Eunomia · February 2008


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I’m back from Washington, and I have an announcement for readers of the blog: Eunomia will be shifting over to The American Conservative’s site here.  This will be the last post at this site (the redirect will be set up soon), and all future Eunomia blogging will be at TAC.

Romney lost statewide, as we already knew, but more remarkable is the number of districts he has lost.  He lost many of them by thin margins, but that is not much consolation.  It appears that he has lost almost all, except the 21st, 49th and 52nd (which he has won) and possibly the 42nd, which is very close and has not finished reporting.  4 for 53 is not what I would call a successful outcome.  The 21st is a Republican-held district covering eastern Fresno County; the 42nd is Gary Miller’s district covering Orange and San Bernardino; the 49th is Darrell Issa’s northern San Diego district; the 52nd is Duncan Hunter’s district in San Diego.  In the 21st, 49th and 52nd, stalwart Giuliani voters who still backed the mayor saved Romney from losing those districts as well–Giuliani and McCain’s votes together there outnumber Romney’s.  “A vote for Giuliani is a vote for Romney”–I wonder why that one never caught on?  Meanwhile, some stalwart Thompson voters may have weakened Romney in at least four districts, if you assume that Thompson voters are likely Romney supporters (I am skeptical, but it is possible).  There is no way to spin this as anything other than a major defeat for Romney, for whom remaining competitive in district-by-district delegate allocation was vital. 

Remarkably, Huckabee only got 10% in Hunter’s district, while he received as much as 16% in the Democratic 43rd and 16% again in the 21st that Romney has won (as clear a sign that Huckabee is not siphoning off Romney votes as you can hope to find in California).  The pattern from the 21st seems to keep recurring in many of the other districts: where Huckabee scores well, McCain wins by smaller margins or fails to win and his share of the vote decreases, and where Huckabee is weaker McCain’s margins and share of the vote increase.  That is not true in every case, but this is what happened in many of the districts.  

Looking at the race nationally, I wonder when the anti-McCain movement figures will be sending a thank you note to Huckabee for keeping the race open for another couple of weeks.  Had McCain won the states Huckabee took last night, his lead would be almost insurmountable now.  As it is, there is still an outside chance of fighting on if McCain’s rivals were so inclined.

By Republican strategist Alex Vogel’s calculation, Mitt Romney is giving Gramm a run for his money. The former Massachusetts governor has spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination.

By contrast, Mike Huckabee’s campaign has been the height of efficiency. Delegates haven’t yet been officially apportioned, but roughly speaking, each $1 million spent by Huckabee has won him 20 delegates. ~The Trail

Maybe the Romney campaign needs to bring in some people from Bain Capital to advise them on how to stop these cost overruns and inefficiencies. 

It seems to me that this is hard to discern from exit polls.  First, the exit polls aren’t measuring why people voted one way or another, but which candidate they supported and which demographic groups they belong to, so the only thing we can know with any certainty is the level of support, or lack of support, from those groups assumed to be more likely to have reservations about Mormonism than others.  For instance, in Georgia, 72% of evangelicals voted for someone other than Romney.  Roughly the same held true in Illinois, and it appears that Romney did relatively better in Illinois overall than in Alabama because the evangelical bloc was a much smaller part of the electorate.  Given that polling has usually shown that about one third of evangelicals and at least a quarter of all demographic groups would not vote for a Mormon, this large vote for non-Romney candidates among evangelicals could be related to anti-Mormonism, but it is impossible to isolate that factor when other explanations are available.  Maybe the evangelicals who supported Huckabee identify with him, and those who supported McCain are drawn to the putative “front-runner” or they are impressed with his biography–who can say?  You would be able to find out only if you tried to get some answers about their reasons for voting one way or another. 

This is an inherently flawed way of assessing the existence of anti-Mormonism, and the only way to gauge it properly would be to ask voters rather rudely after they say they didn’t vote for Romney, “Hey, did you not vote for Romney because of his religion?”  Answering a pollster who asked you that might be difficult for many people, who don’t want to appear prejudiced (even if their opposition to Mormonism is based in disagreement and not prejudice), so even those results might be misleading.  As it is, we have no such information.  It certainly seems possible that among the 60-odd percent of voters who supported someone other than Romney there were many motivated at least partly by anti-Mormonism.  The point is that we can’t possibly know this based on information that does not even attempt to measure motivation.

As of 11:00 Central today, Romney has won just three primaries all year and all of them are effectively his “home turf.”  All of his other wins have been caucuses, many of them not strongly contested by his rivals. 

P.S. It’s hard to gauge the outcome from county results, but so far every county that has reported shows a strong showing for McCain and a fairly anemic Romney result.  It’s not out of the question that Romney wins few or no districts.

P.P.S.  Is it too early to call on Romney to drop out so that he stops splitting the conservative vote?  Maybe not.

By the way, if you’re wondering why New Mexico hasn’t started reporting results yet, it’s because the Democrats screwed up and set up too few polling places and had too few ballots available.  According to my folks back home, the wait to vote in Rio Rancho has been measured in hours.

Exits indicate that McCain will win the overall California vote.  Obviously, how it breaks down district by district will determine whether Romney has been utterly humiliated or simply beaten.  McCain is running strongest in central California, the Bay area and L.A. County, while Romney does best in southern California and the northern coast.  McCain’s margins in both L.A. County and the Bay area are larger than Romney’s in his best areas, which means that McCain may be more competitive in Republican-held districts than some expected.

