Reporters Discover Herman Cain

News flash: Sex sells.

Candidate proposes to ban public service based on religion. The news media yawns.

Candidate proposes to electrocute Mexicans. The news media mutters.

Candidate proposes to raise taxes on 84% of the least wealthy Americans during difficult economic times. The news media mumbles.

Candidate is accused of sexual harassment. The news media ROARS!

I wonder about the proportionality here. The first three issues are very substantive. The latest issue may be, but we don’t really know yet. As far as reporters currently know, Herman Cain’s sexual harassment settlement a dozen years ago could have been about anything from a serious abuse of power to a misunderstanding. We just don’t have enough evidence at this stage.

But the harassment issue is getting much more coverage than the other substantive stumbles primarily because there are, well you know, privates involved, potentially

Yes, the issue is also being hyped because Cain is now showing better in the horse race than he was a few months ago. It is also being hyped because the political neophyte is handling the questioning like a political neophyte. However, it should be noted that Cain was a front runner during the release of 9-9-9 tax increase analyses. And if you go back to look at Cain’s responses on the Muslim and electric fence stories, he bungled those responses just as badly as yesterday’s responses.

No, the primary reason this issue is wall-to-wall on the news is pretty clear. It is because it is about s-e-x. And in America, s-e-x means r-a-t-i-n-g-s.

- Loveland

9-9-9: Simply Trickle Down

Simplicity is the foundation of many a great sales pitch: “$5 foot longs.” “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” “99 cents tacos on Taco Tuesday.” “Buck beer night.” Pitches that state their value proposition concisely, specifically, and memorably are powerful in both the retail and political marketplace. And at first blush, Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, looks to have himself an awesome presidential pitch strategy in “9-9-9.”

Under Cain’s “9-9-9″ proposal, a big chunk of the federal tax code would be replaced with a flat 9% federal income tax, a new 9% federal sales tax and a 9% federal corporate tax. Like many great sales pitches, Herman’s husksterism is elegantly simple, digestible, understandable, symetrical and memorable. Moreover, “9-9-9″ has the all the appeal of an IED planted alongside the IRS headquarters, a popular proposition among just about all taxpayers, particularly GOP activists.

Politically speaking, “9-9-9″ just flat out sells. Almost overnight, it has made Cain — who also has swell ideas about electrocuting Mexicans and banning government service based on religious affiliation — a GOP presidential front-runner.

But at some point, even wildly popular political pitches get dissected by journalists and opponents. When that happens, I’m not convinced that the Niner Designer will survive the economic vivisection.

Tax experts such as a former chief-of-staff of the non-partisan congressional Joint Tax Committee, are now finding that “9-9-9″ represents a tax increase for every household earning under $120,000/year. A family of four earning about $90,000/year would pay about $5,000 more annually. (In Cain currency, that’s roughly 417 one-topping medium-sized pizzas per year.) At the same time, under “9-9-9,” billiaonaire Warren Buffet last year would have paid no income tax.

In fact, a President Cain with a “9-9-9″ in place would probably redistribute more of old Joe the Plumber’s wealth than any President in American history. The trickle down economics imbedded in Cain’s “9-9-9″ might make even old Arthur Laffer blush.

So sure, simple sells, and right now simplicity is raising Cain. But will it sell long enough to make Citizen Cain our next President? Nein, nein, nein.

- Loveland

Romney Rally Anthem

Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad.
And don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had.
There’s a girl right next to you.
And she’s just waitin’ for something to do.

And there’s a rose in the fisted glove.
And the eagle flies with the dove.
And if you can’t be with the one you love,
honey, love the one you’re with.

Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.

- Stephen Stills

A (Heavily Medicated) Live-Blog of the GOP Debate.

True, I had to have my restraints re-tightened a couple of times, and I was heavily tranquilized. But I watched the entire GOP debate from the Ronald Reagan Library last night. With the big applause line, that the state of Texas has executed 234 people, still ringing in my ears, I’ve combed back through my live-blog style comments for the highlights of the night, the moments most representative of credible, responsible, America-first, conservative messaging and marketing.


