Posts Tagged primary

Kingmaker? Pennsylvania’s Delegation Influential in a Brokered Convention


Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, held in late April after more than half of the other states have already voted, means residents of Penn’s Woods generally have little impact on the selection of the nominees of the two major political parties.  Legislation has been proposed to move the primary to an earlier date, however, it is unlikely to happen in time to take effect for 2016.

But, there is a scenario in which Pennsylvania’s delegation to next year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio could play a major role in the selection of the nominee.  That would be if the primary season fails to yield a candidate with a majority of delegate votes triggering a rare brokered convention.

In recent decades the quadrennial nominating conventions have been little more than stage managed coronations of the candidates who already had collected enough delegate votes through the primary and caucus process.  The last time a convention really mattered was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford arrived in Detroit still locked in a battle with Ronald Reagan for the nomination.  Ford prevailed, but was unable to shake off the after effects of the Watergate scandal and lost the General Election to Jimmy Carter.

Prospects for a brokered GOP convention in 2016 grow greater every week.  That’s the frequency with which candidates are entering the presidential contest with 15 or more candidates ultimately expected to compete.  A recent Quinnipiac University poll found five of those candidates – Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee – all tied for the lead with 10% of the vote each.   It could be argued those candidates constitute a top tier, but clearly no one has taken command of the race.

It is, of course, still early in a climate where even one or two news cycles can completely alter the political landscape, but the Republican bench is so deep every one of the top five, and just about all of the others, can lay claim to a base constituency and make the argument that they are qualified to become the next president.  Few, however, can outline a plausible path to the nomination.

The winnowing process could still occur, especially if one candidate manages to win two out of three of the earliest contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then go on to dominate the so-called Super Tuesday primaries.  But, 15 candidates with diverse geographic and ideological bases within the party presage a Balkanization of the vote and the allocation of delegates.

If the Republican Party arrives in Cleveland with no one candidate having a majority of votes, a quirk in Pennsylvania’s delegate rules could put the commonwealth’s delegation in a strong position to be the king-maker.  Unlike most other states, all of Pennsylvania’s delegates run uncommitted.  Republican delegates are elected by congressional district, with an additional group selected by the Republican State Committee.  Pennsylvania will have 71 delegate votes, making it the seventh largest delegation.  While candidates for delegate can express support for a particular presidential candidate, they are not legally bound to vote for that candidate at the convention.

This means Pennsylvania’s delegation will arrive on the shores of Lake Erie technically uncommitted to any of the candidates and free to wheel and deal with potential nominees.  Assuming any degree of unity among the delegation, Pennsylvania’s delegate votes could be enough to put a candidate over the top or at least provide major momentum in a brokered scenario.

It would take all the stars aligning for this to play out, but in a year where there are an unprecedented number of candidates participating in a long string of primaries and caucuses anything is possible.  If it does come down to a brokered convention Pennsylvania might once again become the Keystone State.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Chris Nicholas on Election ’15


Radio Program Schedule for the week of May 16, 2015 – May 22, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • Lowman Henry talks with Chris Nicholas of the Pennsylvania Business Council about the upcoming Primary Election
  • Joe Geiger of the First Nonprofit Foundation has Alexy Posner from the I M Able Foundation in the Community Benefit Spotlight
  • Beth Anne Mumford of Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on the impact of raising the minimum wage

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Don Boudreaux of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University about myths and reality of free trade agreements
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on U.S. Senate maneuvering over fast track authority for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership
  • Eric Boehm is joined by Josh Peterson for a Watchdog Radio Report on the court ruling stopping collection of telephone data
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on Hillary Clinton and transparency

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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Time to Move the PA Presidential Primary


The 2016 Presidential race has officially begun.  Over the past couple of weeks Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton have formally announced their candidacies. The field of Republican candidates likely will total a dozen or more.  Hillary Clinton’s early stumbles make the entry of former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley more likely.

