Posts Tagged ‘tactics’

“Pity Mitt Romney, the object of religious persecution, forced to make a public speech confronting the antagonistic forces that have kept his candidacy down by attacking his faith,” writes David Bernstein in an article titled The passion of the candidate; Romney’s religion speech was aimed at Christian conservatives, but his model wasn’t JFK — it was Mel Gibson carried by The Phoenix

As many commentators opined this past week, it’s sad to realize that, almost 50 years after John F. Kennedy’s “Catholic speech,” our nation still hasn’t gotten beyond these biases.

Haven’t we? Actually, there is scant evidence that anti-Mormon bias has held back Romney, who until very recently led the polling in both of the critical early-voting states, Iowa and New Hampshire. Although polls show that, in the abstract, people are less likely to support a Mormon candidate than one of most other religions, those same polls — including one from Vanderbilt University released this past week — show that most of that resistance evaporates when respondents learn that Romney is Mormon.

In fact, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll taken just before Romney’s speech showed that his Mormonism makes nearly as many people more likely to vote for him as less.

What hurts Romney, according to that poll, are his changing positions on important issues. Asked which candidate says what he believes, rather than what people want to hear, Romney ranked last of the major GOP presidential candidates, by a wide margin.

And yet the same media — and more important, the same evangelical Christians — who previously discarded Romney’s words as phony political calculation, greeted his “Mormon speech” as heartfelt and authentic.

“His speech was directed at mainstream evangelical churchgoers,” says David Woodard, a political-science professor at Clemson University. “They were reassured that they can vote for him as president.”

David Caton, founder of the Florida Family Association, called the speech “a grand slam.” Similar positive reactions came in from prominent Christian conservatives on the cable news networks immediately following the speech, and, according to Woodard, in churches the following Sunday.

How did Romney do it? By tapping into a deep-running sense of persecution among American evangelicals.

Whereas Kennedy asked Protestants to vote for him despite the bias against his faith, Romney, with a keen ear for the contemporary Christian right, asked them to vote for him because of that bias.

No, Romney was not taking from JFK’s playbook — he was taking from Mel Gibson’s.

Gibson turned his 2004 film The Passion of the Christ into a mega-blockbuster by convincing evangelical Christians that this was a movie that “they,” the secular New York and Hollywood anti-God elites, didn’t want you to see.

Romney now claims to be the candidate “they” don’t want you to vote for. If evangelicals rose to the bait for Gibson’s film, what’s to say they won’t similarly rally to Romney’s cause?

The parallels are striking. Gibson’s film grossed more than a half-billion dollars. Will the strategy work as well for Mitt as it did for Mel? …

… Romney’s similar [to Gibson’s] marketing challenge emerged this past year, when he and his advisors made the strategic decision to campaign as the conservative alternative option to Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, the perceived front-runners for the Republican nomination. That strategy would require Romney to win large numbers of votes from religious conservatives. Unfortunately for him, Romney had a long, well-established record of moderate and even liberal stands on a number of issues, including abortion.

So, like Gibson, Romney began spreading word of the anti-Mormon plots against him long before anyone knew who he was, let alone what religion he practiced. By late 2006, he was sitting for interviews with almost anyone willing to write about the “Mormon question” — landing him on the cover of almost every conservative publication in the country.

Romney also mimics Gibson’s strategy by de-emphasizing his own religious beliefs, even while speaking of the importance of evangelicals’ beliefs. Gibson, while avidly recounting his own “born-again” religious awakening and its importance on the movie, rarely answered questions about his pre–Vatican II Catholic beliefs. Romney professes the importance of his faith in Jesus Christ, while saying that the rest of his Mormon beliefs are out-of-bounds.

The secrecy is no surprise. Not only are both men’s beliefs heretical to the evangelicals they courted, but both the traditionalist Catholic and Mormon faiths consider those evangelicals to be apostates themselves. Hardly a match made in heaven, you would think … etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


The story—a composite of many such stories from Livy’s War with Hannibal—would go like this: The highly-trained and superbly-equipped Romans would invest a hillside or a bridgehead with one of their famous marching camps—ditch, rampart, palisade.

Later, Hannibal would dispatch a few hundred foot and a squadron of horse to march on the Roman camp in no good order.

The Romans would repulse Hannibal’s troops. The Romans would then march out of their camp in force to pursue the routed attackers and, almost invariably, discover themselves caught in a trap as Punic foot and horse would spring from the hollows or defiles in which they hid themselves. The Romans would be weary from marching and fighting on the march; the new Punic forces would be far fewer in number, but they would be fed, rested, and confident in their knowledge of the terrain.

The Romans, fighting to extricate themselves, would then see either (a) smoke rising from their base-camp, or (b) fresh troops suddenly appearing to their rear or on their flanks. The result would be a moral collapse among the Roman forces; they would break ranks, scatter, and the Punic forces would defeat them in detail.

This is the so-called Punic strategy—ruses, feints, traps, followed by moral collapse—this is how Hannibal defeated forces possessed of greater numbers and superior arms with his loosely cohering bands of stragglers and misfits from Spain, Africa, and Gaul.

Turn your attention to Romney. Romney remains pinned down in the early-primary states, hemorrhaging millions in media buys as he spends every waking moment campaigning. Suddenly, to Romney’s rear, in a state that Romney believed bought and paid for, Huckabee appears flush with new cash and, according to rumor an impending endorsement from Dr. James Dobson. See:

Also: McCain is recovering in the polls. A resurgent McCain could cost Romney New Hampshire.

Question: are these developments all just grim coincidence for the hapless candidate from Bain Capital?—well, what is Mayor Giuliani telling the world about his plans?

“Wednesday, after the announcement that Pat Robertson was endorsing his candidacy, Giuliani sat down with me for a talk about strategy,” writes Byron York of the formerly conservative and shamelessly pro-Romney National Review in an article titled, prosaically, The Race Rudy Will Run Giuliani talks state-by-state strateg

The plan he described basically involves counting backward from February 5, that is, first establishing himself in the mega-primary states — with Florida a must-win contest — and then taking up the fight in the smaller early states. It’s a big-risk, big-reward strategy, given the possibility that another candidate might dominate the early primaries, knocking Giuliani out of the running before the big states began to vote.

“Everybody has their own theory,” Giuliani told me. “Our theory was to get the big states organized, try to beat everybody else to getting the big states organized, so you have them as a fallback, and then take your resources and start to expend them in the states that come up first. And now we’re going to do that.”

Translation: I have organized my base and am now prepared to maneuver beyond it—I will take the fight to Romney. What the always-a-little befuddled York seems to miss: a split decision, or a failure to achieve a clear decision, in the early states is a win for Giuliani no matter what other candidate emerges still standing. See:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.