Posts Tagged ‘ross douthat’

“This is what people like to call ‘industrial policy,’ and what Jonah Goldberg [of the National Review, which endorsed Romney for president] likes to call liberal fascism – big business and big government working hand-in-glove for the purposes of economic nationalism,” writes Ross Douthat in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Where’s the Outrage

Douthat’s claim is a rejoinder to this quote from Romney’s infamous address to some insignificant group of nobodies whose name we refuse to recall:

[…] “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership” […]

Back to Douthat:

It’s “sustained and detailed,” all right, just as Frum says – a sustained and detailed infringement on free-market principle, and one that appeals to voters in places like Michigan precisely because it goes much further to the left than Mike Huckabee’s substance-free talk about how the current period of economic growth isn’t doing all that well by the working class, or John McCain’s straight talk about how Michiganders can’t expect the federal government to bring back the glory days of Chrysler and GM. But because conservatives spend way, way more time worrying about the spectre of “class warfare” than they do about than the nexus between big business and the Republican Party, Romney gets off with a mild slap on the wrist, while McCain and Huckabee get tarred as liberals.

I’m overstating the case a bit, obviously; there a variety of good reasons, besides their response to Michigan’s economic pain, why McCain and Huckabee have come by their crypto-liberal reputations. But the extent to which Romney is getting a free pass for his back-to-the-’70s, “D.C. will save the auto industry” promises , while conservatives are still obsessing over how John McCain’s 2000-2001 preference for a more progressive tax code makes him a “class warrior,” seems more than a little ridiculous […]

Yuh-huh. We concur. See:

equity sector multi-millionaire Romney now champions the dignity of human labor, completely abandons arch-conservative line for latest version of Romney, Romney the progressive-populist

Meanwhile, Romney attacks Gov. Huckabee through the Club for Growth on grounds of Gov. Huckabee’s allegedly non-free market policies. See:

“The Club for Growth has an affiliated 527 group, Club for Growth.net, running anti-Mike Huckabee ads in early primary states,” writes Team Huckabee in a Mike Huckabee for President post titled What Does $585,000 buy you

– At least $585,000 in contributions from Mitt Romney financial backers.

– Club for Growth has spent $750,000 against Governor Huckabee in Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan […]

Operating under cover of 527s is part of Romney’s overall strategy—the following is from a left-of-center blog titled Think Progress:

[…] To hit McCain, Romney has relied on an anti-environment front group, the American Environmental Coalition (AEC) to do the work for him. Last week, George Landrith, the co-Chairman of the group, likened McCain to Al Gore and compared the senator to a wolf in sheep’s clothing […]

Romney attacks his opponents on the right through surrogates and 527s even as he veers hard to the left. Where is the real Romney in all this angry noise? What does the man really believe?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“BEDFORD, N.H. — Republican Mitt Romney, a businessman-turned-politician, will take more direct control of his presidential campaign message after failing to win either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, a top adviser said Tuesday,” writes someone, we know not who as we could not find a name, for the Seattle Times in an article titled Advisor: Romney to assume bigger role—that is, in is his own campaign. What was Romney’s role before? Was it secondary?

Romney himself pledged a long fight for the GOP nomination. He held out his second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, with a victory in Wyoming wedged between, as testimony to his 50-state strategy.

“There have been three races so far. I’ve gotten two silvers and one gold — thank you, Wyoming,” Romney said in a Spartan seven-minute address conceding the race.

A Romney intimate, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the candidate, said the campaign was “going to take the shackles off, have him be less measured” […]

Question:

Did Romney fail his campaign?

-or-

Did Romney’s campaign fail Romney?

The Romney intimate (RI) suggests that the one shackled the other. Now the two are decoupled. For Romney, according to the RI, victory follows emancipation, emancipation from Romney’s own campaign. As is always the case with Romney, Romney’s real struggle is with Romney.

The question turns to MI. The issue? Whether a decision for Sen. McCain or Gov. Huckabee in MI will mean the end of the Romney campaign. The end of the Romney campaign would be a victory for Romney the person according to the RI; recall: Romney’s campaign had shackled Romney and subjected the poor befuddled CEO to two humiliating defeats in two separate contests. But a defeat for Romney in MI would be a defeat for Romney the candidate according to waivering Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty of the formerly conservative National Review, our least favorite Blog for Mitt.

[…] “When you’re self-financing, you can buy yourself a lot of second chances,” writes Geraghty in a Campaign Spot post titled Sorry, Hannity, I Maintain Michigan Is Make-or-Break For Romney

And yes, Romney is leading the delegate count. But is the plan to gather the most delegates by finishing in second place in enough states that award delegates proportionally?

Nota: Romney leads in the delegate count if and only if you ignore the decision for Gov. Huckabee in IA. Romney estimates his delegates as 15 against Gov. Huckabee’s 2. ABC News.com, however, estimates Gov. Huckabee at 31 delagates to Romney’s 19. Jake Tapper writes that the Romney campaign “just pretend[s] like Iowa did not happen.” “I hope,” concludes Tapper, that “Mr. Romney was better with the numbers when he was at Bain.”

