Archive for the ‘election’ Category

“Bottom line: the Romney campaign made their bed with the early state primary strategy and got short-sheeted,” writes Justin Hart in a race42008.com blog burst titled, strangely, Autopsy of a Great GREAT Campaign

The momentum that Huckabee gained through his stunning Iowa win together with the victory that McCain edged out in New Hampshire seriously maimed the Romney narrative [...]

Hart refers to Romney’s ill-starred von Schlieffen plan, a plan that we criticized early and often. Romney’s von Schleiffen plan was an electoral-map fantasia so over-the-top preposterous that we always assumed that it was a cover for a more rational undertaking, an undertaking that required secrecy to pursue. We were wrong about that, and about a lot else besides.

John Ellis has a different take on the “Team Romney mounted a GREAT campaign” theme, one more consonant with our experience:

[...] The sad thing about the Romney campaign’s demise is that Mitt Romney is an exceptional person; highly intelligent, enormously hard-working, a man of great integrity and grit and executive ability. Given the dearth of talent in both parties — the seemingly endless parade of mediocrity and venality — we’re lucky to have people like Mitt Romney who are willing to get in the game. But he was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors. I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008. Good riddance to them. They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it [...]

The problem: to explain just went wrong is surpassingly difficult as it requires the observer to interpret the data of the world differently than is otherwise the case. Byron York attempts such an explanation on personal and narrative grounds in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed

[...] Romney made a lot of mistakes that didn’t seem like mistakes at the time. Drawing on his enormous success as a business consultant, he put together an impressively well-organized and professional campaign. That was good. But he never fully understood that the voters were looking for some spark in a candidate that connects him to them. Instead, Romney placed his faith in his magnificent organization and his PowerPoint analyses.

He hired a lot of people, spent millions to build organizations in key states, and then spent millions more for television and radio advertisements. The day after the Iowa caucuses, I dropped by WHO radio in Des Moines, and a top station official told me that Romney had been WHO’s second-biggest advertiser in 2007. (First was Monsanto farm chemicals.) In all, Romney pumped $1 million into WHO’s bank account. In South Carolina recently, a local politico marveled at how much money Romney’s in-state consultants made from the campaign. “Those guys made a mint out of him,” the politico told me. “It’s sinful how much they made.”

Yuh-huh. How much of the Romney phenomenon is the story of a super-rich ingenue getting bilked—just mercilessly fleeced—by a corrupt and cash-starved GOP party establishment?

Back to York:

As a result of all that spending, Romney ran a campaign on a deficit, deeply in debt. Of course, it was in debt to Romney himself, who put $35 million of his own money into the campaign as of December 31, and likely a lot more since. All that money freed Romney and his team from making some of the tough decisions that other campaigns had to make every day. You could argue either way whether that was good or bad.

Just before the Iowa caucuses, I was at a corporate headquarters outside Des Moines, asking a few questions of Eric Fehrnstrom, the press secretary who usually traveled with Romney. Fehrnstrom looked at Mike Huckabee’s campaign and saw a ragtag lot. “We’re going up against a loose confederation of fair taxers, and home schoolers, and Bible study members, and so this will be a test to see who can generate the most bodies on caucus day,” Fehrnstrom said.

I interrupted for a moment. “Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those groups?” I asked.

“Not that there’s anything wrong, but that’s just a fact,” Fehrnstrom continued. “That’s just where he has found his support. I have a theory about why Mike Huckabee holds public events in Iowa like getting a haircut or going jogging, or actually leaving Iowa and going to California to appear on the Jay Leno show. It’s because he doesn’t have the infrastructure to plan events for him. And when he does do events in Iowa, he goes to the Pizza Ranch, where you have a built-in crowd, so you don’t have to make calls to turn people out. We’re very proud of the organization we have built in Iowa.”

They had reason to be proud; it was a good organization. But in a bigger sense, they just didn’t understand what was going on. Fehrnstrom, like his boss, placed a lot of faith in Romney, Inc. How could a bunch of seat-of-the-pantsers like the Huckabee campaign possibly beat the Romney machine? Well, they could, in Iowa, and McCain could in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then in Florida and on Super Tuesday. The race was never about the imposing infrastructure Romney had built. It was about that ineffable something that voters look for in candidates. With Huckabee, some of those voters saw an intriguing and refreshing figure. With McCain, a larger number saw someone who wanted, above all, to defend the United States. And with Romney — well, they didn’t quite know what to think [...]

