Archive for the ‘Evangelicals’ Category

“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.

[...] “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.

“A memo from a senior strategist for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says that the media are ready to give the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), but if Romney can attract more conservatives, he will win the nomination,” writes Sam Youngman in a TheHill.com analytical fantasia titled Romney memo says media ‘ready to anoint McCain’

“We still have an uphill battle in front of us,” Romney strategist Alex Gage wrote in the memo. “The mainstream media is (sic) ready to anoint John McCain and he will have advantages in many states running for president for the past eight years – but Gov. Romney has a clear path to victory on February 5th and beyond.”

The memo, obtained by The Hill, outlines how McCain has failed to win over conservative voters in the states that have voted so far, and it details how Romney could have won if only a few more percentage points of that bloc had come over.

“The coalitions that John McCain assembled in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida have been strikingly similar – and are strikingly tenuous,” Gage wrote [...]

[...] The memo goes on to say that Romney and McCain “are now in a two-man race and a few points’ movement among conservatives is all that’s needed to tip the scales in favor of Gov. Romney.”

Gage writes that in the early three states McCain won, his margin of victory was the result of the support of moderates, independents and voters that disapprove of the Bush administration.

“None of these groups is a majority of the Republican electorate,” Gage wrote, adding that this is the reason “McCain has failed to win more than 36 percent of the vote in any of them” [...]

Gage’s conclusions are based on an emerging fixed point in the discussion. Sen. McCain can reach across party lines to build issues coalitions; Romney can win the base. Chris Suellentrop develops the data coming out of Florida’s contest to arrive at a similar conclusion:

[...] In short, Mitt Romney won the Republican Party’s idea of itself ­ and that, too, is a big deal. If you’re white, Protestant, anti-abortion, go to church on Sundays, think well of the President, want lower taxes, hate terrorists, make a good living, want to do something about immigration, and live in Florida, chances are you voted Romney. The question before Florida was whether McCain could win a closed Republican race, and now we know he can. The question now is whether he can win conservatives ­ and in Florida, he did not [...]

Here, for Romney, begins what we earlier called the race to the base.

Hence Romney’s sudden volte face on whether to mount a last ditch advertising salvo. On January 30 David Espo of the AP reported that “Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney signaled Wednesday he’s not ready to finance a costly campaign in the states holding primaries and caucuses next week.

By February 1 Dan Morain and Scott Martelle of the LA Times issued the headline: Romney launches Super Tuesday ad barrage; The multimillion-dollar campaign in far-flung states, he hopes, will help him regain the edge he’s losing to McCain. Experts question whether ads will help at this point

[...] Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney launched a multimillion-dollar purchase of television ads Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to remain competitive with GOP presidential front-runner John McCain in the Super Tuesday contests.

Sources familiar with Romney’s plans said the ad buy would exceed $1 million in California alone, enough to give the former Massachusetts governor a presence in much of the state. Romney also was expected to spread some money around to some of the other 20 states holding GOP primaries or caucuses Tuesday, though experts question whether the late advertising would have any impact.

“I don’t think it’s possible to flood the airwaves in 22 states,” Romney said, but he nevertheless authorized “a seven-figure — I won’t give you the exact number — but a seven-figure advertising buy for our campaign.”

After a series of single-state contests in which voters could shake candidates’ hands, the Republican presidential nomination could be decided by millions of voters casting their ballots after having seen the candidates only in advertisements or news reports.

Those political ads depend on candidates’ ability to pay for them, and with the fields in both parties dwindling this week, the surviving candidates looked to pick up the support of former candidates’ fundraisers and bundlers [...]

Can Romney pull off this last chance, high-stakes, 11th hour, and super-expensive gambit? Can Romney secure his nomination and destroy the GOP? Keep watching the skies. Or the airwaves.

Whateverz.

Haven’t we all been here before?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Jason Bonham quotes Romney in a race42008.com blog burst titled Romney on Good Morning America

[Romney] “I think there will be a movement within the Republican party to coalesce around a conservative candidate. Mike Huckabee, of course, might stay in, and that might be one of the reasons he does so – is to try and split that conservative vote.”

Is this a wish? Is this a prayer? Media pressure will soon begin to mount against the hapless candidate, so is this the rationale—the reasoning, the alibi—for sticking it out after Florida decided for the now “presumptive GOP nominee, the honorable Sen. John McCain?

