Archive for December, 2007

“Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister riding a wave of support from fundamentalist Christians, tops Mitt Romney for first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans planning to attend Thursday’s Republican caucuses,” writes Jonathan Roos in a DeMoines Register article titled GOP poll: Huckabee maintains lead over Romney

In a battle of former governors from Arkansas and Massachusetts, Huckabee leads Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent.

This despite months of massive spending, organizing, and near media saturation by Romney:

This despite Romney’s relentless attacks on the person and character of Gov. Huckabee for weeks now, combined with the GOP establishment’s infantile freakout over Gov. Huckabee’s rise:

Back to Roos:

“I really like it that he is a religious man and social conservative. That is pretty important to me, especially the right to life,” said Huckabee supporter Alyssa Stealey, 20, of Charter Oak, who is also drawn to his call for tax reform.

Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister riding a wave of support from fundamentalist Christians, tops Mitt Romney for first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans planning to attend Thursday’s Republican caucuses.

In a battle of former governors from Arkansas and Massachusetts, Huckabee leads Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent.

“I really like it that he is a religious man and social conservative. That is pretty important to me, especially the right to life,” said Huckabee supporter Alyssa Stealey, 20, of Charter Oak, who is also drawn to his call for tax reform … etc.

The DeMoines Register poll is consistent with other polling:

“Well, there’s a new Iowa poll out: the Reuters-Zogby, which shows Mike Huckabee with a two point lead over Mitt Romney,” writes the writer of the watersblogged blog in a post titled Romneybust!

Since the most recent poll has Huckabee leading- and since Romney’s newly-minted RCP average lead (owing to at a poll with yet another pro-Romney result so out of step with the others to be suspect) has shrunken overnight to .04%- I guess we must be witnessing a Romney implosion.

Or at least that’s the conclusion one reaches if one uses the the logic pro-Romney folks have been using over and over and over during the past two weeks to demonstrate that a “Huckabust” was underway (“Yes! Huckabee is imploding!…uh, ok, NOW. Now Huckabee is imploding… well, OK. Now. Now for sure….”)

Have to congratulate them on one thing, though. Just before this most recent poll- the one that shows Huckabee in the lead- the Romney folks finally managed, after two weeks of proclaiming that their candidate had recovered and that Mike Huckabee was history- for the first time since early December have actually been able to cite two consecutive Iowa polls showing Romney in the lead!

With tne latest poll, of course, the streak is over. Worse, the Huckabee lead is one point bigger than that shown by the Reuters-Zogby poll of the day before.

That poll was, for some reason, not included in the RCP average- and seems, however tentatively, to suggest a trend toward Huck … etc.

Conclusion: Even if Romney ekes out a victory—or: even if Romney scores a double-digit blow-out—Romney’s fantastically low ROI, i.e. how much he has expended for how little he got in return and against under-funded and un-organized rivals, will be the real story coming out of the Iowa. MarkG of race42008.com makes the case tongue-in-cheek:

My gut feeling tells me Mitt will now swap places with Huck for the actual caucus figure. The headlines will say Mitt spent his estimated 9 million bucks wisely to get circa 30,000 votes. The press will speak long and verbosely about how wise Mitt was to finance his campaign by as much as a third, and speculation will run wild for days about how much of Mitt’s finances were from his own pockets … etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“By keeping Tompkins on his payroll for the final weeks of this state’s primary, especially after such a slam-dunk admission of guilt by someone directly involved, Romney is essentially saying that he’s fine with the unconscionable style of campaign filth peddled during the 2000 election,” writes Adam of the Palmetto Scoop.

Worse than that, his failure to disassociate with Tompkins’ firm — which has already been busted for anonymously smearing rival Fred Thompson — could be a warning that we can expect similar or possibly worse attacks in the final days of the primary election.

And this time, Tompkins’ victims might include more than just McCain … etc.

Moral: expect the worst from the Romneys. They very worst. Just expect it.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“WASHINGTON – The great burden of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is that he is the sole Republican competing in all of the key early contests that begin with next Thursday’s Iowa caucus,” writes Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal in an article titled Romney is betting big to win big; Former Mass. governor must divide efforts between Iowa and N.H.

That could also prove Romney’s great opportunity.

One by one, each of Romney’s competitors has retreated to a regional stronghold strategy. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, is running hard in Iowa and in South Carolina — two states where he benefits from the large presence of evangelical conservatives — but is largely skipping more secular New Hampshire.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is following the same path, though leaving a lighter footprint. Arizona Sen. John McCain, though he incongruously turned up for a rally in Des Moines Thursday morning, has no real organization in Iowa and has invested almost all his time and money in New Hampshire.

