Posts Tagged ‘realclearpolitics.com’

“Bottom line: the Romney campaign made their bed with the early state primary strategy and got short-sheeted,” writes Justin Hart in a race42008.com blog burst titled, strangely, Autopsy of a Great GREAT Campaign

The momentum that Huckabee gained through his stunning Iowa win together with the victory that McCain edged out in New Hampshire seriously maimed the Romney narrative […]

Hart refers to Romney’s ill-starred von Schlieffen plan, a plan that we criticized early and often. Romney’s von Schleiffen plan was an electoral-map fantasia so over-the-top preposterous that we always assumed that it was a cover for a more rational undertaking, an undertaking that required secrecy to pursue. We were wrong about that, and about a lot else besides.

John Ellis has a different take on the “Team Romney mounted a GREAT campaign” theme, one more consonant with our experience:

[…] The sad thing about the Romney campaign’s demise is that Mitt Romney is an exceptional person; highly intelligent, enormously hard-working, a man of great integrity and grit and executive ability. Given the dearth of talent in both parties — the seemingly endless parade of mediocrity and venality — we’re lucky to have people like Mitt Romney who are willing to get in the game. But he was terribly served by his campaign staff and advisors. I would argue that they win the worst campaign team of 2008. Good riddance to them. They had everything they needed to make a good run and they made a complete hash of it […]

The problem: to explain just went wrong is surpassingly difficult as it requires the observer to interpret the data of the world differently than is otherwise the case. Byron York attempts such an explanation on personal and narrative grounds in an NRO article titled Why Romney Failed

[…] Romney made a lot of mistakes that didn’t seem like mistakes at the time. Drawing on his enormous success as a business consultant, he put together an impressively well-organized and professional campaign. That was good. But he never fully understood that the voters were looking for some spark in a candidate that connects him to them. Instead, Romney placed his faith in his magnificent organization and his PowerPoint analyses.

He hired a lot of people, spent millions to build organizations in key states, and then spent millions more for television and radio advertisements. The day after the Iowa caucuses, I dropped by WHO radio in Des Moines, and a top station official told me that Romney had been WHO’s second-biggest advertiser in 2007. (First was Monsanto farm chemicals.) In all, Romney pumped $1 million into WHO’s bank account. In South Carolina recently, a local politico marveled at how much money Romney’s in-state consultants made from the campaign. “Those guys made a mint out of him,” the politico told me. “It’s sinful how much they made.”

Yuh-huh. How much of the Romney phenomenon is the story of a super-rich ingenue getting bilked—just mercilessly fleeced—by a corrupt and cash-starved GOP party establishment?

Back to York:

As a result of all that spending, Romney ran a campaign on a deficit, deeply in debt. Of course, it was in debt to Romney himself, who put $35 million of his own money into the campaign as of December 31, and likely a lot more since. All that money freed Romney and his team from making some of the tough decisions that other campaigns had to make every day. You could argue either way whether that was good or bad.

Just before the Iowa caucuses, I was at a corporate headquarters outside Des Moines, asking a few questions of Eric Fehrnstrom, the press secretary who usually traveled with Romney. Fehrnstrom looked at Mike Huckabee’s campaign and saw a ragtag lot. “We’re going up against a loose confederation of fair taxers, and home schoolers, and Bible study members, and so this will be a test to see who can generate the most bodies on caucus day,” Fehrnstrom said.

I interrupted for a moment. “Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those groups?” I asked.

“Not that there’s anything wrong, but that’s just a fact,” Fehrnstrom continued. “That’s just where he has found his support. I have a theory about why Mike Huckabee holds public events in Iowa like getting a haircut or going jogging, or actually leaving Iowa and going to California to appear on the Jay Leno show. It’s because he doesn’t have the infrastructure to plan events for him. And when he does do events in Iowa, he goes to the Pizza Ranch, where you have a built-in crowd, so you don’t have to make calls to turn people out. We’re very proud of the organization we have built in Iowa.”

