How This Weekend Changed the Republican Race

Monday, August 15, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Reihan Salam, columnist at The Daily and blogger for National Review Online's The Agenda, breaks down Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll and the other weekend news, from Rick Perry entering the fray to Tim Pawlenty dropping out.

Big win for Bachmann?

The Republican who wins the Ames Straw Poll doesn't usually go on to win the White House; Iowa's electorate is more traditional, rural and evangelical than the rest of the nation, which may explain why Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann came out on top this weekend over front-runner Mitt Romney.

That steam has built behind Bachmann's campaign is undeniable. With the first victory under her belt, the question now becomes how to maintain the momentum. Reihan Salam said that Bachmann's hard-line anti-spending rhetoric got her here; now she needs to explain how austerity would beget prosperity.

Connecting her ideas very specifically with the jobs crisis hasn't been her strong suit so far; that's something she'll have to demonstrate in the very near future, or she's going to be seen as a less viable candidate, particularly as someone else with populist credentials enters the Republican presidential fray.

Why Pawlenty bowed out

During Thursday's debate, Bachmann traded barbs with fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, who would place a distant third in the Ames Straw Poll two days later. The first major campaign test turned out to be Pawlenty's last, as the former Governor announced on Sunday that he would no longer seek the nomination. Salam said that Pawlenty's position on the political spectrum wasn't distinguished enough, as he ran to the right of Mitt Romney, but not as far right as Bachmann or newly-introduced candidate Rick Perry.

There just wasn't much space for him there. He wasn't running the kind of centrist campaign we outlined in 2008, and I think that prevented him from having a more distinctive place in the field. I think his timing wasn't that good, and he tried to be something he was not, much as Mitt Romney arguably did in 2008.

Rick Perry: The 'best first sentence' in politics

As if tapping in for Tim Pawlenty, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he would be joining the Republican presidential race over the weekend. Presiding over statewide unemployment rate of 8 percent—lower than the national average—and having closed a $27 billion budget gap, Perry's got more than enough in his resume to make him interesting to Republican voters. He's already being called a candidate to beat.

"[Perry]'s got the best first sentence in American politics, which is, 'I created one-third of the jobs in America in the last two years,'" said conservative strategist Mike Murphy on Sunday's Meet the Press. "His problem is the second sentence, which is, 'They're all at Burger King or the government created them.'" Salam explained:

He has a reasonable first sentence, but as Mike Murphy suggests, what is his second sentence? That's going to be a problem. Texas is a state with very robust population growth and that accounts for a fair bit of job growth that's happened, some of which was in the public sector. There are many ways in which he's departed from what we think of as classically conservative policy, so there are a lot of questions about that for the governor.

How much of the state's job growth can be attribute to Perry's policies, and how would those policies play with Republican voters if they emphasized public sector employment? Another question that Salam raised: Perry closed the budget gap, but from where did that budget gap come?

Rick Perry has been Governor of Texas since 2000, so one has to wonder why you had this urgent correction, given that he's had his hand on the tiller for so long.


More in:

Comments [23]

gary from queens

@Ken from Brooklyn:

You can be a state with a high unemployment RATE and still be responsibel for a third of the job creations in the US since 2008. Assuming you understand what the terms mean.


Governors and presidents "create" jobs by getting government out of the way of job creators, like taxing them and regulating them with burdensome and useless regs.

Example of that is Dodd-Frank Financial reg. bill. It doesnt protect mortgage holders or reign in Fanny and Freddie's over leveraging excesses that was largely responsible for the housing bubble that burst.

Aug. 15 2011 03:50 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, I would never vote for a presidential candidate (like Michelle Bachman) who does not want the people handling other people’s money to be regulated or watched. Any person—stockbroker, real estate broker, loan officer—has to know that they have to be honest. Somebody has to make sure that they will not cheat customers to get a high commission. My mortgage fraud/predatory lending/foreclosure experience happened a few years ago, but it is as if had happened yesterday. It has affected me greatly and probably forever. And health care should and must be universal. We all need and want to be healthy. Eugenia Renskoff

Aug. 15 2011 12:42 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Like many terms in American political discussion, "Obama's weakness" can be considered a code word for "white resistance to being led by a member of the formerly inferior group". This is vestigial racism that needs to stop. No white President whose party held a majority in both houses would have faced the kind of resistance to the will of the majority that the opposition partion party has so arrogantly displayed.

The GOP blocked a super-majority in the Senate for six months by refusing to concede the Minnesota election.

The GOP uses the filibuster to block appointments and judgeships.

The GOP consistenly and purposefully puts the good of the party over the good of the nation. The GOP worked to undersize the stimulus thus making Obama's 8% unemployment pledge unreachable. What's being a 'Great American' about that?

The GOP purposefully misleads the American people by contending that Obama and the Democrats are to blame for the largest rise in the public debt when Bush and the GOP are responsible for $6T of these costs. (Obama has, so far, added on $3T)

And in a very woeful example, a Congressman exclaimed "You lie!" during a Presidential speech given to Congress.

