Archive for the ‘argument’ Category

[...] “But the Romney campaign suffered serious and likely mortal wounds last night,” writes the estimable Dean Barnett in a Weekly Standard article titled About Last Night; an easy decision looms

The trouble isn’t so much that John McCain’s delegate lead is insurmountable, although it is significant. And Romney’s problem isn’t that John McCain will get an enormous bounce out of yesterday’s wins. This is the year of no bouncing.

Romney’s problem is that the fully mature version of his campaign has faced the fully mature versions of the Huckabee and McCain campaigns all over the country. Romney hasn’t done well. Although past performances don’t necessarily guarantee the results of future contests, it’s tough to picture what Romney can do to shake up the race and begin getting those extra votes he’ll need in each future state to turn losses into victories.

Remarks:

(1) We concur with Barnett, and we appreciate his candor and precision. As we understand it, Romney’s campaign discovered its voice in MI, and though FL decided for Sen. McCain the Romney campaign still gained valuable experience on the ground; it developed a more sophisticated view of itself and its own role relative to the other campaigns; and it took on and put to useful work new allies, principally, the right wing talkers of talk radio who concerted their efforts against Sen. McCain. It also attempted to clarify and refine its MI Washington-is-broken message into a “anti-insider populist” mission—not just a message, but a mission, however naive or contrived. It is neither a mission nor a message that we agree with, and we still doubt Romney’s alleged and newly acquired commitment to conservative principles, but the fact remains, Romney’s campaign was beginning to become—dare we say it?—effective.

Here be evidence of Romney’s new found effectiveness, as provided by the estimable John Dickerson in a slate.com article titled McCain Not Stopped; But Romney is not seen as a true conservative:

[…] Exit polls nevertheless show that McCain’s problems with conservatives run deep. He lost among conservatives in almost every state except Connecticut and New Jersey, where he split them evenly with Romney. McCain also lost conservatives even in the states he won. Conservatives went for Romney in New York and Illinois. “Hard to do well with conservatives when everyone with a microphone is beating hell out of us,” says a top McCain aide. While the conservative voices weren’t enough to stop McCain, or to elect their guy, tonight they were enough to bruise him […]

Conclusion: Romney was actually beginning to make progress. The conservative base was really beginning to “rally to Romney,” the very outcome that Romney has worked to achieve since Iowa.

(2) The problem: it was all too little and too late. Had super-duper apocalypse Tuesday been three weeks from now, two weeks from now, or even a week from now, Sen. McCain would not be our presumptive nominee and we would be slumping toward a brokered convention with Romney positioned to dominate it.

Also, as Barnett notes, the Huckabee and McCain campaigns had not remained static—they matured and grew more sophisticated too. Though underfunded and un- or under-organized, the two rival campaigns knew how to use their own negatives to good effect, and how to work what little they had to eke out whatever victories they could, and they knew all this from the beginning. And they had also learned how to operate effectively in the shadow of Team Romney, how to position themselves against Romney, and how to turn Romney’s strengths into weaknesses.

Example: Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain learned early on that Romney cannot let anything go, even if it costs him a fortune, and even if he ends up looking like an idiot.

  • Recall how in Florida Sen. McCain issued a bogus accusation about Romney supporting timetables for US withdrawal from Iraq. Romney for his part behaved as predicted. He repeated Sen. McCain’s charge at every opportunity even as he denied it, and he stressed at great length his own support for the war in Iraq. So the subject in Florida suddenly got displaced from the economy, an issue Romney dominates among upper income Republicans, to the war, an issue that Sen. McCain totally dominates in every category, and the whole exchange cost Sen. McCain’s campaign precisely nothing. But it cost Romney the state of Florida.
  • Or recall how back during the struggle for Iowa Gov. Huckabee would provoke Romney on the issue of religion with floating crosses or promises to be a “Christian leader” etc. The result? Romney and his surrogates would go beserk out of all proportion to the stimulus denouncing Gov. Huckabee. Romney for his part would stress his own faith at the cost of calling further attention to his Mormon confession. The effect? Evangelicals were treated to the public spectacle of a super-rich, humorless, android Mormon CEO berating a humble good-ol’-boy joke-cracking Baptist pastor. Romney spent US$10 million on Iowa and lost it to a man who spent almost nothing.

(3) Conclusion: the GOP dodged a bullet aimed straight at its head, only to catch that bullet in the throat, because now Romney has taken on the role of spoiler. See:

Romney attempting to engineer a brokered convention, hints at plans to foment mutiny among promised but not officially bound delegates

Back to Barnett:

Romney doesn’t have to drop out. He can fight on if he wishes, and hope that he unearths the secret formula that has eluded him so far. He can also hang around hoping John McCain makes a blunder. But right now, it’s almost impossible to imagine a path to the nomination for Romney. That being the case, he’ll have to run a campaign that’s cognizant of the fact that he’s facing his party’s likely standard-bearer [...]

Now it becomes Sen. John McCain’s task to consolidate the conservative base before Romney can take it from him. Can he do it? We shall see. Romney can no longer win, but he can make sure that Sen. John McCain never wins either.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney knew John McCain would be a tough competitor on Super Tuesday,” writes Michael Levenson in a http://www.boston.com article titled After tough Tuesday, Romney forces to meet on next steps

What he didn’t count on was Mike Huckabee’s strong showing, which stopped Romney from staying close to McCain in the delegate chase for the nomination.Romney, however, vowed to continue on stay in the race, and his spokesman played down Huckabee’s victories.

