Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Martin’

[...] “NPR reports that Mitt Romney is shaking up his staff today and taking more control himself,” writes Erick of Redstate.com in a blog burst titled Sources Say

Also, I hear from multiple sources that he has shifted some staff around, pulling people from Florida and sending them to Michigan [...]

Loses learn. This is one of the uses of adversity. Not so Team Romney, we used to argue, because Romney’s vast personal fortune insulates Team Romney from the costs of its failures.

But now there is evidence that the Romney is attempting to rationalize its organization and its operations. This could allow them to, you know, develop a message that connects with voters.

Regard:

“Mitt Romney hasn’t extended his television presence into next week in South Carolina and Florida, an aide confirms,” writes Jonathan Martin of the politico.com in a blog burst titled Mitt not re-upping his S.C. and Fla. TV time

Romney has been on TV for months in both states, owning the airwaves long before his GOP rivals purchased their first spots.

But his multimillion-dollar investment in the two key states that may ultimately decide the GOP nominee has not paid off as he continues to lag behind rivals there.

Spokesman Kevin Madden declined to say whether their decision was based upon strategy or money [...]

[...] Ten days before South Carolina and 20 before Florida it’s difficult to see why he’d go dark in either crucial state, unless he’s decided to limit how much of his own cash he’s using on what has so far been a disappointing campaign.

UPDATE: Another indication that Romney is easing back on the self-funding — an adviser tells AP’s Glen Johnson that they recognize that their ad campaign wasn’t terribly effective and that now they’re going to focus on earned media. Also known as free media [...]

Martin interprets this move as weakness.

We interpret it as strength, amazing strength, strength combined with a stern resolve. Viz.: Romney has the money. So this is not the voice of grim necessity. Rather: This is a rational choice, a sober choice, and the correct choice.

These corrections suggest a more accurate interpretation of the upcoming contests and the players involved. These corrections also suggest a more accurate assessment of what is achievable and for what cost. Here is the money quote from the Glen Jonhson AP article that Martin links to:

[...] Conceding Romney had been hurt by a backlash against the hard-hitting television commercials the former Massachusetts governor ran against Huckabee and McCain, the adviser said the campaign hoped to “get away from the paid media and get more of the earned media.”

The shift would suggest a greater emphasis on generating newspaper, Internet and television coverage, especially in Michigan, where Romney was born and which is next on the primary calendar on Jan. 15. Romney flies to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday after a fundraiser in Boston [...]

A targeted, earned-media strategy will allow Team Romney to correctly assess the effectiveness of their messages. The data and experience that accrues from their efforts can help them increase their ROI and develop more effective messages. They will have at last organized themselves into a learning loop more closely coupled to their audiences and sources of support. They will in the very least be be spending less which will improve their image. In other words, they will have caught up with the other campaigns.

However: In the same article, Johnson also reports this:

[...] Nonetheless, Romney chided McCain and Huckabee for cherry-picking contests, with Huckabee having focused on Iowa while McCain focused on New Hampshire. Romney spent more than $7 million on advertising in each state, and held as many, if not more, events in both places than any of his GOP rivals [...]

But reports are that Romney is withdrawing staff from SC and FL to invest in MI. Also: reports indicate that Romney is scaling back his ad buys in SC and FL. In other words, Romney too has learned to cherry-pick. As we have argued elsewhere, what Romney calls “cherry-picking” is the most rational strategy in an election cycle with no clear coalition. Politics specifies itself in space—demography, geography, and ideology all intertwine and pass into one another—to build a coalition from the ground up you need to first establish a regional base.

The other candidates have staked out the parts of the map they want to contest. (The first candidate to recognize and act on the new reality was Mayor Giuliani. His strategy has yet to encounter its first real contest.)

Romney has yet to do that.

But: Evidence indicates that he now moves in that direction.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Hypothetical questions: What if Romney were to campaign on who he is instead of an invented Romney? What if Romney were to organize a rational and ethical campaign? What if Romney were to cease his grimly negative campaigning?