They had reason to be proud; it was a good organization. But in a bigger sense, they just didn’t understand what was going on. Fehrnstrom, like his boss, placed a lot of faith in Romney, Inc. How could a bunch of seat-of-the-pantsers like the Huckabee campaign possibly beat the Romney machine? Well, they could, in Iowa, and McCain could in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then in Florida and on Super Tuesday. The race was never about the imposing infrastructure Romney had built. It was about that ineffable something that voters look for in candidates. With Huckabee, some of those voters saw an intriguing and refreshing figure. With McCain, a larger number saw someone who wanted, above all, to defend the United States. And with Romney — well, they didn’t quite know what to think […]

This is the problem with positive feedback, say, success. Success often passes into a crisis of perception as people and organizations optimize for successful activities at the expense of a more thorough review of changing conditions etc. It is the very definition of the learning or the experience curve. Failure and tragedy are excellent teachers; but what works for us—our triumphs, our successes—affirms us in what we are already doing, and recedes into the half-consciousness of habit and routine.

But here the problem for the Romney campaign was always this: their success itself was never real. For example: Their highly professional organization was the best that money could buy, but that money was not a reliable indicator of the candidate’s success as a fund-raiser or fitness as a candidate. It was only ever an indicator of the candidate’s personal worth.

ROI, people. ROI. There is no more effective metric for the success of a message or a message campaign than the your Return on Investment, and Romney’s was always preposterously low.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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[…] “Most observers thought that debate was won by former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but Mr. Romney handed back whatever advantage he might have won with some clumsiness of his own,” writes Jack Kelly in a realclearpolitics.com article titled Only Hillary Can Reunite Republican Party

Mr. Romney received a modest bump in the polls immediately after the debate, but it dissipated when Florida’s popular governor, Charlie Crist, and Sen. Mel Martinez, popular with Cuban-Americans, endorsed Sen. McCain. Both likely would have remained neutral were it not for the heavy handed tactics of Mr. Romney’s operatives, said the American Spectator’s “Prowler.”

The Prowler reported Monday he’d been told by a consultant who’s worked for both Gov. Crist and Sen. Martinez that: “It finally got to the point for the both of them that they just got fed up with the constant harassment. They weren’t going to endorse Romney, and under the right circumstances, one or both of them might have chosen to sit the primary out, but the Romney people just made it intolerable.”

Aggressive, obnoxious stupidity. None of the other candidates like Mitt Romney. This is an indication why […]

[…] Both Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney are too flawed to reunite and reinvigorate a dispirited Republican party. There is only one candidate who can do that. And she might lose to Barack Obama […]

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

From the Prowler release that Kelly references:

[…] “In the past week both Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist wavered on their promised endorsements for Sen. John McCain, before finally having their fill of the heavy-handed arm-twisting of the Mitt Romney campaign,” writes the Prowler for the American Spectator in a Washington Prowler column titled Heavy-Handedness Backfires

“It finally got to the point for both of them that they just got fed up with the constant harassment,” says a source close to both men who has worked for them as a political consultant. “They weren’t going to endorse Romney and under the right circumstances, one or both of them might have chosen to sit the primary out, but the Romney people just made it intolerable.”

In the middle of last week, it appeared that both Martinez and Crist would sit out what has become the battleground state for the Republican nomination for President.

It is believed that the Romney campaign has been able to use its candidate’s unfettered wealth to run a successful absentee ballot program, something the other campaigns have not been able to do as well. Those absentee ballots may swing Romney to victory, and keeping Martinez and Crist on the sidelines was part of the strategy for victory […]

Apparently the strategy included arrogant threats:

[…] If Sen. John McCain was anticipating endorsements from Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida primary, he’s in for a disappointing surprise, according to Romney campaign aides.

“If those guys want a political future in this state, they will sit on the sidelines,” says one Romney adviser. “We have some of the biggest Florida fundraisers with us right now, and if Mel or Charlie went with McCain, we’d make them both pay when it came time for them to get donor dollars for another race.” […]

A dream is a wish your heart makes. And Romney operatives are thugs.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] “America, to pay her bills, has begun to sell herself to the world,” argues Pat Buchanan in an article titled Subprime Nation

Its balance sheet gutted by the subprime mortgage crisis, Citicorp got a $7.5 billion injection from Abu Dhabi and is now fishing for $1 billion from Kuwait and $9 billion from China. Beijing has put $5 billion into Morgan Stanley and bought heavily into Barclays Bank.