Rudy Giuliani hopes to attract some media attention with an Iowa visit this weekend, but he long ago abandoned the state and has now retrenched his television advertising in New Hampshire, too. He’s betting on Florida, which doesn’t vote until Jan. 29 — light years away in campaign time.

Only Romney is competing all-out in Iowa and New Hampshire — as well as in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, the other major January contests. This pattern presents Romney with an obvious disadvantage. With the Iowa caucus approaching on Jan. 3, and the New Hampshire primary following just five days later, Romney must divide his effort while his opponents concentrate theirs. But his broader reach also presents him a greater opportunity for early breakthroughs — and a greater capacity to survive an early stumble.

For Brownstein, Romney’s broader reach provides him

(a) capacity for early breakthroughs

-and-

(b) resilience, i.e. a greater capacity to survive an early stumble

About (a)

Romney’s performance in the early states to date predicts no early breakthroughs apart from those Romney can purchase at great expense.

Regard: When Gov. Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa began to rise, his numbers in e.g. SC, MI, FL, and nationally, began to rise too—despite losing ground in Iowa Gov. Huckabees numbers in other states continues to rise or remain competitive. According to Newport of Gallup these correlations “preview” how Gov. Huckabee’s performance in Iowa would affect later races. When Romney’s numbers sailed in the stratosphere for months and months in Iowa, his poll numbers elsewhere and nationally failed to budge except in media markets where Romney had purchased Gross Ratings Points (GRPs) approaching near saturation. This is the case even now as Romney’s numbers have begun to recover in Iowa—nationally, and in other states, Romney’s numbers are static or falling. 

See:

What the Huckabee “boomlet” reveals about Romney

Conclusion: Breakthroughs? What breakthroughs? What the Romneys hope for is not a breakthrough; rather, they hope to outlast the other candidates, to become the default option for want of any other options. This is why Romney has suddenly turned so perilously negative, spewing slime in all directions: he intends to be the last candidate standing.

About (b)

Brownstein—if we read him correctly—seems to reason that Romney can lose more states—i.e. “stumble” more, especially early on—because Romney intends to contest more states. Yes, but what makes Romney resilient is not his early state von Schleiffen plan in which Romney wagers everything on early wins, but rather Romney’s vast personal wealth.

Back to Brownstein:

The contrast in strategy rests on a disparity in resources. Romney can fight on more fronts because his personal fortune allows him to sign checks for his campaign on the front as well as the back.

Yuh-huh. Exactly as we said.

But the other candidates’ stronghold strategies also reflect the limits of their reach within the party. McCain and Giuliani are hobbled in Iowa and South Carolina by resistance from the evangelical conservatives who dominate both contests. In mirror image, Huckabee and Thompson are burdened in New Hampshire by their lack of connection with socially moderate voters. (Huckabee faces the additional hurdle of suspicion from many leading economic conservatives.) Each has written off some early states because they do not believe they fit with Republican voters there.

“With the exception of Romney, people have put together campaigns that… are designed around their weaknesses,” notes GOP consultant Terry Nelson, the former campaign manager for McCain.

Yuh-huh. Precisely.

“It’s gone,” said Ed Rollins, who once worked as President Reagan’s political director and recently became Mr. Huckabee’s national campaign chairman. “The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition — social conservatives, defense conservatives, antitax conservatives — it doesn’t mean a whole lot to people anymore,” writes David D. Kirkpatrick in a NYT article titled Shake, Rattle and Roil the Grand Ol’ Coalition

“It is a time for a whole new coalition — that is the key,” he said, adding that some part of the original triad might “go by the wayside.”

We explain why we need a new coalition elsewhere:

… 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.

Therefore: 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.

HENCE: What Brownstein refers to as the strategy of regional strongholds reflects the activities of campaigns organized on more rational bases than Team Romney, i.e. campaigns more closely coupled to their constituencies and sources of funding and support.

Political life specifies itself in space—geography, demography, and ideology. Further: it is a commonplace of political campaigning that you build a base, a coalition, then you pivot toward the center to capture the middle. This is precisely the goal that you can observe the other campaigns pursuing. If the other campaigns present a more partial, less fully realized character it is because they have yet to have realized a coalition upon which they can begin to develop themes and larger narratives. In simpler terms, the other campaigns are learning.

