Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Standard’

[…] “But the Romney campaign suffered serious and likely mortal wounds last night,” writes the estimable Dean Barnett in a Weekly Standard article titled About Last Night; an easy decision looms

The trouble isn’t so much that John McCain’s delegate lead is insurmountable, although it is significant. And Romney’s problem isn’t that John McCain will get an enormous bounce out of yesterday’s wins. This is the year of no bouncing.

Romney’s problem is that the fully mature version of his campaign has faced the fully mature versions of the Huckabee and McCain campaigns all over the country. Romney hasn’t done well. Although past performances don’t necessarily guarantee the results of future contests, it’s tough to picture what Romney can do to shake up the race and begin getting those extra votes he’ll need in each future state to turn losses into victories.


(1) We concur with Barnett, and we appreciate his candor and precision. As we understand it, Romney’s campaign discovered its voice in MI, and though FL decided for Sen. McCain the Romney campaign still gained valuable experience on the ground; it developed a more sophisticated view of itself and its own role relative to the other campaigns; and it took on and put to useful work new allies, principally, the right wing talkers of talk radio who concerted their efforts against Sen. McCain. It also attempted to clarify and refine its MI Washington-is-broken message into a “anti-insider populist” mission—not just a message, but a mission, however naive or contrived. It is neither a mission nor a message that we agree with, and we still doubt Romney’s alleged and newly acquired commitment to conservative principles, but the fact remains, Romney’s campaign was beginning to become—dare we say it?—effective.

Here be evidence of Romney’s new found effectiveness, as provided by the estimable John Dickerson in a article titled McCain Not Stopped; But Romney is not seen as a true conservative:

[…] Exit polls nevertheless show that McCain’s problems with conservatives run deep. He lost among conservatives in almost every state except Connecticut and New Jersey, where he split them evenly with Romney. McCain also lost conservatives even in the states he won. Conservatives went for Romney in New York and Illinois. “Hard to do well with conservatives when everyone with a microphone is beating hell out of us,” says a top McCain aide. While the conservative voices weren’t enough to stop McCain, or to elect their guy, tonight they were enough to bruise him […]

Conclusion: Romney was actually beginning to make progress. The conservative base was really beginning to “rally to Romney,” the very outcome that Romney has worked to achieve since Iowa.

(2) The problem: it was all too little and too late. Had super-duper apocalypse Tuesday been three weeks from now, two weeks from now, or even a week from now, Sen. McCain would not be our presumptive nominee and we would be slumping toward a brokered convention with Romney positioned to dominate it.

Also, as Barnett notes, the Huckabee and McCain campaigns had not remained static—they matured and grew more sophisticated too. Though underfunded and un- or under-organized, the two rival campaigns knew how to use their own negatives to good effect, and how to work what little they had to eke out whatever victories they could, and they knew all this from the beginning. And they had also learned how to operate effectively in the shadow of Team Romney, how to position themselves against Romney, and how to turn Romney’s strengths into weaknesses.

Example: Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain learned early on that Romney cannot let anything go, even if it costs him a fortune, and even if he ends up looking like an idiot.

  • Recall how in Florida Sen. McCain issued a bogus accusation about Romney supporting timetables for US withdrawal from Iraq. Romney for his part behaved as predicted. He repeated Sen. McCain’s charge at every opportunity even as he denied it, and he stressed at great length his own support for the war in Iraq. So the subject in Florida suddenly got displaced from the economy, an issue Romney dominates among upper income Republicans, to the war, an issue that Sen. McCain totally dominates in every category, and the whole exchange cost Sen. McCain’s campaign precisely nothing. But it cost Romney the state of Florida.
  • Or recall how back during the struggle for Iowa Gov. Huckabee would provoke Romney on the issue of religion with floating crosses or promises to be a “Christian leader” etc. The result? Romney and his surrogates would go beserk out of all proportion to the stimulus denouncing Gov. Huckabee. Romney for his part would stress his own faith at the cost of calling further attention to his Mormon confession. The effect? Evangelicals were treated to the public spectacle of a super-rich, humorless, android Mormon CEO berating a humble good-ol’-boy joke-cracking Baptist pastor. Romney spent US$10 million on Iowa and lost it to a man who spent almost nothing.

