Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations

1. The most recent FL Zogby study has McCain and Romney tied with nobody else anywhere near. All the others have the race within the margin of error.

This is bigger news: The most recent Rasmussen 4-day thing has McCain and Romney tied nationwide at 29%, with Huck third at only 16%. This likely means that Mitt is surging at Huckabee’s expense, and that he may well be quite competitive of Feb. 5, especially if he get any kind of victory in FL. Right now, we have to say McCain is not surging.

3. I saw the Fox/Gigot WALL STREET JOURNAL show early this morning. It’s not so entertaining. But some of the experts were putting forth the theory that Wall Street is swooning in the face of the prospect of the McCain-Hillary choice. Others had actually had to temper that suggestion with the reasonable speculation that the presidential election probably had little effect on what’s happened to the Stock Market lately.

4. Anyway, I learned from the show that the main thing WS fears is that the Bush tax cuts will not be renewed, and that we’ll go back to a higher and more progressive tax structure. And there’s no confidence that McCain would do everything in his power to keep that from happening.
WS’s candidate was clearly Giuliani and now Romney only out of necessity and with some uncertainty.

5. One thing behind the extreme animosity that’s characterized this campaign is that "Warrior" McCain or "Preacher" Huckabee wouldn’t do what it takes to keep (or get) the economy surging. The real fear is a Democratic Congress with either a Democratic president or a non-supply-sider Republican. Actually, of course, there’s no reason to believe that Huck wouldn’t have done everything he could to preserve the cuts. But I gotta say that the fear might be reasonable in terms of McCain’s past behavior with Democratic legislators.

6. It’s also true enough that voters--both Democrat and Republican--aren’t in the mood right now to conclude that what’s best for Wall Street is also what’s best for Main Street.

7. And I echo Rob Jeffrey’s reminder that Hillary would most likely be a better president than Obama, and we should actually take comfort in the fact that the smart and flexible and relatively nonideological Bill will be helping her every step of the way.

Discussions - 12 Comments

That's consistent with the word I've gotten from my friends on WS although they often link the economy and security as interdependent issues (even further re-enforcing their attraction to Guiliani). Interestingly enough, they often take the relation between the two issues even further than that since from the perspective of the executive crowd, the boardroom and the battlefield are the last two fertile grounds for pragmatism and manliness...they almost always miss the partly emasculating project of doux commerce in Montesquieu, not to mention that there is something less than manly about the Lockean aim of comfortable self preservation.....that manliness is not the key in this election for the WS crowd might be partly evidenced by their willingness to go with Romney over McCain.....

I've been away for a few days. Has anyone yet made a good argument on behalf on Romney that takes into account his real prospects in the general? I like him better than McCain, but I can't bring myself to vote for a guy in the primaries if I think he has no real chance of winning. McCain's chances of winning look dim to me too . . . particularly if Obama's chances of being on the ticket in either position improve.

But I still think the Clinton's will have their way with him--whether that way is with him as #2 or with him cast off into the Democrat wilderness. They would be wise to keep him close, of course. And he would be a fool to consider their offer. If he takes their offer he loses 50% of his appeal that day--he'd be a sell-out. He improves her chances with his remaining 50% appeal, but weakens his future. She's one of those life-sucking characters from Harry Potter (I forget what they're called) to him. And no one's mentioned the Kennedy endorsement . . . does that matter? I think it does--but not, perhaps, enough for this run.

It’s also true enough that voters--both Democrat and Republican--aren’t in the mood right now to conclude that what’s best for Wall Street is also what’s best for Main Street. I think I would have agreed with that two weeks ago. But now I wonder. I think the events of the last week have changed opinions (or at least turned heads). That is, if the reactions of members of my own family (husband's side--mine are almost all Republicans anyway) and among my friends and acquaintances are typical. Almost everyone has some money in the stock market and everyone sees what's happening to their 401 (k) plans and other investments. Most people don't really understand it and they are scrambling to get caught up on financial advice and information--and most of it is pointing to the uncertainty surrounding the tax cuts. I have seen people I know begin to look at tax cuts in a whole new light when looked at from the point of view of possible WS meltdown and, especially, when contrasting them to this so-called stimulus package. Perhaps tax cuts are not just a cynical way to make the rich richer after all?

Julie, I think that's the real dilemma. McCain is running much better against Hillary, it's very, very doubtful Romney could beat her. Romney, I think, would actually be a better candidate against Obama, who's still the underdog even with both the Daleys and the Kennedys behind him. On you other comment, I, of course, am completely against the stimulus package. But do you really think a tax cut could really fix what's ailing the market right now? And remember that we have and will continue to have a Democratic Congress. Of course we could vote for Huck and abolish the IRS...

Dr. Lawler and Julie,

I think the polls for the general shouldn't be taken to seriously. The election is almost a year away and most people have no idea of what they will do. At least, the people who will make the difference. 40% will vote Republican and 40% will vote Democratic. The rest will make the difference. McCain is probably doing better in head to head polls with the Democrats because he has greater name recognition among independents. Romney will have that name recognition by the time of the election.

I agree with you Prof. Lawler, that Hillary would be a better President, or at least, a "less worse" President than Obama. I also think she'd be a weaker candidate. Her negatives are consistently at around 50% nationally. Hard to get elected with that.