With no incumbent president in the race, voters in both the Republican and Democratic primaries will actually have a choice in 2016.  It is a contest voters in Pennsylvania will likely watch from the sidelines.  By the time our state’s late April primary is held results of primaries and caucuses elsewhere will have determined the eventual nominees.

Only one time in recent years, 2008, has the Pennsylvania primary actually mattered.  That year Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the Democratic nomination until June before Mrs. Clinton conceded.  Democrats had a choice, but John McCain had been ordained the GOP nominee months earlier.

Every four years the debate begins anew about Pennsylvania’s lack of clout in the presidential nominating process owing to the lateness of its primary.  And, every four years absolutely nothing is done to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state in the nation.  More so than perhaps any other state we are a microcosm of the nation as a whole.  With Philadelphia we have a large eastern city, while Pittsburgh has more of a mid-western orientation.  We have large, thriving suburbs and expansive rural areas.  Our population is diverse. Statewide elections in Pennsylvania tend to be competitive with both parties having shown recent success.

An early primary in Pennsylvania would be a much more accurate indicator of voter preference than Iowa or New Hampshire which are smaller and less diverse.  Those two states lead off the balloting in late January.  February 2nd is shaping up as a mini “Super Tuesday” with New York, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah holding primaries on that date.  It would be an ideal time for primary voters in Penn’s Woods to go to the polls and give us a real say in the nomination process. Instead, nearly three more months and 24 other states will hold primaries or caucuses before Pennsylvanians vote. All of this means Keystone state voters will have virtually no say in which candidates the parties nominate.

Making matters worse, Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries are essentially beauty contests in that the outcome of the balloting has little or no impact on the selection of delegates to the party nomination conventions.  Delegates are selected in separate elections, and/or by party state committees meaning presidential candidates must line up slates of delegate candidates months before the primary. This is a process they tend to by-pass in favor of focusing their efforts on the early primary and caucus states.

Moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date poses a logistical challenge.  It would require holding a separate primary in February for presidential balloting and a regular primary in May for selecting congressional and legislative nominees. Or, the entire process could be moved from April to February. Holding two primaries would increase costs, while holding congressional and legislative elections in February would advance the start of the process into the previous year’s holiday season.

The cost of an additional primary must be weighed against the economic benefits it would generate.  New Hampshire public radio, based on a study of the 2000 presidential primary when both party nominations were up for grabs, estimated the economic impact at $230 million. The economic benefits to Pennsylvania, a much larger state, would be significantly higher.

Dollars aside, the major drawback to Pennsylvania’s late presidential primary is the absence of our voters having any real say in the selection of party nominees.  We are a large state and we deserve better, but it is a problem nobody in Harrisburg seems willing to address.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited

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GOP Governors: Promises Kept = Political Trouble


By almost any measure 2010 was a banner year for Republicans.  Riding the crest of the Tea party wave the GOP reclaimed control of the U.S. House of Representatives and added to the number of states with Republican governors. Largely due to the political disaster known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, the national political scene in 2014 is highly favorable to Republicans who have a realistic chance of gaining a majority in the U.S. Senate.

In the states, however, the GOP faces considerable odds in holding onto its 29-21 state lead in governorships.  Governor races typically are dominated by circumstances, issues and personalities unique to each state.  This year is no exception.  But there is a common thread that, depending upon how each governor has handled it politically, has had an impact on where that chief executive stands at the start of this year’s campaign.

Republican governors came to office in a number of states facing difficult economic circumstances and budget problems.  Among those were Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  In two of those states incumbent Republican governors are leading in the polls, in two they trail significantly.  In each case the incoming GOP governor kept a campaign pledge to cut spending, keep taxes as low as possible, and enact major reforms.  During their campaigns they promised to make the tough choices needed to get their states back on track, and once in office they did so.

You would think such governors would be rewarded by voters for having kept their campaign promises and putting their state back onto solid financial ground.  For their efforts, one governor was recalled (but survived the recall election) and the three others saw their job approval ratings plummet; two still find themselves with high disapproval ratings by voters.

