Posts Tagged ‘2012 presidential election’
October 18th, 2012 at 1:42 pm
Real Hope from Gallup
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From today’s installment of Ben Domenech’s The Transom:

The Gallup likely voter screen now has Mitt Romney leading President Obama 51-45.  No candidate who’s had a majority in the Gallup LV poll at this point has lost the election. Which means that if Romney does become the first to lose, it will be due to a late-breaking October surprise, or because Obama’s team outworks them on the ground in key swing states.

Buckle your seat belts, folks. The next few weeks are going to get very exciting.

October 17th, 2012 at 6:18 pm
Another Take on This Week’s Debate
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I have a slightly different take on last night’s debate than Quin. Like my colleague, I thought that Romney’s performance was serviceable, though I won’t go so far as to say he ‘won.’ Truth be told, I don’t think either candidate did much to improve their standing with the small slice of the electorate that still remains undecided, as that group tends to prize style over substance and the constant sniping between the two candidates probably left the swing voters cold to the political process as a whole (that tendency also worked at cross-purposes with both campaigns’ efforts to win over female voters, who are notoriously averse to that kind of incivility).

I also saw a missed opportunity last night, but it wasn’t Obamacare (where I think Romney is unavoidably uncomfortable); it was Libya, where he completely botched an opportunity to call Obama out on his administration’s meandering, thumbless response to the attack in Benghazi (damage that was compounded by moderator Candy Crowley inappropriately — and incorrectly — intervening to agree with Obama that he had framed the assault as a terrorist attack from the beginning).

After the first debate, sources inside the Romney campaign made it known that they had encouraged the candidate to speak in a natural tone — as if he were addressing a group of investors — rather than memorizing sound bites and talking points. It worked for Romney as long as the topic was the economy, where he is in his element. But I hope that the team in Boston encourages a little more thoughtful planning as we head towards Monday night’s foreign policy debate.

Romney has never shown a particularly deep interest in — or understanding of — foreign policy, a trait which I’ve noted in the past could be a potential liability (though his instincts are, of course, far preferable to Obama’s). While I think next week’s debate will easily be the least consequential of the three (both because it’s last chronologically, and because foreign policy will not be a central issue of this campaign), Romney still can’t afford to be as lost at sea as he was at the end of last night’s town hall. Time to hit the briefing books.

October 9th, 2012 at 5:18 pm
Obama Wants the Job — He Just Doesn’t Want to Work for It
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Over at Ricochet, I have my take on the growing meme that President Obama doesn’t really want a second term. My take is different: he wants it all right, but his appetite for prestige and power is tempered by his disdain for the mechanics of the job:

Obama considers it an affront when people fail to accept his brilliance as a given. The man has simply never had to win on the merits. Like most professionals who manage to trade exclusively on personality, he has rocketed to the level of his incompetence. And now, when people actually question him, the sense of righteousness that has calcified around an unchallenged ideology has left him at a loss to construct a rejoinder: how, after all, do you debate someone trapped in false consciousness? Barack is still trying to figure out how to tell us that we’re only staring at shadows on the cave wall.

Read the whole thing here.

October 3rd, 2012 at 11:43 pm
Romney Lands an Utter Triumph
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I’ll have more thoughts about this evening’s debate in my column this week, but for now let me just say this: At the rate this one went, I expected it to end with Romney handing Obama a sword and saying “you know what to do.”

September 26th, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Advice Mitt Should Take
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Since we’ve all formed a little cottage industry around providing unsolicited advice to the Romney campaign, I thought it worthwhile to pass along this recommendation from my friend and Ricochet colleague Ben Domenech, writing in today’s installment of his news digest, The Transom (probably the best daily rundown in the nation).

Ben notes the conventional wisdom that the presidential debates (the first of which takes place a week from today) are likely Romney’s last chance to change the trajectory of the race and devises a helpful bit of jiu-jitsu for Mitt to employ:

Romney’s style as a debater is aggressive and that may serve him well – in debates, the first person to appear thin-skinned usually loses – and he’ll have an opportunity to bring that out in response to Obama’s woe-is-me talk, blaming Bush and the Republican Congress for everything under the sun, saying something along the lines of:

“In the private sector, one of the things I did was invest in companies. I learned a lot about how jobs are created, but I also learned a lot about leadership. One of the things I had to do when we got involved with a company was evaluate its leadership and see if it needed a change. And let me tell you, if I got involved with a company that was losing money and jobs hand over fist and piling up debt like there was no tomorrow, and I found out the CEO had been in the job four years and still spent most of his time blaming his predecessor and his co-workers, I’d fire him and get somebody in there who could get results.”