Merrill-Lynch, ravaged by subprime mortgage losses, sold part of itself to Singapore for $7.5 billion and is seeking another $3 billion to $4 billion from the Arabs. Swiss-based UBS, taking a near $15 billion write-down in subprime mortgages, has gotten an infusion of $10 billion from Singapore.

[Willard Miton Romney’s] Bain Capital is partnering with China’s Huawei Technologies in a buyout of 3Com, the U.S. company that provides the technology that protects Pentagon computers from Chinese hackers.

This self-indulgent generation has borrowed itself into unpayable debt. Now the folks from whom we borrowed to buy all that oil and all those cars, electronics and clothes are coming to buy the country we inherited. We are prodigal sons, and the day of reckoning approaches […]

The word financial system is in crisis. Romney, the equity sector candidate, has nothing to say about it.

Romney utterly silent on world financial crisis—we, for one, are grateful for this oversight

Only one candidate—possibly two—speaks clearly and compellingly on the problems that issue from the new capitalism

The populism of Gov. Huckabee—and to a lesser degree, Sen. McCain—reduces to a class critique consistent with the conservative principles as we understand them. The premises are these:

(1) Conservatism tolerates—even celebrates—natural hierarchies, e.g. some runners run more swiftly, some businesses profit more than others, some people amass more wealth than others, others are wiser than others etc.

(2) Conservatism tolerates—even celebrates—blind elites, i.e. gate keepers who rule on grounds of merit, examples may include universities, military formations, professional societies, corporate hierarchies, trade unions, craft guilds.

(3) Hence: conservatism in the era of the nation state tends to favor civil society and human commerce as relatively autonomous zones where natural hierarchies and blind elites may develop according to their own inner logic, their own rules.

(4) Here is the problem: the new capitalism,represented by the equity sector—vast pools of spare money, pension funds etc., managed not by owners but by a technically adept professional class with interests of their own—organizes itself according to different rules. When e.g. pension funds fail, the problem is instantly national and political and can cascade through an entire economy. Pension funds and other equity funds command capital reserves far in excess of other market actors.

Say a capital fund like Romney’s Bain Capital owns a stake in a national retailer. Say the retailer fails to perform. Whether the retailer is allowed to fail, whether the retailer is allowed to persist until market conditions change, or whether the retailer is “turned-around” by e.g. “re-engineering,” purging the management, downsizing, out-sourcing etc.—these are all reduced to technical questions. In other words, in the era of owner-less capital, competition and innovation take on a different characters—what we are confronted with, suddenly, is the antithesis of capitalism—what we are confronted with is a de facto planned economy in which profits are privatized, and costs—in the form of crashes and failures—are socialized. In other words, we don’t get a say in the planning. But when things fail it is we—pensioners, taxpayers—who get to pay for it.

“Pension fund socialism,” is what Peter Drucker called it in the 1970s when he predicted its rise. Well, it’s here.

(5) Further, economic development in general, productive capacities in particular, are more generalized globally. The US economy’s productivity relative to the rest of the world is in steep decline. The cost of energy has also increased precipitously; the entire post-war boom was largely an artifact of cheap energy, an enormous subsidy that we increasingly no longer enjoy. When energy-transfer systems or social systems experience supply shocks or the marginal returns on their investments begin to diminish, they begin to differentiate; their hierarchies begin to steepen. The rich become richer and the poor become poorer, to use a tired cliche. The rise of the equity sector is a part of this socio-material-historical process.

(6) Hence: neo-populism, and neo-populist proposals as articulated by Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain. Their critique is class as opposed to market or system based. Note that Sen. McCain in MI argued that the jobs lost to US industry were lost forever. What was required was investment in worker retraining and newer, lighter and more agile industries consonant with the historical moment. Also: Sen. McCain opposed Pres. Bush the younger’s tax cuts as he believed they benefited the rich etc.

