Archive for the ‘triumph of reason’ Category

[...] “I have covered a lot of presidential campaigns, and I can’t think of one that so lost its way-so expensively-as that of the former governor of Massachusetts,” writes Howard Fineman in a newsweek.com article titled Burying Mitt; Romney failed because he ran as something he’s not

A board room and business favorite, a man with a Midas managerial touch, he was widely admired and even beloved. But he was a Republican of an old moderate school-that of his own father-and, like George W. Bush, Romney the Younger decided that he had to jettison all that he was to become something that he was not.

And so it was that this square peg spent perhaps $80 million-including at least $30 million of his own money-trying to pound himself into a round hole. It didn’t work. The irony of his failed campaign: if he had just stuck to selling his managerial mettle, he might well have won the nomination, given the way the country’s economic anxieties have become voters’ number one concern.

Even as conservative radio talk-show hosts reluctantly settled on him as their savior, they were uneasy about it and about his previous record of social moderation and fiscal flexibility. They sold him hard in the last few weeks, but to no avail. Romney won his home state and the states in the West where Mormonism was familiar, but not much else.

The quality of being genuine is hard to convey, and deciding who should be president based solely on that basis can lead to disaster; you need brains and an ability to go with the flow as well. But voters know a phony above all and Romney came off as one from the get-go. Over the last decade he had changed his views in a rightward direction on so many issues to suit what he thought he needed to win the GOP nomination that he ended up standing for nothing but his own ambition [...]

More on this theme from Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times staff writer, in an LA Times article titled Romney failed the ‘authentic’ test; The GOP establishment had high hopes for the former Massachusetts governor, but among voters he never overcame charges that he had flip-flopped his way through his political career

WASHINGTON — For many Republican insiders, it was love at first sight: Mitt Romney had an exquisite resume, a command of the issues and boatloads of money to finance a presidential campaign. As Romney started wooing support in Washington, some lawyers and lobbyists were so smitten that they endorsed him after meeting him only once or twice.

But the collapse of Romney’s campaign contains an important reminder that what impresses in political backrooms does not always impress voters. A long list of political assets, and the support of party leaders, is not enough to make up for a failure to connect with voters and to deliver a clear, consistent message.

Although much of the Republican establishment called him an authentic conservative, Romney, in his appeals to voters, never overcame charges that he had flip-flopped his way through his political career — on abortion, gay rights and other issues of importance to those he was hoping to win over.

“People fundamentally understand where John McCain and Mike Huckabee are coming from. But in Mitt Romney’s case, that was harder to discern,” said Terry Holt, an advisor to President Bush’s 2004 campaign. “There is too much uncertainty about who Mitt Romney really is” [...]

Yet more on this theme from Elizabeth Holmes in an online.wsj.com release titled Romney’s screen test falls flat

WASHINGTON — Throughout his 18-month bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney tried his best to play the part.

He looked the part, with his perfectly coifed hair and crisp blue suits. He sounded the part, shaping his stump speech around cries to reinstate Reagan’s three pillars of the Republican party. And he acted the part, spending nearly a year campaigning heavily in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

But in the end, Mr. Romney didn’t fit the part. Amid cries from critics of changing stances on key issues, the former governor of Massachusetts never connected with voters. He devised a message that alienated party stalwarts. And although he was the first to air negative ads against opponents in Iowa, the millionaire investor proved weak at blocking his rivals’ last-minute punches.

The result: a dismal performance in the coast-to-coast primaries on Tuesday, the moment that Mr. Romney, who lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, needed to shine. The passion he lacked on the campaign trail instead came during his concession speech, when he suspended his candidacy. Fighting back emotion, he told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference here that he was withdrawing “for our party and our country.”
Mitt Romney stepped out of the race Thursday, saying that by staying in the race he “would be aiding a surrender to terror.”

From the beginning, Mr. Romney had much to prove. With little name recognition, he was known as “the Mormon” candidate with a pro-choice past. As a result, Mr. Romney, co-founder of private-equity firm Bain Capital Partners LLC, approached the race as a science, not an art. After Mr. Romney began publicly discussing a bid in late 2006, his advisers drew up a list of benchmarks and went about devising a schedule to reach those goals. In the process, they overlooked the need to ignite passion and fire [...]