Note that this new talking point represents no fresh thinking, no new analysis, no current assessment of the situation or its many factors. Precisely the opposite is the case: this is the same argument for Romney’s fitness as a candidate that Romney has retailed for months and months, the so-called two-man-race theme that dates back at least to Iowa. See:

Romney’s 2-man race theme; an alibi for collapsing poll numbers?—this is from way back in October

Michael Scherer elaborates on the 2-man-race theme from Petersburg FL in a http://www.time.com article titled Is Romney Fighting the Last War?

[...] The Romney campaign, humbled by recent defeats, now hopes to rebrand his insider strategy as an outsider one. As the candidate soldiers on to the 21 states that will vote on February 5, the campaign holds out hope that the old coalition can be reborn anew. “We feel as though the conservatives are beginning to rally around Mitt,” said Ann Romney, after her husband delivered an upbeat concession speech Tuesday night, in a downtown St. Petersburg theater.

A few minutes earlier, and a couple dozen feet away, Jay Sekulow, a senior advisor to the campaign, put it this way. “Conservatives have a choice now, and it’s a clear choice,” he said. “You have got a conservative and you have got John McCain, who does not take conservative positions on a lot of issues.”

Downstairs, in the theater’s press filing room, Al Cardenas, a Washington lobbyist who chaired Romney’s Florida campaign, continued in the same frame of reference. “We think that the conservative movement activists are now beginning to panic about losing their grip on the Republican Party,” Cardenas said. “They better start working hard, and they have told us they are going to have to start working hard.”

The new Romney strategy has two clear components.

  1. First, the campaign is determined to marginalize Huckabee, who continues to poll well in many southern states, bleeding off votes from the vital socially conservative leg of the Romney’s stool. “Huckabee has proven he can’t win in the south,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s spokesman. “People are going to realize that this is a two person race right now,” said Sekulow.
  2. Second, Romney will spend much of the next week trying to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain, who leaves Florida with considerable momentum and already-high poll numbers in many of the states that vote on February 5. Though McCain has been hammered by some conservative voices, such as the radio host Rush Limbaugh, he has so far escaped the full ideological revolt that greeted him in 2000, when he lost the nomination to George W. Bush.

[Emphases and formatting are ours]

This final Romney gambit is likely to determine more than just the fate of one, well-heeled candidate. It could set the course for the Republican Party. In the old days, those who supported tax cuts for the wealthy worked closely with those who wanted to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage. Those who wanted to grow the size of the military made common cause with those who saw global warming as an environmentalist scare-tactic meant to interfere with free markets. Those who wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade also wanted to overturn campaign finance reform [...]

On its face the claim that conservatives will suddenly awaken to the grim reality of a Sen. McCain candidacy and turn to Romney is plausible but requires argument. The most urgent question this suggests is simply why haven’t conservatives turned to Romney before now? Is it not also plausible—in fact, demonstrable—in fact, part of Romney’s own argument—that the so-called Reagan coalition is dead? And if Romney were the one who could truly pull the sword from the stone, or breathe life into the dead coalition, why hasn’t he done it yet?—we’re all waiting, Romney; don’t tell us what conservatives should do or shouldn’t do, instead: show us what you can do.

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.

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.

In other words, Romney is perfectly willing to take the party down with him. So, let Romney unleash if he can the “full ideological revolt that greeted [Sen. McCain] in 2000.” Recent history—Iowa, New Hampshire—would predict that the gotterdammerung that Romney plans for Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain will rebound upon himself. See:

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

On January 25th the astroturf flak-claque fraud-blog laughably titled Evangelicals for Mitt touted the newly released Focus on the Family video voters guide in a blog burst titled FOCUS ON THE FAMILY’S ASSESSMENT

Charles Mitchell, the author, cites Time’s account of the voters guide and emphasizes how the voters guide is said to criticizes Gov. Huckabee. Mitchell also quotes, but allows to pass without comment, this particular claim:

[...] “Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith,” Minnery adds. “But on the social issues we are so similar” [...]

About Time’s account of the Focus on the Family voters guide, Mitchell issues this strange disclaimer: “I’m not saying the TIME story is right—and Minnery denies that it is.”

Precisely what Minnery denies Mitchell leaves unspecified. But could it have something to do with Minnery’s preposterous claim that Romney had, at any time, acknowledged that he is not a Christian?

“Last week, the political arm of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family released an online video voter guide to help Christians sort through the “pro-family” records of the presidential candidate,” writes Michael Scherer for http://www.time-blog.com’s Swampland in a blog burst titled Focus on the Family Voter Guide Wrong About Romney

The guide offers largely negative appraisals of Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mike Huckabee, and a far more glowing description of Mitt Romney.

