Posts Tagged ‘Michael Luo’

[…] “Apparently the word is going around Team Romney that McCain will need 77 percent of the delegates remaining to win,” writes Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty in an NRO Campaign Spot blog burst titled Romney Fighting All The Way To The Convention?

(I’m pretty sure that’s wrong, if the numbers 720-256-194 are accurate. And if McCain, the guy in the 600-700s needs to win an extremely high percentage, doesn’t Romney, the guy in the 200s, have to win an even higher percentage?)

However, if Romney stays in, it’s very plausible to see a scenario in which he denies McCain the nomination on a straight delegate victory. This would result in some really, really rough coverage and criticism. I’m hearing some fans of Mitt talk about doing something like this to “keep McCain honest” and to broker concessions in St. Paul.

We’ll see. If the sense is that his campaign isn’t being run to win, but being run to make a point, I think you’ll see his support in subsequent states drop … I’m not sure the Romney campaign was built to be a protest candidacy […]

Um, we’re not so sure either. A protest candidate? Romney?

[…] “Al Cardenas, a member of Mr. Romney’s national finance team and his Florida chairman, said the campaign could still achieve certain goals, including pushing a conservative agenda, while hoping for the outside possibility of winning the nomination,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Losses Aside, Romney Puts Convention on Calendar

“You’ve got a chance to win the nomination based on either getting the required number of delegates in the first round,” Mr. Cardenas said, “or having a campaign that results in no one have the required number of delegates in the first round, which is maybe a more tangible goal.”

Mr. Romney’s advisers had said that if he reached only 300 delegates by Tuesday, a threshold he fell short of, he would essentially have to win every remaining contest, often by large margins because most of them allocate delegates proportionally.

Charlie Black, a senior strategist for Mr. McCain, put out a strategy memorandum on Wednesday that made a similar argument. McCain advisers said that, by conservative estimates, they expected to wrap up the nomination by early March.

“I will not say, in order to stay consistent with my boss’s superstition, which I share, that it’s impossible for these guys to get nominated,” said Mr. Black, referring to Mr. Romney and Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, “but it is virtually impossible just based on the arithmetic of the matter.”

But Mr. Romney’s advisers have been discussing three categories of delegates: those that have been already been awarded and bound to a candidate; those that have been promised but are not technically bound; and those that have not yet been allocated.

The goal would be to continue to battle, hoping that Mr. Romney starts to sweep up states, and then arrive at the convention with no clear winner and the momentum to wrest some of those promised but not officially bound delegates into his column.

Mr. Romney appeared to allude to this possibility in his speech on Tuesday night, promising to take the Republican race “all the way to the convention” […]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We harp more on this string here:

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Advertisements

[…] “In a measure of just how dire the situation is for the campaign, Mr. Romney’s advisers have been discussing the existence of three different categories of delegates: those that have been already been awarded and bound to a candidate; those that have been promised to someone but are not technically bound; and those that have not yet been allocated,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT The Caucus blog burst titled Romney Prepared to Keep On Going

They are mapping out a farfetched possibility premised on conservative fears continuing to fester against Mr. McCain, which they hope fuels a series of wins for Mr. Romney and then perhaps get him to a point where he has enough momentum to wrest some of those promised but not officially bound delegates into his column at a contested convention.

Mr. Romney appeared to even allude to this potential route in his speech on Tuesday night, promising to take the contest “all the way to the convention.”

“There’s a whole lot of scenarios that get us there,” Tagg Romney said […]

Yeahright. A lot of scenarios. More than ever. Possibilities everywhere. Options abound. But the scenario Tagg Romney suggests is singular, pointed, clear, and perilous. It consists in an attempt to nullify the expressed counsel of Republican primary voters—i.e. the returns of the primary contests themselves—by turning-around promised but technically not bound party delegates. It also consists in continuing to drive up Sen. John McCain’s negatives to undermine any claim the man has to being electable in November, as Luo indicates below:

[…] Tagg Romney also seemed to allude to his father’s continued willingness to pour his own money into his presidential bid, saying the campaigning hope is that conservative alarm about Mr. McCain continues to grow, allowing the campaign to still “fund-raise outside as well as from my dad and make this a real battle” […]

So, what should we call Romney’s newest and probably boldest yet hare-brained scheme? We haven’t decided yet. But think about it, friends, fans, and well-wishers. Romney is supposed to be a dispassionate android number-cruncher problem-solver, a man of facts, data, and detail, a man of argument and not affect, a man of reason and not rebellion. So why is Romney behaving like a desperate out-of-control wannabee Captain Ahab or Richard III, i.e. a drastic figure willing to sacrifice everything and everyone? What in this man’s past would have predicted this? And what else do we not know about Romney?

