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Blom & Benko: Advocating Gold Standard Could Change Outcome of 2012 Presidential Contest

Scott Rasmussen, in October, polled 1,000 voters on gold and found it popular, especially if characterized as a way to constrain big government and big banks.

In November, American Principles in Action commissioned the Polling Company to drill deeper into the implications for the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The Polling Company found that advocating the gold standard would move votes where they most matter. The gold standard is highly popular with tea party voters, movement conservatives and others disproportionately likely to attend the Iowa caucuses or vote in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

Restoring the gold standard — the classic American monetary policy destroyed by Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon — turns out to be a potential “sleeper issue,” and an under-exploited one. It could tip the scales of this race.

Phone interviews with 501 likely caucus-goers were conducted in Iowa in mid-November. The potential respondent was screened to ensure a. registration to vote in Iowa b. registration as a Republican and c. self-described as “definitely” or “probably” going to participate in the caucuses to select the Republican nominee for president. The survey has an overall margin of error of 4.4 points at the 95 percent confidence interval.

“A majority (57 percent) of those surveyed are favorable to the United States returning to a gold standard and over one-quarter is ‘very’ favorable to the idea,” reports pollster Erin Norman. “Only 17 percent are unfavorable to this idea, which equates to a better than three-to-one favorability ratio among likely Iowa Republican Caucus goers. These are remarkably high numbers given that the question contained no information about the gold standard specifically.”

Translated out of pollsterese? The gold standard drives votes both in the caucuses and primaries and in the general election.

Considering the volatile nature of the race so far, the number of votes to be secured by campaigning for the gold standard is far from trivial. Very conservative voters would be more likely to vote for a pro-gold-standard candidate by a ratio of more than 3-1; somewhat conservative voters by a ratio of almost 2-1, and “not conservative” voters more likely by a very slight ratio.

Herman Cain’s backers were the most enthusiastic for gold, implying that active advocacy for gold could be a potent way of attracting Cain’s supporters. “Those pledging support for Herman Cain (67 percent) and Michele Bachmann (64 percent) were more likely than average to have a favorable opinion of the gold standard. Cain Ballot Test Voters felt stronger about the issue with 36 percent saying ‘very favorable’ compared to Bachmann’s 19 percent ‘very favorable.’”

Fifty percent of New Hampshire voters favor the gold standard, with more than half of those favoring it “very strongly.” Twelve percent of voters are much more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who campaigned for the gold standard, and another 12 percent would be somewhat more likely to do so, with only 8 percent much less likely, and 6 percent somewhat less likely.

Translation? Gold has the potential to close Gingrich’s gap in New Hampshire, or at least place him such a close second that the national media might take it as a sign that Romney has been hit with a TKO.

On to Dixie. Thirty-three percent of South Carolina’s primary voters are very favorable to the gold standard, with another 18 percent somewhat favorable. Only 11 percent are very unfavorable with 6 percent somewhat unfavorable. Gold presents as an unequivocal (3-1) electoral asset in South Carolina.

In the general election, according to Rasmussen, gold also presents as an electoral asset. Gold is not an expedient to gain the nomination for which penance must later be done.

As one of the authors has written on Forbes.com, “Rasmussen’s numbers strongly suggest gold is an electoral jet stream. Fly with it and enjoy the tailwind; into it and suffer from headwinds. ...

“Rasmussen: ‘The majority of voters across nearly all demographic groups favor the gold standard if it would dramatically reduce the power of central bankers and political leaders over the economy.’ A majority of African Americans, most of them enthusiastically, support the gold standard. A majority of Union members ... support the gold standard too.

“... Most of the left is made up of humanitarian populists, such as organized labor and ethnics who comprise the ‘social democratic’ left. They are far more concerned about jobs, opportunity, and policies of ‘rising tide’ prosperity than with arcane (and dubious) neo-Keynesian dogma. These — as the Occupy movement is telling us loudly with its many calls for the gold standard ... strongly tend to favor gold.”

Beyond the politics, there are a lot of good policy reasons to embrace the gold standard. The economy grew faster, more jobs were created, recessions were shorter and shallower, under gold than under the Nixon paper dollar standard. The rest of Nixon’s New Economic Policy — such as price controls and tariffs — has been discredited and discarded. Time to discard our lingering Nixonian monetary policy and restore the gold standard.

Gold is a win-win-win opportunity. By all available polling data the gold standard will give a significant boost to the candidate who advocates it in securing the nomination, in the general election, and will serve as excellent policy for economic growth and spending restraint for the next president.

Andresen Blom is executive director of American Principles in Action. Ralph Benko is the group’s senior adviser for economics, editor of the Lehrman Institute’s gold standard information website and a columnist for Forbes.com.

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