Posts Tagged ‘USA Today’

“MINNEAPOLIS — Republican hopeful Mitt Romney said Sunday he was counting on the ‘voices of conservatism’ and a non-binding caucus in Maine to propel him to within fighting distance of frontrunner Sen. John McCain, who has opened a double-digit lead in polls before Tuesday’s pivotal votes,” writes Andrea Stone in a USA Today article titled Romney courts ‘voices of conservatism’

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Romney said his win in Maine “shocked” McCain, who had been endorsed by the state’s senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both widely viewed as moderate Republicans. The results showed Republicans were “staying in the house that Reagan built,” Romney said.Romney reiterated a litany of McCain positions he says are out of the mainstream of their party, including votes against drilling for oil in the Arctic preserve and President Bush’s tax cuts and for campaign finance bills and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Asked about the McCain campaign accusations that he has changed positions on issues such as a 50-cents-a-gallon gas tax that Romney now rails against at campaign stops, the former Massachusetts governor rejected what have now become familiar charges of flip-slopping.

“They have stretched, twisted and completely walked away from the truth,” Romney said […]

Truth? Just what is the truth to a person like Romney?

Here is the problem for Romney: Romney’s icy-cold persona and ultra-high negatives cannot support a negative message. Romney’s own poll numbers crash whenever he does so. Yet here is, again, in person, attempting to slime McCain at the expense of whatever slim chances the GOP may have had in November against Senators Clinton or Obama.

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

Say for the sake of argument that Romney succeeds in driving up Sen. McCain’s negatives to the point that Sen. McCain is no longer viable. History would predict that the result would be equally disastrous for Romney. This is because whenever Romney lurches to the right, he alienates the very moderates and independents that comprise Sen. McCain’s coalition of voters. Yet Romney will need those very voters—voters Romney has ridiculed for not being real Republicans—in the general election. See:

Romney outflanks himself yet again!–poll indicates Romney’s pull to the right alienates independents, centrists, and moderates

In other words Romney’s fight is not with Sen. McCain. Romney’s fight is with the GOP itself.

[…] While McCain has racked up endorsements from governors and other high-profile Republicans on a wholesale basis since his Florida victory, the conservative commentariat of radio and TV have rallied to Romney. Long-time fan Rush Limbaugh was joined this week by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and right-leaning radio talkers Laura Ingraham and Lars Larson. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter went so far this week to say that if McCain, who has angered conservatives with his stands on immigration, taxes and other issues, were the GOP nominee, she would vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

” I don’t think you can buy as much advertising” as radio talk show hosts have provided for free, he said […]

Not entirely for free. Romney’s Bain Capital acquired Clear Channel—the carrier of conservative “voices” like Rush Limbaugh—over a year ago.

The price tag was more like US$26.7 billion.

And the effectiveness of the sale is, at least to date, still in doubt. See:

Here is yet another take on Romney’s sudden bout of Tourette’s syndrome

[…] “ROMNEY ON TW. Mitt Romney came out with guns blazing, accusing John McCain of trying to characterize his positions while he characterized McCain’s,” writes Mark Kilmer in a http://www.redstate.com blog burst titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows—The Review

Romney said he was winning the “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” the “house Reagan built.” (He’s still invoking Reagan.) Romney boasted of the conservative commentators “coming out for me in record numbers.” Which begs the question, what is the old record which he claims to be breaking? Also, how many of these commentators are supporting him and how many are trying to flex their muscles concerning McCain?

Romney pointed out that McCain’s positions on ANWR, BCRA, immigration, and global warming “cause many conservatives to rally to my camp.” Is this a big Romney rally or a STOP MCCAIN fest?

Romney did allow that he and McCain agree on Iraq. (But he moved to McCain’s position, not v/v.)

Wallace asked Romney about his support for a cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions, and Romney accused McCain of twisting his position around. Yes, though, he said that he did support cap and trade.

Romney launched waves of attacks into McCain and McCain’s positions as characterized by Romney.

This was Romney knowing that the numbers do not look good for him right now trying to draw sharp distinctions between his rival and himself. It would have worked better, I think, if he could have focused on a few areas at a time, rather than a general broadside, but time is short. We’ll see how this plays on Tuesday […]

[…] ROMNEY ON CNN. Mitt Romney was Wolf Blitzer’s first guest on CNN’s Late Edition this morning; Romney was in Minnesota. Blitzer pointed out that McCain blames Romney for the nastiness in this campaign. Romney said that he attacks only on issues, while McCain got personal in Florida. He said that he was not going to talk about that. (Romney’s stance vis-à-vis the surge is oriented toward an issue. Romney promised that he would keep mentioning that John McCain had repeated reports that Romney had talked of a timetable for withdrawal.)

Romney said that McCain’s “lack of understanding of the economy” was bad for the country, adding that we have to have someone who has had a real job in the private sector in the Oval Office. (That is a personal attack on the former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.)

Romney belittled “reaching across the aisle” and “making political deals.” He said that he is a man of action, of getting things done.

Comment: Say what!? How does one “get things done” if one sorely lacks the political skill necessary to build coalitions? For more on this melancholy theme see:

Why do only 3 out 22 Republican governors support Romney?—yet more evidence of Romney’s incompetence and lack of political skill

Back to Kilmer:

Romney said that McCain-Feingold hurt the Republican Party (it didn’t) and McCain-Kennedy granted amnesty to oodles of illegals (it didn’t even pass). He said that the Florida primary was close, “only a few points.” (Five points is a big win.) He said that conservatives were rallying behind him as a way to stop John McCain, which is why he won the uncontested caucuses in Maine at which no delegates were awarded. (Maine is a bastion of conservatism, electing Senators Collins and Snowe, both of whom endorsed John McCain after co-chairing his exploratory committee last year.)

Blitzer pointed out that polls show McCain beating Hillary and Obama with Romney losing. Romney claimed that the polls swing wildly.

Romney repeated that with our economy “struggling,” we need to elect someone who has held a “real job.” He compared himself again to Ronald Reagan […]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Two interesting and interrelated questions about the Mike Huckabee boomlet,” writes Frank Newport in a sentence without a verb that begins a USA Today GallupGuru post titled Timing and the Mike Huckabee Boomlet

First, has Huckabee peaked? And second, has the Huckabee boom come a few weeks too early to be maximally effective for his campaign?

The (truly) extraordinary national news media focus on the Iowa caucuses at this point is bound-up in the presumption that the results there on Jan 3rd will dramatically affect the mindset of voters who are not in Iowa.

Newport is careful with his language—presumption is correct. Especially in Romney’s case. If Newport is correct that performance in Iowa predicts performance in later primary contests, then Romney’s performance predicts disaster regardless of the outcome in Iowa.

… The key question: Will Huckabee become the GOP front-runner if he does well in Iowa?

In a way polling has given us a mini-preview of the answer to that question in the last few weeks. We’re seeing now a pre-creation of the process that will occur if Huckabee does well in Iowa. Republican voters across the country are getting a preview of the type of exposure to Huckabee they will get in earnest if he is the big news story coming out of the Jan. 3rd caucuses.

To be sure, as a result of this early pre-creation of a strong Iowa caucus showing, Republican voters have indeed elevated their views of Mike Huckabee. He is for the most part not campaigning in any states other than a select few with early caucuses and primaries. But Huckabee’s name ID has essentially doubled nationally from 31% in August to 58% today. His standing as first choice among Republicans for their party’s nomination has gone from 1% to 16%.

Our question: If this is the case for Gov. Huckabee, has the polling then also given us a mini-preview of Romney’s performance should he take Iowa? Regard: Romney led in the polls for months in Iowa, often by double digits, occasioned by massive media attention. Yet unlike Gov. Huckabee, Romney’s name ID never doubled, nor did his standing markedly improve. By Newport’s criterion Romney is doomed.

The unknown factor: to what degree will this momentum continue?

The unknown factor for Romney: why did no momentum ever develop after months of leading in the polls in Iowa?

We have a hint of an answer in our latest USA Today/Gallup poll. The Huckabee boomlet, so to speak, has to some degree apparently leveled off. Huckabee’s image has actually become a little more negative over the last two weeks. His favorable number gained only 1 point from early December to this past weekend. His unfavorable number went up by 6 points. And his share of the GOP vote stayed exactly the same, at 16%.

The data from other national polls on Huckabee are mixed. Some conducted over the last two weeks show Huckabee almost tied with Rudy Giuliani. Others — like our USA Today/Gallup poll – show that Giuliani maintains a modest lead over Huckabee and the rest of the pack. (We are about to go through a period of data-deprivation as pollsters pull back from interviewing between Christmas and New Years.)

But our data suggest at least the possibility that at the national level Huckabee has peaked. It’s possible that the potential energy caused by a Huckabee win or strong showing in Iowa next month is already built into our data as a result of his pre-vote strength. This in turn could suggest that the impact of whatever happens as a result of Iowa on Jan. 3rd on Huckabee’s national numbers may not be all that big.

Yuh-huh. The same would follow for Romney, who has been building up expectations in Iowa for months and months.

There’s another interesting factor here.

I’m not sure that Huckabee’s staff is all that estatic that their candidate is getting so much national play more than two weeks before Iowa. The potential trouble is the fabled expectations game. Anything less than a strong victory in Iowa could now be interpreted as a weak showing, a slipping, a weakness, a problem. The surprise factor in Huckabee’s ability to garner the support of GOP voters in Iowa is already out there. A strong showing is now expected.

Most campaign professionals would much rather have low expectations and exceed them than to have high expectations and underperform them. (Of course, having high expectations is in some ways a good problem to have. Ron Paul would love to have higher expectations of his performance in Iowa at the moment, I imagine). But it all plays to the critically important question of how the Iowa caucus results will play out at the national level … etc.

We have argued that Gov. Huckabee’s rise is an artifact of—or a reaction to—Romney’s near saturation of Iowa’s media markets. See:

What should interest Romney-observers is Romney’s grim and hysterical over-reaction to the cresting of Gov. Huckabee’s “boomlet.” Imagine the benefit to Romney’s stature had he welcomed Gov. Huckabee to join the discussion of issues in Iowa. Instead, an angry Romney puffed up like an obscenely distended blowfish and nearly burst because of a statistical anomaly that he himself created, a rival candidate who never had a chance and who should have been left to his own devices. See:

Rubin: Romney’s negative advertising in Iowa evidence of the campaign’s disarray

Now Romney is confronted by the grim task of managing what will be a fierce backlash against his pointless attacks. Here is but one example that we found at random:

… I also want to note that I have long held Mitt Romney as a viable second choice for me if Huckabee were not in the race. However, with the increasingly negative tone of Gov. Romney’s attacks against Huckabee I am beginning to believe that I might not be able to support Romney at all … even if he becomes the eventual nominee. I am very concerned and bothered by the reactions I have seen from Gov. Romney and the conservative media (Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh, Hewitt, et. al.). It seems that the depth of camaraderie they claimed with those of us in the social conservative movement may instead be as shallow and meaningless as the Clinton’s wedding vows. These conservative pundits are perilously close to causing a rift in the GOP that they may not be able to mend …

yours &c.
dr. .g.d.