Who, we would ask again, is Willard Milton Romney?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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

[Credit: Kavon W. Nikrad]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign Manager Beth Myers On The West Virginia Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smooth.

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

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

From the APCO study itself:

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

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

The emphases are ours, all ours.

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

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

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] “Operating in survival mode, Mr. Romney’s circle of advisers has come up with a detailed road map to try to salvage his campaign,” writes Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Maps a Strategy for Survival

The plan is complete with a new infusion of cash from Mr. Romney, a long-term strategy intended to turn the campaign into a protracted delegate fight and a reframing of the race as a one-on-one battle for the future of the party that seeks to sound the alarm among conservatives about Mr. McCain.

The advisers have drawn up a list of states, dividing and ranking them into those considered relatively easy and inexpensive targets, along with a broader grouping of more costly battlegrounds where the advisers hope that Mr. Romney can be competitive.

Some states like Arizona and Arkansas, the home states of Mr. McCain and Mike Huckabee, respectively, are largely written off.

The question is whether the planning, along with the campaign’s one trump card, the candidate’s vast wealth, can overcome the growing sense of inevitability that has begun to attach itself to Mr. McCain.

Complicating the outlook, Mr. Romney’s campaign has been racked by infighting over advertising strategy between some senior advisers, including some consultants who joined the campaign after leaving Mr. McCain’s […]

[…] The most serious obstacle in many places is Mr. Huckabee, who continues to pull social conservative voters from Mr. Romney.

“The more the Romney strategy hinges on picking up red states, the bigger a factor Mike Huckabee is going to be,” Mr. Harris said […]

Only Romney precluded the possibility of ever reaching out to Gov. Huckabee voters when he went viciously negative against the candidate so many, many moons ago.

But here would be a positive development for Romney. Romney’s anger may have turned on Team Romney itself. Romney may finally be thinking over whether his own organization is the cause of many of his woes.

[…] “The day after Feb. 5, Mr. Romney said he anticipated he would begin reviewing with his campaign team what states to go to next, as well as the budget. Mr. Romney seemed to allude to the possibility of downsizing his staff after Feb. 5,” writes Michael Luo in another NYT article, this time titled Romney Vows to Push on Past Tuesday

Yes. Only Romney may be pushing on past Tuesday with fewer of his hirelings and hangers-on to attend him.

“I mean, we have a very substantial staff, as you know, not what’s here but back in Boston,” he said. “And we had a big staff in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire. That’s a much larger staff than you have as you go on to these subsequent primaries, so who are the people needed, where are we going to need them, what’s the campaign budget going to look like, all of those things.”

In typical Romney fashion the hapless candidate turned and flatly denied what he had just stated.

But then when pressed about the issue during a news conference in Minneapolis, he said there had been no discussions about downsizing […]

But note what Romney said: “There had been no discussions”—does Romney mean that no one among his staff had discussed the issue of downsizing?—so was Romney riffing with reporters about plans he is developing independent of the candidate’s spectacularly ineffective personnel? Recall: This is the same lavishly funded and superbly equipped organization that delivered Romney Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and other humiliating defeats.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Having barely slept after landing at 3 a.m. on Friday, weary advisers for Mitt Romney gathered a few hours later in a conference room in the Courtyard Marriott in Portsmouth to regroup after the resounding defeat Mike Huckabee handed them in Iowa,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Embraces Theme Used to Beat Him

Romney’s model is simple predict-and-control. For example, Romney and his same “advisors” developed Romney’s last plan over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb:

“We were sitting around with a PowerPoint”—said a senior Romney advisor, “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball”—how Team Romney lost Iowa over a year ago in a posh Boston suburb

This was Romney’s ill-considered early state von Schlieffen plan. Romney clung to it for months in the very teeth of contrary data. And lots of contrary data developed all around the hapless candidate in Iowa and elsewhere—we harped on it in this blog almost constantly. Romney’s response? To try to control for whatever contrary stimuli developed around him, e.g., Romney’s hyper-massive out-of-control spending as an attempt to control for Gov. Huckabee’ s ascendency.

Only predict-and-control failed for the hapless candidate. Iowa decided against him.

