Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Advice for Mitt: Or More Evidence I’m Not a Smart Person

...as if you needed it. Contrary to what the experts are saying, it’s clear to me that Romney’s big job is no longer reaching out to Huck’s supporters. Attacking him as a Christian progressive nanny-stater isn’t going to impress them. They can tell the difference between Christian hope and socialist, progressivist hope. (See our great pope’s new encyclical on hope, and see Tocqueville on how Christianity prevents Americans from imagining that political reform should be pursued by all means necessary etc.) Instead, Mitt should start convincing Giuliani supporters that he is the plausible alternative to Huckabee, that his more moderate but REAL social conservatism and policy wonkish market-based expertise on the domestic issues (like health care) are the keys to victory. The Huck surge should be a wake-up call that suggests to many Republicans that Mitt is more electable than Rudy. Romney should acknowledge the fact of the Huck surge, reflect soberly on its significance, but avoid any divisive attack on the new man from Hope.

Mitt should be prepared to endure the defeat in Iowa and fight on through an appeal to voters in the more urban and urbane states who are, for now, for Giuliani.

I also think, as I’ve said before, that another imperative in our volatile times is a reevaluation of McCain as maybe the best deal Republicans have right now.

Last night, we closed my elections class through a close reading of Ramesh Ponnuru and Richard Lowry, "The Grim Truth: Repubicans Face a Calamitous Political Situation, but They Can Act to Avoid It."
Here’s what those astute authors say about Rudy: "...Giuliani has broken with the base of the party, but only in ways that will not help him with the larger electorate. And to make up for those deviations on social issues, he is projecting a bring-it-on bellicosity that conservatives like but that most voters simply do not feel."

Discussions - 13 Comments

A smart contrarian.

I still say that if MR can avoid accusing people of violating the religious test clause when they take religion into account, he has a chance of educating them about constitutionalism and the limits of (at least federal) government.

But you have got me thinking that if Romney's relative urbanity (for a Mormon) is something that the Huckabites can't get over, then fishing in Giuliani's waters (as the more palatable alternative to a Huckabee victory) isn't a bad idea.

Well put. The race will likely come down b/w Huck and Rudy though rather than Huck and Mitt.

I agree with Lawler that this is exactly the strategy Romney should employ. He's not going to get the Huckabee supporters to change their minds at this point and they are not his natural constituents. He should have owned the support of conservatives now leaning toward Rudy. The fact that he does not has nothing to do with his Mormonism--except insofar as people see it as an obstacle to his electablity in the general election--and everything to do with his wishy-washy Johnny-come-lately approach to answering questions important to conservatives. He does not project strength and decision. This is his real problem. If he had, conservatives would have rallied around him and made the Mormon thing irrelevant except to the fringes of conservative bigots. Like his speech, however, this advice probably comes too late to be helpful.

I wonder if Romney has a forest and trees problem? He seems to have kept his nose so close to the grindstone cranking out a state-by-state strategy and staying "above the fray." It was all so very businesslike. But politics is not business. You have to be conscious of your potential for mass appeal, not just your ability to marshal forces to win a caucus in a small state before the glare of the national spotlight hits you.

I have deep reservations about Giuliani's chances in a general election too--mainly because I anticipate many in the GOP jumping ship. If they would stay on board, however, I think he would beat Hillary. I wonder if he can't focus now on winning those folks back to his side? It may be too late for him too.

As for Huck, I think Peter's right that the portrayal of him as a Christian nanny-stater won't sway many of those conservatives who are now in his camp; but it will hurt him in the general election if he gets the nod. Giuliani supporters (and many of Romney's) will be unenthusiastic, and his appeal to liberals (the "Huckabee Democrats"?) will amount to nothing. Those liberals who heart Huck will have more in common with the Dems.