Answer: the governing assumptions of this web log would be all, and in an instant, overturned. And we would be forced to admit that this was the case or risk being accused of being irrational ourselves. At that moment we truly would become a Blog for Mitt as we would no longer have a case against a Romney presidency.

Question: Is such an outcome even possible?

Go Mitt!—i.e. stop lying, stop shape-shifting, stop sliming other candidates, and stop spending money that you did not raise through your own hard efforts, and go and be our President.

“NASHUA, N.H., Jan 6 (Reuters) – Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney said on Sunday he would balance the U.S. budget deficit within “a few years” if he won the 2008 race for the U.S. presidency,” writes Jason Szep in a reuters release titled Romney says would balance budge in “few years”

Asked by a voter at a rally in the southern New Hampshire city of Nashua whether he would balance the budget by March 2009 if elected, Romney said he wouldn’t give a timetable because of the cost of financing the U.S. war in Iraq [...]

This is beneath comment. So let’s consider another point.

“At the Intrade Prediction Market, Romney has dropped to fourth place with only a 12.6% chance of winning the Republican nomination, behind McCain (who is now the favorite), Giuliani, and Huckabee,” writes the writer of Half Sigma in a post titled Time for Romney to withdraw?

When Romney loses to McCain in New Hampshire tomorrow, it’s time for him to withdraw. If he can’t win New Hampshire, which is sort of a suburb of Boston, where is he going to win besides in Utah and Massachusetts? [...]

We’re beginning to wonder about what Romney’s plan truly is. The so-called “data driven” candidate must know by now that the primary process—as it is conventionally construed—will not support a Romney nomination. Here may be the secret of Romney’s intentions:

[...] “Romney’s campaign team is already preparing their Wolverine State campaign and they’ve already filled his schedule with retail events there, hitting conservative-dominated western Michigan for the first few days before turning to population centers like Detroit and Lansing,” Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei in a politico.com feast-for-the-mind titled Romney dials down expectations hard
In mail and TV spots there, they’ll drive the candidate’s change message, and if he loses here, they will continue to contrast with McCain on Washington experience, immigration and taxes.Should Romney’s New Hampshire loss be close, an adviser previewed their spin as: “Look at our body of work over 10 days. We came in first in Wyoming and second in Iowa and New Hampshire. Who else can match that?” [...]

Translation: In what Team Romney specifyies as Romney’s receding regional stronghold strategy, you can detect the outlines of Romney’s new national strategy. It consists in fighting to remain a player until the convention, accumulating delegates by means of grim attrition. It is a hard, despairing, and enormously expensive strategy.

Think of it this way: the task of the primary campaigner is to develop the coherent story of a message passing into a general movement from the fragmented, particular, and variable character of the contests themselves. Romney’s strategy now becomes the precise opposite. He must simultaneously

Resist like grim death the other candidates’ attempts to beat their way out of their regional redoubts—holding them off until the convention

-and-

Eke out as many victories, near-victories, or rationales for non-victories (Iowans are religious bigots!) as possible to maintain the semblance of vialbility—again: until the convention

For Romney to prevail, he needs to develop disorder, disunity, and fragmentation. How do you accomplish this?—relentlessly negative campaigning. Every one must get slimed beyond viability. This is what happens in a game when you have a player who neither respects the game nor even the field it’s played on.

Meanwhile: expect lots more grandiosity from the hapless candidate as he fights to stay in the headlines.

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.

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — For months, there has been an open secret among insiders working in or covering the 2008 Republican campaign: The rival candidates despise Mitt Romney,” writes Jonathan Martin in a Politico.com article titled Rivals pile on Romney

After Saturday night in New Hampshire, it’s no longer a secret. The contempt was obvious, and relentless. And it was harnessed for clear strategic purposes at the debate. Everyone — even candidates who don’t seem to be in the center of the New Hampshire action — felt it was in their interest to pile on the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney may have been knocked from front-runner status in Iowa, but this night he was at the center — of a rhetorical firing squad. Four of Romney’s Republican opponents joined together to put him through a grueling evening, taking turns offering derisive quips and questions about his authenticity and throwing him on the defensive at a critical moment for his campaign [...]

