Posts Tagged ‘National Journal’

“OMAHA, NE — Barack Obama called Mitt Romney’s candidacy ‘ineffective’ on the day that the former MA governor exited the presidential race,” writes Aswini Anburajan in a National Journal blog burst titled Obama On Romney: An “Ineffective Candidate”

Romney, who dropped out of the race for president today in Washington, said in his exit speech that the GOP must unify and not allow Democrats to allow the country to “surrender to terror.”

“Well my reaction to Mitt Romney’s comment that’s the kind of poorly thought out comment that lead him to drop out,” Obama said during a press avail on his campaign plane. “It’s a classic attempt to appeal to people’s fears that will not work in this campaign. I think that’s part of the reason he was such an ineffective candidate” […]

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dr. g.d.


“WASHINGTON – The great burden of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is that he is the sole Republican competing in all of the key early contests that begin with next Thursday’s Iowa caucus,” writes Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal in an article titled Romney is betting big to win big; Former Mass. governor must divide efforts between Iowa and N.H.

That could also prove Romney’s great opportunity.

One by one, each of Romney’s competitors has retreated to a regional stronghold strategy. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, is running hard in Iowa and in South Carolina — two states where he benefits from the large presence of evangelical conservatives — but is largely skipping more secular New Hampshire.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is following the same path, though leaving a lighter footprint. Arizona Sen. John McCain, though he incongruously turned up for a rally in Des Moines Thursday morning, has no real organization in Iowa and has invested almost all his time and money in New Hampshire.

Rudy Giuliani hopes to attract some media attention with an Iowa visit this weekend, but he long ago abandoned the state and has now retrenched his television advertising in New Hampshire, too. He’s betting on Florida, which doesn’t vote until Jan. 29 — light years away in campaign time.

Only Romney is competing all-out in Iowa and New Hampshire — as well as in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, the other major January contests. This pattern presents Romney with an obvious disadvantage. With the Iowa caucus approaching on Jan. 3, and the New Hampshire primary following just five days later, Romney must divide his effort while his opponents concentrate theirs. But his broader reach also presents him a greater opportunity for early breakthroughs — and a greater capacity to survive an early stumble.

For Brownstein, Romney’s broader reach provides him

(a) capacity for early breakthroughs


(b) resilience, i.e. a greater capacity to survive an early stumble

About (a)

Romney’s performance in the early states to date predicts no early breakthroughs apart from those Romney can purchase at great expense.

Regard: When Gov. Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa began to rise, his numbers in e.g. SC, MI, FL, and nationally, began to rise too—despite losing ground in Iowa Gov. Huckabees numbers in other states continues to rise or remain competitive. According to Newport of Gallup these correlations “preview” how Gov. Huckabee’s performance in Iowa would affect later races. When Romney’s numbers sailed in the stratosphere for months and months in Iowa, his poll numbers elsewhere and nationally failed to budge except in media markets where Romney had purchased Gross Ratings Points (GRPs) approaching near saturation. This is the case even now as Romney’s numbers have begun to recover in Iowa—nationally, and in other states, Romney’s numbers are static or falling. 


What the Huckabee “boomlet” reveals about Romney

Conclusion: Breakthroughs? What breakthroughs? What the Romneys hope for is not a breakthrough; rather, they hope to outlast the other candidates, to become the default option for want of any other options. This is why Romney has suddenly turned so perilously negative, spewing slime in all directions: he intends to be the last candidate standing.

About (b)

Brownstein—if we read him correctly—seems to reason that Romney can lose more states—i.e. “stumble” more, especially early on—because Romney intends to contest more states. Yes, but what makes Romney resilient is not his early state von Schleiffen plan in which Romney wagers everything on early wins, but rather Romney’s vast personal wealth.

Back to Brownstein:

The contrast in strategy rests on a disparity in resources. Romney can fight on more fronts because his personal fortune allows him to sign checks for his campaign on the front as well as the back.

Yuh-huh. Exactly as we said.

But the other candidates’ stronghold strategies also reflect the limits of their reach within the party. McCain and Giuliani are hobbled in Iowa and South Carolina by resistance from the evangelical conservatives who dominate both contests. In mirror image, Huckabee and Thompson are burdened in New Hampshire by their lack of connection with socially moderate voters. (Huckabee faces the additional hurdle of suspicion from many leading economic conservatives.) Each has written off some early states because they do not believe they fit with Republican voters there.

“With the exception of Romney, people have put together campaigns that… are designed around their weaknesses,” notes GOP consultant Terry Nelson, the former campaign manager for McCain.

Yuh-huh. Precisely.