‘‘A Southern candidate who appeals on social issues had an appeal to a Southern constituency on social issues,’’ spokesman Kevin Madden said last night. ‘‘It’s not a surprise.’’

The contrast between them is clear, he said.

‘‘The case we’re going to make to Republican voters is that Governor Romney is the full spectrum conservative, whereas Mike Huckabee is only a social conservative’’ [...]

Note that Romney compares himself favorably to Gov. Huckabee, not Sen. McCain. Conclusion: Romney assumes that Gov. Huckabee split the conservative vote. So his message is to Gov. Huckabee voters in particular and conservatives and value voters in general.

We disagree with this assumption. And so do others.

Back to Levenson:

Romney and his inner circle plan to huddle today at the campaign’s North End headquarters and consider their next steps [...]

Oh, what we would not give to be allowed to stand in that huddle, shoulder to shoulder with the mighty men (and women) of valor who have delivered Romney triumph upon triumph. John King and Dana Bash of CNN’s Political ticker also harp on the string of Romney’s Wednesday morning huddle in a post titled Romney set to huddle with top advisors

[...] “It is tough to saddle up this AM,” said one top Romney adviser who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Romney has poured more than $35 million of his personal fortune into the campaign, and after a rough Super Tuesday faces a decision of whether to spend more. Several advisers said there was a plan, in place before the Tuesday votes were counted, to begin advertising in the Washington, DC and Baltimore markets. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia hold primaries next Tuesday.

“As of early this AM it was a go,” said one of the campaign sources. “We can do the math but there are still openings,” said another.

The official agenda for the meeting was discussion strategy though the March 4 GOP contests. Romney has no public events scheduled and aides say there are, at the moment, no plans for any public statement. An address to a major conservative gathering in Washington is planned for Thursday; McCain is also addressing the group [...]

Here be the problem: there is pressure developing from every direction—party elites, media, punditry, even from within Team Romney itself—to withdraw now that a clear front-runner has finally emerged. The political primitives of Team Romney are faced with the daunting task of developing and disseminating a new rationale for the Romney campaign in light of yesterday’s losses. At the moment the message is “I am the full spectrum conservative; Gov. Huckabee is but a half-formed, only partially realized conservative.” We shall see how long they can hold their diminished position on the strength of so limp an argument. Here is the reasoning that the finest minds that Romney can buy must rebut, refute, or counter with their own narrative:

[...] “The Super Tuesday shake out has left Arizona Sen. John McCain riding high with more than twice as many delegates as GOP rival Mitt Romney, who despite spending millions of dollars of his personal fortune was left out in the cold yesterday,” writes Jessica Fargen in a news.bostonherald.com release titled Pundits: Romney may be out soon

McCain, who won the big-delegate state of California, has 613 delegates, followed by former Bay State Gov. Romney with 269 and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 190 delegates, according to the Associated Press. It takes 1,191 to win the GOP nomination.

“I think Romney will probably not be in the race that much longer,” said Republican media consultant Todd Domke, who is not affiliated with any GOP campaign. “He performed below expectations. Romney has rasied the expectations so high that when he failed it was all the more devastating” [...]

In other words, once again Romney outflanked Romney—i.e. the campaign botched its own expectations game. Sen. McCain’s campaign adds its own voice to the chorus in the form of a memo, as reported by Jessica Van Sack in a bostonherald.com Presidential Briefings blog burst titled McCain internal memo leaves Romney for dead

From the memo:

[...] Senator McCain went into Super Tuesday with nearly a two-to-one lead in the Delegate count. He ends Super Tuesday (unofficially) with nearly 750 delegates in his column (estimates based on proportionally divided states and unofficial returns) while Romney has only 236, just a few ahead of Huckabee. Our unofficial count shows Mitt Romney trails by 510 delegates. As of today, more than 1400 delegates have been assigned or decided through primary or caucus contests.

The remaining contests account for roughly 963 delegates. For Mitt Romney to match our delegate count, he would have to win more than 50% of those delegates. And, he would have to win nearly every single delegate still available in order to become the nominee. And, many of these contests are proportional, so Mitt will have to win by big margins in many states to garner every last delegate. For example, in this weekend’s Louisiana Primary, he would have to win the with more than 50% of the vote in order to win (1191 delegates to win, 963+236=1,199) [...]

The super-duper apocalypse Tuesday contests have passed into their archival phase. Now the struggle becomes what to make of the data that the voters and caucus goers returned when they were asked to express their views on the candidates with their ballots or other means. Sen. McCain’s message: The process is over. Allow me to address the several blocs that make up the base of the party and attempt to develop grounds for going forward together. And Romney’s message so far today? The conservative base has yet to speak. And when they do, they will speak through me. I am the authentic conservative.

