January 4th, 2012
Ramesh on Romney
December 2nd, 2011
In the course of making the strongest case you’re likely to read for Romney, Galley Friend Ramesh Ponnuru writes:
The current surge for Newt Gingrich looks like one last fling before Republicans settle down with Romney.
There’s something deeply funny about picturing the Gingrich candidacy as a drunken, slutted-up one-night stand from a Vegas bachelor party. I’d pay good money to see Gary Locke or Tom Fluharty do a quickie rendering.3 comments
Perry. Romney. Federer.
October 12th, 2011
I’m getting enough email about Perry that I want to, again, clarify something: I’m not in the tank for the guy. I’m not even sure I like him and I’m certainly not sure that he’d be a good president. Let me put it this way: I was never very impressed by George W. Bush and the best line about Perry is that he’s the guy W. was always pretending to be.
People seem to confuse what I think about Perry’s prospects with what I, personally, want to see happen. (In much the same way some people thought that I was a Federer hater just because I realized his eclipse had begun. I doubt you’ll find anyone who loves Federer more than I do, and I hate watching him in decline. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not declining.)
And so: Despite everything, I still like Perry’s chances.
Now, one big thing happened, which I certainly didn’t expect: I thought Perry would unite the insurgent and establishment wings of the party. Not only has that not taken place (yet?), but the opposite occurred. The establishment pushed back against Perry, hard. Like, Palin-in-2009 hard.
But the big question is whether establishment types (both in the actual establishment and the voters who reflect their thinking) are enough to win the nomination today. I think that’s also a very open question.
I’d remind people that for the last two cycles, everything we knew about the nomination fight changed drastically and quickly in the lead up to the actual voting. Dean imploded. Kerry used Iowa to catapult himself away from the entire field. (It helped that he had the money and organization to take advantage of the win.) Huckabee came out of nowhere in Iowa, and Romney was never able to make the sale in any of the other important early states. Obama used the split anti-Hillary vote in Iowa to drive the early part of his march through the caucuses. (If he loses Iowa, I think it’s an open question whether or not he wins the nomination.)
I mention all of this not to say that Perry is Kerry (or Obama, or anyone else) but just to remind people that with three months before the voting, I think fundamentals are more important considerations than a tight-grouping in the polls.
So what are the fundamentals of the race that (for now) we know?
* Romney has firmly secured the GOP establishment, as he did in 2008.
* Romney is an improved candidate, but is still the guy with a very poor electoral record. This doesn’t mean voters will never warm to him. But I’d like to see it happen before I’ll believe in it.
* Supporting the idea that voters are resisting Romney is the pinging around of poll numbers among the other candidates. First Bachman. Then Perry. Now Cain. Clearly there is a substantial anti-Romney vote that’s coalescing, breaking up, and then re-forming around other candidates.
* The question is, will these voters give up the ghost and sign up with Romney at some point? Maybe. But maybe not. In 2003 people thought, My God, the Democrats can’t be crazy enough to nominate someone like Dean! And despite Dean’s lead, they were right. It seems entirely possible that, like the anti-Dean votes in 2004, the anti-Romney votes are eventually going to stop being split among Santorum, Bachman, Gingrich, Perry, and Cain and coagulate around one of them. Of that group, Perry has the money and the infrastructure to best take advantage of such a move.
* That doesn’t mean it will happen, of course. But I keep coming back to this: There must be a reason why Republican voters haven’t rallied around Romney the way they did George W. Bush in 1999. Remember, there was an anti-Bush vote then, too. But it was never substantial enough to challenge the front-runner. Bush was up over the 40 percent mark by summer of 1999 and was at 62 percent by October 1999. If Romney had those kinds of numbers, he’d be unassailable. But I think it’s telling that, despite his money, his organization, his establishment backing, and the fact that he’s been running the longest–he hasn’t been able to get over the mid-20s. If you like Romney’s chances, you have to have an explanation for why this is.
* Remember: Even Bush, with his 40-point lead, got dragged into a dogfight with John McCain–who was in third place until late fall of 1999. Why? Because one of the axioms of American politics is this: All races tighten.
* None of this means that I want Perry to win or that I want Romney to lose. (The only thing I really want is for Mitch Daniels to suddenly jump in and ride to the nomination. And that ain’t happening.) What it means is that I believe Romney has structural weaknesses and has not been seriously challenged by his opponents yet; that early momentum from Iowa has proved very powerful; that Perry has positional and political strengths (to go along with his obvious weaknesses in the debates and on immigration); and that a 7-point gap between lead candidates right now is not dispositive.