[...] Combined it was a brutal gang attack, the likes of which have been unseen in any previous debate.

And it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Romney. With two new New Hampshire polls out showing him now down 6 points in this critical state, he needed to set himself apart tonight.

He had hoped to sound his outsider message and discuss his private sector credentials.

Instead he looked rattled at times, unprepared for the waves of attacks.

After McCain’s final salvo, he seemed to plead for mercy: “The continued personal barbs are interesting but unnecessary” [...]

Romney is the establishment candidate. He bought and paid for that singular distinction.

So: What do you call it when all of your other candidates rebel against—and concert their arguments against—your party establishment in the person of the establishment candidate?

These are not good times for the conservative institutions—talk radio, new media, The National Review etc.—who joined their fortunes to those of Willard Milton Romney.

abcnews.com’s Rick Klein concurs with Martin:

[...] But I saw that as a pretty bad night for Mitt Romney. I think he was outflanked on immigration by McCain and Giuliani — that’s not easy to do. And you can tell that nobody on that stage likes him. He’s a frontrunner here, so he can expect the heat, but so is John McCain, and yet everyone rushed to defend McCain and attack Romney. Why would Romney say he likes mandates? How could he have let Fred Thompson best him on a debate over healthcare? Just a few of the many questions he’s going to have to sort out, against the backdrop of some McCain momentum in New Hampshire? [...]

Team Romney concurs too, as eye of eyon08.com argues:

[...] only two surrogates were in the spin room: Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan. None of the national surrogates in town. No Senator Judd Gregg, Romney New Hampshire campaign chairman. Where was Judd?

That leads me to my second fact. Judd Gregg was the first person to leave the debate. [...]

We long ago predicted that the other campaigns would concert their efforts to defeat Romney. Events continue to confirm our surmise:

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney absorbed repeated attacks from his rivals tonight, as competitors joined in common cause to take down the one-time New Hampshire frontrunner,” writes Elizabeth Holmes in an online.wsj.com article titled McCain Leads Attack on Romney in New Hampshire Debate

The harshest blows during the ABC News/Facebook debate came from Arizona Sen. John McCain, Mr. Romney’s fiercest opponent in this first-in-the-nation primary state. Mr. Romney, who was badly beat in Iowa Thursday, has been campaigning ever since as a “change agent” able to fix Washington.

But Mr. McCain turned his words on him, derisively referenced his changing positions on social issues, calling him the “candidate of change.” Later, during a discussion of immigration, Mr. Romney complained about being misquoted. Mr. McCain responded: “When you change…positions on issue from time to time, you will get misquoted.”

The attack on Mr. Romney continued throughout the evening in the only Republican debate to fall between Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s contests. The assault came not just from Mr. McCain but from other Republicans in the hunt as well: Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson.

Although each is fighting his own battle, the quartet appeared united in trying to eliminate Mr. Romney from the race sooner rather than later [...]

Romney for his part would be well advised to suck-it-up. For Team Romney it may be useful to study Sen. Clinton’s attempts to play victim after a similar debate debacle.

Her complaints were counterproductive.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] Romney [...] must find a new rationale for a candidacy that was based almost entirely on the prospect of scoring early victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and using them to build national momentum,” write John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin in a surprisingly inept politico.com account titled Iowa leaves GOP in total dissarray, only the writers, despite themselves, somehow do discover an underlying structure. We just need to try to clarify it for them.

[...] If Romney loses again in New Hampshire, where he had until recently been leading, his candidacy will go on life support.

Some aides suggested that the former Massachusetts governor’s last-stand effort would be later this month in Michigan, where Romney grew up and where his father was governor in the 1960s.

