Nothing wrong with Romney 2006 fundraising

I’ve been a little surprised by Jeanne Cumming’s WSJ article about Mitt Romney’s fundraising.  The article says:

Mr. Romney’s financial network is in a long tradition of candidates working around post-Watergate campaign-finance rules.

No. He is working within. The purpose of the federal laws are to prevent the appearance of corruption of federal officials. Mitt Romney is not (and probably never will be) President or a federal office holder. State laws regulate ethics and campaign finance at the state level. Mitt Romney just worked the system. That’s what everyone does.

The press is trying to lynch a guy for following the law!

Note the contrast with Mike Huckabee, who attacks John McCain for the McCain-Feingold laws. Note to Huckabee: those who can’t win complain!

Mitt-flopper and/or Turnaround Artist?

At the 2006 RNC State Chairmen’s meeting, I had a conversation with a political editor for a leading conservative publication. We talked about the candidates and President Bush. This guy’s problem with President Bush and most of our candidates for President was that none of them have a vision and they all have fairly limited worldviews. When we came to Romney, he asked me what I thought. I responded, "I think Mitt Romney is a management consultant." And my friend started laughing. Once he calmed down he said, "That’s exactly right."

A Boston Globe article today drills down on precisely that point. Does Mitt Romney really believe anything, or is he just acting like a good management consultant or venture capitalist:

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.

On a certain level, the point that this is making is that, for Mitt Romney, flip-flopping isn’t a strategy. It is his business model. It is his worldview. More from the Globe piece:

The venture capitalist may touch on these niceties from a distance, but his strength is having the detachment to spot obstacles to profitability that the CEO missed. This often includes cutting off less profitable arms of the company, and chopping pay and benefits. It also can lead to a healthier company, which, in turn, can provide more opportunities for both investors and employees.

What if Mitt Romney is the product? He "spots obstacles" to his advancement. What are these obstacles? His moderate views. So his response? "Cutting off less" conservative "arms of" the Mitt Romney brand and start acting like a conservative.

One of Romney’s strengths is his business background. But business isn’t politics. Could being the "Turnaround Artist" serve to emphasize his problem that he has "turned around" on nearly every issue from guns, to abortion, to gay rights, to taxes, to English langauge schooling, and likely more? As one Boston paper put it:

It’s all so confusing that it appears almost impossible to pick out the real Romney, which is bad news for the candidate. Voters like things, if not simple, then at least clear. The only clear thing in the Romney record is that he is a very successful businessman with aspirations to lead. But voters can be forgiven if they get the impression that issues are just minor details that get in the way of Romney’s ambition.

Romney’s new approach on abortion

I noticed this in the coverage of Romney’s visit to South Carolina and then again in his Nightline appearance. He is more clearly coming out and saying that he had been pro-choice. This is clearly an attempt defuse the issue. First Nightline:

We all learn from experience. And I’m just like other people in this nation. Not everything I believed 12 or 13 years ago is the same today, with regards to the issue of abortion. And so about two years ago, I said I am pro-life. And prior to that time, I had a different position.

This is a much cleaner and simpler position than he had previously. Apparently, he was asked about this in South Carolina too. He said:

"Over the last multiple years, as you know, I have been effectively pro-choice," he said. "I never called myself that as a label but I was effectively pro-choice and that followed a personal experience in my extended family that led to that conclusion."

That family member was killed in an illegal abortion in the 1960s, Romney said.

He then talks about the Harvard Stem Cell Institute discussion:

"It struck me very powerfully at that point that the Roe v. Wade approach has so cheapened the value of human life that somebody could think it’s not a moral issue to destroy embryos," Romney said.

He added every decision he made as governor "in a very liberal state has been on the side of favoring life," he said. "I am firmly pro-life."

It seems to me that he hadn’t really called himself pro-choice in the past. He’d tried to avoid that label. Now the questions will be whether people believe what he is saying and whether they trust him. The other question will be whether his stance that his decisions have "been on the side of favoring life". My sense is that when pro-lifers drill down on these, they will still be unsatisfied.

The Romney attack on Brownback

I have been stunned by the attack on Sam Brownback over the last week by Mitt Romney partisans on abortion. The substance of the allegations is that Brownback was not a solid pro-lifer in 1994 and may have been pro-choice.

The Romney people have latched on to this as a way to defend themselves from attacks that they are flip-flopping on abortion. They claim that if Sam Brownback is allowed his conversion, then so should Mitt Romney.

