Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Category

[...] “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.

[...] “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.

“Imagine if John McCain had narrowly lost to Mitt Romney in New Hampshire last night, and, when you down broke down the results, it was clear that the voters most concerned about the war in Iraq and terrorism went heavily for Romney—plus thought he would make a better commander in chief,” writes James Pethokoukis in a USNews.com blog burst titled Struggling Romney Needs an ‘Oprah Moment’ to Win

That would kind of kill McCain’s whole rationale for running, don’tcha think?

Well, that is pretty much what did happen, except in reverse. Voters who were most concerned about the economy went strongly—41 to 21 percent—for McCain over Romney, the multimillionaire venture capitalist. The Wall Street legend. The guy with the M.B.A. The guy who turned around the Salt Lake City Olympics. The guy who says, “I know how the economy works.” Even worse, Romney lost to a fellow who has admitted in the past that economic policy is not his strong suit and that he might need more of an expert as his veep if nominated.

See, the problem with Romney isn’t necessarily that voters don’t like his ideas—such as cutting corporate taxes or eliminating investment taxes for middle-class voters. It’s that voters don’t think he understands their problems. Until that hurdle is overcome, ideas don’t matter.

You have to do politics before you can do policy [...]

We concur. The struggle for NH has entered its archival phase. As we wrote before of Iowa, this is when the political community and various media dispute, interpret, or redact he outcomes of the contest.

Team Romney has failed at every task it set for itself. It failed to consolidate the social-conservative base as evidenced by the exit polling from IA and NH. It crucially failed to return clear decisions for Romney in IA and NH. Further, Romney massively-titanically overspent and received precious little in return. How much? Upwards of US$20 million of his own money on top of the US$80 million that he raised, but no one really knows. Tellingly, Team Romney isn’t saying.

Romney now leads in delegates, but by one estimate Romney has spent almost US$1 million dollars per delegate—so the question then becomes, given this preposterously low ROI, just how sustainable is the Romney tribe’s campaign?

This is also when a new discursive front opens up against Romney’s flank as

(a) pressure for Romney to withdraw begins to develop

-and-

(b) doubt, dissensus, and discord breakout within Romney’s own ranks.

To address (a) Romney has radically scaled back his operations, particularly his massive and massively ineffective media buys. To address (b) Romney has issued internal memos and issued promises to major financial backers.

“BOSTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has decided to pull his advertising from South Carolina, where he was hoping to take on Mike Huckabee and John McCain, and from Florida, where Rudy Giuliani has been spending time and money,” write Jim Kuhnenn and Glen Johnson in an AP release titled Romney Pulls Ads in SC, Fla.

“We feel the best strategy is to focus our paid messaging in Michigan,” Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said Wednesday.

The decision comes on the heels of back-to-back second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney, a multimillionaire who had used some of his own cash, had invested heavily in both states, counting on the two to give him the momentum toward the nomination.

Earlier on Wednesday, Romney had assured his top financial backers that he will win the upcoming Michigan primary, as he and his staff worked to soothe supporters unsettled by his losses in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

“It’s just getting started,” the presidential contender told hundreds of supporters gathered at a convention center for a followup to the “National Call Day” that raised an unprecedented $6.5 million a year ago

He promised to carry on to Michigan, which votes Jan. 15, as well as Nevada and South Carolina, which vote Jan. 19.

The public spectacle, a rarity for the normally tightly controlled Romney political operation, included appeals for calm from a top financial backer, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, and a top political supporter, former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri [...]

To assuage his paid staff and hirelings in field, Romney’s strategist Alex Gage issued one of his infamous “internal memos.”

Gage’s argument: Despite Romney’s losses and setbacks, “the Republican race remains wide open.” Talking points include:

  • Gov. Romney’s message of change generated momentum in New Hampshire.
  • Gov. Romney is the best candidate in the Republican field to match up against the Democrats in the fall.
  • No other candidate is competitive in as many states as Gov. Romney.
  • Gov. Romney has a clear path to victory moving forward.

That the Republican race remains “wide open” is true on its face. The other points in support of a continued Romney candidacy are false or simply meaningless until Romney solves his ROI problem, especially as the campaign transitions to a far more long-term, slow-accumulation-of-delegates strategy. Did e.g. Romney’s message of change generate momentum? No. Or: even if the answer is yes, the outcome of the contest indicates that it was not enough momentum. And how much did Romney spend per day in NH to promulgate his non-momentum message?