Back to Brownstein:

More than any of his rivals, Romney is presenting himself as the candidate who can unify fiscal, social and foreign policy conservatives, and also reach out beyond the party base. Yet after amassing a governing record in Massachusetts more moderate than his current campaign tone, he continues to face doubts about his authenticity from many Republicans, especially social conservatives.

Translation: Romney has no base, no constituency. None. Instead: Romney “presents”—portrays, attempts to depict—himself as the candidate “who can unify fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives” etc. Lacking the nerve or the imagination necessary to develop a coalition on the ground, the Romneys hope to inherit an existing one on the assumption that it does still exist.

Back to Brownstein:

Concern about his Mormon faith, again especially among social conservatives, has created another hurdle. (In a CBS poll [PDF] earlier this month, fully 51% of South Carolina Republican evangelicals expressed an unfavorable view of Mormonism.) Laboring under both sets of doubts, Romney has fallen behind Huckabee in Iowa and watched McCain dramatically reduce his long-standing advantage in New Hampshire.

Romney has counterattacked, fiercely portraying McCain as too liberal on taxes and immigration in New Hampshire and targeting Huckabee on those two issues in Iowa. Neither state is in Romney’s grasp. But both remain within his reach, something no other Republican can say.

We discuss Romney’s war on two fronts here:

In show of solidarity and support. Gov. Huckabee defends Sen. McCain against Romney’s false, unfair, and highly personal attacks—also: how the concerted efforts of the McCain-Huckabee axis gets more for a more minimal investement

Back to Brownstein:

Romney might recognize, from his business school days, the dynamic that has provided him this opportunity. His competitors are trying to maximize their individual prospects by focusing on the states where they believe their chances are best. But the cumulative effect of those decisions is to threaten all of them by leaving nothing between Romney and potentially decisive victories in the first two contests except two underfunded (if charismatic and often compelling) opponents: McCain in New Hampshire and Huckabee in Iowa. It’s “the prisoner’s dilemma” applied to politics.

The result is that Romney now stands at the fulcrum of the Republican race. If Romney loses Iowa — after massively outspending Huckabee — the negative publicity could depress Romney’s support in New Hampshire enough to allow McCain to pass him there, too. Then Romney would be grievously, probably fatally, wounded, and the Republican race wide open.

But Romney, alone among the contenders, still has a window of opportunity to consolidate a commanding advantage by winning both Iowa and New Hampshire. That would likely deny his rivals the financial infusions all of them will need to fully compete through the remaining January states and the avalanche of contests looming on Feb. 5.

We disagree.

We would argue that Romney has so massively and disproportionately over-spent in Iowa, and has gone so viciously negative in both Iowa and New Hampshire, that Romney has denied himself in advance the perception of an unequivocal victory—i.e. a clean win—whether he wins in one or both states. The other campaigns can—and will, and with perfect justification—argue that a more equal contest would have returned different results, that Romney’s viability is only an artifact of his vast personal fortune, and that on those grounds alone Romney, and what Romney represents, must be stopped etc. We discuss these issues here:

Romney has so botched his operations in Iowa and New Hampshire that observers now predict e.g. either a contested convention or, in one case, that Michigan will decide the nomination.

Back to Brownstein:

To win the nomination, McCain, Thompson, Giuliani and even Huckabee all probably need someone to beat Romney early on. Only Romney holds his fate in his own hands. That’s no guarantee of success, but candidates always prefer to control their own destiny. Romney is the last Republican who can still plausibly say that he does. … etc.

We shall see. We still predict that Romney loses both Iowa and New Hampshire. We also predict that Romney will continue to campaign until the GOP convention.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“BOSTON – As a presidential contender, Mitt Romney has the looks, the money and the campaign machine. He also has something of a candor gap,” writes the estimable Glen Johnson for the Associated Press in an article titled Analysis: Romney and candor

When confronted with questions that might conflict with his message of the day or political record, the Republican candidate has shown a tendency to bob and weave or simply dismiss history. He has done so all year, providing an easy target for his opponents.

“If you aren’t being honest in obtaining the job, can we trust you if you get the job?” Romney rival Mike Huckabee asked on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

This past week, Romney did it again over questions about whether he was planning to air negative ads — in particular on the subject of illegal immigration — against John McCain. The Arizona senator has been surging in New Hampshire, where Romney is angling for back-to-back victories after a hoped-for win in this week’s Iowa caucuses … etc., etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Romney and Constanza, a Team Huckabee Huckabee-for-President post available here. IMHO, Gov. Huckabee’s campaign provides the most apt and accurate narrative of Romney’s contortions on the issue of whether, or in what sense, Romney’s father marched with with MLK available.