Back to Geraghty:

Where’s [Romney] going to win? I realize that after last night, we need to be cautious in putting our faith in polls, but for Romney, South Carolina’s not looking that great. Mid-December polls put him in pretty tough shape in Florida, and the second-place finisher in that state walks away with nada*. He’s nowhere in Pennsylvania. He’s not set to win New Jersey. You figure Rudy walks away with winner-take-all New York and Connecticut. (Although maybe Lieberman could help McCain there.)

Massachusetts? Maine?

At some point, Mitt Romney’s got to go out and win a hotly-contested state. Wyoming is nice, but it’s not decisive. He’s got to show that when you throw him into a hard-fought, no-quarter-given-or-asked political fight, he can come out on top […]

The make-or-break-in-MI theme is an emerging fixed point in the discussion of Romney’s fitness as a candidate. Here would be the counterpoint, provided by Ross Douthat in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Mitt Romney’s Long March

Romney loses NH, MI, and SC. […] But heading into Florida and Super Tuesday [Romney]’ll still have plenty of money to spend [especially his own]- as much if not more than his rivals – and with Thompson gone he’ll be the only “Reagan conservative” in the race. Neither the Huckabee nor the McCain campaigns are exactly organizational juggernauts, even if the money spigot opens for McCain after New Hampshire, and both candidates have what in a different year would be disqualifying weaknesses. Why shouldn’t Romney stay in the race? If McCain stalls out around 30-35 percent in New Hampshire, arguably the best of all political environments for his candidacy, why shouldn’t the Romney campaign assume that he can be beaten further down the road, in the same way that Bush outlasted him in 2000?

True, this sort of trench warfare would be bad for GOP unity, and might even result in a brokered convention. But why should Romney care about uniting the party behind McCain or Huckabee? They both hate him like poison, and he presumably returns the sentiment: Why shouldn’t he make life as difficult for them as he possibly can?

And true, in this scenario Romney would be essentially adopting Rudy Giuliani’s much-derided “long march” strategy – but perhaps with a better chance of success […]

Our conclusion: Douthat’s Long March was Romney’s plan all along—Romney’s early state von Schlieffen plan was only ever bad science fiction—and, suckers that we are, we took Romney at his word. The only problem—a problem for us and not for Romney: Romney’s Long March requires the incremental dismantling of the GOP—its institutions and coalitions—in detail, and by means of grim attrition. This will leave Romney in a unique position come September, October, going into November. He will have the nomination of a national party without the national party. But as Douthat asks, why should Romney care?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“The most impressive thing about Mitt Romney is his clarity of mind,” writes David Brooks in a NYT editorial aptly titled Road to Nowhere

When he set out to pursue his party’s nomination, he studied the contours of the Republican coalition and molded himself to its forms.Earnestly and methodically, he has appealed to each of the major constituency groups. For national security conservatives, he vowed to double the size of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. For social conservatives, he embraced a culture war against the faithless. For immigration skeptics, he swung so far right he earned the endorsement of Tom Tancredo.

He has spent roughly $80 million, including an estimated $17 million of his own money, hiring consultants, blanketing the airwaves and building an organization that is unmatched on the Republican side.

And he has turned himself into the party’s fusion candidate. Some of his rivals are stronger among social conservatives. Others are stronger among security conservatives, but no candidate has a foot in all camps the way Romney does. No candidate offends so few, or is the acceptable choice of so many.

And that is why Romney is at the fulcrum of the Republican race. He’s looking strong in Iowa and is the only candidate who can afford to lose an important state and still win the nomination.

And yet as any true conservative can tell you, the sort of rational planning Mitt Romney embodies never works. The world is too complicated and human reason too limited. The PowerPoint mentality always fails to anticipate something. It always yields unintended consequences.

This message should be spray painted on the walls of Team Romney’s posh, waterfront headquarters.

And what Romney failed to anticipate is this: In turning himself into an old-fashioned, orthodox Republican, he has made himself unelectable in the fall. When you look inside his numbers, you see tremendous weaknesses.

For example, Romney is astoundingly unpopular among young voters. Last month, the Harris Poll asked Republicans under 30 whom they supported. Romney came in fifth, behind Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Ron Paul. Romney had 7 percent support, a virtual tie with Tancredo. He does only a bit better among those aged 30 to 42.

Romney is also quite unpopular among middle- and lower-middle class voters. In poll after poll, he leads among Republicans making more than $75,000 a year. He does poorly among those who make less.

If Romney is the general election candidate, he will face hostility from independent voters, who value authenticity. He will face hostility from Hispanic voters, who detest his new immigration positions. He will face great hostility in the media. Even conservative editorialists at places like The Union Leader in New Hampshire and The Boston Herald find his flip-flopping offensive.

But his biggest problem is a failure of imagination. Market research is a snapshot of the past. With his data-set mentality, Romney has chosen to model himself on a version of Republicanism that is receding into memory. As Walter Mondale was the last gasp of the fading New Deal coalition, Romney has turned himself into the last gasp of the Reagan coalition.