A response like this, besides being one virtually guaranteed to tick off Obama, makes the whining look petty and small. But it would also do something else, too: workers of all types, but particularly blue-collar workers, resent the idea of the incompetent senior management which survives pain while they bear the brunt of it. Romney should do his utmost to speak for those who demand accountability and turn his negative role as one of the suits into an advantage.

Mitt Romney: corner office hero of the working man? If he employed Ben’s tactic, he just might be able to pull it off.

August 20th, 2012 at 9:00 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Important Campaign Issues
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 13th, 2012 at 12:17 pm
The Ryan Pick
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Count me pleasantly surprised by Saturday’s announcement that Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. Given the risk-averse nature the Romney campaign had demonstrated up to this point, I was expecting the choice to be bland and uninspiring — my foremost guesses having been Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty (for what it’s worth, multiple reports seem to indicate that Romney’s final choice came down to those two and Ryan). Ryan, who truly has been the intellectual leader of the Republican Party for the past several years, is a vastly superior choice to either of those two.

I have no idea how the politics of this play out. It seems to me that the fears that liberal demagoguery of the Ryan budget could cost Romney Florida are well-founded, given the state’s huge population of seniors. Minus the Sunshine State, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Romney becomes the 45th President of the United States in January. I also remain skeptical that, even with Ryan on the ticket, Wisconsin will elude Obama’s grasp this time (I hope I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that the conservative commentariat has been excessively enthusiastic about prospects for flipping the Badger State ever since the Scott Walker recall).

These are not causes for despair necessarily, but cautionary notes as we begin the campaign in earnest after Labor Day. The Romney campaign — not known heretofore for its exceptional messaging skills — has just given itself perhaps the most daunting communications task in the history of modern American presidential elections. This election will no longer be a backwards-looking discussion about Barack Obama’s stewardship of the American economy over the past four years; instead it will be a 90-day symposium about what the “social contract” (a phrase I loathe, but one that will carry the day) will look like in 21st Century America.

The advantage that Romney and Ryan have is that their vision — reining in spending, empowering individuals, reducing the debt, and reasserting individual responsibility — is the only one that is viable in the long-term. The advantage that Obama and Biden have is that their vision — an unsustainable status quo that cossets Americans from responsibility and hides the calamitous costs of the welfare state — is much less psychologically disruptive, a trait that (sadly) goes a long way in winning over a substantial portion of the electorate.

The stakes of this election have just become enormous. This is no longer about whether Mitt Romney will become president or not. It’s now about whether the conservative vision for arresting America’s decline will receive popular ratification. And there are only 12 weeks to make the case. With the smartest, most articulate defender of the conservative alternative now on the ticket, we’re about to run out of excuses. If we can’t win this time, the resultant chaos will make the aftermath of the 2008 election look like a garden party.

July 23rd, 2012 at 4:43 pm
Obama Seems to Think He Can Court Military Vote, But Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Romney.
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Today, Barack Obama courts veterans with a speech in Reno, Nevada to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  According to one report, Obama seems to think that he can improve on the 44% support he received in 2008 against celebrated veteran John McCain:

The new initiative is the latest effort by Mr. Obama to focus on veterans, a group he addresses frequently in both official White House events and on the campaign trail. In 2008, exit polls showed that 15% of all voters had served in the military, and Mr. Obama won 44% of their votes, an improvement from Democrat John Kerry’s performance in 2004. This year, the Obama campaign believes he may have a better chance with this group, in part because he is running against former Gov. Mitt Romney, who like Mr. Obama never served in the military, unlike his 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain, a war hero.”

According to a new survey, however, this appears to be yet another electoral dud for Obama.  Rasmussen reports that among military veterans, Obama trails Romney 59% to 35%.  Perhaps at some point Obama will recognize the inverse relationship between his support among veterans and the fact that they’re “a group he addresses frequently.”