We also appreciate this narrative:

… Romney Asserted He Was A Reluctant Politician, Convinced To Run For Governor By Panicked Republicans Who Wanted A Winner. “Romney also cast himself as a reluctant politician, focusing instead on his 25-year business career and stint helping to resurrect the financially troubled 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. ‘When I came home, some people in the Massachusetts Republican Party encouraged me to run for office and said, ‘We need somebody who can win and who can fix Massachusetts,’ Romney said.” (The Associated Press, 12/21/07)

In Truth, Romney Declared His Candidacy For Govenor Two Days After Returning From The Olympics. “Romney returned to Massachusetts from Utah on Sunday, March 17, 2002. He declared he was running for governor on Tuesday, March 19.” (The Associated Press, 12/21/07)

Romney Roughly 48 Hours After Returning To Massachusetts: “I’m In. … The Bumper Stickers Are Printed, The Web Site’s Going Up. The Papers Are Going In Today.” (The Associated Press, 12/21/07) … etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Consistent with David Brody’s point that Romney’s attacks open up opportunities for Romney’s rivals to respond using earned media, Tim Russert of Meet the Press turned the microphone over to Gov. Huckabee this morning and allowed the Governor to answer each of Romney’s false and baseless charges one after the other. This is an excerpt from Kilmer of Redstate’s account, available in post titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows—The Review:

Russert asked if Mitt Romney had said anything about Huckabee which was untrue. Huckabee started the list.

  • Mitt claimed that Huckabee had reduced Meth sentences in Arkansas when the truth is that he signed a bill in 1999 which doubled Meth sentences, which are four times greater than those in Romney’s Massachusetts.
  • Huckabee said that Romney accused him of giving “special breaks” to illegal immigrants. Actually, it was a bill concerning the children of such people who had “earned” scholarships, and it never made the legislature.
  • Romney accused Huckabee of increasing spending “by some ridiculous amount,” and even the New York Times “took him apart” on this false claim.
  • Huckabee said that Romney’s claim about tax increases was wrong because the tax increases in Arkansas were either court ordered or approved by the voters, such as the one to improve roads.
  • Huckabee said that he left Arkansas with good roads, while Romney’s “were a mess” in Massachusetts.
  • Romney claims that he did not raise taxes, when actually he did raise taxes in the form of fees by a half-billion dollars. [Huckabee] said that he raised taxes for “educational purposes” and for roads. (I take it, then, that he opposes abolishing the Department of Education.)

The formatting is ours, all ours.

Kilmer issues this coda to his account of Gov. Huckabee’s performance: … “It went on for a while. Russert’s questions, while not softballs, were not as tough as some of the questions I’ve seen asked here at RedState. Huckabee did not implode, by any stretch, and handled himself well” …

Our conclusion: What is happening in Iowa to Gov. Huckabee would offend anyone’s sense of fair play, even Russert’s. Hence Russert’s performance this morning. This is a part of the price Romney pays for his viciously negative campaign—others are coming to the defense of Romney’s rivals.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“CBNNews.com – First Mitt Romney went negative on Mike Huckabee in Iowa after he saw his lead slip away. (oh, wait,, that’s right he was just contrasting positions because he just has a “fundamental disagreement” with Huckabee..right),” writes an incredulous David Brody for CBN’s The Brody File in a post aptly titled Is Romney Desperate?

The last week or so he’s been going negaive on McCain in New Hampshire where he sees his lead slipping away there as well.

Listen, negative attacks are part of campaigning. Most candidates engage in them. But here’s the problem when it comes to Romney.

Fair or not, perceived or otherwise, Romney has developed the reputation as someone who will change positions or just say anything to get elected President. When he goes negative against Huckabee and McCain, it plays into the perception that is already formed about him. It makes him look desperate. The mental picture is that Romney’s arms are flailing in every direction looking to hit something. McCain on taxes may work but Romney has some of his own issues with increasing fees in Massachusetts. Hitting Huckabee on immigration may also work but Romney needs to duck for cover on that issue too because of some of his past statements.

We concur. See:

Back to Brody:

The problem here for Romney is that he’s not pure on these issues either so everytime he attacks, he gives his opponents a chance to strike back. John McCcain has been skewering Romney lately by mouth and press release.

In other words, when Romney attacks e.g. Sen. McCain, he provides the Senator sudden and immediate earned media opportunities the Senator would not otherwise enjoy—in still other words, Romney’s high-risk, high-cost strategy drives, perversely, the costs of other campaigns down.