Please note the contradictions in these accounts. The same man spent nearly US$40 million dollars on his own money on his campaign, went so viciously negative on his rivals that they concerted their efforts against him, and in the end planned to engineer a brokered convention and nullify the expressed views of the primary voters by targeting promised but technically unbound delegates—yet Romney lacked passion or fire?

The man nearly tried to pull a Guy Fawkes on the GOP and he lacked fire?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“A few moments ago, I spoke to someone in the Romney camp,” writes Byron York of NRO’s The Corner in a blog burst titled Romney Pulling Out? Campaign Doesn’t Want “To Look Destructive At What Might Be The End.”

Would I be crazy to read that into the email traffic? “You would not be crazy to read that into it,” he said. “There have been a lot of discussions going on about whether there is a path to victory, and not wanting to look destructive at what might be the end. You are reading the right thing into it.”

Update: It’s official, Gov. Romney to withdraw.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “But the Romney campaign suffered serious and likely mortal wounds last night,” writes the estimable Dean Barnett in a Weekly Standard article titled About Last Night; an easy decision looms

The trouble isn’t so much that John McCain’s delegate lead is insurmountable, although it is significant. And Romney’s problem isn’t that John McCain will get an enormous bounce out of yesterday’s wins. This is the year of no bouncing.

Romney’s problem is that the fully mature version of his campaign has faced the fully mature versions of the Huckabee and McCain campaigns all over the country. Romney hasn’t done well. Although past performances don’t necessarily guarantee the results of future contests, it’s tough to picture what Romney can do to shake up the race and begin getting those extra votes he’ll need in each future state to turn losses into victories.

Remarks:

(1) We concur with Barnett, and we appreciate his candor and precision. As we understand it, Romney’s campaign discovered its voice in MI, and though FL decided for Sen. McCain the Romney campaign still gained valuable experience on the ground; it developed a more sophisticated view of itself and its own role relative to the other campaigns; and it took on and put to useful work new allies, principally, the right wing talkers of talk radio who concerted their efforts against Sen. McCain. It also attempted to clarify and refine its MI Washington-is-broken message into a “anti-insider populist” mission—not just a message, but a mission, however naive or contrived. It is neither a mission nor a message that we agree with, and we still doubt Romney’s alleged and newly acquired commitment to conservative principles, but the fact remains, Romney’s campaign was beginning to become—dare we say it?—effective.

Here be evidence of Romney’s new found effectiveness, as provided by the estimable John Dickerson in a slate.com article titled McCain Not Stopped; But Romney is not seen as a true conservative:

[…] Exit polls nevertheless show that McCain’s problems with conservatives run deep. He lost among conservatives in almost every state except Connecticut and New Jersey, where he split them evenly with Romney. McCain also lost conservatives even in the states he won. Conservatives went for Romney in New York and Illinois. “Hard to do well with conservatives when everyone with a microphone is beating hell out of us,” says a top McCain aide. While the conservative voices weren’t enough to stop McCain, or to elect their guy, tonight they were enough to bruise him […]

Conclusion: Romney was actually beginning to make progress. The conservative base was really beginning to “rally to Romney,” the very outcome that Romney has worked to achieve since Iowa.

(2) The problem: it was all too little and too late. Had super-duper apocalypse Tuesday been three weeks from now, two weeks from now, or even a week from now, Sen. McCain would not be our presumptive nominee and we would be slumping toward a brokered convention with Romney positioned to dominate it.

Also, as Barnett notes, the Huckabee and McCain campaigns had not remained static—they matured and grew more sophisticated too. Though underfunded and un- or under-organized, the two rival campaigns knew how to use their own negatives to good effect, and how to work what little they had to eke out whatever victories they could, and they knew all this from the beginning. And they had also learned how to operate effectively in the shadow of Team Romney, how to position themselves against Romney, and how to turn Romney’s strengths into weaknesses.