6:59
With a minute to go MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who is working some kind of raconteur emeritus act these days tells the story of Bobby Kennedy’s pre-debate advice to brother Jack, namely, “Kick ‘im in the balls”. Good lord Chris, there’s a lady present.

7:00 Wait a minute. There are still eight of these cartoons walking around? Rick Santorum is still running? Who is giving him money?

7:03 Rick Perry gets the first question and goes right to his “jobs creator” shtick. Someone will be fact-checking that “95% above the minimum wage” business. But even if 90% of Texans are making 10 cents over the minimum wage, those are “real jobs” in the minds of The Base, not elite-y, college-trained government career-like jobs. I notice he doesn’t mention, nor does Brian Williams follow-up with the inconvenient fact that the fattest chunk of Texas’ job growth has been in … government jobs.

7:04 Mitt Romney, the guy who, to quote David Letterman, “looks like the guy who turned your dad down for a loan” doesn’t like the “buy out specialist” tag Williams puts on him. I assume Team Romney will create some new facts for a 2012 campaign that will call out the numbers of “hard-working middle class Americans” Bain Capital laid off as it stripped companies for assets and quick sales. Note to GOP: If Romney is a viable candidate why not Carl Icahn?

7:10
Rick Santorum … wait I need to Google some info on this guy … is arguing that he is someone who “has done things”, which could mean tieing his own shoes, although frankly he looks like a Velcro slip-on guy to me. He is of course saying that the path to job creation is through a zero percent corporate tax. Not that there’s anyone on the stage — other than Herman Cain — who’ll disagree with that.

7:11 Oh, here’s Herman. And yeah baby, “flat tax”. Did Godfather’s Pizza see a lot of tax-deductible business lunches?

7:12 Jon Huntsman has by far the best tan.

7:14 Our girl Michele finally gets some camera time. Watch her lay in to that fraudulent Tea Party in Name Only Rick Perry … oh wait, she’s talking about federal regulations stifling her small, family business. Is this the farm she gets federal tax support from, or her husband’s pray-the-gay-away front business, for which he’s taken government money? I won’t wait for Williams to ask her how the hub’s small business managed to make “between $50,000 and $100,000 in net income” last year and … still keep the gay away. And, uh what? The Congressional Budget Office has said “Obamacare” is a jobs killer? How did I miss that?

7:15
According to a scientific study Ron Paul makes lucid sense 41.3% of the time. It’s his 58.7% foaming street prophet thing that makes trouble for himself. I notice in this rant about federal regulations, which I guess would have pilots handling their own landing queues, he doesn’t get into the mortality rate of private industry testing out drugs on the general public until they get the formulas right.

7:17 Oh shit … I just blew a quart of high dose sedative formula out my nose. Did Newt Gingrich just give himself credit for the “bi-partisan” way HE created 11 million new jobs in the 1990s? These could not possibly be the same 1990s where a guy named Newt Gingrich obstructed every attempt at budgetary discipline proposed by Bill Clinton, withheld every vote on the budget act that set up government surpluses, threw a tantrum that shut down the entire government and then, as an elder statesman, happily fomented a witch hunt that impeached the most successful jobs creator/deficit reducer of the past hundred years over a sex fling, all while atop a desk boinking his own secretary? That has to be a different Gingrich, right?

7:25 Michele is back. I think her hair has been over-teased. But then Mitt’s looks like a non-government worker applied a quart of marine spar varnish. She is still claiming that “Obamacare” which goes into effect in 2014 has taken over one-sixth of the American economy, which can not be good news for UnitedHealth and all those other companies who struggle against great odds every day to maintain such a clean, straight unimpeded line between you and your doctor.

7:31
Santorum and Perry have just finished explaining how they’d treat poverty in America. Essentially it’s this: Stop the government from doing anything and these malingerers will show some initiative. And they make it sound like they care.