Back to Brody:

Romney makes himself out to be a Reagan conservative (remember, he represents the “Republican wing of the Repulican party”) and has been calling out everybody else’s shortcomings. The issue though is that Romney hasn’t been a Reagan conservative long enough to build up the “street cred” to do his attacking.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

Here is where we discuss what it means for a candidate with high negatives—e.g., Romney—to go negative against competitors with lower negatives:

Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates

To address Brody’s question, is Romney’s desperate?—whether desperate or not he is certainly hostile, abusive, and mean-spirited.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Kevin Tracy cites and quotes from the LA Times article that specifies Romney and Bain Capital’s use of off-shore tax havens.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Huckabee said that Romney is getting desperate, because he finds himself behind in Iowa despite outspending Huckabee 20 to 1,” writes Philip Klein in an AmSpec Blog post titled Huckabee Rips Romney Back

“When people get that far behind after spending that much money, they get desperate,” he said. “Desperate is one thing, dishonest is something else. When you get desperate and dishonest, it’s not a pretty site.”

In another example of the emerging everybody vs. Romney dynamic of the race, Huckabee came to the defense of John McCain, who has been trading barbs with Romney in New Hampshire over an attack ad. “John McCain is a true, honest to god, American hero,” Huckabee said … etc.

We have harped on the string of the Huckabee-McCain axis for weeks. And: we predicted that Romney’s absurd behavior would provoke his rivals to concert their efforts against him.

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

Here is the problem for Romney. Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee can hone their message contra Romney to a razor’s edge while each depicts himself as defending the honor of a friend, and each concentrates on their respective state.

Romney, OTOH, alone, alienated, and estranged, is reduced to dispersing his energies and giving the impression of frantic and random attacks in all directions and across 2 states. Hence: Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee’s strategy returns more for a minimal investment, and this is why people often cooperate, collaborate, or otherwise combine their labor, because it is efficient and cost effective.

Also: the high drama of 2 under-organized, under-funded, and rogue-candidate underdogs protecting each other’s backs against the superbly well funded slime machine of Team Romney, the establishment favorite, has captured the imaginations of the press corps, which will generate lots of earned media. Note how the NYT carefully reprises Gov. Huckabee’s rationale for his remarks on Romney:

“But it was the new rhetoric on the Republican side of the ticket that drew the fiercest spark, as former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas hurled a barrage of attacks at the credibility of his chief rival here, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts,” writes JEFF ZELENY and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK for the NYT in an article titled Courting Iowa’s Undecided Voters With a Late Push

“If a person is dishonest in his approach to get the job, do you believe he will be honest in telling you the truth when he does get the job?” Mr. Huckabee asked voters in Osceola, Iowa.

Mr. Huckabee said he was escalating his criticism in part because of Mr. Romney’s recent disparagements of a third Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, whom Mr. Huckabee called “an American hero.”

“It is enough to attack me,” Mr. Huckabee said. “But now to attack John McCain, it is like Mitt doesn’t have anything to stand on except to stand against. And I am saying enough is enough” …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“INDIANOLA, Iowa — Mike Huckabee called chief rival Mitt Romney ‘dishonest” today for what Huckabee said were gross distortions of his record, and said voters should question whether Romney would tell the truth if he were elected president,” writes Susan Milligan for the Boston Globe in an an article titled Huckabee says Romney is ‘dishonest’

“If a person will become president by being dishonest, just remember, if he becomes president, he likely will not be honest on the job,” Huckabee told voters at a restaurant campaign stop.

So apparently distressed at Romney’s criticism, Huckabee refused even to commit to voting for Romney for president if the former Massachusetts governor wins the Republican nomination. “I would never vote for a Democrat in the presidential election next year,” Huckabee said. But asked if he would prefer an honest Democrat to a “dishonest” Republican, Huckabee refused to answer … etc.

Thank you, Gov. Huckabee. We concur. Here is the problem for the party: Romney alienates and estranges all with whom he comes in contact—he had divided the other candidates against him—he is tearing the Republican coalition, the sad remnants that may be left of it, apart.

Question: Are we who value the person, character, and message of Gov. Mike Huckabee—or that of Sen. McCain, or that of Mayor Giuliani, or that of Sen. Fred Thompson—supposed to forgive and forget Romney’s lies, calumnies, and unprovoked abuse in the name of party unity?

Also, did Sen. McCain call Romney a pig? We sure hope so.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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