This is the problem with positive feedback, say, success. Success often passes into a crisis of perception as people and organizations optimize for successful activities at the expense of a more thorough review of changing conditions etc. It is the very definition of the learning or the experience curve. Failure and tragedy are excellent teachers; but what works for us—our triumphs, our successes—affirms us in what we are already doing, and recedes into the half-consciousness of habit and routine.

But here the problem for the Romney campaign was always this: their success itself was never real. For example: Their highly professional organization was the best that money could buy, but that money was not a reliable indicator of the candidate’s success as a fund-raiser or fitness as a candidate. It was only ever an indicator of the candidate’s personal worth.

ROI, people. ROI. There is no more effective metric for the success of a message or a message campaign than the your Return on Investment, and Romney’s was always preposterously low.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “When Romney tried to present himself as the most conservative of conservative candidates — remember when he said, playing on Paul Wellstone’s old line, that he represented “the Republican wing of the Republican party”? — a lot of conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina and beyond didn’t quite know what to think,” writes Byron York in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed; Where was he coming from? Voters never really knew

When they saw video of him in the fall of 2002 — not that long ago, during a debate in his run for Massachusetts governor — vowing to “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose” five times in a relatively brief period of time, they didn’t quite know what to think. When they saw video of him almost indignantly saying that “I wasn’t a Ronald Reagan conservative” and “Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush; I am not trying to return to Reagan/Bush” — they didn’t quite know what to think. And when they read the letter he wrote saying he would “seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens” even more than Ted Kennedy, they didn’t quite know what to think.

Romney’s run from his past left a lot of voters asking: Who is this guy? He says he believes certain things deeply now, but he believed other things deeply not that long ago. And each time, it seems, his deeply-held beliefs jibed with what was most advantageous politically.

And now that he has left the Republican race, the question remains. What was Romney thinking? No one outside a very, very tight circle knows. He is an extraordinarily disciplined man, and during the campaign he applied that discipline to making sure that he never said anything too revealing or that might be taken the wrong way. So if you were a reporter, or a supporter, or anyone other than his wife and perhaps his children, and you thought that Romney revealed something special and private to you, you were most likely wrong.

Given that, no one knew what meant the most to Romney. What were the core values that lay deep inside him, things that meant so much that he would give up everything for them? Voters want to know that about a president; they piece together an answer by watching a candidate over time. With Romney it was hard to tell, so they were left to guess. For what it’s worth, my guess is that at the core of Romney’s being is his church and his family; if Romney were asked to surrender all his worldly success for them, he would [...]

Church and family?—where does wanting to be our president come in?

Anyway, we harped on this weary string for months.

Balz: “it is difficult to sum up exactly what [Romney’s] candidacy is based upon and exactly who [Romney] is”

And yet the National Review endorsed this inscrutible non-entity.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language,” writes Dr. James Dobson in a statement read by Laura Ingraham over the air, and posted to race42008.com by Jason Bonham in a contribution titled Breaking: Dobson Slams McCain on Ingraham

[...] But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life [...]

But Dr. Dobson’s constitutionally guaranteed right to vote may be the only influence he has left.

“James Dobson, the founder and head of the evangelical media and counseling group Focus on the Family, is constantly described by the media as a power broker, kingmaker, and ‘the Christian right’s most powerful leader,’” writes Rita Heal for http://www.time.com in an article titled Is Dobson’s Political Clout Fading?

As such, his endorsement is seen as key by G.O.P. presidential candidates in the 2008 race. On Wednesday night, his political action website Citizenlink.com released assessments of the major Democratic and Republican candidates — and political observers immediately checked in to see whether Dobson’s organization was leaning toward Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney, the two G.O.P. candidates who have made the biggest play for the evangelical vote. As Focus on the Family weighs in on the presidential race, however, an examination of the group’s records shows that its influence may not be all that it once was, and that its actual base may have become smaller.

For months, Dobson has been playing it coy, seeming to favoring the Mormon Mitt Romney over Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, who would otherwise appear to be the natural Christian right choice. In December, Dr. Dobson praised a Romney speech as “a magnificent reminder of the role religious faith must play in government and public policy. His delivery was passionate and his message inspirational.” Dobson even made a congratulatory phone call to the candidate [...]

