Posts Tagged ‘time.com’
Jason Bonham quotes Romney in a race42008.com blog burst titled Romney on Good Morning America
[Romney] “I think there will be a movement within the Republican party to coalesce around a conservative candidate. Mike Huckabee, of course, might stay in, and that might be one of the reasons he does so – is to try and split that conservative vote.”
Is this a wish? Is this a prayer? Media pressure will soon begin to mount against the hapless candidate, so is this the rationale—the reasoning, the alibi—for sticking it out after Florida decided for the now “presumptive GOP nominee, the honorable Sen. John McCain?
Note that this new talking point represents no fresh thinking, no new analysis, no current assessment of the situation or its many factors. Precisely the opposite is the case: this is the same argument for Romney’s fitness as a candidate that Romney has retailed for months and months, the so-called two-man-race theme that dates back at least to Iowa. See:
Romney’s 2-man race theme; an alibi for collapsing poll numbers?—this is from way back in October
[...] The Romney campaign, humbled by recent defeats, now hopes to rebrand his insider strategy as an outsider one. As the candidate soldiers on to the 21 states that will vote on February 5, the campaign holds out hope that the old coalition can be reborn anew. “We feel as though the conservatives are beginning to rally around Mitt,” said Ann Romney, after her husband delivered an upbeat concession speech Tuesday night, in a downtown St. Petersburg theater.
A few minutes earlier, and a couple dozen feet away, Jay Sekulow, a senior advisor to the campaign, put it this way. “Conservatives have a choice now, and it’s a clear choice,” he said. “You have got a conservative and you have got John McCain, who does not take conservative positions on a lot of issues.”
Downstairs, in the theater’s press filing room, Al Cardenas, a Washington lobbyist who chaired Romney’s Florida campaign, continued in the same frame of reference. “We think that the conservative movement activists are now beginning to panic about losing their grip on the Republican Party,” Cardenas said. “They better start working hard, and they have told us they are going to have to start working hard.”
The new Romney strategy has two clear components.
- First, the campaign is determined to marginalize Huckabee, who continues to poll well in many southern states, bleeding off votes from the vital socially conservative leg of the Romney’s stool. “Huckabee has proven he can’t win in the south,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s spokesman. “People are going to realize that this is a two person race right now,” said Sekulow.
- Second, Romney will spend much of the next week trying to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain, who leaves Florida with considerable momentum and already-high poll numbers in many of the states that vote on February 5. Though McCain has been hammered by some conservative voices, such as the radio host Rush Limbaugh, he has so far escaped the full ideological revolt that greeted him in 2000, when he lost the nomination to George W. Bush.
[Emphases and formatting are ours]
This final Romney gambit is likely to determine more than just the fate of one, well-heeled candidate. It could set the course for the Republican Party. In the old days, those who supported tax cuts for the wealthy worked closely with those who wanted to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage. Those who wanted to grow the size of the military made common cause with those who saw global warming as an environmentalist scare-tactic meant to interfere with free markets. Those who wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade also wanted to overturn campaign finance reform [...]
On its face the claim that conservatives will suddenly awaken to the grim reality of a Sen. McCain candidacy and turn to Romney is plausible but requires argument. The most urgent question this suggests is simply why haven’t conservatives turned to Romney before now? Is it not also plausible—in fact, demonstrable—in fact, part of Romney’s own argument—that the so-called Reagan coalition is dead? And if Romney were the one who could truly pull the sword from the stone, or breathe life into the dead coalition, why hasn’t he done it yet?—we’re all waiting, Romney; don’t tell us what conservatives should do or shouldn’t do, instead: show us what you can do.
Our analysis: Here begins the race to the base, friends and well wishers. Sen. McCain will, we predict, begin to reach out to conservative personalities (right wing shock jocks, talking heads, celebrities, talking heads), professional conservatives (writers, analysts, columnists, editors, think tank researchers), conservative activists, issues coalitions, pressure groups etc. But now he can reach out to them from a position of power, having developed reliable evidence of
(a) his fitness as a candidate,
(b) his fitness as a developer of issues and a builder of coalitions.
