Posts Tagged ‘dick morris’

[…] “The Republican Party is simply not used to selecting a nominee without having it imposed from above,” writes Dick Morris in a vote.com blog burst titled Michigan’s Meaning: GOP Chaos

In near-monarchic fashion, the party has always had an anointed front-runner in every election since 1944 – Tom Dewey begat Ike who begat Dick Nixon who begat Gerald Ford; Ronald Reagan challenged Ford, and then it was his turn. He begat the first George Bush – who literally begat the current president.

The designated candidate won the nomination in each one of those years but 1964 – and that year, the party met disaster.

But President Bush has been unique in refusing to help his party choose a successor. The result is the fissure now is tearing the party apart.

Comment: The historical task of the current Bush presidency appears to be to (a) discredit the conservative movement, and (b) liquidate the GOP as the political basis of its many constituencies.

Why did we—we meaning me, Gilad D.—ever support this troubled man?

Back to Morris:

The winnowing-down process that’s worked so well in the Democratic Party has failed totally in the GOP contest. With each candidate finding adequate momentum in the results so far, the party faces the prospect of a deadlock with each of the four main candidates (McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani) winning a share of the vote but nobody winning a majority on Super Tuesday.

Can South Carolina or Nevada winnow down the field? Unlikely. Neither is significant enough, and each is so totally atypical of the rest of the nation that its results won’t have great national credibility.

Florida is probably the last time that the GOP can avoid a destructive fracturing. Its pivotal vote, the week before Super Tuesday, may offer the best chance to focus the field and allow somebody to win a majority. But the state is now a four-way tie, with vote shares ranging from 17 percent to 21 percent […]

The struggle for Michigan has entered its archival phase. As we wrote for Iowa and New Hampshire, this is when the political community and various media dispute, interpret, or redact the outcomes of the contest.

We would dispute Morris’ overwrought conclusion of chaos.

Our own conclusion: Michigan decided the GOP nomination.

It will be Romney. The only chance the other campaigns ever had was to take Romney out early. They failed to do that.

As for Romney himself, he will pay no price for his sudden transformations or the catastrophes he wrought for himself in Iowa or New Hampshire—these will be quickly forgotten as the focus shifts to upcoming contests. The media will receive Romney’s latest incarnation as populist champion of working families—as a moderate pragmatist—quickly, uncritically, and with a straight face. If any decide to comment at all it will be to argue about how the candidate has grown as a person or discovered a compassion within himself. Or, worse, journalists and editorialists will identify with Romney’s duplicity and celebrate how Romney cynically played the rubes and knuckle-draggers of the GOP base so that he could pursue progressive policy goals as he had always intended. And did we ever get played!

Whatever is the case it will be the conservative movement, and not Romney, that gets discredited.

Also: after a lot of painful trial and error Romney has finally field-tested a successful message—a relevant message, and a message consonant with his biography—and it is the economy. Economic insecurity is breaking out everywhere. Markets are crashing. Banks are failing—etc., etc. Against this insecurity Romney offers the palliative care of massive bail outs, other subsidies, and supervision from Washington combined with his own native genius and ferocious appetite for hard work. To fight for every job, Romney promises. See:

The game now becomes a difficult scramble for every last delegate.

Only Romney has the cash—his own, of course—necessary to endure a contest of grim attrition like this one.

The game is effectively over, friends and well-wishers. The details will get worked out along the way. We intend to enjoy the ride.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[ …] “[Romney]’s got a big checkbook so he can survive any kind of showing and stay in the game,” writes Dick Morris in a dickmorris.com post titled EYES ON IOWA: WHAT THEY NEED

But a defeat in Iowa might make him vulnerable to McCain in New Hampshire. A loss in the first two states would cost him Michigan, and he would limp into Super Tuesday with only a checkbook to protect him. Only. […]

Hence: Romney needs nothing; Romney needs no one. Campaigns organized on a more rational basis—campaigns more tightly coupled to far broader bases of funding, support, and the pursuit of mutual goals—are constrained in what they can say or do. Their complicated relationship to their own emerging coalitions demands constant learning, experiment, evaluation, and review. Romney, on the other hand, is a solitary and apolitical apparition that rises or falls of its own resources: Romney is beholden to none, Romney is responsible to none.

So what price does Romney pay for relentlessly sliming his rivals?

“DES MOINES, IOWA–Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would ‘absolutely’ continue running negative advertisements against his adversaries as the election continues,” writes Amanda C-C-C-C-Carpenter (it’s cold in Iowa) in a Townhall.com blog burst titled Romney Promises More Negative Ads

Romney said this at a campaign rally at Principle Financial building in downtown Des Moines when a questioner asked if he planned to keep going negative on opponents … etc.