Tocqueville, Dr. Lawler, is indeed instructive on how Christianity prevents Americans from imagining that political reform should be pursued by all means necessary. But universal human eros, as a substantive ethos, still picks and chooses procedurally to undertake political reform. And to the extent that Christianity is subsumed within the greater unity of therapeutic universal love, billed as the last best hope for fragile, co-dependent animals who can experience transcendence through shared emotion, the language of 'any means necessary' becomes the language of heroic innovations in caring. And with Tocqueville's emphasis on love for God and Neighbor over our Puritanical, philosemitic Old Testament inheritance, not even Alexis can be the final world on Nice Hugabee. All of which is to say nothing about Rudy Giuliani.

Very interesting and probably right recommendation for Mitt. His natural constitiuency was never the religious conservatives--he's always had to force it....and he's always appeared insincere. Run as a better manager than Rudy, which might work if terrorism continues to recede in the public mind. I still think Rudy would have more of a chance in the general election, more because of personality and style, but also the predominance of foreign policy concerns. I also think he just stacks up better against Clinton, assuming she is the nominee. I love the point about Huck and Christian hope--rhymes with Hope!

Another flip-flop huh?

Heretofore, Romney's whole strategy has been to edge out all candidates to his right, leaving him in a one-on-one situation with Giuliani. It's a bit late in the day to flip-flop and try to position himself as the only viable candidate for those in the center, and right of center.

Romney is in trouble. Huckabee has been getting hammered of late, but he's still gaining traction. And Romney's support, which was soft all along, is slipping away. The thing to look for is campaign defections. That will be happening soon.

And Peter, Romney has no "REAL" social conservatism. In fact, he has NOTHING real, the only thing REAL for him is his huge hunger for high office. That's it.

As for McCain, ........ how can we "reevaluate him? He rejected us, not we him. He spit on us. He WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to drive home policies hateful to the rank and file. And he got a kick out of it. He says he "gets it" now, but that's only because it's finally dawned on him the damage he did to himself, and not to us. Defeated, McCain affects a chastised demeanor. But had he forced that thing through, his words would be very different.

I respect McCain, but I trust him not. I trust him more than squalid Romney. But that isn't saying very much.

Mitt you said should be prepared to endure defeat in Iowa. But few candidates are. His WHOLE strategy has been based on winning Iowa, backing that up with a victory in New Hampshire, and taking that surge of momentum forward. Now you're suggesting he reverse his whole game plan. It's been GIULIANI who has planned for your suggestion. He'll concede Iowa, he'll let Romney have his brief moment in the sun in the Granite State, but he'll be there waiting to hammer them when they come down south.

Huckabee, whose rise no one foresaw, has screwed up everything. Huckabee's rise PLAYS right into the hands of Giuliani's strategy, and thwarts everything Romney has planned for in dreary, meticulous detail.

Poor Romney, scores of millions spent, all to prepare the table for Huckabee.

And Lowry is wrong with Giuliani. He didn't "BREAK" with the base. He simply remained who he always was. Lowry suggests that failing to pander represents a "break" with the base. A real break would be failing to tell us who he is. The real break is Romney. Deception, pandering, saying anything just to gain high office, ... THAT'S the real break. Because it prevents the rest of the party making a real assessment on the issues. Giuliani is from NYC. Part of his claim is that he can take New Jersey, Pennsylvania and perhaps New York. He hasn't "broken" with anything. Furthermore, he's promised not to take any action to disturb the platform of the GOP. And he's pledged to appoint judges consistent with that platform. How does that represent a "break?"

Honesty isn't a break with the base of the party, but dishonesty for ambition's sake surely is.

And JULIE, you suggest that Romney's natural constituents were not those he's been courting for over a year. And you're dead right. Romney should have been the man he is. And just let the cards fall where they may. That's what Giuliani did. Giuliani early was pushed hard to fold on abortion, and he came within an ace of doing so, but then he shook it off, stood up, and said "No, I'm not going to do it." A "I am who I am" campaign was what Romney should have tried for. But that was impossible, in a race against a hero like McCain, and a quasi-hero like Giuliani. Romney's only prayer was to steal away off-stage all those conservatives for whom McCain and Giuliani weren't pure enough. Had Romney ran as you suggest, he'd be gone now, like Tommy Thompson.