The success story here is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Walker not only touched the political third rail of labor union reform – but grabbed onto it and ripped it from the ground.  Unions mounted a recall, but Walker won the recall election by a bigger margin than his initial election.  Since then, state and local budgets have stabilized and the state’s economy has improved dramatically.  In what is a heavily Democratic state, a recent Marquette University Law School poll found Walker with a 47%-41% lead over his likely Democratic opponent, Mary Burke who is a former state commerce secretary.  Governor Walker is also touted as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

In Ohio, Governor John Kasich got off to a rough start, losing a high profile statewide voter referendum on labor power, but has since regained his standing with voters.  A former U.S. Representative, Kasich brought considerable political skills to the office – skills he needed to position himself for re-election.  Recent polling shows Kasich with a five point lead over his likely Democratic opponent Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

The leads by Walker and Kasich might seem slim, although they are outside the polls margins of error.  But they look like the Grand Canyon to governors Rick Scott of Florida and Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett.

Florida is an interesting situation in that a former Republican Governor, Charlie Crist, is now a Democrat and challenging Governor Scott in an effort to reclaim his old office.  Scott has made tough choices during his three years in office, and those tough choices have resulted in a 34% job approval rating. Recent polling by the University of Florida shows Crist with a 47% to 40% lead over Scott.  Charlie Crist’s biggest problem may be his own record as governor, which has his approval rating with voters upside down.  This may be a race to determine who is the least popular.

And here in Pennsylvania, polling continues to show Governor Tom Corbett with low job approval ratings and faring poorly against several potential Democratic opponents.  Corbett took office facing a $4.3 billion budget deficit.  Closing that deficit without raising taxes should be a strong political selling point, but Democrats dominated the messaging placing the focus on cuts or perceived cuts rather than the governor’s successful resolution of the budget crisis.

Unlike some of the other states, a single Democratic challenger to Corbett has yet to emerge giving the governor the opportunity to redefine himself while the opposition dukes it out in the primary.

And so for Republicans, having run on a platform of cleaning up their state governments and then doing so, the big question is who will be rewarded and who will be defeated for doing the job he pledged to do?

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Fool’s Errand


In announcing its plans to ignite a Republican civil war on the eve of the 2014 election cycle Scott Reed of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the goal is “no fools on our ticket.”  He made this announcement while donning a $50 million court jester suit. That is the amount of money the group plans on spending in the upcoming GOP primaries.

Apparently believing congressional leadership – whose job approval rating makes President Obama’s 39% approval look robust – needs a bit of shoring up as the new cycle commences, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has decided the enemy is not the Democrats who visited Obamacare and an unprecedented era of government regulation upon business. No, the enemy is the Tea Party.

Yes, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement of Americans who still believe in the principles of limited, constitutional government.  That movement, you may recall, which returned the GOP to majority status in the U.S. House of Representatives providing at least some modicum of counterbalance to the President’s rigid ideological agenda.

Reed’s strategy is classic minority think.  Rather than expand the coalition into a diverse – and yes, sometimes contentious majority, he would rather the ineffective GOP establishment in congress retain control over a diminished, but tightly controlled minority conference.  This is not about what is best for business, or for the Republican Party, or for the good of the nation: it is about controlling the levers of power in congress.

We’ve seen this act before. Newt Gingrich’s conservative revolution led the GOP into majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994.  He floundered and in 1998 the establishment took control of the Republican conference, only to cede control back to the Democrats in 2006.  That happened because the GOP establishment proved itself to be Democrat lite, so voters opted for the real thing.  Lest Mr. Reed forget, it took the grassroots fervor of the Tea Party to sweep the GOP back into power in 2010.

With establishment figures like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell holding top GOP leadership positions in the House and Senate respectively, public approval of the legislative branch has fallen to single digits.  Again, the American public is rejecting their approach to governance, but the U.S. Chamber is rushing to the rescue.

