Posts Tagged ‘the trail’

“With Mitt Romney officially out of the race, it’s time for Republican strategist Alex Vogel to weigh in with his final Gramm-o-meter for the former Massachusetts governor,” writes Jonathan Weisman in Wapo blog burst for the The Trail titled Romney and the Gramm-o-meter

[...] Romney’s Super Tuesday finishes put his spending ratio well below Gramm’s 1996 record of $2.5 million. Vogel estimates that Romney finished his race having spent $309,439 per delegate.

By contrast, the campaigns of John McCain and Mike Huckabee, have been more efficient in their spending. Huckabee spent roughly $49, 649 per delegate; McCain’s spent $57,566 [...]

Yuh-huh.We harped on this string for months. But in his final hours as a candidate Romney was beginning however slowly to solve his ROI problem.

Too little, too late.

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dr. g.d.

[...] Romney vowed publicly to trudge on despite the series of disappointing losses; even after his wife, Ann, said that “The one thing that’s clear tonight is that nothing’s clear,” writes Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune in an article titled Despite few victories, Romney vows to campaign on

“I think she’s wrong; one thing that’s clear is this campaign is going on,” Romney told supporters in Boston. “I think there’s some people that thought it was all going to be done tonight, but it’s not done tonight.”

McCain, meanwhile, relished his new spot as the leader after many pundits had declared his candidacy dead last year.

“Tonight I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination of the president of the United States. And I really don’t mind that one bit,” McCain told a revved-up crowd in Arizona that included Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

With Romney taking so few of the key states on Super Tuesday, political observers were doubting the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics could turn around his campaign from the trouncing he sustained.

Romney may plan to continue on, but the GOP establishment likely will be calling on him to suspend his campaign, says Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University in Washington.

“There’s going to be a tremendous push in the Republican Party to unite behind the front-runner,” Lichtman says. McCain may not be the establishment’s dream nominee, but it’s better to seem unified and not fractured, Lichtman added.

Romney is “young” and can run again if he wants, Lichtman says, guessing he probably doesn’t want to burn a second chance at a run [...]

[...] But Romney still may soldier on, she adds, because he has tremendous financial resources.

“What keeps Romney in this game is money, his ability to fund the campaign, keep the lights on,” Duffy says. “It’s hard for him to make a case after today [to continue], but my guess is he may” [...]

[...] “Once again, conservatives have rejected Romney’s conviction-less campaign,” said Huckabee’s campaign manager, Chip Saltsman. “No amount of Mitt’s money is going to overcome what a growing number of Americans – and the Wall Street Journal – are seeing first hand: Mitt has no convictions at all” [...]

And what has Romney spent to arrive at this point?

[...] “By Republican strategist Alex Vogel’s calculation, Mitt Romney is giving Gramm a run for his money,” writes Jonathan Wiesman in a washingtonpost.com The Trail post titled Romney’s Expenses Per Delegate Top $1M

The former Massachusetts governor has spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination.

By contrast, Mike Huckabee’s campaign has been the height of efficiency. Delegates haven’t yet been officially apportioned, but roughly speaking, each $1 million spent by Huckabee has won him 20 delegates [...]

All that spending, and all that re-inventing, yet voters still do not consider Romney a conservative:

[...] “This week, conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter all rallied against John McCain, telling their listeners to back Mitt Romney,” writes the estimable John Dickerson in a slate.com article titled McCain Not Stopped; But Romney is not seen as a true conservative

Forget Huckabee, they’ve argued, a vote for him only ensures that the apostate McCain will win. On Tuesday, James Dobson, the religious broadcaster, blasted McCain: “I am convinced Senator McCain is not a conservative and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party.”

These loud voices of protest were thoroughly ignored. Conservatives did not rally to Mitt Romney. They rallied to Mike Huckabee, who won Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. “A lot of people have tried to say that this is a two-man race,” he said after winning, “You know what? It is, and we’re in it.”