Regardless, if it’s this bad for Obama now, imagine what might happen when Romney actually starts matching Obama’s campaign spending burn rate.

July 9th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
Playing the Electoral College Game, or, CFIF’s Version of Fantasy Football
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I was intrigued by Quin’s post late last week about the potential for a tie between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the Electoral College — because I had recently run the numbers and come up with the exact same outcome.

Our analyses are very similar, though not exactly the same. Here’s the way I broke it down:

Safe Obama States — California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C. (which, don’t forget, has 3 electoral votes), New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine (all votes — Maine is proportional). Grand total of 196 electoral votes

Safe Romney States — Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska (all votes — Nebraska is proportional as well), Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia. Grand total of 170 Electoral votes.

Toss-Ups I Give to Obama: Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania. Grand total of 73 electoral votes

Toss-Ups I Give to Romney: Nevada, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire. Total of 99 electoral votes.

The end result: 269-269. The same logjam that Quin reported, with each candidate a single vote shy of victory.

A few thoughts on the toss-ups: I give Colorado and New Mexico to Obama because the growing Hispanic demographic in both of those states is bolstering Democrats and diluting those states’ former allegiance to Mountain West libertarianism (Democrats have also done a bang-up job of organizing Colorado). Wisconsin will be close and I can see it flipping, but — unlike a lot of the conservative commentariat — I don’t necessarily believe that the Walker recall election presages a Romney win; Badger State voters may be compartmentalizing more than the pundits give them credit for (something the exit polling seemed to suggest).

I think Obama takes Michigan because Romney’s rather thin biographical attachment to the state won’t be able to trump Obama’s relentless touting of all he did for Detroit with the auto bailout. Virginia stays close, but goes to Obama because the army of government employees now calling D.C.’s Northern Virginia suburbs home gives him the margin of victory. Pennsylvania is always overrated as a swing state. It’s been reliable for Democrats in presidential elections for decades and the fact that it elected a Republican governor and senator in 2010 has no more bearing on the electoral vote than does the election of statewide Democrats in Montana or West Virginia, two states that will still reliably go for Romney.

I think Romney will generally perform well in the Midwest. The combination of the Obama Administration’s poor economic record and its limousine liberalism (neither of which have anything to offer to the sorts of blue-collar voters who are key in the region) may have a catalytic effect on swing voters, giving Romney Indiana (which, unlike 2008, I don’t anticipate being close), Iowa, and Missouri. Ohio promises to be very close, but I think those same factors may give him a slight edge there. The biggest factor Romney needs to guard against in this part of the country is the Obama campaign’s relentless attempts to use his work at Bain to characterize him as an enemy of lunchbucket workers.

Unlike Virginia (where the D.C. suburbs are, in cultural terms, essentially another state), North Carolina still has all the cultural markings of a Southern electorate. Obama squeaked by there last time under the best of circumstances. I doubt he’ll be able to repeat that feat with his record in tow. Nevada shares demographic factors with New Mexico and Colorado (it also boasts a large union presence because of the abundance of service employees in Las Vegas). But there’s a big Mormon contingent in the state that will be characteristically well-organized and may be able to push Romney over the edge.

Finally, Florida and New Hampshire. These two are the toughest. Florida comes down to a gut check on my part. It is, in many respects, the ultimate swing state. Here, the fact that a Republican governor and senator were elected in 2010 is relevant. This one could be incredibly tight, but I’m inclined to give ties to Romney given the unhappiness with Obama’s performance. As for New Hampshire, its libertarian political culture couldn’t be more different from the rest of New England. That, combined with the fact that Romney was the governor of a neighboring state (part of southern New Hampshire is in the Boston media market) and has a home in Wolfeboro are salient. Republicans have been rolling in New Hampshire of late and I can see Romney picking this one up on election day.

June 15th, 2012 at 9:53 am
Podcast: The Future of the Supreme Court
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In an interview with CFIF, Clint Bolick, Hoover Institution fellow and leading legal expert, discusses how the judiciary is up for grabs this presidential election and his latest book, “Two-Fer: Electing a President and a Supreme Court.”

