Posts Tagged ‘von schleiffen plan’

“WASHINGTON – The great burden of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is that he is the sole Republican competing in all of the key early contests that begin with next Thursday’s Iowa caucus,” writes Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal in an article titled Romney is betting big to win big; Former Mass. governor must divide efforts between Iowa and N.H.

That could also prove Romney’s great opportunity.

One by one, each of Romney’s competitors has retreated to a regional stronghold strategy. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, is running hard in Iowa and in South Carolina — two states where he benefits from the large presence of evangelical conservatives — but is largely skipping more secular New Hampshire.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is following the same path, though leaving a lighter footprint. Arizona Sen. John McCain, though he incongruously turned up for a rally in Des Moines Thursday morning, has no real organization in Iowa and has invested almost all his time and money in New Hampshire.

Rudy Giuliani hopes to attract some media attention with an Iowa visit this weekend, but he long ago abandoned the state and has now retrenched his television advertising in New Hampshire, too. He’s betting on Florida, which doesn’t vote until Jan. 29 — light years away in campaign time.

Only Romney is competing all-out in Iowa and New Hampshire — as well as in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida, the other major January contests. This pattern presents Romney with an obvious disadvantage. With the Iowa caucus approaching on Jan. 3, and the New Hampshire primary following just five days later, Romney must divide his effort while his opponents concentrate theirs. But his broader reach also presents him a greater opportunity for early breakthroughs — and a greater capacity to survive an early stumble.

For Brownstein, Romney’s broader reach provides him

(a) capacity for early breakthroughs


(b) resilience, i.e. a greater capacity to survive an early stumble

About (a)

Romney’s performance in the early states to date predicts no early breakthroughs apart from those Romney can purchase at great expense.

Regard: When Gov. Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa began to rise, his numbers in e.g. SC, MI, FL, and nationally, began to rise too—despite losing ground in Iowa Gov. Huckabees numbers in other states continues to rise or remain competitive. According to Newport of Gallup these correlations “preview” how Gov. Huckabee’s performance in Iowa would affect later races. When Romney’s numbers sailed in the stratosphere for months and months in Iowa, his poll numbers elsewhere and nationally failed to budge except in media markets where Romney had purchased Gross Ratings Points (GRPs) approaching near saturation. This is the case even now as Romney’s numbers have begun to recover in Iowa—nationally, and in other states, Romney’s numbers are static or falling. 


What the Huckabee “boomlet” reveals about Romney

Conclusion: Breakthroughs? What breakthroughs? What the Romneys hope for is not a breakthrough; rather, they hope to outlast the other candidates, to become the default option for want of any other options. This is why Romney has suddenly turned so perilously negative, spewing slime in all directions: he intends to be the last candidate standing.

About (b)

Brownstein—if we read him correctly—seems to reason that Romney can lose more states—i.e. “stumble” more, especially early on—because Romney intends to contest more states. Yes, but what makes Romney resilient is not his early state von Schleiffen plan in which Romney wagers everything on early wins, but rather Romney’s vast personal wealth.

Back to Brownstein:

The contrast in strategy rests on a disparity in resources. Romney can fight on more fronts because his personal fortune allows him to sign checks for his campaign on the front as well as the back.

Yuh-huh. Exactly as we said.

But the other candidates’ stronghold strategies also reflect the limits of their reach within the party. McCain and Giuliani are hobbled in Iowa and South Carolina by resistance from the evangelical conservatives who dominate both contests. In mirror image, Huckabee and Thompson are burdened in New Hampshire by their lack of connection with socially moderate voters. (Huckabee faces the additional hurdle of suspicion from many leading economic conservatives.) Each has written off some early states because they do not believe they fit with Republican voters there.

“With the exception of Romney, people have put together campaigns that… are designed around their weaknesses,” notes GOP consultant Terry Nelson, the former campaign manager for McCain.

Yuh-huh. Precisely.

“It’s gone,” said Ed Rollins, who once worked as President Reagan’s political director and recently became Mr. Huckabee’s national campaign chairman. “The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition — social conservatives, defense conservatives, antitax conservatives — it doesn’t mean a whole lot to people anymore,” writes David D. Kirkpatrick in a NYT article titled Shake, Rattle and Roil the Grand Ol’ Coalition

“It is a time for a whole new coalition — that is the key,” he said, adding that some part of the original triad might “go by the wayside.”