P.S.  CNN has already called California for McCain.  So much for Romney’s late polling surge.

Of course, that doesn’t make any sense, but neither has the constant refrain from the Romneyites that a “vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain.”  This is the same line they tried once before when Giuliani was perceived as Romney’s major adversary.  What they can’t seem to grasp is that, at the very least, a vote for Huckabee is almost certainly a vote against Romney, and it also does not noticeably help McCain.  In every state that Huckabee has won tonight, except for West Virginia, McCain was in second, which suggests that Romney would have lost these states anyway, since a large portion of Huckabee’s voters seem to prefer McCain, which means that almost every Huckabee victory is a victory denied to John McCain.  Rejoice, ye anti-McCainists!  Your champion has arrived, and he is the one you cannot stand. 

Even a West Virginia win would have been consistent with Romney’s pattern, which seems to have been replicated in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota (and maybe Colorado): he wins caucuses that can be dominated by a heavily funded and well-organised campaign, but when it comes to winning over masses of voters he just can’t deliver.  His entire campaign has been geared towards appeasing activists and insiders, and yet he has the gall to wrap himself in a populist mantle.   

You have heard me going on about Huckabee’s potential in today’s election for some time, and it seems as if his campaign is delivering in the expected states, and even in a few where he wasn’t expected to do terribly well.  He has won Arkansas, Alabama and West Virginia, he is contending seriously for Georgia, Missouri and apparently even Minnesota, and he has a reasonable chance in Tennessee and Oklahoma.  Clearly, as the results are showing in many of these states, the viable non-McCain candidate is Huckabee, which is all the more remarkable considering how poorly funded his campaign is.  Had movement conservatives not thrown a fit and rejected Huckabee out of hand, they might have had a candidate who could stop McCain.  Continuing to belittle his campaign at this stage, as the “great” political maestro Mary Matalin is doing along with others, is something akin to insanity if stopping McCain is the goal.  At this point, Huckabee has no incentive to thwart McCain, and he has every reason to drop out once Romney is finished. 

Update: Ross asks the question:

Incidentally, if Romney throws in the towel after tonight - which is by no means impossible, depending on the outcome in California - and Huckabee doesn’t, will any of the McCain-haters on the right insist that all good conservatives need to rally around Huck?

Surprisingly, the answer will be no for almost all of them.  Having decided at some point that Huckabee is an unspeakable commie (when he is merely Bush redux with some better advisors), these people have already rejected any chance of striking a deal with Huck.  Just watch the same people who spent the last two weeks screaming about McCain’s treachery suddenly re-discover the man’s virtues when the alternative is the Huckster. 

Second Update: CNN called Oklahoma for McCain.  Exits indicate that Huckabee will win Tennessee and Georgia, but they also suggest that McCain will take Missouri.  Minnesota seems to be slightly less competitive than I first thought. 

This seemed remotely possible, but I never took his chances here seriously.  Yes, it is “just” a caucus state party convention, which exaggerates the level of support for the campaigns with the most dedicated activists, but even in an old border state Huckabee was able to mobilise enough Christian conservative support to win 52-47 over Romney.  This might be one of the few cases where Huckabee really did cost Romney a state.  That’s 18 delegates for Huckabee.

Update: Those are the second-round results (Paul had only 10% support after the first round and wasn’t included on the second ballot).  Romney was leading the first round, but almost all the McCain and some of the Ron Paul supporters rallied to Huckabee on the second ballot.  Given the options, I can’t blame them. 

Second Update: This is doubly distressing for Romney, since his campaign never anticipated a serious challenge from anyone else in West Virginia:

An interview with John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mitt Romney, made clear why he is expected to win easily.

“We have had the only organizational presence in West Virginia to speak of,” said John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mr. Romney. “It’s all Romney all the time.”

Romney’s been so busy fighting with Bob Dole that he has forgotten to watch out for Huckabee.  Again.  

See the over-confidence of Team Romney:

Mr. McCutcheon described an ambitious county-by-county ground operation, complete with phone-banking, direct mail and radio advertisements, compared to only modest efforts made by all the other candidates.

“Any presence that has come in has been last minute and skeletal,” he said about the other campaigns. 

So the “last minute and skeletal” operation beat out the well-funded, elaborate, ambitious ground game.  Again.

Third Update: Just to clarify, West Virginia has 30 delegates, nine of which will be awarded after their actual primary, plus three at-large delegates.  Huckabee has won all the delegates that were at stake at the convention, but conceivably he could lose the primary and fail to pick up the others.

Fourth Update: The Caucus describes Romney’s loss as a “significant setback.”  Via Freddoso, the Romney campaign whines about a “backroom deal” throwing the convention to Huckabee.  Romney’s camp said that this reflected McCain’s “inside Washington ways” (i.e., his people are better political operators than Romney’s).  It wasn’t really a “backroom deal,” but it was a second ballot at a convention.  Making deals with different factions at a convention is one of the things that happens at a political convention–it’s the kind of “scheming” that one needs to be able to do in the event that your side doesn’t carry the first ballot.  Ponnuru correctly calls this whining silly.   

Dole defended McCain to Limbaugh, and apparently Romney said this about the letter: 

It’s probably the last person I would have wanted write a letter for me. I think there’s a lot of folks who tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is bit like Bob Dole’s race. That it’s the guy who’s next in line, the inevitable choice.