But not everything the voter guide says about Romney is true. In one key part, Tom Minnery, a public policy expert at Focus on the Family, says the following:

Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith, and I appreciate his acknowledging that.

On Saturday, I read this quote to Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s traveling press secretary. He did not hesitate or mince his words. “The governor has not made that acknowledgment,” Fehrnstrom told me. “He has said that his belief is not the same as others. But there is no doubt that Jesus Christ is at the center of the LDS church’s worship.”

In fact, the Church of Latter Day Saints, also know as the Mormon church, holds as a central belief that it is a Christian faith. This belief is a concern for some evangelical Christians, who see Mormonism as a competing religion. On the campaign trail, Romney has avoided discussing his faith in depth, and he has acknowledged that there are differences between his faith and others. But he has not been quoted saying Mormonism is not a Christian faith [...]

Romney’s own claims on this issue have been vexed and misleading. See:

Romney retreats from “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind” blur-the-distinctions line, falls back to weaker, compromising, pragmatic, “different faiths, same values” line delivered through screen of Evangelical surrogates—conclusion: Romney’s “speech” failed completely

Dr. Dobson’s publicly articulated—or often disarticulated—attitude toward Romney has also been vexed and varied:

Dr. James C. Dobson goes not gentle into that good night/burns and raves at close of day;/ rage, rages against the dying of his light in Republican coalition politics

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “So, what is Romney’s angle on the nomination?”—asks the estimable Jay Cost in a RealClearPolitics article titled Can Mitt Catch On?

He heads to Nevada and wins that state’s uncontested caucus. This keeps him viable until Florida, regardless of what happens in South Carolina. He then gives Florida everything he’s got.

Will it work? I don’t know. He has another potential problem.

Why is it that most primary candidates refuse to run sustained, intense negative campaigns? The answer is that everybody is basically on the same side. An attacking candidate has to be careful about his opponent’s core supporters. He runs the risk of alienating them – and they might ultimately refuse to support him after their guy drops out of the race. Romney might find himself in that situation. His attacks on McCain and Huckabee have been as sustained and intense as any this cycle. And there is evidence that this has damaged him with the Mac and Huck factions.

The Pew poll found that Romney’s net favorable rating among these voters is not very strong: just +7% among McCain voters, and a whopping -9% among Huckabee voters. Of course, the sample sizes informing these statistics are small – but they are large enough to validate this modest conclusion: Romney is relatively weak among Huckabee and McCain supporters. For comparative purposes: McCain is +30% among Huckabee supporters; Huckabee is +15% among McCain supporters; Giuliani is an eye-popping +69% among McCain supporters, and +33% among Huckabee supporters. [A problem Romney will confront if he wins the GOP nomination: he has a net -12% favorable rating among the general electorate. I'd wager this is also a consequence of the negative tenor of his campaign in recent months.]

This could create problems for Romney in Florida, depending on how things turn out in South Carolina. Following Pew, it does not seem that Romney is the second choice of a plurality of Huckabee voters or McCain voters. The situation in Florida might be different than what Pew finds on the national level, but I doubt it is significantly so. My sense is that if Floridians bolt Huckabee after he loses South Carolina – a plurality will go to McCain, not Romney. Similarly, if they bolt McCain – a plurality will go to Giuliani, not Romney. Generally, Pew and other pollsters have found Romney in third or fourth place when it comes to second choices. Pew also finds that 20% of Republicans will never vote for Romney, making him more “unacceptable” than McCain or Giuliani.

In light of this, I think that what Romney needs is a nominal Huckabee (or Thompson) victory in South Carolina. It would keep the field as open as possible. If the Florida electorate is split four or five ways, Romney might be able to pull out a victory based on his current coalition – thus giving him an opportunity to expand it in advance of Super Tuesday [...]

We have harped on the finely-tuned string of Romney’s negativity and negative attacks for months. We had assumed—incorrectly, if Cost is correct—that the costs for Romney would be disastrous but short term in character.

Cost has persuaded us otherwise.