Example: Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain learned early on that Romney cannot let anything go, even if it costs him a fortune, and even if he ends up looking like an idiot.

  • Recall how in Florida Sen. McCain issued a bogus accusation about Romney supporting timetables for US withdrawal from Iraq. Romney for his part behaved as predicted. He repeated Sen. McCain’s charge at every opportunity even as he denied it, and he stressed at great length his own support for the war in Iraq. So the subject in Florida suddenly got displaced from the economy, an issue Romney dominates among upper income Republicans, to the war, an issue that Sen. McCain totally dominates in every category, and the whole exchange cost Sen. McCain’s campaign precisely nothing. But it cost Romney the state of Florida.
  • Or recall how back during the struggle for Iowa Gov. Huckabee would provoke Romney on the issue of religion with floating crosses or promises to be a “Christian leader” etc. The result? Romney and his surrogates would go beserk out of all proportion to the stimulus denouncing Gov. Huckabee. Romney for his part would stress his own faith at the cost of calling further attention to his Mormon confession. The effect? Evangelicals were treated to the public spectacle of a super-rich, humorless, android Mormon CEO berating a humble good-ol’-boy joke-cracking Baptist pastor. Romney spent US$10 million on Iowa and lost it to a man who spent almost nothing.

(3) Conclusion: the GOP dodged a bullet aimed straight at its head, only to catch that bullet in the throat, because now Romney has taken on the role of spoiler. See:

Romney attempting to engineer a brokered convention, hints at plans to foment mutiny among promised but not officially bound delegates

Back to Barnett:

Romney doesn’t have to drop out. He can fight on if he wishes, and hope that he unearths the secret formula that has eluded him so far. He can also hang around hoping John McCain makes a blunder. But right now, it’s almost impossible to imagine a path to the nomination for Romney. That being the case, he’ll have to run a campaign that’s cognizant of the fact that he’s facing his party’s likely standard-bearer [...]

Now it becomes Sen. John McCain’s task to consolidate the conservative base before Romney can take it from him. Can he do it? We shall see. Romney can no longer win, but he can make sure that Sen. John McCain never wins either.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Recall the theme of Romney’s caricatured, unreconstructed, ingenue conservatism compared to the emerging conservatism:

Brooks: “Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0″

Now, point and counterpoint.

Point: [...] “Much of this chaos [of the primary contests] is attributable to the fact that this is a very flawed field, or at least one ill-suited for the times we’re in,” writes Jonah Goldberg in a WaPo editorial titled Cloudy fortunes for conservatism

If a camel is a horse designed by committee, then this year’s Republican field looks downright dromedarian. This slate of candidates has everything a conservative designer could want — foreign policy oomph, business acumen, Southern charm, Big Apple chutzpah, religious conviction, outsider zeal, even libertarian ardor — but all so poorly distributed. As National Review put it in its editorial endorsement of Romney (I am undecided, for the record): “Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything — all the traits, all the positions — we are looking for.”

But conservatives should contemplate the possibility that the fault lies less in the stars — or the candidates — than in ourselves. Conservatism, quite simply, is a mess these days. Conservative attitudes are changing. Or, more accurately, the attitudes of people who call themselves conservatives are changing.

The most cited data to prove this point come from the Pew Political Typology survey. By 2005, it had found that so many self-described conservatives were in favor of government activism that they had to come up with a name for them. “Running-dog liberals” apparently seemed too pejorative, so the survey went with “pro-government conservatives,” a term that might have caused Ronald Reagan to spontaneously combust. This group makes up just under 10 percent of registered voters and something like a third of the Republican coalition. Ninety-four percent of pro-government conservatives favored raising the minimum wage, as did 79 percent of self-described social conservatives. Eight out of 10 pro-government conservatives believe that the government should do more to help the poor and slightly more than that distrust big corporations.

There’s more evidence elsewhere. As former Bush speechwriter David Frum documents in his new book, “Comeback,” income taxes are no longer a terribly serious concern among conservative voters. Young Christian conservatives and others are increasingly eager to bring a faith-based activism to government. As the conservative commentator Ramesh Ponnuru recently noted in Time, younger evangelicals are more likely to oppose abortion than their parents were, but they are also more likely to look kindly on government-run anti-poverty programs and environmental protection. Even President Bush (in)famously proclaimed in 2003 that “when somebody hurts, government has got to move.”

