Clearly Mitt Romney is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics. He "gets no respect"- anywhere. A strange consensus has emerged among the Punditocracy of both Left and Right. They even seem to be using the same phrase book.Romney hasn't "made the sale", can't "close the deal", doesn't "excite the base", fails to "connect with orsdinary people", is "dull, gaffe prone", and lacks eloquence or humor.Even when he wins, it’s never good enough. States he wins are discounted because he once lived there or has a summer home there (Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire). Other winning jurisdictions are dismissed because a lot of Mormons live there (Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, American Samoa).When he wins key swing states like Ohio, or Michigan his margin is "too small", but when he comes very close in states where he wasn't even supposed to be competitive (Alabama, Mississippi) he gets little credit.In times past a highly organized, well- funded national campaign was viewed as a sign of impressive strength (e.g. Bush 2004, Obama 2008) but with Romney these same attributes are merely reasons to devalue any success he enjoys.As the multi-candidate GOP road show rolled across the country in every contest the mainstream media (and many conservatives) were inclined to add up all the votes of Romney's competitors and declare them not votes for, say Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, but votes "against Romney".The companion narrative to all this is that the Republican Party with its divisive, negative, unending Primary campaign, second rate candidates, and woeful front-runner is in the act of committing electoral suicide with Obama as joyful spectator, and beneficiary. The sum of all these fears is that continuing Republican follies combined with a reviving economy mean that once bright GOP prospects in this historically critical election are rapidly turning dark.What's wrong with this picture? A lot. An awful lot.Let's start by asking why the Democratic National Committee and the labor unions are spending millions of dollars running ads against only one GOP candidate: Romney. Why did the Democratic Party in Michigan and other states allowing cross-overs quietly urge their followers to "Go vote for Santorum"?The answer to these questions is that the Democrats have known all along that Romney will be a very formidable opponent for Obama in the fall.They know that he will compete very well for those independent voters who decide every Presidential election. They know that Romney's negatives among independents which went up in the wake of blistering attacks by his GOP rivals can go down just as quickly, as the volatile polls of this political season have repeatedly demonstrated.The Democrats are not buying the conventional wisdom that the bitter GOP primaries have fatally damaged Republican prospects because they remember very well how quickly their own party came together in the wake of the monumental slugging match between Hillary and Obama.While the Republicans are wringing hands over Romney's relative weak performance with the "very conservative" or "Evangelical" demographic, Democrats know that those "clingers to guns and religion" will rise from their death beds to vote for absolutely anyone who might save them from Obama. What Democrats are very alert to is that Romney does very well with precisely that segment of the electorate that was vital to Obama in 2008: suburban white women, the affluent, the college graduates, and professionals. They also know that the youth vote so critical for Obama in 2008 is much less enthusiastic this time around, and will be buried numerically by Romney's best voting bloc- Senior citizens.All things considered the outlook for Romney and the Republican Party is far from bleak.Ignoring the fact that I - like most political sages in this strange year- have been flat out wrong again and again, herewith my fearless forecast for the twisting electoral road immediately ahead-March 24 Louisiana (46 delegates): A wounded Newt's last chance at any electoral credibility. Santorum needs it, but the active support of highly popular Gov. Bobby Jindal gives Romney a good chance to make a very competitive race.April 3 Washington D.C. (19 delegates), Maryland (37 delegates), and Wisconsin (42 delegates): A Romney sweep (Santorum didn't even make the ballot in "winner take all" D.C.).Beyond this point, polling shows Romney to be favored in fourteen of the nineteen remaining Primary states. Even a Gingrich withdrawal can't save Santorum as recent polls show 40% of Newt's supporters going to Romney.Around this time billionaire Foster Friess- the financial backbone of Santorum's painfully unorganized and amateurish national campaign- begins to have second thoughts. Simultaneously the numerous unpledged delegates begin their inevitable migration to Romney.Prediction: Romney will have the magic 1,144 delegates well before Mormon Utah's "winner take all" primary on June 26th.
