Thursday, February 9, 2012


So we're almost 48 hours out from Rick Santorum's shocker big day and...where are the new endorsements? Has anyone seen any?

Look -- we know how this works. Endorsements are a good indication of what party actors are thinking. And after Iowa -- and so far, after Minnesota/Colorado -- what they're thinking seems to be: no thanks.

On paper, at least to me, this seems like an easy call, and it has ever since the first Santorum surge in the week leading up to Iowa. If you believe that Mitt Romney can't be trusted to act as a conservative if elected (and that seems like a plausible view and at any rate is certainly one that a lot of very vocal conservatives have made), then you need to support someone else. Not Huntsman, surely. Not Perry, at least not after Iowa. Not Gingrich -- he's just as untrustworthy as Romney, and is surely a far worse general election candidate than any of the others. Not Paul. That leaves Santorum.

And yet, here we are. There was no rush to endorse him after Iowa...some evangelicals eventually met to do so, but it was hardly a ringing, forceful case made. Roll Call's Congressional endorsement watch has collected  a grand total of 3 -- 3! -- endorsements, all Members of the House from Pennsylvania. The Washington Post endorsement tracker has two for Santorum, James Dobson and Iowa's Bob Vander Plaats.

These people must know that by sitting back and watching, they're basically sanctioning a Mitt Romney nomination. So either they really don't mind that -- or they have something against Rick Santorum. My increasing guess is that it's the former; they've chosen Romney, but are unwilling to attach their names to him. If that's true, it may mess up the data set for the Party Decides authors, but what's happening is basically what they (and I) expect: party actors collectively settled on a nominee. And it appears as though they'll be able to make it stick.


  1. Yahbut -- this:

    1. It's interesting to see DKos propose a theory that the conservative Robert Stacy McCain mulled over the other day. It doesn't seem plausible to me. Even if we discount all the poli-sci "party decides" material valued on this blog, I doubt either Gingrich or Santorum wants to form an alliance with the other to take down Mitt. Gingrich is too impulsive and egomaniacal, and I suspect Santorum really prefers Romney over Gingrich, if he was forced to choose. At one of the South Carolina debates, he pretty much described Gingrich as a loose cannon who would make a terrible general-election candidate.

  2. Santorum has a knack for expressing his social conservatism in a way that would make it difficult to beat Obama. I heard him on Boston talk radio just prior to NH talking about his opposition to birth control and why his family doesn't practice it. Even for NH social conservatives, I imagine that was TMI.

  3. Caveat: CPAC. With the long window we're entering here, if I wanted my endorsement of frothy mixture to have the biggest impact, I'd make it at CPAC. And, if I had a speaking slot on Saturday, I'd wait until then.

    So, while I'm in total agreement, wait until the end of CPAC. By then the silence will be deafening.

  4. Santorum holds extreme social conservatives views that the vast majority of Catholics and Republicans don't agree with. His statement that birth control "is not OK" puts him at odds with almost every demographic you can think of.

    He is simply unelectable on the national stage because of his extremism.

    The Republican machine won't go for that. And besides, they want Romney, no matter what actual Republican voters want.


    1. I theorize that below the level of most people's awareness, they remember that there was something unpleasant about Santorum, and yeah, didn't he lose one of his elections by a big margin?

      Once someone starts reminding them why Santorum lost his seat, his potential support will shrink to the hard social conservatives who support these views.

  5. I think that Romney would have even more endorsements from Republican members of both houses of Congress except for fear by some members than an early endorsement of Romney might lead to a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate. Romney is unlikely to campaign in the general election on issues that have the support of less than 45% of the electorate, while Santorum and Gingrich are likely to do so. For a Republican incumbent concerned mainly with his own re-election, that makes Romney the preferred candidate, whatever his other weaknesses.

  6. Had an insight tonight: maybe the reason the polisci canon sees Romney as sure nominee is due to faulty generalization from the particular; that is, in cases like this candidates like Romney win easily, though in this particular case there's an obvious, unique flaw in the Romney candidacy - assuming one looks for it, of course.

    Surely everyone in this audience knows about the Republican L, that collection of states in the Mountain West and Confederate South that Republicans must just about sweep to win the WH. Republicans have often had little difficulty holding the Republican L the past 50 years or so; Candidate Romney arguably throws a major wrench in that system.

    Break the Republican L down into a vertical and horizontal axis; the vertical axis (Mountain West, somewhat-Mormon states) loves the guy. The horizontal axis (Evangelical confederate south) pretty much loathes him. With me so far?

    "Loved on the vertical, hated on the horizontal" is a particularly toxic combo for the GOP for at least two reasons:
    1) The Mountain West has been voting for non-Mormon/non-Western GOP candidates for years; the confederate south is always a heartbeat away from leaving the tent if not indulged (see Bauer, Gary).
    2) There are way more EVs in the confederate south than the Mountain West.