Listen to the interview here.

June 14th, 2012 at 11:59 am
Kyl vs. Jindal — The Tiebreaker
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Quin makes a characteristically impressive case for why either Jon Kyl or Bobby Jindal would be great vice presidential choices for Mitt Romney. As my column last week made clear, I’m a Kyl man, but I’m certainly not immune to the charms of Jindal, one of the most effective Republican governors in the nation (for proof, see my recent praise for the education reforms Jindal is implementing in Louisiana).

Still, I think Kyl is the superior choice for Team Romney. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Capitol Hill Experience — With Romney never having held elected office in Washington, having a Vice President with preexisting influence and relationships in the Beltway would go a long way towards advancing his agenda. Jindal isn’t exactly a Washington unknown — he spent just under two years as an Assistant HHS Secretary in the Bush Administration and had a two-term stint in the House — but his background pales in comparison to Kyl, who’s been a member of Congress for 25 years. And with Kyl currently serving as Republican Whip in the Senate — the position responsible for counting votes — his skill set is uniquely suited for helping Romney get legislation through Congress.

2. Foreign Policy Experience — Kyl has become a major figure on foreign policy in recent years, leading Republican opposition to both the New START Treaty and the Law of the Sea Treaty (both of which he has been right on, IMHO). Jindal has no commensurate experience. For Romney, who is also a foreign policy neophyte (and whose foreign policy pronouncements — identifying Russia as the nation’s largest security concern and threatening a trade war with China, for instance — have been dotty at times), having someone of Kyl’s stature would flesh out the ticket in the area where the presidency confers the greatest power — and requires the greatest responsibility.

3. Playing the Number Two Role — Let’s stipulate up front that neither Kyl nor Jindal are electrifying speakers. Neither is going to bring to the ticket anything as energizing as Chris Christie’s blue collar pugnaciousness or Marco Rubio’s stirring eloquence. But while Kyl is steady and workmanlike, Jindal can come across awkward and uncomfortable in public appearances. This was famously the case with his 2009 response to President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress, a speech so widely panned that it’s thought to have delayed whatever presidential ambitions Jindal may have had by at least one election cycle. And while he hasn’t had a moment that bad since, Jindal can still be halting and uncomfortable when he appears on national television.

Personally, I’m inclined to give the guy a break on this. It’s obvious when you’re watching him that Jindal’s awkwardness is a function of his precociousness. This is the nice kid who’s always been the smartest in his class but has never quiet figured out social cues. That earnestness, however, will make it tough for him to play the traditional attack dog role of the number two on the ticket. Kyl, on the other hand, while hardly a demagogue, would be very effective employing the same strategy as Dick Cheney did as a vice presidential candidate — using his age and gravitas to dismiss Obama as callow and incompetent.

4. The Future — My own preference is for the vice presidency as a sort of emeritus post, reserved for senior statesmen whose presidential ambitions either (a) never existed or (b) are exhausted. That also prevents the VP’s political interests from clashing with those of the president, a situation which has caused many an unsettled White House in years past. Ideally, I’d like it to be a terminal position, which makes sense for Kyl, who is retiring from the Senate this year and has forsworn any further electoral ambitions.

Jindal, by contrast, just turned 41 and has a bright future ahead of him regardless of whether he gets tapped for the post or not. His current gubernatorial term lasts through January 2016, which would line him up well for a presidential run should Romney lose. Alternately, he could run against Democrat Mary Landrieu when her seat in the U.S. Senate comes up in 2014. In the interest of retaining Jindal as one of the party’s main leaders well into the future, these options seem preferable to me to marooning him in the vice presidency, which more often than not — barring presidential death or departure — puts an end to one’s career in elected office.

Regardless of whether you support Jindal, Kyl, or someone else, there’s one thing that has to be admitted about the veepstakes: Unlike this year’s presidential race, there’s an embarrassment of riches.