(3) Conclusion: the GOP dodged a bullet aimed straight at its head, only to catch that bullet in the throat, because now Romney has taken on the role of spoiler. See:

Romney attempting to engineer a brokered convention, hints at plans to foment mutiny among promised but not officially bound delegates

Back to Barnett:

Romney doesn’t have to drop out. He can fight on if he wishes, and hope that he unearths the secret formula that has eluded him so far. He can also hang around hoping John McCain makes a blunder. But right now, it’s almost impossible to imagine a path to the nomination for Romney. That being the case, he’ll have to run a campaign that’s cognizant of the fact that he’s facing his party’s likely standard-bearer […]

Now it becomes Sen. John McCain’s task to consolidate the conservative base before Romney can take it from him. Can he do it? We shall see. Romney can no longer win, but he can make sure that Sen. John McCain never wins either.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


[…] “Lots of talk in the media about McCain vs. The Mighty Wombats of Talk Radio,” writes the insipid Richelieu in an insipid Campaign Standard blog burst titled Richelieu: Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

Ask President Tancredo about that one. The talkers can raise an issue to prominence, they can entertain, but they do not really deliver actual votes. Sorry Rush […]

That should be “Sorry Romney.

Still, however, Romney wants to capitalize on the new love radiating from talk radio

[…] “It might be preaching to the choir, but the members of this choir are precisely the people Mitt Romney needs to stop John McCain from getting a stranglehold on the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday,” writes the estimable Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, ina blog burst titled Romney puts ad on Limbaugh show

Romney aired an ad today on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show that excoriates McCain’s record on taxes and immigration.

“John McCain, he’s been in Washington a long time,” the announcer says, before the ad cites conservative commentators and the National Review.

Limbaugh, while not explicitly endorsing Romney, has been warning his listeners for weeks that McCain’s nomination would destroy the Republican Party. He repeated those warnings again today. Romney and McCain have been sparring over who is the true conservative […]

The always a little baffled and befuddled Ed Morrissey laments what he foresees as a growing rift between the media figure of the right-wing shock jock and the Republican Party:

[…] But this showdown isn’t just about the media. It looks like the first really open GOP primary in decades will test a couple of widespread assumptions. First, does conservative talk radio have the influence that many presume to impact an election? Second, if it does not, what will that say about the future of conservative talk radio?

The answer to the first question will, I think, demonstrate that listeners have never been the monolithic, Clone Army style force that its critics presume. While they appreciate and enjoy the programs, listeners think for themselves. Anyone who spends any time at all listening knows the diversity of opinion unleashed through the call-in lines. Having spent time behind the mike as Hugh’s replacement on occasion, I can tell you that the callers are smart, informed, and sometimes have a much different opinion than me or Hugh.

So the answer to the second question follows from there. People will continue to listen to talk radio as they always have — for entertainment, information, and debate. The hosts will influence the opinions of the listeners, but they’re independent and will go their own way.

I expect that the hosts will change some minds before Tuesday. I expect the endorsements of the party’s establishment figures to do the same. In the end, most of the voters will make their decision based on their own logic, as they usually do. However, there will be one part of the showdown that may not survive, and that is the affinity of the conservative hosts for the Republican Party as an entity for conservative values. For that, High Noon has been a long time coming, and a McCain win may have some activists feeling very forsaken […]

We grieve for those forsaken activists. We truly do.

Morrissey does understand the distinction between the activities of corporate content providers and the task of political parties, right?—the one is not the propaganda arm of the other. And if the one—or elements among the one—elect to promote a faction within the GOP at the expense of a governing coalition, then it deserves whatever it gets. The party is not the movement; the movement is not the party. And talk radio is neither party nor movement; it is information, entertainment, and opinion provided by organizations whose business is business.

Our prediction: our brothers and sisters in talk radio will soon learn why journalists and other media figures cherish the integrity that a sense of independence confers on them.

