Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Mitt Romney’ Category

Could Huck win the general election?

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Over at Ezra’s place, Neil ponders the possibilities for Mike Huckabee, should the ex-Arkansas governor prevail in the primaries:

For a long time, I’ve regarded him as the most dangerous general election opponent. Like most Democrats, I remember how easily a red-state Republican cast himself as a ‘compassionate conservative’ in 2000, and I’m worried about seeing it again. But the more I think about Huckabee, the less I worry. I think people underestimate the extent to which his brand of social conservatism is a real liability in a general election. Bush’s success doesn’t have any positive implications for Huckabee, as Bush always blurred the lines on social issues before elections.

I agree with Neil about Huckabee’s vulnerabilities in a general election, although I think Huckabee’s weakness is mostly just a sign of the changing political environment. I believe events of the past eight years — especially Iraq and Katrina — combined with the shitty economy of 2008 — translate into real problems for the GOP. I think they’re especially in trouble in places like Ohio and Florida.  The country is suffering from major league Bush Fatigue Syndrome. The “Conservative Republican” brand has been terribly weakened. And I think that means the GOP needs to nominate someone who at least can be spun as a moderate who can take the country in a different direction. So that means McCain (a media darling who condemns torture), Rudy (used to live with gay guys and provided sanctuary to immigrants) or Romney (used to run the most liberal state in the country). Not that I think any of these three would likely prevail in a general election — I really do think it’s the Democrats’ to lose — but I can at least imagine a plausible strategy being put together for one of them to run to the center in a general election (much as the eventual Democratic nominee will do the same). And who knows, maybe the economy is stronger next year than I think it will be, and it ends up being a tight race.

But I just don’t see how the GOP possibly wins with a guy who thinks the Flinstones is a documentary. Sure, he’s a nice, personable southern gentlemen who lost a lot of weight. He’s just too much of a socialcon to be plausibly marketed to the disaffected, war-weary, Bush-fatigued, economically vulnerable purple state voters who want change, and who will decide this election. But hey, the Huckster will be certain to give the GOP great margins in holding down Idaho!

Bottom line: Huck is too much like Bush. And the last thing this country wants is another Bush.

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Written by Jasper

December 8, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Mitt’s speech

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I think it’s a bad move on Romney’s part. I don’t know who is advising him he should do a speech. It’s obviously a reaction to Huckabee’s rise. Does anybody really think that an evangelical who thinks Mormonism is a satanic cult is going to vote for Romney because of an eloquent speech, especially now that the former’s got a bonafide political playa he can vote for named Mike Huckabee?

I’m not one of those who has been of the opinion that Romney is in such bad shape merely because of Huckabee’s rise. I mean, Mitt still has a month or so to soften up Huckabee with negative ads, and there are a number of issues he could use: Huckabee’s non-hatred of illegal immigrants, for instance, and his failure to embrace torture, and also his preference for not funding government via debt. Romney, with lots of money, with a solid foundation in NH and Michigan, and with a disciplined, on-message campaign, should remain a very formidable candidate as long as he doesn’t badly underperform to expectations in Iowa (and those expectations are now muted, given what the polls are predicting about a Huckabee win). Indeed, I’d say up to now he’s still the favorite to win the nomination, especially with Rudy showing signs of implosion.

But this speech business strikes me as a real overreaction to an issue most people — even a majority of GOP primary voters — don’t really care about. To most Americans, Mormons are nice, large, hardworking, sober Caucasians with beautiful teeth and big families. A bit funny in the underwear department, perhaps, but certainly well-within the American mainstream. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say Mormons strike me in some ways as being quintessentially American.

Mitt better hit this one out of the park. If not, he’s leaving the door wide open for a McCain surge.

UPDATE: I should address the fact that the above post, while making the case that an Establishment Clause speech doesn’t help Romney, doesn’t explain why it hurts him. Basically, I think it’s because an unnecessary talk with lots of media coverage will muddy Romney’s message. Whatever themes he’s running on — mainstream conservatism, competence, immigration, reforming evil liberal Massachusetts, the Winter Olympics, whatever — will at least temporarily be drowned out by a discussion of his religion. And, while Romney’s Mormonism likely doesn’t hurt him with most GOP voters, I doubt it helps him with very many outside of a 500-mile radius of Salt Lake City. Staying on message seems to me like it’s been a fairly successful strategy for the Mittbot. Why mess with what’s working? Bad move. Or at least a risky move. As I noted above, Mitt had better “hit one out of the park.” I suppose it’s possible that, should he deliver a truly superb speech, the reaction and positive publicity might actually help him.  We shall see. It’s definitely not something I’d advise him to do.