Back to Luo:

Dominating the conversation was the idea that the central lesson from Iowa in both parties was that voters wanted change in Washington and a focus on how Mr. Romney might harness that sentiment to defeat his main rival in New Hampshire, Senator John McCain.

So far Mr. Romney has tried with varying degrees of fervor to portray himself as a change agent for Washington, often playing up his private-sector background and arguing that he has not been in politics long enough to be “infected.” In September, he even rolled out the slogan “change begins with us.”

Often, however, the point has gotten lost in Mr. Romney’s speeches as he has tried to hit a jumble of other notes establishing his conservative credentials. It is also a balancing act for any Republican presidential candidate to try to carry off, given how popular President Bush remains with the Republican base. […]

Yuh-huh. The larger question: Has the noisy and frantic candidate from Bain Capital learned how to stay on message? See:

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”

Also: Romney has been reduced to a regional player after months of ridiculing the other campaigns for their regional stronghold strategies. Romney’s last redoubt (or firewall)? Michigan.

[…] A loss in New Hampshire would be devastating for the Romney campaign, his aides privately conceded, given their stated strategy of winning “early and often.” They argue that they will be able to fight on, with Michigan’s primary on Jan. 15 acting as a fire wall. The campaign has recently stepped up efforts in Michigan, where Mr. Romney has deep roots, releasing an advertisement focused on the economy and starting a direct-mail campaign on economic issues. […]

Yeahright. This is meaningless noise of course. Romney has no base, no region, no natural constituency. He cannot carry his home state. He is running against his own record of governance and policy. He will fight on because he is flush with funds, his own funds in the form of the patrimony of his beloved sons, whether NH or MI decide for him or not.

For months the chattering classes insisted that Romney’s national strategy indicated the candidate’s strength. They claimed Romney was the only GOP candidate in control of his destiny. They also argued that the regional stronghold strategy of the other candidates was an artifact of their various weakness etc. We argued here on this blog that precisely the opposite is the case. It is precisely because Romney has no natural constituency, and no base, that the hapless candidate is constrained to try to “win early and often” to compensate. This is why we refer to Romney’s desperate early state plan as his von Schlieffen plan, another shock-and-awe plan that depended for its success on lightening and nearly simultaneous victories on multiple fronts, and another plan that failed to survive its first encounter with grim reality.

Our surmise: Romney knows by now that he cannot win the GOP nomination through the primary process. His only chance is a brokered convention. And his only chance of prevailing at a brokered convention is to so slime his rivals that none can any longer rise to national standing.

Does this sound preposterous? Of course it does. But the one premise we use to ground all our analyses posted to this blog is that whatever Romney says is the case is either

(a) flat wrong

or

(b) the precise opposite of what is actually the case

To satisfy yourself that our method returns fairly predictive and explanatory results, peruse our blog going back to last summer.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] “In response to Mr. Romney’s new theme, the McCain campaign circulated an e-mail message to reporters, highlighting a statement from Mr. Romney in 2002, when Mr. McCain campaigned for him. At the time, Mr. Romney said that Mr. McCain ‘has always stood for reform and change,‘” writes the estimable Michael Luo in a NYT article titled Romney Embraces Theme Used to Beat Him

Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said: “It is laughable that Mitt Romney would think anyone buys his latest act as an agent of change, when the only thing he’s ever changed are his positions on every issue of importance in this election” […]

The struggle for Iowa has entered its archival phase. This is when the political community and various media dispute, interpret, or redact he results. An emerging “fixed point” now conditioning and organizing the discussion is the notion that voters want “change.” (By “fixed point” we mean a point of convergence or common assumption emerging in the popular account.)

What is meant by “change” now becomes the question.

But there are grounds to dispute this fixed point:

[…] The relatively stronger showing of Thompson and weaker showing of McCain (I don’t think he met expectations), along with Huckabee’s win over Romney, also demonstrates that conservative ideology was more important to Republican Iowans than pragmatism per se […], writes WonkoKevin in a wonkoblog blog burst titled ObaMo and HuckMo.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

You can read Rasmussen’s full analysis here.

Michael Luo, from an earlier discussion:

… Nevertheless, Mr. Romney spent much of the spring and summer focusing more on bolstering his credentials as a conservative champion as he fended off vigorous criticism for his more moderate past. Romney advisers believe they have succeeded in establishing his conservative bona fides, even though lingering questions about his authenticity persist, and are able now to move on to focusing on the next layer of voters.