McCain then played the military service card and called Romney’s mocking of Dole “disgraceful.”  McCain is overreaching because he knows he has Romney on the ropes, but this is the sort of unforced error that Romney keeps making because he is always trying so very hard to prove that he’s not some moderate squish.  He just doesn’t know when to stop.  McCain’s campaign is a lot like Bob Dole’s, and will probably meet the same fate in the general election, but when you’re seeking a party’s nomination it is usually a good idea to respect the former nominees.    

Since my predictions seem to ensure doom for whomever I select, I will do my bit to stop McCain by saying that he will win every state today except Utah and Alaska. 

When he sauntered back onto a flight on Saturday, he broke the ice with an unusual remark.

“What did they say in ‘Star Wars?’ ” he asked. “What’s that line? ‘There’s nothing happening here. These droids aren’t the droids you’re looking for.’ ”

Eric Fehrnstrom, his traveling press secretary, said it had actually been rendered: “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

“These are not the droids you’re looking for,” Mr. Romney said. “Sorry.” ~The New York Times

Does anyone else find it unusually strange that Romney is making offhand references to robots?  I would love to know the context of this remark–what would have prompted him to make it?

Campaigns can change who you are, particularly politically. ~Rick Santorum

Well, in that case, he’s picked the right candidate to endorse.  You have to admire how Santorum acknowledges that Romney started his campaign just by checking things off a list, but now is supposed to believe them.  His conviction must increase exponentially as his campaign approaches Election Day.

P.S.  I would just note for anyone holding out hope that Romney represents some meaningful break with the administration in foreign policy that Santorum, head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s “Enemies” Program to Protect America’s Freedom, thinks Romney is entirely on board with his views on Iran.  This would be the same Iran that Santorum believes is trying to conquer the world.  As Santorum put it:

He is someone who understood the issues and where he didn’t understand, was willing to listen and quickly able to assimilate the points I was making into things he already understood and saw the connection, saw how it fit.

The Romney campaign doesn’t pretend the sour attitude toward its candidate doesn’t exist. But chief counselor Ben Ginsberg insists— echoing one of the campaign’s main themes — the attitude stems largely from the fact that Romney is “the outsider candidate. He’s not from Washington and he’s going to change Washington. He’s not part of their club.” ~Ana Marie Cox

But that doesn’t really explain why so many people outside of Washington also dislike him.  Still, there is something to this, in that Romney isn’t exactly “part of their club,” but he acts like someone desperately craving an invitation and likes to refer to all of his newfound friends who have been in “the club” for years.  His sycophancy has won some supporters, but at the same time it has embarrassed many would-be supporters  and alienated others. 

It is also quite funny to see the campaign push the “outsider” theme, when virtually every Romney ad carries some positive blurb about him or a criticism of McCain from a conservative magazine or think tank located in the Beltway or in New York.  No other candidate has gone so far out of his way to ingratiate himself with establishment institutions as Romney has done.  What he and his campaign seem to be missing is that all the ingratiating and all of the things he has had to do in the process to win new friends in “the club” are off-putting not just to other “members” but to many others as well.  As I have suggested elsewhere, Romney is running as the ”change” candidate embraced by significant parts of the establishment while McCain has found himself running a status quo insurgency.  The former embraces and is supported by the administration’s friends, while the latter promises the perpetuation of virtually everything the administration has done.  The establishment prefers Romney because he appears to need them and they believe he will be dependent on them, but more importantly because, once they let him into the “club” or on the “team,” they think he will be reliable and predictable.  That he has completely altered his views on almost every policy question to gain this trust doesn’t seem to worry them.  

Strangely, I find myself agreeing with this Fred Siegel statement:

Only Clinton derangement syndrome can explain the alliance of so many otherwise thoughtful people of both parties who speak well of the candidacy of a man with scant knowledge of the world who has never been tested and has never run anything larger than a senatorial office.

If Obama were somehow able to win the nomination, which I still think unlikely, an Obama v. McCain contest would pit two proud non-managers against each other.  Where McCain talks of leadership (”I can hire managers,” he dismissively said to the Super-Manager Romney at the last debate), Obama prattles on about his vision for America, and both of them seem to take some satisfaction in eschewing detailed knowledge about major areas of policy.  “We’ve had plenty of plans, what we need is hope,” Obama said in an early DNC speech last year.  Where Obama drops hope into every other sentence, McCain uses the word victory.  For some reason, there are millions of people who hear this and don’t realise that this repetition of key words is an effort to cover up for lack of preparedness and lack of any idea how to accomplish the things on the candidate’s agenda (to the extent that he even has a clear agenda).  If we have an Obama v. McCain election, it will be one of the first times in recent memory that we have had two candidates vying for the leadership of a managerial state with little or no interest in managing.  Since people instinctively recoil from such a state, it is understandable why they would be drawn to candidates who appear to be different the usual staple of pols, but what they see as boldness or “maverick” instincts is really the result of people who are just making it up as they go along, always looking for the main chance to advance themselves.

Perhaps, but having a trio of “philosopher-bloggers” talk about the fortunes and future of the conservative intellectual movement is not blogging.  I will be at CPAC for an ISI-sponsored Friday panel from 1:00-3:00 in Congressional Room A.

P.S. It appears that the President will also be coming to CPAC on Friday.  That should be an interesting sight.