Written by Jasper

December 4, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Free advice to Mitt

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Huckabee’s rise in polls of Iowans may be just what the doctor ordered for Romney, in similar fashion to how Obama’s rise among Iowan Democrats benefits Hillary: in both cases expectations are helpfully adjusted downwards. It would probably be disastrous for Romney were he to lose by eight or nine points to Huckabee in Iowa if that’s not what the polls are predicting. But should Romney enter Iowa with the polls predicting a second place finish to Huckabee, the latter’s victory wouldn’t necessarily cause the Mittster huge problems.

My advice to Romney: ratchet up the TV spots in Iowa emphasizing your record for fiscal conservatism and your (new) hardline approach to immigration. The spots will be designed to hit Huckabee in his vulnerable areas, but don’t mention him by name (you might need him as a running mate, after all, and you don’t want to stoke up any more anti-Mormon animus amongst the fundies than you’re already dealing with). You might also want to consider tying your expertise in venture capital and business creation with a pitch to Iowans focusing on energy independence. Huck can’t match your new economy leadership bonafides. Also, don’t be afraid to feature your lovely, all-American looking family in your spots. Do your best to whittle Huck’s lead down as much as possible in Iowa. If you manage to prevail, Huck’s done. If you manage merely to exceed expectations, you’re still in pretty good shape. Meanwhile, starting in, say, mid-December, absolutely UNLOAD on Giuliani with negative ads in the NH/Boston media market. Focus on Kerrik and mistressgate. Make SURE you dispatch Rudy at the time of the NH primary. You can’t waste the opportunity to hit your most dangerous competitor hard in a battlefield where you have a decisive advantage: after all, the inevitable “back at ya” attacks Rudy will mount won’t be as effective as yours, because it won’t be possible for him to paint horns on you to voters (including lots of ex-Bay Staters) who feel they already know you quite well. Anyway, a (say) fourth or fifth place finish in Iowa for Rudy followed by a (say) third or fourth place finish in NH basically ends the New Yorker’s campaign, and effectively means its you against Huck for the nomination.

Written by Jasper

November 29, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Managing expectations in Iowa

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Matt Yglesias opines on Romney’s chances:

It seems to me, though, that this basically all comes down to what happens in Iowa. In particular, it comes down to what happens with the remaining Fred Thompson supporters once they realize that their man is in third place and slipping. At the moment, Huckabee and Romney are both trending upwards, but Huckabee is gaining on Romney because he’s trending upwards faster. If the bulk of Thompson’s remaining supporters (a not inconsiderable slice of the electorate) decide that Huckabee is the southern white Christian dude for them, then Huckabee stands a decent chance of pulling off an upset and Romney’s in big trouble. But if they decide that they need to do the pragmatic “Stop Rudy” thing and vote for Romney, then it really does seem like Mitt winds up sweeping the early primary table and Giuliani’s in big trouble.

I personally think it’s not so much about who “wins” Iowa (or NH, for that matter) but who does what in the expectations game.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that Huckabee continues to gain on Romney in the polls, and that, by the end of December, he’s built, say, an eight point lead among Iowans likely to vote. Under such circumstances if Romney loses by only two points, he might plausibly claim he’s “won” — and that the momentum is back on his side. A similar dynamic can be seen among the Democrats. Hillary Clinton obviously doesn’t want to finish second to Obama in Iowa. But it’s far better for her to come out behind Obama there if that’s what the polls are predicting (especially if she can “beat the spread”) than to do so when the polls are predicting a first place finish. Indeed, for Hillary, there may be something of a silver lining in her recent slippage in Iowa vis a vis Obama, as it lowers expectations for her.

It’s all about expectations and momentum in the early going

Written by Jasper

November 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm