The Romney campaign emits noise that sounds like someone who has a plan, a detailed plan. Only when you—you e.g. voters and participators—behave in ways that Team Romney’s plan would not predict, Team Romney responds not by reviewing and perhaps revising The Plan; rather, they respond by lecturing you about why you should respect and follow The Plan. In other words, the Romneys consistently confuse their map (their plan) for the terrain (which is you and the judgments you make about the candidates and their messages).

For example, their 2-man race theme that we vary and elaborate on here:

The Romneys decided early on that they could win against Giuliani by occupying ground to the right of him—hence, the 2-man Race theme. But they encountered 2 problems.

1. Romney never completed the task of consolidating his right flank—despite surging ever further to the right, Romney could never make the case that he (a) deserves the votes of conservatives, or (b) that he is a conservative at all. Conservatives, whether Evangelicals, security firsters, fair-trade nativists, fiscal conservatives etc., etc. remain divided and dispersed among the candidates. See:

2. The other candidates—principally Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee—stubbornly refuse to allow to Romney to position himself as the only alternative to former Mayor Giuliani. They persist; they continue to pursue their own agendas. And Gov. Huckabee has driven Romney to last place in the national polls.

Rather than adapting their map to the new and evolving terrain, the Romneys would rather you, the terrain, pay better attention to their map. This explains why Team Romney and their noisy surrogates bellow at us about a “2-man race” when the facts on the ground support other interpretations. Another attempt by Team Romney to account for their map-terrian disconnect is the “Romney is a victim of religious prejudice” theme, which we will refer to as (R).

Our editorial policy is this: we have nothing but respect for the Mormon tradition. We happen to be Jews. We wear a kippah, tzitzit, and we believe that separating milk and meat draws us closer to Hashem. In the morning we wrap our left arm in a leather strap, wear a box on our head, and enfold ourselves in a four-cornered bedouin garment that we use when we pray—this gives our daughter great delight, BTW. In a few weeks when our son enters this world (Baruch Hashem), a Rabbi is going to cut him where no man wants to be cut and then we will all eat and celebrate. So whatever our Mormon brothers and sisters believe—we really don’t know, nor do we really care—it could not possibly be as strange to the wider world as that which we hold to. Hence: We are interested in (R) only to the degree that it has become a theme—an argument, an alibi, a rationale—for the Romney campaign’s non-performance.

Here is (R) as articulated by Martin Frost in a FoxNews opinion piece titled Romney Falling Victim to Voters’ Religious Discrimination

I thought that the concept of a religious test for public office in our country was put to bed once and for all when John Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected president in 1960 and Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, was nominated for vice president in 2000.

Now we have a candidate with a record of accomplishment, Mitt Romney, who is consistently lagging in the polls with the most credible reason being that significant numbers of Republican primary voters will not support him because of his Mormon religion.

When voters, particularly in the South, are asked to identify candidates that they would not support for president under any circumstances, Romney leads the list. Romney is rejected as a potential presidential candidate in this type polling more often than other polarizing figures such as Rudy Giuliani. It has become increasingly clear that many conservative voters will not support an otherwise qualified candidate who happens to be a Mormon … etc., etc.

Frost evaluates the problem in absolute terms: Romney is a Mormon. Southern Christians will not support even a richly qualified Mormon. Hence, Romney is a victim of religious prejudice. Nichols and Stern, however, in an article titled Romney Shouldn’t Equate Mormons, Christians, Evangelicals Say offer a more nuanced account:

Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) — As Mitt Romney scours the South for endorsements from evangelical leaders, he is getting some unusual advice on how to explain his Mormon faith: Don’t try to be one of us.

“I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, `I am a Christian just like you,”’ said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. “If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences” …

Rep. Inglis is a wise counselor.

Related case: We have no problem with Christians. We will happily vote for Christians, Hindus, or even, hypothetically, Muslims, depending on their views, opinions, positions, policies etc. But: When e.g. so-called Jews for Jesus claim that they are Jews, or that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, or when Christians lecture us about how Jesus is the fulfillment of our law and our prophets, or when millennialists (or pre- or post-millennialists) lecture us about how Jews must return to Israel for Jesus to return, then we take exception—then we insist on drawing distinctions, explaining the differences etc.