Only here is the problem for Romney: the conservatives have already spoken. In contest after contest, they issued their ruling on Romney’s clumsy and caricatured, unreconstructed, newly acquired conservatism. Their answer to Romney’s call was simply not the answer that Team Romney wanted to hear.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] Romney vowed publicly to trudge on despite the series of disappointing losses; even after his wife, Ann, said that “The one thing that’s clear tonight is that nothing’s clear,” writes Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune in an article titled Despite few victories, Romney vows to campaign on

“I think she’s wrong; one thing that’s clear is this campaign is going on,” Romney told supporters in Boston. “I think there’s some people that thought it was all going to be done tonight, but it’s not done tonight.”

McCain, meanwhile, relished his new spot as the leader after many pundits had declared his candidacy dead last year.

“Tonight I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination of the president of the United States. And I really don’t mind that one bit,” McCain told a revved-up crowd in Arizona that included Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

With Romney taking so few of the key states on Super Tuesday, political observers were doubting the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics could turn around his campaign from the trouncing he sustained.

Romney may plan to continue on, but the GOP establishment likely will be calling on him to suspend his campaign, says Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University in Washington.

“There’s going to be a tremendous push in the Republican Party to unite behind the front-runner,” Lichtman says. McCain may not be the establishment’s dream nominee, but it’s better to seem unified and not fractured, Lichtman added.

Romney is “young” and can run again if he wants, Lichtman says, guessing he probably doesn’t want to burn a second chance at a run [...]

[...] But Romney still may soldier on, she adds, because he has tremendous financial resources.

“What keeps Romney in this game is money, his ability to fund the campaign, keep the lights on,” Duffy says. “It’s hard for him to make a case after today [to continue], but my guess is he may” [...]

[...] “Once again, conservatives have rejected Romney’s conviction-less campaign,” said Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman. “No amount of Mitt’s money is going to overcome what a growing number of Americans – and the Wall Street Journal – are seeing first hand: Mitt has no convictions at all” [...]

And what has Romney spent to arrive at this point?

[...] “By Republican strategist Alex Vogel’s calculation, Mitt Romney is giving Gramm a run for his money,” writes Jonathan Wiesman in a washingtonpost.com The Trail post titled Romney’s Expenses Per Delegate Top $1M

The former Massachusetts governor has spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination.

By contrast, Mike Huckabee’s campaign has been the height of efficiency. Delegates haven’t yet been officially apportioned, but roughly speaking, each $1 million spent by Huckabee has won him 20 delegates [...]

All that spending, and all that re-inventing, yet voters still do not consider Romney a conservative:

[...] “This week, conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter all rallied against John McCain, telling their listeners to back Mitt Romney,” writes the estimable John Dickerson in a slate.com article titled McCain Not Stopped; But Romney is not seen as a true conservative

Forget Huckabee, they’ve argued, a vote for him only ensures that the apostate McCain will win. On Tuesday, James Dobson, the religious broadcaster, blasted McCain: “I am convinced Senator McCain is not a conservative and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party.”

These loud voices of protest were thoroughly ignored. Conservatives did not rally to Mitt Romney. They rallied to Mike Huckabee, who won Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. “A lot of people have tried to say that this is a two-man race,” he said after winning, “You know what? It is, and we’re in it.”

That was a stretch, but Huckabee could argue Romney was out of the running because in the ideological and geographic heart of the Republican Party, Romney could not make a scratch, just as he couldn’t in the South Carolina primary. In Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, he didn’t even come in second. For Romney, the problem is not just that he couldn’t win the delegates, but that he could not make the sale to Republicans at the heart of his party. He has spent money, bought organization, and now has the firepower of revered conservative voices behind him, and he still can’t win.

This is the worst possible outcome for those who want party unity or to stop John McCain. While Romney was denied, McCain won New York, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Missouri and racked up delegates, putting him closer to the nomination. The states at play in future contests are only going to get better for him and worse for Romney [...]

Yet evidence accumulates to suggest that Romney’s efforts to destroy the GOP’s chances in November have not been entirely without effect:

[...] Exit polls nevertheless show that McCain’s problems with conservatives run deep. He lost among conservatives in almost every state except Connecticut and New Jersey, where he split them evenly with Romney. McCain also lost conservatives even in the states he won. Conservatives went for Romney in New York and Illinois. “Hard to do well with conservatives when everyone with a microphone is beating hell out of us,” says a top McCain aide. While the conservative voices weren’t enough to stop McCain, or to elect their guy, tonight they were enough to bruise him [...]

Romney’s only purpose now is to keep driving Sen. McCain’s negatives up.

The emphasis is ours, all ours.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“An interview with John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mitt Romney, made clear why he is expected to win easily,” writes the estimable Michael Luo for the Caucus, The NYT Political blog, in a post titled Romney at the West Virginia Convention

[Credit: Kavon W. Nikrad]

“We have had the only organizational presence in West Virginia to speak of,” said John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mr. Romney. “It’s all Romney all the time.”

Mr. McCutcheon, who has been working with Mr. Romney since 2006, when he had only a national political action committee. The campaign’s field director, Wendy McCuskey, was hired over the summer. In all, the campaign has three paid people in the state, along with hundreds of volunteers.

Early on, the campaign had believed West Virginia might be one of the early voting states before Feb. 5. Even after it became clear that would not happen, the campaign still poured out significant resources in the state.

Mr. McCutcheon described an ambitious county-by-county ground operation, complete with phone-banking, direct mail and radio advertisements, compared to only modest efforts made by all the other candidates.

