Posts Tagged ‘former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’

“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.”

Remarks:

(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.

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Mayor Giuliani has released his first commercial in NH—yes, NH. The Romneys, who had to have seen this coming, are flustered.

“Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has television ads and mailings on standby to attack Rudy Giuliani but so far has not used them because of an internal dispute about the risks of a backlash in going negative on the Republican front-runner, according to numerous sources in and close to the Romney campaign,” reports Jonathan Martin of The Politico only we found the post, titled Dissension Hits Romney Camp Over Rudy Attack Strategy, at HuffPo through a link at Wapo.

With the first caucus and primary voting just seven weeks away, some of Romney’s top backers in early states said privately they are urging his high command in Boston to start drawing sharp and hard-hitting contrasts or risk letting the former New York mayor glide to the GOP nomination on the strength of his much higher national profile … etc.

Here is the problem for Romney: his negatives are higher—far higher—than Giuliani’s. Hence: he risks self-immolation if he goes negative against a national hero.

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)

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“[Mayor] Giuliani is going to have to step up and begin to empty his treasury and advertise if he wants to catch Romney. This is my opinion about this part of the political season: Once [Mayor] Giuliani finally starts to spend his money on advertizing, it will be the beginning of the end for him” argues some guy named Vic Lunquist in an electromneyin2008.com post titled The Beginning of The End of the Giuliani Campaign?

Apparently Lunquist is neither an operative, activist, nor an analyst of any sort. To his credit he characterizes his claims as opinion as opposed to inferences or conclusions drawn from data:

… Mr. Giuliani is going to have to step up and begin to empty his treasury and advertise if he wants to catch Governor Romney. This is my opinion about this part of the political season: Once Giuliani finally starts to spend his money on advertizing, it will be the beginning of the end for him …

Lunquist bases his opinion on a syndicated article by Russel Berman titled Giuliani’s Hold on Lead Spot Is Eroding. Berman bases his own opinion on a conflation between national standing and local polling. Berman claims, and he cites others as claiming, that Romney is the true—as opposed to the apparent—front-runner as polls at the moment depict Romney as poised to take both New Hampshire and Iowa. The article reduces to an uncritical endorsement of Romney’s early-state strategy disguised as analysis.

But even the most generous reading of Berman’s “analysis” hardly supports Lunquist’s conclusion:

“Once Giuliani opens up his treasury to advertise in order to catch Romney,” argues Lunquist, “it will be the beginning of the end of his campaign. Gov. Romney will simply eclipse him in every way from that point forward. Rudy has been playing the game his way. Once he shifts course and decides to play the game Governor Romney’s way, Giuliani is done. Rudy Giuliani simply does not have the national organization or treasury to compete with the likes of Gov. Romney. All year, America has been slowly awakening to the fact that Governor Romney is the superior leader by comparison. Unfortunately for Giuliani, he is just now waking up to the fact that he may have been ambushed both strategically and tactically” … etc.

Um, right. Various responsa, comments:

(1) First observation: The Romneys and their entourage have never been known for their prudence, temperance, moderation, or subtlety. Even so, you sort of have to wonder why the Romneys are trying so hard to retail this GAME OVER! WE WIN! WE ADVISE THE OTHER CANDIDATES TO GO HOME theme.

Way to manage expectations.

Now what happens if Romney fails, or fails to win overwhelmingly or decisively in either New Hampshire or Iowa?

(2) Note the groveling, courtier stance of the writer, i.e. this strange obsession with the person of Romney that you frequently encounter among Romney supporters. Note the flattering-courtier language:

“Rudy Giuliani simply does not have the national organization or treasury to compete with the likes of Gov. Romney. All year, America has been slowly awakening to the fact that Governor Romney is the superior leader by comparison. Unfortunately for Giuliani, he is just now waking up to the fact that he may have been ambushed both strategically and tactically.”

Compare Lunquist’s fawning prose to this example we found on a Kim Jong Il tribute page:

Kim Jong Il is a great thinker and theoretician, a great statesman, a great man and the sun of the 21st century. His thought, statesmanship and achievements, all of them reach the acme of charm.

Anyone cannot but be captivated by his greatness as an outstanding thinker and theoretician when recollecting a few facts such as the programme of modeling the whole society on the Juche idea, the idea and theory on global independence, the socialist idea and theory of the present times and the idea and theory on the Songun politics.

