Romney in the space of one night beaten back from a national strategy to a regional stronghold strategy—but has Romney learned the lesson of Iowa?—probably not
[…] 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
(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.
[…] 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.