* I still think it more than an even-money proposition that someone other than Romney will be the nominee; and of those alternatives, I’d give Perry the best odds. (Though probably all of them–even Santorum and Huntsman–will get a second look by the time New Hampshire rolls around.)90 comments
September 29th, 2011
Steve Benen notices the latest module pushed-live for the RomneyBot system.
Here’s Romney last week:
“I stand by my positions. I’m proud of them.”
And here’s Romney this week:
“In the private sector,” he said, “if you don’t change your view when the facts change, well you’ll get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Winston Churchill said, ‘When the facts change I change too, Madam. What do you do?’”
So the RomneyBot is going to address the flip-flopping charge. By flip-flopping.
That should work.6 comments
RomneyBot 4000: Install Palin 2.0 Update
September 22nd, 2011
This is great: Mitt Romney telling USA Today–without being prompted, it seems–that he hopes Sarah Palin will get in. “She would make the race that much more exciting,” he said.
Oh yes. Goodness knows Mitt Romney craves excitement! He’s a lot like that rock-band, guitar-playing Jon Huntsman in that way. And he certainly appreciates having a subtle political mind like Sarah Palin’s as part of the national conversation. As he’s been telling everyone who will listen, the problem in Washington is that you’ve got all these career politicians. And at least Sarah Palin isn’t a career politician. In fact, she was willing to sacrifice her political career to avoid becoming a career politician. If Rick Perry wanted to be qualified to govern the United States of America, he would have resigned as governor years ago. It’s just a fact. Science.
This is vintage Romney–bald-faced political positioning done with utterly transparent insincerity. You can see the processors whirring as the logic board does the calculations.
Perry commands support from “conservatives” and “Tea Party.”
“Conservatives” and “Tea Party” have pushed RomneyBot 4000 to second place in polls.
Chances of victory for RomneyBot 4000 while in second place: .28746322017.
Must add new candidate to split “conservative” and “Tea Party” support.
Palin 1.0 commanded intense support from “conservatives” and “Tea Party.”
Will engage developers to push Palin 2.0 module into campaign model.
Perry support will halve.
RomneyBot 4000 becomes frontrunner again.
He’s like a particularly humorless Dalek, with Just For Men hair. (The fly-away look he’s been rocking must have focus-grouped really well.)
If you want to know why Romney keeps losing elections, it’s because of stuff like this. Voters can smell it.2 comments
September 12th, 2011
But wait, it gets even better. In the last CNN survey, Romney only polled at 14 points. Now he’s up to 18. Where did those points come from? Michelle Bachman, mostly. And now that Tim Pawlenty has joined Team Romney, things will really start to accelerate for the governor as the conservative establishment coalesces behind him. Once Pawlenty’s 2 points get factored in, Perry’s lead should get cut to +10. And from there, Katie bar the door.2 comments
Romney. Money. Democracy.
August 30th, 2011
I suspect the Romney-Perry showdown will get increasingly unfriendly for all sorts of reasons, but one of them, I suspect, is that Perry–like most of the self-made politicians Romney has bumped elbows with–probably disdains Romney’s view that people without independent wealth have no business running for elective office. I’ve always marveled at how this line from Sridhar Pappu’s excellent 2005 profile of Romney hasn’t come back to haunt him:
As governor of Massachusetts he draws no salary at all. A lesson he says his father taught him is that one shouldn’t get involved in public life until it is a question of service rather than employment.
Maybe there’s wisdom in that maxim, though it does, at least on its face, seem to run counter to the American democratic experience. I’d like to hear him unpack it a bit.4 comments
Romney’s “Core Constituency”
August 29th, 2011
Ross Douthat seems in danger of jumping on the Romney meat-wagon. He writes that despite Rick Perry’s position, Romney should not panic because “Romney doesn’t have to worry about any of the rival candidates making a play for his core supporters.”
We’re going to hear this argument a lot in the coming months from Romney partisans as they try to argue that something they would like to happen is, in fact, likely to happen. It’s worth taking this pundit fallacy apart now because it gets to the nub of why I’ve been insisting for four years that Romney is a non-starter as a political commodity—it’s precisely because he has no core supporters. Which is why he is not very good at winning elections.