Populism and class criticism in general is anathema to the Reagan coalition assumption about how productivity generalizes itself throughout a system. Allow the most disposed to do so to prosper as freely as possible—those who work hard, those who lead or innovate, those who can attract, organize, and develop income-producing capital—and everyone prospers as the newly developed wealth distributes itself throughout an economy, is the argument.

But what if the era itself no longer supports capital formation as construed classically? What if the new capitalists—or new non-capitalists, as they no longer own but only dispose of capital owned more generally—are capitalists like the steward capitalists of Bain Capital? For the capitalists of the industrial era the primary unit of production of circulation was the commodity, and everything got commodified—time and space itself got commodified. For the new non-capitalist the primary unit of production and circulation is the security, and everything is getting securitized.

Take, for example, mortgages, especially subprime mortgages. What drove so much cash into the mortgage markets were the banks, capital funds, pension funds etc., trading in the new mortgage-backed securities.

Politics and political life is a lagging sector. The sad truth is that no one yet knows what to make of these developments. Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain represent an intuitive and under-theorized response that hardly rises to the dignity of a knee-jerk reaction to the perception of great danger. But it is a response. And it is a start.

Here is what we believe is most perverse. Romney, after months of savaging Gov. Huckabee’s views and opinions on the economy, suddenly becomes Gov. Huckabee in MI. Romney becomes a populist. Suddenly this super-rich non-capitalist sides with the oppressed against entrenched powers in Washington, a city that Romney says “is broken.” But just as Romney’s alleged, ingenue, and now abandoned conservatism was always clumsy and caricatured, so too is his atavistic fantasy-populism. See:

candidate endorsed by the National Review, Romney, suddenly veers hard left, argues that Washington must subsidize, become “partner” with, US automobile industry

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

” … many observers still don’t fully understand why evangelical Christian voters are having a problem with Romney’s Mormon religion,” writes Stuart Rothenberg in a realclearpolitics article titled Why Mitt Romney Can’t ‘Solve’ His Mormon Problem

It’s not merely that they disagree with his church on matters of theology or, as some may believe, that they are intolerant. The issue is far more fundamental than that.Many evangelicals won’t vote for a Mormon for president of the United States for the same reason that almost all Jews would not vote for a candidate (for any office, I expect) who is a member of Jews for Jesus. For Jews, the Jews for Jesus movement is a deceptive attempt to woo Jews to Christianity under the guise of remaining true to Judaism.

Interesting. We developed the same example to support the same point several weeks ago. Regard:

… We have no problem with Christians [We’re Jews, BTW]. We will happily vote for Christians, Hindus, or even, hypothetically, Muslims, depending on their views, opinions, positions, policies etc. But: When e.g. so-called Jews for Jesus claim that they are Jews, or that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, or when Christians lecture us about how Jesus is the fulfillment of our law and our prophets, or when millennialists (or pre- or post-millennialists) lecture us about how Jews must return to Israel for Jesus to return, then we take exception—then we insist on drawing distinctions, explaining the differences etc.

Omnis determinatio est negatio—all determination is negation—is a fact of social life—we define ourselves not so much by what we are as by what we are not, and we guard our sense of identity jealously. You do not threaten us to the degree that you are different from us, or that you tell us that we are different from you—we are respecters of difference and appreciators of diversity; rather: you threaten us to the degree that you tell us that we are the same … etc.

Back to Rothenberg:

Likewise, for evangelicals, Mormons are not “Christians” in the sense that evangelicals understand the term, and by portraying themselves as “Christians,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deceptively wooing evangelicals or potential adherents away from Christianity.

Evangelicals see Mormons as trying to blur the line between Christianity and Mormonism, just as Jews see Jews for Jesus as trying to blur the lines between Judaism and Christianity.

In each case, Mormons and Jews would not want to elevate to high office someone who might give legitimacy to a group that passes itself off as something that it is not, and that threatens their own group.