Cost’s conclusions assume that the GOP remains coherent and effective as an organization. We assume the opposite: the GOP base and institutions will collapse and what remains of the GOP will decide for Romney—this is our prediction. And: evidence suggests that Team Romney assumes the same outcome. Otherwise they would even now be reaching out to Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee constituencies—only they aren’t—precisely the opposite is the case—the Romneys and their flaks and flatterers are as hostile and condescending as they ever were toward their rivals and their followers. Instead, as Cost describes, the political primitives of the Romney tribe—still smarting from the beatings they took in Iowa and New Hampshire—now attempt to bypass the detached McCain-Huckabee constituencies altogether wherever they discover them in sufficient concentrations to merit concern, as in South Carolina. The Romney Tribe predict that the detached rebels will be powerless in a dispersed and disorganized GOP, which is probably true. This may also explain Romney’s sudden rhetorical turn toward a naive and intuitive “third way” bipartisanship—he now reaches out to moderates and independents and build his own coalition—see:

That didn’t take long!—Romney drops all pretense of any commitment to conservative values or principles—now argues that “it‘s time for Washington — Republican and Democrat — to have a leader who will fight to make sure we resolve the issues rather than continuously look for partisan opportunity for score-settling” etc.

Here is the problem for Romney: he is not a coalition builder. Coalitions organize themselves around movement politicians. If Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Michigan have taught us anything at all it is that Romney is not a movement politician.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Romney as reported by Glen Johnson of the AP:

[...] I think it‘s time for Washington — Republican and Democrat — to have a leader who will fight to make sure we resolve the issues rather than continuously look for partisan opportunity for score-settling and for opportunities to link closer to lobbyists,” Romney said during a news conference [...]

Also:

[...] The multimillionaire [Romney] points to the more than $17 million in personal funds he has spent on the campaign and his public fundraising as proof he can govern free of Washington‘s special influences [...]

We comment on the naive and intuitive “third way” rhetoric of US self-funded, outsider campaigns elsewhere:

[...] U.S. self-funded outsider campaigns tend to articulate themselves in an intuitive, naive “third way,” “beyond right and left” rhetoric that describes a polity or a society, in weirdly medieval way, as an organic whole comprised of various components, e.g. towns, guilds, fueds, church, estates etc. Ross Perot and Romney both speak of “bringing together” government, labor, corporate interests, engineers, specialists, communities etc. to develop the consensus necessary to support policy solutions. Social problems become technical problems. Political questions become adminstrative tasks—e.g. Romney’s now infamous to-do list for Washington [...]

We wonder how the super-geniuses at the National Review—the knuckle draggers who endorsed Romney because of his—snarf!—guffaw!—steadfast and constant commitment to conservative principles—cough!—choke!—will explain away this. Ponnuru? Get to work.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “The new message about change, which aides said tested well in focus groups conducted during Sunday night’s debate on the Fox News Channel, was a last-ditch attempt to salvage what was left of Romney’s original strategy that envisioned vaulting himself to the nomination by winning Iowa and New Hampshire,” write Wapo’s Michael D. Shear and Chris Cillizza in an article titled Romney Homes In on a Message That Will Stick

Note that the title suggests that Romney has yet to arrive. He is still “homing in.”

Although it did not propel him to victory in New Hampshire — he came in second behind McCain — Romney is sticking with it.

During a 3 1/2 -hour “message meeting” on Tuesday night to discuss the next steps of the campaign, there was agreement that the change theme is one that resonates with Republican voters, according to a participant.

“He is finding his voice,” said Peter Barhydt, a top donor from Connecticut who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting [...]

Only there is some confusion about whether this is a new message or an old message that got lost in the noise, the campaign’s own noise. Whose fault was it that the message got lost? The media, argues his imperious aloofness, Romney himself.

“If and when Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign dies, our former governor has his excuse picked out: the media did it,” writes Adam Reilly in a phoenix.com blog burst titled cruelly but aptly, Chump ‘Change’

In a pre–New Hampshire-primary interview with Politico earlier this week, Romney said his newfound focus on political “change” wasn’t newfound at all; the problem, according to Mitt, was that reporters in Iowa kept obsessing over his conservative credentials. “I go on TV and it’s, like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion,’ ” Romney complained. “There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” [...]

Comment: The reporters kept obsessing? Romney spends US$80 million dollars—and US$20 million or more of his own money on top of that, only no one knows how much because the Romneys aren’t telling—on IA and NH and the reporters are obsessive? To hold on to his tenuous and illusory leads in IA and NH Romney goes so viciously negative that it provokes a backlash so intense that Romney’s own numbers collapse and the reporters are obsessive?

[...] So, is it the press’s fault that Romney isn’t currently known as the change candidate? Not really. Blame, instead, the candidate himself — who astutely sensed the electorate’s desire for change, but lacked the gumption to follow his instincts.