[...] Dobson has only endorsed one presidential candidate in the past — George W. Bush in 2004, who ran unopposed for the G.O.P. nomination. And the Christian right’s most powerful leader may not want to back a candidate so early in the game. Backing a losing horse could devalue the worth of any future Dobson anointment, especially when America is seeing the rise of a younger generation of less combative preachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Bill Hybels [...]

[...] The ministry apparently has been “flat” for some time. For example, in 1994 Dobson’s monthly newsletter had a circulation of 2.4 million copies. Today, that circulation is about 1.1 million. Also, in the 1990s, Dobson was drawing audiences of 15,000 or more to his speeches; but in the lead-up to the 2006 mid-term election, only about 1,000 people heard his anti-abortion speech at the 2,500-seat Mt. Rushmore National Monument amphitheatre. Daly explains that the event was a last-minute invitation and that Dobson rarely accepts speaking engagements.

According to news accounts and audited financial reports posted online for potential donors, the organization’s staffing is down (30 layoffs last September). Total donations and number of donors are down as well. Focus orders and resells copies of Dobson’s tapes and books, which are the evangelist’s personal business; but those purchases have declined from $678,000 in 2004 to $269,000 in 2006. His last book was published in 2001; another is not anticipated until 2009. The whole Dobson family, including wife Shirley, daughter Danae and son Ryan, produce books and tapes, but revenue from all Dobson-family materials are down, from $781,000 in 2004 to $307,000 in 2006 [...]

Also see:

Dr. Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” video voter guide lies about Romney—claims Romney acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith—Fehrnstrom: “[Romney] has not made that acknowledgment”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio,” writes the insipid Richelieu in an insipid Campaign Standard blog burst titled Richelieu: Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush [...]

That should be “Sorry Romney.

Still, however, Romney wants to capitalize on the new love radiating from talk radio

[...] “It might be preaching to the choir, but the members of this choir are precisely the people Mitt Romney needs to stop John McCain from getting a stranglehold on the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday,” writes the estimable Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, ina http://www.boston.com blog burst titled Romney puts ad on Limbaugh show

Romney aired an ad today on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show that excoriates McCain’s record on taxes and immigration.

“John McCain, he’s been in Washington a long time,” the announcer says, before the ad cites conservative commentators and the National Review.

Limbaugh, while not explicitly endorsing Romney, has been warning his listeners for weeks that McCain’s nomination would destroy the Republican Party. He repeated those warnings again today. Romney and McCain have been sparring over who is the true conservative [...]

The always a little baffled and befuddled Ed Morrissey laments what he foresees as a growing rift between the media figure of the right-wing shock jock and the Republican Party:

[...] But this showdown isn’t just about the media. It looks like the first really open GOP primary in decades will test a couple of widespread assumptions. First, does conservative talk radio have the influence that many presume to impact an election? Second, if it does not, what will that say about the future of conservative talk radio?

The answer to the first question will, I think, demonstrate that listeners have never been the monolithic, Clone Army style force that its critics presume. While they appreciate and enjoy the programs, listeners think for themselves. Anyone who spends any time at all listening knows the diversity of opinion unleashed through the call-in lines. Having spent time behind the mike as Hugh’s replacement on occasion, I can tell you that the callers are smart, informed, and sometimes have a much different opinion than me or Hugh.

So the answer to the second question follows from there. People will continue to listen to talk radio as they always have — for entertainment, information, and debate. The hosts will influence the opinions of the listeners, but they’re independent and will go their own way.

I expect that the hosts will change some minds before Tuesday. I expect the endorsements of the party’s establishment figures to do the same. In the end, most of the voters will make their decision based on their own logic, as they usually do. However, there will be one part of the showdown that may not survive, and that is the affinity of the conservative hosts for the Republican Party as an entity for conservative values. For that, High Noon has been a long time coming, and a McCain win may have some activists feeling very forsaken [...]

We grieve for those forsaken activists. We truly do.

Morrissey does understand the distinction between the activities of corporate content providers and the task of political parties, right?—the one is not the propaganda arm of the other. And if the one—or elements among the one—elect to promote a faction within the GOP at the expense of a governing coalition, then it deserves whatever it gets. The party is not the movement; the movement is not the party. And talk radio is neither party nor movement; it is information, entertainment, and opinion provided by organizations whose business is business.