7:35 Michele’s $2 gas promise is not playing too well. But, boy does she have big numbers. I think I have this right. If we set fire to the EPA we would create 1.2 million new jobs, increase energy productions by 50%, and goose the economy by $800 billion. I’m not sure if this also involves turning North Dakota into a sludge pond and burning the homes of 5th District liberals for heating fuel, but if I’m a Tea Partier living on Social Security and Medicare I love the thought of getting the government off my back.

7:37 Huntsman is picking up some of Ron Paul’s disease. He’s talking again about the $13/gallon “true cost of imported oil”, taking into account the military we need to keep the juice flowing from the Middle East and Brunei. I think he hates the troops.

7:40 Ron Paul … in the sanctum sanctorum of the Ronald Reagan library points out that dottering old Ronnie ran up staggering deficits. But Paul stills loves his “message”, wholly bullshit though it was.

7:47 Ohhhh boy, here’s the takeaway for the group-think press herd. Perry is calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” again. ‘Wrong from the beginning” he says. “A monstrous lie”. Worse though, for him, he’s getting into it with Karl Rove who is connected to about as much undisclosed SuperPAC cash as the there is money in Social Security. But damn it, like W*, Perry is sayin’ it from his gut. He’s decidin’. He stickin’ to what he believes. Or at least what the Goldman Sachs lobbyist told him is a winning formula for the Americans that matter.

7:53 I am not comfortable watching any of these people talk about the HPV virus, especially the seven very weird middle-aged guys. Ron Paul tells everyone he’s an actual doctor. So why doesn’t he tell everyone how those Big Pharma sales guys — like from Merck — sweeten the pot to make their drug du jour the go-to for what ails “the people”. But really, aren’t we talking pre-marital sex? And why is Rick Santorum looking like he just had unnatural congress with some … thing?

7:59 Newt is reminding … an audience that needs reminding hourly … that “there are people out there who want to kill us”. Does anyone remember how it was back in Ronnie Reagan’s glory years, when no one did? Except those silly Russians? Only since Obama took over have the knives come out.

8:00 Ron Paul’s 58.7% batshit fever has flared up again. We’re spending $20 billion on air conditioning” in Iraq? Oh hell, close enough for debate work.

8:05
It’s really good to know that the 49,000 teachers Rick Perry laid off in Texas and his state’s Mississippi-like graduation numbers were all part of the “thoughtful reductions” he made in out of control, wasteful spending. Of course, we can all agree that the real culprit there was … Mexicans.

8:08 And on the subject of those violent brown people climbing fences to get into the better neighborhoods of Houston and Dallas, and getting the federal government off the states’ backs, Perry demands … the federal government step up and put “boots on the ground”, drones in the air and who knows, straight cash in the pockets of private contractors to seal off the Rio Grande.

8:10 Romney wants the whole enchilada, the 2600 mile fence. Does Bain Capital own a steel fabricator? He’ll have to check.

8:14
Apparently Michele didn’t hear the question. Instead of saying what she would do with the 11 million undocumented “illegals” already here, she riffs on “narco-terrorists”, completing missing her opportunity to link homocidal drug lords to the jobs creation aspects of American assault rifle manufacturers working overtime to build and smuggle heavy-duty firepower into Juarez and Tijuana.

8:17 Bi-polar Ron Paul is back on the 41.7% lucid side, talking about how our drug laws are driving narco-terrorism. BTW, where is my medicinal sensimilla?

8:23 Perry too is down on the negatory of even a 10 to 1 debt deal. He says a national balanced budget amendment would be the only way to “cut the snake’s head off” … just not until the damned pit viper sends out those boots, drones and greenbacks to stop the friggin’ Mexicans.

8:25 Bachmann invokes Ronald Reagan, without making the sign of the cross and kissing a rosary.

8:26
It’s “Malaise in America” time. Huntsman says, “we have lost our confidence as a country”. “Our core is broken … we are weak … “. Good lord man, wear a cardigan the next time.

8:28 Romney agrees. “We have a crisis of confidence … absolutely … .” Romney’s cardigan would be top dollar imported cashmere.

