Santorum: The Dark Horse Surges

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Romney and Gingrich shoot each other while Conservatives rally to Santorum

 

Bubblechart20120212

 

 

The GOP race for the 2012 presidential election is still as volatile as it was when I last wrote about it. GOP leadership was hoping for an early end to primary uncertainty with a single front-runner. This would give skeptical Republicans a chance to warm up to the inevitable ‘last man standing.’

That hasn’t happened. Front-runners Romney and Gingrich each won a primary but mutual attacks exposed their many flaws to conservative voters. Paul kept a steady-state in voter percentage. Rick Santorum, the one person almost all conservatives like — or at least don’t dislike, surprised the pundits by sweeping three caucuses in a big way. Everyone likes an underdog-coming-from-behind story. It may be that GOP voters have made Santorum their ‘Not-Romney’ of choice.

I reworked my spreadsheets based on the latest candidate developments. Romney and Gingrich both fell in my ‘Worth‘ spreadsheet. I am no longer convinced either of them will do much to remake entitlement programs. Romney’s MBA skills make him more of a COO than a CEO. Operations men manage, they don’t reform. Gingrich is too tied to big government entities for my taste. (‘Historian?’ What is that?) Romney also fell because of his past support for abortion and homosexual marriage. I still remain surprised that Ron Paul is the most Worth-y to me, but I like the things he says, except for his isolationist opinions.

The big shift is in the Real-Win-Worth grid. Santorum has pulled ahead of his competitors in the Win axis. He now has the highest score for a consistent, motivational message. Santorum doesn’t sound like he’s reading from a script like Romney, and his strong wins in MO, MN and CO show he can inspire voters to action. Gingrich lost points for ‘presence and style.’ The media is pulling away from him. Romney also lost ‘presence and style’ ground with his comments about “the poor.”

On the Real axis, the candidates’ positions shifted: President Bush The First walked back his Romney endorsement; Gingrich lost his biggest financial backer; and Santorum got the blessing of some very important conservative media superstars.

Looking at all the candidates, the two closest to the true ‘electable’ zone (strong campaign plus voter connection) are Obama and Santorum. Obama risks  sliding the wrong direction in the ‘Win‘ direction if voters are turned off by his negative rhetoric. Obama remains financially strong, but it takes more than expensive advertisement to motivate unhappy voters.

It’s do or die these next few weeks for Santorum. He’s already the most appealing to the conservative base. That’s a plus. Still, his ‘ifs’ must quickly align: IF Romney goes on the negative attack, IF Gingrich descends further into vengeful neurosis, and IF Santorum scores a big win against Romney in Michigan, the former Pennsylvania senator may pull a surprise win.

 

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And Then There Were Four

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Conservatives find their voice: Romney is unacceptable

 

Bubblechart20120122

No one is in the upper right quadrant, the best place to be


There have been three primaries since I last posted about the 2012 race for the U.S. presidency. The weakest candidates have dropped out (Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry). The four remaining candidates are pretty much where they were three weeks ago. None of them have improved their electability or acceptance scores very much. Neither has Obama, who continues to have high disapproval poll ratings despite some moderate economic improvement. The primary has just begun with only a handful of delegates set aside. The campaign promises a frisky, contentious year full surges and pull-backs. It will be quite exciting.

GOP party elites are dancing with a dilemma: should they continue supporting the most ‘electable’ candidate (Real) or the one who can best connect with the voters (Win)? Up until now, they thought ‘electability’ was enough. Romney had been preparing for four years, laying down an army of supporters. So what if he’s bland?  People will vote for a rock if they think it can beat Obama in the national election.

It turns out they were wrong. ‘Not-Romney’ got more votes in each state, every time. Their man on the pedestal only took one of the three primaries. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, a man who causes internal bleeding in GOP aristocrats and this week’s leading Not-Romney, blazes ahead of Morose Mitt. Why? Because Gingrich connects with people and his passion touches an anger inside their hearts. Likewise, Santorum outshone Romney in Iowa with his common man message. Romney looks more like Thurston Howell.