Let’s revisit Romney’s campaigns:
1994: MA Senate Republican primary: Romney 82%, John Lakian 18%
1994: MA Senate general election: Ted Kennedy 58%, Romney 41%
2002: MA Gubernatorial Republican primary: Romney runs unopposed
2002: MA Gubernatorial general election: Romney 50%, Shannon O’Brien 45%
2006: MA Gubernatorial primary: trailing in polls for the general election to Deval Patrick—a guy who’d never run for anything before—Romney declines to seek reelection. I’ll count this as a loss; you might be more charitable.
2007: Presidential primaries: I won’t go state-by-state, but here’s the breakdown: Romney won only three states where the vote was a straight-up primary. Each of these wins was in a place where he had enormous legacy advantages: Michigan, where his father had been governor; Massachusetts, where he had been governor; and Utah, which is overwhelmingly Mormon. (He also won 8 caucus states, though the organizing rules there are much less indicative of electoral strength.)
On other side of the ledger, Romney lost primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, California, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland. (He also lost a bunch of caucus states, but we won’t count those against him since we’re discounting his caucus wins.)
Which means that in the 2008 cycle he went 3-16.
Combine that with the rest of his runs and you get a 17-year career record of 5-18. I don’t think you could find any other figure in politics who has run this far below the Mendoza line and still managed to get taken seriously as a presidential candidate. In fact, the only reason Romney gets taken seriously is his money. Strip away the $500M treasure room and the willingness to blow large chunks of his kids’ inheritance, and he’s Ron Paul without the ideological moorings and grassroots support.
But I’d argue that his electoral prospects are even worse than they look from his won-loss record. Here’s why:
(1) Romney made his political career out of his “close” 17-point loss to Ted Kennedy. But keep in mind that to only lose by 17, he spent $7M of his own money. But more importantly, this was the 1994 midterm election—so he got blown out during the biggest Republican wave in half a century.
(2) The high-point of his electoral career was the 2002 MA governor’s race, where he took 49.77%. Even in the biggest win of his life, he couldn’t capture more than 50% of the vote.
(3) It’s funny that Romney’s line of attack on Perry seems to be that Perry is a “career politician” because he’s been in elective office since 1984. Well, Mitt Romney would have been a career politician too, if only voters would have let him. He’s been running since 1994. His real gripe about Perry is actually, “Hey, that guy wins all the time! No fair!”
(4) Each of Romney’s previous electoral “successes” came with him occupying a different political space:
Romney 1.0 (MA senate) was Different Kind of RepublicanTM.
Romney 2.0 (MA governor) was a competent technocrat, ready to fix Massachusetts.
Romney 3.0 (the 2008 presidential cycle) was a rock-ribbed conservative you couldn’t get to the right of.
Romney 4.0 is a sane, moderate, establishment Republican. (Romney 4.1 seems to have installed an Emotion Engine mod which allows him to show anger. Who knows what updates the engineers will push out if Romney falls into third place.)
Because of all these opposing political personas, I suspect that the Venn diagram of Romney voters over the years would probably show four distinct, small circles. And very little overlap.
Douthat says that “The greatest danger to Romney’s candidacy — the thing that could destroy him long before the voting even started — has always been that a more appealing establishment candidate would enter the race.” But that’s not right at all. The greatest danger to Romney’s candidacy is that he has no constituency because he’s not very good at campaigning and, as the electoral results of the last 17 years have shown, voters don’t like him very much. The danger to the Romney candidacy is the candidate.
At the end of the day, the only committed Romney voters out there are his co-religionists (see the 2007 Utah primary where he took 89% of the vote) and people who have written books about him.
On this last score, I’d remind readers of what Hugh Hewitt wrote on September 13, 2007:
“The third quarter fundraising is coming to an end, and so has Fred Thompson’s honeymoon, leaving one of three people as George Bush’s successor–Senator Clinton, Mayor Giuliani, or Governor Romney.”
Just something to keep in mind.
Post script: I don’t hate Romney, by the way. I bet he’s a great guy. Would love to have him as a neighbor or to share a decaf iced tea with him. For all I know, he might even make a very good president. My point is that he’s a terrible campaigner and that, over and over again, voters have been unwilling to pull the lever for him. And that’s what ultimately matters for politicians.126 comments
August 16th, 2011
So I asked for three betting lines the other day–(1) how long until Perry passed Romney, (2) how long until Romney got painted by the sympathetic liberal media as being the sort of wise, moderate Republican who would have won in a walk once upon a time, and (3) when Hugh Hewitt would abandon ship on Romney’s (latest) doomed campaign.