Our prediction: our brothers and sisters in talk radio will soon learn why journalists and other media figures cherish the integrity that a sense of independence confers on them.

Meanwhile, Michael Graham of the NRO muses on the Sen. John McCain nomination that hasn’t happened yet, and answers the question that Morissey never posed but should have:

[...] John McCain didn’t win this nomination. Everyone else lost it. Mitt Romney had every chance — and then some — to win this nomination. He campaigned hard, and with lots of money, in every key primary state. And in every key state where his father never served as governor, he lost. He came, he saw (and was seen), and he got 31% of the vote. He wasn’t defeated by McCain. He’s just a mediocre candidate” [...]

This isn’t about talk radio. Nor should it ever have been. This is not even about the conservative movement. Note to Morrissey: Romney is not the conservative movement. The conservative movement is not Romney. Conservatism is for Romney a means to an end and that end is power.

This is, and has always been, about Romney, a surpassingly mediocre candidate.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“MINNEAPOLIS — Republican hopeful Mitt Romney said Sunday he was counting on the ‘voices of conservatism’ and a non-binding caucus in Maine to propel him to within fighting distance of frontrunner Sen. John McCain, who has opened a double-digit lead in polls before Tuesday’s pivotal votes,” writes Andrea Stone in a USA Today article titled Romney courts ‘voices of conservatism’

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Romney said his win in Maine “shocked” McCain, who had been endorsed by the state’s senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both widely viewed as moderate Republicans. The results showed Republicans were “staying in the house that Reagan built,” Romney said.Romney reiterated a litany of McCain positions he says are out of the mainstream of their party, including votes against drilling for oil in the Arctic preserve and President Bush’s tax cuts and for campaign finance bills and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Asked about the McCain campaign accusations that he has changed positions on issues such as a 50-cents-a-gallon gas tax that Romney now rails against at campaign stops, the former Massachusetts governor rejected what have now become familiar charges of flip-slopping.

“They have stretched, twisted and completely walked away from the truth,” Romney said [...]

Truth? Just what is the truth to a person like Romney?

Here is the problem for Romney: Romney’s icy-cold persona and ultra-high negatives cannot support a negative message. Romney’s own poll numbers crash whenever he does so. Yet here is, again, in person, attempting to slime McCain at the expense of whatever slim chances the GOP may have had in November against Senators Clinton or Obama.

Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates

Say for the sake of argument that Romney succeeds in driving up Sen. McCain’s negatives to the point that Sen. McCain is no longer viable. History would predict that the result would be equally disastrous for Romney. This is because whenever Romney lurches to the right, he alienates the very moderates and independents that comprise Sen. McCain’s coalition of voters. Yet Romney will need those very voters—voters Romney has ridiculed for not being real Republicans—in the general election. See:

Romney outflanks himself yet again!–poll indicates Romney’s pull to the right alienates independents, centrists, and moderates

In other words Romney’s fight is not with Sen. McCain. Romney’s fight is with the GOP itself.

[...] While McCain has racked up endorsements from governors and other high-profile Republicans on a wholesale basis since his Florida victory, the conservative commentariat of radio and TV have rallied to Romney. Long-time fan Rush Limbaugh was joined this week by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and right-leaning radio talkers Laura Ingraham and Lars Larson. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter went so far this week to say that if McCain, who has angered conservatives with his stands on immigration, taxes and other issues, were the GOP nominee, she would vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

” I don’t think you can buy as much advertising” as radio talk show hosts have provided for free, he said [...]

Not entirely for free. Romney’s Bain Capital acquired Clear Channel—the carrier of conservative “voices” like Rush Limbaugh—over a year ago.

The price tag was more like US$26.7 billion.

And the effectiveness of the sale is, at least to date, still in doubt. See:

Here is yet another take on Romney’s sudden bout of Tourette’s syndrome

[...] “ROMNEY ON TW. Mitt Romney came out with guns blazing, accusing John McCain of trying to characterize his positions while he characterized McCain’s,” writes Mark Kilmer in a http://www.redstate.com blog burst titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows—The Review

Romney said he was winning the “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” the “house Reagan built.” (He’s still invoking Reagan.) Romney boasted of the conservative commentators “coming out for me in record numbers.” Which begs the question, what is the old record which he claims to be breaking? Also, how many of these commentators are supporting him and how many are trying to flex their muscles concerning McCain?