We explain why we need a new coalition elsewhere:

… It seem odd to us to argue on historical grounds—e.g. “winners of the early states tend to win the nomination”—and yet ignore history. Regard: Friedman’s insights in a X101010011101 post titled Gaming the US Elections

… The first rule [of US presidential politics since 1960] is that no Democrat from outside the old Confederacy has won the White House since John F. Kennedy …

The second rule is that no Republican has won the White House since Eisenhower who wasn’t from one of the two huge Sunbelt states: California or Texas (Eisenhower, though born in Texas, was raised in Kansas) …

The third rule is that no sitting senator has won the presidency since Kennedy …

That being the case, the Democrats appear poised to commit electoral suicide again, with two northern senators (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) in the lead, and the one southern contender, John Edwards, well back in the race. The Republicans, however, are not able to play to their strength. There are no potential candidates in Texas or California to draw on. Texas right now just doesn’t have players ready for the national scene. California does, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is constitutionally ineligible by birth. In a normal year, a charismatic Republican governor of California would run against a northern Democratic senator and mop the floor. It’s not going to happen this time.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be choosing between a Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and a former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Unless Texan Ron Paul can pull off a miracle, the Republicans appear to be going with their suicide hand just like the Democrats. Even if Fred Thompson gets the nomination, he comes from Tennessee, and while he can hold the South, he will have to do some heavy lifting elsewhere … etc., etc.

Therefore: It is not enough to say that the ordinary rules do not hold this election cycle; rather: it is simply and absolutely impossible for the ordinary rules to hold.

HENCE: What Brownstein refers to as the strategy of regional strongholds reflects the activities of campaigns organized on more rational bases than Team Romney, i.e. campaigns more closely coupled to their constituencies and sources of funding and support.

Political life specifies itself in space—geography, demography, and ideology. Further: it is a commonplace of political campaigning that you build a base, a coalition, then you pivot toward the center to capture the middle. This is precisely the goal that you can observe the other campaigns pursuing. If the other campaigns present a more partial, less fully realized character it is because they have yet to have realized a coalition upon which they can begin to develop themes and larger narratives. In simpler terms, the other campaigns are learning.

Back to Brownstein:

More than any of his rivals, Romney is presenting himself as the candidate who can unify fiscal, social and foreign policy conservatives, and also reach out beyond the party base. Yet after amassing a governing record in Massachusetts more moderate than his current campaign tone, he continues to face doubts about his authenticity from many Republicans, especially social conservatives.

Translation: Romney has no base, no constituency. None. Instead: Romney “presents”—portrays, attempts to depict—himself as the candidate “who can unify fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives” etc. Lacking the nerve or the imagination necessary to develop a coalition on the ground, the Romneys hope to inherit an existing one on the assumption that it does still exist.

Back to Brownstein:

Concern about his Mormon faith, again especially among social conservatives, has created another hurdle. (In a CBS poll [PDF] earlier this month, fully 51% of South Carolina Republican evangelicals expressed an unfavorable view of Mormonism.) Laboring under both sets of doubts, Romney has fallen behind Huckabee in Iowa and watched McCain dramatically reduce his long-standing advantage in New Hampshire.

Romney has counterattacked, fiercely portraying McCain as too liberal on taxes and immigration in New Hampshire and targeting Huckabee on those two issues in Iowa. Neither state is in Romney’s grasp. But both remain within his reach, something no other Republican can say.

We discuss Romney’s war on two fronts here:

In show of solidarity and support. Gov. Huckabee defends Sen. McCain against Romney’s false, unfair, and highly personal attacks—also: how the concerted efforts of the McCain-Huckabee axis gets more for a more minimal investement

Back to Brownstein:

Romney might recognize, from his business school days, the dynamic that has provided him this opportunity. His competitors are trying to maximize their individual prospects by focusing on the states where they believe their chances are best. But the cumulative effect of those decisions is to threaten all of them by leaving nothing between Romney and potentially decisive victories in the first two contests except two underfunded (if charismatic and often compelling) opponents: McCain in New Hampshire and Huckabee in Iowa. It’s “the prisoner’s dilemma” applied to politics.

The result is that Romney now stands at the fulcrum of the Republican race. If Romney loses Iowa — after massively outspending Huckabee — the negative publicity could depress Romney’s support in New Hampshire enough to allow McCain to pass him there, too. Then Romney would be grievously, probably fatally, wounded, and the Republican race wide open.

But Romney, alone among the contenders, still has a window of opportunity to consolidate a commanding advantage by winning both Iowa and New Hampshire. That would likely deny his rivals the financial infusions all of them will need to fully compete through the remaining January states and the avalanche of contests looming on Feb. 5.

We disagree.