But the Iowa results underscored problems of a candidate who had money, organizational skill, good looks and the support of many establishment politicians and Washington operatives.

Conservatives had questions over his consistency and qualms over his Mormon faith and a personal style that leaves many cold.

These reservations trumped what had been a skilled organization and millions of dollars spent from his own fortune on television ads — many of them unsuccessful attacks on Huckabee as outside the mainstream of conservative thinking.

Huckabee can be sure that there are more attacks ahead [...]

Translation: In the space of one evening Romney has defacto been beaten back from his so-called national strategy to a regional strongholds strategy, as described by Brownstein of the NYT.

Our take: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan—a lightening strike on two fronts to secure the center—is finally dead.

Recall: Romney’s von Schlieffen plan consisted in

(a) Securing the social conservative base by running far to the right of the other candidates as Pres. Bush the younger did in 2000, and by spreading around a lot of love to conservative elites and intellectuals

-and-

(b) Developing the organization on the ground to guarantee victories in the early states

Team Romney has failed at both tasks. Only they had failed at both tasks by last summer, as we have argued over and over on this blog using only secondary sources as our grounds or data.

What interests us is how facts and developments on the ground fail to register at the posh, waterfront headquarters of Team Romney. In the very teeth of contrary data or testimony Team Romney always respond by doing what they had been doing only harder, faster, and more frantically. And for what? Iowa? Further, Romney had to have seen this coming—no one polls on the ground like Romney. It was as if Romney was at war with the laws of physics as opposed to trying to persuade a quirky and eccentric regional segment of the US electorate.

Regard:

[...] Each candidate will focus on different elements of the conservative coalition, and who wins could say much about what issues are paramount to a party in transition.

Romney will press economic and cultural issues, hoping to contrast his views with those of McCain and Huckabee on taxes on immigration and those of Giuliani on immigration and abortion rights.

Despite his moderate past, he’ll argue that to be successful the party needs a candidate who can appeal to social, economic and security conservatives [...]

Translation: Expect Romney to have learned nothing. Romney’s record of governance and his character do not support this message. Perhaps the party does need “a candidate who can appeal to social, economic and security conservatives.” But Romney has never done that, nor has he demonstrated that he can do it now. Precisely the opposite is the case. 

Back to Harris and Martin:

[...] There is no question that evangelical support — estimated by network entrance polls as 60 percent of the Republican caucus turnout — was critical to Huckabee’s victory.

But some strategists said that Huckabee has the ability to widen his support.

“His success was also due to his appeal as an authentic and genuine candidate that connected with middle America,” veteran conservative strategist Greg Mueller e-mailed.

“This is an important characteristic of his campaign as it heads to New Hampshire, where [former] Gov. Huckabee now needs to broaden his populist appeal by using the bully pulpit to contrast with McCain on populist themes such as his fair tax plan, immigration and fair trade. In each of these issue areas, Huckabee can position McCain as a Washington insider that represents special interests [...]

Yes, only no. Gov. Huckabee will never attempt to position Sen McCain as anything other than a friend and national hero. Have Harris and Martin not been watching or listening to anything so far in this election cycle? And Gov. Huckabee will bypass NH altogether to invest his modest resources where he can be guaranteed a higher return, because this is how you develop a coalition from the ground up. Yes, “each candidate will focus on different elements of the conservative coalition, and who wins could say much about what issues are paramount to a party in transition,” but these “elements” specify themselves regionally—as we have argued elsewhere, politics specifies itself in space—ideology, demography, and geography all intertwine.

Apparently observers and commentators still need time to reflect upon the lesson of the 2008 Iowa caucuses.

Apparently so does Romney.