“If you look now and you ask, ‘Is Mitt Romney a conservative?’ People would say, ‘Yes,’” said Russ Schriefer, one of the campaign’s media strategists.

“Now as we get closer to the election,” Mr. Schriefer said, “I think we need to be focusing more on his experience. What is it about Mitt Romney that makes him unique? What is it that makes him uniquely qualified? He has the experience. He has the experience to manage big things. He’s done it before.”

Um, not so fast, Russ. Your hapless candidate is losing ground. Less people believe that Romney is a conservative, not more. So perhaps what makes Romney “unique” is his singular ability to leave his listeners ambivalent and unconvinced.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — Mitt Romney was recounting to his audience here a political fable of sorts, about how he had never expected to get into politics after spending his life in business. The moral is one he has been telling again and again in his final sprint before the first votes of the 2008 presidential campaign are cast,” writes the estimable Michael Luo in an NYT release titled As Voting Nears, Romney Shifts Political Narrative

“The skills you have and that you develop in the private sector, whether it be small business or big business, they’re desperately needed in government,” Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told a crowd here Monday.

The theme has essentially become Mr. Romney’s closing argument to voters before the nominating contests, marking a subtle but significant shift from the far more ideological frame that has often been at the forefront of the campaign. The change speaks to the campaign’s broader strategy in its final push to slice away supporters from Mike Huckabee in Iowa and bolster Mr. Romney’s lead in New Hampshire.

Remarks:

(1) Romney has retailed his private sector business experience theme for months. Only it never won him an inch of ground. So he would abandon it only to take it up again later. A few examples from our archives:

(2) What Luo describes as Romney’s “ideological frame” is—or was—Romney’s attempt to outflank his rivals on the right. Again, from our archives:

(3) Here is the problem for Romney. The oft-touted Romney von Schlieffen plan (a lightening strike on 2 fronts to secure the center) consisted in

(a) securing the social conservative, Evangelical base

-and-

(b) developing commanding leads in the early state primaries to create a bandwagoning effect

Only Team Romney never accomplished (a). The social conservative, Evangelical base remains divided and dispersed. The Huckabee surge and Romney’s failed “speech” is evidence of that.

And Team Romney pursued (b) so primitively and naively—activity that reduced to spending enormous sums of money—that it has set up expectations such that even the most positive outcome for Romney in the early state primary contests is prejudiced in advance. Now no one but the political primitives of Team Romney argues that Iowa or New Hampshire will decide the nomination. Instead the speculation rests on either a contested convention, Michigan, or Super-Duper Apocalypse Tuesday.

(4) Every campaign attempts to develop a base, an issues coalition, and then pivot back toward the broad center. This is how you win elections. Romney’s von Schlieffen plan was Romney’s attempt to develop a base.

Because Team Romney failed at every task it set for itself—because it could never develop, consolidate, and mobilize a base of support—because its claims of conservative commitment were consistently greeted with incredulity and disbelief—it could never move toward the center.

So the Romney address to the center—the business experience, business methodology line—never got brought to the center. Oh, the Romneys tried to retail it, however sporadically, however inconsistently, and however much it undermined their larger, more ideological claims. But they would always get distracted or someone would scare them off.

(5) The Romneys tested and abandoned lots of other lines too. Does anyone remember their risibly inconsistent “change” line?

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

Back to Luo:

“I do believe that by virtue of my work in the private sector and at the Olympics and as a governor that I’m able to tackle the big problems that America faces,” Mr. Romney said in a recent interview. “I think in the final analysis when people go to the voting booths, they’re going to ask themselves, given the scale of challenges we have, ‘Who can solve the problems in America today?’”

The focus on Mr. Romney’s business acumen — he is the founder of Bain Capital, a prominent private equity firm — is in keeping with how almost all the leading Republican candidates have been running to varying degrees on their competence as a way to distinguish themselves from the Bush administration, without distancing themselves from President Bush ideologically.

Nevertheless, Mr. Romney spent much of the spring and summer focusing more on bolstering his credentials as a conservative champion as he fended off vigorous criticism for his more moderate past. Romney advisers believe they have succeeded in establishing his conservative bona fides, even though lingering questions about his authenticity persist, and are able now to move on to focusing on the next layer of voters.

“If you look now and you ask, ‘Is Mitt Romney a conservative?’ People would say, ‘Yes,’” said Russ Schriefer, one of the campaign’s media strategists.

“Now as we get closer to the election,” Mr. Schriefer said, “I think we need to be focusing more on his experience. What is it about Mitt Romney that makes him unique? What is it that makes him uniquely qualified? He has the experience. He has the experience to manage big things. He’s done it before.”

