Posts Tagged ‘chris cillizza’

[…] “The new message about change, which aides said tested well in focus groups conducted during Sunday night’s debate on the Fox News Channel, was a last-ditch attempt to salvage what was left of Romney’s original strategy that envisioned vaulting himself to the nomination by winning Iowa and New Hampshire,” write Wapo’s Michael D. Shear and Chris Cillizza in an article titled Romney Homes In on a Message That Will Stick

Note that the title suggests that Romney has yet to arrive. He is still “homing in.”

Although it did not propel him to victory in New Hampshire — he came in second behind McCain — Romney is sticking with it.

During a 3 1/2 -hour “message meeting” on Tuesday night to discuss the next steps of the campaign, there was agreement that the change theme is one that resonates with Republican voters, according to a participant.

“He is finding his voice,” said Peter Barhydt, a top donor from Connecticut who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting […]

Only there is some confusion about whether this is a new message or an old message that got lost in the noise, the campaign’s own noise. Whose fault was it that the message got lost? The media, argues his imperious aloofness, Romney himself.

“If and when Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign dies, our former governor has his excuse picked out: the media did it,” writes Adam Reilly in a blog burst titled cruelly but aptly, Chump ‘Change’

In a pre–New Hampshire-primary interview with Politico earlier this week, Romney said his newfound focus on political “change” wasn’t newfound at all; the problem, according to Mitt, was that reporters in Iowa kept obsessing over his conservative credentials. “I go on TV and it’s, like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion,’ ” Romney complained. “There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” […]

Comment: The reporters kept obsessing? Romney spends US$80 million dollars—and US$20 million or more of his own money on top of that, only no one knows how much because the Romneys aren’t telling—on IA and NH and the reporters are obsessive? To hold on to his tenuous and illusory leads in IA and NH Romney goes so viciously negative that it provokes a backlash so intense that Romney’s own numbers collapse and the reporters are obsessive?

[…] So, is it the press’s fault that Romney isn’t currently known as the change candidate? Not really. Blame, instead, the candidate himself — who astutely sensed the electorate’s desire for change, but lacked the gumption to follow his instincts.

Here’s a telling Romney quote from CBS’s Early Show, on the morning of January 4, one day after he lost to upstart Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses: “Well, you know, I think the race in Iowa was really a very clear call that people want change in Washington. Not in the White House; in Washington.”

That’s nonsensical, obviously, since the White House is in Washington. But it’s also vintage Romney: calculating, inoffensive, and ultimately ineffectual. Candidate, heal thyself […]

Yuh-huh. Romney’s inability to stay on message has become a fixed point for friend and foe alike. For us it is evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience. For the Romneys it is an excuse, a rationale for the candidate’s non-performance, which for anyone else would be evidence of the candidate’s non-fitness, lack of competence, and inexperience.

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

A message that has not gotten lost is Romney’s draconian-hardline position on immigration. This was another attempt by the hapless candidate to outflank his rivals on the right. It failed. And it may continue to return its dividend of failure as the campaign moves to other contests.

“The New Hampshire primary represented a victory for candidates with across-the-board political appeal, such as McCain, Clinton and in a way Obama, and a crushing defeat for real or campaign-season demagogues, including Romney and Edwards,” writes the estimable Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald in an Oppenheimer Report titled Anti-immigration strategy fails

Hopefully, as the race moves on from nearly all-white states to the more diverse South and West, candidates who embraced the anti-Hispanic immigration cause will realize that it may cause them more harm than good.

So far, the anti-immigration constituency has made a lot of noise but has not delivered the vote […]

Noise. Yes, Romney has made a great noise in this world. This is brute fact.

The question: Now, can Romney develop, amidst all that noise, or perhaps carve out from within all that noise, a message, a clear, compelling message that Romney can sustain and follow through with, a message consonant with Romney’s life and character, a message that is internally consistent and contradicts neither empirical fact nor the candidate’s earlier claims, assertions, arguments, or record of governance, a message that is positive, substantive, relevant, principled, and appropriate, and a message that does not suddenly turn and boomerang on Romney himself?

Romney has never developed nor delivered such a message before.

But we shall see.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“DUBUQUE, Iowa — At a gathering of the Iowa Christian Alliance here last night, James Bopp Jr., a leading social conservative activist and supporter of Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, said that a vote for any candidate other than Romney in next month’s Iowa caucuses was a de facto vote for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani,” writes Chris Cillizza in a post titled Romney Surrogate Pushes Anti-Rudy, Anti-Huckabee Messages for Wapo’s The Fix.

The last we heard from James Bopp he had come unglued because Sen. Brownback held talks with Mayor Giuliani. See:

Back to Cillizza, which rhymes with pizza.

“Either a conservative is going to emerge” with the financial and organizational power to take on Giuliani, predicted Bopp, or “Giuliani is going to be the nominee.”


(1) Bopp’s argument strikes us at first as deliberation—the loci of the preferable, this is preferable to that.

(2) Bopp’s argument, however, is not so much deliberation as it is ground and consequent, cause and effect, either x happens or y occurs; if not x, then y. Hence: a vote for anyone but “a conservative with financial and organizational power” is a vote for Mayor Giuliani.