Now Sen. McCain has something to offer the base: the influence that flows freely from proximity to power. This is how the primary process as political ritual is supposed to work. It reduces to a barter economy, a patron-client system of tribute where the coin is power and the exchange rate can be murderous.
Romney for his part will reach out to the base too, frantically, desperately, if only to counter Sen. John McCain. But Romney’s position is more tenuous, more perilous. Romney can only issue threats and dire assessments of a Sen. McCain presidency—in simpler terms, Romney’s task, as Romney himself describes it, is “to drum up old conservative distrust of McCain”—i.e. Romney’s task is to slime Sen. McCain so badly that he cannot win.
In other words, Romney is perfectly willing to take the party down with him. So, let Romney unleash if he can the “full ideological revolt that greeted [Sen. McCain] in 2000.” Recent history—Iowa, New Hampshire—would predict that the gotterdammerung that Romney plans for Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain will rebound upon himself. See:
Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates
“From the day he announced his candidacy, observers have noted that Mitt Romney ‘looks presidential,’ yet this appearance advantage did not particularly help Romney in the early primary states,” writes Ana Marie Cox in a Time.com article titled Romney’s Cash Advantage Sinks In
In Iowa and New Hampshire, states where voters expect — and usually receive — face time with every candidate, Romney came across on the stump as stilted and rehearsed. Voters flocked instead to the personality rich and cash poor campaigns of Mike Huckabee and John McCain [...]
[...] The good news for Romney is that in the larger, more diverse state of Florida, most voters won’t have a chance to make that up close judgment. If Romney is able to surge past John McCain here in the state’s primary on Jan. 29 — and most recent polls have McCain with a very slight lead — it will most likely be due to his ability to spend freely on expensive advertising throughout the state.
Throughout the primary season, Romney has been accused of trying — though often failing — to buy elections. But Florida is the first state money really can buy. “Romney is the only one [of the four major candidates] who has the money on hand to go on the air in our 10 major media markets,” says Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. “For everyone else, it’s cost prohibitive to run a media campaign in Florida. It’s completely different from New Hampshire, Iowa or Michigan.”
As in every other state contest thus far, Romney is far outspending his Republican rivals on paid advertising. In Iowa he spent more than Huckabee by a ratio of 7 to 1, while in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he spent more than McCain by at least 5 to 1. And in the past month, one rival campaign estimates that Romney has spent twice the amount spent by any other candidate. He has also worked to gain an advantage in what consultants call “earned media” — the free, generally friendly local news coverage that a candidate generates by swinging through town. On that front, he’s made high-profile visits to the state since 2005 — when he had an off-the-record meeting with then-Governor Jeb Bush, several of whose former staffers work for Romney today. Thursday evening’s surprisingly civil GOP debate played to his strengths as well: on camera, Romney came across as prepared, not scripted.
Florida may be a diverse state, but Romney makes much the same appeal to all Floridians; an unshakeable belief in reuniting the “Reagan coalition” of social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives. Romney staffers seem confident that the governor can attract the social conservatives and evangelicals who have been supporting Huckabee —who has greatly reduced his presence here since his loss in South Carolina — along with a good chunk of the fiscal conservatives for whom Romney’s private sector background has an almost mystical appeal [...]
[...] Still, Romney advisers do have some basis for their optimism about Tuesday’s race. The Florida GOP primary is the first “closed” primary in the country; only registered Republicans can vote. McCain, while pulling a fair share of registered Republicans in other states, has been put over the top by independents. As national spokesman Kevin Madden puts it, “There is no refuge in the independent vote in Florida.” But fortunately for Romney, there is some refuge from too much face-to-face, retail politics in the Sunshine State [...]
Yes. Passing in review, (a) Romney fails to mobilize voters when he is forced to actually meet them and talk to them—i.e. in retail politics or F2F Romney fails to impress, or, worse, he mobilizes support for his rivals. Hence (b) in large, diverse states where retail politics and F2F contact is less decisive, Romney enjoys a potentially decisive advantage because (c) his vast and personal reserve of cash allows him to reach more voters in a more controlled way, by means of controlled, scripted, and focus-group tested television advertising.