Romney pointed out that McCain’s positions on ANWR, BCRA, immigration, and global warming “cause many conservatives to rally to my camp.” Is this a big Romney rally or a STOP MCCAIN fest?

Romney did allow that he and McCain agree on Iraq. (But he moved to McCain’s position, not v/v.)

Wallace asked Romney about his support for a cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions, and Romney accused McCain of twisting his position around. Yes, though, he said that he did support cap and trade.

Romney launched waves of attacks into McCain and McCain’s positions as characterized by Romney.

This was Romney knowing that the numbers do not look good for him right now trying to draw sharp distinctions between his rival and himself. It would have worked better, I think, if he could have focused on a few areas at a time, rather than a general broadside, but time is short. We’ll see how this plays on Tuesday [...]

[...] ROMNEY ON CNN. Mitt Romney was Wolf Blitzer’s first guest on CNN’s Late Edition this morning; Romney was in Minnesota. Blitzer pointed out that McCain blames Romney for the nastiness in this campaign. Romney said that he attacks only on issues, while McCain got personal in Florida. He said that he was not going to talk about that. (Romney’s stance vis-à-vis the surge is oriented toward an issue. Romney promised that he would keep mentioning that John McCain had repeated reports that Romney had talked of a timetable for withdrawal.)

Romney said that McCain’s “lack of understanding of the economy” was bad for the country, adding that we have to have someone who has had a real job in the private sector in the Oval Office. (That is a personal attack on the former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.)

Romney belittled “reaching across the aisle” and “making political deals.” He said that he is a man of action, of getting things done.

Comment: Say what!? How does one “get things done” if one sorely lacks the political skill necessary to build coalitions? For more on this melancholy theme see:

Why do only 3 out 22 Republican governors support Romney?—yet more evidence of Romney’s incompetence and lack of political skill

Back to Kilmer:

Romney said that McCain-Feingold hurt the Republican Party (it didn’t) and McCain-Kennedy granted amnesty to oodles of illegals (it didn’t even pass). He said that the Florida primary was close, “only a few points.” (Five points is a big win.) He said that conservatives were rallying behind him as a way to stop John McCain, which is why he won the uncontested caucuses in Maine at which no delegates were awarded. (Maine is a bastion of conservatism, electing Senators Collins and Snowe, both of whom endorsed John McCain after co-chairing his exploratory committee last year.)

Blitzer pointed out that polls show McCain beating Hillary and Obama with Romney losing. Romney claimed that the polls swing wildly.

Romney repeated that with our economy “struggling,” we need to elect someone who has held a “real job.” He compared himself again to Ronald Reagan [...]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Operating in survival mode, Mr. Romney’s circle of advisers has come up with a detailed road map to try to salvage his campaign,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Maps a Strategy for Survival

The plan is complete with a new infusion of cash from Mr. Romney, a long-term strategy intended to turn the campaign into a protracted delegate fight and a reframing of the race as a one-on-one battle for the future of the party that seeks to sound the alarm among conservatives about Mr. McCain.

The advisers have drawn up a list of states, dividing and ranking them into those considered relatively easy and inexpensive targets, along with a broader grouping of more costly battlegrounds where the advisers hope that Mr. Romney can be competitive.

Some states like Arizona and Arkansas, the home states of Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee, respectively, are largely written off.

The question is whether the planning, along with the campaign’s one trump card, the candidate’s vast wealth, can overcome the growing sense of inevitability that has begun to attach itself to Mr. McCain.

Complicating the outlook, Mr. Romney’s campaign has been racked by infighting over advertising strategy between some senior advisers, including some consultants who joined the campaign after leaving Mr. McCain’s [...]

[...] The most serious obstacle in many places is Mr. Huckabee, who continues to pull social conservative voters from Mr. Romney.

“The more the Romney strategy hinges on picking up red states, the bigger a factor Mike Huckabee is going to be,” Mr. Harris said [...]

Only Romney precluded the possibility of ever reaching out to Gov. Huckabee voters when he went viciously negative against the candidate so many, many moons ago.