“Any presence that has come in has been last minute and skeletal,” he said about the other campaigns [...]

Yet Romney’s investment was all for naught. Romney got out-maneuvered by his under-funded rivals. Romney’s response? A burst of rage in the form of a press release:

Campaign Manager Beth Myers On The West Virginia Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288-****

Boston, MA – Today, Romney for President Campaign Manager Beth Myers issued the following statement regarding the outcome of West Virginia’s Republican Party convention:

“Unfortunately, this is what Senator McCain’s inside Washington ways look like: he cut a backroom deal with the tax-and-spend candidate he thought could best stop Governor Romney’s campaign of conservative change.

“Governor Romney had enough respect for the Republican voters of West Virginia to make an appeal to them about the future of the party based on issues. This is why he led on today’s first ballot. Sadly, Senator McCain cut a Washington backroom deal in a way that once again underscores his legacy of working against Republicans who are interested in championing conservative policies and rebuilding the party.”

Yuh-huh. Note the anger. Note the name-calling. Note to Romney: This is the price you pay for alienating the other candidates. See:

how friend and foe alike make careful note of Romney’s duplicity—on Santorum’s endorsement of Willard Milton Romney, where we discuss the “I hate Romney club”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language,” writes Dr. James Dobson in a statement read by Laura Ingraham over the air, and posted to race42008.com by Jason Bonham in a contribution titled Breaking: Dobson Slams McCain on Ingraham

[...] But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life [...]

But Dr. Dobson’s constitutionally guaranteed right to vote may be the only influence he has left.

“James Dobson, the founder and head of the evangelical media and counseling group Focus on the Family, is constantly described by the media as a power broker, kingmaker, and ‘the Christian right’s most powerful leader,’” writes Rita Heal for http://www.time.com in an article titled Is Dobson’s Political Clout Fading?

As such, his endorsement is seen as key by G.O.P. presidential candidates in the 2008 race. On Wednesday night, his political action website Citizenlink.com released assessments of the major Democratic and Republican candidates — and political observers immediately checked in to see whether Dobson’s organization was leaning toward Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney, the two G.O.P. candidates who have made the biggest play for the evangelical vote. As Focus on the Family weighs in on the presidential race, however, an examination of the group’s records shows that its influence may not be all that it once was, and that its actual base may have become smaller.

For months, Dobson has been playing it coy, seeming to favoring the Mormon Mitt Romney over Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, who would otherwise appear to be the natural Christian right choice. In December, Dr. Dobson praised a Romney speech as “a magnificent reminder of the role religious faith must play in government and public policy. His delivery was passionate and his message inspirational.” Dobson even made a congratulatory phone call to the candidate [...]

[...] Dobson has only endorsed one presidential candidate in the past — George W. Bush in 2004, who ran unopposed for the G.O.P. nomination. And the Christian right’s most powerful leader may not want to back a candidate so early in the game. Backing a losing horse could devalue the worth of any future Dobson anointment, especially when America is seeing the rise of a younger generation of less combative preachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Bill Hybels [...]

[...] The ministry apparently has been “flat” for some time. For example, in 1994 Dobson’s monthly newsletter had a circulation of 2.4 million copies. Today, that circulation is about 1.1 million. Also, in the 1990s, Dobson was drawing audiences of 15,000 or more to his speeches; but in the lead-up to the 2006 mid-term election, only about 1,000 people heard his anti-abortion speech at the 2,500-seat Mt. Rushmore National Monument amphitheatre. Daly explains that the event was a last-minute invitation and that Dobson rarely accepts speaking engagements.

According to news accounts and audited financial reports posted online for potential donors, the organization’s staffing is down (30 layoffs last September). Total donations and number of donors are down as well. Focus orders and resells copies of Dobson’s tapes and books, which are the evangelist’s personal business; but those purchases have declined from $678,000 in 2004 to $269,000 in 2006. His last book was published in 2001; another is not anticipated until 2009. The whole Dobson family, including wife Shirley, daughter Danae and son Ryan, produce books and tapes, but revenue from all Dobson-family materials are down, from $781,000 in 2004 to $307,000 in 2006 [...]

Also see:

Dr. Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” video voter guide lies about Romney—claims Romney acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith—Fehrnstrom: “[Romney] has not made that acknowledgment”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

ATLANTA — Mitt Romney is leading a citizen revolution, or at least that is what he has been telling people these last few days as he has tries to right his bid for the Republican nomination,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Meet the New Mitt Romney, the Anti-Insider Populist

It may seem an unlikely role for a PowerPoint-loving, buttoned-down multimillionaire, but there Mr. Romney was, on stage Monday here in his starched white shirt and tie, raising his voice to be heard above the crowd and portraying himself as the anti-establishment insurgent.

“It’s time for the politicians to go and the citizens to come into Washington!” he said, drawing a roar from the several hundred gathered at his feet [...]

[...] It was in New Hampshire that he settled on a theme about Washington’s being broken and his ability to bring change.

But with Mr. McCain now threatening to run away with the nomination, Mr. Romney has melded the old with the new, lobbing conservative grenades once again while talking about change. His latest script is calculated to sound the alarm over the prospect of Mr. McCain as the Republican nominee.