[To my small and venial mind, Justice Roberts' flubbing of the Oath of Office was the 'original sin' intended to tarnish Obama's moment of triumph and set the tone for some of this treatment.]

Would a white president have had any of this happen?

The hole caused by the 2008 financial collapse was deeper than the 'typical' recession and measuring recovery in terms of standard timelines should only focus our minds on what the GOP has worked so hard to block. What the President and our Congress need to do is map out a plan for restoring America's will to be fair and cut two points off the unemployment rate or strike the Bush Tax Cuts off the books. This will be enough to get Obama re-elected.

Aug. 15 2011 11:11 AM

I too was appalled at Salam's dismissive reply to an excellent challenge from the caller who brought up the country's wars. I had to drop what I was doing, get to the computer and log in. I am happy to see that others had similar reactions. (And I think the guest host was also disappointingly silent on the question.) Mr. Salam referred to outlets 'up and down the dial' where one can get coverage. This shows he clearly doesn't get it: we are not talking about slanted shout-fests, we are talking about the media's responsibility.

Aug. 15 2011 11:05 AM
Jay from Dobbs Ferry

Reihan Salam seems to believe that journalists shouldn't be expected to ask questions that the "audience" doesn't want asked. This is appalling.

Certainly journalism has always been something of a popularity contest -- if people don't buy papers or watch television, media organizations cannot afford to employ journalists. But the idea that a nation can be at war and that journalists are afraid of alienating their audience by asking questions about this overwhelmingly profound issue makes a mockery of both the journalists and the audience they serve.

Life isn't "Entertainment Tonight." If journalism becomes merely a popularity contest -- measured by screen hits and the increasingly shrinking attention spans of web surfers, without regard to what should really matter to the citizens of a great nation -- we are doomed.

Aug. 15 2011 10:42 AM
john fredricks from New York, NY

For decades, every Republican has ridiculed Democrats, declaring that “government cannot create jobs.”

Now their Rick Perry brags that he has created millions of jobs, and the former GOP dogma has suddenly become “inoperative.”

Aug. 15 2011 10:38 AM

Mayor Bloomberg is for increasing taxes on everyone - a refreshing idea. Let's increase taxes on everyone except small businesses. The cut on taxes had no effect on increasing jobs. Why aren't Democrats calling Republicans on this?

Aug. 15 2011 10:38 AM
MC from LIC

Did Salam just say that journalists essentially don't have a responsibility to use their public platform to educate people about the the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because "you don't get listeners by asking questions people don't care about?" Maybe people would care about this issue if they realized how tied in it is with the economic crisis. Oh well, too bad journalists are too busy pandering to the lowest common denominator of readers to actually challenge them intellectually on frivolous issues like war.

Aug. 15 2011 10:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm tired of hearing governors & presidents given (or taking!) all the credit for whatever jobs are or aren't created in their states or the entire country, as if Rick Perry "created" every job in Texas all by himself.

Aug. 15 2011 10:29 AM
Chris from Brooklyn

Couldn't agree more with last caller. Media has a responsibility. They don't just address what's on the public's mind, because the public's mind is affected by what's on the media!

Aug. 15 2011 10:27 AM
markbnj from www.

The statement about Obama above is interesting.

It's because Obama has ATTEMPTED to compromise with the Tea-Bagger's party that he is now seem as weak and ineffective.

I think the past 8 months where the tea-bagger's party has totally stopped the government is a key reason why our economy is in worse shape then it was before 2010.

Also: the "100 year's war" we are currently in, was started by ANOTHER REPUBLICAN president, and was ESCALATED by ANOTHER republican president and was also financed WITHOUT any budget BY a republican president, and totally reversed a BUDGET SURPLUS left by a DEMOCRATIC president.

We need more (and LARGER $$$ ) spending program FROM The federal government (think 1932 and the FDR programs) to get us OUT of this DEPRESSION 2.0

read my blog for details on how to get us OUT of this depression.

Aug. 15 2011 10:26 AM

Why don't the Democrats demand that the Republicans spell out in lurid detail, all of the cuts that they want to make? Certainly those cuts will be less palatable to the vast majority of voters than increasing taxes on households with incomes over $250,000 - a small portion of the electorate.

Aug. 15 2011 10:25 AM
Jeff Pappas from The Moon

How come the Republicans are so Great at ignoring facts and Engaging in Hypocrisy ? And worst is How come their base can believe them and blame Everything on the Democrats and Obama.
Remember Iraq , the lies the cost in $ borrowed from China. Remember the Surplus Bush inherited from Clinton Era, then squandered it on giving a 4 % tax break to the Job creators, who didnt create anything
Right and The Media should call Foul !!!

Aug. 15 2011 10:23 AM
Ken from Brooklyn

WNYC needs to dispel the job creation exaggeration that is being spread about Rick Perry. The facts show that Rick Perry's record on job creation is average.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: When Rick Perry took office in January of 2001, the Texas unemployment rate was 4.2%. As of August 2011, Texas has a 8.2% unemployment rate. In comparison, the national unemployment rate was 4.2% in January 2001, and 9.1% in August 2011.

25 states have a lower unemployment rate than Texas, and 25 states have a higher unemployment rate, meaning that Texas has median unemployment among U.S. states.