That was a stretch, but Huckabee could argue Romney was out of the running because in the ideological and geographic heart of the Republican Party, Romney could not make a scratch, just as he couldn’t in the South Carolina primary. In Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, he didn’t even come in second. For Romney, the problem is not just that he couldn’t win the delegates, but that he could not make the sale to Republicans at the heart of his party. He has spent money, bought organization, and now has the firepower of revered conservative voices behind him, and he still can’t win.

This is the worst possible outcome for those who want party unity or to stop John McCain. While Romney was denied, McCain won New York, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Missouri and racked up delegates, putting him closer to the nomination. The states at play in future contests are only going to get better for him and worse for Romney [...]

Yet evidence accumulates to suggest that Romney’s efforts to destroy the GOP’s chances in November have not been entirely without effect:

[...] Exit polls nevertheless show that McCain’s problems with conservatives run deep. He lost among conservatives in almost every state except Connecticut and New Jersey, where he split them evenly with Romney. McCain also lost conservatives even in the states he won. Conservatives went for Romney in New York and Illinois. “Hard to do well with conservatives when everyone with a microphone is beating hell out of us,” says a top McCain aide. While the conservative voices weren’t enough to stop McCain, or to elect their guy, tonight they were enough to bruise him [...]

Romney’s only purpose now is to keep driving Sen. McCain’s negatives up.

The emphasis is ours, all ours.

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dr. g.d.

Yesterday the Romney campaign delivered its proof-of-concept for a Romney candidacy in the form of a decisive Romney victory in an important and hotly contested state, MI.

So: Romney is not going away, alas.

Worse: Romney has developed a populist message difficult for the other candidates to rebut, rejoin, or even resist. Regard the following rejoinder to the assumptions of the Romney win issued by a McCain Strategist.

Then regard the ridiculous ease with which ordinarily talentless Kevin Madden smacks it down in a gesture entirely without substance.

[...] Steve Schmidt, a top McCain strategist, attributed yesterday’s loss to “Mitt Romney’s pandering up in Michigan” by promising what Schmidt called a “$100-billion bailout of the auto industry…Mitt Romney should explain to the rest of the country how he’s going to pay for it,” writes Howard Kurtz for WaPo’s The Trail in a blog burst titled McCain Team Critiques Romney’s Record

While Romney has proposed a five-year, $20-billion-a-year effort to revitalize the ailing auto industry, the Arizona senator has emphasized worker retraining and research into green technologies. Schmidt would not put a price tag on that but minimized the retraining plan as a consolidation of existing programs.

Speaking to reporters after a rally here today, McCain declined to use the word “pandering” but said of Romney: “By promising that amount of money to the auto industry, at least he ought to be able to say where it’s going to come from.” McCain cited statistics purporting to show that Massachusetts lagged the nation in economic growth during Romney’s four-year term [...]

[...] Schmidt broadened the verbal assault to include what he called Romney’s “rather weak record as governor of Massachusetts,” including sluggish job growth and a $700-million boost in taxes and fees, and said Romney’s record of trimming jobs as a corporate takeover artist would also be fair game [...]

Schmidt: What Romney proposes is too expensive. Where will he find the money? Romney mismanaged the Massachusetts economy and cut jobs as a corporate takeover artist.

This is all true, painfully true. But is it compelling? No, not in the least. Does it speak from the center of a competing vision? No, it doesn’t. Rather: This is the line of argument of a scold or, in Madden’s words, a “naysayer.”

Now, here be Madden’s non-responsive but rhetorically effective rejoinder, reproduced on Mark Halperin’s The Page:

Governor Romney has encountered pessimism and a shoulder-shrug attitude like that of Senator McCain before. He faced it in business, he faced it at the Olympics and he faced it when he took over as governor of a state.

Every time, he fought the pessimists and naysayers and brought reform and success. Senator McCain has neither the ability nor the optimistic vision needed to help transform our nation’s economy and bring greater growth and prosperity to working Americans.

Governor Romney is ready to roll-up his sleeves and go to work, even if Senator McCain is ready to just give up on the future [...]

