Monday, November 28, 2011

Someone Will Survive Iowa/New Hampshire With Mitt

With Newt Gingrich winning the Union Leader endorsement and all, there was a bit of a twitter conversation yesterday about whether he's a viable candidate (I still think no), and what Mitt Romney should do about it, given that there are more than ample grounds to attack Newt. Dante Scala asked,"So if you're Mitt, do you drop as much of that oppo folder on Newt in December, in hopes of short-circuiting him?"

I don't pretend to be a campaign consultant, so I can't really answer that, exactly. What I can say is that there are real limits to the extent to which Romney can wrap up the nomination by winning in Iowa and New Hampshire. This is tricky stuff...as I've said many times, I think Romney may well be wrapping up the nomination before Iowas solidifying his hold on the nomination right now, before Iowa, by winning the overwhelming support of party actors. But then there's the part where people vote, and for that there's a very different dynamic.

What Romney needs to know about Iowa and New Hampshire is that some candidate will either win Iowa or finish second behind Romney, and some candidate will either win New Hampshire or finish second behind Romney. The odds are very good that one candidate other than Romney will finish in the top two spots in both states. And at that point, there will be very heavy incentives for the press to play up the chances of that other candidate. After all, Fox News and CNN have a lot of hours to fill, and people are far more interested in presidential nominations than they are in almost every other political story. There is absolutely nothing Romney can do to prevent that from playing out.

Remember, for example, what Walter Mondale got out of completely crushing the field in Iowa in 1984. The former Vice President took 49% of the vote, with Gary Hart a surprise second place far back at 17%...which earned Mondale the silly spin that he fell short of 50%, while Hart got a week of terrific press coverage leading into New Hampshire.

Now, if Romney in fact has a solid lead among GOP party actors, he'll probably survive that sort of thing without all that much trouble, and he'll survive it even more easily if his opponent is a lot weaker than Hart, which is almost certain to be the case.

So what does that imply for Romney's strategy? Well, the most dangerous foe he has is still almost certainly Rick Perry, despite his comically awful campaign to date. Newt isn't ideal; he's in the list of the more plausible implausible nominees. If you're Romney, you would rather be slugging it out with Ron Paul, or Herman Cain. Unfortunately for him, Cain is probably not recovering at this point, and if Paul manages to do well it's possible the press will look right past him to the next option. But Newt isn't bad at all as an opponent, and my guess is that Romney's best bet is to let all of that play out, and then be ready to unload if and when it's ever needed.

What I do think that Romney should be doing is to make sure that there are plenty of elite-level reminders, perhaps targeting people who weren't around  back in the 1990s, of how Washington Republicans simply didn't find Speaker Gingrich very trustworthy. But beyond that, I think Romney's strategy of focusing on Barack Obama has been the best bet for him, and will continue to be so until he's finally in a true head-to-head matchup. And, if he's lucky, even then.

12 comments:

  1. I'm struck by how deeply the Left wants Romney to be the R candidate. You can find sentiments duplicate to this blogger's post just about everywhere you look. That's an interesting dynamic, and there's a few tails there, not least that that's who the Obamabots would like to face in the general (and that's who their Wall Street paymasters would like to see him face, thus setting up the win-win situation).

    I think the R primary voters collectively are pretty much dead set against Romney, they just aren't settled on an alternative yet. And no, it won't be Perry, that seems clear. Even Huntsman is a more viable alternative than Perry at this point, as may Santorum, and neither of them have a shot either.

    As he slips, Cain's supporters have to go somewhere, and as they would appear to be restive types, they wouldn't seem to gravitate to Romney. Nor would Perry's. Nor would Bachmann's.

    Romney can only win a war of attrition, he can't win by acclamation. And since he lost a similar war of attrition in 2008, against a much despised candidate, he can't get good odds this time. ObomneyCare is just too great a burden for him.