Sargent: “[Grrrr-Romney] was spending $100,000 a week through October, and he’s now upped the ante to $200,000 a week [in NH]”

Does e.g. Romney have a clear path to victory? Maybe. Perhaps. But at his current spending levels it he would have to blow his entire fortune to pursue it.

What Romney needs, and does not have, is a message that connects with people on the ground—a narrative, a story, something, anything. A successful message could resolve or at least ease his ROI problem. As Pethokoukis argues, what Romney needs is an Oprah moment.

Only Romney needs more than a moment. And Romney’s own moment may have already passed.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “The fact of the matter is that Massachusetts officials win in New Hampshire,” writes Holly Robichaud in a Herald.com blog burst titled Time for a graceful Romney exit

Nota: Robichaud identifies herself as [...] The Lone Republican in the Herald’s Monday Morning Briefing, is a successful GOP political strategist who is known for speaking her mind [...]

Robichaud continues:

[MA officials, like the former Gov. of MA, Romney] don’t lose [in NH].

When Clinton first ran for President, he was the comeback kid for placing second to Tsongas. It would have been a significant victory if McCain had placed second, but he placed first. For McCain this is a mega victory and a mega loss for Romney.

There was no reason for Romney to lose in New Hampshire. He had the Massachusetts advantage. He owns a second home in the granite state. And he significantly out spent all of his opponents. Therefore, you must conclude that not only did Iowa voters completely reject Romney, but so did New Hampshire voters. There is no excuse for this loss. There is no credible spin for this spanking.

This loss also has ramifications for the General Election in November. If somehow Romney was to be the nominee, Republicans will most likely not be able to hold on to the White House [...]

Gary Matthew Miller of Truth vs. the Machine blog makes the same case on narrative grounds in a race42008 post titled It’s the Narrative, Stupid!

[...] Presidential campaigns also have a narrative. While I appreciate the Romney supporters attempt to change that narrative, here is the reality: Romney’s candidacy was predicated on 2 wins in Iowa and New Hampshire to slingshot him to the nomination.

Governor Romney may have a narrow lead in delegates. He may have more total cumulative votes than Senator McCain. But his narrative is broken. Badly.

Now we are told that Romney will prevail in Michigan because his father was governor there 40 years ago. I remember in 1988 the Kemp campaign was using a similar mantra to salvage a highly-touted candidacy that also had a broken narrative. Jack Kemp could stay in the race until California because a quarter-century prior he had quarterbacked the San Diego Chargers. Kemp’s narrative of how the campaign would play out had as much plausibility as Romney’s does in Michigan. Much like Romney is doing today, those of us involved with the Kemp campaign were touting delegate counts that had Jack essentially tied with Bush and Dole. But the narrative was broken with Bush’s triumph over Dole in New Hampshire where Kemp’s pristine anti-tax credentials were supposed to help him win the Granite State’s “Live Free Or Die!” crowd. It didn’t and the narrative passed Kemp by.

Some have valiently tried to draw parallels between 2008 and 1976. The problem is that Reagan, after losing New Hampshire by the narrowest of margins, still had his best states in front of him. Governor Romney has his best states in the rear view mirror [...]

Justin Hart issues this rejoinder to G.M. Miller:

[...] Gary – I agree with your sentiment but I disagree with your semantics. The early state approach is a strategy not a narrative. The narrative is “outsider with business prowess and experience on fixing things comes to Washington”.

I have to admit that the Romney camp did wed themselves very close to the early state strategy which makes the 2nd place finishes that much more painful. But I don’t think the narrative is broken [...]

We concur with Mr. Hart on this one. Mr. Miller seems to conflate the notion of a campaign narrative with the notion of an electoral scenario.

Here would the sad and despairing counterpoint to the emerging “Romney failed his won test and therefore should withdraw” fixed point, provided by Romney-sycophant and tireless Blogger-for-Mitt, Stanley Kurtz, in an NRO blog burst titled No Mentum

[...] This will probably not be a momentum-based campaign. If all the Republican candidates held roughly similar views (as with this year’s Dems), then a Romney loss in Michigan might be decisive. But in the Republican race, Romney holds a place (fairly mainstream conservative across the board) matched by no other candidate. Given the resistance of some portion of the conservative base to every other candidate, Romney would be foolish to drop out, even after a loss in Michigan. In fact, Romney stands to capitalize on what may well be the next big development in the race, the (relative) rise of Giuliani, at McCain’s expense [...]

