I’ve been making my way through Dylan Ratigan’s new book, Greedy Bastards, and can report that it includes a number of truly sensible thoughts on everything from health care to energy policy. (Also, there’s the occasional cultural nugget I somehow missed—like the fact that butlering has apparently become a major U.S. growth industry.) But one of the more intriguing ideas comes courtesy of Dick Grasso, the former New York Stock Exchange chairman who was ousted in 2003 amid a compensation scandal, and who Ratigan spoke with for the book.
Before we get to whether liberals will warm to Jack Lew, the incoming White House chief of staff, in a way they never did to his just-ousted predecessor, Bill Daley, it's worth pointing out that Lew is absolutely beloved by the president and the top West Wing operatives.
I’m reluctant to call the 28-minute video attacking Romney’s Bain years, which the Gingrich super PAC plans to air in South Carolina, a full-on swift-boating. The video takes what was an ambiguous situation—Romney’s activities clearly cost jobs even if they benefited the economy, as Jon Chait points out—and gives it a very stark, one-sided portrayal.
I've spent the last few days arguing that there’s only one plausible way to make Mitt Romney sweat this nomination contest: Rick Santorum has to beat expectations in New Hampshire so that he comes into South Carolina with a head of steam and consolidates the anti-Romney vote there. To do that, Santorum doesn't need to win New Hampshire, where Romney is all but assured of victory. But he does need to finish well ahead of Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich, who constitute the rest of the contending pack.
Today brought three new South Carolina polls: Romney leads 37 to 19 for Santorum and 18 for Gingrich in this CNN/Time poll. Romney leads 31 to 24 for Santorum and 24 for Gingrich in this ARG poll. And Romney leads 27 to 24 for Santorum and 18 for Gingrich in this Rasmussen poll. The numbers jump around, but they all point overwhelmingly to the same conclusion: The only way Romney is going to lose South Carolina—and therefore earn himself a bona fide fight—is if the Santorum-Gingrich vote gets consolidated.
It’s tempting to believe that anything that boosts Mitt Romney’s rivals is bad news for Romney himself. In fact, that’s not the case, and today’s Boston Globe endorsement of Jon Hunstman illustrates why. According to the latest Suffolk University tracking poll, Romney has a 23-point lead in New Hampshire over Ron Paul, his closest competitor. Barring a near-miraculous turn of events, Romney will win next Tuesday’s primary contest. The real question, as I noted yesterday, is whether any of the non-Paul contenders can use New Hampshire to establish himself as a credible alternative.
Politico has a piece up today arguing that “N.H. is next, but S.C. is key,” as the headline puts it. The piece goes on to explain: The Republican presidential candidates have swept into New Hampshire so swiftly, you might be tricked into thinking that next Tuesday’s primary really matters. But with Mitt Romney’s dominance here still unshaken, the other members of the GOP field are already plotting to make their strongest stand against the national front-runner in South Carolina — a conservative state in the heart of a region in which Romney has long struggled to break through.
Last night we re-learned an important lesson from 2008: In Iowa, the Republican candidate with momentum way exceeds his final poll numbers; the Republican candidate named Mitt Romney ... doesn’t. In 2008, Mike Huckabee exceeded his final polling average by about five points; Romney actually dropped off by about a point-and-a-half. This time out, Rick Santorum exceeded his final polling average by almost ten points. Romney was up about two-and-a-half. In both cases, the explanation was pretty obvious: Romney was well known heading into caucus night and not much loved.
If you do some quick math based on the Iowa entrance poll, you see Ron Paul and Mitt Romney bunched in the low 20s and Santorum slightly behind them at 19 or 20. But there are reasons to think the entrance poll understates Santorum's support. That's because a caucus is a much more public act and than the typical balloting exercise. People vote in front of their friends and neighbors, not in the privacy of a voting booth. That arrangement would seem to favor a candidate with momentum, like Santorum.
So everyone more or less agrees on the storyline heading into caucus night: Romney is clinging to a narrow lead, though there are doubts about whether he can break out of the mid-20s, which he’s never really surpassed either in Iowa or nationally. Ron Paul is near Romney at the top of the field, but is widely regarded as a sideshow: He draws heavily from young voters, most of whom will either turn out and vote for him or not vote at all. That leaves Rick Santorum, whom everyone agrees has the wind at his back. The latest polls have him in striking distance of Paul and Romney.