Several weeks ago, these forces decided to rally ’round Romney as their alternative. They picked the wrong horse. Had the movement conservatives gone with Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson, they would have had a better chance of derailing McCain. ~Jonathan Last

This is mostly right, and since the flaws of the Thompson campaign are legion and well-known it seems clear that rallying around Huckabee would have been the only conceivable way to halt McCain.  The problem, of course, is that the anti-Huckabee campaign made that impossible and it wasted precious time that could have been used in building up a specifically anti-McCain candidate.  As I have said before:

For those now fretting about the Return of McCain, I would note simply that it was the conservative establishment that managed to subvert Huckabee with their relentless campaign against him over the past six to eight weeks, and and it was the vanity campaign of Fred Thompson, which must now come to an end, that paved the way for McCain to win in South Carolina and so propel him towards the nomination.   

Many leading figures in the movement have declared themselves opposed to two candidacies, and these are the two that will probably win most of the delegates on Tuesday.  The one these people have backed–in some part because of his alleged “viability”–is failing.  The Huckabacklash effectively made it impossible to stop McCain, since the anti-Huckabee forces had already ruled him out as an instrument of their anti-McCainism.  Since many anti-McCain conservatives evidently loathe Huckabee even more, they will not be too upset by this.  Nonetheless, when you hear a great wailing and gnashing of teeth about McCain from these mainstream figures who mocked, belittled and rejected Huckabee (sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes out of dread that actual Southerners and evangelicals rising to positions of importance), bear in mind that they had a chance to throw their weight behind Huckabee a month ago.  They chose a different path, and now they–and we–are reaping the fruits of that decision.

Yesterday, Barack Obama said there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between he and Senator McCain [bold mine-DL] on illegal immigration. ~Mitt Romney

I’m sorry, this may seem small and unimportant, but this butchering of a basic element of the English language is just awful.  It’s one thing when idiot sports announcers and actors can’t put pronouns into their proper cases, but when you have someone who is often praised for his education and intelligence it is the final straw.  This is more annoying than Obama’s habit of speaking about the ”amount of troops” lost in Iraq, as if there were some undifferentiated mass of Troop to which members of the armed forces belong.

Some people are put off by this drippy effort at putting Obama’s words to music, but far more worrisome is Obama’s ad that apparently ran in some markets during the Super Bowl (we were fast forwarding through many of the ads with Tivo, so I cannot say whether it appeared in the Chicago market).  The song is just silly (its silliness is underscored by the fierce intensity of so many of the assembled B-list actors as they are singing it), but the condensed message in that ad should make people think twice about this candidate.  “We can change the world” is a completely commonplace claim, but frankly we have had quite enough of Presidents on a mission to “change the world.”  We don’t need planet-savers and world-changers.  We need some minimally competent executive who can occasionally veto an oversized budget and not start wars.  As the candidate with the largest spending pledges and a hyper-ambitious foreign policy, Obama is not going to be that executive.  We have had quite enough of the candidates of Big, Sweeping Ideas–they have a bad habit of getting us embroiled in Big, Destructive Conflicts.  It’s enough to make you long for the days when utterly small-bore trivia dominated election campaigns.

Given all these procedural oddities from state to state, it’s unlikely any single candidate will deliver a knockout blow on Feb. 5. We still have a ways to go, and it’s hard to know at this point whether the preacher, the prisoner, the woman or the ethnic minority will win. ~Steven Hill

It struck me as odd how Romney managed to disappear from the list of potential winners somewhere between the beginning and ending of this column.  While that may not have been Hill’s intent, this is probably an accurate assessment: there are only four candidates with a chance at nomination right now, and Romney is not really one of them.  This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the coverage has been almost incessantly repeating a McCain v. Romney theme.  There is a very outside chance of a McCain v. Huckabee splitting of states on Tuesday and again in the weeks to come, but not much chance that Romney picks up any states besides his two natural bases of support in Massachusetts and Utah. 

On the day of the South Carolina primary, I wrote:

Because Huckabee has decided to lay off of McCain, and prior to tonight still had strong polling in a number of Feb. 5 states, Romney faces the daunting prospect of an anti-Romney pact between the two of them, effectively shutting him out of the South on Feb. 5 and then having Huckabee drop out and endorse McCain soon thereafter.  As McCain and Huckabee divide up the spoils of February 5 and work in concert to keep Romney down, Huckabee’s withdrawal and endorsement then throw his supporters and the race to McCain. 

As you have probably all heard ad nauseam over the last few days, this is exactly what has been happening.  One thing that I didn’t foresee was the extent to which Huckabee and McCain are competing for supporters, and that Huckabee isn’t so much sapping Romney’s strength in the South as he is showing his rival a mirage of victory, giving him a tantalising chance to stay in the race that then vanishes into thin air.  Whichever target Romney chooses in his advertisements in several of the Southern states, the voters he drives away from one will likely just go to the other candidate. 

There are plenty of reasons that might explain the former Massachusetts governor’s surprisingly weak support among his former colleagues. But one of them stands out: He appears to have inadvertently alienated a good many of his fellow governors as RGA chairman.

“Right or wrong, the general impression was that he spent way too much time on himself and building his presidential organization,” said a top Republican strategist who has worked closely with the RGA in recent years. “I don’t think anyone ever questioned Romney’s commitment to the organization or the work he put in. They questioned his goals or his motives. Was it to elect Republican governors, or to tee up his presidential campaign?”