Wake up, dudes.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney is up with well over 1,000 gross ratings points in every major Iowa television market this week, a footprint that that is significantly larger than that of his nearest competitor,” writes Jonathan Martin for the politico.com in a post titled Romney saturating Iowa airwaves

Romney has purchased over 2,000 points on Cedar Rapids TV, just over 1,700 in Des Moines and just shy of 1,500 in Davenport. The three markets comprise the vast swath of central and eastern Iowa and are the largest in terms of Iowans reached in the state. The records were provided by a Democratic source who tracks media buys.Roughly speaking, 1,000 points means that the typical viewer will be exposed to an ad 10 times in a given week. Ad buys larger than 1,000 points are generally considered as having reached “saturation.”

Beyond these three markets, Romney also has ads up in the four cities that serve Iowa viewers (including 1,900 points in the heavily GOP Sioux City market) … etc.

Further, while Romney hemorrhages money in Iowa for continuously diminishing marginal returns, he hemorrhages credibility in New Hampshire as

(a) No newspaper has endorsed him while the more liberal Concord Monitor and the conservative NH Union Leader have un-endorsed the hapless candidate

and

(b) Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain have formed an Iowa-New Hamphshire axis, as reported by Michael Levenson of the Boston Globe in a story titled McCain, Huckabee form unusual alliance against Romney

John McCain and Mike Huckabee have become unusual allies, united by their desire to stop Mitt Romney from winning the early presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

While Huckabee and McCain have repeatedly criticized Romney, they have showered each other with affection. McCain has lauded Huckabee as “a man of integrity, honesty, and decency.” And Huckabee has praised McCain as “a true, honest-to-God American hero.”

The warmth between them may be heartfelt, but both men recognize that they need each other over the next two weeks. McCain needs Huckabee to beat Romney in Iowa’s Republican caucuses on Jan. 3, so that Romney is weakened for the New Hampshire primary five days later. And Huckabee needs McCain to draw votes from Romney in Iowa. Polls indicate McCain and Romney are in a statistical tie in New Hampshire, and Huckabee is leading Romney In Iowa … etc.

We predicted long ago that other campaigns would react by acting in concert to Romney’s ill-advised attempts to shut them out of the early states:

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

By concerting their activities, Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee significantly lower the costs of engaging Romney while forcing Romney to divide and disperse his efforts to resist them.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“For McCain’s campaign, [Romney's viciously negative] attacks are a welcome validation of its resurrection,” writes Jonathan Martin in a Politico.com post titled Mitt goes on the offensive with McCain

More than that, though, they’re an opportunity to engage and hit back hard on a rival that both candidate and campaign detest.

To wit, McCain’s camp responded to Romney’s salvo with a stinging statement.

“From his claims of being a ‘lifelong hunter’ to receiving the NRA’s endorsement to marching with Martin Luther King Jr., it’s clear that Mitt Romney has trouble with the truth,” said Chuck Douglas, a former New Hampshire congressman and designated McCain surrogate there.

“His latest attacks are yet another example of his complete inability to level with the voters of New Hampshire. The facts are clear: Romney refused to endorse the Bush tax cuts he now claims to champion, maybe because he was too busy raising taxes in Massachusetts by over $700 million per year — more than any other state — in his first year in office.”

“New Hampshire voters expect and deserve integrity and authenticity in their leaders, not someone who changes his positions to fit the politics of the moment and can’t seem to tell the truth” … etc., etc.

Romney-shill Matt Drudge provides has already joined the fray. As we wrote elsewhere:

We just wonder when the super-geniuses at National Review Online—a subsidiary of Bain Capital and fiercely partisan Blog for Mitt—will begin to insinuate that to nominate Sen. McCain would be to destroy the GOP.

And what about Clear Channel, recently acquired by Romney’s own Bain Capital?—how soon before Rush Limbaugh et al begin to savage war hero Sen. McCain with the same ferocity they applied to person and character of Gov. Huckabee?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“CARROLL, Iowa — Seemingly resigned to his new role as an Iowa underdog, Mitt Romney said Friday that he would use the remaining three weeks before the caucuses to draw bright-line differences with Mike Huckabee,” writes Jonathan Martin in a politico.com post titled Fading Romney targets Huckabee

But he also acknowledged that the time to do so is growing short and that he could not completely control his own political fate.