“In our party right now, there’s a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” he said, addressing an enthusiastic audience on Sunday at a community college in Glen Ellyn, Ill., a rock-ribbed Republican suburb of Chicago. “Which way are we going to go? Are we going to take a sharp left turn in our party, get as close as we can to Hillary Clinton, without being Hillary Clinton?” [...]

[...] Conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, have thrown their support behind him or sharply criticized Mr. McCain, something that Mr. Romney now regularly cites.

Their influence, he said, helped lead him to victory in the Maine caucuses over the weekend.

“All the power structure was behind him,” Mr. Romney said in Glen Ellyn, in reference to Mr. McCain. “But you know what? Conservative voices on talk radio and news magazines, they got behind me and said, ‘This guy Romney’s the guy’ ” [...]

[...] Mr. Romney has been making more of an effort to cultivate the news media as part of his refashioned candidacy. When he sauntered back onto a flight on Saturday, he broke the ice with an unusual remark.

“What did they say in ‘Star Wars?’ ” he asked. “What’s that line? ‘There’s nothing happening here. These droids aren’t the droids you’re looking for.’ ”

Eric Fehrnstrom, his traveling press secretary, said it had actually been rendered: “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

“These are not the droids you’re looking for,” Mr. Romney said. “Sorry” [...]

Smooth.

So why has Romney suddenly recast himself from android data-cruncher, problem-solver into an outraged everyman Howard Beale figure? Bryan Dumont, a guest contributer to Virtual Vantage Points offers us a clue. His conclusions are based on an APCO World Wide emotional factors analysis of the GOP and Democratic candidates. Says Dumont:

[...] On the Republican side, McCain has a stronger link with voters on all the nine emotional dimensions essential to building a strong brand relationship. However, he has a slightly weaker link on Approachability, relative to other key emotional factors. Compared to other emotional dimensions, Huckabee’s key emotional strength is building a sense of Identification with Republican voters. Meanwhile, the Emotional Factor tool indicates that Republican voters have yet to connect to Romney on an emotional level. He falls far behind all of the other Republican candidates on every emotional dimension [...]

From the APCO study itself:

[...] Gov. Mitt Romney has the weakest emotional connection with GOP voters overall. Romney is also building weaker emotional links with his supporters than the other candidates are with their supporters. Our study indicates that Romney has a particular vulnerability on Warmth—described as a sense of personal admiration and fondness [...]

[...] All of the nine emotional dimensions are fairly equal in their impact in driving voters’ candidate preferences. However, among both Democratic and Republican likely voters, Relevance is the most important emotional driver. Building a sense that the candidate “fits who I am” and “speaks to me” is the most important emotional link in driving voter choice; while Approachability and Familiarity are less decisive. Republican voters are slightly more driven by Pride in their candidates than Democratic voters as a deciding factor in how to vote [...]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

Comment: Yuh-huh. So Romney’s “anti-insider populism” is Romney’s absurdist, fantasy-land solution to the problem of how to develop an emotional connection with voters. It is a play for Relevance, however misguided. This is beyond farce. This is risible on its face. This is vanity politics.

Oh, and by the way, according to Wonkosphere, Romney has dropped to less than half of Sen. John McCain’s buzz share on the very eve of super-duper apocalypse Tuesday.

Romney descends to 12; Sen. McCain remains steady at 30.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio,” writes the insipid Richelieu in an insipid Campaign Standard blog burst titled Richelieu: Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush [...]

That should be “Sorry Romney.

Still, however, Romney wants to capitalize on the new love radiating from talk radio

[...] “It might be preaching to the choir, but the members of this choir are precisely the people Mitt Romney needs to stop John McCain from getting a stranglehold on the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday,” writes the estimable Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, ina http://www.boston.com blog burst titled Romney puts ad on Limbaugh show

Romney aired an ad today on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show that excoriates McCain’s record on taxes and immigration.

“John McCain, he’s been in Washington a long time,” the announcer says, before the ad cites conservative commentators and the National Review.

Limbaugh, while not explicitly endorsing Romney, has been warning his listeners for weeks that McCain’s nomination would destroy the Republican Party. He repeated those warnings again today. Romney and McCain have been sparring over who is the true conservative [...]

The always a little baffled and befuddled Ed Morrissey laments what he foresees as a growing rift between the media figure of the right-wing shock jock and the Republican Party:

[...] But this showdown isn’t just about the media. It looks like the first really open GOP primary in decades will test a couple of widespread assumptions. First, does conservative talk radio have the influence that many presume to impact an election? Second, if it does not, what will that say about the future of conservative talk radio?

The answer to the first question will, I think, demonstrate that listeners have never been the monolithic, Clone Army style force that its critics presume. While they appreciate and enjoy the programs, listeners think for themselves. Anyone who spends any time at all listening knows the diversity of opinion unleashed through the call-in lines. Having spent time behind the mike as Hugh’s replacement on occasion, I can tell you that the callers are smart, informed, and sometimes have a much different opinion than me or Hugh.

So the answer to the second question follows from there. People will continue to listen to talk radio as they always have — for entertainment, information, and debate. The hosts will influence the opinions of the listeners, but they’re independent and will go their own way.