Omnis determinatio est negatio—all determination is negation—is a fact of social life—we define ourselves not so much by what we are as by what we are not, and we guard our sense of identity jealously. You do not threaten us to the degree that you are different from us, or that you tell us that we are different from you—we are respecters of difference and appreciators of diversity; rather: you threaten us to the degree that you tell us that we are the same.

This has been our problem with Romney all along. He not only wants to tell us that he is now a conservative; he wants to lecture us on what it means to be a conservative. “This is a habit of Romney’s,” writes Ryan Lizza for The New Yorker’s column, The Political Scene, titled The Mission; Mitt Romney’s strategies for success

… Politicians tend to pander, especially during the primary season. Romney’s chief opponent, Rudy Giuliani, also has a history as a pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights Republican. But while Giuliani simply downplays his record on those issues, Romney sells himself as a true convert. He not only shifts positions; he often claims to be the most passionate advocate of his new stances. It’s one of the reasons that his metamorphosis from liberal Republican to committed right-winger seems so jarring. In 1994, in his race for the Senate, he didn’t simply argue that he was a defender of gay rights; he claimed to be a stronger advocate than his opponent, Edward Kennedy.

Today, he’s not just a faithful conservative but the only Republican candidate who represents “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” He brings a salesman’s bravado and certainty to issues. At a debate in May, when asked how he would respond to a hypothetical situation involving the interrogation of a terrorist at Guantánamo Bay, he said, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is that we ought to double Guantánamo. Elected as a pro-choice governor in 2002—YouTube is flooded with his passionate advocacy of abortion rights—he now presents himself as the most resolute anti-abortion candidate in the Republican field. A Mormon, he sometimes adopts the religious language of Evangelicals when he is addressing conservative Christian groups. To economic conservatives, he pitches himself as the candidate most strongly committed to slashing spending and taxes. (He’s the only major G.O.P. candidate to have signed a formal anti-tax pledge, the sort of move that his spokesman dismissed as “government by gimmickry” in Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.) … etc., etc.

Hence: we would argue that Romney’s (R) problem—to the degree that he has one—is consistent with Romney’s larger problem. Romney’s larger problem is his patent lack of respect for the intelligence of those whose support he covets. You cannot put on blackface and tell our African-American brothers and sisters that you are blacker than they are. You cannot prance about in fishnet stockings and stiletto heels and tell women that you are more of a woman then they are. Likewise: you cannot suddenly issue fifty meaningless policy proposals of an allegedly conservative character and proudly announce to Republicans that you represent the “Republican wing of the Republican Party”—riffing on Howard Dean, no less—when you have spent over a decade campaigning and governing from the left. Yet the Romneys overlook this simple explanation; instead: they would rather issue one more insult to the very people they need to help them win our highest office. Team Romney wants to argue that voters—Republican voters—are a dangerous mob of slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, rube-bastard hick-bigots.

In other words, rather than review the accuracy of their map, Team Romney would rather rail at the terrain for its narrow mindedness.

What interests us is this: the primaries have yet to begin and the Romneys and their entourage of grovelers are already assigning blame for their many failures. What are their internal polls telling them, we wonder?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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  1. 1 writing lists to Romney; whaat a primitive analytical device—a simple list—can reveal about a troubled campaign reaching out to a movement in disarray « who is willard milton romney?

    […] a conservative Romney and a moderate Giuliani. In response to Romney’s 2-man race theme we had this to say: 1. Romney never completed the task of consolidating his right flank—despite surging ever […]

  2. 2 Rothenberg: “Given this fundamental belief (which is hardly irrational), when Romney said, midway in his speech at the Bush Library, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he was actually reminding eva

    […] We developed the same example to support the same point several weeks ago. Regard: … We have no problem with Christians [We’re Jews, BTW]. We will happily vote for […]




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