Real Conservatives for Newt?

Political Insider has a little blurb about Newt being the real candidate of the right. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times before here and here.

It is very interesting. At today’s American Democracy Conference, Rich Galen said:

There is zero downside no matter what he decides to do. Newt has always been inclusive to the point that it hurt him when he was Speaker…. Newt has the advantage of being able to be a presidential candidate until he decides he’s not a presidential candidate." Newt "wants to be able to frame the debate over the presidential nominating process.

Is he really running?

Romney campaign on the Mormon Question

I spent part of my morning at the UVa/Hotline American Democracy Conference. Hotlineblog liveblogged the conference. One of the panels was on the 2008 GOP race. (Much of this was also reported by the St. Lake City Tribune) There were plenty of interesting questions that I am going to try to address in the next couple of days. But one question and answer seems particularly apropos to some recent debates appearing on the blogosphere.

Chuck Todd asked about "The Mormon Question". Jan Van Lohuizen, Romney’s pollster responded with:

There are two levels to the answer. One level is the inside baseball between now and, call it August. The people in this room are going to hear questions about the Mormon thing until its ridiculous or its embarassing. I think the question will wear itself out. There is no answer because the question is a weapon and you keep repeating the question until people…don’t want to hear it anymore. At the voter level, the polling on it has been just really mixed. Some people say it;’s a problem to more than 40%, other people say 20%.

I’d take these in the other order. For the people for whom Romney’s religion is going to be a genuine issue, he’s not going to get their votes. The Romney campaign will not be able to hide his religion, and they shouldn’t. The upshot is that the voters will probably be educated on this fact. Therefore, the audience of this discussion is the political elites. Van Lohuizen’s "inside baseball".

Now here’s a question. Would the Romney camp rather have there be scrutiny of his religion or his record? My sense is that they can (appropriately) condemn scrutiny of his religion, especially when it can be made to appear from the McCain camp.

You see, this period of inside baseball is about signing up new support. And, as Romney tries to tack to the right to get more support, he has to present his record. Would he rather have the religious right hear:

  • I’m a Mormon. Mormon’s are conservative. I’m conservative. Please study and pray about whether you can support a Mormon.
  • I’m a conservative. I’ve shifted around a bunch in the past, but I’m a conservative (for) now. Please support me.

I think that Romney would prefer to talk about Mormonism, frankly. The dynamic right now is that the Romney camp is trying to tell people that he is a conservative. Other people are trying to inform people about Romney’s record. This happened in IA and MI. And now it is going national.

Fundamentally, a discussion about Romney’s religion doesn’t move votes. And I don’t think that Romney will have a problem with volunteers or anything like that. And the donor community doesn’t care (not that Romney really needs the donor community).

However, a discussion of Romney’s record does move votes. And probably away from him. That’s why so many conservative groups are starting to go after him now. They have to get the word out before Romney gets to people. So RightMarch has 27 pages on Romney being pro-choice and pro-gay. Or the Human Events blogs passing around sites that attack Romney from the right.  And RedState here.

It’s hard to run from a place you aren’t. We’ll see if Romney can pull it off.

The Romney-Falwell debacle

A number of people have written on the underlying facts here. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger (Mississippi) reported  — but did not quote — that Falwell had endorsed Mitt Romney. The Boston Globe reported that Falwell denied this and that Romney denied saying it in the first place.

So all of this turns on the question of what was actually said. I got my hands on the quote. Here it is:

A number of religious leaders among the evangelical Christian community will validate my effort if I get in. A number will say they endorse me. Others will say that if I’m the nominee, they’d be happy to work for me. I think a few already have, Dr. Land and Jerry Falwell and some others said look if this guy’s the nominee, that’s great we’ll be happy to work with him.

In other words, it wasn’t an endorsement. Romney said that Falwell would "work with" Romney. Romney’s message is that he is, in some form, acceptable to some leaders in the Religious Right. For some, he will even be their first choice. But that he’s someone who can be worked with.

I think that Romney is selling this a little strongly. In the Globe article, Falwell said "could support" and in this quote Romney said "we’ll be happy". I think that Romney is definitely going beyond Falwell’s words here, as I believe the Globe article indicates.

In any case, I think that the whole point of this discussion is as a way of saying that the Mormon issue is not a show-stopper, which I totally agree with. So can we stop talking about the Mormon issue and talk about issues and politics and mechanics?

Was the RGA what it was cracked up to be?

The Hill has an article about operatives being unhappy with the RGA, which Mitt Romney was chairman of this cycle. Apparently, some GOP operatives think that the RGA could have done more or differently:

“If there was a message sent to the national party, (it was that) for a few weeks on TV in those states, I’m not going to promise victory for the Republicans, but the outcomes would have been drastically different,” said one Kansas GOP operative who is “legitimately annoyed” with the national party.

