that's the question we're looking at, going forward with Republicans. Certainly, they'll come around and back Romney. He's certainly better than Obama from their perspective. But will the energy be there that's enough to really get mobilized?
DOVEREAnd that enthusiasm is so important in swing states. It's where you really see it mattering that -- states where the electoral vote gets decided by couple tens of thousands of votes maybe. And if Romney is not able to drum up the enthusiasm in the Republican base that he hasn't today, that's going to be a problem for him. That he's been at the front of the polls is certainly to his credit for the last seven months of the campaign.
DOVEREHowever, he has never really broken through a ceiling of 25 to 30 percent. Still, even with the Iowa win, even with New Hampshire going in its favor, it doesn't seem like he's going to get much past that. In -- coming into November, in places like Ohio, Florida, the states that determine elections, if he doesn't drum up that enthusiasm, he won't be able to carry those.
GJELTENWell, Isaac, let's look ahead all the way in the Republican convention. Robert from Ronan, Montana, writes in: "Would someone, please, explain how Mitt Romney can reach the Republican convention with a majority of delegate votes without getting a majority of votes in the primaries?" Ramesh?
PONNURUWell, it has to do with the arcane formulas by which delegates are awarded. But, you know, he -- you know, and the funny thing is about these first two contests, for all of the attention that Iowa and New Hampshire got, is how very few delegates were actually at play. And it's not winner-take-all either, so it's not as though Romney even got all of the delegates that were awarded. But at the end of the day, if you want to win on the first ballot, which presumably all of the candidates do, you do have to get a majority of the delegates.
DOVERERight. There was zero delegates awarded in Iowa. However, that mattered that he was able to surge to a narrow -- eight votes narrow, first place finish there.
DIMOCKOnce we get to Super Tuesday, most of the states are going to have winner-take-all primaries. And at that point, even if you win with 29 percent, you may be getting a lot of delegates, which will help at the convention.
DOVEREAlthough, I think, by that point, you won't have as many candidates running, so...
PONNURURight. But if I recall correctly, McCain only got a plurality of the primary vote in 2008. He never did get a majority of the total vote.
GJELTENOK. All right. Let's go to Nelson now, who is calling us from Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Nelson. Thanks for calling. Nelson, are you still there? Oh, he must have put down the phone.
GJELTENOh, just lost him. OK. Lisa is on the phone from Montgomery Village. Good morning, Lisa.
LISAGood morning. How are you today?
LISAMy question -- nobody seems to have brought up the jobs that Mitt Romney is touting as creating with Staples and Domino's and Sports Authority. These are wonderful minimum wage jobs for kids living at home with mom and dad. But they don't pay enough to pay the rent and buy the groceries and, you know, support a family. They're not jobs that matter to adult workers. They're not going to pay the bills.
LISAAnd nobody seems to be, you know, countering him on this. Apparently, a lot of -- some of these companies that have gone under under Romney (unintelligible) capital were manufacturing jobs where people actually earned a living that you could get by on. But these jobs at Domino's and Staples -- I'm sorry, if you're making less than $10 an hour, especially in Montgomery County, Md., you're not paying rent for one person, much less for a family. And I'd just like to hear how people respond to that.
PONNURUYou know, well, I think that that kind of argument is something that we're going to hear about more in the campaign, particularly if Romney is the nominee in the fall of this year. I think, to some extent, Romney has sort of trapped himself by making this argument, making such a big part of his campaign that he's created all of these jobs, which, of course, isn't the point of any company.
PONNURUYou know, I mean, so he sort of trapped himself into this kind of foolish discussion. If you think about it, the real contribution Staples makes to the economy is not that it employs a bunch of people. It's that it allows other companies to have products that are relatively high quality and relatively low cost, and that enables them to do their business. But it's not the kind of argument, unfortunately, that Gov. Romney started out with.
GJELTENRight. Kate Zernike, what's your sense of the way that the economy is going play out in this selection? We've seen some improving employment numbers here in recent weeks and months. On the other hand, of course, the unemployment is still very high, and the issue of whether jobs we were joking over the break, that this election may come down to a contest of candidates over who has destroyed the most jobs, not who has created the most jobs.