June 13th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
We Feel Your Pain … We’re Just Not Going to Do Anything About It
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Read between the lines and you’ll see that that’s the message democratic strategists are pushing on President Obama’s reelection team. Here’s how The Daily Caller‘s Stephen Elliot reports the advice being given by Democracy Corps’ James Carville and Stan Greenberg:

The current campaign is focused on success in the economic recovery, but Carville’s group says the strategy is “wrong” and “will fail.” The only reason Obama is keeping up in the campaign is because voters perceive Romney as “out of touch with ordinary people.”

The authors recommend that Obama show more empathy for the struggles of the middle class. “These voters want to know that he understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better,” according to the report.

… “These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction…and the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward,” continues the report.

In tests done as part of the focus groups, Obama campaign ads that highlight job growth and economic recovery during the last four years did not even win over voters who already supported Obama.

That last line is telling: if even Obama’s most fervent admirers aren’t buying his pitch on the economy, just imagine how turned off all-important swing voters will be in the fall. Are we really to believe that they’ll be brought back to the fold just because Obama all of a sudden becomes “empathetic,”acting as if he stays up nights worried about people who’ve been forced to start buying generic brand breakfast cereals?

Let me register a radical sentiment: I give no more of a damn about whether the president sympathizes with my economic plight than I do whether my plumber is moved by the hardship I have to endure when there’s not enough hot water. In both cases, the sentiment is the same: fix the problem and then leave me well enough alone. My suspicion is that the rest of the country is increasingly feeling the same way. We’ll see in November.

April 10th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
Romney Enjoying 60 Percent Approval Rating … Amongst Romney Advisers
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So ubiquitous is coverage of presidential candidates in this 24-hour news cycle era — and so pervasive is the numbness that results — that it’s easy to lose sight of some truly bizarre developments in this year’s election cycle; developments that have seen their novelty rusted away by saturation coverage.

Among them: the signature achievement in the political career of Mitt Romney, the almost certain Republican nominee for president (especially with Rick Santorum leaving the race today), is so deeply unpalatable to conservatives that it even divides his advisers. Consider this, from Politico:

Two of the five members of [Mitt] Romney’s recently announced Health Care Policy Advisory Group have a record of opposition to his Massachusetts health care reform plan.

Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a new addition to Romney’s advisory team, wrote in late 2010 that Romney’s plan has resulted in a dramatic increase in insurance costs for small businesses.

He also said it’s “no secret” that the state plan was the “template” for President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.

Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and another new Romney health adviser, was sharply critical of Romney’s health plans in 2007 while Atlas was supporting New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

“Mitt Romney’s legacy is the creation of a multibillion dollar government health bureaucracy that punishes employers and insists middle income individuals either purchase health insurance or pay for their own health care,” Atlas told reporters. “The former is a mandate, the latter is a tax and neither one is free market.”

Lest the point be oversold, we should note that past Republican nominees have accessorized their necks with similar albatrosses. John McCain, for instance, was the co-author of a federal campaign finance law loathed by conservatives because it is inimical to political free speech. But there’s still a slight difference: Romney’s policy liability deals with one of the defining issues of the election he’ll be running in — and it also happened to be the intellectual predicate for his opponent’s crowning legislative achievement.

Virtually all the energy that has animated the conservative movement over the last three years — energy best exemplified by the Tea Party — has come in reaction to Obamacare and the government overreach it represents. Now the Republican Party will march into electoral battle behind the progenitor of that intrusion. We live in strange times.

February 15th, 2012 at 4:10 pm
Negative Campaigning … in Context
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When weeks at a time pass between primary contests, the media — long on time to fill and short on content with which to fill it — has a magnetic attraction to hand-wringing about the civility deficit in American politics. As this brilliant video from Reason shows, however, the caterwauling is ahistorical:

January 24th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
The Nub of Romney’s Problem
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Writing today in Politico, Reagan biographer (and now Newt Gingrich chronicler) Craig Shirley gets to the very heart of the difficulty Mitt Romney faces in trying to persuade a Republican electorate desperate for an epochal shift in a party that they (rightly) perceive to have been insufficiently inattentive to limited government:

The former Bain Capital chief is the elitist heir to Rockefeller and the malapropistic heir to Ford and George H. W. Bush. Watching Ford speak extemporaneously was like watching a drunk cross an icy parking lot — and the same can be said for the exuberantly monosyllabic man from Massachusetts…

No one goes around calling themselves a Nixon Republican or a Ford Republican or a Bush Republican. But plenty now proudly call themselves Goldwater Republicans and Reagan Republicans.

