Posts Tagged ‘John Dickerson’

[…] “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.

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[…] 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.

“… The Romney campaign has tried in various ways to combat the flip-flopping charge,” writes John Dickerson in a Slate article titled Romney’s Achilles’ Heel; Can Mitt convince voters he believes anything?

First, Romney has embraced his largest reversal and admitted that he has changed his view on abortion. Better to claim a conversion than look shifty. To court the key GOP voting bloc of social conservatives, Romney has offered his 38-year marriage and vast family as proof that he not only supports family values but lives them. He speaks out against pornography and lectures Republicans on maintaining standards. He denounced his former supporter Sen. Larry Craig. He seems to be hoping that if he plays the role of the most conservative, people won’t question his qualifications for it.

Calculating vacillators are not usually associated with fortitude, so Romney has also made the word strength his running mate. It’s in all his slogans—”Strategy for a Stronger America” and “True Strength for America’s Future.” His ads go completely overboard on the word. Romney’s successful business career and storied turnaround of the Olympics are also deployed as proof that he has conviction and leadership skills inconsistent with the shape-shifting caricature. (Although, as Daniel Gross so cannily pointed out, Romney’s flexibility is completely consistent with his acumen as a CEO.) etc., etc.

Yes, and we would concur with the estimable Jim Rubens on Romney: “Beware Candidates Trying to Purchase a Conservative Label”—NH Republicans “ought to heed the attacks” by other GOPers on Romney “by remembering the the last time a wealthy businessman spent millions of his own money in a campaign to re-define himself as a conservative”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.