Romney’s argument? Relationship. The relationship of ground and consequence. The ground is the person, character, and professional biography of Romney, in whom we are to invest our confidence, and for whom we are to invest our support. The consequence—what we get in return—is “reform and success” through the life and labor of Romney. To doubt or disparage would be to nitpick, to naysay; it would be a failure of the imagination—pessimism. (For Sen. Obama, who Romney idolizes, the enemy is cynicism. For Romney it is pessimism.)

Do you remember Pres. Clinton’s refrain about how he was always “working hard for the American people?” Do you remember how Pres. Clinton would personalize policy proposals and initiatives by talking about how hard he had worked for them? Or how Pres. Clinton would excuse himself for failed promises on grounds of hard work?—he once famously said that he had never worked harder than he had to deliver the middle class tax cut that he had promised in 1992, he just couldn’t make it work etc.

This is not a conservative argument. This is the antithesis of a conservative argument. This argument assumes a great faith in the efficacy of political agency—particularly, Romney as political agent.

Romney’s rejoinder to his critics and dissenters now becomes: You’re trying to destroy me personally, and I’m trying to save the country. Which of us is right? 

Conclusion: What Romney has done is to personalize policy. Like Gore in 1999, like Edwards more recently, Romney promises to resist “powerful forces”—e.g. a “broken Washington“—on behalf of “working Americans.” Given the sudden downturn in the US economy and the subprime mortgage crisis, this could be a powerful message.

Further conclusion: the GOP is doomed.

More on these sad themes:

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dr. g.d.

“Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ today that he wept with relief when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormon church, announced a 1978 revelation that the priesthood would no longer be denied to persons of African descent,” writes Mike Allen for the Politico in a post titled Mitt wept when church ended discrimination

Romney’s eyes appeared to fill with tears as he discussed the emotional subject during a high-stakes appearance that he handled with no major blunders …… Moderator Tim Russert asked if “it was wrong for your faith to exclude them for as long as it did.”

“I told you exactly where I stand,” Romney said. “My view is that there’s no discrimination in the eyes of God. And I could not have been more pleased than to see the change that occurred” … etc.

A typical Romney-dodge. Note the bold assertion of intention—articulated in the past tense, as if the question had been asked and answered—followed by a flat non-sequitor in the form of an inarguable truism.

Question: What is Romney afraid of? Why can he not simply admit that his church was in error? Does the Mormon confession forbid critical reflection?

Also:

… Russert brought up an old issue of Sunstone magazine, a Mormon publication, which said that Romney discussed his possible Presidential run with the ‘man he admires most in the world: Mormon president Gordon Bitner Hinckley.’

Russert asked if voters should be concerned that he was seeking advice from the leader of the Mormon Church. Romney said he made the decision to run by himself and his family. He talked about our nation’s problems and how he had experience outside government, but that he’s happy to get as much advice as he can from anyone he can. He never mentioned the man he most admires …

Romney needs to release his notes from this interview. Note the assonance between the names Willard Milton Romney and Gordon Bitner Hinckley.

And:

“Maybe it was the pressure of the moment. Being under the Tim Russert spotlight can get to anyone,” writes Michael D. Shear in a Wapo The Trail post titled Romney Claims NRA Endorsement He Didn’t Receive

Comment: Russert broke Romney? How odd. He never broke Mayor Giuliani.

Under Russert’s grilling about guns on this morning’s “Meet the Press,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney claimed an endorsement he’d never won.

In answer to questions about whether he would sign an assault weapons ban, Romney said: “Just as the president said, he would have, he would have signed that bill if it came to his desk, and so would have I. And, and, and yet I also was pleased to have the support of the NRA when I ran for governor. I sought it, I seek it now. I’d love to have their support.”

Later in the interview, he added the following:

“I just talked about, about guns. I told you what my position was, and what I, what I did as governor; the fact that I received the endorsement of the NRA.”

The problem?