    So if we set the canon to one side for just a moment, and in a purely abstract sense ask if the GOP would rather have a "south-friendly" candidate (e.g. Huckabee) than a "west-friendly" one (e.g. Romney) it should be fairly obvious that the south-friendly one is preferable - and, indeed, the GOP has mostly gone that direction the past dozen cycles. Until now.

    Which leaves us in an unknown place: is silence from GOP leadership just reticence for eventual nominee Romney, or are they rather kicking the can down the road, hoping to luck into a way to get rid of the "toxic-in-Georgia" Romney without also jeopardizing Nevada?

    If its true that the GOP leadership has settled on Romney but is simply waiting, that begs the question...why would they do such a thing? There was a caucus in Minnesota the other night, friendly-Romney territory, and about 1% of the state's (relatively-liberal) GOP voters bothered to come out and support the (allegedly-desired-for-the-general) candidate Romney.

    If the GOP has settled on Romney - and they're waiting cause its fun to say Santorum or something - what the hell is wrong with them?

    1. "Candidate Romney arguably throws a major wrench in that system"

      Not nearly so much as candidate Gingrich or candidate Santorum does. Very few Republicans like Romney - especially this running-to-the-center version, rather than the run-to-the-right-of-McCain candidate we saw last time around.

      Romney's a dog, but his competition are donkeys at best. From a sell-the-candidate-to-America standpoint, they're more like slime molds. It's important, at this point, for the GOP not to crown Romney too early to avoid a realistic third-party/Tea-party junkie rocket car challenge, but other than that, I'm not seeing a lot of reasons to think that political people - for whom this sort of stuff is very important - are making any other choice but Romney.

  7. Here's how I see your argument: you are saying that the vast majority of GOP party actors actually support Romney because (1) Romney will win if these actors do not endorse someone else, (2) these party actors know that, and yet (3) they still haven't endorsed anyone else.

    That sounds circular to me. All I know about "The Party Decides" is from your blog, but my impression of its thesis is that party actors choose the nominee by coming to a consensus and exerting influence over donors, other elites, partisan media, etc., which in turn, filters down to the primary voters and caucus-goers. But how can that process get started if the party actors don't publicize their preference (i.e., make a public endorsement)?

    Another way to look at it: hypothetically, if no party actors endorsed anyone, the decision would be left to the individual primary voters and caucus-goers. I think that is a better explanation of what the silent party actors are trying to achieve by staying silent. They want to let the process run its course. They don't want to stand in the way of, say, a Santorum, if the voters actually prefer him over the course of the campaign. They are trying to remain neutral - and they don't want to piss anyone off by endorsing the eventual loser.

    You're saying the silent party actors have actually made their choice, because they know that Romney's nomination is inevitable if they remain silent. But surely (at least in the mind of party actors) we haven't yet reached the tipping point where Mitt is inevitable - because, at that point, party actors would have nothing to lose by endorsing him.

  8. Andrew raises a good point about party actors leaving the vote to the people; while I agree with the principle my hunch is that actors are not motivated by neutrality - there's just no other realistic way to get rid of Romney (assuming they wish to).

    It seems to me that Jonathan is absolutely correct about at least one thing: Romney has done everything necessary to be the presumptive nominee, at least by historical standards. If certain Romney-specific aspects leave him untenable in the broader Tent, folks not put off by said features should be fully behind Romney and ready to go.

    We amateurs certainly do not have as much info as the pros about Romney's having earned presumptive nominee status, but nevertheless if we've been around long enough we all recognize that Romney should be The Man. Imagine the Machine were suddenly to declare, "Hey look who we found! Jeb Bush! Jeb, come over here, it turns out that by obscure rule 36L-53B in the Republican Book of Witches/Election Guide, you're the nominee! Huzzah!" In that case Utah, a state which will likely not vote Democrat in the next 50 Presidential elections, would leave the Republicans to vote for bitter third-party Romney. Indeed, there's probably a dozen or more EVs out west that a miffed Mitt could easily take from the Republicans if so dissed.

    The Machine can't afford to fumble away those EVs, even as they may not wish to let Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and the like back in play if Mitt's carrying their banner. If they're going to get rid of Mitt, it has to be done delicately, so as not to agitate places like Utah, which believe that Romney has earned the right not to be gotten rid of.

    Perhaps this explains the silence. They want Mitt out, there's some idea of Santorum taking the Rust Belt and Gingrich the south, with maybe an arm-wrestling match or a parachuted white knight at the convention. But the Machine can never say any of this, because they're gonna need those dozen or so zealous Romney EVs in November.


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