Sampo of This Aggression will not stand concurs, and cites this same editorial in response to Romney’s newest, and possibly strangest ad, Vote for Tomorrow, which reads like an hallucinatory rejoinder to Brooks. (We’re a little irritated that we weren’t the first to pose Brooks against the Vote for Tomorrow, but whatever.)

Back to Brooks:

That coalition had its day, but it is shrinking now. The Republican Party is more unpopular than at any point in the past 40 years. Democrats have a 50 to 36 party identification advantage, the widest in a generation. The general public prefers Democratic approaches on health care, corruption, the economy and Iraq by double-digit margins. Republicans’ losses have come across the board, but the G.O.P. has been hemorrhaging support among independent voters. Surveys from the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University show that independents are moving away from the G.O.P. on social issues, globalization and the roles of religion and government.

If any Republican candidate is going to win this year, he will have to offer a new brand of Republicanism. But Romney has tied himself to the old brand. He is unresponsive to the middle-class anxiety that Huckabee is tapping into. He has forsaken the trans-partisan candor that McCain represents. Romney, the cautious consultant, is pivoting to stress his corporate competence, and is rebranding himself as an Obama-esque change agent, but he will never make the sort of daring break that independent voters will demand if they are going to give the G.O.P. another look.

The leaders of the Republican coalition know Romney will lose. But some would rather remain in control of a party that loses than lose control of a party that wins. Others haven’t yet suffered the agony of defeat, and so are not yet emotionally ready for the trauma of transformation. Others still simply don’t know which way to turn.

We concur. And the emphases are ours, all ours. Consonant with Brooks:

It’s true that the current conservative intelligentsia, forged in the crucible of Ronald Reagan’s successes, is heavily invested in keeping the triple alliance intact – hence the Thompson bubble, the anti-Huckabee crusade, and the “rally round Romney” effect, writes Ross Douthant in a post titled The Coming Conservative Civil War, a rejoinder to Tomasky’s New York Review of Books essay, They’d Rather be Right

And it’s true, as well, that if the Republican Party recovers its majority in the next election the alliance will be considerably strengthened. But such a recovery is unlikely, and already, in the wake of just a single midterm-election debacle, it’s obvious that the Norquistians and neocons and social conservatives aren’t inevitable allies – that many tax-cutters and foreign-policy hawks, for instance, would happily screw over their Christian-Right allies to nominate Rudy Giuliani; or that many social conservatives don’t give a tinker’s dam what the Club for Growth thinks about Mike Huckabee’s record. (So too with the neocon yearning for a McCain-Lieberman ticket, which would arguably represent a far more radical remaking of the GOP coalition than anything Chuck Hagel has to offer.)

The “movement” institutions, from the think tanks to talk radio, have resisted these fissiparous tendencies, and if Mitt Romney wins the nomination they’ll be able to claim a temporary victory. But if the GOP continues to suffer at the polls, in ’08 and beyond, the (right-of) center can’t be expected to hold, and the result will be a struggle for power that’s likely to leave the conservative movement changed, considerably, from the way that Tomasky finds it today … etc.

Back to Brooks:

And so the burden of change will be thrust on primary voters over the next few weeks. Romney is a decent man with some good fiscal and economic policies. But in this race, he has run like a manager, not an entrepreneur. His triumph this month would mean a Democratic victory in November … etc.

Others concur:

Reston’s prediction for 2008: “Romney’s nomination results in the GOP losing six-senate seats instead of three (Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, and New Hampshire) and a push in the House where at least modest gains were expected”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“It’s Mike Huckabee, of course,” writes the estimable Ross Douthat of theatlantic.com in a post titled Rudy’s Secret Weapon

This seems obvious where Mitt Romney is concerned: Huckabee’s been slowly moving into a position to steal at least some of the Mittster’s thunder in Iowa (with the aid of a friendly media, of course), and it’s easy to imagine a strong Huckabee showing being played as the big story coming out of the caucuses, whether he wins outright or not, which in turn weakens Romney fatally in New Hampshire and lets Rudy slip past him …

This is consonant with what we wrote here:

Toomey, Pres. of Club for Growth: Mayor Giuliani has “edge” over Romney on question of who accomplished more to lower taxes, relieve regulatory burden—also: an analysis of the political waters in which Romney and Giuliani swam

… Lacking formal power as a mayor, Giuliani developed as a balance of power player, a political bloc builder and dissolver, i.e. he tends to play existing interests off of one another to pursue his own goals. He is a master of the subtler instruments of social influence. He thrives in a crowded field. He depicts himself as a stern and capable administrator, but his habits of mind are those of an arguer, persuader, compromiser, and coalition builder. He adapts to his terrain—even a hostile terrain—and he tries to use whatever he discovers to his advantage. He is comfortable working quietly behind the scenes …

This is also consonant with what we wrote here:

Romney’s early state strategy—an addendum

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

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

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

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

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

yours &c.
dr. g.d.