He was never endorsed by the NRA, and didn’t have their official support during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. The NRA declined to endorse in that race, as was acknowledged by Romney’s spokesman this morning … etc.

Yuh-huh. But the big lie is Romney himself, Romney2.0, as argued by Amspec’s Jen Rubin:

… “One exchange stands out. He was asked about running as a moderate against [Ted] Kennedy. The sequence is long but you can read it for yourself. He repeatedly rejects the ‘premise’ that he ran in 1994 or in 2002 as anything other than a rock ribbed conservative. If you have spent any time studying those races, watching the debates or reading press accounts you know that’s just hooey. Not even Romney claimed at the time to be a conservative…Given the voluminous public record nicely preserved for all of us via Google and YouTube, it’s unclear why he hasn’t been more candid on all of this and just come right out and said: ‘I was trying to get elected in Massachusetts for goodness sakes’ or ‘I really have changed on a bunch of issues in the last few years.’ It is the pretense of consistency that is so unsettling. Does he not remember or he thinks we’re too dim to ‘look it up’?” …

The governing assumption—and essential premise—of Romney’s candidacy is that conservatives are knuckle-dragging rubes.

We hope to prove him wrong.

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dr. g.d.

“I received a message this week from a conservative who has been following the Republican presidential race closely,” writes Dan Balz for Wapo’s The Trail in a post titled Romney Must Prove He’s the Genuine Article.

He offered a telling observation, which in paraphrase went as follows: the more he sees of Mitt Romney, the less he likes him.

Funny. We feel the same way.

I was particularly struck by that comment in part because of something Romney’s politically savvy media adviser, Alex Castellanos, said to me several months ago, the essence of which was: when you putt Mitt Romney on television, good things happen.

Both may be right in their observations — the first is obviously a statement of personal taste and not reflective of the population at large, while the second may be grounded in evidence that the former Massachusetts governor is able to change attitudes with a barrage of television ads. But it’s also possible that my correspondent may be on to something, in which case Romney could have a problem on his hands …

… since Labor Day, [Romney's] debate performances have been uneven — neither dominating nor disastrous. Rather than standing out from the crowd, he has been just one of many voices on a crowded stage. In none of the past three debates has he been judged as well as he was when he was making his debut as a national candidate.

There is a point beyond which being polished looks merely slick, where preparation begins to sound canned and corny. Romney has had moments recently that seem to have crossed that invisible line.

Here’s just one. Last weekend, he spoke at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters summit. This was an audience of religious and social conservatives — many of whom may be hesitant to support Romney because he is a Mormon. One can argue whether anyone’s religion should be in any way disqualifying in a presidential campaign, but the Romney team knows this is an issue of some concern.

Rather than addressing the issue directly, Romney tried to use humor. “I imagine that one or two of you have heard I’m a Mormon,” he said. “I understand that some people think they couldn’t support someone of my faith. But I think that’s just because they’ve listened to Harry Reid.”

He was referring to the Senate Democratic leader, of course, who also is a Mormon. And while he drew some laughs from the audience, it was an inelegant attempt to raise and then dodge an issue that continues to dog his presidential aspirations.

That may be a small issue. What should concern the Romney team more is that, after millions of dollars of television and months and months of campaigning, the candidate has not been able to shake off the flip-flop label. It remains a staple of coverage of his campaign — unfairly according to his advisers — as well as part of the standard attack line now coming from his opponents.

Romney freely admits he has changed some of his views, particularly those on abortion. Many politicians have done the same. Still, there are doubts about his core convictions that his rivals are poised to exploit heading into Iowa and New Hampshire early next year.

In part Romney’s challenge is to articulate a bigger message than sweeps some of these issues to the side. He has had many messages throughout the year — competence, freshness, conservatism, a three-legged stool. Lately, because of the jumbled nature of the Republican race, he has been focused on persuading Republicans he is the true conservative.