Any president’s religious views are likely to receive attention in the national media, and the authority of the office is likely to translate to added authority and respectability for the president’s religion.

Given this fundamental belief (which is hardly irrational), when Romney said, midway in his speech at the Bush Library, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he was actually reminding evangelicals who are uncomfortable with Mormonism that his election would help erase the lines between what they view as the two very different religions.

To people who have been taught as children that Mormonism is a cult and who regard some of the more unusual Mormon beliefs as heresy, one speech from Mitt Romney is not going to allay all of their fears.

For many Catholics and Jews, the idea that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is somehow a threat to evangelical Christianity probably seems absurd. But that is what many believe, and that view makes Romney’s religion a grave concern to evangelicals, no matter how much they agree with the former governor’s views or admire his values.

Anyone who has followed the internal fights of Judaism, with Orthodox Jewish authorities refusing to accept the practices of the Reform, the Reconstructionist or even the Conservative movements, should begin to understand the fundamental problem that many evangelicals have with the Mormon Church.

Many in the media portray evangelical attitudes toward Mormonism as a form of bigotry and religious intolerance akin to the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sentiment that was once so prevalent in this country and is much rarer these days.

But it is a very different kind of concern, a concern about the meaning of Christianity.

Few in this country would disagree with Mitt Romney’s assertion at the Bush Library that, “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should be rejected because of his faith.” And just as few would doubt his promise that, if he is elected president, “no authorities of my church … will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.”

But Romney’s “Mormon problem” bears little resemblance to John F. Kennedy’s “Catholic problem” in 1960. Few evangelicals worry that the former Massachusetts governor will call Salt Lake City for instructions on how to proceed as president.

And Romney’s problem isn’t merely that evangelicals won’t vote for nonevangelicals. They will and they have voted for Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Some have even voted for Mormons for lower office.

Given that evangelicals see Mormonism as deceptive and an attempt to pass itself off as a form of Christianity, one speech about tolerance and the importance of faith is not likely to convince evangelicals to support Romney. I’m willing to bet that American Jews would overwhelmingly feel the same about voting for someone who is a “messianic Jew.”

The emphases are ours, all ours.

We concur. Others have developed empirical evidence to support Rothenberg’s claims—claims that we have advanced ourselves in our own analysis of “the speech.” See:

Geer, Benson, and Merolla develop empirical evidence suggesting that Romney’s “speech” was misguided, wrongheaded, and counter-productive

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

… “Romney has taken very clear positions that most who agree derive from their particular religious beliefs,” writes Jay Cost in a RealClearPolitics article titled On Romney’s Speech

He has also said very clearly that his faith informs his issue positions. However, by not discussing his religion in anything but the broadest terms – he is demurring from explaining to voters why he agrees with them. Reference to the hackneyed proposition that “every person is a child of God” does not suffice. We all think that. That does not connect with the particular campaign that he has chosen to run.

I would also note that it is not just the positions he has taken – it is the positions he has chosen to emphasize. If Romney were running a campaign akin to those of John McCain, Fred Thompson, or Rudy Giuliani — one that does not emphasize the political positions that often stem from particular religious beliefs — this speech would probably be superfluous. But, by running on the issues that animate Christian conservatives — Romney is signaling to them that he is animated by those issues in a way that his competitors are not.

Above all, he has made fuller use of the language of evangelicals than any candidate except Mike Huckabee. It is not just that he agrees with evangelicals on the issues. Through his word choices, he is intimating that he thinks in the same terms. For instance — look at his response to the question about the literal truth of the Bible in the YouTube debate:

You know — yes, I believe it’s the word of God, the Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don’t disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.

Here’s what he had to say about his faith in yesterday’s speech. This was the one specific point he made:

What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.

The Boston Globe has also noted Romney’s frequent reference of Christ as his “personal savior” – a term not commonly used by Mormons, but rather by evangelical Protestants. Finally, this is what he said Wednesday on Greta Van Susteren’s show in response to a question about whether the campaign is physically grueling:

Oh, it’s physically grueling. But, you know, at the end of the day after a few speeches and a lot of campaign stops, I’m more energized than drained. I have to read for half an hour or an hour to fall asleep. By the way, thanks to the Gideons for giving me some good material at the end of the day.

