Friday, January 20, 2012

One More Time: It's Way Too Late for "Someone Else"

Oh, c'mon already! NBC's First Read (via Political Wire):
Romney’s fundamental problem is this: He’s been unable so far to win over conservatives in a conservative state. And if he’s unable to beat Gingrich and Rick Santorum in South Carolina -- both of whom have their shortcomings -- it would send a flashing warning signal to party leaders. What’s more, it would produce chatter, fair or not, that the party needs to find someone else, just as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is set to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday night.
Someone else? Ron Fournier started up with this today, too. I guess I need to remind everyone that as of now, filing deadlines have already passed for primaries in states that have about 885 delegates, which is just a bit shy of 40% of all delegates (I think there have been a few changes since the article I was relying on for these numbers was written, but not enough to matter, and they could be in either direction). And counting: another 100 delegates will pass the filing deadline by the end of the month.

It's all just silly. The idea that the frontrunner has to win every single state just doesn't correspond to the 40-year history of the process, and the idea that a couple of good or lousy days in the polls means anything beyond that has been disproved more times than I can count over the last ten months. But, you know, if you think Newt Gingrich can win the nomination, make your case: as little a chance as I think he has, it certainly must be better than anyone who isn't in the fight as of now.

14 comments:

  1. However, it fits the narrative of this contest. That is: Romney is not loved by this party. Now, you may disagree with the accuracy of the narrative. But that seems to me what is driving the "but, what about"s and "if only there were only anti-Romney"s.

    The reason why this narrative has taken hold is an open question. I put some of the onus the post-2010 tea leaf reading. How can the party that just knocked off their own incumbents because they were only conservative, not ultra-conservative, nominate somebody with as moderate a history as Romney? However, I still think there's a real kernel there. There's a significant chunk of the GOP base that finds unacceptable anyone who isn't going to be a dyed-in-the-wool true believer. And Romney is just so very clearly not one.

    So, I think the impulse in the minds of the reporters is very understandable.

    However, you're absolutely, 100% right: the reporters are pretending like everything we know about presidential primaries doesn't exist, and that it's all about voter choices, and there's always the chance of a brokered convention!

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  2. ---"if only there were ONE anti-Romney"s

    is what it should have said.

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  3. Ok, imagine the following scenario. Mitt wins SC and FL. Newt and Santorum drop out. Before Super Tuesday, a huge scandal breaks out that effectively disqualifies Mitt. What would the party do then. You really think they'd let Paul become the nominee?

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    1. Yeah - there's always a caveat about "unless some massive external event that we know nothing about now happens." Certainly if Romney dropped out for whatever reason, the party wouldn't just make Paul the nominee. If Romney wasn't out but was severely wounded...the party might wait until after the primaries, see how it goes, and pressure him to quit if necessary.

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    2. The theory or process might be more "the massive external event has already happened, but we're only now and gradually discovering just how massive it was." The conversion of a "normal" political party into something else entirely, its inability to put forward and settle on a credible candidate, and the resultant suspension of normal political expectations, would be signs or aftereffects.

      Not saying that's where we are, but we're at a minimum sketching out the outlines of a such a process.

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  4. This is excellent news for Mitt Romney.

    It's going to have to be some whallopalooza of a scandal for even Newt to have a chance to overtake Romney's establishment support, superior organization, larger war chest, and cadre of friends ready to pump money into pro-Romney SuperPACs.

    If Kylopod's scenario came to pass, I think it would be much more likely that Newt or Santorum would get back into the race, given that they are on actual primary ballots. Gary Hart came back into the race one time, I think that's the only chance.

    And if Romney is getting replaced on the national ballot, they HAVE to choose Alan Keyes. He's the only man with the experience for the job, if it comes to that.

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    1. Yes, for those who weren't tuned in at the time and might not recognize JS's allusion, Alan Keyes not only has experience, he has the specific experience of replacing a Republican nominee damaged by the release of compromising records in a race against Barack Obama (for the Senate in '04).

      Talk of late entrants and brokered conventions is as predictable at this point in the cycle as day following night. But it is intriguing that Romney has been so resistant to revealing his taxes. Makes you wonder if a major late-breaking scandal really is a possibility.