But it is difficult to sum up exactly what his candidacy is based upon and exactly who he is. That’s not the case for Giuliani … etc., etc.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

A consensus is emerging, dear readers: no one knows who Romney really is. Here is but a small sample of the emerging WHO ON EARTH IS ROMNEY, AND WHY DOES THIS SHAPE-SHIFTING NON-ENTITY WANT TO BE OUR PRESIDENT literature:

Of course, we’ve been harping on this string for months, because it’s a question we’ve been asking for months. Hence the name of our web log: Who is Willard Milton Romney?—are we any closer to an answer? Well, sadly, no.

We can hardly wait for Ms. Ann Marie Curling to rebut Balz the way she did Ruffini!—see:

Curling’s “rebuttle” to Ruffini’s “Where’s Romney’s Bio” further details and demonstrates the problems of the ailing Romney campaign

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dr. g.d.

“One of President Bush’s closest advisers has a brutally candid analysis of the Republican nomination battle: Fred Thompson is the campaign’s “biggest dud,” Mitt Romney has “a real problem in the South” because people will not vote for a Mormon, Mike Huckabee’s last name is too hick and John McCain could end up repeating 2000 by winning New Hampshire but losing the nomination,” writes the estimable Peter Baker in a post to Wapo’s The Trail titled Bartlett on the GOP Field: A Hick, a “Dud” and a “Flip-Flopper”

[Bartlett's] judgment of Romney was only somewhat less negative [than his judgment of Fred Thompson]. While crediting the former Massachusetts governor with the “best strategy and organization” born out of his “business acumen,” Bartlett said “the flip-flopping on positions” stemmed from a miscalculation that the primary field would be more conservative than it proved to be. “They were trying to solidify his conservative credentials.” Bartlett added: “He’s getting a narrative in the national media as somebody that is too much trying to position himself, trying to hedge himself, almost too mechanical about the issues. Authenticity is going to be a very important principle in this campaign. And right now that?s their biggest danger” more

You don’t have to be Dan Bartlett to figure this one out. We have harped upon the string of Romney’s ridiculous “miscalculation of the primary field” for weeks now:

Back to Bartlett:

The flip-flopping issue, Bartlett added, provides an outlet for another big reason why Republican voters will not back Romney — his religion. “The Mormon issue is a real problem in the South, it’s a real problem in other parts of the country,” he said. “But people are not going to say it. People are not going to step out and say, ‘I have a problem with Romney because he’s Mormon.’ What they’re going to say is he’s a flip-flopper. … It’s a fact, it’s reality. I don’t know if it’s one that will keep him from becoming the nominee for the party but it’s something they clearly understand they’ve got to deal with.”

The only top-tier candidate Bartlett did not criticize was Rudy Giuliani, whom he credited with the “best message,” particularly because the former New York mayor has kept his focus on attacking Democrats, not fellow Republicans, which serves as an effective distraction from his own liberal positions on guns, gays and abortion. “He’s doing it particularly with Hillary,” Bartlett said. “There’s headlines the other day. He wants to engage in this debate. And there’s a very practical aspect of it because if he’s engaged with the Democrats, he’s not engaged on … his own positions, whatever those that would not be very receptive in a typical Republican primary”more

This is yet another string upon which we harp: Romney has no message. What he emits is often very angry noise. See:

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dr. g.d.

“From Mitt Romney’s headquarters in Boston, they issued a call to the online video editing masses. And the call was answered…sort of,” writes the estimable Antonio Vargas in a post titled Mashing Mitt Romney for WaPo’s The Trail.

Nearly a month after asking his supporters to create a TV ad by using an archive of photos and audio and video files provided by the campaign, Ryan Whitaker, a 23-year-old student at Romney’s alma mater, the Mormon-run Brigham Young University, has been named the winner of Romney’s “Create Your Own Ad” mash-up contest.

Out of 129 submissions, 9 videos made the final round, with finalists chosen based on the campaign’s favorites and the number of views and positive ratings (called “loves”) they received on the online video site Jumpcut. That’s also how the winner — a dynamic, expertly-edited spot created by Whitaker– was selected. Aides to Romney said the winning video will air at the end of the month, possibly in the early voting states of Florida or South Carolina.

