Thursday, February 09, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Primaries!

[You can click on the map to enlarge it-- the map represents the results of 2008 Republican primaries, with McCain wins in green, Romney wins in yellow, and Huckabee wins in blue]

On Tuesday, three states (Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado) had Republican primary contests which had one thing in common: They actually awarded no delegates. Nonetheless, it is significant that Rick Santorum won all three.

The first thing that strikes me about this is that for a party which (properly) trumpets the value of small government and restrained spending, they sure are blowing a lot of money on frivolous votes.

Beyond that, though, I do think these results bode poorly for Mitt Romney. What I see happening is that he can win large states like Florida through superior spending, but unless he can overwhelm people with advertising he does poorly because people just don't like the guy.

What's becoming apparent is that whoever the Republican nominee is will probably have less money to spend, and less Super-PAC support, than President Obama. Romney will not have that advantage in a general election.

Am I right? Do people just not like the guy?

Romney and Obama will be a good match-up. I look forward to it. Too bright and principled individuals with very different governing philosophies.

In re primaries: Romney has all the structural and institutional advantages but one big problem: conservatives don't love him. My sense is that his advantages will trump his disadvantage, and he will win the nom.

In re Santorum: it was a very good week to be the conservative (Catholic) religious guy taking on a President who made a political calculation to take on conservative religious voters. But I put his long-term prospects for winning the number one slot on the low side.
The Republican's biggest problem is the economic recovery. They are trying their best to scuttle it by doing things like fighting the continuing FICA tax cut, but that makes them look patently partisan.
The GOP's biggest problem is running in the face of an historic presidency and a mainstream media sympathetic to this administration.

Case in point: after one merely "okay" monthly jobs numbers report the narrative is now how will a challenger run against an incumbent in the midst of a robust recovery.

In truth, this is not much of a recovery--but, with the aid of some friendly public opinion makers, it is something (albeit just barely) to hang your hat on. It is a foot in the door. It is enough to give a very likable person whom a vast majority of Americans want to succeed, a fighting chance to stage the most remarkable reelection triumph in the modern era.

Here's the thing, though. It seems like when Romney is asked what he would have done differently, his answer is 1) Don't bail out the auto companies or change health care policy, and 2) lower taxes on businesses/individuals, and reduce environmental and other regulation.

Right now, people think the auto bailouts worked pretty well. (you might remember that I was against them). It also seems that people don't buy into tax reduction as much anymore, given the concern for the deficit.

As you know, I liked and respected McCain. I think he ran as a principled conservative. I don't feel the same way about Romney. He seems to hold the values he has lived by-- those of Bain Capital-- and people don't like that. I join them.

I agree that there is a strange disconnect to Romney. No doubt about it for me that he is a principled person. I think he, like the President, would make a fine colleague and/or neighbor. But he lacks the warmth of a George Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, or even John McCain. He is something of a cold fish.

You are onto something with your "principled conservative" comment though. What conservatives seem to not like about him most is that he is not a conservative in the sense that one understands conservatism in a "down deep in your bones" kind of instinctual worldview. He is much more of a generalist or a pragmatist. In short, his training is in business not philosophy, law, or politics. As he says, he is a "fixer." He is just a different breed of cat than we are accustomed to.

FTR: while most liberals saw John McCain as very conservative, most conservatives did not. You will remember that Romney was the conservative alternative to McCain at one point in the 2008 primaries.

As for your intentionally humorously facile summary of Romney's platform, I take your point. I thought the best line of the month was from Alex Castellanos, who observed a few weeks ago that the GOP was so desperate for an ideas candidate like Newt Gingrich that they were even willing to consider Newt Gingrich.

Granted, Mitt is imperfect, but, in the end, if you are a liberal, you should vote for the center-left candidate, Barack Obama. If you are a conservative, you should vote for the center-right candidate, Mitt Romney. And that is what most will do.
The republicans are out of character in proclaiming that America is a failing nation. They preach self reliance rather than compassion. They, I believe, have misjudged the goodness and the toughness of our people. They are counting on again appealing to our fears.

Republicans seem to cheer for failure.In Detroit we are, with some help, getting off our asses and coming back. Clint Eastwood, a conservative republican opposed to the bailout of the auto companies, had it right; it is halftime and we are winning. Can I hear a "YES WE CAN".

The Romney-Gingrich campaigns and their super pacs have disgusted the voters with their putrid negative attacks on each other. Voters in 3 states voted against these campaigns.

President Obama missed a golden opportunity to rise above the pack(pacs) and take the high ground. He gave his support to his super pacs. Russ Feingold, Where are you now that we need you.

I am tired of hearing about "class warfare" except maybe when Luke describes Jesus as preaching class warfare. Our problems aren't about having and investing money but about the manipulation of money and the use of money for influence.

The election of 2012 could be decided by money unless the voters take action. I propose that voters look past the candidates and study their backers and their purpose. If the major backers are not visible don't give up your vote to that candidate. If everyone did this we could get some truly principled candidates to run. Dad
Dad-- if money decides the election, including unregulated money, then Obama will win. He has, and will have, more money.

Farmer-- You are right in catching my critique of how poorly Romney is getting a decent, whole message out. I think that is a big part of the problem he is facing. You are also correct that he is center-right and Obama is center-left. The extremes on both sides are frustrated by that.

There is something else, too-- as you and IPLawGuy have described here and elsewhere, there are very distinct blocs in the Republican Party. I think Romney does get the business-side people excited, but has little appeal for the social conservatives. Unfortunately for him, that is a lot of people.
One thing that really strikes me here is the frustration in Mr. Osler's voice. I am struck by it because I feel it too. Ostensibly, Mr. Olser's candidate won in an gloriously unexpected fashion in 2008. But he is not happy. And, quite frankly, I cannot imagine being happy over the next four years no matter who wins. In fact, this is the least fun I have had with a presidential election in my lifetime.