So, GOP leaders, what’s it going to be? Continue to support Mitt, but send him to Wal-Mart to observe proles? Put an arm around Newt and douse him with Ritalin when he’s in the public eye? Or send some money to Santorum, the one candidate who seems human and not neurotic? Your current strategy isn’t working.

 

My thoughts on the candidates:

 

  • Bachmann never stood a chance: she lacked relevant experience and her presence annoyed most people despite her conviction and intelligence. Huntsman never connected with normals and his accomplishments were mostly invisible to them. Perry, the strongest candidate (and the one I thought best suited to run) started too late. I hope Perry tries again in 2016.

  • Gingrich just cannot stay knocked down. The press wrote him off several times after he self-wounded his campaign for the presidency. But oh, can he give a good debate! And his speeches this summer were stirring. Gingrich has high potential on the Win score if he can control himself and gain strength (Real) to dethrone The One Who Calms The Oceans.

    A caution: Gingrich is also a big black testosterone cloud that shoots blue lighting. Are voters flocking to him because he blasts media creatures like George Stephanopolous? Are they hoping he gets a few good ones on Obama’s upturned nose? With Newt Gingrich, you get revenge. That’s guaranteed. Is he a leader?

  • Santorum has done very well in the recent debates. He barely pulled ahead of Romney in Iowa. Although he is not the Comeback Kid like Gingrich is, Santorum has steadily improved his position. Of all the candidates, he is the only one who connects with regular people. Santorum comes from immigrant  background. Unlike Romney, he knows how ordinary people live and the pressures they face. Santorum seems to like people.

    Santorum is the impoverished candidate. He needs funds and highly-placed friends to stay in the race much longer. He also has made some bad decisions (Arlen Specter, union support … illegal immigration). Santorum has some baggage, though not the full-sized steamer trunks Romney has.

  • Ron Paul has been a consistent player, although never on the highest pedestal. In many ways he is like Romney with lots of campaign ‘oomf.’ But Paul connects with with Paul People. I don’t see him as a serious candidate for regular voters. Ron Paul has very little experience and few accomplishments in his thirty years in government.

  • Mitt Romney? He’s Poppy Bush but tainted Massachusetts Blue. ‘RomneyCare’ is reappearing in the race again. Voters don’t buy his message that he is the most “electable.” Is “most likely to beat Obama” just campaign spin? Is Mitt Romney’s image merely generated? Is he sincere? These are not helpful questions but voters are now asking them.

  • And there there is Barak Obama, the man with a -17% approval rating. America is ignoring him right now: all the attention is on the GOP race. Even so, his failed promises and the weak economy are holding his numbers down. When he speaks or when he just does something, his numbers plummet.

    Honestly, I can see any of the GOP candidates prevail against Obama, even Romney.

    It should be easy to push over a statue, especially with feet of clay.

 

 

Which Candidate Would You Buy?

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Using Business Tools to Sort The Candidates

 

Bubblechart

Bubble size reflects candidate ‘worth’ based on my values

 

I’ve become a political hobbyist since I came to social media. I read the local newspaper, get RSS feeds, follow Twitter politicos and I watch news twice a day. I seek balance so I can stay informed. I am a conservative person: fiscally, socially and on international affairs.

As I write this in late December, 2011, there are seven candidates campaigning for the GOP caucus in Iowa. Barack Obama has already been campaigning for reelection since the start of the year. I’m overwhelmed. Each poll, each newsflash, each morning analysis throws me back to Point A. Who do I want to be U.S. president? Maybe I should use my business toolkit to sort things out.

Treating the presidential candidates as ‘products’ with votes as ‘market share,’ it becomes easier to sort things out. I used two tools: a modified Cause and Effect Matrix (C&E) to identify each candidate’s ‘worth’ to me, and a Real-Win-Worth.

Each C&E criterion was chosen by me and its relative importance to the other criteria are also mine. For example, I see the Economy as the top priority, ‘Family Values’ as further down, and ‘Immigration’ isn’t a priority at all. If you were to do this, you would have different criteria, weights and values. See mine, below.