Remarks:

Note Schriefer’s precise language. To the question whether is Romney a conservative, most would answer yes. Well, Romney is now, anyway. (Or, wait—is he a pragmatic business person?) But will Romney be a conservative tomorrow?

All that Schriefer and Romney’s other hirelings have accomplished is a degree of ideological recognition. They failed to develop an issues coalition that could serve as a base. Yet with time having run out—and after months and months of arguing that Romney is the same as the other candidates on ideological grounds with only limited success—Romney’s flaks face the urgent problem of how to differentiate their candidate. (Or so they think.)

Memo to Schriefer: Keep up the good work, dude! 

Back to 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.

Precisely.

His campaign advisers argue that the themes are complementary, but Mr. Romney’s critics say that the businessman theme comes much more naturally to him and that he seized on the staunch conservative message only for political purposes.

We concur with the critics.

“These two messages don’t necessarily fit under the same strategic umbrella,” said John Weaver, who ran Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign until the summer. “They’re completely different. I think the governor has struggled to carry those two messages” …

… In Iowa, Mr. Romney’s advisers said it would be difficult for him, at this late stage, to peel off staunch Christian conservatives from Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, but they said they thought Mr. Romney could win over others who placed more importance on fiscal issues, the economy and immigration. It is one reason Mr. Romney last week unveiled a spiffy new PowerPoint presentation designed more to showcase his corporate competence than to help anyone in the audience follow his points.

Translation: Romney failed—despite tremendous effort—to reach out to Christian conservatives. A few examples: Gov. Huckabee’s breakout rise, “the speech,” and the Value Voters Summmit:

But Mr. Weaver argued that the dual images the Romney campaign had tried to establish were one reason it had struggled to produce a consistent message. In contrast, Mr. McCain’s candidacy immediately evokes the Iraq war and his foreign policy credentials; Rudolph W. Giuliani’s, his handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his theme of staying on offense against Islamic terrorism.

“They’re having a hard time having both feet planted on either side of the seesaw,” Mr. Weaver said of the Romney campaign.

Mr. Romney’s aides conceded they had struggled at times to inculcate their broader message in voters, in part because they were so busy parrying attacks early on from their opponents, including Mr. McCain’s campaign and, later, Senator Sam Brownback’s campaign in Iowa.

“It took us a while to get other things put to bed so we could stick to a theme,” said Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and senior adviser.

To combat attacks from the right, Mr. Romney introduced a message in May centered on what he called the “three legs of the conservative stool” — meant to unite social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives behind him — and spent much of the summer leading into the Iowa Straw Poll expounding on the idea, bringing up his private sector experience only in passing. He also presented a much harder line on immigration as the issue leapt to the forefront of the Republican race and swooped on the issue of same-sex marriage in August when a judge in Iowa ruled unconstitutional the state’s ban on the practice.

The question at this point is whether Mr. Romney jerked the wheel too hard to the right as he now tries to pick up a broader cross-section of voters. In September, the Romney campaign rolled out a new theme of Mr. Romney as a leader capable of bringing change to Washington. But it is a message that the Romney camp has found difficult to stick to amid the daily fluctuations of the campaign.

“It has been hard to get to the essential, the core,” said Alex Gage, the campaign’s strategy director.

Now Mr. Romney is trying to get down to it before he runs out of time.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney will deliver a speech entitled ‘Faith in America,’ addressing his Mormon religion, on Thursday at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex,” writes Michael Luo for the NYT blog, The Caucus, in a post titled Romney to Address His Mormonism

His campaign is describing the address as an opportunity for Mr. Romney to “share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor’s own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected.”

Mr. Romney personally made the decision to give the speech last week, feeling it was the right moment to do so, his advisers said. After he decided he would make it, the campaign consulted with former President Bush’s library, which invited him to deliver it there … etc.

“The venue is not a surprise”—writes Mark Halperin in a The Page post titled More on Romney Religion Speech“since Romney has given a previous major address (on defense policy) at the Bush library, and the two families are very close. And Texas, of course, was also the venue for John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on religion in 1960 — the one to which this event will be endlessly compared” … etc.

Only days earlier Romney had said this:

“I have some folks who think I should do it soon, some say later, some say never, some say right away,” Romney said. “I’ll make the decision. But there’s no particular urgency because I’m making progress in the states where I’m campaigning,” or so says his imperious and aloof excellency, Willard Milton Romney himself as reported by Glen Johnson in an AP release titled Romney’s advisors’ say on speech.