I expect that the hosts will change some minds before Tuesday. I expect the endorsements of the party’s establishment figures to do the same. In the end, most of the voters will make their decision based on their own logic, as they usually do. However, there will be one part of the showdown that may not survive, and that is the affinity of the conservative hosts for the Republican Party as an entity for conservative values. For that, High Noon has been a long time coming, and a McCain win may have some activists feeling very forsaken [...]

We grieve for those forsaken activists. We truly do.

Morrissey does understand the distinction between the activities of corporate content providers and the task of political parties, right?—the one is not the propaganda arm of the other. And if the one—or elements among the one—elect to promote a faction within the GOP at the expense of a governing coalition, then it deserves whatever it gets. The party is not the movement; the movement is not the party. And talk radio is neither party nor movement; it is information, entertainment, and opinion provided by organizations whose business is business.

Our prediction: our brothers and sisters in talk radio will soon learn why journalists and other media figures cherish the integrity that a sense of independence confers on them.

Meanwhile, Michael Graham of the NRO muses on the Sen. John McCain nomination that hasn’t happened yet, and answers the question that Morissey never posed but should have:

[...] John McCain didn’t win this nomination. Everyone else lost it. Mitt Romney had every chance — and then some — to win this nomination. He campaigned hard, and with lots of money, in every key primary state. And in every key state where his father never served as governor, he lost. He came, he saw (and was seen), and he got 31% of the vote. He wasn’t defeated by McCain. He’s just a mediocre candidate” [...]

This isn’t about talk radio. Nor should it ever have been. This is not even about the conservative movement. Note to Morrissey: Romney is not the conservative movement. The conservative movement is not Romney. Conservatism is for Romney a means to an end and that end is power.

This is, and has always been, about Romney, a surpassingly mediocre candidate.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Last summer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took time out of a GOP debate to defend John McCain: ‘I happen to be a very big admirer of Senator McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren’t running for President I would be here supporting him,’” writes the estimable Ana Marie Cox in a http://www.time.com article titled The ‘I Hate Romney’ Club

Pundits speculated that the praise was simply a kind word for the man whose campaign had recently exploded, plagued by debt and defections. Privately, McCain advisers wondered if Giuliani was playing nice in order to secure McCain’s endorsement after he dropped out of the race.

But this week it was Giuliani who dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain, praising him as an “American hero.”

The endorsement was a reflection of the authentic respect McCain and Giuliani have for each other. But that’s not all the two candidates share. The endorsement deal was solidifed when both campaigns stayed at the Deerfield Hilton in Florida, following the Republican debate in Boca Raton on January 24. The two campaigns’ staff mingled easily over drinks. Acknowledging that his candidate was not likely to survive a defeat in Florida, a Giuliani aide approached one of the McCain senior staffers. Come Wednesday, he said, “Just tell us what want us to do — we’ve got to stop him.”

“Him,” of course, is Mitt Romney, the candidate who seems to be uniting his Republican rivals almost as much as Hillary Clinton. “The degree to which campaigns’ personal dislike for Mitt Romney has played a part in this campaign cannot be underestimated,” says an adviser to one of those rival campaigns. While sharp words have been exchanged between practically every Republican candidate at one point or another on the campaign trail, the aversion to Romney seems to go beyond mere policy disagreements. It’s also a suspicion of what they see is his hypocrisy and essential phoniness — what one former staffer for Fred Thompson called Romney’s “wholesale reinvention” [...]

We predicted long ago that the other candidates would concert their efforts against Romney.

Back to Cox:

[...] But such jibes mask more substantive complaints that many of the candidates have about Romney. “What Romney has done,” says a Huckabee adviser, “he’s attacked people for positions he once held. That annoys people. And he uses his own money to do it, which rubs it in.” He’s gone after McCain on campaign finance reform (which he once supported), Huckabee on tax increases (Huckabee countered that Romney’s raised “fees” amounted to the same thing), and nearly all the candidates on immigration [...]

Romney’s duplicity and shameless ideological cross-dressing offends the other candidates—this is a persistant theme in the accumulating Romney literature. What is less persistent is the theme of Romney’s duplicity among those who support him. Yet former Sen. Rick Santorum—who now supports the hapless candidate, Romney—also notes Romney’s duplicity.

Here is Santorum himself as interviewed by Mark Hemingway in an NRO article titled Romney-Santorum 2008; The former senator makes his choice

[...] “I think Romney, when he decided to run, he’s a smart business guy, and he sort of got his team together and said, ‘What do I need to do to be the conservative candidate?’ and give me the checklist and see if I can check them off,” Santorum said. “And I think over the course of this campaign, you know, I saw the migration from the checklist to his head and from his head into his heart and I really believe that’s where he is today” [...]

Santorum’s account of Romney’s duplicity is, um, well, unique. Apparently, for Santorum, Romney is authentic precisely because of his cynical duplicity.

Yes, concedes Santorum, Romney began as a social progressive. But Romney could not win the GOP nomination as a social progressive. So, in advance of a national election, Romney developed a checklist of what it means to be a conservative and ran on it. This may seem cynical. And it is. But, insists Santorum, sometime during Romney’s hard campaigning the candidate’s newly adopted principles “migrated” from his “head” to his “heart.”

Over the course of Romney’scampaign? So Romney began his campaign flatly lying. But as he listened to himself campaigning hard for conservative issues, principles, and causes, he convinced himself? Does Santorum really mean to argue that somehow Romney managed to persuade himself even if many of the rest of us remain unconvinced?