More than any candidate except Huckabee – Romney has placed rhetorical emphasis on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible. This is a signal to evangelicals.

I would suggest that the whole issue of Mormonism is actually a red herring in this campaign. The issue here is Romney himself. Remember that the Mitt Romney of 2007 is very different than the Mitt Romney of 2002 on many social issues. Five years ago, he had little to do with evangelical Christians. Now — through his positions, his language, and his emphases — he wants them to believe he is just like they are. That is all well and good — and indeed he might be. But surely he must expect those voters to be wary of the systematic changes that a 60 year old man has undergone, to want to know more about this man and what he believes, and to frame those questions in terms of religious beliefs. Is it unreasonable for those whom he is openly courting (on their terms) to inquire a bit about the origins of his policy preferences, to want some insight into his inner being, to see whether he will remain faithful to his promises once in office?

Romney seems to think so. Not only did yesterday’s speech provide no positive answer — but, because it once again leaned so heavily on the non-sequitur of religious toleration, it placed the questioners on the same ash heap upon which have been placed the narrow-minded boors who drove Roger Williams to Rhode Island and Brigham Young to Utah. Romney is not the first major party candidate Mormon to run for President. He’s not the second. He’s not even the third. He’s the fourth. Why is his religion an issue the fourth time around? It is because he has chosen to run an explicitly religious campaign that appeals to voters whose religion has political salience to them. Unsurprisingly, voters want to know a little bit more about his beliefs, but in response he transforms into the candidate of Lincoln’s “political religion,” deploring a religious “test,” and arguing that we focus on the aspects of religion that unite us all.

The speech I would like to have seen would connect his religion to his particular political beliefs in a way that his rhetoric has been implying for a year. For instance, Mormons believe in the preexistence of the soul. They believe that families are divinely and infinitely connected. It seems to me that this forms a very sound basis for his pro-life and pro-family views. The voters he is courting are responding with questions about his beliefs. Why not answer them? He just finished saying that they are good, tolerant folk. He wants their votes. What’s to fear? It seems to me to that the best antiseptic for the religious intolerance Romney fears is fresh air. He should bring his beliefs into the open — proudly and forthrightly. Explain how they connect to his politics. Tell anybody who won’t vote for him because of it that he doesn’t want their votes, anyway! …

…. I am not arguing that government should be able to thwart the people’s will and bar a duly elected person from taking office based upon his religious beliefs. I am arguing, however, that voters can vote for a person for whatever reason they choose. Furthermore, I am arguing that a candidate who has intentionally wooed a group of religious voters based upon a set of issue positions whose origin usually comes from a particular set of religious beliefs should not be surprised that the courtship breaks down because he refuses to detail his beliefs. Nor, for that matter, can he make implicit or explicit reference to bigotry as the explanation for the failed courtship … etc.

[Romney] dropped in evangelical code phrases and themes like the de-Christianization of Europe, the dangers of a secular America and America’s godly heritage,” writes David Kuo for his belief.net J-Walking blog in a post titled Romney’s one paragraph gaffe, our big problem, a suggestion

But it was also a profoundly spiritual speech. He said he was going to stand up for his faith and that he wasn’t going to get into the business of theology. Then he did just that. In the middle of the speech was this:

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.

In that single paragraph he blew his chance to slam the door on the pastor-in-chief idea because he was, consciously or not, making the theological argument that Mormonism was basically a part of historic Christianity. And it is, in the judgment of most liberal and conservative Christian theologians, not a part of historic Christianity. The fact that we will now be debating this is evidence of the one paragraph gaffe.

Kennedy’s 1960 speech succeeded in no small part because it was devoid of any religious sentiment. Nowhere in that speech did Kennedy say anything about what he believed. In fact, he said religion was a fundamentally private matter.