A campaign manager for an unsuccessful 2006 Republican gubernatorial campaign echoed the sentiments. “We definitely got the vibe from the staff that our state was never a national player when it came to the strategy that the RGA was putting together,” he said. “Everything they were telling me was about Michigan. They were dumping everything into Michigan.” ~The Politico

Long-time Eunomia readers will remember that I was talking about this in the wake of the 2006 debacle.  The RGA under Romney directed a lot of its funding to gubernatorial races in three crucial early states (Florida, Iowa, Michigan) for the nomination in 2008, including a hopeless Michigan race in which Dick DeVos ended up being blown out by 18 points.  The Michigan case was the most transparent example of Romney using the RGA as his own springboard, since Granholm’s re-election was never really in doubt and Romney’s personal and political interest in Michigan was obvious.  We didn’t know at the time, but Romney’s penchant for throwing money at lost causes prefigured his own presidential campaign only too well.   

This WSJ poll is about six weeks out of date, so it is pretty useless for tracking the presidential race.  There are some other results that have more lasting relevance.  58% say that the globalisation of the American economy has been on the whole “bad,” with just 28% saying the opposite and 11% declaring it a wash.  That is pretty clearly bad news for the party most closely identified with globalisation at present.  The number for those saying globalisation has generally benefited “the American economy” has dropped 14 points from a poll 10 years ago.  There are as many dissatisfied with their financial circumstances (33%) as there have been since the wake of the ‘01-’02 recession.  52% said that immigration “hurts more than it helps” the United States, up eight points from last summer and back at the same levels two years earlier.  As of mid-December when the poll was taken, 56% said that victory in Iraq was not still possible.  All of the pro-”surge” talk affected the respondents over the course of 2007, but as of last December 44% said it had made no difference and 14% said that it had made things worse.  57% agreed with the statement that most American soldiers should be withdrawn from Iraq by the start of 2009.  Except for immigration, obviously, the Republicans are on the unpopular side of every one of these questions.    

The poll also has two interesting figures on anti-Mormonism.  59% could correctly identify that Romney was a Mormon, and 26% “felt uncomfortable” about Romney’s  Mormonism and its possible effect on his presidential decisions (this was how the question was phrased), which was slightly higher than the percentage “uncomfortable” about his religion in the abstract. 

Coulter on McCain again: Ready, set, crazy!

A winning slogan: “Four rotten years!”

Joe Lieberman’s old flack communications director appears in the pages of The Wall Street Journal today to declare victory for the “politics of hope” over the “politics of Kos.”  (Supposedly, the Connecticut Senate election from 2006 represented the triumph of hope over netroots–Joe Lieberman, hopemonger!)  How ridiculous is this?  Let me count the ways.  Kossacks are above all interested in Democratic electoral victory.  Ideologically, they tend to be more progressive, but Kos himself has seen the advantage of promoting the most electable candidates in marginal districts.  Unlike the Hewitts on the other side, they are typically interested in actually growing the size of their political coalition and increasing Democratic numbers in Congress, rather than engaging in masochistic purgings for the sake of purging.  There is nothing fundamentally inconsistent between the two ”kinds” of politics.  Obama’s public rhetoric is that of a politician trying to win an election, while netroots progressives are venting their tremendous frustration with the administration on a regular basis–the same frustration and hostility, incidentally, that Obama clearly shares.  That Obama uses “uplifting” rhetoric, rather than the “depressing” and combative rhetoric of Edwards, masks that he is advancing almost exactly the same agenda and regards the administration almost every bit as poorly as do netroots progressives.  The difference, and the thing that seems to scare Republicans, is that he doesn’t yell about it, and he doesn’t answer every question, Patricia Madrid-like, with complaints about the evils of Bush.  In calm, measured tones he denounces administration policy and the Democrats who accommodated the administration, but he is still denouncing them, no different in substance from anything Lamont said about Lieberman and Bush.    

The Kossacks went after Lieberman in much the same way that conservatives are now going after McCain, because they saw him as unreliable and deeply wrong on at least one major issue of the day.  Within the Democratic primary electorate, the Kossacks were successful.  Lieberman lost the primary, as Gerstein must remember.  Lieberman was able to draw on Republicans and independents in the general election to save his seat, and has since proceeded to confirm progressives’ doubts about his reliability.  In a more normal state with a viable Republican candidate, Lieberman’s victory would have been very unlikely.  Hillary Clinton can’t like what the comparison portends for her campaign, since the more progressive “wine-track” candidate won the primary in Connecticut.  Whatever else happens on Tuesday, it appears that this is about to happen again in Connecticut.  Unlike Lieberman, Clinton isn’t going to get a second chance to foist herself on the voters if she loses to Obama.  

That brings us to the Democratic nominating contest this year.  Gerstein sees Obama’s success and Edwards’ failure as proof that the “politics of Kos” has failed.  It isn’t just, as Gerstein allows, that Obama has “co-opted” the Kossacks’ views.  He and Clinton were pulled in that direction by the netroots’ favourite, whose candidacy soon lost its rationale once the more cautious leading candidates occupied the same ideological space.  As numerous observers on the left have been keen to point out recently, Edwards’ combative progressivism compelled the other two leading candidates to adopt policy plans that imitated his.  I think the case could be made that Edwards did a lot of Obama’s dirty work in hitting Clinton on her inconsistencies and her war vote back when Obama was still being overly cautious about attacking his rivals, and that Edwards helped to soften Clinton up and made Obama’s rise easier.  