My skepticism about Romney's chances in the general have less to do with the polls (though they do tend to confirm my suspicions) than they have to do with general observation and reflection about his potential appeal. I don't see him lighting anyone's fires . . . even those who are seemingly passionate about supporting him look to me like they're trying to talk themselves into it as much as make a general argument to others. There's a rational case to be made on his behalf, but rational won't cut it in the end. I've always characterized Mitt as lacking love handles and believed that lacking to be his fatal flaw. I remain unpersuaded that I am wrong--though I do confess that I wish I could be so persuaded. I wish I were wrong. I wish Prof. Lawler would expand on this theory about Romney having a better shot than McCain against Obama--although I think that would be a purely academic argument since Obama doesn't seem likely to me to be able to pull it off this go around.

For what it's worth, I agree with Caleb about the relative importance of general election polls right now. They're not as telling as some would like to believe. Much can change over the summer when people begin to pay attention. That's why I never put much stock in the argument that McCain polled better than Giuliani. I always thought Giuliani had a better shot in the general with folks who were uncommitted or weak Dems and that Republicans (even social conservatives) were playing a bluff with their threats not to vote. But now we'll have to see if one of these two guys (Romney or McCain) has the stuff to pull of the general.

As to Peter's query about tax cuts . . . no, I don't think that making the tax cuts permanent would really fix what's ailing the markets right now. But from what I'm learning (and I preface this comment with the big disclaimer that I am an utter novice at this study) hard reality has very little to do with what happens on WS. It's a place where perception is reality even more than in politics--if that's possible! Put another way, understanding the emotions of the markets is rather like understanding one's Italian mother-in-law . . . though perhaps that's a bit too autobiographical! What I think about the tax cuts is that the uncertainty surrounding their status is actually hurting the markets. It's not the reason for the big dips of the last few weeks, but it is one part of the reason. WS is deathly afraid of a Hillary or Obama presidency combined with a Dem Congress. They fear the increased taxes, the expiration of the tax cuts, and increased regulation. Making the tax cuts permanent would stimulate the economy (certainly way more than a "stimulus") in the long run as it freed up more capital for investment. But the impact of making them permanent would not be so much an actual stimulus in the short run (since it wouldn't DO anything for right now--those tax cuts being already in place for now) as they were a psychological stimulus. People with serious money do set up their affairs in such a way as to take these probabilities into account. I'm not rich or smart enough to do that myself, but I know people who are both. So I do think making the tax cuts permanent would do something to improve the markets in both the short and the long run. Would it be enough for the short run . . . maybe not. But then perhaps we could start talking about over-regulation . . . among other things.

Yes, the question is not how McCain IS running against Hillarly or Obama, but how WILL he run. And my gut-based crystal ball says he will, especially after months of attention, lose (often through sit-outs) as many right-wing votes as he will gain moderate ones. Against Hillary that might be enough. No way against Obama. So saith my very-biased gut.

So Carl pretty much answers the question Julie raised about why Romney is better against Obama.

I think I see your point. I also think McCain's age hurts him more against Obama. The argument that he looks more mature and appears to have more gravitas is wishful thinking. The fact is he's just going to look like a geezer up against Obama . . . and I think that argument holds whether Obama is #1 or #2. But still, this argument is more anti-McCain than pro-Romney. What are Romney's relative strengths vs. Obama? And why don't they work in a contest with Clinton?

McCain hesitated about voting for Alito because "he wears his conservatism on his sleeve." So says John Fund, although an Alito spokesperson has tried to deny it. More on NRO. So we'll see if the evidence stands, or if it becomes a "he said-she said" sort of thing. But as frequent and impassioned NLT commenter Dan suggested once, there may be scores of little McCain-anecdotes like this that other representatives and staffers know about.

I think that the last month or so (and the next month) will go a long way toward reminding conservatives why they didn't like McCain in 2000 and how much more to the left he has gone since then. That may or may not be enough to stop him from getting the nomination--and it may or may not be enough to stop conservatives from voting for him in the general election if he gets the nomination, but I think it might.

As far as the individual matchups, I think McCain might match up well with Hillary because he could duke it out with her. But I suspect Romney could do the same. On the other hand, I'm not sure that McCain would match up as well with Obama. Conservatives wouldn't have the same incentive to grit their teeth and vote for McCain (as a vote against Hillary). And he's older. On the other hand, Romney, even though he hasn't broken through the likeability factor yet, is pretty likeable, and while he's not as old as McCain, he's very experienced, which is a quality Obama really lacks.

McCain benefits in the primaries from very softball handling from the mainstream media. Everyone just accepts that he's a "straight talker," even though clearly he isn't, especially on immigration and taxes. In the general election, I doubt the MSM is so kind to McCain, especially if he's running against Obama.

Finally, though this doesn't have much bearing on their campaigns, I think it might be an important character trait for making a good President. McCain (and Huckabee to an extent) have a tendency to be snippy, and to get angry when under pressure. McCain's jabs at Romney about his wealth and Huckabee's comment about Romney spending his kid's inheritance on the campaign are two good examples. Romney on the other hand seems to hold up very well under fire, rather amazingly so in fact. I think that ability to stay calm, even under personal attacks, is one we should want in an Executive.

Maybe if McCain had been wearing his conservatism on his sleeve for the last many years conservatives would be less worried about the prospect of his being president. I am grateful for him wherein he has an evident conservative record and worried where he doesn't. I do not think, as I hear, that he will be no better than a Democrat if he does win the race.

However, at this point, if McCain finds a conservative heart to stick on his sleeve, I'm going to wonder where he got it.

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