ZERNIKEI still think -- I mean, I still absolutely think everyone has said all along that, you know, the economy is going to be central. And I think even the Romney people have said -- I can't remember the exact figure they said, but I think they said, you know, if unemployment is over 8 percent, we don't win -- sorry, is under 8 percent, we don't win. So -- and maybe someone can correct me on what exactly percentage they said they made -- said 8.5.
ZERNIKEBut I think, yes, unemployment is coming down, but I think it's -- you know, again, it's a game of sort of emotion and expectation. So, certainly, President Obama is -- doesn't have an easy argument himself. His argument is going to have to be, well, I prevented this from being a lot worse than it has been, which is a tough argument to make. That was the argument they tried to make in 2010 and didn't win.
ZERNIKESo -- but, yes, I mean, going back to your central question, I do think that the economy is the key thing here, and a lot of this is sort of out of the candidate's hand. It's -- you know, it's what happens to the economy between now and November.
GJELTENThanks, Kate. Kate Zernike is a national correspondent for The New York Times. She's been with us on the phone from Portland, Ore. I want to go now to Alex, who's calling us from Baltimore, Md. Alex, good morning.
ALEXGood morning. Thanks for taking my call.
GJELTENThank you for calling.
ALEXI'd just like to respond. One of the first caller who's called in just saying that, you know, once the nominee, which he thinks is going to be Romney, though, you know, Republicans are going to, you know, basically coalesce around that individual. I don't think -- I don't see that happening. You look at the Iowa caucus. You look at also the New Hampshire primary. You look at the independents that turned out for, say, Ron Paul and the number of young voters.
ALEXThat's a key statistic, the, you know, 30-, 35-and-under vote. Whereas, you know, I don't think they're going to be there, say, if Romney is the nominee or anybody else besides Ron Paul because that's key. And I think if, you know, Republican Party doesn't embrace Ron Paul or embrace his ideas, whoever the nominee is, I don't think, you know, they're going to -- those voters are going to be there.
GJELTENThanks, Alex. That's a really important point, Mike, isn't it, whether these Ron Paul supporters are some group of the independents who went for Obama in 2008 and where are they going to be in the fall of 2012?
DIMOCKYeah. This is a huge issue for the Republican Party, a mega issue, which is how do they grow themselves. And it's not clear where the Republican Party is going to expand. They're doing very poorly among what people call the millennial generation. People under 30, in general, are coming into this country in a very Democratic and more liberal frame of mind. And what we're seeing in this primary is there are younger Republicans, but they have -- or Republican leaners, at least.
DIMOCKMany of them are independents, as Alex said. They have very different views about what they're looking for in candidates: character, the way they present themselves and their ideological approach to things. And I think Alex is making a valid point that the new voters we've seen so far in Iowa and New Hampshire, the people who are coming out for the first time, the voters who are under 30 or under 25 even, are voting mostly for Ron Paul. And if Ron Paul isn't there, seeing them getting really active and motivated and drawn into the Republican Party by a Mitt Romney is harder to imagine.
DOVEREAnd, by the way, Ron Paul will be there, it seems, for at least through the convention. Four years ago, he held a sort of a alternative convention a few blocks away in Minneapolis. They haven't announced plans to do that so far, but he'll be a factor in this race continuing.
GJELTENWell, who knows? Maybe he'll be there after the convention as well. I mean, I don't -- if I'm not mistaken, Ron Paul has not yet promised to support any Republican candidate that comes out of this process. Ramesh, what are the possibilities of a third-party candidacy by Ron Paul in the fall? If he feels like his support cannot be shifted to whatever the Republican candidate is, might he be tempted to mount a third-party challenge?
PONNURUWell, I think he might be tempted, but there are a lot of reasons why he might not, in the end, do it. I mean, for one thing, the logistical challenges are really quite immense. And for another, a lot of people in the Ron Paul movement think of Ron Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, as really the future of the movement, as being, maybe, even a more talented politician than Congressman Paul himself. And I've got to think that if Republicans end up blaming the father for Barack Obama's re-election, it is going to make Sen. Rand Paul's future a lot cloudier.
GJELTENDoes anyone else here think that this is unlikely? You know, 'cause there has been a lot of talk about a third-party movement in the fall. Are the obstacles to mounting a third-party challenge in today's environment the money that would be needed?
