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“A memo from a senior strategist for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says that the media are ready to give the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), but if Romney can attract more conservatives, he will win the nomination,” writes Sam Youngman in a analytical fantasia titled Romney memo says media ‘ready to anoint McCain’

“We still have an uphill battle in front of us,” Romney strategist Alex Gage wrote in the memo. “The mainstream media is (sic) ready to anoint John McCain and he will have advantages in many states running for president for the past eight years – but Gov. Romney has a clear path to victory on February 5th and beyond.”

The memo, obtained by The Hill, outlines how McCain has failed to win over conservative voters in the states that have voted so far, and it details how Romney could have won if only a few more percentage points of that bloc had come over.

“The coalitions that John McCain assembled in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida have been strikingly similar – and are strikingly tenuous,” Gage wrote […]

[…] The memo goes on to say that Romney and McCain “are now in a two-man race and a few points’ movement among conservatives is all that’s needed to tip the scales in favor of Gov. Romney.”

Gage writes that in the early three states McCain won, his margin of victory was the result of the support of moderates, independents and voters that disapprove of the Bush administration.

“None of these groups is a majority of the Republican electorate,” Gage wrote, adding that this is the reason “McCain has failed to win more than 36 percent of the vote in any of them” […]

Gage’s conclusions are based on an emerging fixed point in the discussion. Sen. McCain can reach across party lines to build issues coalitions; Romney can win the base. Chris Suellentrop develops the data coming out of Florida’s contest to arrive at a similar conclusion:

[…] In short, Mitt Romney won the Republican Party’s idea of itself ­ and that, too, is a big deal. If you’re white, Protestant, anti-abortion, go to church on Sundays, think well of the President, want lower taxes, hate terrorists, make a good living, want to do something about immigration, and live in Florida, chances are you voted Romney. The question before Florida was whether McCain could win a closed Republican race, and now we know he can. The question now is whether he can win conservatives ­ and in Florida, he did not […]

Here, for Romney, begins what we earlier called the race to the base.

Hence Romney’s sudden volte face on whether to mount a last ditch advertising salvo. On January 30 David Espo of the AP reported that “Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney signaled Wednesday he’s not ready to finance a costly campaign in the states holding primaries and caucuses next week.

By February 1 Dan Morain and Scott Martelle of the LA Times issued the headline: Romney launches Super Tuesday ad barrage; The multimillion-dollar campaign in far-flung states, he hopes, will help him regain the edge he’s losing to McCain. Experts question whether ads will help at this point

[…] Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney launched a multimillion-dollar purchase of television ads Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to remain competitive with GOP presidential front-runner John McCain in the Super Tuesday contests.

Sources familiar with Romney’s plans said the ad buy would exceed $1 million in California alone, enough to give the former Massachusetts governor a presence in much of the state. Romney also was expected to spread some money around to some of the other 20 states holding GOP primaries or caucuses Tuesday, though experts question whether the late advertising would have any impact.

“I don’t think it’s possible to flood the airwaves in 22 states,” Romney said, but he nevertheless authorized “a seven-figure — I won’t give you the exact number — but a seven-figure advertising buy for our campaign.”

After a series of single-state contests in which voters could shake candidates’ hands, the Republican presidential nomination could be decided by millions of voters casting their ballots after having seen the candidates only in advertisements or news reports.

Those political ads depend on candidates’ ability to pay for them, and with the fields in both parties dwindling this week, the surviving candidates looked to pick up the support of former candidates’ fundraisers and bundlers […]

Can Romney pull off this last chance, high-stakes, 11th hour, and super-expensive gambit? Can Romney secure his nomination and destroy the GOP? Keep watching the skies. Or the airwaves.


Haven’t we all been here before?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“SALEM, N.H. – In yet another sign that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is on a roll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) targeted him at an event here Monday afternoon just hours before the first votes in the Granite State’s primary were to be cast,” writes Sam Youngman in a article titled New target? Romney says he can beat Obama

Romney and the rest of the Republican field have spent most of their energy throughout the campaign harshly criticizing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) – and she was still a target Monday.

But Romney embraced Obama’s theme of change, channeled Clinton’s assertion that a record of change is important and finished by saying that he could beat Obama in the general election.

The former governor spoke of Obama’s victory in Iowa, saying “he surprised a lot of people.”

“He beat them all because he talked about change in Washington,” Romney said to about 100 voters at the Elk Lodge here […]

Note how Romney consistently identifies with what he perceives are his rivals or oppressors. Romney’s method of dispute is not to oppose you, but rather to become you. He becomes a faster, better, abler you than you are.

Currently: Are you Sen. Barack Obama? Well, Romney is a better Barack Obama than you are

Correction: Romney doesn’t necessarily identify with his rivals or oppressors.

