Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Romney's conversion plus

An interesting post from Mark Steyn at NRO’s “The Corner”:

A pro-life candidate who was previously pro-choice could be a great asset and a better sell than someone who’s been pro-life all along. Many people don’t think about the issue terribly much and, if they do, accept the Democrat-Supreme Court-media framing of the issue as one of "personal choice". And, if you come at it from that end, the pro-life-all-along crowd can seem the ones who are doctrinaire and absolutist.

This is an angle that Romney hasn’t played up much. As a “convert” he is, ideally, able to tell those who may be on the fence or not absolutists about what he saw that changed his mind other that his anecdotal story. Surely someone as analytical as Romney had more than a single incident change his mind. Indeed, he should explain how that was just a step in a larger process that played out for him. As of yet he hasn’t done so and that’s why holes are starting to be poked in his story.

By further explanation, he could turn a negative into a huge positive. Right now he looks disingenuous, but if he can further delve into his conversion process, he could not only carry pro-life idealists, but also more moderate voters who aren’t looking for an absolutist and appreciate that a person can think more deeply about an issue.

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Rising Frontrunner or Fading Candidacy?

This past week has been an interesting one for Mitt Romney. He's found himself in the bullseye of both Republicans (Huckabee, Brownback, Rich Lowry, the Weekly Standard) and Democrats (DNC, Liberal Bloggers), all while managing to pick up notable endorsements anyway. Is this just a sign of Romney emerging as a serious frontrunner or is it simply Romney being squeezed out of the race? Hotline Editor Chuck Todd believes the Democrats fear Romney more than any other candidate, but what are we to make of this week's criticism by conservative flagships like the Weekly Standard and the National Review? Is this foreshadowing rough roads ahead for Romney in his pursuit of the Republican nomination?

Naysayers are already trying to turn Romney's biggest strength, his executive experience and reputation as "Mr. Fix-It," against him. Suggesting, as the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos did yesterday, that Romney's venture capitalist instict could in fact exacerbate his greatest weakness, the perception that he is a political opportunist who is feigning his turn to the right:
This venture capitalist's ability to size up a situation and take all necessary measures has defined both his message and his campaign. The implicit message is that Romney will be a far shrewder master of the Iraq war than Bush -- making clear-headed judgments and achieving maximum results.

But Romney, in preparing for his presidential campaign, made moves as governor that often appeared bloodless and cynical -- vetoing spending programs while knowing his successor will restore them; ordering police to round up illegal immigrants at just the moment that immigration becomes a big national issue; denying protection to a visiting Iranian politician to demonstrate toughness on Iran.

These moves may get him closer to the Republican nomination, but whether they reflect deep principles or merely a venture capitalist's professional sense of what's required to achieve his goal is already the defining question of the Romney campaign.
From pretty critical press in the conservative press on one hand, to rumored endorsements by much of the Republican House leadership on the other, what does this last week really mean for Romney? Were there another candidate in the GOP field that really seemed to excite the conservative base, I think it might have spelled more of a sea change in his rising candidacy... Romney could then have been slowly squeezed out of the race. But there just doesn't seem to be anyone emerging. Everyone who is currently in has his achilles heel; McCain's alienated social conservatives, Giuliani's too liberal, Huckabee's raised taxes, Brownback's perceived as not electable, Tancredo's nuts, and so on. So the question is, has this situation created a perfect storm for Romney, a candidate whose political skills seem unmatched in the Republican field? Is Romney the rising frontrunner in this campaign?

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Nightline Piece On Romney

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Endorsement Round Up

While campaigning with Senator Demint in South Carolina yesterday, Mitt Romney picked up the endorsement of former South Carolina Governor Jim Edwards, former U.S. Representative Tommy Hartnett, Republican National Committeewoman Cindy Costa, and a slew of other Charleston leaders.

Today, Romney announced that former Iowa House Speaker Brent Siegrist and former Congressional candidate Brian Kennedy will serve as advisers to his Presidential Exploratory Committee.

Romney also announced that James Bopp, Jr., a noted social conservative, will be advising his Presidential Exploratory Committee as Special Adviser on Life Issues.

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Rich Lowery on Romney's Summit Speech

On his blog yesterday, National Review Editor Rich Lowry took Mitt Romney to task somewhat for his speech Saturday to the National Review's Conservative Summit:

Here’s my take: Put aside how rambling and unfocused it was. Maybe that can be chalked up to a bad night or fatigue. But to speak for 50 minutes or so and not to talk about the Iraq war before a conservative audience at a crucial moment in that war is bizarre and just wrong and almost offensive in my view. This doesn't seem like an oversight. He went out of his way to check off every conservative box—except the one that is politically risky at the moment. The rest of his foreign policy stuff—when he talked about Iran and the broader war—felt very shaky and about an inch deep. His account of how he came to change his view on abortion—through the issue of stem-cell research—isn't very compelling and he would probably be better off not talking about it at all. Fairly or not, people aren't going to believe it. It was his misfortune to boast about signing Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge, after Jeb Bush gave a very mature and persuasive explanation earlier in the day for why he hadn't ever signed the pledge, but still cut taxes each year he was in office. I'm a fan of the pledge myself and I'm glad Romney signed it, but his boast on this night after following Jeb played into what will be the chief vulnerability to his candidacy—the sense that he is simply pandering to the right. Believe me, I prefer politicians pandering to the right than to something or someone else. But it won't be enough to sustain a serious presidential campaign, which has to have a deeper rationale than occupying a niche in the marketplace. It was just one night, and Romney is impressive in many ways, but Saturday night was a missed opportunity.
Romney's speech is available in quicktime here.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

New Romney Polls

A new Princeton Suvery of 1003 adults conducted last week that pitted Romney against McCain and Giuliani in a Primary Match-Up and then several of the Democratic candidates in the General Election Match-Up:

WH '08 Primary Election Match-Ups
(RVs and GOP leaners)

R. Giuliani 48%
J. McCain 44
Other/undec 8

J. McCain 69%
M. Romney 19
Other/undec 12

R. Giuliani 72%
M. Romney 19
Other/undec 12

Generic WH '08 Ballot
1/18 All Dem GOP Ind

Democrat 49% 90% 4% 42%
Republican 28 3 78 19
WH '08 General Election Match-Ups
Romney/DEM All Dem GOP Ind

H. Clinton 56% 92% 16% 49%
M. Romney 37 6 76 40
Other/undec 7 2 8 11
J. Edwards              60%   87%  19%  64%     
M. Romney 26 3 67 22
Other/undec 14 10 14 14
B. Obama               56%   83%  18%  56%       
M. Romney 30 7 68 26
Other/undec 14 10 14 18
McCain/DEM       All    Dem  GOP  Ind  1/18
H. Clinton 50% 86% 9% 43% 48%
J. McCain 44 12 87 47 47
Other/undec 6 2 4 10 5
B. Obama               48%   78%  9%    47%  46%   
J. McCain 42 4 86 40 44
Other/undec 10 8 5 13 10
J. Edwards              48%   82%  10%  44%  48%   
J. McCain 44 13 86 45 43
Other/undec 8 5 4 11 9
Giuliani/DEM       All    Dem GOP   Ind   1/18                   
H. Clinton 49 85 9 42 47
R. Giuliani 46 12 88 50 48
Other/undec 5 3 3 8 5
B. Obama               47%   78%  7%    45%  45%
R. Giuliani 44 15 87 43 47
Other/undec 9 7 6 12 8
R. Giuliani               47%   20%  86%  46%  45%   
J. Edwards 46 75 10 44 48
Other/undec 7 5 4 10 7

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Collins and Snowe Endorse McCain

John McCain announced today that Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will serve as the co-chairs of his Presidential Exploratory Committee in Maine while Josh Tardy, the state House GOP Leader, will serve as vice chair.