One need not share Shirley’s enthusiasm for Gingrich to recognize the sagacity of his diagnosis of Romney. It’s not that conservatives don’t want a manager. It’s just that they want so much more. At this moment in our history — when all sense of principled restrictions on the power of the federal government seem to be eroding — they want someone to draw a line in the sand. Convincing conservative voters that he’s the man for that job is probably beyond Mitt Romney’s ability. To remain a serious candidate, however, he’ll at least have to convince them that he’s not a closet sympathist for their ideological adversaries within the party.

January 17th, 2012 at 10:42 am
Newt’s Criticism of Romney Would’ve Disqualified Ronald Reagan
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Increasingly desperate, Newt Gingrich has hurled a spaghetti bowl of slurs against Mitt Romney in the hope that something will stick.  Curiously, one strand includes the following quote to a South Carolina audience:  “Why would you want to nominate the guy who lost to the guy who lost to Obama?”

That illogic, however, could have just as easily been used against Ronald Reagan in 1980 by his own Republican opponents.  After all, Reagan lost the 1976 Republican nomination race to Gerald Ford, who obviously went on to lose to Carter.  “Why,” they might have asked, “would you want to nominate the guy who lost to the guy who lost to Jimmy Carter?”  At this point, Newt’s attacks resemble a food fight more than principled defense of his own candidacy.

January 9th, 2012 at 5:54 pm
How the Republican Candidates Fall Short
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The ever-perceptive Michael Barone is out with a new piece today chronicling — in his trademark even-handed style — the weaknesses of the various Republican presidential candidates (Barone makes clear up front that this isn’t an attack piece, just an attempt to balance their professed strengths with the demerits they try to obscure). My favorite is his judgment of Jon Huntsman, who hasn’t been able to break through with conservative voters despite the fact that he had a serviceable record as Governor of Utah:

Jon Huntsman, even more dependent on a breakout in New Hampshire than Santorum, has a different weakness. His disdainful dismissal of other Republicans, even more than his service as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, has antagonized many conservatives.

That’s it in a nutshell. Attitudes matter just as much as — if not more than — positions. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and Huntsman’s decision to curry favor with the media by running down the conservative base in the early days of his campaign can’t be ameliorated by the virtues of his positions on taxes, education, or abortion in Salt Lake City.

Where I think Barone gives us a genuinely new insight is in his read of Mitt Romney:

His weakness is that he never experienced the cultural revolution of the 1960s and so sounds corny and insincere. So far, that hasn’t been disabling.

Here, I think Barone dramatically oversimplifies. The sense of insincerity has a lot to do with Romney’s ideological elasticity, which has seen him seemingly take every side of every issue at some point in his career. But the cultural point is still well-taken. Barack Obama is the ultimate postmodern president — cool, detached, ironic in the fashion of those who spend too much time on college campuses, and utterly solipsistic. It’s a long way from there to Romney, who seems like the buttoned up father figure on a black and white sitcom. But while the former Massachusetts Governor is far from the ideal corrective to the current occupant of the White House, there’s no doubt that a president who seems pried from “Leave it to Beaver” is preferable to one whose entire political career seems like an extended audition for “The Real World”

January 4th, 2012 at 4:05 pm
A Word of Caution on Santorum
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Quin is effusive below about Rick Santorum’s win last night in Iowa (yes, technically he lost by by eight votes, but that’s a win given the context). There’s good reason to celebrate. Santorum’s late surge in Iowa was truly remarkable and his speech last night was probably the best given by any candidate in the last year. This is Santorum operating at the peak of his powers. Unfortunately for him, the peak of his powers won’t be enough to carry him to the nomination. Here’s why:

— Iowa is a unique electoral atmosphere and one that is particularly well-suited to a candidate like Santorum. It has a surplus of social conservatives (particularly evangelicals) for whom Santorum’s emphasis on faith and family was dispositive — as it was for Mike Huckabee in 2008. The demographic makeup of the next few key primary states won’t be nearly as kind to him.