[...] At that point, if he’s been smart enough to stay in the race, Romney will be in a position to benefit from the raging battle between McCain and Giuliani. That will allow all three candidates to make it to the convention. Huckabee is a bit of a wild card here. He may turn out to be a one hit wonder. But even if Huckabee soldiers on, it won’t change the basic picture. Huckabee’s evangelical support may be enough to keep him alive, but Huck’s unconventional views won’t allow him to gain clear front-runner status.

With so many Republican candidates distancing themselves from some key part of the base, no candidate will find it easy to consolidate the support of seemingly defeated rivals. With a field holding so many candidates who speak for competing wings of the party, and excluding others, the logic is for candidates to stay in the race as the last best hope of their base, and to prevent the “horror scenarios” represented by the alternatives.

Momentum is out and substance is in [...]

Momentum is out and substance is in. You don’t say. We have argued the same point—harped on that same string, as we like to say—since July of last year. On the 2nd of November we argued that the primary map was a “low mobility environment,” and that Romney had optimized himself for movement and momentum that simply wasn’t possible for him to ever achieve (see the “early state strategy” links below). We have argued these points ad nauseum:

Question: What do Romney’s frantic and out-of-control efforts to implement his von Schlieffen fantasy reveal about Romney, Romney the man, Romney the leader? Note how the troubled candidate could not let go of Iowa when a better, abler, or wiser man would have walked away. Note the bewilderment of his own top staff.

Romney’s Kevin Madden “flabbergasted” at Team Romney’s helplessness against under-funded and un-organized Gov. Huckabee—Romney loses control of his spending says Carr—more on Romney’s fantastically low ROI for his every campaign dollar

Romney lesson #1: You do not spend credibility that you do not have on a game that you cannot win, especially when you know that you cannot win it. Or: Pursue that which buys you the most gain for the lowest cost, not the other way around. And if something costs you wildly more than it costs anyone else in the game, STOP and investigate, because something is wrong.

Our own assessment: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan was a ruse. Grim and slogging attrition leading up to a brokered convention was always Romney’s plan, and always his only hope. Expect the bitterest and most negative campaigning ever to begin about … now.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Manchester, N.H.— If you think things got a bit testy between John McCain and Mitt Romney during the ABC News debate here at St. Anselm College Saturday night, you didn’t see the half of it,” writes Byron York in a surprisingly objective article posted to our least favorite blog-for-Mitt, the National Review, titled The Feud Behind the Feud at the GOP Debate; Do you think these guys don’t like each other?

After the debate, when top campaign aides and surrogates came to the Spin Room to tout their candidates’ performances, members of the Romney and McCain camps said the things their bosses might have been thinking but did not dare utter onstage.

McCain delivered “cheap shots,” said one Romney adviser. Another called McCain’s criticisms of Romney “snide remarks” and “name calling.” Yet another said they were “unbecoming.” All of which caused Mark Salter, McCain’s closest aide, to go off.

“Come on, Mitt, tighten up your chin strap,” Salter, standing just a few feet away from the Romney team, told reporters. “Of all the ludicrous suggestions – Mitt Romney whining about being attacked, when he has predicated an entire campaign plan on whoever serially looks like the biggest challenger gets, whatever, $20 million dropped on his head and gets his positions distorted. Give me a break. It’s nothing more than a guy who dishes it out from 30,000 feet altitude and then gets down in the arena and somebody says, O.K. Mitt, gives him a little pop back, and he starts whining. That’s unbecoming.”

What had McCain aides particularly heated was Romney’s exchange with McCain on the issue of McCain’s immigration proposals and the question of amnesty. “The fact is, it’s not amnesty,” McCain said during the debate. “And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it still won’t be true.”

“I don’t describe your plan as amnesty in my ad,” Romney answered. “I don’t call it amnesty.”

With that, the issue became not whether McCain’s plan was or was not amnesty but whether Romney had or had not called it amnesty. And jaws dropped at McCain headquarters.

“What got us all going was when Governor Romney said, ‘We never called what you did amnesty,’“ said McCain confidante Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “Look on TV. Look in your mailbox in New Hampshire. John’s been pounded by Governor Romney with that charge. I was just dumbstruck.”