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Brownback and Huckabee Aiming at Romney

Sam Brownback: On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Brownback was asked more questions about Mitt Romney than his own personal positions. He continued to trump his "true conservative" status: "I've been standing for life all along, and I'll continue to, and I think other people in this race have not stood for life all along. I've been standing and fighting for marriage as the union of a man and woman bonded together for life. I've fought for those in the Senate, and others have voted differently on those. That's what I'm pointing out." He said Romney would "have to stand on his own record. At times he's stated that he's pro-life, and at times he's stated differently. That's something that's going to be coming out during the campaign, and I think that's clear from the outset."

Mike Huckabee: On Meet the Press yesterday, Huckabee seemed to take a subtle jab at Romney when discussing his pro-life status "I always am going to err on the side of life, Tim. I believe life is precious. But I think the issue for many of us who are in the pro-life camp—and I have been since, you know, I was a teenager. This is not something that I’ve been all over the board on, it’s consistent."

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Romney To Address House Republican Retreat

Roll Call is reporting today that Mitt Romney will make an appearance at the House Republican annual retreat this weekend. Both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani were also invited, but neither will appear. "Giuliani sent his regrets and said he had a scheduling conflict. McCain's campaign never responded to inquiries."

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Romney's economic message

An interesting article by James Pethokoukis at U.S. News and World Report about Romney’s economic message:

Romney, whose gracefully aging looks are sometimes compared with Ronald Reagan's, sounded somewhat Gipperesque in that he talked about how tax cuts boost economic growth…Romney also talked about his healthcare reform efforts in the Bay State. But when he talked about healthcare, it was more in the context of a top-down, budget-concern issue than a bottom-up, kitchen-table-concern issue. I'm not sure how well millionaire Romney, who cofounded a private equity investment firm and is the son of former auto executive and Michigan Gov. George Romney, will connect with average voters who have economic worries.

This is certainly a concern for the Romney campaign, albeit a lesser one compared to other concerns at the moment. Romney has crafted a well reasoned message centered around the beneficial effects of tax cuts and fiscal restraint. However, the question is whether this will resonate with the average voter. Does the average voter cast a ballot on detached reasoning or is that voter more impulsive and emotional when it comes time to cast a vote? Romney has banked on Americans’ ability to view and weigh economic issues. He has chosen to avoid the populist message of Mike Huckabee (as described in the article) or Democrats like John Edwards. It will be seen whether this is a winning strategy, but it highlights one of the major differences between Romney and other contenders. Romney is an intellectual elite, as seen by his impressive resume. However, as such, his message can be dismissed to the extent that people don’t feel that he can empathize.

Personally, I feel that much of those concerns are washed away when people see or hear him in person. His message may be academic in nature, but his personal style and warmth are engaging in such a way that it empathy is assumed rather than not.

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Romney's Courtship

The Boston Herald reported yesterday on this recent website post by Mitt Romney on his wife Ann (which is simply excerpts from a speech back in November). The Herald summarizes some of the highlights which it calls "Way too much information":
[Romney] confides that [Ann] nearly was stolen away from him by lusting Brigham Young University studs while Romney was away on a Mormon missionary stay in France. But love prevailed and Mitt proposed. The couple has been married for 38 years. Here are Romney’s own words about their love, from the site: "Ann is an angel. She’s a hot angel, but she’s an angel nonetheless"
Seems like a case of the Herald turning the innocuous into the sensational, though anyone who might have attended Brigham Young University or served a mission probably gets a kick out of it.

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Romney Campaigns in South Carolina

Mitt Romney is embarking on a "major campaign push" in South Carolina today. While Romney has a lot of ground to make up on John McCain in the state, S.C. GOP Chairman Katon Dawson says of Romney, "He made a lot of friends the last time he was here. He raised a lot of money for the party ... He’s got a lot of people on the ground here working for him."

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What Are Endorsements Worth?

What are all the endorsements we see presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney lining up week in and week out really worth? The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says most are not worth much, but there are a few that can help move mountains:
"For the most part, these endorsements are aimed at building momentum but have zero practical effect on the hunt for votes. Not all endorsements are created equal, however. Some really do matter. Here's a look at six of the most important."
Three of the six endorsements Cillizza highlights are Republicans:
  1. Former governor Jeb Bush (Fla.): Not only is Florida expected to move its primary all the way up to Feb. 5, 2008, it is also a treasure trove of campaign contributions if you run in the right circles. Bush knows all the political and financial road maps. He also happens to be the president's brother.
  2. Rep. Steve King (Iowa): King represents the vast -- and overwhelmingly Republican -- 5th District in western Iowa. He's also one of the state's leading conservatives and an outspoken opponent of immigration reform.
  3. Gov. Mark Sanford (S.C.): Most of the statewide elected officials in the Palmetto State have chosen sides, but not Sanford. Although he backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2000, Sanford has made clear that he hasn't decided where to throw his support this time.
Romney's primary chances in key caucuses in Florida, Iowa, and South Carolina could rest on securing the endorsement of these three individuals. One would think Sanford leans toward McCain. Where Jeb Bush stands is not entirely clear, but I would be shocked to see Steve King endorsing McCain, which leaves the door wide open for Romney.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Romney's National Review Summit Speech

The National Review has the full text of Mitt Romney's remarks at last night's National Review Summit. Both the New York Times and the National Association of Manufacturer's Website recap Romney's speech today.

Update: Here is what Romney is posting on his site about his remarks at the Summit.

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Democrats "Fearful" of Romney

The Salt Lake Tribune reports today that since November, the Democratic National Committee has attacked Mitt Romney more than any other candidate. The DNC has issued 15 press releases attacking Romney (while issuing eleven against McCain and one against Giuliani). The Tribune writes that:
Several Democratic political strategists say of the candidates now hoping for the 2008 Republican nomination, Romney is a fearsome contender. The good-looking businessman has charisma, a history of private sector experience and a golden platform on health care reform.

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Mike Huckabee Enters Fray

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced today that he is setting up a Presidential Exploratory Committee.

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LDS Church Affirms Neutrality

The Deseret News has an in depth story today on the efforts of top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make it clear that Mormon political candidates, including Romney, won't be expected to follow their direction on matters of public policy.

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National Review Summit

Mitt Romney addressed the National Review Conservative Summit tonight in a "wide-ranging speech" that he used to introduce himself to conservatives and explain his changed views on social issues. Romney spoke of his opposition to gay marriage and civil unions and referred to himself as "a Ronald Reagan conservative" on abortion who "learned with experience." He also highlighted his business experience and his recently unveiled "Five Step Plan Of Action To Prevent A Nuclear Iran."