But here would be a positive development for Romney. Romney’s anger may have turned on Team Romney itself. Romney may finally be thinking over whether his own organization is the cause of many of his woes.

[...] “The day after Feb. 5, Mr. Romney said he anticipated he would begin reviewing with his campaign team what states to go to next, as well as the budget. Mr. Romney seemed to allude to the possibility of downsizing his staff after Feb. 5,” writes Michael Luo in another NYT article, this time titled Romney Vows to Push on Past Tuesday

Yes. Only Romney may be pushing on past Tuesday with fewer of his hirelings and hangers-on to attend him.

“I mean, we have a very substantial staff, as you know, not what’s here but back in Boston,” he said. “And we had a big staff in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire. That’s a much larger staff than you have as you go on to these subsequent primaries, so who are the people needed, where are we going to need them, what’s the campaign budget going to look like, all of those things.”

In typical Romney fashion the hapless candidate turned and flatly denied what he had just stated.

But then when pressed about the issue during a news conference in Minneapolis, he said there had been no discussions about downsizing [...]

But note what Romney said: “There had been no discussions”—does Romney mean that no one among his staff had discussed the issue of downsizing?—so was Romney riffing with reporters about plans he is developing independent of the candidate’s spectacularly ineffective personnel? Recall: This is the same lavishly funded and superbly equipped organization that delivered Romney Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and other humiliating defeats.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“I predict we’re going to hear a growing conversation on the right about whether it’s better for America, conservatism, etc to have a president who feels he has to placate the conservative base versus having a president who claims to be a member of it,” writes Jonah Goldberg in a National Review TheCorner Blogburst titled One of Us Vs. One Who Owes Us

Goldberg issues a safe prediction.

Every candidate proposes a theory of representation whether explicitly or otherwise, i.e. an account of not just how the candidate as an elected official will advance the issues of his or her constituencies, but an explanation of why he or she would want to do so consonant with the candidate’s values, biography etc.—e.g. I am one of you, I believe as you believe etc.

Romney’s theory of representation is a unique one in our experience. Romney proposes to represent you by becoming you. See:

WSJ: “Plenty of politicians attune their positions to new constituencies—The larger danger is that Mr. Romney’s conversions are not motivated by expediency or mere pandering but may represent his real governing philosophy”

Back to Goldberg

President Bush won enormous good faith — no pun intended — from evangelicals and other social conservatives by saying, in effect, “I’m one of you.” A case could be made that some of Bush’s problems stem from the fact that the White House was internally confused about whether conservatives were simply another constituency or if they were more like a loyal army. I don’t think the distinctions are clean and neat, since there isn’t a monolithic conservative base and the Bush White House has been itself divided between Nixonians (i.e. the Poppa Bush crowd) and Reaganites. But I think we’ll see the conversation emerge as candidates like Giuliani and McCain make “transactional” overtures to the conservative base, saying something like “Support me and I’ll support what you care about” rather than “support me because I am one of you.”

National Review had a similar conversation over Richard Nixon. That didn’t turn out great.

The National Review also endorsed Willard Milton Romney. That hasn’t turned out so great either. See:

NRO organizes conference call to defend questionable decision to endorse Romney—eyeon08.com reports that they received not one supportive question, and no one spoke in favor of the endorsement

In other news from the frantic flunkies of the GOP establishment, Hugh Hewitt announces a talk-radio counter-strike against Sen John McCain as he attempts to consolidate his gains.

[...] Expect the talkers, led by Rush but seconded by Ingraham, Bennett, Prager, Beck, Hannity, Levin and me to spend the next few days putting down a marker: McCain is a very weak general election candidate, and if he was to win, would not govern as a conservative in any significant way. Our audiences are not, as MSMers like to imply, not only shrinking but mindless. They are growing, but they are incredibly independent of thought. They also take in and respond to good information, and now the information will be focused on John McCain and the choice before them.

MSM will of course be sending a very different set of talking points into the general population, one that obscures McCain’s record and which refuses to remind voters of the immigration fiasco etc. MSM will focus on Rudy and Arnold and leave the impression of a coalescing around McCain. Romney will battle to keep the issues out front, McCain the process.

But the new media is at work. We’ll see how it plays out [...]