Today we have answers to all three!
Then Richard Cohen stepped up to the plate.
And now we have Hugh Hewitt’s assessment of the Perry campaign. Who does it benefit most? You’ll never guess . . .
The arrival this weekend of Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the race further shatters all the crystal balls brought by all the pundits. Perry upset some Iowa elites by declaring his own rules and timetable, but individual voters in the 2012 caucuses won’t care, and Perry has a powerful appeal to the social conservatives who believe he has the courage, charisma and smarts to return their agenda to the center of the conversation.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin seems to understand that if she sits out 2012 she will forfeit the leadership of the party of faith within the Republican Party (a subparty that exists alongside and in cooperation with the party of growth and the party of national security).
If she plunges in, as more and more observers conclude she will, the values voters spread out in as many directions as mercury spilled upon a tabletop.
All of this leaves Mitt Romney a happy opponent of none of them and constant scourge of President Obama. Romney is the champion of the growth agenda, with only Herman Cain elbowing onto the space. Pawlenty had hoped to campaign in this issues terrain, but the map forced him into a battle with Bachmann and Santorum. It was a battle he admitted Sunday he could not win.
Only Perry seems positioned to make it a quick two-man race, and then only if he can consolidate the evangelicals with the Tea Party small-government activists and do it quickly — in Iowa, in fact.
The New Hampshire-Nevada-Michigan-Florida board is set up well for the Romney campaign, and the deep urgency felt across the party to beat the president has provided the former Massachusetts governor a floor that will not crumble.
“A floor that will not crumble.” Put that one in the vault, right next to the 2009 Limbaugh speech that will be “talked about for decades.” [Quick–what’s your favorite passage? I couldn’t pick just one . . . -ed], Mark Levin’s “extraordinary intellect,” and the rejection of Harriet Miers that “strenghtened the Democrats’ hand” in regards to the Supreme Court.
So I think we have our answer: Hugh Hewitt will jump off the Romney ship the day after he writes his New York Times op-ed tsk-tsking what a mistake Republicans made in rejecting the great man. (I don’t blame him–he’s got books to sell!)
Exit Question: Let’s set a new line–how many primary/caucus victories will Romney notch this time around? I’ll start the over/under at 3.
No Room for a Moderate Like Romney in Rick Perry’s GOP
August 16th, 2011
That leaves Mitt Romney. He is like one of those odd animals left behind by an ice age or shrinking oceans. Nature adapted him to a different political climate. He is his father’s son, a pragmatic Republican. He is moderate on social issues and actually knows how to make money and create jobs. But his very moderation, not to mention his exotic Mormonism, makes him suspect in the tea partyish Republican Party.
Ah yes, Who could ever harbor a reasonable doubt that Mitt Romney is anything but wisely moderate. And oh, how he created jobs at Bain Capital! If only the GOP weren’t in thrall to the likes of Rick Perry . . .0 comments
When Romney Does Retail
August 11th, 2011
If you want another example of how foolish Team Obama is by trying to hobble Mitt Romney, John McCormack has a breakdown of how two Republican politicians handle the idea of corporate taxation while talking to voters. In the first, we get Romney telling a voter “Corporations are people, my friend.” (“My friend” is the cherry on top.) Then McCormack shows how Ryan handled an almost identical question.
You tell me: Does Romney look like a stud politician?0 comments
June 13th, 2011
Galley Friend X sends in the following observation about Mitt Romney’s ability to make the jobs case against Obama:
Romney is making a big push on jobs. In his new ad, he takes Obama’s line that economy faces some “bumps in the road,” and he runs with it: a bunch of weary-looking Americans get up off a road and say, “I’m an American, not a bump in the road.”But this ad has a ready-made response: Where are all the people whose employers were acquired by Romney’s private equity fund, Bain Capital, and who were subsequently laid off by Bain to make the acquired company more profitable?So Romney’s opponents can go out and show the video from the 2008 speech in which Romney said, “By the way, you know, layoffs happen. … Of course you have layoffs sometimes to try to keep the company alive.” And they can keep pointing to the Boston Globe’s big 2008 article on how Romney got rich while Bain gutted companies.I’m not saying that Romney’s wrong to highlight Obama’s dumb “bump in the road” line. But Romney’s probably the last guy the Republicans want making this argument. Just like the Obamacare fight: Romney is probably the least-well-positioned Republican in this fight.