Indeed, after the debate, McCain aides produced a Romney mailing which said “John McCain: Supports Amnesty.” An e-mail from the Romney campaign earlier in the day referred to McCain’s “amnesty plan.” And a new Romney TV ad featured Romney supporters saying McCain “supported amnesty for illegal immigrants” and “wrote the amnesty bill.” In light of that, it is hard to see how Romney was being straight when he said he didn’t “describe [McCain’s] plan as amnesty.” After the debate, Romney’s spokesman, Kevin Madden, choosing his words carefully, said McCain favored “an amnesty-like approach” [...]

Once again Romney elects to dispute not with his rival but with the universe itself. He wants the privilege to call white black, and darkness light, and have it be so. The lesson Romney has yet to learn is that when you deny a publicly available fact the issue becomes not the point at dispute, but you.

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] In fact, even when Mike Huckabee began his ascendance in Iowa, one that culminated in his convincing victory in Thursday’s caucuses, New Hampshire was still viewed as a firewall for the Romney campaign,” writes CBSNews.com political reporter David Miller in an article titled Mitt Romney’s Rebound Plan; Stung By Iowa Loss, Republican Takes Up Banner Of Change While Going After McCain

Polls there showed him with a solid lead – but that collapsed in the two weeks preceding the caucuses, when John McCain, once beleagured, quickly caught up to Romney, and in some surveys, even passed him.

Winning in Iowa would have been the best way to reverse that situation – and since that did not come to pass, the Romney campaign is now shifting gears by borrowing a page from the book of an unlikely candidate: Barack Obama, whose message of change helped him win Iowa’s Democratic contest.

At an event in Manchester on Friday, Romney seemed to work the “c-word” in at every possible opportunity.

“If you really want to have change, you don’t just want to have a gadfly or somebody fighting for this or fighting for that,” Romney said. “You want to have somebody who will bring change, who will sell the company America has – it’s going to have to be somebody from outside Washington, not a Washington insider [...]

We’re sorry, but what?—what does Romney mean by “sell the company America has?”

Romney has spent a year insisting he was Ronald Reagan. Now he wants to be Barack Obama. Has this man ever tried being Willard Milton Romney?

[...] But for all the talk of change, some aspects of Romney’s campaign haven’t. Take his advertising. In New Hampshire, the target is different – it’s McCain instead of Huckabee – but in terms of look and structure, his spots in the two states are identical. In both cases, there’s an initial nicety, describing Romney and, most recently, McCain as “two good men.”

After that comes harsh criticism of McCain’s views on immigration and tax cuts – a method McCain has said didn’t work in Iowa and wouldn’t work in New Hampshire.

But the Romney campaign believes the ads weren’t why Romney lost in Iowa, and the results there should not be seen as proof of their ineffectiveness.

“I don’t agree that we lost to Huckabee because we ran ads,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. “I think Huckabee won because he identified with a lot of the core voters out there, such as evangelicals, on a lot of social conservative issues. He had a lot of voters he identified with, with what is a traditional, conservative part of that base out there. He did a good job doing that. We competed with Mike Huckabee on those votes, and we met our vote goals pretty much.” [...]

We met our goals? Did we? We met our goals and lost Iowa decisively? Boy, we must be geniuses! Perhaps—and this is just a suggestion, Mr. Madden—we need to review our current goals and performance standards before we get our heads handed to us on a platter in New Hampshire too.

This is more evidence of Romney’s predict-and-control operational method.

About Romney’s ugly “contrast” ads and their effectiveness, opinions differ:

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

Opinions differed at the posh waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney too.

[...] Internally, the Romney campaign began to debate and disagree, a sharp contrast to the campaign’s usual organized and by-the-books culture,” writes Monica Langley in an Online.wsj article titled owa Touches Off a Free-for-All; Romney’s Best-Laid Plans Mugged by Political Realities

Two speechwriters were let go. Although the master plan had anticipated that negative ads might be necessary, the campaign was hit with internal dissension about whether to continue the “branding” plan or “go negative” in campaign commercials and direct mail.

Campaign operatives fought over when and how to “draw contrasts” between Mr. Romney and his chief rivals. Mr. Castellanos, Mr. Romney’s chief media adviser, pushed to shift message as needed to focus on changing rivals and issues. Others argued the merits of keeping the focus on a single overarching message. [...]