 

Go here to see the data on Google Docs

 

The RWW is a little more objective. For Real, I subsitituted campaign strength (war chest, foot soldiers, experience). Win is market-based and emotion, so I used criteria based on the assumption that voters were customers. Here were the emotional criteria (trust, inspiration, message and presence).

 

Go here to see this data on Google Docs

 

What do the charts tell us?

  1. None of the candidates are in the happy quadrant, in the upper right corner. They are clustered in the weakest place, which is to be expected this early in the race. Most will drop out soon because ‘Real’ will cull them. They can’t sustain a campaign to move them into a better place.
     
  2. Romney scores very well on ‘Real’ with his financial backing and prudent planning. Even so, Romney is no more acceptable to the overall voter market than his competitors. Romney is unappealing to me (‘Worth’) compared to the others. He better start connecting more with voters. My favorite pundits keep saying Romney owns the GOP race, mostly because he scores well on Real criteria. They are ignoring how unacceptable he is to conservatives. If it comes down to a Obama vs. Romney race, I won’t “hold my nose and vote;” I’ll stay home.
     
  3. Obama, like Romney, is well positioned on the ‘Real’ axis. Still, Obama is no more acceptable than the flock of GOP candidates. Obama can move to the positive quadrant if he can encourage people to trust him. His strategy based on a negative campaign will not help move him in the direction he wants. He has the smallest Worth bubble because I think the man is incompetent and lazy.
     
  4. Gingrich has a weak ‘Real,’ but a good Win. I have heard him speak. He can motivate people through difficult choices, which we need even though there is some baggage from the 90s. I also scored Gingrich high on Worth. He is the only proven candidate to fix a major U.S. entitlement problem — Welfare — with Bill Clinton.
     
  5. Ron Paul has the highest Worth score. This shocked me, because I really fear him. He does hit my value points well. Real problems in the Win score — I don’t think voters will accept Paul despite his loyal foot soldiers.
     
  6. Santorum was lower when I first ran the spreadsheet, but he’s been doing well in Iowa this week. He scores higher than Romney for me. I would like to see Santorum run against Obama instead of Romney.
     
  7. Bachmann has no chance. She is loathed by the media and she has a grating personal style. People just hate her. I have heard her speak — she is my representative — and I think this is undeserved. Bachmann lacks executive experience and her campaign team has collapsed.
     
  8. Perry could be better. I do not understand how he could be so successful (his high Worth) with the Texas market and fail with the U.S. electorate and press.

      

  9. Huntsman? Well, the media likes him. I don’t. And like Bachmann, Hunstman has no ‘oomph’ to gain any ‘Real’ points

 

I work for a corporation that always deals with uncertainty. We use analytical tools to parse mushy data. In teams and no small amount of debate, we define success criteria. The comptroller is there to keep us down to earth. Marketing brings data about competitors and customers, and wants and needs of the market. Engineers know materials, manufacturing and their capabilities to produce.

I’ve been on teams who have used Real-Win-Worth (RWW) analysis to decide whether to enter a market with a new product. RWW is great for forcing teams to think through what’s important and what is not. If the team decides to proceed with product development, they revisit the RWW periodically when time reveals more useful data. 

RWW tells business teams to run after those projects where there is a real chance of Winning the market share with superior (Real)  manufacturing or technical expertise. You want projects that score in the upper right corner with nice large bubbles (Worth). If your project is too small or it is too far down the axis, then either stop the project or change something to improve Real or Win.

This RWW analysis would be more accurate if it came from a team of people with different political perspectives and values. Discussion would uncover other criteria. We can assume the scores would be better balanced.

I am a former Six Sigma Black Belt and DFSS engineer. I’ve lead teams through RWW workshops. I plan to stay the course on this RWW through the year and I’ll ‘vote’ or ‘buy’ a few times through the year.

Right now, none of them are worth ‘buying.’