At issue is control of the U.S. Senate.  Reed says the chamber’s goal is “to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates.”  Those are nice sounding code words for “make sure we have no Tea Party candidates.”   Recent election cycles have produced senators not willing to bend to the will of establishment leadership.  Senators like Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin come to mind.

Under the chamber’s current strategy even Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, who chased establishment U.S. Senator Arlen Specter from the party and then claimed that seat in the 2010 General Election would have been in that year a chamber target under the new Reed strategy.  Toomey has chosen a more workman-like approach than the senators mentioned above, eschewing the spotlight for what has proven to be highly effective behind-the-scenes legislating,

Reed and the Washington GOP establishment have seized on Tea Party missteps to make their case in the upcoming primaries.  But, for every Tea Party loss like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, there has been an establishment melt-down like George Allen in Virginia.  Simply put, Reed and his allies have supported their share of losing nominees.

All of this plays out against the backdrop of the GOP’s failure to win control of the U.S. Senate in 2012.  The party’s chances looked promising, but missteps by both Tea Party-backed and establishment-backed candidates overlaid by the inept Presidential campaign of establishment favorite Mitt Romney scuttled the opportunity.

With nearly twice as many Democrat as Republican seats up for election in 2014 and an electoral climate poisoned by the Obamacare fiasco the GOP’s chances of winning a senate majority are good, very good.  But groups like the U.S. Chamber declaring war on the party base are a bad omen.  Because it doesn’t matter who is nominated, no Republican candidate in any state can win without the active support of voters who identify with Tea Party principles.

The Tea Party and the chamber should be natural allies, but a power driven desire for insider control has led the business group to choose conflict over collaboration.

It is, to adopt their term, a fool’s errand.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Memo from Voters: Stuff Your Endorsement


Tuesday’s primary election highlighted two serious structural deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s electoral process. Once again the “Keystone State” was anything but in the presidential nominating process. And, clearly the day of the party endorsement – especially a nod forced from the top down – has passed.

For several weeks it appeared as if the Pennsylvania and New York primaries would be pivotal contests in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination. But, several weeks ago when former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign our state’s primary was rendered virtually meaningless. Sure, delegates had to be elected to the national convention, but the nomination had been decided.

Every four years there is talk about moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date, perhaps to so-called “Super Tuesday” in early March, but nothing ever comes of the idea. So, as in presidential contests past, small states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and even other industrial states like Michigan and Ohio got to impact the choice of the nominee while we here in Penn’s Woods watched from the sidelines.

Four years ago state Democrats did get a big say in the Obama/Clinton race, but that brief spurt of relevance was an exception to the rule. This year, lacking the glitz of a presidential contest, voter turn-out was abysmal. So many down ballot races – for congress and for seats in the state legislature – were decided by in some cases less than a quarter of the registered electorate.

Despite tepid participation in the primary election, voters did manage to deliver a message or two. The race with the most political ramifications was the five-way contest for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. That race turned into a virtual referendum on the once vaunted Republican Party endorsement process. That process was shredded by voters as they relegated the endorsed candidate, Steve Welch, to third place.

The Welch defeat marks the first loss of a Republican Party endorsed statewide candidate in a non-judicial race in over three decades. Part of the reason for voter rejection of the party pick was the heavy-handed manner in which the Welch endorsement was forced on Republican State Committee members by Governor Tom Corbett and party leaders. The fact is Welch would never have been endorsed without that support, and his candidacy never did develop any real grassroots appeal.

Party apologists will contend that the personal financial wealth the winning candidate, former Tea party activist Tom Smith, brought to the race was a deciding factor. But, Welch is wealthy himself and put over a million dollars of his own money behind his candidacy. And, former State Representative Sam Rohrer finished second having spent few dollars, but earning a wave of grassroots support. Welch failed to dominate with either money or manpower – two advantages normally associated with the party endorsement.

This year’s GOP endorsement debacle has politically wounded an incumbent governor and called into question the effectiveness of the party apparatus in a vital presidential election year. The Republican State Committee should re-evaluate the future of party endorsements. The process this year both divided and weakened the party, calling into question its utility going forward.

