The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

When the Blogosphere Gets Weird …

Posted on | April 6, 2012 | 32 Comments

. . . the weird get blogging, and the past few days have kept me tied up in all kinds of “deep” stuff that prevented me from keeping up with the flow of events on the blogosphere. First there was that weirdness about the Planned Parenthood bombing in Wisconsin and the MSNBC “Republican War on Women” meme. Then I spent yesterday immersing the entirety of my cerebral cortex in campaign-finance reports and the details of the Florida primary campaign in order to locate the precise moment when Newt Gingrich’s campaign became an irretrievable disaster.

So I’m trying to get back in the flow now, which isn’t helped when Bill Quick — The Guy Who Named the Blogosphere — whacks me for my post about Gingrich. Look, Bill: This stuff is important, OK?

The big media are going to tell their own version of the 2012 campaign, shaped by their various prejudices in favor of the Conventional Wisdom, and so there is real value in publicly re-examining the facts of the campaign, thus to provide at least the raw materials for crafting a counter-narrative. It might be nice if there were a think tank, a philanthropic foundation or a book publisher offering to cut me a fat check, so I could afford to hire an assistant do all the research — e.g., what’s the daily charter rate for a 16-seat Gulfstream IV? — but as it is, there’s just me and I’m actually kind of enjoying it.

Remember my wild ride to McCarran International Airport with the Best Cab Driver in Vegas? I’d forgotten all about that until I started digging back through the archives. If the GOP primary campaign is now effectively over (an assertion that Rick Santorum certainly does not accept), then the question of How We Got Here becomes a matter of historical interest, because those who don’t know history are doomed.

Then again, maybe we’re all doomed.

Maybe history is now repeating itself for the very last time. But the ancient Mayans could not be reached for comment.

At any rate, Bill Quick’s contempt for Rick Santorum isn’t what this story is about, except insofar as it serves as an example of how the perception of candidates affects the reality of campaigns. If you’ll check page 404 of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, you’ll find Hunter S. Thompson talking about how “perception” was the key word to understanding what went wrong with George McGovern’s campaign.

Of course, looking back over the distance of four decades, it is possible to perceive that McGovern was doomed beyond all hope of redemption from Day One, that Nixon’s Campaign to Re-Elect the President was destined to crush whoever got the Democratic Party nomination that year, and that any perception to the contrary was never more than a mirage.

Let’s not ponder whether that shoe is now on the other foot, eh?

Leaving aside such premonitions, I remain fascinated by the gap between perception and reality in politics, and what happened to the Gingrich campaign is a textbook example: On that Monday before the Florida primary, Newt was still the national front-runner, barely a week had passed since he’d beaten Mitt Romney in South Carolina and — if all you knew was what you saw on Fox News — it was going to be Newt-vs.-Mitt all the way to the end.

But there was something drastically wrong with that perception. I sensed the disconnect, but couldn’t quite identify or adequately describe what it was that bugged me. It wasn’t until I took the time to start going through the details of the FEC reports (which of course weren’t available at the time) that I located the relevant facts, demonstrating that while Newt had already passed his fundraising peak on Jan. 22, his campaign was still spending as if those days of six-figure contributions would stretch forward infinitely.

This was, I say, a Neutral Objective Fact — but a fact that was not known at the time, and its shrewd concealment permitted the Gingrich campaign (which was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy throughout February) to maintain an illusion of viability for several more weeks. The revelation of how such a perception-reality gap developed may not disturb Bill Quick, given his animus toward Santorum’s social conservatism. Yet it might disturb those conservatives whose idea was to find the strongest “Not Romney” candidate in order to prevent the GOP Establishment from once again imposing a non-conservative nominee on the unwilling grassroots.

Surely there must have been many millions of Republican voters, and thousands of campaign contributors, whose primary motive in backing Newt was their belief that he was the Only Candidate Who Could Stop Romney. By the end of January, however, that belief was already being falsified by the Gingrich campaign’s overspending, tactical errors, and strategic miscalculations. Yet they were able to keep up the pretense of viability all through February and on into March.

Maybe that doesn’t bother you any more than it bothers Bill Quick, but don’t you think it’s an important reality that deserves to be understood? Just look at today’s headlines:

President Obama raises nearly
$1.5 million in 3 hours

The Hill

Effort would change Texas primary
to winner take all, benefit Santorum

Austin American-Statesman

Rob Portman tops veepstakes

What is the reality-perception gap today? What unknown facts contradict our superficial perception of political events, a perception based on news coverage that can never include all the facts? How much different would our perception be, if we were privy to all the relevant facts, rather than just those facts we glean from media accounts that are always incomplete, even when they are not actually biased?

Maybe that’s too “meta.” Never mind. I try not to take this stuff too personally. Go hit Bill Quick’s tip jar, just to let him know it’s OK.


32 Responses to “When the Blogosphere Gets Weird …”

  1. smitty
    April 6th, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

    Well, I just hit Lisa’s.