Meanwhile, Michael Graham of the NRO muses on the Sen. John McCain nomination that hasn’t happened yet, and answers the question that Morissey never posed but should have:

[…] John McCain didn’t win this nomination. Everyone else lost it. Mitt Romney had every chance — and then some — to win this nomination. He campaigned hard, and with lots of money, in every key primary state. And in every key state where his father never served as governor, he lost. He came, he saw (and was seen), and he got 31% of the vote. He wasn’t defeated by McCain. He’s just a mediocre candidate” […]

This isn’t about talk radio. Nor should it ever have been. This is not even about the conservative movement. Note to Morrissey: Romney is not the conservative movement. The conservative movement is not Romney. Conservatism is for Romney a means to an end and that end is power.

This is, and has always been, about Romney, a surpassingly mediocre candidate.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Last summer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani took time out of a GOP debate to defend John McCain: ‘I happen to be a very big admirer of Senator McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren’t running for President I would be here supporting him,'” writes the estimable Ana Marie Cox in a article titled The ‘I Hate Romney’ Club

Pundits speculated that the praise was simply a kind word for the man whose campaign had recently exploded, plagued by debt and defections. Privately, McCain advisers wondered if Giuliani was playing nice in order to secure McCain’s endorsement after he dropped out of the race.

But this week it was Giuliani who dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain, praising him as an “American hero.”

The endorsement was a reflection of the authentic respect McCain and Giuliani have for each other. But that’s not all the two candidates share. The endorsement deal was solidifed when both campaigns stayed at the Deerfield Hilton in Florida, following the Republican debate in Boca Raton on January 24. The two campaigns’ staff mingled easily over drinks. Acknowledging that his candidate was not likely to survive a defeat in Florida, a Giuliani aide approached one of the McCain senior staffers. Come Wednesday, he said, “Just tell us what want us to do — we’ve got to stop him.”

“Him,” of course, is Mitt Romney, the candidate who seems to be uniting his Republican rivals almost as much as Hillary Clinton. “The degree to which campaigns’ personal dislike for Mitt Romney has played a part in this campaign cannot be underestimated,” says an adviser to one of those rival campaigns. While sharp words have been exchanged between practically every Republican candidate at one point or another on the campaign trail, the aversion to Romney seems to go beyond mere policy disagreements. It’s also a suspicion of what they see is his hypocrisy and essential phoniness — what one former staffer for Fred Thompson called Romney’s “wholesale reinvention” […]

We predicted long ago that the other candidates would concert their efforts against Romney.

Back to Cox:

[…] But such jibes mask more substantive complaints that many of the candidates have about Romney. “What Romney has done,” says a Huckabee adviser, “he’s attacked people for positions he once held. That annoys people. And he uses his own money to do it, which rubs it in.” He’s gone after McCain on campaign finance reform (which he once supported), Huckabee on tax increases (Huckabee countered that Romney’s raised “fees” amounted to the same thing), and nearly all the candidates on immigration […]

Romney’s duplicity and shameless ideological cross-dressing offends the other candidates—this is a persistant theme in the accumulating Romney literature. What is less persistent is the theme of Romney’s duplicity among those who support him. Yet former Sen. Rick Santorum—who now supports the hapless candidate, Romney—also notes Romney’s duplicity.

Here is Santorum himself as interviewed by Mark Hemingway in an NRO article titled Romney-Santorum 2008; The former senator makes his choice

[…] “I think Romney, when he decided to run, he’s a smart business guy, and he sort of got his team together and said, ‘What do I need to do to be the conservative candidate?’ and give me the checklist and see if I can check them off,” Santorum said. “And I think over the course of this campaign, you know, I saw the migration from the checklist to his head and from his head into his heart and I really believe that’s where he is today” […]

Santorum’s account of Romney’s duplicity is, um, well, unique. Apparently, for Santorum, Romney is authentic precisely because of his cynical duplicity.

Yes, concedes Santorum, Romney began as a social progressive. But Romney could not win the GOP nomination as a social progressive. So, in advance of a national election, Romney developed a checklist of what it means to be a conservative and ran on it. This may seem cynical. And it is. But, insists Santorum, sometime during Romney’s hard campaigning the candidate’s newly adopted principles “migrated” from his “head” to his “heart.”