— Santorum’s timing in Iowa was impeccable. He surged in the closing days of the race, when there were no debates left and when media coverage (and, more importantly, media consumption) was at something of a standstill because of the holidays. Thus, Santorum has undergone far less vetting than anyone else in the race. When that process begins — which was probably about twelve hours ago — it will expose some of his intrinsic difficulties, such as his history with the K Street Project and his long history of big government conservatism.

— Santorum was able to campaign in Iowa like he was running for governor, visiting all 99 counties and hosting nearly 400 town halls over the course of the last year. He did it on a shoestring budget, too, traveling in a pickup truck with one staffer and shopping at Target. While one of Iowa’s great virtues is that it allows for exactly this kind of retail politicking, that window has now closed. Santorum did a year’s worth of work in Iowa. He’ll only have a week or two for each of the upcoming races.

No doubt, Santorum will be a far bigger figure than many pundits (myself included) imagined in coming weeks. His Iowa win, however, has all the hallmarks of an anomaly rather than the beginning of a trend. And that fact — combined with the inability of conservatives to rally around any one candidate — will have Mitt Romney smiling all the way to the GOP Convention in Tampa.

December 20th, 2011 at 8:49 pm
Thomas Sowell Endorses Newt Gingrich
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Newt Gingrich has had a rough time of it the past week or so. The press is all over him for his hard-line stance on the federal judiciary (including abolishing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), his poll numbers are slipping, and some of the brightest lights in the conservative commentariat (including Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, and George Will) have been taking him out to the rhetorical woodshed.

Newt’s due a little holiday cheer then, and it comes in the form of Thomas Sowell’s new column, which essentially provides an endorsement from one of conservatism’s leading intellectuals. Sowell begins with the premise I expressed in an October column. I wrote at the time:

It represents a healthy political idealism for Republicans to search for the second coming of Ronald Reagan. But it’s a bit tiresome when they become inconsolable at his absence. Reagan was of a class alone, not only in his combination of political skills and ideological bearings, but also in the way that his abilities uniquely met his moment in history.  Cursing the whole enterprise just because you can’t find his carbon copy is akin to writing off a Super Bowl win because you didn’t have a perfect season.

Sowell applies this principle to the Gingrich candidacy:

Do we wish we had another Ronald Reagan? We could certainly use one. But we have to play the hand we were dealt. And the Reagan card is not in the deck.

While the televised debates are what gave Newt Gingrich’s candidacy a big boost, concrete accomplishments when in office are the real test. Gingrich engineered the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 40 years — followed by the first balanced budget in 40 years. The media called it “the Clinton surplus” but all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, and Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

Speaker Gingrich also produced some long overdue welfare reforms, despite howls from liberals that the poor would be devastated. But nobody makes that claim any more.

Did Gingrich ruffle some feathers when he was Speaker of the House? Yes, enough for it to cost him that position. But he also showed that he could produce results.

In a world where we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available, the question is whether Newt Gingrich is better than Barack Obama — and better than Mitt Romney.

Sowell is certainly an outlier amongst the right-leaning intelligentsia. The question now is whether he’ll also be in the minority when it comes time to vote.

December 9th, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Generic Congressional Ballot Undermines Obama Campaign Strategy
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Here’s something that continually puzzles me.

Media figures, often suggesting hope as much as sober analysis, counter Barack Obama’s terrible standing in opinion polls by pointing out that Congressional Republicans are even less popular.  The first problem, of course, is that Obama’s opponent in November 2012 won’t be named “Congressional Republicans.”  Secondly, animosity toward Congress is typically uncentered, as illustrated by the fact that incumbents maintain phenomenal reelection records even in anti-incumbent years.  In other words, people walking into the voting booth seem to think, “Congress is full of bums, but my Representative is OK.”

But here’s another point nobody seems to highlight.  If Congressional Republicans are so unpopular, or constitute such a nice foil for Obama, why is it that they consistently outperform Congressional Democrats in public esteem?  Take a look at this accumulated record of Rasmussen polling on the matter.  Since January 2010, the earliest date Rasmussen lists, Congressional Republicans have not trailed Congressional Democrats in voter preference even once.  Obama can’t seek a job extension based upon his performance record, but the reality is that this particular strategy might not be any more promising.