History has proven those two lowly speech writers right. Kevin Madden—the maddeningly inarticulate Kevin Madden, Romney’s least effective helper-monkey—should immediately telephone those two speechwriters, apologize profusely, and offer them their jobs back at twice what they were paid before.

Everyone else should go to the wall, starting with Madden.

Back to Miller:

[...]“You’ve only got one guy running for president who’s signed the front of an employment check,” Romney said Friday.

Compare that with a line delivered by Huckabee only hours earlier: “One of the reasons I did well in Iowa, and I’ll do well here, is that people realized that they want a president who reminds them of the guy they worked with, not the guy who laid them off.”

The disparate messages may be emblematic of a growing divide in the Republican Party, which is seeing the coalition built by Ronald Reagan – between blue-collar workers, the business community and Christian conservatives – put under severe distress, said GOP consultant Mike Collins.

“I think it’s more of a universal problem than a Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson solution. We’re battling for the soul of the Republican Party,” he said. “You have very discrete elements of this party that are coming apart at the seams.”

Yet Romney’s campaign maintains that they, alone among the GOP field, have support that is deep and broad enough to keep Republicans unified – an essential for winning in November. [...]

Here is the problem: Romney insists that he has “support broad and deep enough to keep Republicans unified.” But he has yet to demonstrate that support in any way or form. Precisely the opposite is the case: Romney has thus far unified no one constituency behind him; he has only managed to unify the other candidates against him. In fact, Team Romney has failed at every task it has set for itself, Iowa was only the latest. Besides: Who is Romney’s base? Who is his natural constituency? Who has he even convinced that he is a conservative?—oh, wait, now he wants to be the agent of change candidate.

How can this primped, powdered, and pampered non-entity pretend to unify our party when he has yet to unify himself?

[...] “A lot of the other candidates seem to be working on a slingshot effect – do well in one state and hope it builds momentum for other states,” Madden said. “We have a greater ability to motivate our organization as well as deploy the resources across several states in order to compete.”

But ironically, Romney may now be reliant on the same slingshot effect, even as they maintain they could survive a second-place finish – one that most observers agree would be a devastating loss, given the high expectations driven by campaign’s large organization and vast financial resources [...]

Madden is projecting. To “slingshot” early victories into performance gains in other states was always the organizing principle of Romney’s now inoperative early-states von Schlieffen plan. Now Romney has now been beaten back to a regional stronghold strategy. Only Romney keeps withdrawing from his strongholds. Team Romney’s stronghold used to New Hampshire until Sen. McCain deprived them of their lead there. Now they say it’s Michigan.

We predict that their last redoubt will be the floor of a brokered convention. This would be where targeted donations may actually produce an effective return. To try to buy off an angry and fragmented coalition—undoable. To try to buy off the elites of a corrupt party organzation—easily achievable; in fact, the groundwork is already laid in.

To simply stay in the game now becomes the object of the Romney Tribe.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Advisers to Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney said they believed that Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was already weakened before Iowa and was now even more vulnerable,” write Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse for the NYT in an article titled McCain May Benefit From Huckabee’s Jolt to G.O.P.

Evidence of that could be seen in a furious exchange of attack advertisements between the two men Friday.

Complicating Mr. Romney’s life even more, Mr. Huckabee’s campaign manager, Ed Rollins, suggested he was entering something of a temporary alliance of interest with Mr. McCain against Mr. Romney. Mr. Rollins said Mr. Huckabee would be using the next several days to present what he said would be an unfavorable comparison of their records as governor.

“We’re going to see if we can’t take Romney out,” Mr. Rollins said. “We like John. Nobody likes Romney” [...]

We long ago predicted that other candidates would concert their efforts against Romney.

Romney bravely—or unwittingly—faces the gathering storm, er, we mean swarm

We evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy here:

In show of solidarity and support. Gov. Huckabee defends Sen. McCain against Romney’s false, unfair, and highly personal attacks—also: how the concerted efforts of the McCain-Huckabee axis gets more for a more minimal investement

Romney’s new theme post-Iowa?—change, a theme Romney steals from Barack Obama’s Iowa message. Romney’s message post-Iowa? Romney is an agent of change; McCain is an agent of the status quo. Only here is the problem for Romney: once again Romney will advance a message that requires audiences to

(a) interpret facts as their opposites [Romney himself has praised Sen. McCain as an agent of change]

-and-

(b) construe events not on their face, but according to a tormented casuistry [Romney has spent a year depicting himself as an agent of continuity and social conservative orthodoxy]

Evidence? Nagourney and Hulse provide it:

[...] Mr. McCain may prove to be an elusive target, at least in this state.