This is a far cry from the days when Reagan proclaimed in his first inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” and vowed to “curb the size and influence of the federal establishment.”

Today the American public seems deeply schizophrenic: It hates the government — Washington, Congress and public institutions are more unpopular than at any time since Watergate — but it wants more of it. Conservative arguments about limited government have little purchase among independents and swing voters. This is a keen problem for a candidate like Romney, because it forces him to vacillate between his credible competence message — “I can make government work” — and his strategic need to fill the “Reaganite” space left vacant by former senator George Allen’s failure to seize it and Thompson’s inability to get anyone to notice that he occupies it. Worse, the conservatives who want activist government want it to have a populist-Christian tinge, and that’s a pitch that neither McCain nor Giuliani nor Thompson nor Romney can sell.

Many of the younger conservative policy mavens and intellectuals have also become steadily less enamored of free markets and limited government. Post columnist Michael Gerson, formerly Bush’s chief speechwriter, has crafted a whole doctrine of “heroic conservatism” intended to beat back the right’s supposed death-embrace with small government and laissez-faire economics. He relentlessly calls for moral crusade to become the animating spirit of the right. But he’s hardly alone. “Crunchy conservatism,” the brainchild of Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, is also a cri de coeur against mainstream conservatism. And both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a “different kind of Republican” because he was a “compassionate conservative” — a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like [...]

Remarks:

1. The emerging conservatism—or at least the new center-right—is an emerging conservatism of the state. Only—as is always the case—the political has developed in advance of the theoretical or intellectual. The concepts, and rationales have yet to be worked out; the arguments await clarification.

The issues, the stakes, the decisions—all of it awaits specification at the point of application in law, policy, or legal review—it even awaits clarification by candidates on the ground attempting to connect with the lived experience of voters. But this is as it should be as the emerging conservatism has yet to have confronted any real test on the ground.

2. To a Reagan coalition actor like Goldberg—and to the institutions of the center-right, e.g. talk radio, think-tanks, foundations—the notion is simply incoherent, borderline unintelligible. Hence: They greet it with hostility. And rightly so. New criticisms always begin in precedent and presumption, which flows from what exists. What exists is the Reagan coalition, although it exists in tatters. The new conservatism has yet to prove that it can provide the basis for a governing coalition.

3. Our conservatism—i.e. our meaning me, Gilad D.—discovers its premises in more ancient sources than Pres. Reagan, Speaker Gingrich, or Pastor Falwell. But we have problems of our own with the new regime. Regard:

(a) How would center-right of Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee would be functionally distinct from e.g. the center-right governments of the European peninsula. We need someone to explain this to us.]

(b) How is using the instruments of national power to pursue conservative policy functionally different from using the instruments of national power to pursue left or center-left policy? How would this not result in a race to the bottom where those in elected office use the power of the state to enrich their friends and secure their rule? How is this distinct from our criticism of Democratic Party rule?

(c) Part of what it means to be a conservative—or so we have always held—is to insist on the objective and empirical limits of political agency.

We are limited beings. We can agree on rules (that try to specify outcomes in advance) or standards (that are more open ended), and we can attempt to adjudicate among rival claims in our legislatures and our courts, but we can no more plan an economy than we can plan the weather. Nor can we fairly or equitably decide who gets what or on substantive grounds or e.g. decide on a definition of poverty—there are simply too many factors, too many bases of comparison to ever yield consensus. Hence: conservatives favor individual or free-association agency operating in blind systems like the marketplace or a civil society—the primary unit of which being the family—that is distinct from the state. We favor emergent systems constrained by rules, standards, and precedents, as opposed to the arbitrary wills or whims of human agents.

This suggests the question: How is e.g. Gov. Huckabee’s “right-wing populism” anything other than a declaration of faith in the efficacy of political agency, or an extension of the franchise of what may count as a political question?

Answer: We don’t know yet.