Over the course of Romney’scampaign? So Romney began his campaign flatly lying. But as he listened to himself campaigning hard for conservative issues, principles, and causes, he convinced himself? Does Santorum really mean to argue that somehow Romney managed to persuade himself even if many of the rest of us remain unconvinced?

Remember: it isn’t a lie if you truly believe it.

Mitt Romney’s George Costanza Standard: “Jerry, Just Remember, It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It.”

As for Santorum himself, Stephen F. Hayes of the weekly standard has this to say in an article titled Enemies to the right of him

[…] Although many others have been as critical of McCain, perhaps no one has been as hypocritical. In 2006, when Santorum was running for reelection, he asked McCain to come to Pennsylvania to campaign on his behalf. When McCain obliged, Santorum put the video on his campaign website, listing it first among “key events” of the year. That’s gratitude, Santorum-style […]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“While Romney is conservative, his approach to governing is not ideological,” writes Fred Barnes for the Weekly Standard in a puff piece titled The Man Who Wants to Fix Washington

“He’s super-pragmatic,” says an adviser. “He’s an eclectic conservative.” And this has alarmed several conservatives who have met with Romney. “He kept saying he’s a problem solver,” says an economic adviser who believes this would put Romney at a disadvantage in Washington. “He may not be ideological, but Nancy Pelosi certainly will be.”


So what guarantee do we have that Romney will not, on pragmatic grounds, abandon his newly improvised conservative line as quickly or as easily as he acquired it?

Answer: none.


Back to Barnes:

The Romney way is very simple. It consists of attacking a problem or considering an issue or policy through vigorous debate, with dissenting opinions encouraged and outside advice eagerly sought, and relying on as much hard data as possible. At the end of the process, the leader makes a decision that may or may not coincide with the “vision” or “concept” or “framework”—Romney’s words—that initiated the discussion in the first place.

Here’s how Romney describes the process:

You diagnose the problem. You put the right team together to solve the problem. You listen to alternative viewpoints. You insist on gathering data before you make decisions and analyze the data looking for trends. The result of this process is, you hope, that you make better decisions. You typically also have processes in place to see if it’s working or not working, and you make adjustments from time to time.

This is the Romney way? Well, OK., but this is also the Harvard Method, i.e. standard case pedagogy. Here is a description we found at random using google:

Case method teaching as developed by the Harvard Business School is centered on the performance of the professor. Students prepare for class by reading a case study written by experienced case writers, select a strategy and prepare to defend it. If time permits, they discuss their work with a few classmates before coming to class. The real action is in the classroom. The professor, who is a skilled discussion leader, asks provocative questions, pits one student against another, compares alternative solutions and goads the class into reaching significant conclusions [Bonoma, 1989]. Given typically large class sizes, the individual student’s participation consists of one or two verbal contributions and a lot of watching and listening

The curriculum of the top-managerial and executive classes is the case method. Though case instruction invites inquiry and dissent from within a circle of executive adepti and specialists (i.e. the team), it is not a democratic process—it is the precise antithesis of a democratic process or even a political process—it is democratic only in the sense that e.g. the perilous court of an Abbasid Caliph, his wazirs, secretaries, client amirs, tribal elders, mercenary captains, and courtiers—was democratic. A typical business case centers on someone with a decision to make, their story, and lots of various data of varying degrees of relevance. The actor in every case is himself or herself an executive, a decision maker. It is with this actor that the student is to identify. The classroom becomes the conference room of the executive—like the court of the Caliph—where toadies and flunkies claw, scrape, and clamour to forward their solutions and verdicts to please the person of the executive. The process centers upon—i.e. is obsessed with—the person of the Caliph, er, we mean executive, who in the end gets to render a decision.

Please understand: the case method is not a method like the scientific method is a method. You can find examples of the sorts of cases that Romney must have used in his studies here.