8:29 After complimenting, sort of, Obama for getting Osama bin Laden, “but mostly the SEALS” Perry again reminds his target audience that “government spending will not create one job”. There was a noise outside so I’m not sure if he said, “If you don’t believe me, ask the Chinese”. But before anyone takes that too seriously, get those troops and contractors on permanent patrol down in El Paso, damn it. He’s also against sending troops anywhere without a clear intent. Hear that, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama?

8:31 Michele still doesn’t like what we did in Libya. But those tyrants in Iran … now that’s a whole different story.

8:33 Rick Santorum just called someone else “indecisive and confused”.

8:35 Huntsman is toast. You DO NOT stand under Ronnie Reagan’s airplane and say Republicans lose if they’re anti-science. Ronnie flewall over the world looking for a cure for AIDS, didn’t he?

8:37 Perry won’t buy that climate change bull. And he’s got Galileo on his side.

8:39
Michele reiterates that if we drill in the Everglades “of course we’d do it responsibly”. That’s BP’s promise.

8:44 I’m glad I lasted this long. Enthusiastic, spontaneous applause for 234 death row executions in Texas. That’s one way to keep The Base exclusive.

Damn! It’s over. Screw the sensimilla. Give me a triple Everclear and an appointment for electro-shock.

Expectations for Tonight’s Debate

Political junkies looking for an excuse to avoid organizing their sock drawers will be gathered ’round the tellies and laptops this evening to watch the latest GOP presidential debate.  You can watch it on MSNBC or streaming on  Politico.  Festivities kick off at 7:00 pm CST though there’s sure to be pre-game coverage beforehand.

Tonight’s debate will feature 8 candidates and because of the Crowd’s remarkable connections, we can give you access to the last-minute advice each one is receiving from their handlers and debate coaches about what needs to be achieved, what needs to be avoided and how to get there.  Let’s listen in:

Michele Bachmann: “…what we really need tonight, Congresswoman, is for you to show that you’re still relevant to this race.  Yes, we’ve lost all the momentum we had coming out of Ames.  Yes, we’ve lost our campaign manager and our #2 manager this weekend.  Yes, there’s a danger every time you open your mouth, but your job this evening is to own the stage like you did at the New Hampshire debate in June (boy, doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?).  We’re trying like hell to get the moderators to ask you a ‘gotcha’ question about Marcus or the counseling or the farm so you can do the moral outrage thing again, but we can’t count on it.  Ignore everyone except Romney and Perry and attack them whenever possible:  Romney’s a flipflopper, Perry’s governed Texas for 11 years by selling it off bit by bit to his buddies.  Steal Palin’s ‘crony capitalism’ line if you see the opening to use it.  Hit Obama as often as possible – it might be time to bring back ‘gangster government.’  And, please, please, please…try not to knock us off-message with a ‘freelance’ answer; if it isn’t in the briefing book, please don’t say it. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he’s from Iowa like you!”

Herman Cain: “Herman, just go out and enjoy yourself tonight.  Our best guess is that this might be the last debate you’re invited to; your polling numbers are down there with Gary Johnson.  Because of that, the moderators are probably not going to give you a lot of openings so you’re going to have to jump in whenever you have a chance.  You’re articulate, you’re good on your feet, so just roll with it.  Who knows, we might get a “this is my microphone Mr. Green” moment that will keep us alive another month or two. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  You were both on the radio!”

Newt Gingrich: “Mr. Speaker, I’m not sure what to tell you to do.  I mean, just a month ago I was a volunteer in your campaign’s New Hampshire office and now I’m your campaign manager so I’m a little over my head here.  I guess you could talk about your ideas…you always have really cool sounding ideas…and maybe quote some Greek philosopher… that always sounds good.  Does your wife have any advice? Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all,  he was out of office for as long as you before he won the presidency!”