Questions. So many questions.

In other words, we have our own issues with conservatism 2.0. But we are not willing to dismiss it out of hand. Besides, in politics, demography is destiny, and the Republican party is skewing younger and lower in income. So: We await clarification as it emerges from the facts on the ground.Here would be the counterpoint to Goldberg:

[...] “FOR THE FIRST time in decades, the GOP has fielded a strong roster of candidates, at least four of them with a real chance to win the nomination,” writes Lawrence Henry from North Andover, Massachusetts, in a Spectator.org article titled Creative Destruction in the GOP

The party hasn’t shrugged up somebody like Bob Dole. The nominee hasn’t been settled early. No party machine has anointed anyone.

The party has dealt out a thorough mix of issues and people, with issues and people matching up in entirely new ways. And no one has any idea yet who — or what — will predominate.

To make the picture more complicated, emotional perceptions enter in. I once heard someone say, back in the nineties, “I like Bill Clinton because he really cares about me.” And he meant it! Like this man, many voters are very stupid, and many voters cast stupid votes. They all count.

So not only are Republicans choosing a candidate based on what that candidate really believes and really can and will do, they’re choosing a candidate based on what that candidate is perceived to be. For an extra layer of complication, add media bias in portraying those candidates.

On top of all that, we live in a media-hyped age where only the quickest and most effective of perceptual tags seems to get through: Holy Mike Huckabeee, roguish Rudy Giuliani, lazy Fred Thompson, manic John McCain, perfect Mitt Romney. See what I mean?

Mixed up though it is, this campaign is a good thing, not a bad one. It has just gotten interesting. It is going to stay interesting for a long time and, if we’re lucky, we’ll emerge from it with a newly defined and newly invigorated Republican Party. If we’re unlucky, the country will nominate some image monger with nothing real to say [...]

An image monger with nothing real to say?

That would be Romney.

The larger question: Creative destruction, or just destruction? For us the answer hinges on the person and character of Romney.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “On the Republican side, my message is: Be not afraid. Some people are going to tell you that Mike Huckabee’s victory last night in Iowa represents a triumph for the creationist crusaders. Wrong,” writes David Brooks in a NYT editorial titled The Two Earthquakes

Consider Brooks’ editorial yet another rejoinder to Romney’s claim that Iowa decided against him because Iowans are religious bigots.

Romney: the voters of Iowa are hick-rube religious bigots

Back to Brooks:

Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize. First, evangelicals have changed. Huckabee is the first ironic evangelical on the national stage. He’s funny, campy (see his Chuck Norris fixation) and he’s not at war with modern culture.

Second, Huckabee understands much better than Mitt Romney that we have a crisis of authority in this country. People have lost faith in their leaders’ ability to respond to problems. While Romney embodies the leadership class, Huckabee went after it. He criticized Wall Street and K Street. Most importantly, he sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led. He took on Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush. The old guard threw everything they had at him, and their diminished power is now exposed.

Third, Huckabee understands how middle-class anxiety is really lived. Democrats talk about wages. But real middle-class families have more to fear economically from divorce than from a free trade pact. A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing. Huckabee understands that economic well-being is fused with social and moral well-being, and he talks about the inter-relationship in a way no other candidate has.

In that sense, Huckabee’s victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition.

A conservatism that recognizes stable families as the foundation of economic growth is not hard to imagine. A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign.

So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike [...]

Imagine a McCain-Huckabee GOP ticket. Dare we to dream? We still cherish in our hearts a profound affection for Hizzoner. But even so …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“The reasons many establishment operatives still see a Huckabee win as unlikely, polls notwithstanding, were underscored by Monday’s debacle,” writes Mike Madden in a Salon.com news feature titled Can money buy Mitt Romney love in Iowa? The CEO candidate tries to grind out an expensive victory over a surging, underfunded and baffling upstart
Note how Mike Madden’s story hinges on Romney’s massive spending.

