Posts Tagged ‘jay cost’

[...] “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.

“Mitt Romney, a dominant favorite in New Hampshire just weeks ago, said Sunday that a “close second” to Arizona Sen. John McCain would be a significant feat on Tuesday,” write Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei in a politico.com feast-for-the-mind titled Romney dials down expectations hard, which is an interesting use of the of the word “dial”

The almost frantic downsizing of expectations for the former Massachusetts governor came as the candidate and his staff are publicly and privately preparing to explain away what would be a disheartening loss and shift to a last-ditch strategy predicated on his ability to outlast and outspend his rivals, according to sources inside the campaign.

Last ditch strategy? Precisely the opposite is the case. To outlast and outspend his rivals has always been Romney’s strategy, his only practical strategy.

Romney’s early-state von Schlieffen plan was a ruse, a subterfuge to suggest the cover of a legitimate primary campaign with legimate primary campaign objectives. And this expectations bull roar emitted by the Romneys is but a ruse within a ruse.

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

“This is a must-win state for him,” Romney said of McCain, in a Politico interview Sunday. “If he doesn’t win here, I don’t know where he is going to win. So for me it’s can I catch John McCain — can I keep him from getting this?”

We predicted Romney would say this. What is eerie is that we predicted that Romney would say precisely this. Here is what we predicted Romney would say on 01.01:

  • NH is Sen. McCain’s to lose,
  • Team Romney assumed from the beginning of time that Sen. McCain would surpass them in NH by a million points,
  • Even a close number 2 for the Romneys behind Sen. McCain finish would be a disaster for Sen. McCain’s campaign and a breakthrough for Team Romney

More evidence of Romney’s inexperience and naivete—more evidence of his amateur-hour campaigning. In a realclearpolitics post titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign, Jay Cost opines:

[...] This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.

If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows [...]

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

Left unsaid was that Romney has led in state polls for much of the race, and McCain only caught him recently.

The Romney campaign has the feel of one bracing for a possible loss, including the tell-tale emergence of behind-the-scenes clashes. Several Romney advisers described internal disputes over strategic missteps leading up to Iowa — with some contending Romney should have focused earlier on his ability as a Washington outsider and businessman to change the political process and fix Washington’s big problems [...]

Romney’s solution? Focus on both strategies. What got sacrificed? Any chance at a coherent message:

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”

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

[...] Romney said tension inside his campaign over strategic decisions has not been a big deal. He blamed reporters — not his advisers — for forcing him to focus intensely on his conservative views instead of the message of change he is carrying to every event in New Hampshire.

“I get asked a lot about my conservative credentials, largely by members of the media,” he said in the interview. “I go on TV and it’s like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion.’

“There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” [...]

Romney blamed reporters? Does the press corps work for Romney now? Is the press corps responsible for promulgating Romney’s message, or do they pursue other goals? Is it wise for the hapless candidate to cast himself as at the mercy of bully reporters?—what sort of “leader” allows others to control his message?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

… “Romney has taken very clear positions that most who agree derive from their particular religious beliefs,” writes Jay Cost in a RealClearPolitics article titled On Romney’s Speech

He has also said very clearly that his faith informs his issue positions. However, by not discussing his religion in anything but the broadest terms – he is demurring from explaining to voters why he agrees with them. Reference to the hackneyed proposition that “every person is a child of God” does not suffice. We all think that. That does not connect with the particular campaign that he has chosen to run.

I would also note that it is not just the positions he has taken – it is the positions he has chosen to emphasize. If Romney were running a campaign akin to those of John McCain, Fred Thompson, or Rudy Giuliani — one that does not emphasize the political positions that often stem from particular religious beliefs — this speech would probably be superfluous. But, by running on the issues that animate Christian conservatives — Romney is signaling to them that he is animated by those issues in a way that his competitors are not.

Above all, he has made fuller use of the language of evangelicals than any candidate except Mike Huckabee. It is not just that he agrees with evangelicals on the issues. Through his word choices, he is intimating that he thinks in the same terms. For instance — look at his response to the question about the literal truth of the Bible in the YouTube debate:

You know — yes, I believe it’s the word of God, the Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don’t disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.

Here’s what he had to say about his faith in yesterday’s speech. This was the one specific point he made:

What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.

The Boston Globe has also noted Romney’s frequent reference of Christ as his “personal savior” – a term not commonly used by Mormons, but rather by evangelical Protestants. Finally, this is what he said Wednesday on Greta Van Susteren’s show in response to a question about whether the campaign is physically grueling:

Oh, it’s physically grueling. But, you know, at the end of the day after a few speeches and a lot of campaign stops, I’m more energized than drained. I have to read for half an hour or an hour to fall asleep. By the way, thanks to the Gideons for giving me some good material at the end of the day.