Eye of eyeon08.com issues this rejoinder:

Well. There’s urgency now. Romney is now clearly in 2nd in Iowa. There is now clear evidence that Romney’s religion is hurting him in Iowa, something that we predicted early on based on the strange makeup of the caucus electorate … etc.

Just as an exercise, let us review Romney’s reasons for not delivering “the speech,” as argued by Romney himself, not 10 days ago, in a Human Events interview mis-titled Romney’s 4 Wedge Issues:

... Tom Winter (TW): … last week [Romney] told a columnist Larry Kudlow that the recent telephone push-polling in Iowa that negatively referred to your Mormon religion was ‘un-American.’ For months, we’ve heard about a speech that’s already written, a Kennedy-like speech, about your religious beliefs, that you’re just waiting for the right time to deliver. In view of this, and Christopher Hitchens remarks today that you’re religion is fair game in this campaign, do you think it’s now time to deliver this speech?

ROMNEY: I don’t have anything new on this at this stage. There is no speech written. I get lots of suggestions. I have several people –

TW: There is no speech written?

ROMNEY: There is no speech written. Not by me. And the speech that will be given is a speech I will write. And I do have people who propose speeches to me. Sometimes people give me ideas, “Why don’t you say this? Why don’t you say that?” It’s a decision I will make. I have some of my colleagues who think it’s a terrific idea. I have others who think it’s a terrible idea. And a lot of people in between. I listen to people’s perceptions, and I will weigh that in my own analysis and my own decision-making. But I have not made a decision at this point about whether and when to give such a speech.

This was Romney’s line up until a few days ago. As we described it elsewhere:

… Romney ha[d] concluded [at the time] hat to allow the issue to remain suspended in the twilight of an eternal filibuster—to feign a divided mind or a divided camp—is more useful to his candidacy than to decide the issue one way or the other …

Back to Human Events:

TW: You don’t think it could become too late, it you let this boil over and become an issue? I mean the idea of the speech was, as Kennedy did, you would put an end to this kind of discussion.

ROMNEY: You know, in the case of Senator Kennedy — and later President Kennedy — as you point out, he made the speech, I think it was in September prior to the November election. And so, if I were to do so now, I would be nine or ten months before he did.

Romney has seriously misread the historical moment. Sen. Kennedy did not face a fully realized and conscious-of-itself Evangelical movement in the Democratic primaries running up to 1960. The Evangelical movement did not exist in 1960. The Evangelical movement may trace its pedigree to the Great Awakening or to the Apostles and martyrs of the primitive church, or to the talmid of Yochanan, the Rabbi Yeshua himself, but it emerges as a political force in the US only in the mid-to-late 70s, yet another realization—and splintering off—of baby-boomer moral-spiritual consciousness. Romney’s own father did not face a fully realized Evangelical movement—Gov. George Romney (may his name be for a blessing) never confronted the same questions about his Mormon confession.

Romney, however, does face a fully realized Evangelical movement. On this basis the NRO’s Yuval Levin argues that Romney must deliver not the Kennedy speech, but its opposite:

… “Kennedy’s speech was very much a general election move (it was delivered in September, less than two months before the election), and its purpose was roughly the opposite of that which Romney is seeking. Kennedy’s speech was a case for a strict separation of church and state — he promised essentially to keep his religion out of his politics entirely. Romney seems to have a more complicated challenge: he needs to persuade people who believe a man’s religious convictions do and should make a difference in the sort of leadership he offers that his convictions are like their convictions” … etc.

Back to Human events:

[Romney:] It’s just something which, you know, I have to take a look at. I do get the chance, of course, to take a look at a number of people’s articles about this. There’s a whole book written about it. By Hugh Hewitt, saying, “Don’t dare give such a speech. You can’t possibly satisfy the critics.” And of course no one could compare with the landmark address that was given by Senator Kennedy, so, it’s not something that I’m ready to announce any change on …

Yet Romney has announced a change, a change in the form of a complete reversal, and within only 10 days of it being “not something that [Romney is] ready to announce any change on.” Romney himself has set himself up such that the timing of his speech can only be read as a desperate hedge against collapsing poll numbers.

For more on this theme:

how Romney botched the Mormon-Kennedy-speech issue by setting up impossible expectations, by consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and by allowing others to frame the debate

yours &c.
dr. g.d.