Credit for this find goes to Adam of The Palmetto Scoop, who issues this conclusion:

[…] This means that, unless Romney is out of the race after the New Hampshire or Michigan primaries, we can expect to see millions of dollars worth of negative campaigning in South Carolina. And the worse Romney does tonight and next week, the dirtier it will be.

Oh joy […]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“[Mayor Giuliani’s slide] would seem great for Mitt Romney, the Rudy Giuliani challenger,” writes the all-seeing eye in an eyeon08.com post titled Huck rises, Rudy slides, Romney’s strategy breaks down

But not so much. I think that this dynamic of Rudy falling and Huckabee rising creates a very serious challenge for Romney. You see, his proposition has long been that conservatives should rally around him because he can defeat Rudy. But if Rudy is … falling … then that argument goes out the window …

… Well. It seems like, on the day before the big Mormon speech, the Romney guys might need a new rationale for how they get conservatives.

And the Rudy guys, without being the frontrunner, may have a real problem on their hands.

They may have a problem on their hands, or they may not.

It is possible that losing now sets Mayor Giuliani up for victory later. As we have argued elsewhere, Hizzonor is historically a balance-of-power player, one who thrives in a crowded field, a unique entity in US presidential politics as most presidents tend to rise from the strong executive offices of state governors. Regard:

The question that has dominated the GOP contest is, “Should we nominate someone as liberal as Rudy on social issues?”—writes Dick Morris in a dickmorris.com post titled HILLARY, RUDY MAY KNOW LIFE AFTER DEATH

The answer among the stalwarts is obviously no. As long as the social conservatives are divided among four candidates, Rudy has a shot. But when they rally behind one man (probably Huckabee) conservatives outnumber moderates in Republican primaries, particularly if the independents are drawn into the Democratic primary by Hillary’s new vulnerability.

But by losing, Rudy shifts the focus. Republicans will ask, “Is America ready to elect a Mormon?” (unfortunately not) and, “Are we ready to go with Romney or Huckabee who have no experience in foreign or military affairs?” Once again, Rudy will profit from the shift in focus his defeat in the early contests will trigger.

Of course, the real question that will determine Giuliani’s fate is how seriously we take the threat of terrorism. There is no reason to nominate Giuliani except for his demonstrated ability to fight terrorism. This threat is the only way a Republican can win and Rudy has a huge edge in making terrorism his issue. But the subject has been virtually absent from the Republican debates of late and the national discourse. Rudy needs to get that fixed if he is to have a chance to recover from early defeats.

But recover they both likely will. Remember how Gary Hart beat Mondale in New Hampshire in 1984 and Mondale came back to win? And how Paul Tsongas beat Clinton there in 1992 and Clinton eventually won? And how McCain defeated Bush in New Hampshire in 2000 but how Bush came back to win? Different year. New candidates. Same deal.

Others agree:

“There’s a new term this year in the political lexicon: ‘momentum-proof,'” writes Charlie Cook of the nationaljournal.com in an Off to the Races post titled Hey, Mo! Early State Victories May Not Figure Into Who Wins Nomination Nods

It was coined a few weeks ago by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s top strategists to make the point that their candidate’s support in the states that come after Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina was sufficiently large enough that he could lose in the early states and still hold on to win enough delegates to capture the GOP presidential nomination.

While no candidate has lost the first four contests and come back to win the nomination, Giuliani’s handlers made a case that this was plausible, and it could turn out to be true. Indeed, itmay be even more likely now than it was when Giuliani’s people first articulated it.

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney loses the Iowa caucuses to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or wins unimpressively, and if subsequent victories in his next-door-neighbor state of New Hampshire and his native state of Michigan ring a little hollow because they are viewed as home games for Romney, Giuliani might be able to mount a successful comeback.

While Giuliani has been hit with some tough and potentially damaging stories about his personal life and expenditures during his tenure as mayor in recent days, it hasn’t been a good time for Romney, either.

If Huckabee had resources and a real organization, this would be the perfect scenario. But he doesn’t, and it isn’t clear that he’ll get them in the next month. If Romney has an ace in the hole, it’s that he will be in a position to outspend Huckabee by a 20-to-1 ratio over the next month — more if necessary. Any Romney victory may require him to win ugly.

The sharp delineation between Romney, the front-runner in the first three or four states, and Giuliani, who leads most other places, makes this race so confounding and wonderful. Historical nomination patterns are being challenged …

We drew the same conclusions weeks and weeks ago. Should it please us that others finally—finally!—are beginning to see through the Romney fog? Well, it does. See:

Update, 12.8: Patrick Ruffini also agrees with us. See Mitt/Hick fight helps Rudy.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“According to the [RealClearPolitics averages], all the pieces of Romney’s route to the nomination are falling into place,” writes Matt C in a race42008.com post titled Romney Leads RCP Average in IA, NH, MI, and SC. Matt C.’s conclusion is based on Romney’s so-called early states strategy. How effective will this strategy be?—opinions differ. What follows is a simple-bordering-on-trivial analytical exercise based on scenarios for either Romney or Giuliani winning the GOP nomination as developed by Barnes and Morris.

Step 1: we lay out the scenarios.

Step 2: we plot the scenarios and their possible outcomes using a semiotic square, a simple heuristic diagram a little like Aristotle’s square-of-opposition.

Step 3: we try to draw conclusions from our plot of the scenarios.

STEP 1: laying out the scenarios

The Giuliani Scenario as described by Barnes in his Weekly Standard article, The 2 Man Race

… Contrary to reports, Giuliani is not ignoring the early states. Well, Iowa maybe. He’s campaigning aggressively in New Hampshire and leads in the Fox poll in South Carolina. If he stayed out of every state until the Florida primary, that would be fatal. The early winner would gain all the media attention and swamp him.

But Giuliani’s focus is on Florida and then on the big-state primaries on February 5 in California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. He, too, has the funds to compete. His scenario–breaking out in Florida and blowing away the field on Super Tuesday–is credible in my view.

However, he could do well on Super Tuesday and still not lock up the nomination. The same is true for Romney. Should that happen, the Romney scenario sees conservatives drifting to him as the alternative to the more liberal Giuliani. Former congressman Vin Weber, a Romney adviser, says there’s a ceiling on how many Republicans will back Giuliani, one that will keep him from winning the nomination. We’ll see … etc., etc.

The Romney Scenario (a) as described by Barnes in his Weekly Standard article, The 2 Man Race

… Romney has an early-primary strategy aimed at Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He’s poured money into those states, broadcast TV spots, and built organizations. Fox News polls show him leading in Iowa and New Hampshire and a close second in South Carolina.

If he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll have history on his side. No presidential candidate in either party has failed to win the presidential nomination after finishing first in Iowa and New Hampshire–that is, since 1972 when Democrat Edmund Muskie managed the dubious feat of winning both but not the nomination. Romney also has the best shot to win the Michigan primary on January 15. He grew up in Michigan and his father George was governor. The other Republicans have all but ignored Michigan.

So the Romney scenario is obvious. He wins early and takes off like a rocket. His name identification soars. Just as significant, he’ll have the money–his own, plus funds he’s raised–to compete fully on February 5, Super Tuesday. I think this scenario is believable. Of course it’s just a scenario, nothing more … etc.

The Romney Scenario (b) as described by Dick Morris in a speculative piece titled WHAT IF THE IOWA POLLS DON’T CHANGE?

What if the current polls in Iowa are the final result? …

… [a] Romney victory in Iowa would virtually guarantee a win in New Hampshire. The two states, in media terms, are practically one. Two-thirds of New Hampshire lives in the southern part of the state that watches Boston television every night. Since Romney served as governor in Massachusetts, he will probably win New Hampshire anyway. A win in Iowa would make it a fait accompli.

Two victories would make Romney the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Coupled with a Giuliani stumble in Iowa, it could totally change the dynamic of the Republican primary. Here’s what might happen:

Rudy could come to be seen as too antagonistic to the Christian right, and moderates might once again turn to McCain as the less inflammatory option, sidetracking the former New York mayor.

Huckabee, coming in a strong second, could take off and become the poor man’s Romney, taking advantage of his greater consistency on social issues, his Christian (read: non-Mormon) beliefs, and his support of the Fair Tax as an alternative to the IRS.

Republicans would likely panic about the idea of a Mormon candidate and worry about his prospects, making Huckabee and either Rudy or McCain viable as alternatives.

Thompson will be forced out, having lost his position as the socially conservative answer to Rudy …

… The race would be thrown into chaos. Anyone could win. Romney would have the momentum, but doubts about his ability to win as a Mormon would make his lead unstable. Huckabee would be gaining, but he may not be well enough known to make it. Giuliani could still recover, given his strong national standing, but would be hobbled. And McCain would still have his immigration position hanging over his head, but as Rudy falters, he might pick up the slack.

Then again, Hillary could open up a large lead in Iowa as her juggernaut gets going. And Rudy could, at least, finish a strong second to Romney in Iowa, and perhaps beat him, making it a Giuliani-Romney runoff in the main primaries, which Rudy probably wins. Then the general election match-up would be Hillary vs. Rudy, as we have all anticipated.

But what if?

STEP 2: Plotting the scenarios using a semantic square

Here are the possibilities as elaborated by Barnes and Morris plotted in a semiotic square:

willard milton romney

How to read the square:

  1. Giuliani breaks out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ AND Romney fails in the early state primaries—RESULT: Giuliani wins the GOP nomination
  2. Giuliani breaks out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ AND Romney wins the early state primarie—RESULT: inconclusive
  3. Romney wins the early state primaries AND Giuliani does not break out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ—RESULT: Barnes: Romney wins the GOP Nomination -or- Morris: Chaos ensues
  4. Romney fails in the early state primaries AND Giuliani does not break out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ—RESULT: inconclusive

STEP 3: Reflections and conclusions

(i) (2) and (4) both return inconclusive readings according to our interpretation of the Barnes and Morris scenarios. Put differently, it is possible that the Romney and Giuliani campaigns could both achieve their objectives and still fail to achieve a lock on the nomination; it is also possible that both campaigns could fail in their objectives. Conclusion: these scenarios are far more explanatory than predictive.

(ii) (1) reflects the common wisdom according to Morris. For Romney to take the early primary states (3), is the special case that for which Morris tries to account. For Barnes (3) is at least as plausible as (1) if not more so.

Why do their opinions differ?

Answer: Morris is flummoxed by Romney’s Mormonism. His surmise: Republicans will balk at a Romney nomination, which we surmise to be a projection of Morris himself balking at a Romney nomination. Our surmise: Republicans are far, far less concerned about Romney’s Mormonism than are journalists, party elites, the chattering commentariat, political consultants etc.—just as Republicans are far, far less concerned about Giuliani’s progressive social views than are journalists etc., etc. (Here is an example.)

(iii) We still, however, agree with Morris: Romney could win the early primary states AND Guiliani could fail in FL etc. AND the party could still fail to decide for Romney.

Here is why: Romney has disastrously misread the meaning and intent of the new primary calendar, a calendar designed to suppress the significance of the early primary states in favor of a defacto national primary. Regard: strategists draw distinctions between high and low mobility environments. In a high mobility environment—where you can move your forces quickly—it makes sense to invest only lightly in your perimeter or in static defenses in favor of a highly mobile ready-reserve that you can quickly deploy wherever you need it. In a low-mobility environment, the opposite obtains; since you cannot move your forces around easily, you post them where you need them to be when hostilities break out, e.g. at key points on your perimeter, in hard points along your invasion corridors.

The primary calendar of e.g. 2004 constituted a high-mobiliy environment as the campaigns had time to regroup and re-organize according to their estimations of the evolving situation after each contest.

The 2008 primary calendar, however, constitutes an exceedingly low-mobility environment as the tempo of the contests precludes any learning, adapting, and re-allocating.

Romney’s campaign is optimized for a high-mobility environment. Barnes describes it this way: “[Romney] wins early and takes off like a rocket. His name identification soars. Just as significant, he’ll have the money–his own, plus funds he’s raised–to compete fully on February 5, Super Tuesday.” In other words, Team Romney hopes to suddenly transition from a low-efficiency organization characterized by massive and low ROI media buys in a few targeted locales to a high-efficiency operation that can achieve a far-higher ROI because of its newly won name recognition, earned media etc. Romney will then begin spending his reserve cash etc.

Giuliani, on the other hand, has optimized his campaign for a low-mobility environment by concentrating his efforts not on the high-prestige but low-delegate-returning early states but rather on high-delegate-returning populous states, e.g. Fl, CA, IL, NY, NJ—i.e. Giuliani has organized and deployed for a national primary, a national primary that will effectively lock into place the national poll numbers. Since Giuliani is already a nationally known and respect figure, his ROI is much higher for spending that has been much lower. No sudden re-deployment or organizational transformation is necessary for the Giuliani campaign; what they need to be in place is already in place and has been for months. Also: Giuliani can, and has, allowed e.g. the activities of Huckabee and McCain to divide and disperse Romney’s attentions in the early primary states. In far simpler terms: Giuliani’s scenario requires far less input to produce far more output.

We believe that this is where Barnes, Morris, and Romney are wrong: their analysis supposes the 2000 or 2004 primary calendar. Giuliani, however, has organized differently.

History will decide the issue.

We invite criticism. We also acknowledge that our exercise lacks empirical rigor, based as it is on logical-semantic relations, descriptions developed by others, and a simple distinction.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Corporations and government entities sometimes use scenario-planning for long-range forecasting. The method is simple bordering on trivial. You attempt to develop rival scenarios based on you or your team’s estimation of how critical variables will trend over time. You then plot your scenarios against those variables articulated as dimensions. You then use the plot as something of a map to help you plan for or against contingencies. The scenarios themselves often turn out to be ridiculously wrong—but that’s OK—the point is not to predict the future; the point is rather to e.g. help you prepare for surprises, clarify your goals, identify critical variables, and develop a more critical awareness based on a longer-term view. For our purposes the Barnes and Morris scenarios are interesting to the degree that they help us understand how people are thinking about the primaries.