DIMOCKYeah. I mean, obviously there are a lot of institutional obstacles. And the American public has never expressed an overwhelming desire for the third party. You can ask people, do you think we need a new party? And in some ways, they're thinking, we got enough parties. I don't want any more parties. There's a struggle with that for people. Obviously, we saw it with Ross Perot in the '90s. And he did inspire a lot of new people to come into politics. But I think the concern about just playing the role of a spoiler and in some ways being viewed negatively because of that is a bigger hurdle for people.
GJELTENI'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Or send an email to email@example.com. And, speaking of a possible third-party challenge, Jeff is calling us from New York City. Good morning, Jeff. All right. Well, Jeff is not there anymore. But this seems to be an issue that is not going away. I guess, we're going to have to wait and see after the results in South Carolina, what the strength in the field looks like.
GJELTENI mean, this race could start to consolidate pretty quickly. We talked about Iowa. New Hampshire gets a lot of attention. South Carolina gets a lot of attention than Florida. What about after that, Isaac?
DOVEREWell, after that, it's hard to say, after South Carolina, that there will be as many candidates as there are, so that changes the race very quickly. If Rick Perry doesn't do well, his campaign is almost certainly over. Newt Gingrich said again this morning that if he doesn't win in South Carolina, his campaign is probably over. We could be, by Super Tuesday, looking at a race that has got Mitt Romney in it, almost certainly Ron Paul stays in it and maybe one of the other candidates staying in. That just makes it a very, very different thing.
DOVEREAnd then if you have the possibility at that point of one candidate consolidating all that anti-Romney support -- and if we think that Romney is pulling about 30 percent of the polls, Ron Paul pulls between 10, 15 percent, that leaves quite a few voters who are not going for either of them. If those are all consolidated and turning out, that could be where the nomination goes. That being said, most people do expect that Romney will go towards the nomination at this point. But what we've seen in the last few days is, I think, kind of a preview of what happens.
DOVEREYes, Romney was gliding towards a victory in New Hampshire. However, candidates came after him. He stumbled. He had some trouble. There were -- he came under attack for his record. That's what I think you see this campaign looking like as it goes ahead.
GJELTENLet's go now to Chuck, who's on the phone from Melbourne, Fla. Good morning, Chuck. Thanks for calling.
CHUCKGood morning. Thanks for taking my call.
CHUCKWhat I would like to say is, everyone seems to be talking about the candidate's standing. I'm a senior citizen. Anyone I talk to says they're voting for Gingrich.
CHUCKDo you think this is -- yes, Newt Gingrich. Do you think this might be the silent majority, or it sounds to me they think that he's the toughest guy for this job at this particular time in our country?
CHUCKAnd -- that's right, the silent majority.
GJELTENSilent majority of senior citizens, anyway.
CHUCKCorrect. Yes, that's correct. I'm sorry. And it sounds like they just want Obama out. That's -- I'll take my answers off the air. Thank you.
GJELTENOK. All right. Thank you very much, Chuck. Ramesh, we've been talking about Romney, and we've been talking about Ron Paul. We have not mentioned Newt Gingrich yet this morning.
PONNURUWell, Newt Gingrich certainly have a lot of support and at one point was leading in the polls. But he has been dropping for about a month now. And I don't think that that is going to turn around. I don't think that these attacks on Bain Capital are very well-designed to give him the lead in a Republican primary. So, no, I'm afraid I don't think there is going to be a silent majority. I think there is a shrinking minority.
DIMOCKBut you do see Gingrich's poll numbers were always much higher among senior citizens than with any other group and more -- appealing more to senior citizens than any other candidate was by far, which is interesting. It seems to be because there's a lot of years of knowing him that's registering in voter's mind as well as his positions on health care that are sticking with them. But the seniors turn out in high numbers doesn't seem like they're going to be enough of a factor to turn Gingrich's slide around, but they are there for Gingrich.
GJELTENGood. All right. Well, I'm Tom Gjelten, sitting in for Diane Rehm. I've been joined today by Isaac Dovere from Politico, Ramesh Ponnuru from the National Review and Mike Dimock from Pew Research. We've been discussing Republican politics. Diane Rehm is on jury duty today. She will be back tomorrow. I'm Tom Gjelten. Thanks for listening.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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