Jon Huntsman: “Governor, we really see this as your first appearance on the national stage.  Our polling tells us that a good percentage of likely Republican voters have forgotten you’re running for president.  Even worse, among those who do they don’t like you much because you’re seen as too moderate or are out of the consideration set because you worked for the Great Satan (Obama).  Tonight, you’re going to have really show a little leg in the sense of showing the base you can hate Obama and what he’s done to our country as much as the craziest, most jingoistic candidate out there.  You know who we’re talking about.  We need you to be aggressive and energetic – here take a couple of these…no, they’re perfectly legal (somewhere) – and to work as many of these words – “failure,” “bankrupt,” “traitor,” “un-American,” “disaster” – into your responses as possible.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he was a governor just like you!

Ron Paul: “Congressman, we’ve seeded the audience with as many supporters as we could get into the building – our guys have been standing on line for two weeks to get seats in the hall – so you can count on applause every time you open your mouth.  Hell, they’ll cheer if you break wind!  Just keep doing what you’ve been doing at every debate – tell the truth that we’re bankrupt as a country, that drugs should be legalized, that we should pull every troop back to the U.S. border, that the Fed ought to be eliminated and the gold standard readopted – and it’ll be great.  You can’t count on the moderators giving you equal time – remember how they ignored us after Ames – but let’s all remember that we’re really setting you up for the 2020 race. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, for years people thought he was an extremist just like you!

Rick Perry: “Governor, I know you don’t like debate formats so I know you’re not looking forward to tonight.  And, you can expect that everyone will be gunning for you.  Even so, our goals for tonight are easy: no mistakes, no gaffes, no scary language.  Keep your answers short, serious and to the point.  We’re lapping the other candidates in the polls among likely GOP voters so this approach will also help us with another long-term goal; persuading moderates and independents you’re a viable choice.  Work the brush fires into a couple of responses – how brave the people of Texas are, how resilient they are, how much they represent the best of America, something like that – but remember – as hard as it is to believe – not everyone loves Texas.   We’re also trying to position you as the outsider who can go to Washington and fix what’s wrong there, but this is a fine line to walk; the more we talk about that, the more we remind people of George Bush.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he used to wear cowboy boots just like you!”

Mitt Romney: “OK, let’s all get on the same page here: the ‘running as the defacto nominee’ strategy is no longer working.  As page 17 of the Powerpoint clearly indicates, GOP voters are still ‘unenthused’ about the Governor as the Republican nominee.  Accordingly, if you’ll flip to page 27, we’ve set ought a 5-point plan for tonight’s debate: 1) be less scripted; 2) make more use of pre-screened one-liners to convey spontaneity; 3) include at least two key messages from focus group testing in each answer; 4) smile between 1.5 and 3 times per answer depending on content; 5) attack Governor Perry as unelectable, dangerous and clone of George W. Bush. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he ran for president twice just like you!”

Rick Santorum: “Honey, you know the kids and I are behind you 100 percent.  We love being with you in the RV, we love all the Motel 6s we’ve stayed at when we could afford them and – if it were up to us – you’d be the nominee in a walk.  After tonight, though, maybe we could take a couple of days off?  See Disneyland?  Take the tour here?  Then we can claim you’re just like Ronald Reagan.  You could get a pin from the gift shop.”

For those looking for something to do between the guffawing and sputtering, let’s do this:  let’s count how many times each candidate says “Reagan” and let’s put our bets down about how many minutes will pass before someone invokes Nancy Reagan as an American heroine.  I’m guessing 12 minutes in and it will be Perry.

- Austin

Handicapping the Pitter-Pattering Herd

My, my, my.Things are getting SO interesting over on the other side of the aisle.  Seems like not a day goes by but some GOP wannabe announces his/her intentions – or at least their intention to announce their intentions – regarding the 2012 presidential race.

By my count, we’ve got at least a dozen actual or likely candidates seeking the GOP nomination, a number not unheard of but certainly big enough to give debate organizers fits for at least the next six months (I expect the field will actually start to thin well before the first real vote is cast in a single Iowa precinct as candidates fail the fundraising challenge).

