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December 28, 2011 5:13 PM More On What This Election is “About”

By Ed Kilgore

As I’ve argued earlier today (and elsewhere, for much of the last year), those assuming the entire 2012 election cycle is “about the economy” have not been paying much attention to the GOP nominating contest. Many Republican “base” voters are grinding ideological axes that have little or nothing to do with the economy other than reflecting a determination to do nothing whatsoever about it that would discomfit wealthy “job creators.”

At The Caucus site of the New York Times, Micheal D. Shear has a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of Iowa Republicans based on how audiences are reacting to different pitches from candidate Rick Perry:

On Tuesday, Rick Perry held four events, starting in Council Bluffs and ending up in Osceola, about an hour south of Des Moines. Mr. Perry talked about being an outsider, taking the fight to President Obama and making the Congress a part-time legislature.

But the audiences in all four places were remarkably similar when it came to what parts of Mr. Perry’s speech moved them to applause, sometimes even hooting and hollering their approval when Mr. Perry touched on issues they care about.

Some of the applause was clearly for Mr. Perry, whose stump speech includes some well-delivered lines that are designed to get a reaction. But some of those lines fell flat on Tuesday, while the audience — not necessarily filled with supporters of Mr. Perry — sometimes applauded when the candidate least expected it.

According to Shear, the lines that “moved” Perry’s audiences were (1) statements of hard-line support for Israel’s position that a nuclear Iran is both imminent and intolerable (including a sharp attack on Ron Paul); (2) pledges to radically reduce the size and scope of the federal government, including Perry’s recycling of Lamar Alexander’s famous 1996 “cut their pay and send them home” tagline for creating a part-time Congress with lower salaries; (3) a pledge to “shut down the border” against undocumented workers; (4) a hard line against legalized abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood; (5) promises to increase domestic oil production; and (6) a pledge to barnstorm the country to achieve enactment and ratification of a balanced budget constitutional amendment.

With the arguable exception of the energy issue, none of these applause lines have much to do with jobs and the economy. And in retrospect, it’s clear Perry should have spent less time during the the early days of his campaign bragging about his jobs record in Texas, and a whole lot more time repositioning himself on immigration, where his “liberal” support for in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers very nearly destroyed his campaign in Iowa and elsewhere.

Ed Kilgore is managing editor of the Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.

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  • T2 on December 28, 2011 5:29 PM:

    "none of these applause lines have much to do with jobs and the economy. "
    Ed, the Republicans don't give a sh*t about jobs and the economy, or the deficit, etc.
    They want power, and that comes with getting elected. Then they can do away with taxes completely for those making more than $500k a year.

  • Danp on December 28, 2011 5:35 PM:

    The unemployment rate in Iowa is only about 6%, and it never got much higher than that since the Great Recession began. It would be nice to think that Iowans are largely interested in what is going on around them, but it's easier to instill fear about nuclear bombs, terrorists and taco stands.

  • bleh on December 28, 2011 5:51 PM:

    Mostly these are just proxy issues for
    -- Hate black and brown people
    -- Hate libruls, feminazis, and faggits
    I really think "analysts" tend to WAY overanalyze. It ain't rational. It's emotional and tribal

  • c u n d gulag on December 28, 2011 6:01 PM:

    Shorter Republican base:
    F*ck the jobs, we already got 'em! In the classic - "Fuck you, I got mine" Conservative vein.

    So, skip jobs, and give us more hate!

    Oh, and government bashing.

  • AG on December 28, 2011 6:45 PM:

    The three tenets of conservatism:

    1. America belongs to conservatives.
    2. Everything good about America came from conservatives.
    3. Everyone else lives here on the basis of our generosity and at our discretion.

    Simply put, this is what conservatives want to hear, and this is what they'll vote for.

  • Jimo on December 29, 2011 12:09 PM:

    I suppose it might also be relevant that Iowa (and even more so, New Hampshire) have below-average unemployment problems. Both are small states with little growth during good times (no "boom") and so have little to lose during bad times (no "bust).

    I suspect Republicans will find a different electorate in a month during the Florida primary.

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