Posts Tagged ‘theatlantic.com’

“The Romney campaign’s February 5th math is simple: move all the voters from the Huckabee pile onto theirs and claim a majority of conservatives,” writes the estimable Patrick Ruffini, an “Ex-Bush aide/Giuliani aide/current Romney endorser,” as described by Marc Ambinder, in a blog burst titled Intransigent Huck Voters

Unfortunately, continues Ruffini, it’s just not that simple.

In the South — still more delegate-rich per capita than NY, CA, NJ, IL, etc. — the “conservative” vote, defined as Romney + Huckabee, is splitting down the middle. Most polls down South look like McCain 30, Huckabee 25, Romney 25. We’ve seen how this played out in South Carolina, except there it was establishment conservatives refusing to take the advice that they play ball with Huckabee to strengthen their hand in Florida. We also saw it in rural northern Florida, where in many cases it was a three man race (and often a two man race between McCain and Huck).

The problem with this analysis is that I’ve seen no evidence that Huckabee voters would go to Romney. On a county level, the Romney and Huckabee votes are negatively correlated, with Romney representing the conservative side of the Chamber of Commerce/Rotary Club vote and not really showing outsized strength with Evangelicals [...]

[...] There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state.

It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. But has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are.

Mitt Romney is trying to unify the party as a business guy from Belmont who is culturally as far removed from Suwannee County, Florida as you can get. He’s going about it very clinically: vote for me because I’m not McCain. But I’m not sure that message holds much sway with an audience that takes its cues from Christian radio not News/Talk and certainly not National Review. And notice his message: it’s all about the economy, and nothing about Life and only a little bit about marriage. Christian voters have noticed.

Romney is pinning his hopes on brining in the social “leg of the stool.” But though they’re not wild about McCain, I’d venture that a plurality of these voters would rank Romney third [...]

[...] Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder [...]

We concur. Only it was Romney went nuclear on Gov. Huckabee, and at great cost. See:

Marc Ambinder comments on Ruffini’s analysis in a blog burst titled Republican Coalition Politics

[...] Left unasked is precisely why the establishment felt more threatened by Mike Huckabee that it did by even John McCain. And not just the pro-business, anti-tax wing of the professional conservative establishment: the faith wing, too, from the Family Research Council to various members of the Arlington Group who cast their lot with Fred Thompson, a conservative, to be sure, but someone of an undefined protestant faith who didn’t seem to go to church much.

My theory — and it remains a theory — is that Huckabee threatened these interests so much because he never depended on them in the past and would never depend on them in the future. In the sense that these interests mediated between leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, Huckabee was able to bypass the mediators and speak directly to faith voters — the hard core corps of moral conservatives who tend to compromise about 20 to 35% of any given electorate, more so in the South and Midwest [...]

Only now it begins to dawn on Republicans just how much damage Tribe Romney has done to the base.

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dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney’s had an 8 to 1 television ad advantage in Florida … “ writes Marc Ambinder in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Romney’s Major Florida Advantage

… part of the reason why he’s made the competitive. Heck, most of the reason he’s made the race competitive has been his ads.

According to Neilsen, he’s run 4,475 ads compared to John McCain’s 470 through 1/22.

McCain did not run a single ad until January; Romney ran more ads in September than McCain has run to date [...]

8 to 1 advantage in television advertising. Yet Romney is deadlocked with Sen. McCain. Yet more evidence of Romney’s outrageously low ROI for his every campaign dollar. Yet more evidence that Romney’s funding levels are not a reliable indicator of his fitness as a candidate.

Also see:

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dr. g.d.

“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.

“DES MOINES, Iowa — Romney got aggressive with reporters after a military-focused event early this afternoon,” writes NBC/NJ’s Erin McPike in a FirstRead post titled Testy Romney Press Conference

Several times Romney tried to move on from reporters trying to ask follow-ups or not take certain questions in one of the largest and testiest gaggles he’s had on the trail. He was deluged with questions about his speech, and specifically about the line, “freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.”

“It was a speech on faith in America, first of all,” Romney said. He said he was paraphrasing what John Adams and George Washington have said and added that “For a nation like ours to be great and to thrive, that our constitution was written for people of faith, and religion is a very extraordinary element and very necessary foundation for our nation. I believe that’s the case.”
 
Near the end of press conference here after an Ask Mitt Anything town hall, he was asked if he thought a non-spiritual person could be a free person, and he returned with: “Of course not, that’s not what I said.” Pressed again about the freedom requiring religion line, he said, “I was talking about the nation.”
 
He was also pressed about the politics of his speech and reiterated, “You know, that’s not what the speech was about,” and then again said it was about the role of faith in America …

Marc Ambinder describes Romney’s meltdown a little differently:

DES MOINES — Maybe it was a way of saying, “Welcome to the Big Time.” Mitt Romney held his first media avail — we like to shorten words like “availability,” which itself is a fancy word for “press conference” shortly after a stop at Ft. Des Moines, where Ronald Reagan became a 2nd lieutenant. The questions came fast and none were softballs.

Matt Stuart of ABC News wanted to know why Romney excluded people of no faith from his “freedom requires religion” formulation. Romney was a little testy, explaining that he meant that religion seeded the value of freedom for the country.

Jonathan Martin asked Romney whether he thought his speech would help calm evangelical concerns in Iowa. Romney wouldn’t bite …

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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.





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