Remember: it isn’t a lie if you truly believe it.

Mitt Romney’s George Costanza Standard: “Jerry, Just Remember, It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It.”

As for Santorum himself, Stephen F. Hayes of the weekly standard has this to say in an article titled Enemies to the right of him

[...] Although many others have been as critical of McCain, perhaps no one has been as hypocritical. In 2006, when Santorum was running for reelection, he asked McCain to come to Pennsylvania to campaign on his behalf. When McCain obliged, Santorum put the video on his campaign website, listing it first among “key events” of the year. That’s gratitude, Santorum-style [...]

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dr. g.d.

“MINNEAPOLIS — Republican hopeful Mitt Romney said Sunday he was counting on the ‘voices of conservatism’ and a non-binding caucus in Maine to propel him to within fighting distance of frontrunner Sen. John McCain, who has opened a double-digit lead in polls before Tuesday’s pivotal votes,” writes Andrea Stone in a USA Today article titled Romney courts ‘voices of conservatism’

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Romney said his win in Maine “shocked” McCain, who had been endorsed by the state’s senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both widely viewed as moderate Republicans. The results showed Republicans were “staying in the house that Reagan built,” Romney said.Romney reiterated a litany of McCain positions he says are out of the mainstream of their party, including votes against drilling for oil in the Arctic preserve and President Bush’s tax cuts and for campaign finance bills and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Asked about the McCain campaign accusations that he has changed positions on issues such as a 50-cents-a-gallon gas tax that Romney now rails against at campaign stops, the former Massachusetts governor rejected what have now become familiar charges of flip-slopping.

“They have stretched, twisted and completely walked away from the truth,” Romney said [...]

Truth? Just what is the truth to a person like Romney?

Here is the problem for Romney: Romney’s icy-cold persona and ultra-high negatives cannot support a negative message. Romney’s own poll numbers crash whenever he does so. Yet here is, again, in person, attempting to slime McCain at the expense of whatever slim chances the GOP may have had in November against Senators Clinton or Obama.

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

Say for the sake of argument that Romney succeeds in driving up Sen. McCain’s negatives to the point that Sen. McCain is no longer viable. History would predict that the result would be equally disastrous for Romney. This is because whenever Romney lurches to the right, he alienates the very moderates and independents that comprise Sen. McCain’s coalition of voters. Yet Romney will need those very voters—voters Romney has ridiculed for not being real Republicans—in the general election. See:

Romney outflanks himself yet again!–poll indicates Romney’s pull to the right alienates independents, centrists, and moderates

In other words Romney’s fight is not with Sen. McCain. Romney’s fight is with the GOP itself.

[...] While McCain has racked up endorsements from governors and other high-profile Republicans on a wholesale basis since his Florida victory, the conservative commentariat of radio and TV have rallied to Romney. Long-time fan Rush Limbaugh was joined this week by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and right-leaning radio talkers Laura Ingraham and Lars Larson. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter went so far this week to say that if McCain, who has angered conservatives with his stands on immigration, taxes and other issues, were the GOP nominee, she would vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

” I don’t think you can buy as much advertising” as radio talk show hosts have provided for free, he said [...]

Not entirely for free. Romney’s Bain Capital acquired Clear Channel—the carrier of conservative “voices” like Rush Limbaugh—over a year ago.

The price tag was more like US$26.7 billion.

And the effectiveness of the sale is, at least to date, still in doubt. See:

Here is yet another take on Romney’s sudden bout of Tourette’s syndrome

[...] “ROMNEY ON TW. Mitt Romney came out with guns blazing, accusing John McCain of trying to characterize his positions while he characterized McCain’s,” writes Mark Kilmer in a http://www.redstate.com blog burst titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows—The Review

Romney said he was winning the “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” the “house Reagan built.” (He’s still invoking Reagan.) Romney boasted of the conservative commentators “coming out for me in record numbers.” Which begs the question, what is the old record which he claims to be breaking? Also, how many of these commentators are supporting him and how many are trying to flex their muscles concerning McCain?

Romney pointed out that McCain’s positions on ANWR, BCRA, immigration, and global warming “cause many conservatives to rally to my camp.” Is this a big Romney rally or a STOP MCCAIN fest?

Romney did allow that he and McCain agree on Iraq. (But he moved to McCain’s position, not v/v.)

Wallace asked Romney about his support for a cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions, and Romney accused McCain of twisting his position around. Yes, though, he said that he did support cap and trade.

Romney launched waves of attacks into McCain and McCain’s positions as characterized by Romney.

This was Romney knowing that the numbers do not look good for him right now trying to draw sharp distinctions between his rival and himself. It would have worked better, I think, if he could have focused on a few areas at a time, rather than a general broadside, but time is short. We’ll see how this plays on Tuesday [...]

[...] ROMNEY ON CNN. Mitt Romney was Wolf Blitzer’s first guest on CNN’s Late Edition this morning; Romney was in Minnesota. Blitzer pointed out that McCain blames Romney for the nastiness in this campaign. Romney said that he attacks only on issues, while McCain got personal in Florida. He said that he was not going to talk about that. (Romney’s stance vis-à-vis the surge is oriented toward an issue. Romney promised that he would keep mentioning that John McCain had repeated reports that Romney had talked of a timetable for withdrawal.)