Would he have "owned" the support of Giuliani's conservatives, {like myself}? He hadn't a prayer, because he has a similar problem to that of Huckabee, which is the wimp factor. He isn't strong enough for The White House, never was, even in peace, let alone war.

You're dead right to say he doesn't "project" strength. But that's because of who he is. That line about "calling in the lawyers" was pure Romney, it's exactly like Kerry's "global test." He can't "project" what's not there. And it's unwise to try. Were he to try that "projecting," he'd only end up looking as ridiculous as Dukakis, another Mass wonk, who tried to affect something he wasn't.

When a man goes beyond who he is, it usually doesn't end up well.

That CLINT EASTWOOD line serves as decent political advice: "A man's got to know his limitations...." Romney should have remembered that, but then again, he probably never knew it.

And Julie, there will be no jumping ship over Giuliani, ......... so long as he doesn't pull a Romney, and start repudiating everything he has been saying during the primary season. If he starts affecting a social liberalism, instead of rough federalism, then there will be widespread disaffection. So long as Rudy remains who he is, he'll win. And he'll break that red/blue divide. McCain could have won the race, rather handily too. But he got over-confident, and became derisive towards conservatives and disdainful of the base. Which leaves Giuliani. The party isn't going to get enthusiastic about Huckabee, just because some social cons are in the deep south and Iowa.

But if Mitt goes after Rudy supporters, that will just clear the way for Huck to win. Look at the polls and you'll see Romney has no chance. He's 5th nationally and his only claim to anything is that he leads NH, a state in which Ron Paul will likely place 3rd.

Dan suggests that I was calling on Romney to be other than Romney . . . I guess I plead guilty to that. But I didn't offer it as practical advice so much as an explanation of why those conservatives who otherwise tend to agree with him on more of the issues than they do with Giuliani cannot bring themselves to support Romney. It is (as I have said above and Dan re-states) his perceived weakness. Dan is sure that he IS weak and the perception is reality. I am inclined to think so too but I am still open to persuasion to the contrary. I doubt that enough other people are similarly open for it to matter. As it always is in politics, perception is reality.

Adding to Peter's thoughts, could Romney's natural constituency all along have been what George Nash calls midwestern conservatives (I assume they still exist)? Along with the serious corporate set, who can't really admire Rudy's overt fooling around.

Honesty isn't a break with the base of the party,

Once again, Good Grief!

Hillary Clinton is honest with me. I'm not about to vote for her on that basis though. And the same applies to Giuliani.

Dan, are you paid to write this nonsense?

And Julie, there will be no jumping ship over Giuliani, ......... so long as he doesn't pull a Romney, and start repudiating everything he has been saying during the primary season. If he starts affecting a social liberalism, instead of rough federalism, then there will be widespread disaffection.

Jog my memory here. When has Giuliani ever affected anything other than social liberalism? The liberal Democrats I encounter online cite this as the reason they like him. Hell, his stated positions in the past place him squarely in the extreme left wing of the Democratc party, including support for partial-birth abortion.

Honesty coupled with a promise not to go on a jihad against the platform of the party. We have a platform. Giuliani has promised that his policies will consist with and conform to that platform, and not war against it. That's how honesty is not a "break." But were he to say one thing, all the while intending another, THEN that "honesty" would be dishonesty, and would represent a true break with the party. Bush represents such a break. Again and again he was asked which type of judges he would appoint. Always he gave the exact same answer, men and women like "Scalia and Thomas." Then when the opportunity presented itself, he calls in Harry Reid and asks him who HE would appoint, and Reid offered Meirs name, and ..... voilà, we get Meirs. THAT'S a break with everything.

Benjamin Disraeli expounded on this VERY point when ripping into the administration of Prime Minister Robert Peel, concerning the Corn laws.

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