More than any candidate except Huckabee – Romney has placed rhetorical emphasis on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible. This is a signal to evangelicals.

I would suggest that the whole issue of Mormonism is actually a red herring in this campaign. The issue here is Romney himself. Remember that the Mitt Romney of 2007 is very different than the Mitt Romney of 2002 on many social issues. Five years ago, he had little to do with evangelical Christians. Now — through his positions, his language, and his emphases — he wants them to believe he is just like they are. That is all well and good — and indeed he might be. But surely he must expect those voters to be wary of the systematic changes that a 60 year old man has undergone, to want to know more about this man and what he believes, and to frame those questions in terms of religious beliefs. Is it unreasonable for those whom he is openly courting (on their terms) to inquire a bit about the origins of his policy preferences, to want some insight into his inner being, to see whether he will remain faithful to his promises once in office?

Romney seems to think so. Not only did yesterday’s speech provide no positive answer — but, because it once again leaned so heavily on the non-sequitur of religious toleration, it placed the questioners on the same ash heap upon which have been placed the narrow-minded boors who drove Roger Williams to Rhode Island and Brigham Young to Utah. Romney is not the first major party candidate Mormon to run for President. He’s not the second. He’s not even the third. He’s the fourth. Why is his religion an issue the fourth time around? It is because he has chosen to run an explicitly religious campaign that appeals to voters whose religion has political salience to them. Unsurprisingly, voters want to know a little bit more about his beliefs, but in response he transforms into the candidate of Lincoln’s “political religion,” deploring a religious “test,” and arguing that we focus on the aspects of religion that unite us all.

The speech I would like to have seen would connect his religion to his particular political beliefs in a way that his rhetoric has been implying for a year. For instance, Mormons believe in the preexistence of the soul. They believe that families are divinely and infinitely connected. It seems to me that this forms a very sound basis for his pro-life and pro-family views. The voters he is courting are responding with questions about his beliefs. Why not answer them? He just finished saying that they are good, tolerant folk. He wants their votes. What’s to fear? It seems to me to that the best antiseptic for the religious intolerance Romney fears is fresh air. He should bring his beliefs into the open — proudly and forthrightly. Explain how they connect to his politics. Tell anybody who won’t vote for him because of it that he doesn’t want their votes, anyway! …

…. I am not arguing that government should be able to thwart the people’s will and bar a duly elected person from taking office based upon his religious beliefs. I am arguing, however, that voters can vote for a person for whatever reason they choose. Furthermore, I am arguing that a candidate who has intentionally wooed a group of religious voters based upon a set of issue positions whose origin usually comes from a particular set of religious beliefs should not be surprised that the courtship breaks down because he refuses to detail his beliefs. Nor, for that matter, can he make implicit or explicit reference to bigotry as the explanation for the failed courtship … etc.

[Romney] dropped in evangelical code phrases and themes like the de-Christianization of Europe, the dangers of a secular America and America’s godly heritage,” writes David Kuo for his belief.net J-Walking blog in a post titled Romney’s one paragraph gaffe, our big problem, a suggestion

But it was also a profoundly spiritual speech. He said he was going to stand up for his faith and that he wasn’t going to get into the business of theology. Then he did just that. In the middle of the speech was this:

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.

In that single paragraph he blew his chance to slam the door on the pastor-in-chief idea because he was, consciously or not, making the theological argument that Mormonism was basically a part of historic Christianity. And it is, in the judgment of most liberal and conservative Christian theologians, not a part of historic Christianity. The fact that we will now be debating this is evidence of the one paragraph gaffe.

Kennedy’s 1960 speech succeeded in no small part because it was devoid of any religious sentiment. Nowhere in that speech did Kennedy say anything about what he believed. In fact, he said religion was a fundamentally private matter.

Romney’s speech basically did the same thing. But then, perhaps because it is simply what he believes and didn’t think it would be a big deal, perhaps because he wanted evangelicals to know that Mike Huckabee wasn’t the only one who could talk about Jesus, he did the theology thing. And now, instead of moving past this matter – as we should be doing because debating theology is decidedly not what presidential elections are supposed to be about – we will be discussing Mormon theology.

All of this points to our very, very big problem.

[Romney's Mormon-Kennedy address] is eloquent in many parts, stirring in its defense of religious liberty, with only a couple of notes off-key,” writes Andrew Sullivan for his Daily Dish in a post titled The Romney Speech

Romney: Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

Sullivan: Ahem. But it has two deep flaws. The first is the absence of any notion that religious freedom includes the freedom to have no religion whatever. A president of the United States does not just represent people of all faiths, he also represents those who have none. There is a lacuna in Romney’s vision of religious tolerance, and it is a deliberate lacuna. In order to appeal to evangelicals, he places himself on their side against the other: the secularists. But that is simply another form of the religious test. By insisting on faith – any faith – as the proper criterion for public office, Romney draws the line, oh-so-conveniently, so as to include Mormonism but exclude atheism and agnosticism. And so he side-steps the critical issue in the debates over religion in public life: what if there is no unifying faith for a nation? What if faith itself cannot unify a nation – and, in fact, can divide it more deeply than any other subject? That is our reality. An intelligent and wise conservative would try to find a path to a common discourse that does not rest on religious foundations.

The second flaw is that he simply cannot elide the profound theological differences between the LDS church and mainstream Christianity …

I think it’s a tragedy that a man of Romney’s obvious gifts should be reduced to this. But he asked for it; and the petard he has been hoist on is his own. If you want a religious politics, you’ll end up with one. That’s why Huckabee is the natural heir to the Rove project. And why Romney is falling behind … etc.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

Here be the consensus view: Romney—whether wittingly or no—issued theological claims in his address. So: Romney is now stuck with a discussion of Mormonism. Also: Romney 2007—as opposed to Romney 2002—courts Evangelicals, articulates his views in Evangelical language, and takes Evangelical positions, yet Romney refuses to articulate how he arrives at his new positions.

yours &c.
dr. g.d

“So, Mitt is going to give that Mormon speech,” writes Jay Cost in a realclearpolitics election 2008 article titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign

Is this a surprise? Of course not. His position in the Iowa polls explains the decision entirely. He’s trailing Huckabee in Iowa. A few weeks ago he was up by 14% – and he wasn’t going to give the speech. Now that he’s down, the speech is back on.”

This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.

If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows … etc.

We heartily concur. Only the most naive of ingenues could make a mistake of this magnitude:

Says Romney himself as quoted by David Frum in a David Frum Diary post titled That Dog Won’t Hunt“There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.”

Frum: To be blunt, Romney is saying:

It is legitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the son of God?”

But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?”

It is hard for me to see a principled difference between these two questions, and I think on reflection that the audiences to whom Romney is trying to appeal will also fail to see such a difference. Once Romney answered any question about the content of his religious faith, he opened the door to every question about the content of his religious faith. This speech for all its eloquence will not stanch the flow of such questions.

Bad move – and one with very unfair results to a candidate who all must acknowledge is a man who has proven that his mind actually operates in a highly empirical, data-driven, and uncredulous way.

Had he focused instead on simply arguing that presidents need only prove themselves loyal to American values, he would have been on safe ground. Instead, he over-reached, super-adding to his civic appeal an additional appeal to voters who demand faith in Jesus as a requirement in a president. That is an argument that will not work – and a game Mitt Romney cannot win.

We have harped on this same string for weeks. See:

how Romney botched the Mormon-Kennedy-speech issue by setting up impossible expectations, by consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and by allowing others to frame the debate

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Evidence of Romney playing “the game he cannot win” because of the line of inquiry his own speech opened up:

“I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” says Romney, as quoted by Kevin McCullough in a townhall.com blog post titled WORST Romney line of THE SPEECH!

McCullough continues: Here is the mega-million problem with the inclusion of this line within the text of the speech… Romney runs the risk of sounding nanny-ish in chiding the voter into what the “should” or “should not” do. Americans vote in this nation for many, many reasons.

Here Romney is attempting to goad evangelicals into feeling guilty for choosing Huckabee because they perhaps feel more comfortable with his decision making process knowing it utilizes a faith system that mirrors their own… There is nothing inherently negative in that rationale.

What Romney should have emphasized instead was that since the core values product of his belief system mirrors the same RESULTS as an evangelical then evangelicals having nothing to fear in choosing to support him.

I would have to also guess that this is one heck of a disengenious line that overreached on a significant level for the Governor (and keep in mind my admiration for Mitt). But would not it be enough to disqualify a person for the office of President – if per se their religion of choice was Wicken, or Satanism? … etc.

Romney as cited by John Podhoretz in a http://www.commentarymagazine.com post titled Romney’s Boilerplate Mistake: There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

Podhorez comments: That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now … etc.





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