So far this hasn’t played out well either. See:

Our question: What possible theory of representation justifies Limbaugh, Ingraham, Bennett, Prager, Beck, Hannity, Levin, and Hewitt himself, denouncing Sen. John McCain and advocating for Willard Milton Romney? Also: what is Hewitt’s object? It is this: To persuade Gov. Mike Huckabee voters to vote for Romney.

[...] If the Huckabee supporters are conservatives, they will recognize the peril to their party’s core beliefs and abandon their favorite who has no chance of winning in favor of Mitt Romney who does [...]

Based on analysis by Patrick Ruffini, we discuss why this will not be a simple proposition here:

Romney’s viciously negative attacks on Gov. Huckabee in Iowa still returning rich dividends for the hapless candidate from Bain Capital

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney has emerged as the last Republican with a chance to stop John McCain, and there’s no doubt he’s a candidate from central casting: successful in business and politics, a family man, and quicker and more articulate than most,” write the editors of the Wall Street Journal in an editorial titled Romney’s Convictions

The main doubt about him has been whether he believes in anything enough to stick to it if he did become President.To hear the candidate himself tell it, Mr. Romney believes above all in “data.” As he told us on a visit, his management style includes “wallowing” in data about a problem, analyzing that data like the business consultant he once was, and then using it to devise a solution. A major theme of his candidacy is that he’ll bring that business model to a “broken” Washington, apply it to Congress and the bureaucracy, and thus triumph over gridlock and the status quo.

To which we’d say: Good luck with that. Washington’s problem isn’t a lack of data, or a failure to calibrate the incentives as in the business world. Congress and the multiple layers of government respond exactly as you’d expect given the incentives for self-preservation and turf protection that always exist in political institutions. The only way to overcome them is with leadership on behalf of good ideas backed by public support. The fact that someone as bright as Mr. Romney doesn’t recognize this Beltway reality risks a Presidency that would get rolled quicker than you can say Jimmy Carter.

All the more so because we haven’t been able to discern from his campaign, or his record in Massachusetts, what his core political principles are. Mr. Romney spent his life as a moderate Republican, and he governed the Bay State that way after his election in 2002. While running this year, however, he has reinvented himself as a conservative from radio talk show-casting, especially on immigration.

The problem is not that Mr. Romney is willing to reconsider his former thinking. Nor is it so much that his apparent convictions always seem in sync with the audience to which he is speaking at the moment. (Think $20 billion in corporate welfare for Michigan auto makers.) Plenty of politicians attune their positions to new constituencies. The larger danger is that Mr. Romney’s conversions are not motivated by expediency or mere pandering but may represent his real governing philosophy [...]

[...] John McCain’s difficulties in selling himself to GOP voters reflect his many liberal lurches over the years — from taxes to free speech, prescription drugs and global warming cap and trade. Republicans have a pretty good sense of where he might betray them. Yet few doubt that on other issues — national security, spending — Mr. McCain will stick to his principles no matter the opinion polls. If Mr. Romney loses to Senator McCain, the cause will be his failure to persuade voters that he has any convictions at all [...]

We so heartily concur. See:

Lizza: Romney is a passionate advocate of each new stance he takes

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“The Romney campaign’s February 5th math is simple: move all the voters from the Huckabee pile onto theirs and claim a majority of conservatives,” writes the estimable Patrick Ruffini, an “Ex-Bush aide/Giuliani aide/current Romney endorser,” as described by Marc Ambinder, in a blog burst titled Intransigent Huck Voters

Unfortunately, continues Ruffini, it’s just not that simple.

In the South — still more delegate-rich per capita than NY, CA, NJ, IL, etc. — the “conservative” vote, defined as Romney + Huckabee, is splitting down the middle. Most polls down South look like McCain 30, Huckabee 25, Romney 25. We’ve seen how this played out in South Carolina, except there it was establishment conservatives refusing to take the advice that they play ball with Huckabee to strengthen their hand in Florida. We also saw it in rural northern Florida, where in many cases it was a three man race (and often a two man race between McCain and Huck).

The problem with this analysis is that I’ve seen no evidence that Huckabee voters would go to Romney. On a county level, the Romney and Huckabee votes are negatively correlated, with Romney representing the conservative side of the Chamber of Commerce/Rotary Club vote and not really showing outsized strength with Evangelicals [...]

[...] There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state.