… Huckabee announced to a crowd of reporters that the anti-Romney commercial he’d cut the day before would not, in fact, ever be broadcast — and then proceeded to show the ad to the reporters. Huckabee surprised even some of his own staffers with the ploy. The campaign had apparently been divided about whether to put the ad up in the first place, but the move wound up looking either brazenly cynical or shockingly stupid — or both — and the reaction from the political press was withering.

It was the reaction from the Romney campaign, though, that may have been more telling. Spokesman Madden sent out a careful press release that linked the fiasco to the Romney message that Huckabee can’t handle scrutiny. But when I talked to Madden later in the day, he just sounded flabbergasted. Romney’s team had watched the nation’s top political reporters laugh in Huckabee’s face three days before the caucuses, to little avail. They had won the news cycle, but not the war. They still couldn’t figure out quite what to make of their candidate’s biggest rival — or how to make him go away … etc.

Note Kevin Madden’s despairing wonderment at what any rational person could have predicted—in fact, we did predict it, many times, right here in this blog.
When you overshoot the mark—when you have no discernment, no sense of proportion, when you rocket right past the culminating point of success—all your former strengths and strong points suddenly become points of exceeding vulnerability, and you can no longer trust your own perceptions. Example: Romney’s principal strength, his vast personal wealth, has become the organizing principle of his organizational failure as he no longer controls it; it, rather, controls him.

“Mitt Romney said last year that it would be ‘akin to a nightmare’ to have to fund his presidential campaign out of his personal fortune,” writes Howie Carr in a BostonHerald.com news feature titled Mitt finds $20M can’t buy voters’ love

But I can think of worse things. One would be spending $20 million of your money . . . and then losing. Forget “akin to” – that would be the politician’s ultimate nightmare.

So now Mitt Romney is about to find out how much it costs to buy – or fail to buy – an election in 2008. A lot more than the $6 million it cost him to buy the Massachusetts governorship in 2002, that’s for sure. Forget the $63 million Mitt raised through the first three quarters of 2007 (which included $17 million of his own).

Let’s talk about how much of his cash Mitt has thrown into the campaign by now. We won’t know until Jan. 31, but it’s got to be way more than $20 million.

And for what? Who knows at this point? By this time in most campaigns, the candidate has a pretty good idea if he’s going to win or lose. But this week the polls are all over the place.

And for at least another day he finds himself in a two-front war, with John McCain in the East and Mike Huckabee, the dope from Hope, in the West. Two-front wars are tough – just ask Napoleon and Hitler …

[ ... ]

… How does Mitt explain to the partners at Bain Capital if he loses to Mike Huckabee? I mean, that would be like losing to Warren Tolman or John Lakian. Completely unacceptable.

No wonder Mitt has been spending money like a drunken sailor, although the difference between the sailor and Mitt is that Romney doesn’t have the bad-ice-cube excuse. Everyone has the occasional moment where suddenly you can’t control your spending – you’re trying to impress some babe, maybe, or you’re in a high-stakes poker game. Which I suppose is what Mitt’s in, although I think by this time he thought he’d be reacting to Hillary, not Huckabee.

Bhutto gets shot, and Huckabee apologizes to Pakistan, like the United States shot her or something. And what happened after Huck made a fool of himself? He went up two points in the national tracking polls.

I hope Mitt pulls it out in both states, but if he doesn’t, the reporters will be grilling him in a few weeks about why he blew 20 million in Steve Forbes-like futility.

To which Mitt should reply, “I was drunk.” So what if it’s not true? It’s an answer that always works for the Kennedys …

Drunk. We concur. And Romney is the rational candidate. Question: When did the term “rational” has come to mean its opposite? Ask yourself: do you really want someone who so easily loses control of himself as your president? Imagine this man at war …Also: Romney’s scorched earth tactics are costly in ways that cannot be readily quantified. Back to Mike Madden of Salon.com:

… The TV and mail advertising blitzkrieg, though, has done little to endear Romney to any of his rivals. “He’s given up on trying to persuade anybody that he’s the right candidate,” said McCain’s Iowa chairman, Dave Roederer. “He’s just trying to persuade them that everybody else is the wrong candidate.” Another Republican strategist said, with some relish, that a Huckabee win here would be “a massive upset” given everything Romney’s spent in the state. Huckabee and McCain have practically signed a mutual defense pact over the campaign’s closing weeks, with each side rushing to protect the other from every Romney attack … etc.