    But can the Anybody But Romney vote coalesce around a candidate? That's the question. But I think that's what they're gonna do, after the attrition is over.

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  2. I think almost all of this analysis is good. The part about Romney waiting to unload the opposition research on Gingrich was a great insight. But... you keep pointing to Perry as the most likely contender, despite the evidence that he's failed with the party. Yes, his paper credentials are in order. And it's probably impossible to predict which flaws in which candidates will render them non-contenders, since they all have major flaws.

    With Perry this is no longer a game of prediction. He's demonstrated a lack of intelligence/speaking ability, and polls indicate that large numbers of Republicans have given up on him.

    Thank God for that. I'm glad that demonstrated stupidity is a disqualifier for the Republican nomination. (I don't generally like to use the word "stupid," but "inability to give coherent answers to questions about policy" just takes too long to say or write.) I was afraid that stupidity or incoherence could be overlooked as long as the candidate were pure to Tea Party ideals. It's good to know that the Republicans are doing a better job picking their presidential nominee than they did with some Senate candidates last year.

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  3. Anon, it's the complete opposite. The Left considers Romney the biggest threat to Obama. Most liberals would rather the GOP run anybody else - if you're picking up "sentiments," it's the modicum of respect they're willing to give because he's the only one they take seriously. I know you have your own thoughts on the matter, but liberals don't take the rest of the field seriously.

    If you peruse other "lefty" blogs, you won't find any "sentiments" there. Most have been skeptical of Romney's chances to date (Jon Chait had a running item called "Romney Death Watch"), and they attack him far more vehemently than the othe candidates, whom they just scoff at. Why? Because he's the biggest threat.

    The only sentiments I can pick up from this blogger is: If someone other than Romney or Perry wins the nomination, than he eats crow for making a year of bad predications in front of all the other "lefty" bloggers. That's it. But besides that, we Lefties are all hoping for an "Obama vs. Other-than-Romney" race.

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  4. Anonymous @10:51:

    You're funny.

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  5. The Left considers Romney the biggest threat to Obama.

    .

    I think this is where you have to separate the Left's rank and file from the lefty campaign shysters, who know how the campaign matchup will play out.

    Yes, the Left's rank and file certainly recognizes that Romney is quite often in parallel with their beliefs, and they thus think he appeals to their supporters and is a threat to them. They're viewing Romney from their own partisan perspective, in other words. They perceive a threat because he AGREES with them on so much. And they're right... he does.

    But they're incorrect to think those lefty partisans are gonna jump ship. The people they're worried about jumping ship are no threat to do so... they're gonna vote for the candidate with a little "D" after their name... no matter who it is, even if it's Charles Manson. Obama has 40% of the electorate in his back pocket, no matter if he's YouTubed putting kittens and puppies into a microwave. Heck, I'll say he's got as much as 45% locked up (assuming no Bloomberg run).

    But for the hardcore lefty campaign shysters, those who understand how the campaign will play out, they know it's all about the matchup, and they know Obama will be weak no matter who he faces, so they need some jujitsu here, to swivel hip away from their record. They need Romney to neutralize their original sin of ObamaCare, and he absolutely frees them of that terrible millstone. They need Romney to best run the class warfare campaign that all signs point to them aiming for. They need a Wall Street Gordon Gecko jobs shipped to China animal to campaign against (never mind that Obama has a Wall Street tattoo on his forehead, we're talking campaign politics here, not reality).

    And the whole Mormon thing is a not unnoticed benefit for the Obamabots. They won't have to say a word... the lefty media will do their work for them. Best part of it is that the Mormon thing depresses the OTHER guy's base turnout, and this for a candidate who won't excite the base in any event. It's a win-win.

    Oh yes, Romney is the Left's preferred candidate. It bubbles through relentlessly in the WH message. That's why the Obamabots go to so much trouble elevating him right now... they want to keep him in the news as their "opponent", to suck in support to their preferred opponent. It's the smart play, I gotta give them credit on that much. They're doing that art of war thing... and promoting schism and fracture in the enemy. It's likely their only chance, because Obama's too weak to win a stand up fight.