Mr. Romney began seeking on Friday night to portray Mr. McCain as a Washington insider, a criticism that seemed to be intended to strip away from him independent voters who were critical to his victory in 2000. (Independent voters here are permitted to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary).

Several Republicans suggested that strategy might be difficult to pull off. “They are going to try to make him the Washington insider,” said Sara Taylor, a former White House political director. “He spent 10 years as the iconic guy in Washington fighting the status quo; so that is going to be hard” [...]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday attributed a big part of his Iowa loss to the fact his main competitor had an established base of evangelical support, which turned out in force,” writes Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune in an article titled Romney attributes Iowa loss to faith

Romney, who has worked to overcome fears about voters backing him as a Mormon, took only a fifth of evangelical voters who turned out to caucus in the first test of the presidential race. Republican rival Mike Huckabee, a Baptist-preacher-turned-politician, took nearly half of that category of voters, according to entrance polls.

The Romney campaign credited a large turnout by evangelical voters – many of whom see Mormons as heretical – for Huckabee’s victory.

“Mike had a terrific base as a minister – drew on that base, got a great deal of support, it was a wonderful strategy that he pursued effectively,” Romney told reporters Friday in New Hampshire where he was fighting for a victory in that state’s first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday.

Romney said he came into Iowa an unknown governor of Massachusetts, the “bluest of the blue states,” and campaigned hard to educate voters about what he stands for. But that, apparently, wasn’t enough as Huckabee trounced Romney 34 percent to 25 percent.

“Had I been a Baptist minister, I perhaps could have chosen a different path, but that wasn’t the path that’s available to me,” Romney said. “He took one that was available to him, worked it extremely well, turned out people extremely well and I congratulate him on a well-run campaign.” [...]

This self-pitying, I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam Romney-rant is beneath comment. Well, almost. In another post we wrote

An emerging “fixed point” now conditioning and organizing the discussion is the notion that voters want “change.” (By “fixed point” we mean a point of convergence or common assumption emerging in the popular account.)

Another emerging fixed point is that Iowa decided for Gov. Huckabee because of anti-Mormon bias etc. This is as wrongheaded as it is condescending. Here would be the counterpoint:

Medved: “[Gov. Huckabee’s] powerful appeal to females, the young and the poor make him a different kind of Republican—[one] who connects with voting blocs the GOP needs to win back—[Gov Huckabee is] hardly the one-dimensional religious candidate of media caricature”

More counterpoint from Patrick Ruffini in a Townhall.com blog burst titled Iowa Shows Passion & Energy Matter:

[...] As I wrote on December 11:

[Huckabee’s] success is not about ideology, but identity. For his voters, he’s a Christian first, and a conservative second. Attacking him on conventional conservative issues won’t undermine his core support because it has nothing to do with being a conservative.

Ruffini’s point on its face supports Romney’s bitter complaint. But Ruffini continues:

Huckabee won women 40-26% (and men just 29-26%). He won voters under $30,000 by about 2 to 1. Cross those two, take away the Republican filter, and you’re talking about a general election constituency that is at least 2-to-1 Democratic. These are not people that conventional primary campaigns are designed to reach. These are the Republican voters the furthest away from National Review, other elite conservative media, and websites like this one. It’s easy to see just how the analysts missed the boat on this one [...]

[...] Conventional organization may matter less in an era of high-stakes, high-turnout elections. Romney’s Iowa chair Doug Gross was quoted as saying that 80,000 was their “magic number” for overall turnout. It’s easy to see why. With 26,000 Romney votes, that would have been good for 32.5% and a win — about the same percentage they got at Ames (where turnout was historically low).

The Romney campaign was an efficient machine that knew who its voters were and turned them out. The problem is that Mike Huckabee’s momentum brought in new voters off the beaten path — more Evangelicals, more women, people lower on the income ladder. Think about this: In the 2000 Caucuses, only 37% described themselves as “religious right.” This year, 60% described themselves as “Evangelical Christians.” That’s an imperfect comparison, but the universe of Evangelical voters almost certainly expanded this year [...]

