Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2011

Bachmann Will Make Hay With Straw Win

Pundits and political kibitzers will be spending a good deal of time in the coming days attempting to minimize the impact of Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa straw poll today. They will point out that the poll is not a fair test of voter appeal and that it does accurately predict the winner of the state’s caucuses. They will say that Bachmann’s victory is diminished by the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry did not compete there.

All this is true. But none of it can take away the fact that the straw poll is the first real prize of the campaign season and that Bachmann has won it despite a later start than many of the other candidates. It may not be worth all that much but there is no Republican running against her that would not have loved to be able to grab it for their own. Though anything less than first place would have been a disaster for her, even her narrow edge over runner-up Ron Paul gives Bachmann’s campaign a boost that will enable her to move on to the caucuses as the presumptive favorite.

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Pundits and political kibitzers will be spending a good deal of time in the coming days attempting to minimize the impact of Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa straw poll today. They will point out that the poll is not a fair test of voter appeal and that it does accurately predict the winner of the state’s caucuses. They will say that Bachmann’s victory is diminished by the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry did not compete there.

All this is true. But none of it can take away the fact that the straw poll is the first real prize of the campaign season and that Bachmann has won it despite a later start than many of the other candidates. It may not be worth all that much but there is no Republican running against her that would not have loved to be able to grab it for their own. Though anything less than first place would have been a disaster for her, even her narrow edge over runner-up Ron Paul gives Bachmann’s campaign a boost that will enable her to move on to the caucuses as the presumptive favorite.

The straw poll is above all a test of campaign organizational skills since thevoters must be recruited and gotten to the poll by each candidate. It is no secret that Bachmann’s campaign appears to not be the most sophisticated or best run of the various GOP hopefuls. Thus it is no small achievement that despite the better run and better-funded efforts of her principal rival Tim Pawlenty (more about him and the other losers in a later post) and some of the others on the ballot, the enthusiasm that Bachmann has generated in her native state was enough to squeak out a victory in the straw poll.

It is that enthusiasm factor that must be considered when political experts begin to handicap the Iowa caucuses. Rick Perry might bulldoze Bachmann and every other conservative on his way to a spring showdown in the later big state primaries with Mitt Romney. But the assumption that Perry will simply brush aside Bachmann flies in the face of everything that we have learned about this race in the last few months.

Bachmann and Perry do appeal to the same demographic slices of the GOP electorate: Christian conservatives and Tea Partiers. It may well be that Perry’s superior resume as a governor of a state with a booming economy will make Bachmann’s slim record as a legislator pale by comparison. But elections are not won by resumes as Barack Obama proved to Hillary Clinton four years ago.

Though not a single delegate has been won so far, Bachmann’s brilliant political skills and ability to connect with voters has already been firmly established. Though her extreme positions on the debt-ceiling crisis may hurt her with voters in the long run, Bachmann’s ability to harness the enthusiasm of her followers by standing firm on her principles will make her formidable contender in Iowa and elsewhere if she makes it to the later primaries.

The straw poll win not only keeps her candidacy alive, it gives her the necessary momentum to carry on into the fall and winter when the real voting begins. The first tier of GOP candidates is now unquestionably composed of Romney, Perry and Bachmann. She will be considered the least likely of the trio to get the nomination. But anyone who underestimates her is making a big mistake.

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Rick Perry Announces—and the Boogeyman Is Back

“I will work every day to make Washington, DC as inconsquential in your life as I can,” says Rick Perry as he announces for president. Well, there it is. The 2012 race in a nutshell—”America is not broken. Washington D.C. is broken,” as Perry said, in contrast to Barack Obama’s continuing insistence that government must somehow lead the way out of the economic doldrums with infrastructure banks and payroll tax cuts and extending unemployment insurance. If the dividing line between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want, in some sense, to direct America from Washington, Republicans believe the United States should not be directed, and should instead be managed as close to the citizenry as possible.

Most people outside Texas know very little about Perry, but given his standing as a kind of amalgam of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, he may soon occupy an unprecedented position in the imagination of liberals and the Left—perhaps the most frightening specter of anti-liberalism since Ronald Reagan precisely because he is electable. The conservative boogeyman is back.

“I will work every day to make Washington, DC as inconsquential in your life as I can,” says Rick Perry as he announces for president. Well, there it is. The 2012 race in a nutshell—”America is not broken. Washington D.C. is broken,” as Perry said, in contrast to Barack Obama’s continuing insistence that government must somehow lead the way out of the economic doldrums with infrastructure banks and payroll tax cuts and extending unemployment insurance. If the dividing line between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want, in some sense, to direct America from Washington, Republicans believe the United States should not be directed, and should instead be managed as close to the citizenry as possible.

Most people outside Texas know very little about Perry, but given his standing as a kind of amalgam of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, he may soon occupy an unprecedented position in the imagination of liberals and the Left—perhaps the most frightening specter of anti-liberalism since Ronald Reagan precisely because he is electable. The conservative boogeyman is back.

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Charles Murray’s Insight About Tiger Woods

The latest Tiger Woods news is his failure even to make the cut at the PGA tournament—perhaps the most severe humiliation yet and a sign that, as the New York Post put it on its front page today, it might be time “to put a fork in him.” Thirteen months ago, Charles Murray predicted that Woods’s personal troubles would make it impossible for him to replace Jack Nicklaus as the greatest golfer of all time in a remarkable analysis called “Why Tiger Won’t Catch Jack”:

The combination of qualities that enabled Nicklaus to win 18 majors and has enabled Woods to win 14 is freakish. To take just one example, Woods has an astonishing record of sinking difficult putts at critical moments, including on the final hole with victory at stake. That’s not just a matter of reading the greens accurately and having a good putting stroke. It’s a product of a mental state that the rest of us can barely imagine, the product of a Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths…The role of those psychological strengths is why so much of the commentary about Woods’s play since he returned is beside the point. The commentators focus on whether his component skills are returning to their pre-scandal levels. He can return to precisely the same place on the bell curves of the component skills that he occupied before the meltdown in his personal life, but the package will not be the same. Tiger Woods has experienced a sort of concussion to that Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths, and there must be some residual damage that won’t ever go away.

Right Murray was.

The latest Tiger Woods news is his failure even to make the cut at the PGA tournament—perhaps the most severe humiliation yet and a sign that, as the New York Post put it on its front page today, it might be time “to put a fork in him.” Thirteen months ago, Charles Murray predicted that Woods’s personal troubles would make it impossible for him to replace Jack Nicklaus as the greatest golfer of all time in a remarkable analysis called “Why Tiger Won’t Catch Jack”:

The combination of qualities that enabled Nicklaus to win 18 majors and has enabled Woods to win 14 is freakish. To take just one example, Woods has an astonishing record of sinking difficult putts at critical moments, including on the final hole with victory at stake. That’s not just a matter of reading the greens accurately and having a good putting stroke. It’s a product of a mental state that the rest of us can barely imagine, the product of a Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths…The role of those psychological strengths is why so much of the commentary about Woods’s play since he returned is beside the point. The commentators focus on whether his component skills are returning to their pre-scandal levels. He can return to precisely the same place on the bell curves of the component skills that he occupied before the meltdown in his personal life, but the package will not be the same. Tiger Woods has experienced a sort of concussion to that Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths, and there must be some residual damage that won’t ever go away.

Right Murray was.

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