(3) Follow Lunquist’s reasoning. (i) Mayor Giuliani has fallen behind in the early-state primaries; (ii) he will therefore lose; However (iii): “Once Giuliani opens up his treasury to advertise in order to catch Romney, it will be the beginning of the end of his campaign,” because “Rudy Giuliani simply does not have the national organization or treasury to compete with the likes of Gov. Romney.”

Conclusion: Mayor Giuliani is damned if he does, and he’s damned if he doesn’t. Either way, he loses. Hence, the game is over.

(4) Lunquist’s argument is based on questionable assumptions.

Assumption (i): Romney has concentrated his efforts on the early states, hence: the early states are what you should concentrate on. It is not simply a strategy, it is the strategy. This is not so much an assumption as it is a projection. (Romney did it. So it must be right.)

Assumption (ii): Romney has spent months and upwards of US$20,000,000.00 on his early-state strategy. Hence: it will cost Mayor Guiliani at least as much in terms of time and treasure to capture leads in either state. Assumption (ii) is also a projection in the form of a generalization from Romney’s own experience.

Assumption (iii): There are no other players on the field—none—in this universe, e.g. Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain do not exist—the race is between Mayor Giuliani and Romney.

(5) Assumption (i) is risible on its face. Yes, there are other strategies. If an early state strategy were the only strategy then why should anyone ever campaign outside of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina etc.? See:

Romney’s early state strategy; an investigation
Romney’s early state strategy—an addendum

Also: an abridged primary calendar decreases the importance of these states—the perception of momentum takes time to develop.

Assumption (ii) boggles the mind. No, it does not follow that because Romney has spent months and upwards of US$20,000,000.00 on his early-state strategy that he cannot be deprived of his leads in an instant—within days, perhaps hours—by his rivals. Romney’s appalling ROI is unprecedented and unshared by his rivals. See:

Even the most underfunded and un- or under-organized of the other campaigns enjoy a higher ROI for every campaign dollar than Romney. Here would be an example of an under-funded, under-organized campaign drawing blood from the Romneys almost effortlessly:

eyeon08.com: “[Huckabee’s] authenticity and Romney’s phoniness seems to have stopped Romney’s forward momentum”

This means that other campaigns are capable of achieving far more with far less—and have—and will again.

(6) Contra assumption (iii), there are players other than Mayor Giuliani in this race. Gov. Huckabee is increasingly competitive in Iowa and has consolidated the religious right. See:

Sen. McCain will contest New Hampshire, and Mayor Giuliani is active in Michigan and South Carolina. Precisely because Mayor Giuliani continues to lead in the polls nationally and to lead in the delegate rich larger states, he enjoys strategic depth—i.e. he can allow other candidates to disperse Romney’s energies and hold Romney to at best a split or unclear decision in the early state primaries. In other words, contra Lunquist, Mayor Giuliani does not need to win in the early state primaries. He doesn’t even need to fight a holding action in the early state primaries. He only needs to allow others to fight a holding action in the early state primaries—which is what they will do anyway. In this way Giuliani conserves his own strength even as Romney nails himself insensibly to the cross of his own early-state strategy, disperses his energies fighting off several other campaigners, and hemorrhages further millions of his own money.

Further: Romney is perceived as the front-runner in Iowa, New Hampshire etc. He is the one whom the other candidates will position as their foils, will draw distinctions against. For evidence and analysis see:

We have no idea who Lunquist is. Our intuition: he is a random Romney supporter issuing opinions on the fly. But: we hope and pray that his remarks represents the thinking of the Romneys. Also see:

Giuliani can win without S.C., campaign says—yes, OK, this is true on its face, but here is what the campaign is not telling you—they are active in the early states, including SC, only indirectly. To understand the former Mayor of NYC, you need to understand the Byzantine character of NYC politics and the art of balancing players off of one another. Romney, the data-driven, linear-thinker, now faces his point-for-point antithesis. Romney has no idea what he’s up against.

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 CBN.com—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.

“Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has to smile since he’s up in Iowa by 23 points over rival and national front runner Rudy Giuliani in the battle for their party’s nomination” reports the entire Reuters Staff in a dispatch titled Romney tries to lower Iowa expectations

But publicly he is trying to play down expectations that he has to win given the amount of time and money he has poured into the early voting state.

Well, duh. Even a Romney staffer can see that Romney has opened up a salient, the classic profile of high-vulnerability. Here is what we wrote elsewhere on this very issue:

Giuliani does not need to win Iowa, New Hampshire, or Michigan. Here—we argue–is why:

(a) Romney’s much-publicized massive spending in the early states has set up conditions such that any outcome other than a total blow-out in Romney’s favor will be interpreted as a non-victory or even a defeat.