  2. Adjoran
    April 6th, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

    Point of fact:  Obama may be having a good 24 hours of fundraising, but he is still behind Bush’s 2004 pace, and only 9 of his 400 major bundlers from 2008 have raised anything at all for his “super-PAC.”

    Another campaign myth this season is that the conventions in states with non-binding caucuses and primaries “wouldn’t dare” do anything but follow the “non-binding” results.  In two of the biggest MO counties, Romney and Paul supporters shut out Santorum completely, and North Dakota has given Romney more delegates than Santorum (although none of their are bound).

    Santorum now faces losing all the work he’s done to rehabilitate his political image after his devastating loss at the hands of Casey in 2006.  The RCP average of recent polls in PA show him only 1.7% ahead of Romney, and Romney hasn’t even hit the airwaves yet.  Not to be able to win a majority of the GOP primary vote in your home state would be tantamount to a repudiation, a humiliating defeat that would not be soon forgotten.

    “the precise moment when Newt Gingrich’s campaign became an irretrievable disaster” – I’m guessing:  when he announced?

  3. Bob Belvedere
    April 6th, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

    Bill who?

  4. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 6th, 2012 @ 5:35 pm
  5. Charles
    April 6th, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

    The reality-perception gap today is that Romney is trailing and can’t win in November, We’ve seen that story in the primary. Now that’s the general election story.

    In both cases, Romney wants you to perceive that he is trailing. Romney let his primary challengers hold onto the illusion of beating him long after they were beaten. Who can say he isn’t running that same playbook against President Obama?

    Team Obama wants to create the illusion they are raising a lot of money. Maybe they are. Remember Bill Maher’s $1 million contribution that everyone wanted Obama’s SuperPac to give back. That was only a pledge. I’ll bet they never got the money. They couldn’t give it back even if they wanted to.

  6. Shelleys Playtime
    April 6th, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

    forced perception: the fantasy that the media pushes as reality.

  7. vermontaigne
    April 6th, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

    I resent it when intarweb squabbles keep Stacy from focusing on the important things . . . like the British gravy wrestling world champ who was smacked on the face with a monkey wrench when she walked in on her roomie having sex on the couch.

    Priorities, people.

  8. richard mcenroe
    April 6th, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

    AP just released a big feature questioning Rick’s delegate assumptions.  Anyone remember them doing that for Mitt? Newt?

    And Rob Portman, Bush’s budget guy, for VP?!  The RNC is plainly  running another “lose with dignity” campaign.  Let’s not accomodate them.

  9. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

    I threw up in my mouth a little when I read that about Portman today.  

    This will make you sick too.

  10. richard mcenroe
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

     me too.  C’mon, you guys!  You want to afford beer forever?!

  11. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:18 pm
  12. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    I posted on it too…  Of course these girls could be the new Democratic Jewish Liaisons if they pony up enough cash to Debbie Wasserman Schultz!  

  13. Adobe_Walls
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

    Obamsky’s not raising as much money as his campaign said they would and you are probably correct that they are not raising as much money they are perceived to be raising but he’s raising alot of money. Perhaps as important is how much Romney is spending now, further Obamsky just endorsed the raising and spending of money by the super-PACS. When the time comes the big money will be there for Obamsky. As for Mitt playing Vulcan chess against his primary opponents and particularly Obamsky, not buying.

  14. Mike Rogers
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

    Rob Portman, the one in cahoots with Gnome Sununu, who hated Newt for daring to kill the budget “deal”?

  15. Mike Rogers
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    “….because those who don’t know history are doomed….Then again, maybe we’re all doomed….”
    Ever the optimist, eh?
    There’s that word again…

  16. William Quick
    April 6th, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

    Nah, not buying it.  Gingrich is no longer a factor, and noting that his campaign was short of cash going into Florida is a meaningless factoid at this point.  It was not, despite your protestations, predictive.  Had Gingrich won Florida, quite a bit more money would have come roaring in.  Just as when your (second) choice, Rick Santorum, finally won a couple, his fund-raising was greatly enhanced.

    All Presidential primary campaigns are terrifying, financially.  I worked at the Congressional district level in three states on RFK’s campaign back in 1968, and even with the family money, we were constantly on the brink of bankruptcy.  A lot of Kennedy bills were, in fact, never paid off.    The name of the game is to keep going, keep winning, and use that to (hopefully) keep raising money.   The details of why Gingrich ceased to be able to raise money – just as Rick Santorum is shortly going to run up against a similar wall – might be of some passing interest, but no significant importance.

    Anyway, the arrogance of assuming that those who supported Gingrich rather than Santorum was only because they thought he was the strongest “Not Romney” is misplaced.  I supported Newt because, of the remaining candidate  s, I thought he would do the best job as President.  Just as you believed the same about Santorum.

    And I look forward to voting for Gingrich in the upcoming California primary.   Because, you know, I still think he’s the best GOP candidate running.  Unlike Santorum, Paul, or Romney, he actually has a track record of conservative accomplishments at the national level in the real world.

    Okay, cue the outraged howls that it was really Rick who was responsible for all of Gingrich’s accomplishments.

  17. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 6th, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    Did you throw up yet?

