Romney’s rationale for sticking it out post-Florida and other suicidal tendencies
Jason Bonham quotes Romney in a race42008.com blog burst titled Romney on Good Morning America
[Romney] “I think there will be a movement within the Republican party to coalesce around a conservative candidate. Mike Huckabee, of course, might stay in, and that might be one of the reasons he does so – is to try and split that conservative vote.”
Is this a wish? Is this a prayer? Media pressure will soon begin to mount against the hapless candidate, so is this the rationale—the reasoning, the alibi—for sticking it out after Florida decided for the now “presumptive GOP nominee, the honorable Sen. John McCain?
Note that this new talking point represents no fresh thinking, no new analysis, no current assessment of the situation or its many factors. Precisely the opposite is the case: this is the same argument for Romney’s fitness as a candidate that Romney has retailed for months and months, the so-called two-man-race theme that dates back at least to Iowa. See:
Romney’s 2-man race theme; an alibi for collapsing poll numbers?—this is from way back in October
[…] The Romney campaign, humbled by recent defeats, now hopes to rebrand his insider strategy as an outsider one. As the candidate soldiers on to the 21 states that will vote on February 5, the campaign holds out hope that the old coalition can be reborn anew. “We feel as though the conservatives are beginning to rally around Mitt,” said Ann Romney, after her husband delivered an upbeat concession speech Tuesday night, in a downtown St. Petersburg theater.
A few minutes earlier, and a couple dozen feet away, Jay Sekulow, a senior advisor to the campaign, put it this way. “Conservatives have a choice now, and it’s a clear choice,” he said. “You have got a conservative and you have got John McCain, who does not take conservative positions on a lot of issues.”
Downstairs, in the theater’s press filing room, Al Cardenas, a Washington lobbyist who chaired Romney’s Florida campaign, continued in the same frame of reference. “We think that the conservative movement activists are now beginning to panic about losing their grip on the Republican Party,” Cardenas said. “They better start working hard, and they have told us they are going to have to start working hard.”
The new Romney strategy has two clear components.
- First, the campaign is determined to marginalize Huckabee, who continues to poll well in many southern states, bleeding off votes from the vital socially conservative leg of the Romney’s stool. “Huckabee has proven he can’t win in the south,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s spokesman. “People are going to realize that this is a two person race right now,” said Sekulow.
- Second, Romney will spend much of the next week trying to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain, who leaves Florida with considerable momentum and already-high poll numbers in many of the states that vote on February 5. Though McCain has been hammered by some conservative voices, such as the radio host Rush Limbaugh, he has so far escaped the full ideological revolt that greeted him in 2000, when he lost the nomination to George W. Bush.
[Emphases and formatting are ours]
This final Romney gambit is likely to determine more than just the fate of one, well-heeled candidate. It could set the course for the Republican Party. In the old days, those who supported tax cuts for the wealthy worked closely with those who wanted to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage. Those who wanted to grow the size of the military made common cause with those who saw global warming as an environmentalist scare-tactic meant to interfere with free markets. Those who wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade also wanted to overturn campaign finance reform […]
On its face the claim that conservatives will suddenly awaken to the grim reality of a Sen. McCain candidacy and turn to Romney is plausible but requires argument. The most urgent question this suggests is simply why haven’t conservatives turned to Romney before now? Is it not also plausible—in fact, demonstrable—in fact, part of Romney’s own argument—that the so-called Reagan coalition is dead? And if Romney were the one who could truly pull the sword from the stone, or breathe life into the dead coalition, why hasn’t he done it yet?—we’re all waiting, Romney; don’t tell us what conservatives should do or shouldn’t do, instead: show us what you can do.
Our analysis: Here begins the race to the base, friends and well wishers. Sen. McCain will, we predict, begin to reach out to conservative personalities (right wing shock jocks, talking heads, celebrities, talking heads), professional conservatives (writers, analysts, columnists, editors, think tank researchers), conservative activists, issues coalitions, pressure groups etc. But now he can reach out to them from a position of power, having developed reliable evidence of
(a) his fitness as a candidate,
(b) his fitness as a developer of issues and a builder of coalitions.
Now Sen. McCain has something to offer the base: the influence that flows freely from proximity to power. This is how the primary process as political ritual is supposed to work. It reduces to a barter economy, a patron-client system of tribute where the coin is power and the exchange rate can be murderous.
Romney for his part will reach out to the base too, frantically, desperately, if only to counter Sen. John McCain. But Romney’s position is more tenuous, more perilous. Romney can only issue threats and dire assessments of a Sen. McCain presidency—in simpler terms, Romney’s task, as Romney himself describes it, is “to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain”—i.e. Romney’s task is to slime Sen. McCain so badly that he cannot win.
In other words, Romney is perfectly willing to take the party down with him. So, let Romney unleash if he can the “full ideological revolt that greeted [Sen. McCain] in 2000.” Recent history—Iowa, New Hampshire—would predict that the gotterdammerung that Romney plans for Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain will rebound upon himself. See:
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