How can a man who so blithely, thoughtlessly, and consistently alienates and estranges everyone around him govern?

Also see:

“If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit,” writes the monitor staff in an editorial titled Romney should not be the next president

You’d add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You’d pour in some old GOP bromides – spending cuts and lower taxes – plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped.

Romney’s main business experience is as a management consultant, a field in which smart, fast-moving specialists often advise corporations on how to reinvent themselves. His memoir is called Turnaround – the story of his successful rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – but the most stunning turnaround he has engineered is his own political career.

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you’d swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core …

… In the 2008 campaign for president, there are numerous issues on which Romney has no record, and so voters must take him at his word. On these issues, those words are often chilling. While other candidates of both parties speak of restoring America’s moral leadership in the world, Romney has said he’d like to “double” the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where inmates have been held for years without formal charge or access to the courts. He dodges the issue of torture – unable to say, simply, that waterboarding is torture and America won’t do it.

When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state’s first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we’ll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no …

Commentary:

“The Monitor editorial board leans left, and the paper is often viewed as a liberal counterweight to the conservative Union Leader of Manchester,” writes Alec MacGillis for Wapo’s The Trail in a post titled Concord Monitor: Romney “Must Be Stopped”

But with its anti-Romney assault the paper finds itself on the same page as the Union Leader, which has endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination and followed that up with harsh editorial critiques of Romney. For Romney, this may be a case of familiarity breeding contempt — while his years as governor in the state next door may benefit him with some voters in New Hampshire, his proximity also means that close observers of his governorship are more aware than most of the discrepancies between his moderate record in Massachusetts and his rightward tilt on the campaign trail.

Romney’s rough handling from the New Hampshire press is coming as he is sees his months-long steady lead in the New Hampshire polls shrinking with the resurgence of McCain in New Hampshire, and the rise of Mike Huckabee in Iowa.

This weekend’s broadside from the Monitor is all the more striking given that Romney appeared to leave a good initial impression in his interview with the editorial board last month. An editorial that followed that meeting declared, under the headline “Romney has good grasp of nation’s problems”:
“At campaign events, Mitt Romney can come across as insincere. In presidential debates, his performance has been uneven. In his television ads, he seems too good to be true – too handsome, too rich, too articulate and too wholesome to have much in common with the people whose votes he seeks. But put him in a boardroom and Romney shines.

The former Massachusetts governor recently met with the Monitor’s editorial board. His performance was impressive. He is articulate and knowledgeable. He doesn’t come across as an ideologue – that would be tough given his history of changed positions – but as a pragmatist, a guy who gets things done. None of that was surprising. The surprise was that Romney, whose Mormon faith and mega-millions isolate him from the experience of many Americans, came across as a pretty regular guy.”

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden responded to the broadside by saying: “The Monitor’s editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Governor Romney for his conservative views and platform” … etc.

Only here is the problem, Madden. The Monitor criticizes Romney for his duplicity, not his alleged and oft-disputed “conservatism”.

This is a pattern for Romey: his F2F appearances tend to backfire on the hapless candidate. 2 other examples:

yours &c.
dr. d.g.

“In a much-anticipated speech about his Mormon faith, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney avoided discussing theology — except for this: ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.’”—writes Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, in an article titled Mormon theology is striking in its differences; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has elements in common with other Christian traditions, but outsiders often find founder Joseph Smith’s testimony hard to accept

That is an accurate statement of Mormon belief, and with it, Romney could claim common ground with evangelical Christian voters. But as he noted in the very next sentence: “My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths.”

Indeed, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded on the premise that all other Christian traditions are false. A teenager named Joseph Smith said he received that revelation in a vision in 1820.

Over the next seven years, Smith said, he was visited several times by an angel named Moroni, son of Mormon, who guided him to gold plates buried in upstate New York.