Conclusion: the fixed point emerging in support of Iowa is the new GOP coalition, a coalition based on a renewed conservative movement that the elite conservative media failed to even register in their opinions and analyses.

Or where they did register it, they either dismissed it or ridiculed it.

Sadly, the new elite liberal media is the old elite conservative media.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Always remember: effective politicians NEVER, EVER BLAME THE VOTERS.

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Having barely slept after landing at 3 a.m. on Friday, weary advisers for Mitt Romney gathered a few hours later in a conference room in the Courtyard Marriott in Portsmouth to regroup after the resounding defeat Mike Huckabee handed them in Iowa,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Embraces Theme Used to Beat Him

Romney’s model is simple predict-and-control. For example, Romney and his same “advisors” developed Romney’s last plan over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb:

“We were sitting around with a PowerPoint”—said a senior Romney advisor, “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball”—how Team Romney lost Iowa over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb

This was Romney’s ill-considered early state von Schlieffen plan. Romney clung to it for months in the very teeth of contrary data. And lots of contrary data developed all around the hapless candidate in Iowa and elsewhere—we harped on it in this blog almost constantly. Romney’s response? To try to control for whatever contrary stimuli developed around him, e.g., Romney’s hyper-massive out-of-control spending as an attempt to control for Gov. Huckabee’ s ascendency.

Only predict-and-control failed for the hapless candidate. Iowa decided against him.

Back to Luo:

Dominating the conversation was the idea that the central lesson from Iowa in both parties was that voters wanted change in Washington and a focus on how Mr. Romney might harness that sentiment to defeat his main rival in New Hampshire, Senator John McCain.

So far Mr. Romney has tried with varying degrees of fervor to portray himself as a change agent for Washington, often playing up his private-sector background and arguing that he has not been in politics long enough to be “infected.” In September, he even rolled out the slogan “change begins with us.”

Often, however, the point has gotten lost in Mr. Romney’s speeches as he has tried to hit a jumble of other notes establishing his conservative credentials. It is also a balancing act for any Republican presidential candidate to try to carry off, given how popular President Bush remains with the Republican base. [...]

Yuh-huh. The larger question: Has the noisy and frantic candidate from Bain Capital learned how to stay on message? See:

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”

Also: Romney has been reduced to a regional player after months of ridiculing the other campaigns for their regional stronghold strategies. Romney’s last redoubt (or firewall)? Michigan.

[...] A loss in New Hampshire would be devastating for the Romney campaign, his aides privately conceded, given their stated strategy of winning “early and often.” They argue that they will be able to fight on, with Michigan’s primary on Jan. 15 acting as a fire wall. The campaign has recently stepped up efforts in Michigan, where Mr. Romney has deep roots, releasing an advertisement focused on the economy and starting a direct-mail campaign on economic issues. [...]

Yeahright. This is meaningless noise of course. Romney has no base, no region, no natural constituency. He cannot carry his home state. He is running against his own record of governance and policy. He will fight on because he is flush with funds, his own funds in the form of the patrimony of his beloved sons, whether NH or MI decide for him or not.

For months the chattering classes insisted that Romney’s national strategy indicated the candidate’s strength. They claimed Romney was the only GOP candidate in control of his destiny. They also argued that the regional stronghold strategy of the other candidates was an artifact of their various weakness etc. We argued here on this blog that precisely the opposite is the case. It is precisely because Romney has no natural constituency, and no base, that the hapless candidate is constrained to try to “win early and often” to compensate. This is why we refer to Romney’s desperate early state plan as his von Schlieffen plan, another shock-and-awe plan that depended for its success on lightening and nearly simultaneous victories on multiple fronts, and another plan that failed to survive its first encounter with grim reality.

Our surmise: Romney knows by now that he cannot win the GOP nomination through the primary process. His only chance is a brokered convention. And his only chance of prevailing at a brokered convention is to so slime his rivals that none can any longer rise to national standing.

Does this sound preposterous? Of course it does. But the one premise we use to ground all our analyses posted to this blog is that whatever Romney says is the case is either

(a) flat wrong

or

(b) the precise opposite of what is actually the case

To satisfy yourself that our method returns fairly predictive and explanatory results, peruse our blog going back to last summer.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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