You would think the Romneys would want to suppress such unflattering, almost despairing analysis. But no, even their supporters—e.g. Mitchell of Evangelicals for Mitt—argue the same case, exactly the same way (see the point, counterpoint link below). Apparently Cox and Mitchell are rehearsing their lines from the same talking points memo. (Either that or this is an emerging fixed point in the discussion of Romney’s fitness but we sort of doubt it.) Here is where we discuss and criticize the Cox-Mitchell “Romney wins when Romney is a talking head on a television screen” trope:
“What a nice guy!” writes Joe Klein in a Time.com expository burst titled A Tale of Two Romney’s
Mitt Romney is all humble and reasonable, a human goose-down comforter lulling the Iowans who have come to hear him at a classic heartland café in downtown Newton on a Saturday morning. “I don’t think anybody votes for yesterday,” he says, streaming balm …
… On second thought, nope. This guy is, literally, unbelievable and completely at odds with the Romney festering on television screens and in mailings throughout Iowa and New Hampshire. That Romney is nonstop negative, and jingo-crazed about the perils of illegal immigration. He offers exclamations, not balm: John McCain wants to make ‘em citizens! Mike Huckabee gave them college scholarships! And McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts! And Huckabee pardoned all these criminals when he was Governor of Arkansas, while Romney pardoned not a single one of his Massachusetts felons!
Klien develops a new take on the TWO ROMNEYS trope that gets retailed every fortnight or so. Here would be another:
Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”
Here would be another:
Brooks of the NYT: “But [Romney’s] 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 [And the painfully literal rubes of the National Review have chosen to endorse] 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”
Back to Klein:
All these claims are accurate, or nearly so, and well within the smarmy bounds of political advertising. The problem is schizophrenia: negative Romney on television, positive Romney on the stump. Moderate Massachusetts Mitt vs. Raging Romney of the primaries. “Pay attention to both,” New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor wrote in an extraordinary editorial, “and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core.”
There are limits in politics. You can get away with changing a position—perhaps Romney really did see the light on abortion, not just the results of an Iowa focus group—but you can’t just reinvent yourself out of whole cloth. You can go negative on your opponents, but it’s a stretch to attack them for taking the same positions—on immigration, most notably—that you used to take, especially when you keep getting caught having illegals tend your garden. The sheer cynicism is driving Romney’s Republican opponents nuts. He is wildly unpopular among his peers. “I just hate the guy,” says a rival campaign manager. “If we can’t win, I want to be sure he loses” … etc.
We sure do too. The emphases, by the way, are ours, all ours.
Here is the problem for us: Romney is an apparition—he doesn’t really exist as a political entity. He has no natural constituency (who does he represent, what community does he claim as his own, super-rich leveraged buy-out specialists?), and no territorial base (he cannot deliver his home state!—he could not run in his home state in his current incarnation and survive; imagine how this troubled man will fare in the south after he savaged Gov. Huckabee). Romney is not simply running from his record of policy and governance, he is running against his record, passionately against it!
Our conclusion: The man has nothing, nothing that would recommend him to our highest office.
Yet the goofballs at the National Review endorsed this human work of farcical high fiction to be our president. Dr. Dobson praises him, Rush Limbaugh extolls his questionable virtues, and ideological courtesan Hugh Hewitt writes book-length love-peans to the non-entity candidate from nowhere.
Suddenly—overnight, perhaps while we were sleeping peacefully—the conservative worldview came to mean its precise opposite—it suddenly came to mean a naive faith in human and political agency to not only improve and perfect, but to recreate the human condition, starting with the person and character of Willard Milton Romney. In him consists the solution to our most pressing social problems: it is accept that truth is a socially negotiated artifact, and that we may construct our own realities if we would just believe—that is, believe in Romney.
Also: Why is everyone only now waking up to the grim fact that Romney is an ugly, vicious, hateful cipher of a man, despite his primped and proper exterior? We have harped on this finely-tuned string for months now …