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

SEIU Praises Romney's On Health Care

Anna Burger, Secretary and Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (the "largest most innovative union in the country") has lauded praise on Mitt Romney’s health care plan: “You have to give him credit for it. He was willing to step up and do something.” She went on to say that the SEIU would “love to hear Mitt Romney talk about how he wants to expand [health care]."

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Weekly Standard Reviews Romney's "Recent" Conversion on Abortion

The Weekly Standard reviews Romney's abortion record in its upcoming issue, stating that "a look at Romney's second campaign, the 2002 race for Massachusetts governor, reveals that his pro-choice stance and support for embryonic stem cell research were clear and ardent less than five years ago."

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Romney Speaks Out Against Bilingual Education

While speaking in Waterloo, Iowa yesterday, Mitt Romney called for an end to bilingual education in American schools. In his remarks before a group of Republican activists, he said "If kids in this country want to be successful in this country, they need to speak the language of this country. "

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Romney Taps Rep. Dave Camp

Mitt Romney has tapped Michigan Representative Dave Camp (R) to co-chair his President Exploratory Committee in Michigan along with Representative Joseph K. Knollenberg.

Of Romney, Camp says "I see a very articulate leader who has a great track record as a chief executive."

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Romney Trying to Undercut McCain on Abortion?

Rumors are swirling that a Mitt Romney aide who is a "point man on conservative outreach" is telling "pillars of the conservative community" that John McCain is actually pro-choice.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Romney to Address National Review's Conservative Summit

Mitt Romney is scheduled to address the National Review's Conservative Summit this weekend along with the likes of Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, and Tony Snow.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Supporting Giuliani

Former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci (1997-2001) has said he will support Rudy Giuliani despite the fact that Romney asked Cellucci for his endorsement in a meeting two weeks ago. Cellucci says Romney is a "capable leader" and that no snub was intended. "This is not anti-Mitt. This is pro-Rudy."

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hedging on the Surge

As I've argued earlier, I think unqualified support for President Bush's decision to "surge" the number of troops stationed in Iraq is a pretty big gamble for any of the 2008 presidential candidates. The situation in Iraq looks grim and, whatever the outcome, it likely won't be pretty. I think the issue has the power to undo the candidacies of several 2008 presidential hopefuls if they are not careful.

John McCain has been one of the most staunch supporters of the surge, but it seems that he is now beginning to hedge his bets. He is rumored to be drafting a new Iraq resolution that sets "benchmarks" in an attempt to blunt the impact of two other resolutions that are currently making their ways through Congress. Meanwhile, Sam Brownback, who came out against a surge earlier this month, said today that he did not "rule out" voting against the surge at some point.

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Brownback Head Scratcher

Apparently clarity isn't his strong suit.... from his website:

Ours is a great nation and I make one pledge to you to use our greatness for goodness. We are a great nation because our greatness is built on the foundation of fundamental goodness. If ever we lose our goodness, we will surely lose our greatness.


Leavitt and Romney

It'll be interesting to see how prominent Mormons play into Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Take Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, for instance. Romney worked closely with Leavitt during the run up to the 2002 Olympics, but yesterday Leavitt had what I thought was a somewhat awkward exchange with reporters about Romney's faith and the Massachusetts health care he signed into law.

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Romney's Push For Hill Support "Picking Up Steam"

Jonathan Martin at the Politico is reporting today that "Mitt Romney's courting of House Republicans for his presidential bid is picking up steam. He seems to be on the verge of picking up the support of some prominent members of Alabama's congressional delegation. Of these sort of Hill endorsements, Martin writes:
Individually, picking up Hill endorsements may not move a lot of votes. Collectively, though, such backing makes a statement about where some of the most prominent figures in the party are headed. Winning support from so many congressional Republicans so early in 1999 helped then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush create a much-sought sense of inevitability in his presidential bid.

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Sam Brownback on Romney

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Sam Brownback, when asked about Mitt Romney, said "I think you'll have to look at where he stood, and at times, he's said different things on these issues. I think that's all going to come out during a long campaign."

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Romney on the State of the Union Address

Mitt Romney issued a press release yesterday on President Bush's health care proposals in the State of the Union address last night. I think it was a smart move on Romney's part to focus solely on Bush's proposed health care initiatives (rather than Iraq), as the issue is one of Romney's biggest trump cards. Here's the majority of the release:
"We are blessed to live in a country with the best medical system in the world. However, for too many, private health insurance is often out of reach. I welcome President Bush's proposed initiatives to make health insurance more available and affordable. He recognizes the answer is not more government but more innovation, harnessing the power of free market reforms.

"I am especially encouraged by the President's initiative to help states find new solutions for individuals to buy health insurance. I believe the states are our best laboratories to find the best policy innovations to our health insurance crisis. As Governor, my state found a way to get all of our citizens covered without a tax increase and without a big government takeover."

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Boston Herald Coverage

The Boston Herald ran several articles on Mitt Romney today:
  • The paper reported that the Conservative PAC is accusing Romney of "flip-flopping" on his abortion stance while Governor of Massachusetts. By ordering Catholic hospitals in 2005 to make emergency contraceptives available over the advice of his top public health adviser, the group claims Romney "flip-flopped" because months earlier he had tried block legislation legalizing the emergency contraceptive RU-486 (the "morning after" abortion pill).
  • It accused Romney of playing partisan politics during his last few weeks in office. The paper claims that Romney rejected a host of Democratic spending measure while allowing the funding of several similar Republican sponsored projects "slide through."
  • The paper claims that Romney pulled strings from Israel in order to organize a Massachusetts State House meeting that considered whether the state should pull pension funds from companies that engage in business with Iran. The article insinuates that the request to convene the meeting was a self-serving attempt by Romney to bolster the five-point plan he had just laid out in a speech at a security conference in Herzliya.

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Representative Pete Hoekstra Aboard

Mitt Romney announced today that Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, will serve as the Intelligence Adviser to his Presidential Exploratory Committee. Hoekstra will also co-chair Romney's state committee in Michigan.

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Sullivan to Chair South Carolina Efforts

Mitt Romney announced today that South Carolina political operative Terry Sullivan will be overseeing his Exploratory Committee's effort in South Carolina. Sullivan managed Jim Demint's successful run in South Carolina's 2004 Senate race and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s re-election win in 2006.

When asked yesterday to assess Romney's prospects in South Carolina, Sullivan said: "This isn't a race where we're going to win the endorsement battles or have the most endorsements. It's certainly not a race where we start out as a front runner. We're a huge underdog."

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Hotline TV Analysis of Brownback's Candidacy

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

McCain Supporter "Circulating" Mitt Romney Donation

The Politico is reporting that a "well-connected" McCain supporter is "circulating" the fact that Mitt Romney gave $250 in 1992 to the campaign of former New Hampshire Representative Dick Swett (D) has made a point of noting that Swett is a Mormon. Is this an attempt to bolster the Damon Linker note of caution that Mormon politicians hold their faith above their allegiance to their country?

In response, a Romney spokesman said: "A $250 contribution made almost 15 years ago is, obviously, greatly overshadowed by strong conservative governing and a proud, Republican record of balanced budgets and pro-family advocacy."