Here’s a telling Romney quote from CBS’s Early Show, on the morning of January 4, one day after he lost to upstart Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses: “Well, you know, I think the race in Iowa was really a very clear call that people want change in Washington. Not in the White House; in Washington.”

That’s nonsensical, obviously, since the White House is in Washington. But it’s also vintage Romney: calculating, inoffensive, and ultimately ineffectual. Candidate, heal thyself [...]

Yuh-huh. Romney’s inability to stay on message has become a fixed point for friend and foe alike. For us it is evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience. For the Romneys it is an excuse, a rationale for the candidate’s non-performance, which for anyone else would be evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience.

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

A message that has not gotten lost is Romney’s draconian-hardline position on immigration. This was another attempt by the hapless candidate to outflank his rivals on the right. It failed. And it may continue to return its dividend of failure as the campaign moves to other contests.

“The New Hampshire primary represented a victory for candidates with across-the-board political appeal, such as McCain, Clinton and in a way Obama, and a crushing defeat for real or campaign-season demagogues, including Romney and Edwards,” writes the estimable Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald in an Oppenheimer Report titled Anti-immigration strategy fails

Hopefully, as the race moves on from nearly all-white states to the more diverse South and West, candidates who embraced the anti-Hispanic immigration cause will realize that it may cause them more harm than good.

So far, the anti-immigration constituency has made a lot of noise but has not delivered the vote [...]

Noise. Yes, Romney has made a great noise in this world. This is brute fact.

The question: Now, can Romney develop, amidst all that noise, or perhaps carve out from within all that noise, a message, a clear, compelling message that Romney can sustain and follow through with, a message consonant with Romney’s life and character, a message that is internally consistent and contradicts neither empirical fact nor the candidate’s earlier claims, assertions, arguments, or record of governance, a message that is positive, substantive, relevant, principled, and appropriate, and a message that does not suddenly turn and boomerang on Romney himself?

Romney has never developed nor delivered such a message before.

But we shall see.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Just as surely as Obama’s campaign has surged since his Iowa speech, Romney’s has suffered since he failed to say what needed to be said in Texas a month ago,” writes the estimable and insightful Tim Rutten in an LA Times article titled A tale of two speeches

From the start, the former Massachusetts governor has had to cope with the problem of religious bigotry. One in four Americans say they’re reluctant to vote for a Mormon. That antipathy runs even higher among evangelical Protestants, who make up most of the GOP’s social-conservative wing.

In December, Romney attempted to emulate — in an attenuated fashion — John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 appearance before a group of Protestant ministers hostile to the notion of a Catholic president. Kennedy hit the issue head on, mentioning his Catholicism 14 times, forthrightly embracing separation of church and state and promising to resist any attempt by the church hierarchy to dictate his conduct as an elected official.

Instead of addressing the issue forthrightly, as Kennedy had, Romney temporized and attempted to placate the religious right by soft-pedaling his own faith — which he mentioned only once — and by attacking secular humanism and proclaiming his own belief in Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t simply pandering, it was oddly bloodless. How, for example, could a Mormon candidate for the Republican presidential nomination fail to mention that his party’s very first national platform was built on two planks — the abolition of slavery and the elimination of Mormonism, both of which those first Republicans deemed “barbarous?” How could he not take the opportunity to remind his handpicked Republican audience that, as recently as the 1890s, thousands of Mormon men were arrested and imprisoned by the United States Army or that the U.S. Senate refused to seat a lawfully elected member from Utah because he was a Mormon?

Rather than do those things, he attempted to ingratiate himself to that very sector of popular opinion in which anti-Mormon prejudice remains most intact. In the process, he helped legitimize fundamentalist preacher-turned-pol Mike Huckabee’s naked appeals to Christian voters in Iowa. It’s a pitch Romney — and America — are likely to hear a lot more of in South Carolina and beyond, where the evangelical vote is even stronger [...]

We heartily concur. We argued early on that it was Romney who made Gov. Huckabee’s rise in Iowa even possible. See:

Romney’s absurd marketing strategy enables Gov. Mike Huckabee

Romney’s “speech” sealed the hapless candidate’s fate in Iowa and the South, and it never had to be that way.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“BEDFORD, N.H. — Republican Mitt Romney, a businessman-turned-politician, will take more direct control of his presidential campaign message after failing to win either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, a top adviser said Tuesday,” writes someone, we know not who as we could not find a name, for the Seattle Times in an article titled Advisor: Romney to assume bigger role—that is, in is his own campaign. What was Romney’s role before? Was it secondary?