There are several problems with this:

First, there is the issue of recency. As a recent Weekly Standard article (apparently the article was passed around at NR’s conservative gathering in Washington this weekend. Is this going to become a theme of grassroots assaults on Romney’s record?) has demonstrated, Romney was actively pro-choice much more recently. Indeed, Romney was even trying to get the support of NARAL with lines like:

"You need someone like me in Washington." Moreover, those present recall that Romney argued that his election would make him credible in the Republican party nationally and thus help "sensible" Republicans like him overshadow more conservative elements in the GOP.

Romney was not just a moderate Republican, he wanted to be a leader of the moderate Republicans against the conservatives. And the level of activism continued into his administration.

Second, there’s the issue of genuineness and expediency. A pro-Romney blogger on Evangelicals for Mitt recently attacked Brownback, but also walked into an anti-Romney self-trap. Nathan Burd said:

Contrast that with Senator Brownback’s odd explanation for his 1994 views on life. He was pro-life, but he didn’t want to say he was pro-life? Huh?

However, Mitt Romney has the same problem. As has been noted, Romney claimed to be pro-choice in 1994 and again in 2002. But it is not well understood that be backed off this position when he was flirting with running for Governor of Utah in 2001. In fact, he wrote in a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune (full letter at end of post):

I do not wish to be labeled pro choice. I have never felt comfortable with the labels associated with the abortion issue. Because the Olympics is not about politics, I plan to keep my views on political issues to myself.

So, again, the problem for Romney is not that he went from pro-choice or "indifferent" to pro-life, which is the substance of their attack against Brownback. He went from pro-choice to somewhere between pro-life or indifferent to vociferously pro-choice to pro-life.

Then, there’s the issue of believability. One pro-life activist characterized his trouble with Romney’s conversion like this:

What I don’t understand about Romney’s “conversion” is how he contributes it to when he was studying the embryonic stem-cell research issue. I don’t understand how a tiny human embryo was able to “convert” him, but a visibly developing child in the womb wasn’t able to. Just does not make much sense to me.

Finally, the conservative movement has to ask itself a question: what price is too high. As another activist says (emphasis in the original):

We cannot give Mitt Romney a pass on this solely because he’s running against John McCain. To do so would be being dishonest to ourselves, the conservative movement, and any notions that honesty and integrity matter in politics.

This blogger continues by questioning Mitt Romney’s integrity in general. If the flip-flopper moniker (which now seems well settled in the press) moves into a problem with Romney’s integrity, he is toast.
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Rudy picks up Semprini in NH

Earlier I reported a rumor that Rudy Giuliani had hired Jeff Semprini, the son of Wayne Semprini, the former NH GOP chair. It turns out that Rudy hired the dad.

Semprini did not seek re-election for health reasons and was considered a bit of a care-taker GOP chair. I was at the March 2006 State Central Committee meeting and there wasn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm for Semprini.

This may be a case where Rudy’s late entrance into the staff wars left him with slim pickings.

Iowa Caucuses are weird, or why Sam Brownback should be taken seriously

In 2000, the Iowa Caucus results were:

Candidate %
Bush 41
Forbes 30
Keyes 14
Bauer 9
McCain 5

Only 2 of the top 5 candidates were even serious contenders in later states. Fifty-four percent of the vote went to people who were clearly dead in the water. (and 5% went to a guy who didn’t campaign in the state). The 3 candidates that earned 54% were all candidates of the religious right. This is not mysterious. I have not been to Iowa in January, but it is cold. Investment bankers don’t go drive in the cold to stand in a room for hours at a time.

There are several implications here. First, electability may not matter so much to actual Iowa caucusgoers. On the other hand, organization does. And, third, the religious vote does. As I have noted before, Sam Brownback and John McCain have split the major pro-life activists. Mitt Romney is working on the county chairmen. Rudy Giuliani probably has to fight with Romney for the County Chairmen apparatus and with McCain for the moderates, as many as actually come. And Mike Huckabee will share the fight for religious conservatives.

The upshot is that Sam Brownback could credibly knock off one of the three front runners, McCain, Giuliani, and Romney. Huckabee’s entrance may make that harder. But we can assume that there will be a 4th-place finish for a GOP frontrunner in Iowa, effectively killing his candidacy. Who will it be? And does Huckabee’s entrance make that less likely by taking votes from Brownback? Or does he also take votes from Romney?

Is the Romney campaign claiming advisors they don’t have? (update)

At the end of this RedState post there is a complete list of Romney’s foreign policy advisors. Apparently, a partial list was published, but the Romney campaign complained that the full list was not public. I am struck by something. I don’t know where most of these people are on 08, but it included:

Henry A. Kissinger, Former Secretary of State

Ummm. Isn’t Kissinger on McCain’s Finance Committee? That’s what Hotline says… Hotline points out that:

A side note: recall that Gov. Mitt Romney’s aides, when discussing their candidate’s foreign policy education, let it be known that Romney had spent time with Kissinger.