Romney said that McCain’s “lack of understanding of the economy” was bad for the country, adding that we have to have someone who has had a real job in the private sector in the Oval Office. (That is a personal attack on the former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.)

Romney belittled “reaching across the aisle” and “making political deals.” He said that he is a man of action, of getting things done.

Comment: Say what!? How does one “get things done” if one sorely lacks the political skill necessary to build coalitions? For more on this melancholy theme see:

Why do only 3 out 22 Republican governors support Romney?—yet more evidence of Romney’s incompetence and lack of political skill

Back to Kilmer:

Romney said that McCain-Feingold hurt the Republican Party (it didn’t) and McCain-Kennedy granted amnesty to oodles of illegals (it didn’t even pass). He said that the Florida primary was close, “only a few points.” (Five points is a big win.) He said that conservatives were rallying behind him as a way to stop John McCain, which is why he won the uncontested caucuses in Maine at which no delegates were awarded. (Maine is a bastion of conservatism, electing Senators Collins and Snowe, both of whom endorsed John McCain after co-chairing his exploratory committee last year.)

Blitzer pointed out that polls show McCain beating Hillary and Obama with Romney losing. Romney claimed that the polls swing wildly.

Romney repeated that with our economy “struggling,” we need to elect someone who has held a “real job.” He compared himself again to Ronald Reagan [...]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “As chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2006, Mitt Romney crisscrossed the country to elect GOP governors and broke the group’s fundraising record by hauling in $20 million,” writes Charles Mahtesian in a politico.com article titled Most GOP govs shun Romney

Yet just two of the 16 governors he worked to elect then are supporting his presidential bid.

In fact, just three of the nation’s 22 Republican governors have endorsed him.

There are plenty of reasons that might explain the former Massachusetts governor’s surprisingly weak support among his former colleagues. But one of them stands out: He appears to have inadvertently alienated a good many of his fellow governors as RGA chairman.

“Right or wrong, the general impression was that he spent way too much time on himself and building his presidential organization,” said a top Republican strategist who has worked closely with the RGA in recent years. “I don’t think anyone ever questioned Romney’s commitment to the organization or the work he put in. They questioned his goals or his motives. Was it to elect Republican governors, or to tee up his presidential campaign?”

A campaign manager for an unsuccessful 2006 Republican gubernatorial campaign echoed the sentiments. “We definitely got the vibe from the staff that our state was never a national player when it came to the strategy that the RGA was putting together,” he said. “Everything they were telling me was about Michigan. They were dumping everything into Michigan.”

For Romney, his inability to win over the governors he worked closest with has proven costly. On the eve of Tuesday’s crucial primary in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist announced his support for John McCain — despite the fact that Romney, as chairman of the RGA, had greenlighted a $1 million check to Crist’s campaign in 2006.

McCain won Florida by 36 percent to 31 percent over Romney. And the exit polls found that 42 percent of the voters said the popular governor’s endorsement was very important or somewhat important.

On Thursday, two more big-state governors who were on the 2006 ballot, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Rick Perry of Texas, lined up behind McCain. Schwarzenegger’s decision came just days before California Republicans vote in this Tuesday’s primary. Perry switched to McCain after his first endorsed candidate, Rudy Giuliani, ended his campaign.

Altogether, six of the 16 Republican governors elected or reelected in 2006 are backing McCain. South Dakota’s Michael Rounds is supporting Mike Huckabee. Nebraska’s David Heineman and Rhode Island’s Donald Carcieri are behind Romney. But the rest of the class is sitting it out, having declined to endorse anyone.

One reason, said a Republican consultant familiar with the thinking behind some of the governors’ decisions, is that Romney rubbed some governors the wrong way during his tenure at the RGA.

“Everything seemed to have strings attached to it,” the consultant said. “If they were going to make a donation, they wanted a quid pro quo like an endorsement or a donor list or a volunteer program. There’s no interest like self-interest in politics. So when [governors] think their political lives are in a do-or-die situation, that’s not the time to offer help with strings attached” [...]

Ed Kilgore of the Democratic Strategist comments on Romney’s failure to recruit support from Republican governors:

[...] Mitt has a total of three governors on his endorsement list, none of them exactly household names: Heineman of NE, Carcieri of RI, and Blunt of MO (who’s retiring this year). McCain has six, including such biggies as Ah-nold of CA, Crist of FL, and Perry of TX. True, the other former governor in the race, Mike Huckabee, has just one: Rounds of SD. But given Mitt’s money, organization, and recently acquired conservative-movement street cred, his poor standing among governors is surprising. Hell, he hasn’t even been the beneficiary of the obligatory David Broder column about the superior qualifications of governors for the White House [...]

[...] As Barack Obama so aptly said of Romney during last week’s Democratic presidential debate, for a guy with such a rep as an entrepreneurial whiz, Mitt’s had an exceptionally lousy return-on-investment rate for the money and preparation he’s devoted to this campaign (though not as lousy as Rudy Giuliani, who spent $50 million to win exactly one delegate). His proselytizing work, financial and otherwise, among Republican govenors is another case in point [...]

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dr. g.d.





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