Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Question for Conservatives

There's really only one question this week, I think: assuming that the top three in  Iowa are Romney, Paul, and Santorum (in any order), will conservative leaders rally around Santorum? Settle on Romney? Or keep waiting?


  1. I'm not a conservative, but I used to be a pretty active Republican, so I'm guessing these outcomes:

    Social conservatives will rally around Santorum, unless Perry survives to make a credible run in South Carolina.

    Economic conservatives (especially the Club for Growth) are pretty wary of both Santorum and Romney. I'm guessing they split.

    Pragmatists will call for everyone to back Romney, and prepare for the general.

  2. I think they rally around Romney he crushes New Hampshire and wraps it up with a big win in Florida. As someone who follows Arizona politics pretty closely, Romney's picked up endorsements from a ton of party leaders here who are both fiscally and socially extremely conservative (even the non LDS ones). While that's not a perfect model for the rest of the country's party leaders, it shows that his rather progressive record as Governor and countless "conversions" don't really count against him.

  3. Hard to know for sure. Romney's strange primary journey points to two distinct motivations driving leaders' endorsements. The first we routinely discuss: pushing for a preferred candidate. The second is perhaps as important: confirming one's status as an influential party operative.

    This second motive likely explains reticence to endorse Romney, in spite of a lack of decent alternatives (apologies to Ron Paul). Especially interesting is the seeming lack of a smoking gun: it seems there's no Rielle Hunter or Donna Rice waiting in the wings, no reflection in US News about war crimes while in captivity, so what are the big money players nervous about? Obamneycare? Liberalism? Mormonism? The unlikeability of a self-financed candidate?

    Seems like there isn't much precedent for an underendorsed frontrunner like Romney; if anyone's interested, there's probably a lot to learn from the Romney experience about how "maintenance of personal equity" interacts with "getting the candidate you want" in driving the endorsement decisions of big party players.

  4. Maybe we can assume that party activists and leaders are as bored by Romney as the whole rest of the world. They may suffer the further burden of having more intimately, and over a long period, observed how he operates and what he is. Add in the factors of a supposedly anti-establishment year, and a justly reviled, so far rather easily dismissed set of competitors. Anyone who comes out too strongly for Mitt risks riling up the True Conservatives, against him and even worse against themselves, for no real reason.

    Maybe the Tea Party will continue to fade out, and they'll get something closer to a generic Republican, perceived as relativley safe, able to take advantage of a favorable political-economic conjuncture, if indeed that's what arises. Considering the field, that's about the best they can hope for.

  5. This morning Andrew Sullivan connected to a New Yorker piece (tag: "Are Jon Huntsman's daughters helping his 2012 campaign?"), with a link that reporters are "quite taken" with the daughters.

    Of course they are! Who wouldn't be taken by the ritually inappropriate conduct of the Ivy-educated offspring of a well-connected, powerful family? That sort of thing goes down really well for those who see society in terms of class warfare.

    It may also help explain why Huntsman has had no boomlet, even though he would seem to be the only other candidate meeting the rational criteria CK laid out in his second paragraph above. In the quest to retain one's status as Important Arbiter of Conservative Thought, a key consideration must be not to be blindsided.

    So sure, maybe McCain really wet-started that fighter jet which led to 168 deaths on the USS Forrestal. And he did admit to trading sensitive information for surgery once captured. And Gingrich has that terrible track record of bad management. But those things are all well-known, the power-broker can credibly claim to be endorsing net of those data points (which, at least in McCain's case, no one cared about anyway).

    But who knows what surprisingly crazy shit Huntsman's family would pull if he boomlets to the top? If this is accurate, it potentially says something interesting about Romney: two decades after his first national race, after a lifetime in the public eye, he still feels like a somewhat unknown commodity. Is he a liberal? Alien pod person? Etc.

    There's probably an unusual potential for new embarrassment in a Romney endorsement. He'll be widely endorsed when he proves himself safe, which may be never.

  6. Is Romney not widely endorsed? It's true that very many Republicans are holding back from an endorsement of anyone, but that's not unusual. Romney has several times more quality of endorsement (in volume terms) than the rest of the field put together...

  7. Tybalt, AFAICT you're right that the majority of endorsements thus far have come Romney's way. However, the absolute number of endorsements is unprecedentedly low at this stage in the race.

    Further, the endorsements that have come Romney's way point to another wrinkle in the "Establish One's Equity as an Influential Player" aspect of making an endorsement; namely, that the cost-benefit assessment is not at all similar for all potential endorsers.

    Who has notably endorsed Romney? Christine O'Donnell, Nikki Haley, folks like that? If W or Rush Limbaugh or some such announced their endorsement on the same day as O'Donnell or Haley, would anyone care what O'Donnell or Haley said?

    For fringier members of the establishment, there's upside to risking an early endorsement of Romney, since they gain a first-mover advantage if he gets the nomination, and they don't really have all that much cachet to lose if he implodes.

    In summary, not a lot of Romney endorsements, and the ones that we've seen probably say more about the strategic positioning of the endorsers than the attractiveness of Romney's candidacy.

  8. I think Republican leaders rally around Romney. Neither Santorum nor Ron Paul are plausible as President, while Romney clearly is. Santorum is too aggressive in his social conservatism, would likely run significantly worse among suburban women (a key swing constituency) than Romney. The sooner Romney raps up the nomination, the more quickly the Republican Party can prepare for what seems likely to be a close and fiercely contested general election.


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