(b) Team Romney is a famously low-effiency, low-ROI campaign. It is therefore vulnerable to the sudden leaps of under-funded and under-organized but high-efficiency, high-ROI campaigns, e.g. Huckabee’s rise has pushed Romney to fifth place in the national polls.

(c) Because of (a) and (b), and because Team Romney’s numbers have already peaked in the early primary states, even a marginal intervention by any one of the other campaigns—not just Giuliani’s—could offset or even deny Romney a victory in any one, or even all of his early primary states. In other words: for any of the other candidates to come in a close second in any of the early primary states would be interpreted as a disaster for Team Romney.

(3) This is consonant with Giuliani’s high-efficiency, high-ROI campaign; he is effectively using the other campaigns to pin down and exhaust a hapless Romney at no cost to his own operation.

Call it Romney’s Iowa-New Hampshire Salient. On a map a salient looks like progress—like forward motion. On the ground, however …

Also see: Romney poised to fail in Iowa no matter what the outcome

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

... “But how much longer will the GOP race last?”—asks John Hood in a nationalreview.com The Corner post titled Won’t Be Long Now

Perhaps I’m not fully appreciating how the new calendar will change the basic patterns of presidential races, or the strange mood of the 2008 electorate, or some other factor that promises to warp normal political space/time. When I look at the likely calendar — Iowa, Jan. 3; Wyoming, Jan. 5; New Hampshire, Jan. 8; Michigan, Jan. 15; Nevada and South Carolina, Jan. 19; Florida, Jan. 29 — I don’t see any way for Rudy Giuliani to make it through all the way to Super-Duper Tuesday simply by waiting to win Florida. He’s got to win New Hampshire, or least Michigan a week later. If Romney sweeps the early contests, he’ll gain gobs of free media in states where voters are just starting to pay attention, and no one, Giuliani included, really has enough money to run media campaigns in the big states … etc.

We would argue otherwise. Various responsa:

(1) It seem odd to us to argue on historical grounds—e.g. “winners of the early states tend to win the nomination”—and yet ignore history. 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.

(2) Giuliani does not need to win Iowa, New Hampshire, or Michigan. Here—we argue—is why:

(a) Romney’s much-publicized massive spending in the early states has set up conditions such that any outcome other than a total blow-out in Romney’s favor will be interpreted as a non-victory or even a defeat.

(b) Team Romney is a famously low-effiency, low-ROI campaign. It is therefore vulnerable to the sudden leaps of under-funded and under-organized but high-efficiency, high-ROI campaigns, e.g. Huckabee’s rise has pushed Romney to fifth place in the national polls.

(c) Because of (a) and (b), and because Team Romney’s numbers have already peaked in the early primary states, even a marginal intervention by any one of the other campaigns—not just Giuliani’s—could offset or even deny Romney a victory in any one, or even all of his early primary states. In other words: for any of the other candidates to come in a close second in any of the early primary states would be interpreted as a disaster for Team Romney.

(3) This is consonant with Giuliani’s high-efficiency, high-ROI campaign; he is effectively using the other campaigns to pin down and exhaust a hapless Romney at no cost to his own operation.

(4) Giuliani has optimized his campaign for a low-mobility environment consonant with the new primary calendar; see:

Romney’s early state strategy; an investigation

(5) One way or the other Romney will—as Hood puts it—“gain gobs of free media”; Hood assumes that this will redound to Romney’s credit. There is evidence to suggest that it will not. Romney is most successful when his is the only voice, his is the only face. He doesn’t compare well with the other candidates. Further: Romney’s negatives are historically, unprecedentedly high; see:

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)

(6) Giuliani enjoys broad name recognition; he doesn’t have to advertise in the big states—e.g. NY and NJ already know him well. Fl knows him well because of all its retirees from the North East.

(7) Losers learn!—why does everyone seem to forget this simple fact of competitive behavior?—as Rumsfeld used to say, no victory is ever final, no defeat is ever fatal—the rival campaigns have had months now to adapt themselves to, and to innovate against, a hostile terrain dominated by a hostile Romney. Team Romney has been neither subtle nor sophisticated; its method reduces to simple attrition. Low-ROI attritionists are infinitely vulnerable to disruption, suppression, and suprise—e.g. the value voters debacle, where despite massive spending and organizing the Romneys got themselves all up-ended by a well delivered speech.

eyeon08.com: “[Huckabee’s] authenticity and Romney’s phoniness seems to have stopped Romney’s forward momentum”

(Does Romney own the early state primaries?—the question then becomes, how can we win without those states?—or: how can we disrupt, upset, or suppress Romney’s operations in those states?)