(3) Herein lies the mystery:

(a) once again Romney or a Romney surrogate confronts us with a dissociation between the real and the apparent—your apparent vote for e.g. Gov. Huckabee is really a vote for Mayor Giuliani. Nothing in Romney’s world is as it appears. We explore Romney’s use of dissociation here:

Romney’s inflection point—the strange rhetoric of a troubled campaign

(b) Romney exists in this argument only in the negative. Bopp argues not for Romney (in a positive sense), but against Mayor Giuliani.

(4) About Bopp’s qualifiers, “a conservative with financial and organizational power”—this is laboratory pure expression of what we call Romneyism. Does Romney have money and has he built an organization? Clearly, yes. But: is Romney’s funding and organization a reliable index of Romney’s political fitness, of the breadth or depth of his following, of the clarity or power of his message? Absolutely not. Precisely not. In fact, given the appallingly low ROI that Romney gets for his every campaign dollar, precisely the opposite is the case—in other words, Romney’s bloated organization and frantic spending are an index of Romney’s peril and paralysis, not of his strength.

Romney has self-financed from his personal fortune at historic, unprecedented levels. So what Bopp is saying reduces to this: only a super-rich candidate can overturn Mayor Giuliani. For more on Romneyism see:

Romneyism: when a corrupt and disconnected party establishment recruits the rich and the super-rich to subsidize its non-performance

Back to Cillizza.

Bopp’s rhetoric was aimed not just at Giuliani but also at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who has made up considerable ground on Romney in recent week here in the Hawkeye State. “I love Mike Huckabee,” Bopp said, quickly adding: “Something I know for sure [is] he does not have the resources to compete.” Boiled down, Bopp’s argument is simple: You might like Huckabee best but he can’t win. So, vote for the guy—Romney—you like second best.

Translation: Hold your nose and vote Romney!

The call to practical thinking represents a major break with the past approach of social conservatives when it comes to picking a candidate. In cycles past many social conservatives threw their support behind candidates like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer and even Rev. Pat Robertson — none of whom were seen as top tier contenders or were able to compete with those “A” list candidates financially.

Practical thinking? What Jimmy Bopp proposes is the antithesis of practical thinking. Yes, Bopp argues on pragmatic grounds for a compromise solution, i.e. to vote for Romney. But why? Only because Romney can win—not because of who Romney is or what he can offer, but because he can win. Bopp is appealing to our partisan zeal, not to any notion of precedent, presumption, or practical reason.

Back to Cillizza:

Bopp’s argument seems to suggest that times are changing. Romney’s past positions on abortion and gay rights are clearly not in keeping with the base of the party but he has now brought himself into line with those views as he pursues the presidency. Giuliani has not — making the strategic calculation that being seen as a flip-flopper is more detrimental to his chances at the nomination than being pro-abortion rights. (He’s also managed to win the support of some leading social conservatives including Robertson himself.)

In his own remarks at the event last evening, Romney shied away from mentioning either Huckabee or Giuliani by name, choosing instead to deliver his standard stump speech with a special focus on the importance of preserving America’s culture. “Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said, adding that he was “pro-life and pro-family” — an assertion that was interrupted by applause from the assembled attendees … etc.

Say what? Is Romney pro-life again? See:

Kornacki: Not the first time Romney has changed public position on abortion

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(a) consolidating the conservative base


(b) securing insurmountable leads in the early state primaries

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

Regard: Friedman’s insights in a X101010011101 post titled Gaming the US Elections

… The first rule [of US presidential politics since 1960] is that no Democrat from outside the old Confederacy has won the White House since John F. Kennedy …

The second rule is that no Republican has won the White House since Eisenhower who wasn’t from one of the two huge Sunbelt states: California or Texas (Eisenhower, though born in Texas, was raised in Kansas) …

The third rule is that no sitting senator has won the presidency since Kennedy …

That being the case, the Democrats appear poised to commit electoral suicide again, with two northern senators (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) in the lead, and the one southern contender, John Edwards, well back in the race. The Republicans, however, are not able to play to their strength. There are no potential candidates in Texas or California to draw on. Texas right now just doesn’t have players ready for the national scene. California does, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is constitutionally ineligible by birth. In a normal year, a charismatic Republican governor of California would run against a northern Democratic senator and mop the floor. It’s not going to happen this time.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be choosing between a Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and a former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Unless Texan Ron Paul can pull off a miracle, the Republicans appear to be going with their suicide hand just like the Democrats. Even if Fred Thompson gets the nomination, he comes from Tennessee, and while he can hold the South, he will have to do some heavy lifting elsewhere … etc., etc.

Conclusion: It is not enough to say that the ordinary rules do not hold this election cycle; rather: it is simply and absolutely impossible for the ordinary rules to hold.

Here is where we depart from Cillizza:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Pat Robertson, one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement, announced his support for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential bid this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.,” writes Chris Cillizza for Wapo’s The Fix in post titled Pat Robertson Endorses Giuliani

Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani is a significant blow to Mitt Romney, who has worked hard to court evangelical leaders.

Robertson’s support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee.

It also slows any momentum for Mitt Romney within the social conservative movement …

… The other major effect of Robertson’s support for Giuliani is that it will quiet talk in social conservative circles that nominating Giuliani would lead “values voters” to abandon the Republican Party. The stamp of approval from Robertson should assuage the doubts of many (although certainly not all) of the rank-and-file social conservatives …

Thank you, Mr. Robertson. Does anyone else feel like a cigarette and a snuggle?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. We note with interest that David Brody of—Robertson’s own network—and the man who broke the Weyrich endorsement, got scooped on this one. You would think he would have been the first to know.