William Moloney's columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Denver Post, and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) Oh, what a relief it was when actual voters- normal human beings- began to cast real ballots! After fourteen months of the punditocracy telling us what voters would do, should do, or might do based more on Inside the Beltway vanity, than real insight into the American mind, the people- starting with Iowa and New Hampshire- began to talk back and in doing so left many a prognosticator’s reputation in tatters.
So, what have we learned from the quadrennial process thus far?
First, the Debates have emerged in unprecedented fashion as the central methodology for winnowing candidates. Owing to the national economic crisis and the angst it entails, people are attaching extraordinary importance to the coming election- and rightly so. Accordingly the size of Debate audiences has increased dramatically, thus encouraging sponsors to have more of them.
The Debates have also validated candidates who can think and speak well on their feet. Thus a Newt Gingrich with little money or organization can be competitive simply on the basis of verbal prowess. Conversely a Rick Perry with lots of money and organization can self-destruct simply on the basis of verbal ineptitude.
The Debates pose a great disadvantage for a political party challenging a sitting President. The more candidates on the Debate Stage, the smaller each one appears in comparison to an incumbent ensconced in the historic setting of the White House, and cast in the glamorous role of “Leader of the Free World”.
Anything a challenger says can be dismissed as self-aggrandizing and “tawdry politics”. The President on the other hand can do and say the most blatantly political things while piously claiming to be “merely doing his job”.
In this context Republicans are particularly vulnerable since the Debates provide a “target rich” environment for a hostile “Mainstream Media” to denigrate GOP candidates and their beliefs under the guise of “objective analysis”. Just as the media adored the “Maverick” John McCain whenever he criticized the policies of the detested Bush, this year the media trumpeted the moderate virtues of Jon Huntsman as a way to describe all other GOP candidates as “extremists”.
A staple of these exercises is hearing the pundits say how ridiculous it is to grant little states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina such prominent places in this solemn ritual of Democracy. Regularly we hear calls for Regional, or National Primaries despite the obvious defect that either would exclude all but the wealthiest candidates owing to the stupendous amount of money needed for television advertising in such larger jurisdictions.
Oddly enough, the aforementioned three states though small are very different, and in the aggregate they are a reasonable slice of Americana. There is a certain virtue in having candidates spend large amounts of time with small groups of people who can look them in the eye, ask pointed questions, and get some sense of who this person is who wants the most important job in the world.
As the people surveyed the field they frustrated the pollsters by constantly changing their minds. Yet by granting multiple candidates the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame they subjected them to a scrutiny and heat that would eventually melt most of them. Thus did Cain and Bachman disappear, and Gingrich, Santorum and Perry will likely follow soon.
Huntsman said his third place finish in New Hampshire gave him a “Ticket to Ride”, but the mischievous nature of his media fuelled candidacy was revealed by exit polls that showed fully 51% of his supporters approving of Obama’s performance as President. [Editor: Ticket or not, a few days before South Carolinians would go to the polls, Huntsman ended his ride and endorsed Romney.]
The dogged persistence of the quirky Ron Paul is tribute to an enduring streak of Libertarianism in the American electorate and its surprising appeal among young voters suggests it’s not going away. Though he cannot say it Paul has telegraphed rather clearly that his real goal is influence not nomination.
What Mitt Romney understands better than any candidate is that the November election will be decided by those free floating independents in the middle of the political spectrum who decide all Presidential elections. His skillful, though unexciting campaign is built around that fact. Exit polls show that Republican Primary voters prize “electability” above all else. Democrats disingenuously say Romney is the Republican candidate they most want, but all polls and the money the DNC is already spending to trash him, reveal that he is the one who most threatens Obama’s appeal to those independents who elected him four years ago.
Thus have voters not pundits given this race a clarity it heretofore lacked.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Washington Times, Denver Post, and Human Events.