It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. But has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are.

Mitt Romney is trying to unify the party as a business guy from Belmont who is culturally as far removed from Suwannee County, Florida as you can get. He’s going about it very clinically: vote for me because I’m not McCain. But I’m not sure that message holds much sway with an audience that takes its cues from Christian radio not News/Talk and certainly not National Review. And notice his message: it’s all about the economy, and nothing about Life and only a little bit about marriage. Christian voters have noticed.

Romney is pinning his hopes on brining in the social “leg of the stool.” But though they’re not wild about McCain, I’d venture that a plurality of these voters would rank Romney third [...]

[...] Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder [...]

We concur. Only it was Romney went nuclear on Gov. Huckabee, and at great cost. See:

Marc Ambinder comments on Ruffini’s analysis in a blog burst titled Republican Coalition Politics

[...] Left unasked is precisely why the establishment felt more threatened by Mike Huckabee that it did by even John McCain. And not just the pro-business, anti-tax wing of the professional conservative establishment: the faith wing, too, from the Family Research Council to various members of the Arlington Group who cast their lot with Fred Thompson, a conservative, to be sure, but someone of an undefined protestant faith who didn’t seem to go to church much.

My theory — and it remains a theory — is that Huckabee threatened these interests so much because he never depended on them in the past and would never depend on them in the future. In the sense that these interests mediated between leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, Huckabee was able to bypass the mediators and speak directly to faith voters — the hard core corps of moral conservatives who tend to compromise about 20 to 35% of any given electorate, more so in the South and Midwest [...]

Only now it begins to dawn on Republicans just how much damage Tribe Romney has done to the base.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“LONG BEACH, Calif. — Mitt Romney hopes to revive his Republican campaign by championing himself as the last true conservative contender,” writes Elizabeth Holmes in a online.wsj.com article titled Romney’s Comeback Plan Trumpets His Conservatism

“We’re quite far apart,” Mr. Romney said of John McCain yesterday at a news conference here. “That distinction is what will, in the final analysis, be my best weapon in a battle to the finish.”

To survive in the race, Mr. Romney must stop Arizona Sen. McCain’s momentum on Tuesday, when 21 states select among Republican candidates. So far, Sen. McCain has won in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, while Mr. Romney has taken Michigan and Nevada [...]

We discuss and criticize Romney’s latest incarnation here.

Here we want to develop the race to the base theme.

In an earlier transmission, we developed and describe this particular stage of the primaries contest as the race to the base. Here be our account with updates and annotations provided largely by the crack bloggers of race42008.com.

Our analysis: Here begins the race to the base, friends and well wishers. Sen. McCain will, we predict, begin to reach out to conservative personalities (right wing shock jocks, talking heads, celebrities, talking heads), professional conservatives (writers, analysts, columnists, editors, think tank researchers), conservative activists, issues coalitions, pressure groups etc. But now he can reach out to them from a position of power, having developed reliable evidence of

(a) his fitness as a candidate,
(b) his fitness as a developer of issues and a builder of coalitions.

Now Sen. McCain has something to offer the base: the influence that flows freely from proximity to power. This is how the primary process as political ritual is supposed to work. It reduces to a barter economy, a patron-client system of tribute where the coin is power and the exchange rate can be murderous.

This is largely coming to pass as we predicted—e.g. LJ provides pro-Sen. McCain quotes from conservative luminaries Grover Norquist, Romney shill Tony Perkins, and Richard Land.

Back to our earlier analysis:

Romney for his part will reach out to the base too, frantically, desperately, if only to counter Sen. John McCain. But Romney’s position is more tenuous, more perilous. Romney can only issue threats and dire assessments of a Sen. McCain presidency—in simpler terms, Romney’s task, as Romney himself describes it, is “to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain”—i.e. Romney’s task is to slime Sen. McCain so badly that he cannot win.

This is also developing as we had predicted. Romney surrogates and shills are frantically retailing the following themes

(a) “If Sen. McCain wins, I will vote for Hillary,” e.g. Romney shill Ann Coulter

–and–

(b) “Sen. McCain once considered running as a Democrat,” as debunked and criticized by Kavon Nikrad of race42008.com.

Will Tribe Romney win the day? Is Tribe Romney willing to destroy the GOP to put Romney in the White House? History will answer these question for us.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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