Asked in an interview with Politico if he could stop his precipitous drop in the polls and come back by Jan. 3, Romney matter-of-factly replied: “Don’t know. I don’t know.”

After arguing that he only hoped to finish in the top three, the former Massachusetts governor and onetime Iowa front-runner seemed resigned and said that he was “not going to lose sleep over it.”

“Part of this is just the nature of the calendar, how much time people have to get to know [Huckabee’s] record,” Romney said.

Romney’s rhetoric can partially be chalked up to expectation-lowering. But he also plainly recognizes the difficulties posed by Huckabee, a candidate who has risen largely on the strength of his dazzling and down-home communications skills. Natural gifts, Romney admitted, he lacks …

… That he’s lost a lead in this state to a candidate who has done considerably less—and whose organization remains almost skeletal here — is not lost on Romney. He conceded that while he expected an eventual head-to-head competitor in Iowa, he “didn’t think it would be Mike Huckabee.”

To revive his Iowa campaign and perhaps his White House hopes, Romney made clear he would offer Republican caucus-goers a fuller picture of Huckabee than they have previously had of the affable and engaging Baptist minister … etc.

After spending millions on the ground in Iowa Romney is reduced to spinning expectations—risibly, pathetically, Romney tries to claim that expectations are on Gov. Huckabee and that Huckabee must win big to prevail—when precisely the opposite is the case. After all the many months of super-expensive early advertising and organization on the ground, if Romney returns anything less than a total blow-out in Iowa, he loses, and loses huge.

“HUMBOLDT, Iowa (AP) – Mitt Romney accused Republican presidential rival Mike Huckabee of ‘running from the wrong party’ for criticizing President Bush’s foreign policy as an ‘arrogant bunker mentality,'” writes Jim Kuhnhenn, an Associated Press writer of unusual insight in an article titled Romney: Huckabee Critique Un-Republican

Romney defended Bush against Huckabee’s charge, which the former Arkansas governor leveled in the January-February issue of the respected journal Foreign Affairs.

“I can’t believe he’d say that,” Romney said to a gathering of about 100 supporters in a restaurant here. “I had to look again—did this come from Barack Obama or from Hillary Clinton? Did it come from John Edwards? No, it was Governor Huckabee.”

Romney has been aggressively criticizing Huckabee, stressing differences over immigration and economic policy in hopes of recapturing a lead he had enjoyed in Iowa for most of the year. Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article, made public Friday, offered another line of attack.

“I’m the last person to say that this administration is subject to an arrogant, bunker mentality that is counterproductive here and abroad,” he said. “The truth of the matter is this president has kept us safe these past six years and that has not been easy to do.”

Romney takes a stand on an issue? But wait:

Still, Romney carefully stressed that he believed the administration had engaged in missteps during the war in Iraq and said his defense of Bush did not mean he would follow the president’s current policy to the letter.

“We were under-prepared and under-planned and understaffed,” he said of the war following the fall of Saddam Hussein. “There is no question we weren’t perfectly managed.”

So Romney concurs with Huckabee?—we really were under-prepared, under-staffed etc.? Question: Can Romney clear his throat without flip-flopping on a crucial issue?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“AP’s Glen Johnson and Liz Sidoti have news of the first negative ad to air in the GOP race,” writes Jonathan Martin of the Politico in a post titled Romney to hit Huck on immigration in Iowa

Who: Mitt on Huck
What: Immigration
When: Starting tomorrow
Where: Iowa

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden tells me that the spot “clarifies the distinct differences between Governor Romney and Mike Huckabee on the issue of immigration.”

UPDATE: I’ve gotten my hands on the ad itself, “The Record.”

Note the gentle lead-in. Romney’s camp plainly recognizes the danger of going negative in Iowa, so they go to considerable length to frame the attack with what is both a nod of respect to Huckabee and a sly effort at dulling the differences between the two on cultural issues.