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  5. A late entry doesn't have to win 50.1% of the delegates outright. He just needs to win enough to prevent Romney from clinching the nomination on the first ballot then be both electable and conservative enough to win on one of the subsequent ballots. The 60% of delegates remaining on states that haven't passed the filing deadline would be plenty enough for that purpose. Is it at all probable? Almost certainly not, but it's not as logistically impossible as Jonathan makes it sound.

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    1. Romney's delegates are likely to be as loyal to him on the second (and subsequent) ballots as on the first, as they will have been selected for that very purpose and according to that very criterion. They won't vote for anyone else unless Mitt tells them to.

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    2. What if there were a truly disabling scandal? I would guess that Romney's delegates are first and foremost (establishment) Republicans, and would do what they had to do if it were a case of ensuring that a 'real' Republican was nominated instead of, say, Ron Paul.

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  6. One of the intriguing things about the Bain Capital kerfuffle, both the proto-liberal video from Gingrich and the straight left-wing media commentary that followed, was how it all focused on the little people wounded by turfed jobs, with essentially no discussion of the lenders, whose loans for what they thought were traditional LBOs were nothing more than sorry excuses to line Bain Capital pockets, too bad about your luck.

    Well. No one's gonna sympathize with a banker who gets taken by a bigger shark from Bain Capital. Maybe some folks figure its all part of a giant cabal, with the bankers getting a kickback from Bain and the losses getting buried in the wash.

    That's always possible, but more likely the bankers were pissed. I'm no expert, but I'd guess some low-level flunkies at BofA or Wells Fargo or wherever lost their jobs, together with their managers, and the banks tried to put it behind them. Those bankers may have pondered attempting a clawback during bankruptcy of the 'special funds' Bain Capital voted themselves, but decided it wasn't worth it, since there may be some legitimate purpose for a special dividend (!), and surely Bain would have made the accounting murky, and this is key - there might not have been all that much going directly in the players' pockets, the bankers might have rationalized.

    Until, perhaps, they saw Romney's tax returns, and became aware of a) when and b) how much and c) what type of income he was declaring over the past dozen years or so. I bet its a lot more than you think, and I bet its a lot more than those rationalizing bankers would think too.

    So to Jeff's point earlier, yes I could see a huge scandal looming in those tax returns, but not of the fun-on-cable-news-sex-on-a-yacht variety. Nevertheless, even if a taxable income surprise is dull, that could still end up being devastating to Romney.

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  7. Morning Joe claims that all the establishment types he talks to are desperately contemplating a brokered convention because of their (growing) perception of Romney's weakness as a candidate. Should one underestimate the ability of the establishment to change the rules when they want to get their way?

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  8. I think we have to remember that not all election coverage and analysis is created equal. Analysis serves three overlapping functions: building a partisan narrative, serving the economic interests of reporters and news outlets, and truly trying to inform. Not all analysts are engaged in all three activities, or even in two of them, but the differing goals are often there and often in conflict. It just is not in the best interests of news outlets and of reporters to say "Nothing much to see here folks, move along. We really don't have anything realistic to say that hasn't been said, so turn off the cable news and watch a nice action thriller for some excitement."

    I think one of the more interesting scenarios put forth lately is from Mr. Gelman at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen/NYT and I would like to hear Mr. Bernstein's take on it. Gelman sees this year as being similar to 1988, with Romney playing the part of Dukakis. That is the intra-party kerfuffle will die with remarkable speed and Romney will grab a large lead in the polls versus Obama based on his reputation for being competent and moderate. As people discover that he is not as moderate as they thought, the lead will inevitably dissipate in a cloud of blather about a poorly run Romney campaign, leaving us with a tie to be decided by the direction of the economy.

    I'm not sure how I regard Gelman's overall approach - his protestations to the contrary he seems a poster boy for the kind of economic determinism Nate Silver likes to savage, and Gelman does not help that image when he links to an article confidently predicting a 44% vote share for Obama with less than a one in seven chance of pulling out a victory, all based on the "Bread and Peace" model. In his responses to comments, he even seemed slightly annoyed at the temerity of people insisting on actually running a campaign and counting votes. Still, his take on the shape of things to come was interesting and, within fairly strict limits, plausible.

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  9. This is a great post.

    One of the most under-covered stories in American politics is the various rules changes and filing date changes that have been instituted since 1968, when RFK really did jump into the race late.

    It's not totally impossible to have a scenario where someone jumps in-- if Mitt Romney had a heart attack tomorrow, it could happen. But it's very, very tough to do under modern rules.

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