McCain and Huckabee have already successfully field-tested messages that convert Romney’s strengths into weaknesses. Huckabee already has experience drawing blood from the Romneys, both at Ames and at the value voters summit. Guiliani, for his part, seems to only gaze serenely upon the field with the stillness of a predator. This in itself should cause the Romney campaign grave concern—the man is no idiot—he is a stern, capable, and seasoned fighter, as calculating as he is deliberate and methodical. What could he be planning?

Our conclusion: Yes, Romney may buywin the GOP nomination. But Giuliani and the other candidates will make him bleed profusely in return for every contest right up to what will probably be a contested convention. Romney will be forced to spend phenomenal amounts of largely his own money. These will take the form of loans to his campaign. This means that donors will be able to pay directly into Romney’s pockets—to help remit the loans—according to our absurd campaign finance laws. In other words, expect corruption on an entirely new scale under a Romney administration.

Question: Why are the pundits and commentators so uniformly, well, stupid in their estimations?—why are they not considering key distinctions in e.g. the way campaigns organize, promulgate and develop their messages?—or have they all just been bought and paid for?—see:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Shabbat shalom, dear readers. All 2 of you. May peace break out all around you.

“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.

… “The concept of one state making or breaking a race for the presidential nomination is nothing new,” writes the estimable Reid Wilson in a realclearpolitics speculative article titled “McCain, Giuliani Like Gephardt, Kerry?”

In 2004, as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged in early state polls, former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, whose entire campaign strategy rested on winning Iowa, threw most of his campaign treasury into taking Dean down. The result: Sen. John Kerry, who was viewed as staying above the fray, took Iowa, and with it, began a snowball effect that handed him the nomination.

This year, Romney in many ways parallels Dean. Both former New England governors and viewed as outsiders in their own parties, Dean found then, as Romney does now, that criticizing a party that has lost its way can pay off. Dean criticized fellow Democrats as “Bush-lite,” while Romney, in a recent advertisement, reminds Republican voters that “change begins with us.” Both are well-funded, and both saw themselves rise in early state polls.

Their language, too, bears striking resemblance. At a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington in 2003, Dean worked the crowd in a frenzy, borrowing a line from the late Sen. Paul Wellstone when he said he represented the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” Last Friday, in Nevada, Romney mirrored the assertion. “Conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party,” he said.

It remains, it seems, up to John McCain or Rudy Giuliani to disabuse Republican primary voters of that notion, should either hope to break Romney’s lead in New Hampshire.

Giuliani and Romney have skirmished frequently in recent weeks, most prominently on issues of taxes and spending. The two candidates each claim to have cut taxes while accusing the other of raising taxes and fees.

But both Romney and Giuliani have to overcome issues with the Republican base that have little to do with fiscal conservatism. Both have in the past made statements supportive of Roe v. Wade and gay rights, issues on which social conservatives vehemently disagree. Both are now tacking to the right, though Romney’s efforts seem more successful – this week, prominent evangelical leader Bob Jones III, grandson of the university’s namesake, announced he would back Romney.

McCain has come out strongest against Romney’s assertion of himself as the conservative standard bearer. “As we all know, when [Romney] ran for office in Massachusetts, being a Republican wasn’t much of a priority,” McCain told a crowd in Manchester, according to the Associated Press. “In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn’t want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always was under the impression Ronald Reagan was a real Republican.”

In fact, McCain noted, Romney has admitted to supporting Democrats in the past, including 1992 Democratic presidential candidate Paul Tsongas and former New Hampshire Congressman Dick Swett.

On Wednesday, McCain continued his assault on Romney, citing a recent debate gaffe as a sign of Romney’s “inexperience” and, when asked whether he meant Romney was too inexperienced to be president, responded, “Sure,” according to an influential South Carolina political blog and The State newspaper.

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden took direct aim at McCain in response: “Governor Romney has run a state and balanced budgets, while other campaigns have only run a Senate office on Capitol Hill or have mismanaged their campaigns to the point that they are mired in debt.”

While Giuliani has the same, if not more severe, problems with conservatives that Romney has, McCain has yet to take serious aim at the New Yorker. Nor has he taken shots at former Senator Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, who began his campaign last month and has been dogged by questions of commitment and ideological purity. But the difference is that McCain counts both men as personal friends; he and Giuliani had dinner late last year to discuss their presidential bids, while Thompson served as McCain’s national campaign co-chair in 2000.