Many have observed that many progressive activists have responded coolly to Obama, because he has seemed too accommodating and conciliatory towards Republicans (he said something marginally positive about Reagan!), but this is the same Obama who has received the endorsement of MoveOn.org and who will be receiving the vote, if not exactly the enthusiastic support, of Kos himself.  This is a recognition, however belated, that the goals of the netroots and Obama’s goals are mostly the same.  In fact, this opposition between “the politics of hope” and “politics of Kos” is one more illusion that works to obscure Obama’s progressivism and adds to the myth that he is some great uniter of opposites.  In terms of policy, Obama has embraced a large part of Edwards’ agenda and weaves the same anti-corporate and anti-lobbyist themes into his speeches in between references to bringing America together.  So, as a matter of substance, the “politics of Kos,” or more accurately the netroots-backed progressivism championed by Edwards, has become the agenda that Obama will attempt to sell by way of his “hope and unity” rhetoric.  In other words, Obama has accepted the diagnosis that Edwards has made, and he basically agrees with Edwards’ prescription (with a few changes of detail here or there), but he wants to sugar-coat the prescribed “medicine” to make it go down easier with a lot of talk about cooperation. 

It is a very bizarre kind of analysis that sees the current two-person Democratic field, which has become almost completely dominated by the policy agenda of the netroots’ candidate, as proof that the politics of the netroots has somehow failed to catch on.  On domestic and foreign policy, Edwards carried the netroots’ flag and dragged the entire field to the left.  If his own campaign did not succeed, you can attribute that as much to his own radical makeover from Southern Democratic centrist to populist firebrand in a matter of a few years.  Unlike Romney, who underwent the same metamorphosis in a different direction, Edwards defined his party’s policy agenda for this cycle.  The Democratic shift to the left in the last four years has been pretty dramatic, and it owes a good deal to the netroots, and this shift is reflected in the near-unanimity of the remaining candidates on policy (such that they have to quibble over the relative universality of their health care plans).  In fact, the “politics of hope,” so called, did not exist until last year, and it has gotten as far as it has because of the groundwork laid by the netroots and other progressive activists in the last decade.  Meanwhile, if progressives are becoming less angry, it is because they are slowly winning within their own party and in many parts of the country.  

Ronald Reagan knew what he believed in for thirty years.  He read Burke and consulted Buckley and Freedman [sic]. ~Matt Lewis

Is this misspelling of Friedman’s name some new requirement that is gaining currency?

So it’s four days until Super Tuesday, the big name Romney endorsements have been pouring in (Ingraham, Hannity, Santorum, etc.) and, in Romney’s own words, the “world of conservatism is considerably behind my effort.”  If so, it is a small world after all. 

Consider, to take two of the states where the GOP will be voting on Tuesday, Alabama and New York.  In Alabama, Romney gets 21% and in New York he gets…21%.  Nationally, according to FoxNews, Romney gets about 20%.  So, about one out of five Republicans agree that Mitt Romney is the right candidate.  If Huckabee’s limitations as the “evangelical candidate” have been revealed, Romney seems to have hit something of a similar ceiling (though it may vary some from state to state) in all those states where he has not campaigned intensively.

More interesting yet is the breakdown of the preferences.  In Alabama, Romney finishes third among conservatives with McCain and Huckabee pulling in a third each while he gets just 24%.  23% of Alabama Republicans support him–fewer than support Huckabee and McCain.  According to SurveyUSA, he trails McCain by 19 points in the state and he trails Huckabee by ten.  He finishes third among pro-lifers.  There is not a single issue that he dominates, and he finishes third among those who say the economy is their top issue.  Meanwhile, in New York, you might expect Romney to do significantly better (though New Yorkers do have this thing about people from Massachusetts…) and he simply doesn’t.  27% of conservatives and 24% of pro-lifers back him.  Unlike in Alabama, he finishes in second in all these categories, but he trails by much larger margins and trails McCain overall by 34 points (55-21).  Again, he dominates no single issue, and loses among those who think the economy is the top issue 62-19.  The Northeastern states are providing the proof: even where Huckabee isn’t a factor, Romney just isn’t competitive.  He loses upstate New York by 23, loses in the city by 33 and gets destroyed in the city suburbs, losing by 46.  New York may be a special case, but that seems to throw into doubt the “Romney as suburban candidate” idea.

You’ll say, “What about other states?  You probably picked those because he is doing so badly there.”  Fair enough.  Let’s see a few more.  He does lead in Massachusetts, but while his lead of 23 ahead of McCain seems secure it is interesting that he can get just 59% of Republicans in his own state.  Somewhat surprisingly, he is down four in Missouri, but is just two ahead of Huckabee, who is still quite competitive there.  Missouri is one of the few states where Romney narrowly leads among conservative voters, and he ties Huckabee for the lead among pro-lifers.  Central Missouri appears to be Romney’s life-preserver in that state.  So one of his best states is also a virtual three-way tie and could conceivably go for any one of them. 

With that exception in mind, once you move beyond his power base, however, his problems re-emerge.  Romney trails by 23 in New Jersey, and by 22 in Connecticut.  He loses conservatives to McCain in Connecticut, and just barely wins them in New Jersey.  The same story is repeated in Oklahoma, narrowly losing conservatives to both McCain and Huckabee, and receiving just 19% overall and trailing McCain by almost 20 points.  If he were the obvious conservative alternative, it would never be this close among conservatives, and he would be leading in some of these states.  Conservatives represent pluralities or even majorities in all of these polls, which should give Romney an edge…if he were credible.  A Minnesota poll released on the day of the Florida primary showed McCain ahead of Romney, who was in third place, by 24 points.  The poll still included 6% for Giuliani, most of whom probably have since gone for McCain.  Huckabee was in second at 22%.  McCain and Huckabee both lead Romney among “economy and jobs the most important problem” voters, of whom 8% supported him.     