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Romney's Iran policy

A while back I commented on Romney’s lack of foreign policy plans. Today, Romney lays out a clear plan towards preventing Iran from continuing its nuclear ambitions. Some are fairly obvious, but some more innovative and intriguing. Notably, Romney sees more than just economic sanctions, but also “the potential of U.S. pension funds to further isolate the Iranian economy” through disinvestment.

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Hastert signs on

The Romney campaign has announced the support of Dennis Hastert, the former and most recent Speaker of the House who now serves on the House Commerce Committee.

Jonathan Martin at “The Politico” blog says this:

Romney has cultivated the congressional wing of the GOP in an effort to cast himself as the consensus alternative to Sen. John McCain. Although the former Speaker is now just a rank-and-file member of the House, his support of Romney is a strong indicator of where much of the anti-McCain Republican establishment is headed. Also helpful to Team Mitt, Hastert still retains significant goodwill within the House GOP Conference and will serve as an effective surrogate before members.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I wouldn't underestimate Mitt."

Ted Kennedy, Meet the Press, 01-21-2007

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Big Romney Press Day

Today was a pretty big day press-wise for Mitt Romney.
  • Roll Call reports that Romney is making concerted efforts to build support for his candidacy in the House of Representatives and early signs indicate that he is likely the favorite of a lot of House Republicans, including Minority LeaderJohn Boehner (R-OH), among others.
  • Professors David E. Campbell, of Notre Dame and J. Quin Monson, of Brigham Young University, wrote a Op-Ed in today's USA Today arguing that Americans have nothing to fear in a Mormon president, but that Romney should be aware that some voters might react unfavorably to his religion. They note the obvious parallels to John F. Kennedy's candidacy almost 50 years ago and they point out that Romney would enjoy the same autonomy as fellow Church member Harry Reid, who opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment last year in spite of Church support for the measure.
  • The Christian Science Monitor discusses the diverse presidential field and the hurdles Romney faces in over coming Mormon bias. The intro is pretty good... "At first, it sounds like a bad joke: What if a woman, a black, and a Mormon ran for president? Yet with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney running for the White House, this welcome burst of diversity in US presidential candidates is no joke."

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McCain News

  • McCain announced on Friday that Mitt Romney's former senior political director Rob Gray, will be serving has his New England regional political strategist. Gray said "I like Mitt, but I think John McCain is the right candidate to carry our party to victory in 2008." Does a defection like this hurt Romney? If so, how much?
  • The Arizona Republic quoted political oracle Larry Sabato saying of last week's Arizona straw poll "[it] does suggest that there is enduring enmity toward McCain in many conservative circles. They just don't like him, and they never will. McCain could walk on water, and their headline would be, 'McCain can't swim.'" Other notables, however, contended that the straw poll was dubious. Arizona's GOP chair Matt Salmon claimed it was "the last salvo in an ongoing attack by a disgruntled few. . . They try to make it seem like the opposition is a lot bigger and broader than it really is."

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Camenker, Brownback - response


The Camenker report is an interesting thing: an attack so early on from the right that presumably doesn’t come from another candidate. Camenker is portrayed as a noble fellow by the Boston Globe. I don’t doubt Camenker’s sincerity in what he believes. He is vehemently anti-gay. Yet there is a naivety in Camenker. When confronted with the fact that he aligns himself with groups like MassEquity and other gay rights advocates, Camenker essentially shrugs his shoulders. He says “All we're doing is spreading the truth.” That may be so, but with reckless abandon for what the consequences might be. Such a display should be exposed for whatever falsities it might contain and then shunned as the work of an extremist; which, I believe, is exactly what the Romney campaign has done.


As for Brownback, he is essentially the anti-McCain. He is socially conservative where McCain is not and a dove where McCain is a hawk. To me he seems more reactive than anything else. Certainly he will appeal to the conservative crowd. Is that enough, even in the Republican Party? I have my doubts. As to whose support he will likely siphon, it’s plausible that he and Romney will be vying for the same people. However, because of his stance on Iraq, the conservative vote is presented with more clear options. Do they want the socially moderate hawk (McCain), the socially conservative dove (Brownback), or the socially conservative hawk (Romney)? To me, it’s more than likely that Republicans will find the baby-bear (just right) candidate in Romney rather than choosing the hot or cold positions of McCain or Brownback. Of course this simplistic view of the candidates on two issues doesn’t encompass all the choices that Republicans will weigh.

CNN/Opinion Research Poll

CNN/Opinion Research released a new poll today that, among Republicans surveyed, has Rudy Giuliani at 32%, John McCain at 26%, Newt Gingrich at 9%, with Mitt Romney following at 7%.

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The Camenker Report Revisited

It seems Conservative activist Brian Camenker isn't finished with Mitt Romney just yet. A couple of weeks ago we posted about the Report he released last month, and the Boston Globe is reporting this morning that Camenker plans on releasing a follow up later this week. In response to the first report, Romney issued a press release entitled "The Real Brian Camenker" that attacked the man as a "political gadfly." Some of Romney's online supporters thought that move was a mistake. Matt Lewis, the man who convinced Romney to hire a full-time blogger, criticized the press release saying:
If Camenker is so irrelevant, then why is Romney trying to take him down? Why not let someone else take down Camenker (heck, the AP is already doing the dirty work by calling him a gadfly)? Get a surrogate, for crying out loud, Gov. Romney, but don’t dirty your hands on this man.
Should Romney even acknowledge this follow-up? He was praised earlier this month by most for his "nimbleness" in response to a Youtube post that compiled clips from his 1994 Senate race, would a similarly nimble response to the coming report be in order or is Matt Lewis correct that a "surrogate" should handle these duties?

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Rudy Giuliani's Prospects

Rudy Giuliani leads the field of Republican presidential hopefuls in most polls, but the majority of political insiders think he has almost no chance whatsoever of securing the Republican nomination. Stuart Rothenberg wrote an interesting article for Roll Call this past week that discusses the tough row Giuliani has to hoe (it can be found on his blog). Rothberg thinks Giuliani's chances at the nomination are nil, but in his article he brings up what seems like a very likely scenario if Giuliani were to somehow become the Republican nominee:
It seems to me that you need to suspend all your analytical faculties to believe the GOP will nominate for president a Republican who supports abortion rights, and is pro-gun control and pro-gay rights. It just isn’t going to happen, at least not in my lifetime.

Giuliani’s strong showing in GOP polling reflects his celebrity status and the reputation he earned after the terrorist attacks. But if and when he becomes a candidate, that will change. He will be evaluated on the basis of different things, including his past and current positions and behavior, and he’ll be attacked by critics and opponents. A Giuliani nomination would also generate a conservative third-party candidate in the general election and tear the GOP apart, thereby undercutting Giuliani’s electability argument.

So, the former mayor might make a terrific general election candidate, but I don’t see how he can get there as a Republican.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sam Brownback Announces Presidential Bid

The Washington Post is reporting that Sam Brownback has officially announced his intentions to run for President. The Post's article discusses where Brownback fits into this early, crowded, presidential field.

Brownback's supporters say the party's better-known contenders -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney -- offer weaker platforms for voters who strongly oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research.

"There are really two primaries taking place simultaneously in the Republican party," said Gary Bauer, the family values activist who ran for president in 2000. "One, for center-left candidates, is being fought out between Giuliani and Senator McCain. On the conservative side, nobody has captured that crown yet, but Senator Brownback will be a major competitor". . . .

