Can We Write Off the Candidates Who Are Actually Campaigning?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 21 2011 9:30 AM

Can We Write Off the Candidates Who Are Actually Campaigning?

132621479
SPARTANBURG, SC - NOVEMBER 12: Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks to members of the media after a presidential debate at Wofford College November 12, 2011 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The debate was focused on national security and foreign policy. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Maggie Haberman asks a question I had a couple of weeks ago, though she gets better answers. So... how come Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are able to do well without putting in the same effort that, say, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are putting into Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

On Sunday, the morning after the Family Leader event that drew six candidates to Iowa, five of them were already in transit or gone from the state by the time churches — typically places where hopefuls appeal to the evangelical base — started holding Sunday services.
The candidate who worked Iowa the hardest in the early stages, and with the best organization — Tim Pawlenty — dropped out after his fundraising sank following a missed opportunity to thump Romney at an early debate. Santorum’s 99-county tour of Iowa hasn’t moved the dial for him yet. And Huntsman, who this week announced his 100th event in the Granite State, hasn’t inched beyond his high of 10 percent in the polls there.
Advertisement

There are two separate questions here, and we only know the answers to one of them.

1) Why are two guys who don't campaign quite as much as the others doing so well in polls? Because of the new power of earned media, I'd say.

2) Why can't the other candidates overcome this? Hey! We don't know that yet!

Look at polls from this point in 2007. At this point, Mitt Romney was just starting to lose his lead in Iowa to Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, which was a far more open race, Mitt Romney led John McCain by better than 15 points, and Rudy Giuliani was in a strong third, fighting for the lead. Hey, go back eight years -- at this time in the cycle, Howard Dean was solidly leading in Iowa, Dick Gephardt was in second, and all of that John Edwards/John Kerry legwork was producing single digit poll numbers. The grassroots candidates surged late, capitalizing on their hard-won in-person recognition with a burst of TV ads and mail. And "late" is when you want to surge. When we see stories proclaiming Newt Gingrich "the comeback kid," who forget that no one has actually voted for Gingrich yet -- it's like praising someone for his new gig when he made it through the first of five job interviews.

All of which is to say: I'm not going to same the mistake I did with Gingrich. I'm ready for the Santorum surge. To under-estimate the evangelical voter's disdain for a Mormon/mandate candidate is to commit pundit malpractice.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Launching a Serious Run at Apple and Samsung

Television

Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar

Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?