“They seemed to be focused on states they maybe shouldn’t have been focused on,” the operative said, referring specifically to New Mexico and Michigan, where the governors association supported Dick DeVos, who lost to Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) by 14 points despite spending $18 million of his own money.

Now why would Romney spend money in the early state of Michigan? This whole narrative is reminiscent of earlier criticisms made of Romney that he misspent money to help his 2008 Presidential run. Even the GOP candidate for governor there said that the intervention hurt her.

But what about the ad that they ran against Richardson?

The Richardson ad was disclosed to the New Mexico Secretary of State, and it is available on the governors association website. It features a cartoon Richardson bouncing around a map of the United States and suggests he is running for president instead of governor.

It makes no mention of Republican challenger John Dendahl, who in June replaced primary winner J.R. Damron as the party’s candidate.

Mitt Romney, the Chairman of the RGA, is criticizing Bill Richardson, the Chairman of the DGA for flying around the country running for President rather than being governor? Either neither did it or both did it. You don’t get it both ways Mitt.

In short, Mitt set himself a test with the RGA. And he failed.

Most veto-proof Democratic State Legislature…

Massachussets!

From the NCSL blog:

The Massachusetts Legislature, with 88% of its members coming from the Democratic party, jumped ahead of Hawaii (83%) and Rhode Island (82%) as the most Democratic legislature in the country as a result of the 2006 election. Rounding out the top five Democratic legislatures are Arkansas (76%) and Maryland (76%).

In fact, I looked up the numbers. In 2002, when Romney became the de facto head of the state party, the GOP held 23/160 seats in the state House and 7/40 in the state Senate. Now it is 19/160 and 5/40.

Real party builder…

Who likes the favorite sons….

Favorite Sons and Daughters, 2008 from the most recent AEI Political Corner.

Q: Would make a good president . . . ?   Yes No
Arizona voters John McCain 48% 42%
Georgia voters Newt Gingrich 30 63
Illinois voters Barack Obama 64 29
Massachusetts voters Mitt Romney 31 65
Massachusetts voters John Kerry 25 71
New York voters Hillary Clinton 57 39
New York voters Rudy Giuliani 46 51

This is probably meaningless but fun. Amusing points:

  1. McCain is the highest of the GOPers in his home state, which is actually a red state, unlike the others.
  2. Obama is the highest of the Dems in his home state.
  3. Clinton beats Giuliani in NY.
  4. Romney beats Kerry in MA. Good for him. But Romney probably looses to McCain in his own state, so I wonder what that means…

One further point on the calendar regarding Rudy

I know that I’ve been beating this dead horse, but something should be pointed out. While, I am still not convinced that Rudy Giuliani could put together an operation that raises $100m by, say, November or December 2007, these changes make him more competitive.

His strength will be media, bypassing the grassroots apparatus that make Iowa and New Hampshire so unique.  All the talent getting sucked up in NH, SC, MI, and IA matters there. But is it the same in CA or FL? I doubt it. Recruiting the grassroots network in CA or FL to really make the difference is hard. It is relatively easy in the others.

Interesting.

What do big state calendar changes mean for NH?

I recently wrote about the changes that big states changing their primary date will have in terms of increasing the amount of money required and thereby creating a higher barrier to entry. But there’s are several strategy points here.

First, the schedule for all practices purposes would be IA followed by big states. This would mean that IA would set the tone and establish the field. If NH is only 1 week before CA or FL, then most of the people in CA or FL will already have made up their minds by Wednesday or Thursday before their elections. Therefore NH won’t matter.

In terms of GOP politics, Mitt Romney — who I predict will win IA after spending 1 week there — will benefit from the schedule. But NH, which McCain will win, will want a role and Bill Gardner may yet change the schedule. Again, a similar dynamic may apply on the Democrat side, although I think that Hillary’s money advantage still becomes prohibitive.
Therefore, here’s a prediction: If CA and FL move up their primaries, then NH will move ahead of IA. You read it here first.

Money boxing people out?

The Boston Globe has an interesting article about a number of big states moving up their primaries:

Political leaders in California, Florida, and Michigan are gaining momentum in their efforts to move up the 2008 presidential primaries in their states to shortly after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, which could lead some candidates to focus less attention on the Granite State and trigger a dramatic increase in the cost of early campaigning.

This will have a dramatic impact on the race. Money organizations will matter more. On the GOP side, this makes it harder for the Newt strategy to be viable (how does he get the $75m it takes to buy all of that TV?) and the helps Romney. (I have written on this before regarding California and Romney) This makes it more likely to be a McCain versus Romney showdown. Giuliani has not demonstrated the financial infrastructure necessary to put a hundred staffers in each of these states and $30-50 million (although RudyBlogger may disagree). McCain will have that apparatus. And Romney can cut a check from his own pocket if he needs to.

On the Dem side, the same calculus holds. The rise of Obama hurts Edwards’ Hillary-slaying capacity and Hillary’s money matters more. If Hillary survives the early states, Edwards will not be able to raise the money to stop her.