Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tea Party Presidential Handicapping

Definitely not Tea Party endorsed.

Yesterday, Temple of Mut posted the results from San Diego Tea Party bloggers straw poll for President. Happy to see that Mitch Daniels did well, but this poll had no real meaning, of course. Of more import, are the SLOB's thoughts on unacceptable candidates, and why. First, Newt Gingrich was far and away the least favorite at the table. (Yes, we could all fit at a single, albeit large table at the Yard House.) My key reason for opposing Newt Gingrich is his support for ethanol. I had other reasons for opposing Newt, not the least of which is his lengthy absence from electoral politics and his questionable personal morals, but his support of ethanol subsidies clinched it for me. Ethanol is the great litmus test for presidential candidates, because it forces them to deal with a program that makes no sense whatsoever at a high personal cost because of the momentum they might lose in Iowa.

Here is why ethanol subsidies for American corn make no sense.
  1. They are subsidies. That means the free market has determined that ethanol is not an efficient way to produce fuel for vehicles. Subsidies are almost always a waste of taxpayer dollars, ethanol is no exception.
  2. Ethanol subsidies increase the price of corn, which in turn increases the price of meats. Essentially, we are burning food and driving up its price. World food prices are rising, increasing starvation. Ethanol has been fingered. This is a moral issue as well.
  3. Ethanol isn't good for the car engine of the most fuel efficient car in my family. So any purported benefit is mitigated by the damage it does to fuel efficient vehicles.
  4. Corn is not the most efficient way to produce ethanol. Switchgrass is more efficient.
  5. Drilling for domestic oil reserves would reduce dependency on foreign oil far more effectively than ethanol subsidies. The foreign oil dependency argument is Newt Gingrich's.
However, Iowa holds the first caucus of the Presidential election cycle and is one of the chief beneficiaries of the ethanol subsidy as currently structured, including the tariffs on imported sources. Momentum in Iowa can carry through all the way to November, witness Obama's election. If a politician has the stature of C.O. Jones to stand up to this pressure, then maybe he can stand up to other special interests. If not, I don't wish to vote for him or her.

Interestingly, Mitt Romney doesn't seem to have high negatives with the group, even though he doesn't have high positives either. The discussion around Romneycare, Massachusetts' Obamacare predecessor, was that it put the Republican nomination out of reach for Romney. The feeling was that his Mormon religion didn't help him with the GOP, but wasn't an issue for Tea Party types. Finally, his likable personality was acknowledged by the group.

It's harder to put my finger on why Huckabee is so disliked by those of us in the Tea Party. An active police officer in our group discussed Huckabee's bad judgment on pardons. We agreed, but my gut instinct is that this isn't the reason for the dislike. My personal belief is that his heart really isn't in the issues that Tea Party types care about and he will use the nomination to push social issues that will distract from the far more important issues facing the nation. But even that explanation is incomplete, I am looking for some help on why he is so disliked amongst Tea Party types. George Will supplies a little in a 2007 column about Huckabee:

Many Iowans think it would be wise to nominate a candidate who, when the Republicans were asked during a debate to raise their hands if they do not believe in evolution, raised his. But, then, Huckabee believes America can be energy independent in 10 years, so he has peculiar views about more than paleontology.

Huckabee combines pure moralism with incoherent populism: He wants Washington to impose a nationwide ban on smoking in public, show more solicitude for Americans of modest means, and impose more protectionism, thereby raising the cost of living for Americans of modest means.

I haven't discussed Sarah Palin, but let there be no doubt, her endorsement of Carly Fiorina over Chuck DeVore left a bad taste with many a Tea Partyer.


  1. Good round-up. I call Huckabee the Religious Left. He's a micro-managing nanny stater, kind of like what Michael Bloomberg would be if he found Jesus.

    More on the parole issue at Huckabee's Body Count.

  2. no palin, and definately not gingrich. wish paul ryan would run.

    the only positive of ethanol is when it is used as an anti-knock agent.

  3. Support for ethanol is support for ADM, Archer Daniels Midland, which is the primary recipient and promoter of these subsidies. This company has bought politician after politician, party doesn't matter, since the days of Hubert Humphrey who constantly made use of their private plane. Check the campaign disclosures of every candidate under consideration for their largesse.

  4. Will pretty much hit it on the head. It's more Bush-like "compassionate conservatism" which Bush meant using the government to achieve conservative ends. Of course, that makes no sense whatsoever.

    Despite that folksy air, there is something I find disingenous about the man.

  5. What about Huntsman? Candidate of the top 1% or not?