Romney’s speech basically did the same thing. But then, perhaps because it is simply what he believes and didn’t think it would be a big deal, perhaps because he wanted evangelicals to know that Mike Huckabee wasn’t the only one who could talk about Jesus, he did the theology thing. And now, instead of moving past this matter – as we should be doing because debating theology is decidedly not what presidential elections are supposed to be about – we will be discussing Mormon theology.

All of this points to our very, very big problem.

[Romney’s Mormon-Kennedy address] is eloquent in many parts, stirring in its defense of religious liberty, with only a couple of notes off-key,” writes Andrew Sullivan for his Daily Dish in a post titled The Romney Speech

Romney: Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

Sullivan: Ahem. But it has two deep flaws. The first is the absence of any notion that religious freedom includes the freedom to have no religion whatever. A president of the United States does not just represent people of all faiths, he also represents those who have none. There is a lacuna in Romney’s vision of religious tolerance, and it is a deliberate lacuna. In order to appeal to evangelicals, he places himself on their side against the other: the secularists. But that is simply another form of the religious test. By insisting on faith – any faith – as the proper criterion for public office, Romney draws the line, oh-so-conveniently, so as to include Mormonism but exclude atheism and agnosticism. And so he side-steps the critical issue in the debates over religion in public life: what if there is no unifying faith for a nation? What if faith itself cannot unify a nation – and, in fact, can divide it more deeply than any other subject? That is our reality. An intelligent and wise conservative would try to find a path to a common discourse that does not rest on religious foundations.

The second flaw is that he simply cannot elide the profound theological differences between the LDS church and mainstream Christianity …

I think it’s a tragedy that a man of Romney’s obvious gifts should be reduced to this. But he asked for it; and the petard he has been hoist on is his own. If you want a religious politics, you’ll end up with one. That’s why Huckabee is the natural heir to the Rove project. And why Romney is falling behind … etc.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

Here be the consensus view: Romney—whether wittingly or no—issued theological claims in his address. So: Romney is now stuck with a discussion of Mormonism. Also: Romney 2007—as opposed to Romney 2002—courts Evangelicals, articulates his views in Evangelical language, and takes Evangelical positions, yet Romney refuses to articulate how he arrives at his new positions.

yours &c.
dr. g.d

“So, Mitt is going to give that Mormon speech,” writes Jay Cost in a realclearpolitics election 2008 article titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign

Is this a surprise? Of course not. His position in the Iowa polls explains the decision entirely. He’s trailing Huckabee in Iowa. A few weeks ago he was up by 14% – and he wasn’t going to give the speech. Now that he’s down, the speech is back on.”

This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.

If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows … etc.

We heartily concur. Only the most naive of ingenues could make a mistake of this magnitude:

Says Romney himself as quoted by David Frum in a David Frum Diary post titled That Dog Won’t Hunt“There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.”

Frum: To be blunt, Romney is saying:

It is legitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the son of God?”

But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?”

It is hard for me to see a principled difference between these two questions, and I think on reflection that the audiences to whom Romney is trying to appeal will also fail to see such a difference. Once Romney answered any question about the content of his religious faith, he opened the door to every question about the content of his religious faith. This speech for all its eloquence will not stanch the flow of such questions.

Bad move – and one with very unfair results to a candidate who all must acknowledge is a man who has proven that his mind actually operates in a highly empirical, data-driven, and uncredulous way.

Had he focused instead on simply arguing that presidents need only prove themselves loyal to American values, he would have been on safe ground. Instead, he over-reached, super-adding to his civic appeal an additional appeal to voters who demand faith in Jesus as a requirement in a president. That is an argument that will not work – and a game Mitt Romney cannot win.

We have harped on this same string for weeks. See:

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.

P.S. Evidence of Romney playing “the game he cannot win” because of the line of inquiry his own speech opened up:

“I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” says Romney, as quoted by Kevin McCullough in a townhall.com blog post titled WORST Romney line of THE SPEECH!

McCullough continues: Here is the mega-million problem with the inclusion of this line within the text of the speech… Romney runs the risk of sounding nanny-ish in chiding the voter into what the “should” or “should not” do. Americans vote in this nation for many, many reasons.

