Romney’s early state strategy—an addendum
... “But how much longer will the GOP race last?”—asks John Hood in a nationalreview.com The Corner post titled Won’t Be Long Now
Perhaps I’m not fully appreciating how the new calendar will change the basic patterns of presidential races, or the strange mood of the 2008 electorate, or some other factor that promises to warp normal political space/time. When I look at the likely calendar — Iowa, Jan. 3; Wyoming, Jan. 5; New Hampshire, Jan. 8; Michigan, Jan. 15; Nevada and South Carolina, Jan. 19; Florida, Jan. 29 — I don’t see any way for Rudy Giuliani to make it through all the way to Super-Duper Tuesday simply by waiting to win Florida. He’s got to win New Hampshire, or least Michigan a week later. If Romney sweeps the early contests, he’ll gain gobs of free media in states where voters are just starting to pay attention, and no one, Giuliani included, really has enough money to run media campaigns in the big states … etc.
We would argue otherwise. Various responsa:
(1) It seem odd to us to argue on historical grounds—e.g. “winners of the early states tend to win the nomination”—and yet ignore history. Regard: Friedman’s insights in a X101010011101 post titled Gaming the US Elections
… The first rule [of US presidential politics since 1960] is that no Democrat from outside the old Confederacy has won the White House since John F. Kennedy …
The second rule is that no Republican has won the White House since Eisenhower who wasn’t from one of the two huge Sunbelt states: California or Texas (Eisenhower, though born in Texas, was raised in Kansas) …
The third rule is that no sitting senator has won the presidency since Kennedy …
That being the case, the Democrats appear poised to commit electoral suicide again, with two northern senators (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) in the lead, and the one southern contender, John Edwards, well back in the race. The Republicans, however, are not able to play to their strength. There are no potential candidates in Texas or California to draw on. Texas right now just doesn’t have players ready for the national scene. California does, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is constitutionally ineligible by birth. In a normal year, a charismatic Republican governor of California would run against a northern Democratic senator and mop the floor. It’s not going to happen this time.
Instead, the Republicans appear to be choosing between a Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and a former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Unless Texan Ron Paul can pull off a miracle, the Republicans appear to be going with their suicide hand just like the Democrats. Even if Fred Thompson gets the nomination, he comes from Tennessee, and while he can hold the South, he will have to do some heavy lifting elsewhere … etc., etc.
Conclusion: It is not enough to say that the ordinary rules do not hold this election cycle; rather: it is simply and absolutely impossible for the ordinary rules to hold.
(2) Giuliani does not need to win Iowa, New Hampshire, or Michigan. Here—we argue—is why:
(a) Romney’s much-publicized massive spending in the early states has set up conditions such that any outcome other than a total blow-out in Romney’s favor will be interpreted as a non-victory or even a defeat.
(b) Team Romney is a famously low-effiency, low-ROI campaign. It is therefore vulnerable to the sudden leaps of under-funded and under-organized but high-efficiency, high-ROI campaigns, e.g. Huckabee’s rise has pushed Romney to fifth place in the national polls.
(c) Because of (a) and (b), and because Team Romney’s numbers have already peaked in the early primary states, even a marginal intervention by any one of the other campaigns—not just Giuliani’s—could offset or even deny Romney a victory in any one, or even all of his early primary states. In other words: for any of the other candidates to come in a close second in any of the early primary states would be interpreted as a disaster for Team Romney.
(3) This is consonant with Giuliani’s high-efficiency, high-ROI campaign; he is effectively using the other campaigns to pin down and exhaust a hapless Romney at no cost to his own operation.
(4) Giuliani has optimized his campaign for a low-mobility environment consonant with the new primary calendar; see:
(5) One way or the other Romney will—as Hood puts it—“gain gobs of free media”; Hood assumes that this will redound to Romney’s credit. There is evidence to suggest that it will not. Romney is most successful when his is the only voice, his is the only face. He doesn’t compare well with the other candidates. Further: Romney’s negatives are historically, unprecedentedly high; see:
(6) Giuliani enjoys broad name recognition; he doesn’t have to advertise in the big states—e.g. NY and NJ already know him well. Fl knows him well because of all its retirees from the North East.
(7) Losers learn!—why does everyone seem to forget this simple fact of competitive behavior?—as Rumsfeld used to say, no victory is ever final, no defeat is ever fatal—the rival campaigns have had months now to adapt themselves to, and to innovate against, a hostile terrain dominated by a hostile Romney. Team Romney has been neither subtle nor sophisticated; its method reduces to simple attrition. Low-ROI attritionists are infinitely vulnerable to disruption, suppression, and suprise—e.g. the value voters debacle, where despite massive spending and organizing the Romneys got themselves all up-ended by a well delivered speech.
(Does Romney own the early state primaries?—the question then becomes, how can we win without those states?—or: how can we disrupt, upset, or suppress Romney’s operations in those states?)
McCain and Huckabee have already successfully field-tested messages that convert Romney’s strengths into weaknesses. Huckabee already has experience drawing blood from the Romneys, both at Ames and at the value voters summit. Guiliani, for his part, seems to only gaze serenely upon the field with the stillness of a predator. This in itself should cause the Romney campaign grave concern—the man is no idiot—he is a stern, capable, and seasoned fighter, as calculating as he is deliberate and methodical. What could he be planning?
Our conclusion: Yes, Romney may
buywin the GOP nomination. But Giuliani and the other candidates will make him bleed profusely in return for every contest right up to what will probably be a contested convention. Romney will be forced to spend phenomenal amounts of largely his own money. These will take the form of loans to his campaign. This means that donors will be able to pay directly into Romney’s pockets—to help remit the loans—according to our absurd campaign finance laws. In other words, expect corruption on an entirely new scale under a Romney administration.
Question: Why are the pundits and commentators so uniformly, well, stupid in their estimations?—why are they not considering key distinctions in e.g. the way campaigns organize, promulgate and develop their messages?—or have they all just been bought and paid for?—see:
- Willard Milton Romney purchases influence at National Review
- National Review challenged by Movement Conservatives; the issue: Romney
- The equity sector candidate, Romney, discovers that the political right is largely for sale
P.S. Shabbat shalom, dear readers. All 2 of you. May peace break out all around you.