Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

How will the Tea Party Affect the Republican Contest?

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

I don't know, but Theda Skocpol has a pretty good idea. In fact she actully wrote a book about it. To brush up on the history of this movement and learn how it may influence the Republican process, watch Skocpol, a leading scholar on American politics, discuss the Tea Party and its potential impact on the 2012 election.

Fly Me to the Moon

Click "listen," then "play" above to hear the clip. Launch full screen player.

Newt Gingrich has been making headlines with his pledge to establish a permanent moon colony if elected president. Gingrich's pledge is not the first time the presidency and "bold ideas in space" have run into each other. In November 1962 President Kennedy sat down with NASA director James Webb and others to discuss NASA's Apollo program and its relative priority within the agency. Click the scrolling transcript below to become a fly on the wall and listen in on this secretly recorded meeting.

Gingrich Winner of South Carolina Primary

Newt Gingrich and wife Callista

Newt Gingrich at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire.  Courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has won a decisive victory in South Carolina following strong performances in the last two Republican debates. Winning 40% of the vote with 244,113 total votes, Gingrich easily defeated runner-up Mitt Romney, who received 168,152 votes, finishing at 28%. Rick Santorum took third, followed by Ron Paul.

The results in South Carolina should reinvigorate Gingrich’s campaign, which had all but stalled out after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

This year marks the first time that a different candidate has won each of the first three nominating contests.

So Who Won the Iowa Caucus?  No One!  WAIT, No, Rick Santorum (UPDATED)

In a reversal of earlier reported results, the final vote certification process in Iowa has shown that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum received 34 more votes than rival Mitt Romney.

Party officials found inaccurate counts in 131 Iowa precincts, leading to a revised tally showing Santorum, with 29,839 votes, ahead of Romney, who received 29,805 votes. Initial, but uncertified, results immediately following the Caucus had Romney the victor by 8 votes.

However, results from eight precincts are missing and will not be counted, so the ultimate tally remains inconclusive.

The news comes at a pivotal moment, two days before the South Carolina primary, which is often a proving ground for the eventual GOP nominee.

UPDATE, January 21: The Iowa Republican Party has officially declared Santorum the winner of the 2012 caucuses.

Perry Drops Out

Rick Perry in October 2011

Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in DC in October 2011.  Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nominee today, after coming to the conclusion that he could see “no viable path to victory.” Perry came in fifth place in the Iowa Caucus, and finished last in New Hampshire. 

This move comes two days before the South Carolina primary, where polling has indicated low levels of support for Perry.

In prepared remarks, Perry endorsed fellow contender Newt Gingrich for president, calling him a “conservative visionary” who could “transform our country.”

Huntsman ends candidacy

Huntsman with wife Mary Kaye

Jon Huntsman on campaign trail in New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Patrick Gensel

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and Ambassador to China, dropped out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination today, citing "it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama."  

He went on to say that candidate is Mitt Romney, who he called "unelectable" as recently as last week.  

Flouting the RNC Rules

Red, White, and Blue Elephant

Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

In 2010, the Republican Party changed the rules that governed the schedules for primaries and caucuses in the 2012 presidential election. The changes included allowing states that award their delegates proportionally in either a primary or caucus to hold their contests in March, but winner-take-all states have to wait until April to hold their contests.

Romney Wins New Hampshire Primary

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

Mitt Romney in Paradise Valley, AZ in December 2011.  Courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the decisive winner in yesterday’s Republican primary in New Hampshire, garnering 39% of the vote with 97,532 votes. Congressman Ron Paul was the second place finisher, with 56,848 votes for 23% of the vote. Ambassador Jon Huntsman came in third with 41,945 votes for 17%, followed by Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry.

Romney’s win in the nation’s first political party primary election marks back-to-back wins, putting his campaign on strong footing going into South Carolina’s primary, which is historically key to the GOP presidential nomination. Since 1980, every South Carolina primary winner has gone on to win the Republican Party nomination.

Bachmann Ends White House Bid

Bachmann news conference

Michele Bachmann drops out of the race.  Photo courtesy of

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has dropped out of the race after a disappointing sixth place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Bachmann had a promising start in Iowa, winning the Ames Straw Poll in August, but her support eroded steadily over the summer despite an aggressive campaign and tour of the state. She did not endorse another candidate.

Romney—no, Santorum—the Winner of the Iowa Caucus (UPDATED)

Rick Santorum on the campaign trail in Iowa

Rick Santorum campaigns in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

In the official kick-off to the 2012 horse race, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney barely edged out rival former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to win yesterday’s Republican Party Caucus in Iowa by the slimmest of margins. Romney won 30,015 out of 122,255 cast votes, narrowly beating Santorum’s 30,007 votes. Coming in a close third was Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, followed more distantly by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

UPDATE, January 19:  After the official vote certification process, the Iowa Republican Party has declared Rick Santorum the winner of the Iowa caucuses by 34 votes.


Gerald L. Baliles

Gerald L. Baliles, Director of the Miller Center

I welcome you to our blog Riding the Tiger: The Presidential Election in Context. The Miller Center is a non-partisan research institution that seeks to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, providing critical insights for our nation’s governance challenges.

We intend to take the news and issues of the election campaign coverage and mine our resources to provide historical context to those issues. Our goal is to show when similar issues or situations have confronted presidents or presidential candidates, how they have responded—and how the lessons learned from those attempts, whether failed or successful, impact the decision-making by candidates today.

Why Are We Riding This Tiger?


So why did we title this blog, Riding the Tiger?

It is a take-off from a quote by President Harry S. Truman. In the first paragraph of Volume Two of his memoirs, Years of Trial and Hope (Doubleday, 1956), Truman wrote:

“Within the first few months I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed. The fantastically crowded nine months of 1945 taught me that a President either is constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him. I never felt that I could let up for a single moment.”