Brownback's Senate campaign account has $600,000 as he starts his fundraising drive. A key to his campaign's financial strength may rest with Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and a Roman Catholic philanthropist who started Legatus, a lay group of wealthy conservative business executives. Monaghan has been serving as a top adviser to Brownback's campaign.

The senator's chances may ultimately depend on his ability to ignite Christian conservatives, said John Green, senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Religious activists "don't have a consensus candidate yet," he said, but Brownback is one "they're certainly paying a lot of attention to."

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Touring Israel

Mitt Romney traveled to Israel today as part of a four-day tour of the country. Romney is the first announced 2008 presidential candidate in either party to visit Israel as a candidate. The trip is being sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

On Tuesday, Romney is slated to speak at an annual Israeli security conference called the Herzliya Conference. He plans to return Thursday, but Hotline is reporting that he has private meetings scheduled with an impressive array of politicians and diplomats, including:

  • Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
  • Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres
  • Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
  • Mr. Meir Dagan, Director of the Mossad
  • Avi Dichter, Minister of Public Security
  • Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak
  • Natan Sharansky
  • Former Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Dr. Salam Fayyad, former Palestinian Finance Minister


More Announcements

Thursday, January 18th - Mitt Romney announced the support of 16 RNC Committee Members from across the country. Nothing groundbreaking, but most any support is welcome at this point.

Friday, January 19th - Mitt Romney
announced that U.S. Representative Tom Feeney (R-FL) will serve as a key liaison for his exploratory committee to fiscal conservatives and organizations promoting fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C. While Florida is a large state with a lot of Congressional Representatives, I think any pledge of support from a sitting member of Congress is good news.

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American Research Poll

The Republican polling firm American Research Group released an 8 state presidential poll on Friday that surveyed 600 likely primary voters of each party in each state. Romney placed third, far behind Rudy Giuliani and John McCain and just ahead of Newt Gingrich and Tommy Thompson.

  WH '08 GOP Primary Election Matchup
R. Giuliani 34% 18% 30% 35% 33% 38% 33% 34%
J. McCain 24 31 15 25 24 20 18 26
M. Romney 10 2 2 1 12 7 3 2
N. Gingrich 9 14 16 10 8 9 19 11
T. Thompson 7 2 -- -- 4 -- -- --
M. Huckabee 2 1 1 1 -- -- -- 4
S. Brownback -- 5 1 2 4 4 -- --
J. Gilmore -- -- -- 1 -- -- -- 1
C. Hagel -- 3 2 4 3 6 5 2
D. Hunter -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 --
G. Pataki -- -- 1 -- -- 1 -- --
Other/undec 14 24 32 21 11 15 22 19
CBS4 in Boston sees a silver lining in these low early numbers:
[T]he election is a long way off and the Romney camp just might be in the perfect position....

"You don't want to be a front runner at this point front runners attract flies, heat and all sorts of unwanted side effects," [says CBS4 political analyst Jon Keller].

Keller says Romney has taken hits about flip flopping on some issues and his Mormon religion and it actually benefits him not to be getting as much attention right now.

So, although his numbers are low, his campaign shouldn't worry.

"No need to panic no need to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel to get some cheap pub," Keller said.

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Diageo/Hotline Poll

I've been out of commission the last couple of days and during that time a new Diageo/Hotline poll surfaced that seems to have some bad news for Mitt Romney.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters and found that Mormonism is only slightly more popular than Islam and Republicans are 10% more likely to view the Mormon religion unfavorably than are Democrats.

 Fav/Unfav      All      Dem      GOP      Ind

Judaism 58%/11% 58%/10% 62%/16% 52%/6%
Catholicism 58%/21% 55%/24% 61%/24% 55%/16%
Mormonism 27%/39% 27%/38% 28%/48% 31%/26%

Islam 18%/41% 27%/27% 11%/58% 14%/41%

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Romney interview with Mike Gallagher

Mitt Romney radio interview with Mike Gallagher here or here. Mike asks Mitt about the border agent story (about them being prosecuted for shooting a drug dealer), illegal immigration, the war on terror, and Romney’s religion.

New House Congressional Liasons

Mitt Romney has tapped U.S. Representative Jim McCrery (R-LA) to serve as the House Congressional Liaison for his President Exploratory Committee. As Liaison, McCrery will lead Romney's outreach efforts in the U.S. House. Romney also named Representatives Dave Camp (R-MI) and Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) as Co-House Congressional Liaisons. Congressman Camp will serve as Michigan Co-Chair of the Romney for President Exploratory Committee as well.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

News Round Up

  • Mitt Romney backers pushing for a Straw Poll in Florida this coming October. He's thought to have made inroads with Jeb Bush's camp and a straw poll could help propel the momentum he's been building.
  • Romney was grilled by a group of Florida's leading religious conservatives over the weekend about his shifting views on several social issues, but is thought to have handled it well. Conservative radio host Mark Merrill said of Romney, ''They were straightforward questions, and he hit them head on. I was impressed.'' Not everyone seemed completely won over though. Attorney John Stemberger said in a written statement afterward, "At this time I am not convinced that he is the best candidate for social conservatives, I am encouraging Christian leaders statewide to keep their powder dry and wait to hear what other candidates have to say.''
  • Potential presidential candidate Tom Tancredo announced the formation of an exploratory committee and has signed up conservative Iowa GOP activist Bill Salier to chair his campaign in Iowa.
  • John McCain has secured the backing of South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
  • About the Romney-McCain endorsement battle, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes: "Does any of it matter? Marginally. Few people who don't practice politics full time are paying attention at this early stage, and most voters don't make their decisions based on which candidate has the most endorsements."

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Romney-McCain One-Upsmanship Continues

Minnesota is the latest battleground. The Washington Post is reporting that Mitt Romney has secured Vin Weber, a former Minnesota Republican Congressman and current lobbyist, as an advisor, while McCain has picked up the support of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Meanwhile, Romney is trying to make inroads into McCain's beltway stronghold by hiring Tony Feather, a former Bush political director.

AZ straw poll

The Sonoran Alliance is reporting that the Maricopa County, AZ (the county containing Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, etc) Republicans held a straw poll at a meeting on Saturday. Again, we’re dumping loads of salt on this (Duncan Hunter was the first choice candidate??), but Romney makes another good showing (2nd) in a poll where more than 450 ballots were cast, in the front-runner’s home state (McCain came in 4th).

Momentum continues to build.

Romney and the Boston Media

It seems as though the Boston Media will be much the same thorn in Mitt Romney's side during the looming presidential campaign as the New York Media is sure to be in Rudy Giuliani's. In the wake of Romney attending an event last week with NRA brass, both the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe have done stories on Romney's rightward drift on gun rights. Also in yesterday's Globe, a somewhat positive story on "nimble Mitt", albeit laced with references to views that have shifted since 1994.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

LA Times: Romney's Religious Rights

Tim Rutten has an interesting op-ed on Mitt Romney in today's Los Angeles Times. In response to the recent articles in Slate and The New Republic, Rutten argues that while Romney's record is certainly fair game, his faith is unfairly being used against him. Here are a few snippets (the full article can be found here):
[I]t's been nearly half a century since our political journalism has witnessed anything quite as breathtakingly noxious and offensive as the current attempt to discredit Mitt Romney, a potential Republican presidential candidate, because the Massachusetts governor is a Mormon....