Romney himself pledged a long fight for the GOP nomination. He held out his second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, with a victory in Wyoming wedged between, as testimony to his 50-state strategy.

“There have been three races so far. I’ve gotten two silvers and one gold — thank you, Wyoming,” Romney said in a Spartan seven-minute address conceding the race.

A Romney intimate, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the candidate, said the campaign was “going to take the shackles off, have him be less measured” [...]

Question:

Did Romney fail his campaign?

-or-

Did Romney’s campaign fail Romney?

The Romney intimate (RI) suggests that the one shackled the other. Now the two are decoupled. For Romney, according to the RI, victory follows emancipation, emancipation from Romney’s own campaign. As is always the case with Romney, Romney’s real struggle is with Romney.

The question turns to MI. The issue? Whether a decision for Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee in MI will mean the end of the Romney campaign. The end of the Romney campaign would be a victory for Romney the person according to the RI; recall: Romney’s campaign had shackled Romney and subjected the poor befuddled CEO to two humiliating defeats in two separate contests. But a defeat for Romney in MI would be a defeat for Romney the candidate according to waivering Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty of the formerly conservative National Review, our least favorite Blog for Mitt.

[...] “When you’re self-financing, you can buy yourself a lot of second chances,” writes Geraghty in a Campaign Spot post titled Sorry, Hannity, I Maintain Michigan Is Make-or-Break For Romney

And yes, Romney is leading the delegate count. But is the plan to gather the most delegates by finishing in second place in enough states that award delegates proportionally?

Nota: Romney leads in the delegate count if and only if you ignore the decision for Gov. Huckabee in IA. Romney estimates his delegates as 15 against Gov. Huckabee’s 2. ABC News.com, however, estimates Gov. Huckabee at 31 delagates to Romney’s 19. Jake Tapper writes that the Romney campaign “just pretend[s] like Iowa did not happen.” “I hope,” concludes Tapper, that “Mr. Romney was better with the numbers when he was at Bain.”

Back to Geraghty:

Where’s [Romney] going to win? I realize that after last night, we need to be cautious in putting our faith in polls, but for Romney, South Carolina’s not looking that great. Mid-December polls put him in pretty tough shape in Florida, and the second-place finisher in that state walks away with nada*. He’s nowhere in Pennsylvania. He’s not set to win New Jersey. You figure Rudy walks away with winner-take-all New York and Connecticut. (Although maybe Lieberman could help McCain there.)

Massachusetts? Maine?

At some point, Mitt Romney’s got to go out and win a hotly-contested state. Wyoming is nice, but it’s not decisive. He’s got to show that when you throw him into a hard-fought, no-quarter-given-or-asked political fight, he can come out on top [...]

The make-or-break-in-MI theme is an emerging fixed point in the discussion of Romney’s fitness as a candidate. Here would be the counterpoint, provided by Ross Douthat in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Mitt Romney’s Long March

Romney loses NH, MI, and SC. [...] But heading into Florida and Super Tuesday [Romney]’ll still have plenty of money to spend [especially his own]- as much if not more than his rivals – and with Thompson gone he’ll be the only “Reagan conservative” in the race. Neither the Huckabee nor the McCain campaigns are exactly organizational juggernauts, even if the money spigot opens for McCain after New Hampshire, and both candidates have what in a different year would be disqualifying weaknesses. Why shouldn’t Romney stay in the race? If McCain stalls out around 30-35 percent in New Hampshire, arguably the best of all political environments for his candidacy, why shouldn’t the Romney campaign assume that he can be beaten further down the road, in the same way that Bush outlasted him in 2000?

True, this sort of trench warfare would be bad for GOP unity, and might even result in a brokered convention. But why should Romney care about uniting the party behind McCain or Huckabee? They both hate him like poison, and he presumably returns the sentiment: Why shouldn’t he make life as difficult for them as he possibly can?

And true, in this scenario Romney would be essentially adopting Rudy Giuliani’s much-derided “long march” strategy – but perhaps with a better chance of success [...]

Our conclusion: Douthat’s Long March was Romney’s plan all along—Romney’s early state von Schlieffen plan was only ever bad science fiction—and, suckers that we are, we took Romney at his word. The only problem—a problem for us and not for Romney: Romney’s Long March requires the incremental dismantling of the GOP—its institutions and coalitions—in detail, and by means of grim attrition. This will leave Romney in a unique position come September, October, going into November. He will have the nomination of a national party without the national party. But as Douthat asks, why should Romney care?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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