Part of the reason for this is that the endorsement process has degenerated from truly democratic selection into a tool by which party and elected leaders exert their control over who gets nominated. The GOP has already split into “establishment” and grassroots conservative camps with the latter gaining influence with each passing election cycle. Forced endorsements only inflame the grassroots further aggravating that divide.

None of this is good for the party, and neither will it yield good government. This year’s presidential election is shaping up as one of the most important in generations as voters decide whether to continue down the soft socialistic path of the Obama Administration, or return America to its historic traditions of individual liberty.

That battle will ultimately unite all factions within the GOP. But going forward, the Pennsylvania Republican Party must ditch the endorsement process and restore individual liberties within the walls of its own house.

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(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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It’s Debatable: Candidates’ debate performances have defined 2012 race


Presidential debates have a rich history of making – or breaking – candidates. It began with the very first such debate held in 1960 when John Kennedy’s confident, youthful appearance doomed a sweating Richard Nixon to defeat. The latest candidate to feel the sting of a poor debate performance is Rick Santorum.

Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Senator narrowly lost the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney after having held a double digit lead in several polls just two weeks ago. After winning a trifecta of states on February 7th, Santorum surged both nationally and in Michigan. All that stood between Rick Santorum and an embarrassing, perhaps campaign-ending, rout of Mitt Romney was one debate in Arizona.

That debate did not go well for Santorum. True, there was not one “gotcha” moment or a major gaffe, but Santorum allowed himself to be on the defensive, sank into Washington speak, and permitted Romney to paint him as the beltway insider. Meanwhile, the former Massachusetts governor appeared poised and confident, in command and on the attack. Most analysts agree Santorum regained his balance the second half of the debate, but the damage had been done.

Santorum’s poor performance in the Arizona debate followed what was perhaps his best debate performance, the final meeting of the candidates prior to January’s Florida primary. In that debate, it was Santorum who was on the attack, pinning Romney to the mat on Romneycare and emerging as the strongest personality on the stage. That performance helped fuel Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

There have been 20 debates among the Republican Presidential candidates this year and those forums have played an out-sized role in shaping and defining the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the contest with a huge lead in the polls, but stumbled badly in his first debate performances, even suffering brain freeze while listing the three federal cabinet departments he would eliminate. Since those debates were his first exposure to a wide national audience, they created a bad image of Perry in the minds of voters; it was an image he was unable to overcome.

Conversely, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich owes the fact that he remains in the race to his superb debate performances. In the early debates Gingrich was the adult in the room, talking serious policy and keeping the focus on Barack Obama while the others bickered like children. In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, which he won, Gingrich turned in perhaps his best debate performances greatly enhancing both his stature and his standing in the polls. Again, at the final debate in Arizona, Gingrich appeared the most presidential.

And then there is Mitt Romney. While the others have sprinted and stumbled, he has been the marathon man. Romney has never been the star of a debate, nor has he committed a campaign-defining gaffe. Reflective of his managerial personality, he has simply done what needed to be done – nothing more, nothing less. And it is that consistency throughout the debates that has allowed him to weather periodic surges by the other candidates.

Fortunately for Rick Santorum the primary calendar gave him time to recover from his poor performance in the Arizona debate. He was on the upswing when Michigan voters went to the polls, falling just short of inflicting a humiliating defeat on Romney. Given that Michigan is Romney’s state of birth, and his father was a popular governor there years ago, Romney should have stomped Santorum. That it took a self-inflicted wound by Santorum to give Romney an anemic three percent win illustrates the fact that the former Massachusetts governor still has not closed the deal with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.

The good news for Pennsylvania Republicans is that our state’s presidential primary will actually matter this year. Romney leads in delegates, but needs to end up with more than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. A treasure trove of delegates is at stake on April 24th, when both Keystone state voters and those in the state of New York go to the polls. It will be a pivotal day. Whether or not the nomination is decided that day is, well, debatable.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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