“It’s gone,” said Ed Rollins, who once worked as President Reagan’s political director and recently became Mr. Huckabee’s national campaign chairman. “The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition — social conservatives, defense conservatives, antitax conservatives — it doesn’t mean a whole lot to people anymore,” writes David D. Kirkpatrick in a NYT article titled Shake, Rattle and Roil the Grand Ol’ Coalition

“It is a time for a whole new coalition — that is the key,” he said, adding that some part of the original triad might “go by the wayside.”

We explain why we need a new coalition elsewhere:

… 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.

Therefore: 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.

HENCE: What Brownstein refers to as the strategy of regional strongholds reflects the activities of campaigns organized on more rational bases than Team Romney, i.e. campaigns more closely coupled to their constituencies and sources of funding and support.

Political life specifies itself in space—geography, demography, and ideology. Further: it is a commonplace of political campaigning that you build a base, a coalition, then you pivot toward the center to capture the middle. This is precisely the goal that you can observe the other campaigns pursuing. If the other campaigns present a more partial, less fully realized character it is because they have yet to have realized a coalition upon which they can begin to develop themes and larger narratives. In simpler terms, the other campaigns are learning.

Back to Brownstein:

More than any of his rivals, Romney is presenting himself as the candidate who can unify fiscal, social and foreign policy conservatives, and also reach out beyond the party base. Yet after amassing a governing record in Massachusetts more moderate than his current campaign tone, he continues to face doubts about his authenticity from many Republicans, especially social conservatives.

Translation: Romney has no base, no constituency. None. Instead: Romney “presents”—portrays, attempts to depict—himself as the candidate “who can unify fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives” etc. Lacking the nerve or the imagination necessary to develop a coalition on the ground, the Romneys hope to inherit an existing one on the assumption that it does still exist.

Back to Brownstein:

Concern about his Mormon faith, again especially among social conservatives, has created another hurdle. (In a CBS poll [PDF] earlier this month, fully 51% of South Carolina Republican evangelicals expressed an unfavorable view of Mormonism.) Laboring under both sets of doubts, Romney has fallen behind Huckabee in Iowa and watched McCain dramatically reduce his long-standing advantage in New Hampshire.

Romney has counterattacked, fiercely portraying McCain as too liberal on taxes and immigration in New Hampshire and targeting Huckabee on those two issues in Iowa. Neither state is in Romney’s grasp. But both remain within his reach, something no other Republican can say.

We discuss Romney’s war on two fronts here:

In show of solidarity and support. Gov. Huckabee defends Sen. McCain against Romney’s false, unfair, and highly personal attacks—also: how the concerted efforts of the McCain-Huckabee axis gets more for a more minimal investement

Back to Brownstein:

Romney might recognize, from his business school days, the dynamic that has provided him this opportunity. His competitors are trying to maximize their individual prospects by focusing on the states where they believe their chances are best. But the cumulative effect of those decisions is to threaten all of them by leaving nothing between Romney and potentially decisive victories in the first two contests except two underfunded (if charismatic and often compelling) opponents: McCain in New Hampshire and Huckabee in Iowa. It’s “the prisoner’s dilemma” applied to politics.

The result is that Romney now stands at the fulcrum of the Republican race. If Romney loses Iowa — after massively outspending Huckabee — the negative publicity could depress Romney’s support in New Hampshire enough to allow McCain to pass him there, too. Then Romney would be grievously, probably fatally, wounded, and the Republican race wide open.

But Romney, alone among the contenders, still has a window of opportunity to consolidate a commanding advantage by winning both Iowa and New Hampshire. That would likely deny his rivals the financial infusions all of them will need to fully compete through the remaining January states and the avalanche of contests looming on Feb. 5.

We disagree.

We would argue that Romney has so massively and disproportionately over-spent in Iowa, and has gone so viciously negative in both Iowa and New Hampshire, that Romney has denied himself in advance the perception of an unequivocal victory—i.e. a clean win—whether he wins in one or both states. The other campaigns can—and will, and with perfect justification—argue that a more equal contest would have returned different results, that Romney’s viability is only an artifact of his vast personal fortune, and that on those grounds alone Romney, and what Romney represents, must be stopped etc. We discuss these issues here:

Romney has so botched his operations in Iowa and New Hampshire that observers now predict e.g. either a contested convention or, in one case, that Michigan will decide the nomination.

Back to Brownstein:

To win the nomination, McCain, Thompson, Giuliani and even Huckabee all probably need someone to beat Romney early on. Only Romney holds his fate in his own hands. That’s no guarantee of success, but candidates always prefer to control their own destiny. Romney is the last Republican who can still plausibly say that he does. … etc.

We shall see. We still predict that Romney loses both Iowa and New Hampshire. We also predict that Romney will continue to campaign until the GOP convention.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.