Here’s the breakdown as it currently stands:

Declared

  • Herman Cain, former Godfather’s exec, radio host
  • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House
  • Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico
  • Ron Paul, Member of Congress
  • Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota

Likely to Declare

  • Michelle Bachmann, Member of Congress
  • Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, former Ambassador to China
  • Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska
  • Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts
  • Rick Santorum, former Senator

Might Declare

  • Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York
  • Rick Perry, Governor of Texas

Probably Won’t Run*

  • Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi
  • Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
  • Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
  • Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana
  • Jim DeMint, Senator
  • Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
  • Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
  • Mike Pence, Member of Congress
  • John Thune, Senator
  • Donald Trump, businessman

*Yes, a number of these individuals have said, “No, no, no” but if you really think they won’t change their mind and run over their grandmother if they see a plausible path to the Oval Office, you are too trusting for the rough and tumble of this blog.  Try this instead.

If you notice one common theme in this list, there’s a lot of people looking for something to do with their time.  Not many of the “frontrunners” are current officeholders. To the contrary, for most of those already in the pool or standing on the deck in their skivvies, running for president is their job.  Maybe that’s just good sense or maybe its an indication how underwhelming the current crop truly is.  When you think of Mitch Daniels as your off-stage savior, that’s a pretty good sign you’ve done a pretty piss-poor job of casting.

I suspect some of those who have decided to be out are staying in their cabanas because they contemplated the near impossibility of navigating both the Republican nomination process and the general election campaign in a single year.  The qualities and positions that seem most likely to attract and energize “the base” of the Republican party are guaranteed to be buzz kills for most of the general electorate (which, if you remember, is composed in near-equal numbers of “people who hate liberals,” “people who hate conservatives” and “people who hate everybody”).

For most of the last 40 years or so, electoral politics in the US has consisted driving hard to the edge to capture your party’s nomination (witness John McCain shedding everything that made him a “maverick”) and then trying to come back to the center for the general election.  If you do this successfully, you turn out your base of “people who hate the other guys” while simultaneously convincing – temporarily at least – most of the “hate everybodies” that they hate the other guys more than you (witness Bush 2004 and Obama 2008).

2012, however, promises to be an exceedingly difficult year in which to pull off this maneuver, particularly for the Republicans.  The party’s base has skewed so far to the right in this cycle that a “right-then-left” swerve looks to be almost neck-breaking.  By contrast, Obama – who almost certainly will have no intraparty opposition – can have a very gentle “S-curve” that reminds his base why he’s their man and still play to the middle.

Not many candidates in the current crop of “ins,” “outs” and “maybes” can manage such a maneuver, but there are a few to my eye.  To help us all visualize this, I’ve plotted each on two left-to-right scales that go from “no way” on the left to “could do it” on the right.  The first one looks at the possibility of capturing the nomination, the second at the possibility of winning the general election and the third highlights the only candidates who are on the right side of both scales.

(Click on the graphic to get a version you can actually read);

Quibble all you want with my placement of your favorite candidates.  I have my reasons for each which I’ll spare you here (this is already long enough). Suffice it to say that nearly all of the candidates gobbling up the media coverage these days can’t be nominated, can’t win a general or both.

Romney, Huntsman, Santorum and…Pawlenty (much as it pains me to admit it though he is the least likely of the three).  Two Mormons, a Catholic and an evangelical Baptist who used to be a Catholic.  A Westerner, Two Eatsterners and a Midwesterner.  Four white guys.  Three lawyers and a guy who played keyboards for Wizard (and, yes, did get an undergrad degree in international relations). Barely a pulse among them.  No wonder “none of the above” is polling so well.

I’m not sure America is ready for an all-Mormon ticket so the most likely combinations are Huntsman/Santorum or a Romney/Pawlenty ticket (assuming the nominee doesn’t go rogue with a Palinesque pick).

A lot can happen in the next year, of course, but right now I’m guessing the A-team oppo research teams in Obama’s Chicago HQ are on these four guys.

Personally, I think a Trump/Bachmann ticket is perfect for the Republicans.  I’m totally serious. Go for it, gang.  America will thank you for it.

- Austin

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