Religious belief is a matter of conscience and if there is no privacy of conscience there is no separation of church and state, a principle both Slate and the New Republic claim to defend. Do the editors of those journals really want to take us back to the 1960s, when as many as one American in four said they never would vote for a Catholic or a Jew for president? Not likely.

What both journals are doing is playing with social fire for the sake of narrow partisan advantage, hoping to knock a potentially attractive conservative candidate out of the running in much the same way that some Republican commentators desperately attempted to prod some Catholic bishop somewhere into denying Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry communion because he's pro-choice.

That effort didn't succeed and this one probably won't either because an instinctively tolerant American people understands the difference between legitimate journalistic inquiry and an inquisition.

Reading the Evangelical Tea Leaves...

In a recent radio interview, James Dobson of Focus on the Family bluntly said that "speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." Remembering that just a few months ago Dobson said that he didn't believe large numbers of conservative Christians would vote for a Mormon, what does this mean for Mitt Romney? Is this Dobson tipping his hat toward candidates in the mold of Sam Brownback? More importantly, how representative is Dobson of the evangelical community at large?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Youtube Interview with Eric Fehrnstrom

Here's a video Kyle wanted to post. It's an interview that has Mitt Romney's spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom discussing last week's fundraising kickoff and giving the institution of blogging a nice plug.

Michael Medved interview with Romney

Michael Medved interviewed Mitt Romney this week on his radio show. The audio is here or here (starts at 13:00). Medved reviews Romney’s stance on the troop surge, the allegations of flip-flopping, and the “mormon” question.

The Camenker Report

Over the last few weeks, a 28 page report by conservative activist Brian Camenker on Romney's stance on social issues has been making waves among some in conservative circles. The AP is running a story today about the report, and both the The New Republic (Smearing Romney) and the National Review (Will They Believe Romney) ran articles last month discussing it. Is this something Romney should be worrying more about or are the steps he's already taken to rebut Camenker's portrayal and explain his past enough? Could the fact that all this is being hashed out work in his favor down the road, allowing him to brush the issue off in the future as "old news"?

Oh Mandy...

Sorry for the lame Manilow intro... but the other big news from Kyle's hotline link is that Romney's campaign has officially landed Mandy Fletcher, former executive director of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, to be the state director for Romney's exploratory committee in Florida. It's a pretty big pick up.

Romney wins straw poll

This from the Hotline at National Journal (hat tip to

A thousand miles north, in South Carolina, Romney won the first county exec. committee straw poll we've seen. Of the 30 members, 11 voted for Romney, 5 voted for Tom Tancredo, 4 voted for Newt Gingrich, 3 voted for John McCain, 2 voted for Tom Coburn, two for Mike Huckabee, and 1 (each) for Pataki, Giuliani and Duncan Hunter. Aiken Co. has 142,000 residents, making it the 4th largest in the state

The momentum seems to be building for Romney in South Carolina. As always, this early into the race, all good news (and especially straw polls) should be taken with a veritable salt lick. Still, doubling his closest competitor is quite a feat in a state that values social conservatism very highly. Several interesting notes about this vote also. Tom Tancredo has not announced his presidential aspirations, but apparently is headed to Iowa to declare this weekend. Tancredo, while having a very loyal border security following, will need to develop more of a one issue campaign. Newt Gingrich has also not announced, and it is unclear whether he will. McCain, despite his seeming institutional support from Republicans generally, has to be disappointed at his showing. Interestingly enough, declared candidate Sen. Sam Brownback apparently had zero votes. I am unsure whether this has any relation to his stance on the surge in troops.

Meanwhile, Romney gets a nice compliment from Dean Barnett as "smarter than the average bear" candidate for his innovation in fundraising and his youtube responsiveness.

The Power of YouTube

On Wednesday January 10, Mitt Romney had easily his "biggest" day in the blogosphere (at least in the last six months, which is as far back as blogpulse goes -- and it seems highly likely that this means ever).

The likely cause of the extra commotion is a video showing Romney in a 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy that was uploaded onto the video website Youtube (Marc's post about the video is here, and his post about Romney's response is here). While it seems no one is really sure who is responsible for the video it is worthwile to point out the remarkableness of Youtube and the power that a single individual has to influence and shape public debate in something as large and as highly managed as a presidential campaign. Until now this has been virtually unheard of, probably even as late as 2004.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Groundwork in Alabama

Mitt Romney's campaign named Alabama State Treasurer Kay Ivey as state chair of his Alabama exploratory committee today. Alabama is one of key caususes in the GOP's very front-loaded 2008 primary schedule.

Mitt's Response

Mitt Romney's campaign responded quickly yesterday to the uploading of excerpts from his 1994 debate on Youtube by issuing a press release and uploading a video of its own on Youtube. The video has Mitt calling into the Glenn & Helen Show and responding to the 1994 debate clip by saying he was wrong on some issues back then and asking to be judged by his record as Governor.


Stereotypes - Kyle's response

In thinking about the question of whether Romney will be subject to religious bigotry from secular voters during the general election, as previously posted, the basic answer is yes. The reason is mostly political. The tactics used to gain the presidency, or any other powerful office, are increasingly dirty. Thus, almost any advantage that can be taken IS taken. If Romney were part of some other disfavored group, that group would be used to tarnish Romney. This tactic was notably used recently in the confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito for appointment to the Supreme Court. Alito had had a loose connection (at best) to a group that at one point had radical views. Yet, large portions of the hearings were devoted to how his connection to that group defined Alito. Romney’s affiliation with Mormonism is no different, although Romney openly acknowledges his on going affiliation. His opposition, whether from the right or left, will attempt to brand him as illegitimate to further their political goals. This should be no surprise.

What is more surprising is the shallow nature of the attacks. For this I generally blame the media (hear me out on this). The current media situation is not an intellectually rigorous environment. They have accepted stereotypes and clichés and continue to report them as though they had come up with them on their own. They have accepted that they only need to ask the surface questions and find people to represent a preconceived version of both sides, in some sort of sound bite fashion. That is why despite over 100 years of repudiation, the first, and generally only, question that is asked about Mormonism is about polygamy. Linker’s article has additional depth, but as Richard Lyman Bushman, points out, several of the issues he raises are also a century old.

Thus, I guess to answer the posed question, Romney should expect the on-going stereotypes: initiated by opponents for political gain and perpetuated by an intellectually lazy media.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Nagging Thorn?

What role is Mitt Romney's 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy going to play in next year's primary? Has Romney done enough to ease the doubts of social conservatives? What more does he need to do? Someone recently uploaded an edited segment of the 1994 debate onto Youtube and it's making waves on beltway political sites today. Will Romney be able to put the stances he took back them to rest once and for all? Moreover, who is responsible for stirring this pot again?