In Illinois, in a pre-Florida poll that included Giuliani, he trails among conservatives by 2 and he is behind overall by 8.  He loses every income group and every religious group (Huckabee, naturally, wins evangelicals).  He wins with immigration voters, but loses to McCain with economy, Iraq and security voters.  In California, Romney seems to have the best chance of any of the big states to win overall and score some delegates regardless.  A post-Florida Rasmussen poll that still includes Giuliani had him within four of the lead.  Romney wins among conservatives, but does not outperform McCain and Giuliani together.  He wins one income group ($75K-100K earners) and none of the religious affiliations.  Again, he carries immigration voters, and loses the rest.  Remarkably, the one issue on which he is probably least credible is the one that he is dominating more or less consistently these days.   

Huckabee states the obvious:

To say that you’ve never thought about the origins of human life until you were nearly 60 years old — I find that hard to believe even for somebody who hasn’t run for office before, but certainly for somebody who had.

In a new FoxNews poll, McCain leads Romney nationally 48-20 with Huckabee at 19 and Paul at 5, along with 5% not knowing and 2% refusing to vote.  If you reduce it to a two-man McCain v. Romney race, the result among Republicans is McCain 62, Romney 29, 6% not knowing and 3% refusing to vote.  These numbers are almost the reverse of Bush v. McCain at this stage in 2000.  Granted, this is a national poll and is not terribly reliable for predicting actual voting, but what this seems to show is that most of the Huckabee and Paul voters simply will not go for Romney.  You do have to assume that anti-Mormonism has something to do with this, particularly among Huckabee supporters, but it is also hard to miss that Huckabee supporters have made clear in state after state that their second choice is McCain.  Perhaps these are the voters who are drawn to candidates on the basis of personality and biography and are not issues voters, in which case they align with the candidates who have received the most favourable media coverage and who appear through that coverage to be the most appealing characters. 

Romney appears to have picked up most of the hard-core anti-McCain vote by default: two months ago with the same question about a two-way race, 23% said they would not vote.  Over half of those since went to Romney, and McCain has gained only a few points.  This seems to mean that more than half of Romney’s current supporters nationwide are only coming to his side grudgingly because the McCain v. Romney match-up has now become the reality, and their preferred candidates are no longer likely to win.  That implies that Romney has a very weak base of support that has settled for him for lack of other competitive options.  Romney has managed to end up in an almost unheard-of bind: he is getting trounced nationally in a three- or four-way race, and he then actually loses ground in the two-man race his campaign is trumpeting in its latest communications.  Strangely, Huckabee’s persistence in the race, while slowly but surely killing Romney’s campaign, is also preventing McCain from delivering the fatal blow right away.  This means that a vote for Huckabee is not so much a vote for McCain as it is potentially a vote for chaos.  Indeed, at this point chaos may be the anti-McCain forces’ best and only real friend.

I understand what Rod is saying here, but I think he and Gerard Baker are making the same mistake when they describe the rise of McCain in terms of change and revolution respectively.  McCain is the essential status quo candidate, and represents continuity with the current administration on a range of questions.  Some would argue, correctly, that the current administration has not governed  conservatively using any reasonable definition of that word, and those who have opposed the administration from the right since the beginning know this better than anyone, but where McCain’s critics have embraced, indeed celebrated, the administration for the most part they have determined that McCain is apostate, anti-conservative, and so on.  In this bizarre universe, where Giuliani can be seen as one of the last of the Reaganites but Huckabee and McCain are political lepers, the people who have the most to gain by emphasising the idea of a McCain nomination representing a radical departure from conservatism are the very people who have apologised and flacked for the administration that did most of the actual damage that they fear McCain might do in the future. 

Rod is right that there are several conservatisms (around which orbit, I would add, many a Republican constituency dressed up as a pseudo-conservatism), and he is right again that these conservatisms are not coterminous with the GOP.  Indeed, one of the problems of conservatives in America today was the persistent effort to identify themselves with the party when it was riding high (”Republicans are winning because they are conservative”) and attempting, rather unsuccessfully, to wash their hands of the party’s mistakes, blunders and disasters when the public turned against the party (”Republicans lost in 2006, not conservatives”).  The horror conservatives are feeling and the loud protests they are registering at the prospect of a McCain nomination all stem from this same confusion.  If you have grown accustomed to identifying the fortunes of conservatism rather closely with the GOP, you begin to treat Republican nominees as representatives of the new direction of conservatism.  McCain could not threaten the movement, except that the movement has welded itself to the GOP in so many ways that what happens to the one affects the other as well. 

So it is a mistake to see McCain’s rise marking a “changing of the guard,” if that “changing of the guard” means ”McCain’s rise is eroding the hegemony of the established conservative opinion-makers.”  On the contrary, movement leaders are setting up a gauntlet for McCain, as if they were soldiers demanding a donative for a would-be emperor, and they will finally raise him on their shields only after they have extracted that payment.  Until they receive it, they will continue to serve as the guards, so to speak, and should he come to power they will have left McCain with the unspoken threat that they will unmake him and topple him if he goes against them.  A McCain administration, as unlikely as I think it will be, would be one plagued by having constantly to give assurances to core constituencies and would be a period racked by internecine fighting within the party and movement.  The recent anti-McCain campaign has served to put McCain on notice (perhaps there are still a few true believers who think they can vault Romney to success by tearing McCain down), and perhaps he has once again ”gotten the message,” as he says, but more likely the rise of McCain does not amount to a “bloodless coup” (per Baker) or a “changing of the guard,” but the beginnings of “palace” intrigues and plotting among the many factions. 