Then comes the knife, aimed squarely at Huck’s support for providing the children of illegal immigrants tuition breaks … etc.

Also:

Landscaper: Romney Never Insisted Employees Be Legal—as reported by Fox News. The landscaper who Mitt Romney fired earlier this week for continuing to employ illegal immigrants says the termination boils down to little more than politics.

And again:

“Romney doesn’t deserve “amnesty” for this recurring lapse in judgment,” writes Ruben Navarrette in a RealClearPolitics.com story titled Romney Makes It Hard to Trust Him

And for two reasons:

First, there is the hypocrisy. Millions of Americans benefit from the sweat of illegal immigrants – directly or indirectly – but Romney is the one trying to score political points off these people. As if illegal immigrants don’t do enough, they are now fodder to help put Mitt Romney in the Oval Office.

And second, there is the issue of authenticity. Romney may have tripped up in his effort to fool Republican voters into believing that he’s a real conservative – on abortion, gun control, gay rights and now on illegal immigration – and that he takes to heart the concerns of conservative voters.

Romney desperately needs to sell that line, especially in conservative states such as Iowa where Republican voters at town halls demand to know how candidates will stop illegal immigration. And if Iowans are like many other Americans, after they’ve said their peace, they retreat to their homes to watch cable television demagogues and wring their hands over the “invasion” while someone else does the yardwork, or the housework, or the child care, or the cooking … etc., etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

The Speech: How is it playing in Iowa,” asks Jonathan Martin of the Politico.

Not great.

At least not in the most powerful paper in the state, The Des Moines Register.

The arrival of snow here in the heartland as well as the Omaha tragedy has diminished some of the coverage, but The Speech still got considerable attention yesterday and today.

It was above the fold, in the top right corner (the traditional lead story position) of yesterday’s paper.

“Romney takes risk with talk on faith,” read the headline above David Lightman’s syndicated story. The piece included significant skepticism about the political impact of Romney’s speech. But worse for Mitt’s camp, it included this key right under the story ended on page one: “Learn more about Mormonism” (yes, it was in bold).

On the back of the front section was a list of bullet points under “Beliefs of the Mormon Church.” Naturally, included were all the key differences between the LDS church and mainline Christianity.

Today’s paper played the story on the inside of the front section, with two pieces. First was the AP wrap from College Station headlined “Romney vows to serve nation, not Mormon church, if elected.” It was the shortened version of Glen Johnson’s piece, but the last two paragraphs had this:

“Mormons believe that authentic Christianity vanished a century after Jesus and was restored only through Joseph Smith, who founded the religion and is viewed as a prophet by its adherents.

“The Mormon scriptures include the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as books containing Smith’s revelations.”

This was the danger for Romney in giving the speech: even though he would not address doctrinal differences, giving a high-profile faith speech would inevitably spur others (as in the media) to raise those differences and therefore draw more attention to a religion that some committed Christians have serious issues with or at least questions about … etc.

Others concur with Martin’s analysis.

“THE albatross hanging around Mitt Romney’s neck, his church, hardly budged after he made what was touted as a landmark speech on religion but only once made mention of the word ‘Mormon,'” writes Robert Lusetich, Los Angeles correspondent for theaustralian.news.com.au, in a story titled ‘Kennedy speech’ fails to win Romney sceptics

Also:

“Mitt Romney gave his long-anticipated speech about religion, which he called “Faith in America,” writes Star Parker for the Scripps Howard News Service in editorial titled The doubts about Romney remain

The purported purpose of the address was for the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor to dispel festering doubts about himself because of his Mormon faith.

Unfortunately, I believe it was a failed performance.

I think that Romney and his team overestimated the extent to which his Mormonism has been what is troubling his candidacy and underestimated the extent to which his credibility has been the real problem.

Despite outspending all the other candidates, the Romney candidacy hasn’t ignited … etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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