Mitt Supports Troop Surge

In anticipation of Bush's expected announcement this evening that he will increase the number of troops in Iraq for the time being, Romney sent out a press release this morning expressing support for such a surge. In it he said:
I believe securing Iraqi civilians requires additional troops. I support adding five brigades in Baghdad and two regiments in Al-Anbar province. Success will require rapid deployment.
What are the implications of this in the primary next year? If the war continues to go as badly as it has this past year, will this decision have any negative consequences in a general election?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Romney's Constituency

An earlier post on this blog asked who exactly John McCain's GOP constituency was. It's an intriguing question that's incredibly relevant to the looming Republican primary campaigns. McCain almost seems to be better positioned for a general election run than his upcoming primary run because of his appeal to independents and conservative Democrats, this could end up hurting his chances at the nomination. Equally intriguing is the question of who Mitt Romney's GOP constituency is. While neither candidate is the natural choice for the majority of social conservatives, both are doing their best to court them. Romney, however, certainly will expect to carry tremendous weight with most Repubican Latter-day Saints. As pointed out by a commenter a few days ago, this could pose serious problems for McCain in places like Arizona where he otherwise wouldn't have to worry. Apparently, McCain is starting to try and head this off or at least cut into what Romney would expect to be his most loyal constituency. While in the minds of some, certain LDS politicians like Jon Huntsman or Mark Shurtleff might have self-interested motives in supporting McCain, what about members of the Church like philanthropist and Brigham Young University benefactor Ira Fulton, a loyal McCain supporter? Will McCain have any success here?



Suppose Romney does win the Republican nomination, will he then be subject to religious bigotry from secular voters during the general election? Marc's post about John B. Judis's article got me thinking about this issue. It was pretty generally assumed by many that religious bigotry and stereotyping were the domain of the Religious Right, and that secular pundits and voters wouldn't engage in it. Starting with Andrew Sullivan, and continuing with Damon Linker and Jacob Weisberg (who, as far as I know, aren't part of the Religious Right) I've begun to change my mind. This post on the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog about the Linker article (and in particular the comments) show me that even many non-religious voters aren't going to let Romney's candidacy pass without engaging in bigotry and stereotyping.

Expansion on Marc's post - New support

The endorsement of Sen. Jim DeMint is a major boon for the Romney campaign for two reasons. First, the American Conservative Union ratings gave DeMint a rating of 96 (0 = least consersvative; 100 = most conservative). A similar rating was given to prominent conservatives such as Saxby Chambliss (GA), Chuck Grassley (IA), Elizabeth Dole (NC), and John Cornyn (TX). Romney’s conservative credentials have been questioned by social conservatives. DeMint’s endorsement gives credence to Romney’s bid for the conservative vote. The reasoning is that, given DeMint’s strong conservative credentials, DeMint’s approval means that Romney aligns with DeMint’s ideals and beliefs. How many conservatives follow that line of reasoning is questionable, but Romney is likely banking on the additional conservative appeal.

Second, DeMint is not as well known as some conservative senators nationally and so the impact of his endorsement outside of South Carolina is questionable. Still, the impact of DeMint’s endorsement in South Carolina cannot be overstated. The Republican nomination is likely heavily weighted on what happens in South Carolina. DeMint’s endorsement gives Romney access to party activists and donors across the state. While this doesn’t secure Romney anything, it sends a strong signal that Romney will be very competitive in a key primary state. McCain is supported by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who supported McCain’s 2000 bid for the White House, and has an early lead in donors in South Carolina.

New Support, New Challenges and New Challengers

New Support: Mitt Romney has landed the support of Former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld who, interestingly, is a long-time friend of Rudy Giuliani. Is this a sign that even Giuliani's long-time friends and associates doubt his ability to mount a serious primary run? Another big pick up is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who endorsed Romney today (which splits South Carolina's Senate delegation, with Lindsay Graham supporting John McCain). This is significant because Romney has lagged far behind McCain in garnering support in South Carolina.

New Challenges: Sam Brownback tried to steal some of the thunder of Romney's fundraising campaign yesterday by announcing the support of seven conservative activists from Massachusetts who are backing him over Romney. In releasing the names of these activists, Brownback spokesman Rob Wasinger said Brownback's conservative record was "an asset that money just cannot buy" and that these activists decided to support Brownback because they "are tired of all the compromise and double-speak and are eager to support a true conservative."

New Challengers:
Former Governor of Virginia Jim Gilmore officially threw his hat into the presidential race yesterday by filing with the F.E.C. to form an exploratory committee. He had announced last month that he was thinking of funning because of the absence of what he considered a true conservative.

Flexing His Fundraising Muscle

Mitt Romney's campaign flexed its fundraising muscle yesterday in a national "Call-A-Thon" that solicited donations from Romney friends and financial supporters. Romney's camp blew past its stated goal of $1 million by 11am and went on to raise, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, more than $7 million before the day was through. To remain competitive, Romney will need to sustain this fundraising prowess (some estimate he will need to pull in $100 million this year alone), but by any measure this fundraising kick-off was a stunning success that seems to resolve any doubts of whether Romney could contend with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani financially.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Why a Mormon President is Nothing to Fear

There's a great article in the New Republic Online today by John B. Judis. Why a Mormon President is Nothing to Fear is a direct response to recent articles by Slate's Jacob Weisberg and the New Republic's Damon Linker. I think Judis does a great job of responding to the arguments raised by both Weisberg and Linker.

To Weisberg's argument that believing Mormons are unqualified for office because their beliefs are "irrational and absurd," Judis correctly points out that Latter-day Saint beliefs are "no more so than the beliefs of many Protestants, Catholics, and Jews." Ultimately, if there is going to require that faith's pass a test of so-called reason, most faiths are going to fail.

To Linker's concern about Mormons and their Church's prophetic tradition, Judis responds with a series of questions:
The first question is whether the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in America have been inclined to make such immoral pronouncements. They haven't, and there is no evidence they are about to. And the second question is whether Romney has displayed the kind of fanatical commitment that, if they were to do so, would override the moral and political considerations that a politician brings to bear in making decisions. And there is no evidence that Romney--or his father or Harry Reid or Orrin Hatch or Jeff Flake--would. In other words, there is no reason not to give Romney the same pass that voters like Weisberg or Linker gave to Catholic or Jewish candidates.
Judis sums up by saying:
Certainly, there is a bridge between religion and politics that politicians cannot safely cross. And that consists in bringing particular, sectarian beliefs openly to bear on major national issues. George W. Bush is often accused of doing so, but he has actually has been fairly careful not to--for instance, in his decision on stem-cell research. It's a presumption of American politics that politicians will not cross this bridge. We've now given this benefit of a doubt to Catholics and Jews. It's time to give it to Mormons like Harry Reid and Mitt Romney.

Hotline TV on Romney

Hotline Editors Chuck Todd and John Mercurio do a run down on Romney's candidacy. Would Romney be the toughest candidate for Democrats to beat in a general election?

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Romney's executive experience

This from David Frum today on NRO:

These facts, impressive as they are, do not quite convey Romney's appeal. Romney built his business success on a voracious appetite for data, a willingness to hear contrary opinions and a cool and deliberate decision-making style. Although his politics broadly align with George W. Bush's, his intellectual and managerial style could not differ more. And nowhere did he display that intellectual style more than with his central achievement as governor: his universal health care plan.