Am I getting old and cranky? Is this all actually getting less fun and more seedy? Or are we facing huge problems for which there is no happy answer?

I hope it is the first--but I am afraid that is more two and three.

I feel that way, too. For example, I specialize these days in federal commutations, which is something this administration, headed by a Con Law scholar, should be really good at. Yet, the area has been utterly ignored, and is arguably more of a hash than it was under Bush or Clinton. I'm disappointed by the lack of principled action in such an obvious area.

I DO agree with my dad that money is a huge part of the problem-- on both sides.
Speaking of cranky, where is RRL? And which candidate does he support?
I'm not cranky! I'm actually generally a pretty happy dude.

That being said, I don't really like any of these guys. I think Newt is the smartest guy running, but kinda crazy and can't win. I can vote for Romney, and probably will. Ultimately, I support whichever candidate will lead to gridlock, partisanship, and ideological stalemates. And if any of them would come out with a pro-smoking platform I would totally be on board.
"this administration, headed by a Con Law scholar . . . ."

I thought Obama was just a lecturer for a few semesters and I don't recall that he had published anything. Is he really a "Con Law scholar?
He was President of the Harvard Law Review, and taught Con Law for 12 consecutive years at the University of Chicago.

Anon., it's one thing to be cowardly (which you are), but at least get your facts right while you are slinking around.
What is con law? I thought cons and law to be pretty much incompatible.
Romney lacks the common touch. Apparently he's very good in small groups of like minded, educated business people. But out on the stump or amongst people who do not have MBAs or work with people who have MBAs he's just not comfortable.

Paradoxically, the same is true for Obama. Vast numbers of Americans just cannot "relat" to the guy. He grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, went to Ivy League schools and other than some time on the Streets of Chicago, just has not spent much time with "the rest of us." And it shows.

The most successful Presidents had LOTS of experience spending time with people not from their own background. Reagan was from the midwest and as an actor and ESPECIALLY as the GE spokesman, he travelled all over the country, often on his own and met people from all kinds of walks of life. FDR's experience with the people of Georgia as a polio patient is what humanized him. He also spent 8 years as the #2 guy in the Department of the Navy during WWI working with soldiers and officers who did not go to Harvard, did not have the same view of the world.

And it was clear that these two LIKED being around people.

Bill Clinton exposed himself (cheap pun) to people from all walks of life in his pre-Presidential apprenticeship. TR spent time as a rancher and then as NYC Police Commissioner. Ike, as a long serving military officer knew all kinds of different people.

All of these people were "leaders of men" before they were President. Romney has boardrooom executive experience, and experience as a Governor, but somehow he just can't sell it.

Obama reminds me of the distant Professor we all had at some point who can come in and dazzle you with a lecture every few weeks or so, but has never done much else with his life and appears to be totally unapproachable when it comes time to discuss the subject outside the classroom.
--As for money, its a terrible problem. But the fact is these SuperPacs are not operating in the dead of night. Their activities are out in the open and getting a lot of attention.

Santorum (whom I dislike for many reasons) is doing quite well right now even though he has very little money. Ron Paul doesn't have much money.

Candidates with less money than their opponents win all the time. Often its a case of how the money and other resources are spent. Traditional spending on old media may not be so wise in this electronic day and age.

I don't blame Obama a bit for goint the Super Pac route. He has to play by the rules as they are now, not as he wants them to be. I'd rather he be honest about it, like he has been than pretend he knows nothing of the activities of George Soros and other wealthy backers.
Someone on the radio today said she liked Mitt Romney--father of children with names such as "Tagg"--because his kids all seem to be named for the sound effects from fight scenes in "Batman" ("Biff!").
Listen, I'm not a lawyer and I know what con law is. That said. I just spent the better part of two days driving from Tampa to Durham and listened to more Public Radio (in multiple states) than I care to admit.

I am not invested in the Republican primaries so here is my take. Romney is not lighting any fires. He really isn't a very enthusistic speaker. The best comment I heard today was he has a 50+ point plan but the general population is hard pressed to tell you what any of thoses points are.

Gingrich - I won't go there. He is schitzo or bi-polar. Up/down, hot/cold. Given the results for Santorum I am wondering why he is so quiet. He must be taking his meds.

Santorum - way too far right.

It should be an interesting convention in Tampa this summer. The heat will really be on....
"... I don't feel the same way about Romney. He seems to hold the values he has lived by-- those of Bain Capital-- and people don't like that. I join them."

Prof. Osler... Can you elaborate on this at all? Are you meaning that he seems kind of detached and business-like or are you saying there is something less honorable in working for Bain Capital than another profession>
Ricky-- I was (as WF correctly identified) being facetious. I think that Romney does have deep personal values. However, he has done a lousy job of conveying them-- and thus what people see are those of a caricature of a robber baron, and some of his comments only make that easier.
Prof. Osler. Got it and agreed. Serves me right for not reading the comments carefully enough!
No prob-- I laid that out in a post a few weeks ago, but didn't link to it here...
Prof. - you said "I think that Romney does have deep personal values. However, he has done a lousy job of conveying them"

Perhaps Romney has not conveyed them because he feels that would open up his Morman faith. Thus far he has managed to keep that out of the discussion and I am fine with that decision.

That said, he comes across very robotic.
Even if I were a Republican,I would not be for Romney.His body and his eyes are doing two different things.This does not make him trustworthy.Beyond what he advocates,he lacks a personality,passion,will.This is my illogical perception,and I guess it is based on sound acting principles. You must be believable.
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