Some he ignores or ridicules (to his peril), e.g. Gov. Mike Huckabee, who bested the hapless candidate in aggressively contested Iowa. What Romney identifies with is what he perceives as power. In other words, Romney attemtps to appropriate power by becoming it, in whatever form it confronts him, e.g. Barack Obama. Sen. Obama bested his rivals decisively, so now Romney has become Barack Obama, themes, rhetoric, all of it, only Romney is a better Barack Obama.

Here is a laboratory pure sample of the new Barack-Romney entity, as reported by MoJo’s estimable Jonathan Stein:

[…] Barack Obama won Iowa on a message of change, said Romney [at the Timberland corporate headquarters in NH], and he beat three senators with years of experience. If the Republican nominate McCain, Romney repeatedly predicted, Obama will do to him what he did to Biden, Dodd, and Clinton. (Romney has co-opted Obama and Edwards’ rhetoric thoroughly. Today, he promised to “get the lobbyists out of the way.”) […]

Please also recall—just as an aside—that it was the 60s version of the GOP right wing that crushed the moderate Gov. George Romney (may his name be for a blessing) in 1968. Romney owes us one. To defeat us, us being the right wing, he has become us, only what he believes is a better version of us. This is only an hypothesis. Nothing more. Here is our earlier speculation on this sad theme.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“With rival Rudy Giuliani also spending the weekend in the Granite State, Mitt Romney called the former New York mayor a ‘friend,’ but said he said he ‘left a bit of a problem’ in New York City by leaving a three billion dollar deficit,” writes the cerebral and remote Sareena Dalla, the New Hampshire Producer for CNN, in an article for the CNN Political Ticker titled Romney attacks Giuliani’s fiscal record

“Mayor Giuliani is a friend of mine, I think he is a good man, the former Massachusetts governor said. “And I know he did a good job as mayor of New York City, but on spending and fiscal matters, they left a bit of a problem there, because when he came in, there was a budget gap, but when he left, he left a budget gap twice as big as the one he inherited – over three billion dollars” … etc.

Note the sniveling language: “Mayor Giuliani is a friend of mine, I think he is a good man.” Recent events have taught Team Romney the painful lesson that their their candidate’s ultra-high negatives and cold, remote demeanor will not support a negative message. Their solution—strangely, unbelievably—is to couch their bitter attacks in expressions of friendship and affection, a gesture redolent of a mafiosi kiss of death.

But what about Romney’s record?

“Anti-tax advocates are scrutinizing Mitt Romney’s (R) record as governor of Massachusetts and focusing on the fact that he increased fees in the state by $500 million and proposed nearly $400 million in business tax increases,” writes Alexander Bolton in a release titled Romney’s tax record gets a closer look

This could erode whatever advantage on tax policy he hopes to have over 2008 presidential rivals such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, published a fiscal-policy report card for 2006 that gave Romney a C grade, ranking him behind 11 other governors, including Democratic White House hopeful Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico.

Cato found that Romney increased annual state fees by $500 million as governor and proposed two corporate tax increases totaling close to $400 million a year.

When he took office, Romney faced a budget deficit of $3.2 billion, which he eliminated. He did not hike personal income or sales taxes. He is now highlighting his efforts to cut Massachusetts’s income tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5 percent and his successful shepherding of a $250 million capital gains tax refund through the Democrat-dominated state legislature.

But he increased fees for getting married, buying a house, bringing a case to court, and using a public golf course, to name a few reported examples. However, in a move that could prove controversial with social conservatives, Romney decided not to raise fees for convicted sex offenders. He vetoed a $75 fee for offenders required by law to register with the state.

“Romney’s people are trying to spin this by saying he kept his ‘No new taxes’ pledge,” said Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at Cato. “I guess if you consider only personal income taxes and sales taxes, he’s within bounds. If you take a broader view, he is not.

“The spirit of [anti-tax pledges] is to force governors to find more innovative ways of funding government,” he added. “If the spirit is to save money before you increase revenues, I don’t think Romney has held to the spirit of the no-new-tax pledge.”

Slivinski said he based his report on publications by Tax Analysts, a non-partisan group that tracks state and federal tax activity, and by the National Conference of State Legislatures … etc.

Also see:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“According to the [RealClearPolitics averages], all the pieces of Romney’s route to the nomination are falling into place,” writes Matt C in a post titled Romney Leads RCP Average in IA, NH, MI, and SC. Matt C.’s conclusion is based on Romney’s so-called early states strategy. How effective will this strategy be?—opinions differ. What follows is a simple-bordering-on-trivial analytical exercise based on scenarios for either Romney or Giuliani winning the GOP nomination as developed by Barnes and Morris.

Step 1: we lay out the scenarios.

Step 2: we plot the scenarios and their possible outcomes using a semiotic square, a simple heuristic diagram a little like Aristotle’s square-of-opposition.

Step 3: we try to draw conclusions from our plot of the scenarios.

STEP 1: laying out the scenarios

The Giuliani Scenario as described by Barnes in his Weekly Standard article, The 2 Man Race

… Contrary to reports, Giuliani is not ignoring the early states. Well, Iowa maybe. He’s campaigning aggressively in New Hampshire and leads in the Fox poll in South Carolina. If he stayed out of every state until the Florida primary, that would be fatal. The early winner would gain all the media attention and swamp him.

But Giuliani’s focus is on Florida and then on the big-state primaries on February 5 in California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. He, too, has the funds to compete. His scenario–breaking out in Florida and blowing away the field on Super Tuesday–is credible in my view.

However, he could do well on Super Tuesday and still not lock up the nomination. The same is true for Romney. Should that happen, the Romney scenario sees conservatives drifting to him as the alternative to the more liberal Giuliani. Former congressman Vin Weber, a Romney adviser, says there’s a ceiling on how many Republicans will back Giuliani, one that will keep him from winning the nomination. We’ll see … etc., etc.

The Romney Scenario (a) as described by Barnes in his Weekly Standard article, The 2 Man Race

… Romney has an early-primary strategy aimed at Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He’s poured money into those states, broadcast TV spots, and built organizations. Fox News polls show him leading in Iowa and New Hampshire and a close second in South Carolina.

If he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll have history on his side. No presidential candidate in either party has failed to win the presidential nomination after finishing first in Iowa and New Hampshire–that is, since 1972 when Democrat Edmund Muskie managed the dubious feat of winning both but not the nomination. Romney also has the best shot to win the Michigan primary on January 15. He grew up in Michigan and his father George was governor. The other Republicans have all but ignored Michigan.

So the Romney scenario is obvious. He wins early and takes off like a rocket. His name identification soars. Just as significant, he’ll have the money–his own, plus funds he’s raised–to compete fully on February 5, Super Tuesday. I think this scenario is believable. Of course it’s just a scenario, nothing more … etc.

The Romney Scenario (b) as described by Dick Morris in a speculative piece titled WHAT IF THE IOWA POLLS DON’T CHANGE?

What if the current polls in Iowa are the final result? …

… [a] Romney victory in Iowa would virtually guarantee a win in New Hampshire. The two states, in media terms, are practically one. Two-thirds of New Hampshire lives in the southern part of the state that watches Boston television every night. Since Romney served as governor in Massachusetts, he will probably win New Hampshire anyway. A win in Iowa would make it a fait accompli.

Two victories would make Romney the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Coupled with a Giuliani stumble in Iowa, it could totally change the dynamic of the Republican primary. Here’s what might happen:

Rudy could come to be seen as too antagonistic to the Christian right, and moderates might once again turn to McCain as the less inflammatory option, sidetracking the former New York mayor.

Huckabee, coming in a strong second, could take off and become the poor man’s Romney, taking advantage of his greater consistency on social issues, his Christian (read: non-Mormon) beliefs, and his support of the Fair Tax as an alternative to the IRS.

Republicans would likely panic about the idea of a Mormon candidate and worry about his prospects, making Huckabee and either Rudy or McCain viable as alternatives.

Thompson will be forced out, having lost his position as the socially conservative answer to Rudy …

… The race would be thrown into chaos. Anyone could win. Romney would have the momentum, but doubts about his ability to win as a Mormon would make his lead unstable. Huckabee would be gaining, but he may not be well enough known to make it. Giuliani could still recover, given his strong national standing, but would be hobbled. And McCain would still have his immigration position hanging over his head, but as Rudy falters, he might pick up the slack.

Then again, Hillary could open up a large lead in Iowa as her juggernaut gets going. And Rudy could, at least, finish a strong second to Romney in Iowa, and perhaps beat him, making it a Giuliani-Romney runoff in the main primaries, which Rudy probably wins. Then the general election match-up would be Hillary vs. Rudy, as we have all anticipated.

But what if?

STEP 2: Plotting the scenarios using a semantic square

Here are the possibilities as elaborated by Barnes and Morris plotted in a semiotic square:

willard milton romney

How to read the square:

  1. Giuliani breaks out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ AND Romney fails in the early state primaries—RESULT: Giuliani wins the GOP nomination
  2. Giuliani breaks out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ AND Romney wins the early state primarie—RESULT: inconclusive
  3. Romney wins the early state primaries AND Giuliani does not break out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ—RESULT: Barnes: Romney wins the GOP Nomination -or- Morris: Chaos ensues
  4. Romney fails in the early state primaries AND Giuliani does not break out in FL to capture CA, NY, IL, NJ—RESULT: inconclusive

STEP 3: Reflections and conclusions

(i) (2) and (4) both return inconclusive readings according to our interpretation of the Barnes and Morris scenarios. Put differently, it is possible that the Romney and Giuliani campaigns could both achieve their objectives and still fail to achieve a lock on the nomination; it is also possible that both campaigns could fail in their objectives. Conclusion: these scenarios are far more explanatory than predictive.

(ii) (1) reflects the common wisdom according to Morris. For Romney to take the early primary states (3), is the special case that for which Morris tries to account. For Barnes (3) is at least as plausible as (1) if not more so.

Why do their opinions differ?

Answer: Morris is flummoxed by Romney’s Mormonism. His surmise: Republicans will balk at a Romney nomination, which we surmise to be a projection of Morris himself balking at a Romney nomination. Our surmise: Republicans are far, far less concerned about Romney’s Mormonism than are journalists, party elites, the chattering commentariat, political consultants etc.—just as Republicans are far, far less concerned about Giuliani’s progressive social views than are journalists etc., etc. (Here is an example.)

(iii) We still, however, agree with Morris: Romney could win the early primary states AND Guiliani could fail in FL etc. AND the party could still fail to decide for Romney.

Here is why: Romney has disastrously misread the meaning and intent of the new primary calendar, a calendar designed to suppress the significance of the early primary states in favor of a defacto national primary. Regard: strategists draw distinctions between high and low mobility environments. In a high mobility environment—where you can move your forces quickly—it makes sense to invest only lightly in your perimeter or in static defenses in favor of a highly mobile ready-reserve that you can quickly deploy wherever you need it. In a low-mobility environment, the opposite obtains; since you cannot move your forces around easily, you post them where you need them to be when hostilities break out, e.g. at key points on your perimeter, in hard points along your invasion corridors.

The primary calendar of e.g. 2004 constituted a high-mobiliy environment as the campaigns had time to regroup and re-organize according to their estimations of the evolving situation after each contest.

The 2008 primary calendar, however, constitutes an exceedingly low-mobility environment as the tempo of the contests precludes any learning, adapting, and re-allocating.

Romney’s campaign is optimized for a high-mobility environment. Barnes describes it this way: “[Romney] wins early and takes off like a rocket. His name identification soars. Just as significant, he’ll have the money–his own, plus funds he’s raised–to compete fully on February 5, Super Tuesday.” In other words, Team Romney hopes to suddenly transition from a low-efficiency organization characterized by massive and low ROI media buys in a few targeted locales to a high-efficiency operation that can achieve a far-higher ROI because of its newly won name recognition, earned media etc. Romney will then begin spending his reserve cash etc.

Giuliani, on the other hand, has optimized his campaign for a low-mobility environment by concentrating his efforts not on the high-prestige but low-delegate-returning early states but rather on high-delegate-returning populous states, e.g. Fl, CA, IL, NY, NJ—i.e. Giuliani has organized and deployed for a national primary, a national primary that will effectively lock into place the national poll numbers. Since Giuliani is already a nationally known and respect figure, his ROI is much higher for spending that has been much lower. No sudden re-deployment or organizational transformation is necessary for the Giuliani campaign; what they need to be in place is already in place and has been for months. Also: Giuliani can, and has, allowed e.g. the activities of Huckabee and McCain to divide and disperse Romney’s attentions in the early primary states. In far simpler terms: Giuliani’s scenario requires far less input to produce far more output.

We believe that this is where Barnes, Morris, and Romney are wrong: their analysis supposes the 2000 or 2004 primary calendar. Giuliani, however, has organized differently.

History will decide the issue.

We invite criticism. We also acknowledge that our exercise lacks empirical rigor, based as it is on logical-semantic relations, descriptions developed by others, and a simple distinction.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Corporations and government entities sometimes use scenario-planning for long-range forecasting. The method is simple bordering on trivial. You attempt to develop rival scenarios based on you or your team’s estimation of how critical variables will trend over time. You then plot your scenarios against those variables articulated as dimensions. You then use the plot as something of a map to help you plan for or against contingencies. The scenarios themselves often turn out to be ridiculously wrong—but that’s OK—the point is not to predict the future; the point is rather to e.g. help you prepare for surprises, clarify your goals, identify critical variables, and develop a more critical awareness based on a longer-term view. For our purposes the Barnes and Morris scenarios are interesting to the degree that they help us understand how people are thinking about the primaries.