This sounds like another case of, "if Republicans repeat a lie enough, it will become the new truth."

Please stop this cycle.

Aug. 15 2011 10:22 AM
Nick from UWS

Does this guy have cotton stuffed in his ears? A man called and asked a direct simple question: "Why is Ron Paul ignored by the media?". Then Jamie Floyd, clear as day, repeats this question to this guest. Then, as if he's dreaming, he goes off on a dissertation on Ron Paul's effect on the Republican party. DOES ANYBODY IN THIS COUNTRY KNOW HOW TO GIVE A DIRECT ANSWER TO A SIMPLE QUESTION? We are so screwed...the brains of the people in this country are garbage.

Aug. 15 2011 10:22 AM
Donna from NYC

Yeah - why isn't the media covering Ron Paul? He is the only candidate with any integrity. He comes in 2nd in the poll but oh, now the poll is meaningless.

Aug. 15 2011 10:18 AM

Ok, so the guest starts out saying that organizational skills are important, and thus worthy of covering the winner of the straw poll. But for Ron Paul, that's not enough to warrant coverage when he is behind by 1%?

Media fail.

Aug. 15 2011 10:18 AM
Darren from NYC

The treatment of Ron Paul is shameful.

Aug. 15 2011 10:17 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

This is all nonsense. Don't let the "gotcha" liberal media distract you.

The important question is does Barack Obama deserve to continue this present performance for 4 more years?

Can enyone even here honestly say "Yes, I want 4 more years of uncertainty and fear ?"

Can the lefties who listen here put their partisanship aside and admit that this guy has no coherent economic or foreign policy....and never has?
If so, PLEASE DESCRIBE IT. (Leading from behind, maybe?)
Even a recent editorial in Der Spiegel (formerly a member of the "Obama is God" German contingent) complained that "Obama's weakness is a problem for the entire global community."

As Norman Podhoretz wrote in the WSJ on Saturday, let's be honest............. no white candidate who has had his record would be given a pass and lasted this long.

Bachmann,'s about Obama.

Aug. 15 2011 09:03 AM
gary from queens

The post-straw poll punditry made my prediction somewhat more prominant.

Well before we heard former Bush campaign advisor Mathew Dowd observe on Charlie Rose and This Week (ABC) that Rick Perry's speech and mannerisms resemble GW Bush's, you would have heard it from me if you belonged to my political list or read the BL blog.

And well-before Dowd had observed that it could be a problem for Perry among independents, I had already written this opinion:

Forget Perry's accomplishments. We are talking now about what gets these guys elected. The independents are the one-third swing vote that elects presidents these days. What got obama elected? Did the independents vote for SENATOR Obama for president based on his great accomplishments? No. He had none. So why would you think independents would vote for Perry because of HIS accomplishments---albeit real accomplishments?!

Accomplishments mean nothing to independents apparently. They voted for Obama. They're not policy wonks. THAT's why they're independents---they have no political philosophy. Duhh.

And if you counter that they voted for Obama because "he wasnt Bush", then you have your answer----Perry, if i'm correct, will remind independents of Bush, unless Perry changes his style for set speeches.

Aug. 15 2011 08:54 AM
Lloyd from New York

The Iowa straw poll was a contest to determine who is the biggest crackpot.

Aug. 15 2011 08:38 AM
gary from queens

Rep. Bachmann's success from the straw poll had thrust her onto the media's center stage. She appeared on all the Sunday morning news shows.

I would have no problem voting for her as president, yet she blundered on a couple of questions on her Meet the Press interview.

1. On her views of gays and lesbians.

She SHOULD have made it clear that the audio clip David Gregory played was her response to a questioner about her PERSONAL views on homosexuality.

She SHOULD have said that she doesn't prefer eating asparagus, but as president, she won't make that personal preference public policy.

Instead, she evaded. A mistake. Many gays are conservatives. She lost that vote against obama.

2. On the economy, David Gregory asked several questions about government spending. She failed to explain WHY government spending slows economic growth (the flaws in Keynesian "stimulus" spending by government). How it chases away private investment, etc.

Bachmann needs to huddle with a couple of sharp professional politcal advisors on matters of presentation. She does poorly on that. After social conservative Iowa, she may soon lose the media spotlight. The next question she may be asked is why she favors the instruction of "intelligent design" in science class. (or as I call it, "Devine Design.")

Will she be prepared for it? If she wants to mainstream her candidacy, she's better be.

Aug. 15 2011 08:07 AM

Iowa and NH voters are neither morally nor intellectually superior to voters in any other state, so why must they be accorded the exclusive, lifetime privilege of vetting presidential candidates for the other 48 states? When did America vote to make Iowa and NH the Official, Permanent Gatekeepers in the selection of presidential nominees?

The present system of Iowa voting first and New Hampshire voting second is irrational, illogical, unfair, and just plain wrong. The other 48 states must join forces to smash the Iowa / NH stranglehold over the presidential nominating process to smithereens and replace it with a ROTATING, REGIONAL PRIMARY FORMAT.

Aug. 15 2011 07:57 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by