We would argue that Romney has so massively and disproportionately over-spent in Iowa, and has gone so viciously negative in both Iowa and New Hampshire, that Romney has denied himself in advance the perception of an unequivocal victory—i.e. a clean win—whether he wins in one or both states. The other campaigns can—and will, and with perfect justification—argue that a more equal contest would have returned different results, that Romney’s viability is only an artifact of his vast personal fortune, and that on those grounds alone Romney, and what Romney represents, must be stopped etc. We discuss these issues here:

Romney has so botched his operations in Iowa and New Hampshire that observers now predict e.g. either a contested convention or, in one case, that Michigan will decide the nomination.

Back to Brownstein:

To win the nomination, McCain, Thompson, Giuliani and even Huckabee all probably need someone to beat Romney early on. Only Romney holds his fate in his own hands. That’s no guarantee of success, but candidates always prefer to control their own destiny. Romney is the last Republican who can still plausibly say that he does. … etc.

We shall see. We still predict that Romney loses both Iowa and New Hampshire. We also predict that Romney will continue to campaign until the GOP convention.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“DES MOINES — A year ago, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney gathered his campaign team for the first time at his suburban Boston home,” writes Michael D. Shear with the apt and able assistance of sidekick and drinking buddy, Perry Bacon Jr., scion of the legendary Perry Bacon, in a Wapo release titled Romney Strategy in Peril With Huckabee’s Ascent; Bid for Early States Appears in Jeopardy

There were PowerPoint presentations, and Ann Romney made sandwiches. “It was like the first day of school,” said one senior-level participant.

It was then that Romney put in motion his strategy to become president: Win Iowa and New Hampshire by wooing fiscal and social conservatives, and use that momentum to overwhelm the competition in the primaries that followed. But with less than two weeks before Iowans vote, that strategy is in danger of unraveling because former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has seized the conservative mantle and has emerged as the front-runner. His sudden rise in the past month — sparked by passionate support from the same Christian conservatives Romney has been unable to win over — has raised questions about Romney’s strategy.

Yes, well, we predicted all this weeks and weeks ago.

Back to Shear:

“In Iowa, someone was always going to challenge Romney as a conservative alternative,” said GOP consultant Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996. “Huckabee has caught the eyes of social conservatives in Iowa, and the issue is if they have grown enough in numbers to deliver a win.”

Romney’s advisers bristle at the notion that he could have run his campaign differently. They are particularly sensitive to charges that the former governor changed his positions on abortion, immigration and gay rights to be more in tune with Republican voters, particularly in Iowa. They say his conservative credentials are genuine.

And, they say, they always knew Romney would face a challenge like this, though at the December 2006 meeting, the talk was about former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — not Huckabee.

“We were sitting around with a PowerPoint,” a senior adviser, one of a half-dozen who were at the December gathering, said on the condition of anonymity. “We weren’t sitting around with a crystal ball.”

Question: About Team Romney’s sudden clarity about the misguidedness of their “strategy,” is this genuine, or is this a naive, transparent attempt to manage expectations. Several remarks:

(1) Whether Team Romney wins or loses Iowa analysts will publish abroad how much Romney spent for every poll number relative to his rivals, and so will his rivals. Romney has so overspent, so wildly missed the mark, and so badly botched his operation that he has denied himself in advance the possibility of a clear win, an unequivocal victory.

Conclusion: any degree of expectations management now is risible on its face.

(2) Team Romney has—unbelievably—overshot the mark playing down expectations!—Their frank depictions of dejection and disarray within the Romney organization are conditioning expectations too effectively—Romney supporters themselves are beginning to despair.

Back to Shear:

A year later, Romney’s top aides spend their time in meetings working to beat back Huckabee’s challenge.

“Are there moments of quiet and sometimes not-so-quiet desperation? Of course,” another longtime adviser said. “But . . . this is the strategy we have. We don’t have the option of doing anything else.”

Note the tone of cruel gloom and helplessness. Note the utter failure of imagination. We predicted the pain and paralysis of the Romney campaign too:

Romney campaign a victim of the “sunk cost effect”—also: how Gov. Huckabee’s sudden ascendancy is an artifact of the Romney campaign’s misguided activities

Back to Shear:

Campaign spokesman Kevin Madden described the mood at the Boston headquarters as “determined” and “poised” these past few weeks, even as Romney’s lead in Iowa has evaporated. He said staff members are following the lead of their candidate, who appeared calm as ever last week as he skipped across Iowa in a rented jet.

Team Romney’s mood is “determined” and “poised”—translation: Team Romney is “brooding in apocalyptic despair,” and it has been for weeks now, long before Gov. Huckabee’s rise:

David S. Broder describes the fuhrerbunker-like gloom that hangs over the waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney

Back to Shear:

On the campaign trail, Romney tells how a friend, Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), told him in 2004 that he needed to start making preparations if he wanted to at least have the option of running for president.