The results show that the online public takes its ad production responsibilities seriously, with many professional-looking spots. But while the quality was high, the quantity was not. For a contest open for more than two weeks, 129 submissions seems a small number — a reflection, perhaps, of the former Massachusetts governor’s relative obscurity among voters.

Imagine if a similar contest had been held for supporters of Rep. Ron Paul or Sen. Barack Obama, both of whom have consistently led their respective fields in the total number of YouTube views, MySpace friends and Facebook supporters, three ways of measuring online popularity. (Number of MySpace friends? Paul: 64,572. Romney: 30,520. Number of YouTube views? Paul: 4.2 million. Romney: 2.2 million.) But as Micah Sifry of TechPresident.com, which tracks how the candidates are campaigning online points out: “Look, it’s not easy to make an online video. Making an online video is far harder than writing a blog post.” Indeed. Still, Dan Manatt of PoliticsTV.com, which creates news and satirical online videos, counters: “If the contest response is an omen for the primaries, Romney should be worried. MoveOn.org’s ‘Bush in 30 seconds’ contest” — the liberal group asked members to create an anti-President Bush spot — “got 10 times more responses than Romney got. And that was in 2004, before Web video was even big”

… Online video has turned into the big X factor– the YouTube effect — of this campaign. Sen. Hillary Clinton showed her cool, hip side with her “Sopranos”-inspired video in June and when she announced the winner of her help-me-pick-a-campaign-song contest. Earlier this week, while touting his re-designed site, John Edwards plugged his voting reform initiative by asking supporters to become “Why Tuesday?” video correspondents. Ask your local council member, mayor, congressman, etc., why Americans vote on Tuesday on camera and upload the video online.

Romney, for his part, has had a complex, love-and-hate relationship with online videos.

When an online video showing his previous support for abortion and gay rights surfaced on YouTube, he responded on YouTube, a deft move. But that didn’t stop YouTubers from uploading more anti-Romney videos. Type “Romney” and “abortion” on YouTube, and the first two of 100 videos that pop up — one is called the “Mitt Romney Abortion Flip Flop Quiz” — highlight his changing positions on abortion. Sure, he’s got more videos on his YouTube channel — 357 and counting — than Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and Paul combined. But while all three are scheduled to participate in the the CNN/YouTube debate in November, Romney has yet to accept the invitation. He’s criticized the format and has taken special offense to a YouTuber, dressed as a snowman, asking a question about global warming.

And while the 129 submitted contest videos play on the common campaign themes of “strength,” “innovation” and “experience,” the campaign couldn’t stop users from mocking its contest and creating their own anti-Romney videos — right on Jumpcut. A popular one is a re-telling of a story that Romney told his eldest son, Tagg. The young Tagg, Romney has said, was thinking of becoming a Democrat. But when father told son that Democrats want gay marriage, Tagg said, “No Way!” The video, created by Slate’s Bruce Reed, is titled “Way!”

As it happens, Reed’s video has been viewed nearly 64,000 times on Jumpcut. Whitaker’s winning video has clocked in some 17,501 viewsmore [emphases ours]

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dr. g.d.

Republican Mitt Romney appears poised to dump significantly more of his own fortune into his campaign effort — a possible sign that he had trouble raising the money from donors this quarter. At a speech in California Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Romney — who once said donating to his presidential campaign would be a nightmare — declared that he had “contributed significantly to the campaign” and added ‘I presume I will again,’” reports the estimable Matthew Mosk in a post titled First the Fundraising Reports, Then the Campaign Fallout, featured in WaPo’s The Trail. [Emphasis ours]

Through June, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist had contributed $9 million to his campaign, nearly a quarter of his overall contributions.

“I don’t like the fact that money has such an impact on politics, but this to me is a reason I’m investing at least as much as everybody else — probably a little more,” Romney said, according to the AP reportmore

See:

Romney is prepared to buy the White House

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dr. g.d.





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