    But can the ABR folks prevail in the primary? That's the question. I think they will. They'll select a flawed candidate, like 2008. But this time, that candidate will generate a maximum of voter intensity, by default, unlike 2008.

    And there will be no Wall Street crash to promote any "hope and change" nostrums this time. It'll just be Obama, and Bailouts, Porkulus, Cap & Tax and ObamaCare. The ABR candidate is what sets up the stand up fight, which is what the lefty campaign shysters well understand, and why they fear it most.

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  6. Shorter Anon:

    1) There you Lefties go again! It's always the same with you Lefties!

    2) Flowery prose highlighting whatever buzzwords I made up for today.

    It's the same post again... And again... And again...

    It's apparent from your perspective that Romney would appear to be in parallel with the left, but... No. He's not even close to looking like a Democrat... And the Mormon thing is the right's neurosis, not the left's... And it's obvious that Obama would start attacking him now, if he's the biggest threat...

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  7. [i]They perceive a threat because he AGREES with them on so much.[/i]

    C'mon, man. Romney agrees with everybody on all the issues. It's nice to see the anonymous man spewing his vitriol. Quite gutsy of you.

    On to more serious matters, I wonder why Mr. Bernstein continues to insist that Gingrich is an unviable candidate.

    The assumption seems to be that Republican voters will end up holding their noses and voting for Romney anyway, given his perceived ability to beat Obama. But isn't it possible that a lot of Republicans share the Bachmann/Anonymous view that anybody can beat Obama?

    Wouldn't conservatives rather hold their noses for a personally flawed--but legitimate conservative--like Gingrich, than for the cardboard-cutout, my-only-core-value-is-becoming-President Romney?

    Gingrich might not be perfect, but he's the only one they got.

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  8. Dave -- In short, JB doesn't think Newt has much of a chance because he thinks that party elites have a large amount of influence over nominations, and that they find Newt unacceptable. But really, just read his older posts on why there are only 2 real candidates for a more articulate articulation.

    I think it's clear that, at least to some extent, he's right. Once it gets closer to crunch time, motivations at Fox and the other conservative media will shift (again, to some extent) from promoting an exciting race to making sure an electable candidate wins the nomination. And to your point, no it isn't possible that the party elites think all of the candidates are likely to beat Obama, even if Bachmann and Anonymous Prime do.

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  9. Gingrich just semi-passed "The Hot Tub Test." (I was able to occupy the entire time I spent soaking my prematurely arthritic spine by imagining Obama/Newt debates, ones which the challenger has spent his entire adult life preparing for. It was quite titanic! And scary! But I managed somehow to stay afloat, and so did the president. In my mind.)

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  10. 4:56 Anonymous - It's true that party elites might fall in line with Romney against Gingrich, but I keep thinking about all these Republican polls for the last year. Mitt Romney has been the "favorite", the "most electable", and he's well known to the Republican primary electorate after his run in 2008 . . . . and yet I have not seen a poll yet where he rises more than the margin of error above 25%.

    It reminds me of Hillary Clinton. She had 45% at the beginning of 2007, and she received about 45% of the votes during the 2008 primary season. If a Democratic voter wasn't for Clinton in January 2007, they were looking for an alternative. Likewise, if a Republican voter isn't for Romney by now, they are looking for an alternative.

    Somebody other than Romney will win this nomination by default -- who if not Gingrich?

    That's my case for Gingrich.

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  11. Hee hee, one of my buddies just sent me video of some HuffPo woman making the same point I'm making above, that the Left wants to square off against Romney, and fears the ABR candidate.

    I think you lefties may be gettin' seduced by those matchup polls that are floating around out there, but I doubt serious lefty campaign types are so seduced. They know better. They want Romney, but I don't think they're going to get him. ;-)

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