Over the next year, Romney formed a PAC that he used to spread money to local candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2006, he became chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that gave him an excuse to travel regularly to those states.

And he began meeting with his brain trust: Spencer Zwick, his finance chief; Robert F. White, a partner at Bain Financial, the firm he started; Beth Myers, who would become his campaign manager; New Hampshire consultant Tom Rath; and Iowa consultant Gentry Collins, who headed the PAC. Benjamin L. Ginsberg was the PAC’s lawyer and also a confidant. Ron Kaufman, a top aide to President George H.W. Bush, was present, as were Mike Murphy, a consultant who ran Romney’s campaign for governor, and Dave Kochel, an Iowa strategist.

That group conceived the plan for Romney, who was hardly known outside of his home state and Utah.

“There are two ways to run: run as the front-runner, or you play the breakthrough/early-state strategy,” said one of Romney’s longtime advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “You don’t get to choose.”

What leadership. What moral courage. What political-moral imagination.

Why are the Romneys always telling us—and telling themselves!—what cannot be done?

The adviser added: “You burrow down deep and spend time building these organizations, going back over and over and over again. You are really playing for three years for about three weeks.”

The idea from the beginning was to focus on Romney’s business credentials and his reputation as a pragmatic problem-solver, as the savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and as governor of Massachusetts. It was assumed that Romney would have to work hard for acceptance in Iowa, where as many as 85 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers are against abortion rights.

Yet Romney could never develop within himself the courage, the focus, or the intention necessary to stay on topic. See:

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”

Further: Romney’s attempt to position himself as “conservative standard bearer” has failed miserably:

Rasmussen Reports: “Romney is now viewed as politically conservative by 38% of Republican voters and moderate or liberal by 43%—Those figures reflect an eight-point decline in the number seeing him as conservative and a ten-point increase in the number seeing him as moderate or liberal”

Back to Shear:

“He’s a Midwestern guy. He’s from Michigan. His family was always well received in Iowa,” a longtime adviser said. “We felt pretty good that we could do well in Iowa. And it was self-evident that if you are going to be running against John McCain, who was known in the party, and Rudy Giuliani, the fifth most famous man in the world, an early-state strategy was really the best — and perhaps only — way to establish a rationale.”

But Romney advisers concede their candidate has spent more time than they planned talking about social issues. They say that is because rival campaigns have forced him to react, and because of the rise of Huckabee, who has coalesced more of the Christian vote than past candidates.

If Huckabee wins the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, Romney’s campaign will have four days to recover before making a stand in New Hampshire, where he is leading in recent opinion polls. Romney aides claim a potential upside for their candidate: Huckabee’s meteoric rise has reset expectations for Romney, who will be credited with a meaningful win in Iowa should he pull it off.

Romney no longer talks about Giuliani on the stump. His advisers barely mention former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.). The message has become “all Huck, all the time,” though in the past several days Romney also has had to contend with a resurgence by McCain in New Hampshire. Romney last week began a barnstorming of three early-voting states by assailing Huckabee as a liberal, adding his own voice to new negative television ads and to mailings that his campaign has begun churning out every day.

On immigration, Romney cited Huckabee’s support for a bill that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. On crime, he highlighted the 1,033 pardons and commutations Huckabee granted as governor. On the economy, he told reporters that Huckabee presided over a state budget that grew from $6 billion to $16 billion.

“I’m convinced that as people take a close look, that the good, conservative Republicans of South Carolina will be supporting a conservative candidate like myself and they won’t be supporting Governor Huckabee,” Romney said, campaigning in South Carolina on his way to Iowa. “But time will tell.”

Romney received a boost last week when Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed him, saying he believed Romney would protect the country’s borders.

Huckabee spent the week basking in newfound popularity in Iowa. A month ago, he was having events in pizza parlors with 40 people and almost no press. Last week, 200 people packed into a raucous event in West Des Moines, with 50 more waiting outside.

Huckabee has described Romney as “desperate,” and his descriptions of Huckabee’s record as “dishonest,” “misleading” and “unfair.” For the moment, Romney’s advisers insist, they feel apprehension but not panic. “Would we like it to be different? Of course,” said one adviser who has been with Romney for years. “You have to trust the team. You have to trust the strategy. You have to trust what your original instinct was. I think that’s where the governor is.”

Note the tone of abject despair. “You have to trust what your original instinct was. I think that’s where the governor is.”—groupthink, is what they call it.

How else do you account for Team Romney’s complete failure of the imagination?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.