Though we profess not in business but in the humanities, we use case pedagogy in our classroom too. We were trained in the Harvard Method by way of the Richard Ivey School, academics from which offer seminars in how to write teaching cases (we often teach in Canada). The chief limitation of case pedagogy for our purposes is this: teams require strong leaders otherwise they fail to perform. If a group has a strong leader the group may or may not perform, but it will be the strong leader doing most of the performing—the others will support the leader. Hence: it is a method and a pedagogy optimized to produce not citizens but executives (and their toadies) in the most abstract sense of the term.

Back to Barnes:

That’s it. Romney loves the give-and-take. “I have to see conflict,” he says. “The last thing you want is people coming in saying ‘We all agree. Here’s the recommendation.’ I know I don’t want to proceed on that basis.” As governor of Massachusetts, Romney balked at extending Boston’s mass transit system until he’d heard the case against it. Once he had, he decided to approve the extension.

Romney loves the give-and-take? He has to see conflict? Yes. But only within the ambit of his control, within his team, and he constantly preens himself on his “team building.” Please recall, Romney as Governor famously claims to have submitted conservative policies that his legislature merrily and effortlessly overrode. So his love of give-and-take and his need to see conflict apparently do not extend to the political process where he tends to alienate and estrange other actors in the process.

In the political process conflict and dissent are not contained within the safe confines of the team.

Romney used this method of analysis and decision-making for six years with Bain Consulting in Boston, where his task was reviving failing companies. He used it again for 15 years when he headed Bain Capital, which specialized in investing in start-ups and late-stage turnarounds. Romney emphasized it while keeping the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah from collapsing and later in putting together a health insurance plan for Massachusetts that covered all the state’s uninsured and got the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and Senator Ted Kennedy to sign on … etc.

This is what Romney offers?

Not a man but a method?

And not even an interesting method?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“… it’s important to remember that the primaries are a dynamic process,” warns Matthew Continetti in a CampaignStandard post titled What’s the Scenario? (Cont.)

A Romney win in Iowa would have a dramatic effect on the public perceptions in other states of the former governor’s chances, and may elevate his chances of winning in southern states … etc.

We call it the trope of the coiled spring, the notion that wins in the early states will so condition perceptions that Romney will be propelled forward to wins in other states. It is the scenario the Romneys are anxious to retail and it is grim testimony to its hold on the improverished imaginations of the chattering classes that it gets repeated so often. Please note, however, that in terms of a process this narrative still function at the level of virtuality—i.e. at the level of a possibility that has yet to even open up. Consider the figure that follows, a standard virtuality-actualiziation-achievement triad that we use to plot the Continetti version of the narrative:


It is also important to remember that the more you squeeze the primary schedule, the more sudden and synchronous it becomes; hence, the less dynamic it becomes—the less it resembles an obstacle course and the more it resembles a snapshot—the more it becomes something like a national primary. Conclusion: the early state strategy is based on a possibility—a strong one, perhaps, but one that has yet to specify itself in actual outcomes. Translation: this is a scary place to be making predictions. Strong predictions generally follow from the actual, not the virtual.

Here is what interests us, however. Whether because of the compressed primary schedule, or because of the other candidates adapting themselves to Romney’s dominance in the early state primaries, the primary contests collectively now resemble the general election. Consider:

1. Typically in a general presidential election the Democrats begin advertising early; they capture media attention and tend to out-poll their rivals.

2. Moving into September-October the Republicans, after months of planning, organizing, fund-raising, but otherwise treading water, suddenly illuminate with massive media buys and coordinated message campaigning.

3. The polls numbers begin to tighten; they begin to trend toward the Republicans. Hence: the Republicans enjoy the perception of momentum etc. even though a lot of that movement may simply be regression toward the mean etc.

But this year the early-lead, come-from-behind scenario is getting played out in the primaries among Republicans, with Romney playing the part of the Democrat early-leader, and his rivals preparing to illuminate at what they believe will be a decisive moment to capture the perception of momentum, and confer upon a hapless Romney the perception of a sudden crash. See also:

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.

“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.

“ROMNEY FACES ANOTHER PROBLEM,” writes the remarkably candid Dean Barnett in an exquisitely reasoned and well argued essay titled Romney and the New Paradigm.

… All the Republican candidates substantively stand for pretty much the same things. The key question for the Republican electorate on most every issue will be, “Who do you trust?” For instance, Rudy Giuliani says he’ll appoint judges cut from the same cloth as Roberts and Alito. The Mayor will insist Republican voters can trust him to keep his word on that matter if elected. His opponents will say otherwise.

After 10 months, the race has boiled down to its essence. Each candidate will be left to say that he’s the trustworthy one, and that his opponents are dishonest politicians saying anything to gain office. In other words, the last four months of the nomination process promise to be relentlessly ugly.

This isn’t Romney’s home turf, and not because he’s too gentle a soul to get down in the mud. Anyone who knows anything about the companies Romney ran (Bain & Company and Bain Capital) knows that the kind of guy who excelled in those arenas can sling political mud if he’s of a mind to do so.

The problem for Romney with the 2008 election’s emerging paradigm is that he’s most impressive when displaying his command of the issues. If Romney’s going to spend most of his time insulting the other guys and saying they can’t be trusted, then his campaign won’t capitalize on his greatest strengths–his affability and his intelligence. His campaign will neutralize its candidate’s greatest strengths.

I’ve known Mitt Romney for almost 14 years. I’ve always thought he would make a great president. Romney’s intellect and genuine decency are truly impressive. Yesterday, his campaign unveiled yet another new theme: “Change begins with us.” While this nugget probably knocked some focus group in Sheboygan on its collective ear, its sheer vapidity is almost painful. Right now, Romney is running a campaign of empty platitudes and constant attacks.

If the Romney campaign allows the country to know the man that I’ve gotten to know, Romney has an excellent shot at being the next president. If Romney’s campaign continues on its current path, he’ll likely be folding up his tent shortly after Iowaetc., etc.

The emphases are ours, all ours.

This essay is so impressive. Finally, a friend of Romney who is not a fawning sycophant.

We would argue that Romney cannot go negative because Romney’s own negatives are historically, unprecedentedly high, higher than any other candidate whether Republican or Democrat. Barnett, OTOH, argues that Romney should not go negative as this detaches Romney from relying on his command of the issues to build his case for a Romney presidency. Romney loses when the discussion turns to trust, character, and who will most reliably represent Republican principles, whatever those happen to be anymore.

Here is our problem with Barnett’s reasoning: “[Romney’s] brain,” Barnette claims, “truly doesn’t have an off switch. He is always thinking, always calculating. He has a restless mind that surrounds and smothers every issue and every problem. In truth, his combination of electric intelligence and relentless intellectual curiosity is his greatest strength.” Greatest strength?—hardly. Not when what is required—or what is hoped for—from a candidate is both clarity and, especially, gravity—gravitas—a sense of weight or weightedness, a sense of not getting blown about by gust of new or contrary data. Constancy, consistency—this is what inspires trust. This is what Romney simply cannot deliver. See:

Rubin: Romney “doesn’t seem to like his audience much, and they don’t like him,” in which Jennifer Rubin argues with respect to Romney’s allegedly “restless brain”: “Mr. Romney has also made a fetish of checking the policy boxes for social conservatives and rolling out a slew of policy papers with accompanying PowerPoint presentations. Voters soon sense that he has many ideas but little gravitas. He has lots of pitches—the “three-legged stool” of conservative values, “change” and “private sector experience”—but no overarching theme or core. If Mr. Giuliani is tough and Mr. Thompson is soothing, what is he?”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Today, our country faces an inflection point where our course must change if we are to meet unprecedented challenges here at home and abroad,” writes Romney himself (presumably) in a post titled Change Begins With Us

An inflection point?—say what!?

An inflection point is a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature (i.e., the concavity) changes. Inflection points may be stationary points, but are not relative maxima or relative minima. For example, for the curve y==x^3 plotted above, the point x==0 is an inflection pointmore

We are at “a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature changes?”—huh?—is this an inspiring metaphor in some niche community? Who does Romney presume is his audience?

As we have always done, the American people will rise to the occasion. But at this critical time, Washington is failing us.

Romney: We will rise. But Washington is failing us. (Wait. Does this mean that we won’t rise after all?) Romney warms to his theme by means of a distinction: by Washington he means the parties, Democrats and Republicans.

The blame for Washington’s failures lies not just with the Democrats but with Republicans as well. We have to put our own house in order. We can no longer be a party of big spenders with ethical standards more fitting of a Jay Leno punch line. We can no longer pretend our borders are secure. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It’s time for change in Washington and change begins with us.

Romney: Republicans share the blame for Washington’s failures. Our house is out of order. We spend too much. Our ethical standards are low. We pretend that our borders are secure. Hence: we are behaving like Democrats. Conclusion: we must change, and change begins with us—and by us Romney means Republicans—only Romney means some but not all Republicans, because Romney qualifies the term Republican with the prepositional phrase for change.

Romney enlarges on his distinction of Republicans as opposed to Republicans for Change by using it to introduce the topics of the next 7 paragraphs. The topics are:

  • limited government
  • fiscal responsibility
  • strength
  • ethical standards
  • civility and respect
  • tackling big problems, which for Romney is a way of introducing the War on Terror, which Romney articulates as checking the “spread of radical, violent Jihadism.”
  • protecting families from obscenity, pornography, child predators etc.

The list resembles a series of power-point slides. This is argument by catalogue or bullet points. And: These are all Republican core issues. Here is the problem: the list of issues Romney develops here are not the issues that Romney is running on, at least not on the stump, and at least not according to Mary Jacoby of in a release titled Romney Tries to Show Voters He ‘Gets It,’ a release we commented on earlier.

Jacoby describes Romney as attempting to argue for center-left issues, e.g. healthcare, education, and economic security, in the idiom of the center-right. Hence Romney “can sound at times part Rush Limbaugh, part Bill Clinton, braiding red-meat conservative lines with feel-your-pain prescriptions for health care and retirement security“—translation: Romney “can sound” incoherent.

Romney digresses from his values list to propose “easy to engage” content “filters” on computers to protect our children from the “culture that surrounds them,” a culture that happens to be our culture, before Romney returns again to Republicans for Change on the concluding topics of faith and patriotism. (Note to Romney: we like, nay, we love our culture; we are, after all, cultural conservatives. What e.g. porn sites purvey is not culture, Mr. Romney.)

American patriotism is why I am convinced this nation will always prevail as the greatest hope of the earth. America faces unprecedented challenges, a virtual perfect storm buffeting the pillars of our strength. The course of our history will change. For America to remain the great nation it has always been, it will look to Republicans for leadership.

A “perfect storm” “buffets” our “pillars”? What an interesting image. The “course of history” will change, like a ship. Question: What happened to Washington?—the Washington that was failing us? What happened to our point of inflection—we will be able to halt or arrest the turn of the curve? Is this what Romney means by course changing?

If we read Romney’s composition correctly—and we are not by any means confident that we are—Republicans for Change, with whom the reader is invited to identify, stand as the antithesis to Republicans who behave like Democrats, bogus Republicans who e.g. spend too much, pretend as if our borders are secure. In other words, for Romney the crisis is effectively one of blurred distinctions; we cannot tell the Republicans from the Democrats; one behaves like the other. Hence Romney addresses in Perelman’s terms an elite as opposed to a general or universal audience—in this case, an imagined vanguard of Republicans who are genuine as opposed to nominal Republicans, a dissociation of the term Republican into the real and the apparent.

The argument is functionally identical to a rationale or an alibi. Many Republicans may oppose us, the Romney supporter is invited to rationalize: but real Republicans support us. Hence: raw numbers, or the actual non-performance of the ailing Romney campaign, fails to tell the real story. To dissociate the real from the apparent is often the instrument of the scold as it so easily issues into a double bind, e.g. “if you really loved me … “—blaming and scolding is emerging as Romney’s preferred idiom, see:

Romney’s language of blame indicates a personality that believes itself powerless and uncared for

Also: Continetti of the Weekly Standard demonstrates how the Romney message lacks moral courage in that it affects to criticize the GOP on grounds that any Republican or conservative would heartily agree with. Hence, what masquerades as a critique is in affect an empty, epideictic display.

Romney the scold of the GOP (ii); Continetti: Romney hates fake people

yours &c.
dr. g.d.