Frum raises an interesting point in other parts of his article about the levels of executive and management experience of the top tier candidates on the Republican side. The question is: Does America value executive experience in Presidential candidates? With the ascendance of many governors to the White House, the answer would seem to be yes. However, how much of the popularity of governors was related directly to their success as chief executives is unclear. Did the record of success on the state level generate their popularity or was their success more due to skill as politicians? This will be especially important for Romney. He has had successes on the state level, but will that be sufficient to propel his candidacy? It seems more likely that, given his lack of name recognition, his success will depend on his appeal to those who have little knowledge of his record in Massachusetts. In essence he is given a blank slate, for good or bad, by which voters will judge him anew (thus the rehashing of the role of Mormonism and previous views on his candidacy) as they come to recognize what he stands for.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I just read this posting by Robert Novak

During his family vacation in Park City, Utah, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met with former Bush administration officials who comprise his economic policy team to discuss a tax reform for Romney's presidential campaign.

The meeting included Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) who is co-chairman of Romney's economic policy council. Also on hand were former Bush economic policy officials Brian Reardon and Cesar Conda. Gregory Mankiw, another former CEA chairman, is Romney's economic co-chairman but could not attend the Utah meeting because of a knee injury.

Romney, seeking to contrast himself with Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on taxes, has surrounded himself with architects of Bush's tax plan. Vice President Dick Cheney had to cast a tie-breaking vote on the 2003 tax cuts because Sen. McCain had voted against them.

Two things from this post. First, while I believe that tax cuts are good (both because they have the potential to bring in increased revenue and because they limit the size of government), I just hope that these aren’t the people who did the PR for Bush’s tax cut. For anyone who even moderately understands fiscal policy and economics, the tax cuts were a resounding success. However, they were easily attacked as only benefiting the super rich. I believe that Romney is better at making his case for his ideas and policies than Bush, but he should be aware that, while the good of the country is of utmost importance, most people will not take the time to look deeper at an issue than the media label it is given, resulting in loss of public support. Thus, I say, continue to craft a dynamite economic package with the behind the scenes Bush people, but make sure to employ someone other than Bush’s PR people to promote it.

Second, I’m increasingly skeptical of who McCain’s constituency is. According to Novak, McCain voted against the tax cuts in 2003. We know his proposal for immigration was supported by Ted Kennedy and other liberal senators. He opposed the marriage amendment last year, saying it was “unRepublican”. He continues to be the leading supporter of the war. He has labeled his philosophy “Common Sense Conservatism”. I’m not sure what constituency his record appeals to. On some issues, he would seem to alienate the conservatives. Yet his support of the war would certainly alienate liberals. Does that mean that he represents the middle of America in between? I guess that’s what voters will tell us in 2008, but it seems highly unlikely to me that his mix of liberal and conservative ideas will appeal to any base in particular.



The battle for a party's primary nomination largely involves what sort of momentum a candidate can build during the primary campaigns. More than any other Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and John McCain have strategically announced the support of new prominent fundraisers, boosters, and staff each week to, in my mind, give the appearance of surging momentum for their respective candidacies. Creating this appearance is a tricky political calculation though, because each state can differ so markedly in its politics and its allegiances. Romney has seemed to focus more on Iowa and New Hampshire this past year while McCain has paid special attention to South Carolina (where his political fortunes crumbled in the 2000 primaries). It makes sense considering these are all key states in a very front-loaded 2008 Republican primary calender:
Front End of the Republican 2008 Primary Calender
January 21
: Iowa
January 28: New Hampshire
February 5: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.
It's difficult to say who this calender benefits most at this point. Despite McCain's 2000 victory there, Romney would appear to have a leg up in New Hampshire because of its proximity to Massachusetts. Romney also looks to have an advantage in Iowa. He has landed key Republican support in Iowa and will benefit from McCain's past anti-ethanol stance (one of the reasons that, in 2000, he chose to skip the Iowa caucus altogether). But McCain has built a seemingly insurmountable organizational lead in South Carolina. Romney probably has Utah locked up with McCain pocketing Arizona and New Mexico. But how will the rest of the front end primaries play out? Out of Romney and McCain, who is more likely to come out of this very crowded two week schedule with the momentum?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Long Awaited News

"We've filed exploratory papers today, so the process is moving forward on that front." - Mitt Romney

That’s the best news, as far as this blogger is concerned. As laid out yesterday, there is a lot of uphill climbing for Romney. He needs national name recognition, but from the reports, he seems to have a strong network of operatives and contributors in place in key states. Certainly there will be more needed to catch up to front-runners McCain and Giuliani.

Interestingly enough, also being reported today is the fact that the Massachusetts amendment to ban gay marriage has garnered enough votes to get on the ballot there. While this isn’t a home-run, it certainly is a victory for Romney since he was the one to initiate the process. Certainly this will help him to ease concerns about his stance on gay marriage and will be something to trumpet as part of a record of accomplishment even up to his last day in office.

The New Republic also has Romney on its cover. An article by Damon Linker discusses Romney’s Mormonism (subscribers only) and the implications for the White House. There is also a rebuttal by Richard Lyman Bushman, the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. As I’m not a subscriber, I wasn’t able to read the article. The rebuttal was directed mostly at the history of Mormon politicians and the role the LDS Church has played in politics. The rebuttal is essentially self-explanatory and so this blogger will refrain from comment.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Latest on Romney announcing

The latest news, and if you follow Romney you've been expecting this, is that Mitt will file paperwork for an "exploratory" committee in looking at a run for president. At this point there is little surprise in this announcement. He has been testing his national capabilities for some time now. Perhaps this would be a good time to do a quick run-down of the chances that the "exploratory' committee will become a full-fledged campaign committee.

At this point it seems as though Romney has cemented himself as a top-tier candidate even though he polls well behind McCain and Giuliani. McCain and Giuliani both have been in the national awareness longer than Romney, stemming from McCain's long tenure in the Senate and 2000 presidential run and Giuliani's iconic status from his mayoral oversight of the revitalization of New York City and the aftermath of 9/11. Romney's emergence on the national stage stems generally from his 2004 speech at the Republican National Convention. He had some previous exposure from the 2002 Winter Olympics and gaining the Massachusetts governorship in 2002. However, before his 2004 speech, he was not nearly the national figure that McCain and Giuliani already were. Thus, at this point, one of Romney's biggest obstacles is gaining national name recognition.

One of the other major obstacles is clearly defining who he is. Up to this point, as a governor, he has not had to express an opinion on some issues, namely foreign relations and national defense. He has dabbled and dipped his toe into that pool, but generally has taken a "wait and see" approach apart from talking points like "defeating the jihadists". He needs to be able to explain how the components of diplomacy and military strength combine to effect that broad goal. What exactly is his recipe?

Still, Romney is the clear alternative for conservative Americans. While it may not be commonly known as of yet, Romney has been a leader in defending traditional families and in fiscal responsibility. There have been some concerns about his change in position on some social issues. Clearly the ghosts of John Kerry, another candidate from Massachusetts, are at play here. However, he has been forthright about it, as explained by David in the previous post. Much like John Edwards, Romney's credibility will depend on how America sees the shift: Is it political opportunism, or is it maturation?

In sum, it would seem that Romney will make the transition from exploratory to actual campaign. There are very few opportunities to be a first tier candidate in a presidential election. And for conservative Americans, he seems like the best hope for promoting their ideals.