“Slightly lower still, and technically last on the list is Mitt Romney. Forty-seven percent of those who have an opinion about Romney are favorable; 53% are unfavorable. That makes him the only candidate with a more negative than positive ratio,” writes Gallup Guru Frank Newport in an USAToday Gallup Guru post titled Thompson’s, Romney’s and Huckabee’s burden

Yet Romney has spent how much money on advertising? Example:

Romney spending US$85,000.00.00 per day in Iowa, yet Huckabee has suddenly risen to within 7 points of Romney while spending nothing—zero—goose-egg—yet more evidence of Romney’s appallingly low ROI on his every campaign dollar—yet another blow to the Romney von Schlieffen plan

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“One of the most regular and predictable behaviors on the part of political candidates and their handlers is the ritual of denying the importance of polls,” writes the estimable Frank Newport for USA Today’s GallupGuru in a post titled Romney and Obama campaign handlers: Ignore the polls!

That’s particularly true, of course, when the candidate is down in the polls.  I wait each year for candidates to cry out on the stump:  “The only poll that matters is on Election Day!”, as they warn supporters not to believe or not to pay attention to what the pollsters find.

We have a couple of these predictable examples in the last several days.

A strategy memorandum from Alex Gage of the Romney for President campaign found its way onto the Internet.  The purpose of the memorandum appears to be an attempt to keep supporters’ spirits up in the face of pretty sour national poll numbers.  (As Gallup Guru loyalists will know, Romney is lagging now in 4th place among Republican candidates, behind Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain, and just a few points ahead of Mike Huckabee).

Gage says:  “We also know there will be an endless stream of state and national polling and many in the media will also obsess over Gov. Romney’s standing in them.”  And “…we will not be measuring ourselves through the lens of national polls and we do not expect to be competitive in them”.  And “We should not expect him (Romney) to be competitive in national polls with better-known celebrity candidates like Giuliani, Thompson, or McCain until after Iowa and New Hampshire”more

We commented on Gage’s desperate attempts to keep the few Romney supporters there are from breaking ranks and fleeing into the warm embrace of more viable, and less ethically questionable, candidates:

death by internal memo: how the Romneys assuage themselves for their massive and accumulating losses

Back to Newport:

… It is of course true that the candidates’ standings in the polls can (and most probably will) change as the campaign progresses.  Changing voters’ minds is the whole purpose of presidential campaigns, and the reason why candidates raise and spend millions of dollars on advertising and are now spending most of their waking lives making speeches in front of small crowds in rural towns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

So we have to grant Romney and Obama’s campaign strategists the point that their candidates’ relatively poor showing in the current national polling is not necessarily permanent.  It can change.  These two candidates can charge from behind to win.

But the national polls raise important questions for the Romney and Obama campaigns.  It’s not as if these two have not been campaigning already.  They are both in essentially full time campaign mode.  And while most of their efforts have been spent in the early primary states, there has been intense and continuing national media news coverage of their efforts.  Both have been all over national television, in newspaper coverage, and both have appeared on the cover of national news magazines.

Yet through all of this, they have barely moved the numbers among members of their party.

The national numbers must be particularly disappointing to the Romney campaign team.  While Romney strategist Gage dismisses Giuliani, McCain and Thompson as “celebrity candidates”, it’s important to note that in fact Romney is at this point still better known that is Thompson nationwide, and Thompson’s name ID among Republicans is just 4 points higher than Romney.  Yet Thompson gets 22% of the Republican vote in our latest survey compared to 7% for Romney.

A second disappointment for the Romney campaign that is difficult to dismiss is the fact that Romney has the most negative image at this point of any of the major candidates for president.  Our mid-September poll shows him with a 27% favorable and 35% unfavorable rating.  That makes Romney the only candidate we tested (including Hillary Clinton) who has a higher unfavorable than favorable rating. Among Republicans, while Giuliani’s favorable to unfavorable net difference is +54, and McCain’s is +47 and Thompson’s is +45, Romney’s is +19.  In other words, Romney is much less well liked among Republicans nationally than any of his three chief competitors.

Plus, as my colleague Jeff Jones has pointed out, Romney has a significant problem among highly religious Protestant Republicans – who will form a not insignificant block of voters in some early primary states.

So while the national polls may change, particularly if – as Romney strategists hope – he does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are substantial enough problems now with his standing nationally to cause significant concern more [Emphases ours]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.