Here Romney is attempting to goad evangelicals into feeling guilty for choosing Huckabee because they perhaps feel more comfortable with his decision making process knowing it utilizes a faith system that mirrors their own… There is nothing inherently negative in that rationale.

What Romney should have emphasized instead was that since the core values product of his belief system mirrors the same RESULTS as an evangelical then evangelicals having nothing to fear in choosing to support him.

I would have to also guess that this is one heck of a disengenious line that overreached on a significant level for the Governor (and keep in mind my admiration for Mitt). But would not it be enough to disqualify a person for the office of President – if per se their religion of choice was Wicken, or Satanism? … etc.

Romney as cited by John Podhoretz in a http://www.commentarymagazine.com post titled Romney’s Boilerplate Mistake: There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

Podhorez comments: That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.

Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.

For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now … etc.

… “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.

“Mitt Romney oscillates between the low teens and single digits in national polls. He does better in Iowa and New Hampshire where he has spent a great deal of time and money in the hope that he can ride a wave of early momentum to victory. It won’t happen,” writes the estimable Peter Mulhern in a realclearpolitics.com article titled Why Fred Thompson Will Win, a claim we receive with skepticism, but we appreciate Mulhern’s analysis of Willard Milton Romney.

The only evidence that Romney can generate significant support comes from states where he has campaigned essentially unopposed by kicking his effort into high gear months before anyone else. In the last few weeks before the voting starts the political landscape will be very different and much more crowded.

Romney can’t sustain the support he currently shows in Iowa and New Hampshire unless he can make himself considerably more appealing that he has managed to be so far. Even his greatest admirers usually concede that he is too slick and too packaged to seem entirely trustworthy. As the polling data so far indicates, the great majority of Republican voters are going to choose somebody else when they judge him alongside their other choices.

Oddly, Mitt Romney gives me new insight into Bill Clinton’s career. I always used to wonder how much of Clinton’s appeal, such as it was, depended on his flaws rather than his strengths. Could Clinton have been so charming to so many without the selfishness, the total lack of self-discipline, the sexual incontinence, the dishonesty, the flabby physique and the swollen nose? Did he depend on his repulsive and dysfunctional traits to humanize him?

Romney’s struggle to connect with voters suggests that he did. Sorry Governor, the voters just don’t warm to guys who are classically handsome, athletic, rich, intelligent, decent, and also ambitious enough to be supple about their political principles. You could try taking a personal interest in some interns, but that probably won’t work for a Republican.

Romney would do better, despite his slippery persona, if he could only learn to communicate without dropping into MBA speak. Everything for Mitt is a PowerPoint presentation to potential investors. Consider his approach to the central problem facing our war planners – what to do about Iran? He has a five point plan:

Specifically, we must:

  • First, continue to tighten economic sanctions.
  • Second, impose diplomatic isolation on Iran’s Government.
  • Third, have Arab states join this effort to prevent a nuclear Iran.
  • Fourth, make it clear that while nuclear capabilities may be a source of pride, it can also be a source of peril. The military option remains on the table.
  • Fifth, integrate our strategy into a broader approach to the broader Muslim world–including working with our NATO allies and with progressive Muslim communities and leaders to build a partnership for prosperity.

This is drivel.

The fourth point is supposed to be a threat, but it sounds pro forma. The rest of it is perfect nonsense which leaches away any impact the anemic threat might have had. There are no meaningful sanctions to tighten. We can’t impose diplomatic isolation on Iran and if we did the Iranian government wouldn’t care. Arab states can’t do anything to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions and even if they could they wouldn’t dare. As for number five, what is he talking about? Dumping money on an Arab world already awash in petrodollars?

If I were one of the mad mullahs I wouldn’t be losing any sleep for fear that Mitt Romney might be the next Commander-in-Chief. As a voter, I can’t see any reason to entrust my family’s safety to him. He plainly isn’t the guy to inspire a nation at warmore

Plainly.

For more on Romney’s off-the-wall rhetorical stylings, see:

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.