The increasing bitterness of the Republican race, centered around three candidates’ struggles to win New Hampshire, are only likely to get worse in the coming months. The turning point, from running a positive campaign to a comparative campaign, could be an ominous sign for either McCain or Giuliani. As they both train their fire on Romney, one will likely become this year’s version of Dick Gephardt.

The other could become this year’s John Kerry, who stays above the fray, and out of harm’s way, bound onward to a general election.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We concur with Wilson’s tacit assumption that the Romneys must depart the race. The question then becomes: how and when. We humbly rejoin with the following points and counter-arguments:

1. Patrick Ruffini has also likened Romney to Dean—Ruffini: “Romney’s leads remind me of Howard Dean’s hard-earned leads in those states in 2004″

2. We, OTOH, have likened Romney to an out-of-control Gephardt: Romney’s negative attacks on others and his negatives in the polls–what is the link?

Our point: the Dean-Gephardt story has entered the contemporary canon of political analogy.

3. Any top tier candidate could take out Romney at little or no cost. Conventional wisdom: When your favorables are high, you can go negative, but it will cost you. When your own negatives are high, do not go negative; you may take out your target, but only at the cost of your own viability. Romney’s negatives are frighteningly-historically high. Higher than anyone. Higher than Hillary. Further: Romney is a polarizing figure; independents and Democrats loath and despise him. Evidence:

4. We would contend that no one should lay a glove on Romney just yet. The timing is not right. The Romney candidacy is proving to be useful despite the increasingly remote danger of a Romney presidency—a probability that has receded to the level of a possibility.

The task of the Romney campaign at the moment is to (a) lavishly fund and therefore help develop interest groups, consultants, and party organizations on the right; (b) push other, more viable candidates to the right; (c) dominate the airwaves with Republican messages; (d) compel other candidates to adapt against a hostile terrain dominated by a resource-intensive campaign. These conditions will obtain in the general election, so the candidates had better learn how to cope, and learn how to develop and promulgate a successful message in a hostile media environment.

Contra (b), is Romney really pushing other candidates to the right?—well, no. This is wishful thinking on our part. His influence has been as negligible. But he has allowed other candidates to occupy the moderate ground. It is difficult for someone to accuse you of being extreme if your rival—and basis for comparison—is Romney in his current incarnation. In other words, it is precisely the unequivocal failure of Romney’s caricatured, naive, and un-reconstructed conservatism that has cleared the ground for a newly emerging center-right consensus. (Regard: Would Brownback reach out to Giuliani were it not for Romney?—it is precisely because Romney is so alienating and estranging a figure that he can be marginally useful in indirect and unintentional ways—he brings people together. OK., so he brings people together against him. But he brings them together nonetheless.)

Contra (c), you can just as easily argue that Romney is discrediting Republican messages by association with himself and his campaign. This galls us a little bit, but it is consistent with contra (a).

Even so, at this precise moment we would contend that the Romney campaign is more useful on the life-support of Romney’s personal fortune than it would be dead and gone. Besides: Romney’s consultants, operatives, and hacks—never terribly efficient or effective—have yet to complete the necessary task of separating Romney from whatever wealth Romney is willing to sacrifice to his vanity—hey, everyone’s got to eat!—who are we to begrudge the vultures of a corrupt party establishment their chance at a fat carcass?   

5. Consistent with (4), consider the work that the Romney campaign has already accomplished. It was Romney’s titanic botching of the value voters summit that exposed the internal divisions and contradictions of the Evangelical movement and effectively nuetralized their influence. See:

out-of-touch Evangelical “leaders” stunned by Huckabee upset at the value voters summit—prepared to sigh, shrug, and coronate Romney as their Lord, G_d, and King—oh, the irony! 

6. We further contend: The Romney problem will solve itself according to its own inner logic. This is because of Romney’s over-reliance on direct methods of developing influence, which explains the contradiction of Romney’s non-showing in the national polls yet competitiveness in the early states precisely where Romney has concentrated his spending. We argue the case here:

positioned to fail: Team Romney’s over-reliance on instruments of direct influence and its consequences

Consistent with (5), the Romneys will probably teach the GOP and the conservative movement many painful lessons before they depart the scene. But the lessons themselves will be useful. Moral: No one needs to play Gephardt to someone else’s Kerry. Allow Darwin’s mysterious laws to do their work. On the other hand, it would be highly entertaining and virtually cost-free to the candidate who wants to play Gephardt.

So, weighing the one option against the other, a presumption toward an economy of effort would compel us to advise against moving against Romney. The Romney problem will resolve itself.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.