… “A muddle in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan is the ideal scenario for Giuliani. His campaign has acknowledged as much privately for months and did so publicly earlier this week in a conference call with reporters. ‘Regardless of how [the] early states line up, there are 1,038 delegates [to be had] on February 5th,’ said campaign manager Mike Duhaime, as reported by Politico’s Jonathan Martin,” writes the apt and precise Chris Cillizza in a post titled 50 Days Out: GOP Race Continues to Confound for WaPo’s THE FIX, as in, THE FIX is IN, only it isn’t, because as Cillizza reports, the fix is anything but in.

What interests us, however, is that Cillizza’s analysis maps on to ours almost point for point. See:

Our point: Mayor Giuliani does not need wins in the early states; characteristic of a strategy based on a complete economy of effort and conservation of means, all Mayor Giuliani needs are muddles going into super-duper Apocalypse-Tuesday. Why is this the case?—because Mayor Giuliani and the other candidates are tacitly concerting their separate operations contra Romney, whether by choice or by design, as Cillizza himself observes when he writes:

… The other major factor that helps explain the lack of a clear leader for Republicans is that several of the top-tier candidates are picking and choosing where to campaign when it comes to the early states — a strategic decision that has the potential to diffuse the momentum typically gained by winning early …

Just so. Translation: Like a fortified garrison attempting to fend off an insurgency, Romney is getting swarmed by under-funded but high-ROI operations that are distracting his attention, dissipating his strengths, dispersing his energies, and provoking him into operationally costly pursuits. Further: Since Romney is perceived as the local front-runner—and since his opponents are famously under-funded and un- or under-organized—Romney constantly gets cast as the clumsy and halting Goliath pitted against courageous and agile Davids. If Romney fails to fend off a threat, he looks weak, ineffectual; if he does fend off a threat, he looks small and petty for having paid any attention to it at all. We predicted this outcome too:

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

Other point: his imperious majesty, the lord-high Romney, is following the “historical” or “traditional” path to the nomination as he repeats to us in every interview. … I am following the traditional path to the nomination … I am following the traditional path to the nomination … The so-called traditional path, which has become the Romney von Schlieffen plan (a lightening strike on 2 fronts to secure the center) consists of

(a) consolidating the conservative base

and

(b) securing insurmountable leads in the early state primaries

Question: Why is the traditional path—the Romney von Schlieffen plan—not working? Because Romney is deeply confused—no, he is not following the traditional path to the nomination—read carefully: there is no traditional path to the nomination in this election cycle. (For example, were Romney following the traditional path he would be from Texas or California, which he is not.) As we wrote elsewhere:

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.

Here is where we depart from Cillizza:

… The other way that Romney will drive that message home is through an increased level of personal spending. As of Sept. 30, Romney had contributed $17 million of his own money to the campaign and estimates of his eventual giving range from $40 million to $80 million. Romney’s personal wealth has both obvious and not-so-obvious benefits. The obvious? He can fully fund television and ground operations in every early state. The not-so-obvious? No matter how much Romney’s opponents raise and put on television, he can always one-up them. Run two negative ads against him? Romney can respond with two negative ads against an opponent and a positive ad of his own. It’s a daunting challenge that came up regularly in conversations with strategists for other campaigns …

This is true on its face. But it fails to account for Romney’s own high—historically high, unprecedentedly high—negatives.

Romney has the most negative image at this point of any of the major candidates for president, claims Newport of USA Today’s GallupGuru; the Romney campaign’s death-by-internal-memo part (ii)

Common wisdom: you cannot go negative when your own negatives are high. This is why the Romney camp even now skulks about in their posh water-front headquarters trying to decide whether to pull the trigger on national hero, Mayor Giuliani. Romney goes negative only at his own peril. Hence:

Giuliani illuminates in NH—first commercial released—desperate, disorganized, and divided Romney camp wracked by indecision about how to respond

Our surmise—which follows only from our training in rhetoric:

The campaign that can provoke Team Romney into a “contrastive” ad strategy will be the campaign that defeats Romney. Romney’s remote personality and high negatives will simply not support a negative message

-or-

The campaign that can attack Romney’s positions and policy reversals and laugh wholesomely while it does so—i.e. use effectively the instruments of ridicule, satire, and joking mockery—will be the campaign that defeats Romney decisively. Romney simply has no sense of humor

(By defeat we mean render un-viable. Romney’s titanic ego will require him to campaign up to the convention no matter what the outcome.)

Moral: No campaign needs to fear Romney. He can puff up like a blow-fish or change colors like a chameleon, but he cannot attack you without dire consequence to himself.

Recall: President Clinton could go viciously negative in 1996 because he was perceived as a likable goof-ball. Sen. Dole, however … Further example: then Gov. Bush went famously negative against Sen. McCain in 2000, but, again, Bush also had that likable goof-ball thing going for him. Contrast that with Romney’s carefully studied pose of serene competence. Hence: When Romney emits negative noise he appears cruel, calculating, imperious and aloof—the man scares people, and people do not elect scary presidents. Their sense of fair play will not allow it.

And: contrary to the conventional wisdom, to take out Romney will not be a suicide mission. Gov. Bush survived to become president. By way of contrast, Gov. Dean and Rep. Gephardt went super-nova because both were drastic men in desperate positions.

Anyway, whatever. We’re getting tired of being right all the time. The way you grow, the way you learn, is to make mistakes, review them, and attempt to correct against them.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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  1. 1 Gorman: “What is striking is that Romney has spent huge amounts of money and gone nowhere while Huckabee has spent virtually nothing is actually catching up to Romney in places like Iowa” « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan […]

  2. 2 how Romney has 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 « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Question: How can Romney scratch, claw, kick, and thrash himself free from this box he willfully, deliberately nailed himself into? We haven’t got a clue. An experienced or effective communicator would never get himself or herself trapped like this. And: This is not an aberration for Romney. Setting up impossible expectations, consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and allowing others to frame the debate is how Romney has botched his whole campaign. See: Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan […]

  3. 3 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 « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Question: How can Romney scratch, claw, kick, and thrash himself free from this box he willfully, deliberately nailed himself into? We haven’t got a clue. An experienced or effective communicator would never get himself or herself trapped like this. And: This is not an aberration for Romney. Setting up impossible expectations, consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and allowing others to frame the debate is how Romney has botched his whole campaign. See: Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan […]

  4. 4 “We were sitting around with a PowerPoint”—said a senior Romney advisor, “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball”—how Team Romney lost Iowa over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb « who is willard mil

    […] Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan […]

  5. 5 More on Romney’s ridiculously low ROI (ii): “So far, [Romney’s] getting little bang for his buck,” argues Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schieffln plan […]

  6. 6 Romney’s early state von Schlieffen plan is dead—who benefits most?—hizzoner « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schlieffln plan […]

  7. 7 Robichaud: [Romney] “was disqualified last night”—media pressure for Romney to withdraw begins to develop in the margins « who is willard milton romney?

    […] Chris Cillizza provides further evidence against the success of the Romney von Schlieffln plan […]




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