In fact, the coolness with which leading movement figures are receiving McCain, or rather the heat of their fury against him helps to secure their authority with their audiences, misleadingly give them credit for resisting the corruption of conservatism (even though they did little or nothing to stop that corruption for the past seven years and much to facilitate it) and allows them to portray themselves as oppositional, independent figures when they are nothing of the kind.  This pose of opposition and independence is the same one that many of the leading radio hosts and pundits assumed after the ‘06 electoral debacle, having right up until then exhorted their audiences to support the GOP regardless of what it had done or failed to do.  This is the phony independence that permits them to retain some shred of credibility as critics when their influence is in less of a position to drive policy change (i.e., when the GOP is in the minority) after having squandered opportunities to wield influence when it might have mattered.     

Since Eunomia was inaccessible on Wednesday night, I was unable to comment on the Republicans’ debate at the time.  For those who haven’t had their fill of debate commentary, I recommend the live-blogging post by Justin Raimondo, who recorded his impressions from the night at Taki’s Top Drawer.  I was watching the debate at CNN’s site and saw most of it alongside their “viewer response” graph.  The striking thing about the comparison was that Romney consistently scored well every time he spoke–it didn’t matter what he was saying–and McCain almost always scored negatively regardless of the content of his statements.  I am a poor judge of these things, since I am annoyed every time I see Romney, but he seems to have come across much better to that particular audience.  Part of this probably had to do with McCain’s foul mood and harping criticism.  If many undecided voters watched this debate, Romney should have won them over easily.  However, being the umpteenth cable network debate it was probably not seen by very many people, and the media commentary on the debate struck me as surprisingly favourable to McCain.  Casting the arguments the two had in a simple “clash of rivals” narrative, most reports did an injustice to Romney, since he did have the better of his exchanges with McCain, who was petulant and obnoxious the entire night.  Ron Paul was absolutely correct, of course, that the two were arguing over inconsequential nonsense and right again that these debates ought to be about major questions of policy.  Unfortunately, serious policy debate does not lend itself to snappy headlines and easily-digested stories, and these are the things that commentators and reporters want.

I’m not sure that it is at all reassuring for Romney’s camp that they have won the endorsement of Rick “The Venezuelans Are Coming!” Santorum.  It is fitting, I suppose, that the former Senator who sided with the incumbent, establishment, pro-choice candidate Specter in that Pennsylvania Senate primary four years ago is similarly supporting the candidate with the far less conservative record.  Things like that make conservatives and pro-lifers eager to back the one whom Santorum has named as a defender of ”the conservative principles that we hold dear.”

Santorum said, “Governor Romney has a deep understanding of the important issues confronting our country today…”  Important issues such as preventing Iranian world-mastery and stopping the Venezuelan empire from conquering Argentina. 

 

As yet another blast of “Romney will save us, if we save Romney,” this Hewitt post is unremarkable, but in its assessment of the outcome of the Democratic race and its expression of Obama-fear it is just odd:

It will be very, very difficult to defeat Barack Obama with an old face from inside the Beltway, even one with the heroism and courage that John McCain embodies.

So, if I understand Hewitt’s rationale for opposing McCain, it would better to run a phony against the candidate that the media has declared Authenticity personified than it would be to run an old veteran who supports the war, which he, Hewitt, also supports, against a young man with essentially no relevant experience who opposes it.  For someone who recoils against the “MSM-created McCain resurrection,” he doesn’t seem to be able to see through the MSM-created Obama deification.  If he did, he would know that Obama is the one adversary McCain has a chance of defeating.  It seems as if these folks are allowing both their Clinton-hatred and McCain-loathing to get the better of their judgement (which is not to say that an egregious Romney booster such as Hewitt has very good judgement in the first place).

Coulter on McCain: Ready, set, crazy! 

This is something I don’t quite understand.  I can understand the objections to McCain’s policies, which I definitely share, and I even sympathise with the deep-seated personal dislike of the man that so many have.  But how confused must you be, if you are a pro-torture, pro-war jingo (or is that jingoess in her case?), to say that you would sooner side with Hillary Clinton than John McCain?  This is absolutely batty.  Who would better suit the pro-war crowd than an inflexible, unbalanced and angry old man who has nothing to lose?  I wouldn’t dispute Clinton’s hawkish inclinations, and I think her opposition to Iraq is purely opportunistic and reflects nothing about her foreign policy views, which are interventionist and generally quite dangerous, but if you are a hawk it is inconceivable that you would prefer her to him. 

Via Ross 

Update: Suddenly Hewitt has discovered the importance of rationality in voting!

My apologies for the last few days.  As you would have seen had you checked in the last few days, the site used up its bandwidth allowance for the month and was just re-set a moment ago.  Elsewhere, I have some new posts.  Specifically, at Taki’s Top Drawer I have three new posts on McCain, Huckabee’s foreign policy, and some random thoughts on that apocryphal “better to be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian” quote we have seen so often in recent months.