With the help of “seer stones” given to him by Moroni, Smith said he translated the plates into English. The nearly 6 million Mormons in the United States consider that translation, the Book of Mormon, a holy text, on par with the Bible. Its theology has some striking elements … etc., etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“HAMPTON, N.H. — Mayor Giuliani is attacking his closest rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, for failing as governor of Massachusetts to lower taxes, fight illegal immigration, and stand by politically tarnished allies and friends,” writes SETH GITELL for the New York Sun in an article titled Mayor Giuliani Attacks Romney on Record as Mass. Governor

Mr. Giuliani embarked on two-day bus tour across the Granite State over the weekend as a political controversy surrounding Mr. Romney rippled across New England.Prosecutors in Washington State have charged Daniel Tavares Jr. — who was freed in July by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge appointed by Mr. Romney, Kathe Tuttman — in connection with the murder of Brian and Beverly Mauck. The story has played out on the front page of a local tabloid, the Boston Herald, whose reach extends into the voter-rich districts of southern New Hampshire, where Mr. Giuliani campaigned yesterday.

On Saturday, Mr. Giuliani told the Associated Press that Mr. Romney would “have to explain his appointment” … etc.

Remarks:

Why does Mayor Giuliani call out Romney directly when Romney himself couches his bitter attacks on Mayor Giuliani in expressions of friendship and affection (see here)? Because he can. Mayor Giuliani’s negatives are far lower and he is a nationally respected figure in his own right, apart from the primary process.Can Mayor Giuliani win NH? Probably not. But he doesn’t need to. The Giuliani campaign’s task at this stage, pre-Florida, is simply to further diminish Romney’s ROI for his every campaign dollar by

(a) placing NH back into play such that Romney must spend more and more money to defend his lead; see:

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]”

(b) raising Romney’s already ultra-high negatives

Giuliani’s strategy? See here:

how hizzoner brings the fight to Romney—Romney caught in a punic pincer

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Justin Hart has notified me that he has resigned from his position as a Vice Chair of the Romney campaign’s Faith and Values Steering Committee after I challenged himfor not disclosing that he was an official in the Romney campaign,” writes eyeon08.com in a post titled Blogger in contact with Western Wats resigns from Romney campaign

[Personal note: This sucks. We hope Mr. Hart continues to participate on race42008.com and we wish him all the best.]

Please: Go to eyeon08.com and read the rest. There’s more. E.g.: eye refers to a Liz Mair post where Mair concludes: So, a top pollster and the firm alleged to have made the calls in question both agree: consultants determine the questions and the call sample, calling firms solely execute the project

Why is this relevant? Well, it indicates very, very strongly that whoever orchestrated the calls wanted these particular respondents– who could be counted on to run to the media complaining about the calls– contacted. Certainly, it was not up to Western Wats (allegedly) to determine who was called, so it wasn’t an accident, mistake, oversight , or even deliberate action (perhaps to aid a candidate that some at the firm seem to strongly back) on their part that led to these people being called.

Of course, this still doesn’t move us that much closer to determining who commissioned the calls– but we do at least know now, with a very high degree of certainty, that the party that pushed them wanted people who would rush to the media, and had pre-existing biases included … etc.

Dear Team Romney: how many more of your crack campaign staffers must fall on their swords for you? You need to get ahead of this situation now, dudes. As we wrote elsewhere:

… Either prepare to die the death of a thousand cuts, or get your lazy pear-shaped side-ways organization in gear and get out in front of this. The only way you can do that is to

(a) immediately reveal everything that you know about this,

and,

(b) mount your own investigation promise to take action against any staffer who may be involved.

You need to position yourself as being on the side of law and order. Right now, Team Romney, you’re behaving as if you’re hiding something.

Were you anything other than a joke-campaign—and if your negatives were not higher than space—we would further recommend mounting and circulating a vigorous counter-narrative. Do you remember Prosecutor Star and the constant revelations about Monica Lewinski etc. leading up to Pres. Clinton’s impeachment? Clinton partisans has a counter-narrative that they repeated constantly: THIS IS ALL ABOUT SEX. This would not work for you, however. Your candidate’s ultra-high negatives and icy-cold humanoid persona will not support a negative message.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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