  18. Ford Prefect
    April 6th, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    I’ll hit Quick’s tip jar the same day that I vote for OBummer.

  19. ThePaganTemple
    April 6th, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

     Did I understand you right in one of your posts where you said Santorum might be wanting to get Newt out of the race because otherwise Newt might cause him to lose Pennsylvania? If so, that makes sense, but it also might not turn out the way Santorum assumes it would. If he’s not the first choice of Pennsylvanians of all people, he might very well not be their second. Or for that matter, their third. Sorry if I misread that post, I went through it kind of quick. And yes that just come out that way.

  20. ThePaganTemple
    April 6th, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

     Oh now what’s wrong Ford Fairlane are you mad because somebody else doesn’t like your little darling Ricky Poo lol.

  21. Shelleys Playtime
    April 6th, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

    Oh don’t worry, I would NEVER accredit Rick for the NY23 disaster, or for Newt sitting sitting on the couch with Pelosi…I promise you I will ALWAYS hold Newt responsible for that!

  22. Wombat_socho
    April 6th, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

     I can’t drink beer and now those thumb-suckers in Atlanta have taken my Diet Coke away.

  23. Adjoran
    April 7th, 2012 @ 2:26 am

     Oh, you remember him – he used to be somebody.

  24. Adjoran
    April 7th, 2012 @ 2:42 am

     Agreed.  Romney is not all that great a campaigner, and a grand rope-a-dope strategy is far-fetched anyway – why not just knock ’em out if you could?

    But part of Obama’s money problem is his radical beliefs.  Those rich leftists love to talk socialism over cocktails, but Obama really wants to eat the Golden Goose and the rich along with it.  It may be giving them pause.

    A bigger concern could be that Obama’s campaign has once again deliberately turned off all security measures for online donations, and anyone willing to buy gift cards under $200 and pay clerks to enter the donations could give as much as they wish – from any country in the world, as long as they put a US address on it, however fake.

  25. Adjoran
    April 7th, 2012 @ 3:04 am

     I rather suspect there is a sharp difference the core support for Rick or Newt – neither being too awfully big a part of their support at their zeniths.

    Newt has the support who thrive on the specifics, being something of a wonk and slave to jargon.  He isn’t despised by the Log Cabin Republicans, and the libertarian-leaning-but-not-falling fiscal conservatives would obviously prefer him to Rick, as well.

    Santorum thrives on the pure values voters and evangelicals, not just because of his stances on social issues (which are virtually indistinguishable from the other two’s) but those who put personal character high on the list.

    But if it were not for Romney’s personal unpopularity with the most conservative members of the base, neither Rick or Newt would have been a serious contender.  Of those who ran, only Perry might have contended on his own.  Of those who might have but chose not to, Palin, Huckabee, and Daniels had a chance – Mitch being a long shot since he had no national following to build upon. 

    So it was always a fallacy to assume all of Santorum’s support would have gone to Newt if Rick had dropped out after SC, for example.  The character voters would have run to Mitt, and only the Mitt-haters would default to Newt.

    Similarly, if Newt dropped out at any point, Santorum certainly wasn’t going to pick up the libertarian-leaning folks.  And in the upper Midwest, the exit polls showed Gingrich backers favoring Romney as second choice no less than Santorum.

  26. Adjoran
    April 7th, 2012 @ 7:29 am

     I disbelieve anything on the AP wire by default, based on sad experience.  BUT Santorum’s expectations from the non-binding caucuses in North Dakota and the county caucuses in Missouri haven’t matched the results of the non-binding events.

    I suspect the Portman rumors are a diversion, a set-up so that whoever is chosen will seem exciting in comparison.

  27. Tennwriter
    April 7th, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    And this is why I say the libertarians are lapdogs for the rinos. 

  28. DaveO
    April 7th, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    So, were all of the conservatives in the race there just to push Romney to rightward toward the center? Why is Paul still in the race?

    Who wins in that case? Obama does. Romney has already broadcast his intent to return to his Liberal roots once he’s secured the nomination.

  29. ThePaganTemple
    April 7th, 2012 @ 10:48 am

     I think people are unfair to Newt, not on everything, but there were times when he thought he was doing what was right. And, granted, there were times in his career when he unwisely sought to “compromise” with the opposition.

    I guess he thought in those case that he should, you know-

    “take one for the team”

  30. ThePaganTemple
    April 7th, 2012 @ 10:54 am

     See, that kind of talk is what is going to tear the party apart in November, if anything does. Try winning an election without the FisCons, then come back and tell me how that goes.

    The ironic thing is, most FisCons tend to agree with most SocCons on most social issues. It basically boils down, the way I see it, to a gulf in understanding and agreement on the role of the federal government.

    Not a valid reason to risk throwing the election to Obama.

  31. richard mcenroe
    April 7th, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

     Lemme help a brother out…

  32. Shelleys Playtime
    April 7th, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

     I am not naive enough to not understand taking one for the team and I let a lot of things Newt did go but NY23 was a !!!BFD!!! and that straw broke this camels back…