That doesn’t seem very honest to me.

Update I: A Victor Hanson source says that they have not endorsed Romney, but that they have met with him. Sounds like "spending time" to me.

Illegal Romney/DeMint phone calls in SC?

Well folks, it is January 23rd. If the current schedule holds, the South Carolina primary (for Dems) is exactly 53 weeks from today. And we have the first allegation of illegal automated advocacy calls.

South Carolina’s Faith In the Sound News has the story. The allegation is that a Mitt Romney authorized robocall of a Jim DeMint endorsement was being placed to South Carolina residents. Apparently, South Carolina law requires robocalls to hang up when a person answers the phone. Didn’t happen this time, apparently. (easy mistake to make, especially if you are using an out-of-state vendor)

Is it true?

More thoughts on Diageo/Hotline poll: Security

A couple of days I wrote on the results of the Diageo/Hotline poll. Most people have focused on the Presidential results. BlogPI has written about McCain’s credibility on security with Republicans. I started looking at how GOPers prioritize issues, and thought it had some interesting presidential implications. So here’s the data:

Issue % Issue %
Oppose Iraq 19 Fear 6
Support Iraq 18 Illegal Immigration 6
Terrorism 10 Religious and Family decline 5
Moral Values 7 Healthcare 4

For 47% of self-identified GOPers, national security is the highest priority. Add in "Fear" and you get 53%, a majority. Simply put, that is why Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are the frontrunners. It is not just name ID. Their credibility with voters is precisely on the issues that the GOP electorate most cares about. It will be interesting to see how the other candidates break through this wall.

By coming out against the Surge, Sam Brownback is trying to shoot for that 19% that are opposed to the war. One could imagine that a group of those voters, combined with a good chunk of the 7% moral values and 5% religious/moral/family decline voters, could be a powerful voting block. Furthermore, an anti-surge GOP Presidential nominee will get a lot of free media as the issue moves through Congress.

You can also see how Mitt Romney is trying to put together a coalition. He will try to split the moral values and conservative voters with Brownback. He is the only major candidate (unless you really count Newt) who has expressed opposition to President Bush’s guest working plan, giving him a credible shot with those voters (6%). (although you have to wonder if Tancredo entering will have much of an impact in western Iowa on this issue. To make it more fun, Tancredo even looks like the local congressman, Steve King, who is equally outspoken as Tancredo on almost all these issues). Romney can also talk to a lot of the healthcare crowd (4%), although one wonders how much of that is doctors. I don’t know where they come down on Romney’s healthcare plan. It also highlights why Romney has to get more international credibility through speeche, like he did earlier this week. (one is left to wonder what Romney would have done if George Allen was in the race. Where would he have gone for votes?)

Of course, voters vote based on a lot of things other than issues. But voters are one important way that candidates reach out to voters.

Romney playing DC insider game … well!

Mitt Romney’s announcement of former Speaker Denny Hastert’s support points out something that I’ve been thinking for a while. Mitt Romney is running an insider campaign in Washington, and this has a bunch of interesting implications. This is actually part of a series in which I’ll look at how the campaigns are playing out in each of the states (for which I have good information)

First, let’s look at the dynamics. DC is very conventional-wisdom and money oriented. Therefore, DC money goes to the frontrunner or frontrunners. In addition, I would argue that McCain’s positions — and ways of expressing them — on campaign finance reform, pork, and ethics reform have all significantly alienated a number of lobbyists and (self-imagined?) kingmakers in Washington. In general, Washington could well be more anti-McCain than the rest of the country. If for that alone, the list of Lobbyists for Mitt will be much longer than Lobbyists for McCain. Furthermore, one of Romney’s most important advisors is DC-based super-lobbyist Ron Kaufman, who is also the National Committeeman of the Massachusetts. A friend (and reporter) recently told me that "Ron K. could kill almost any man with his thumbs". I agree.

Now look at Romney’s House people. First, there is Hastert, who, Matt Lewis has pointed out, has hated McCain for a long time. Romney will acquire a lot of support for that reason. Second, he has Jim McCrery, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee. In that position, McCrery is the House GOP’s Deputy Earmarker-in-Chief, behind Jerry Lewis. In general, many of the people on the "powerful" (= good fundraising and lobbyist contact) exclusive committees will end up with Romney. I would use a similar analysis with Rep. Dave Camp. In addition, Camp has been around Michigan long enough to have strong links to the Romney family. Other significant pickups have personal connections of some sort such as Tom Feeney (was Jeb Bush’s 1994 running mate and a significant part of the Jeb Bush operation appears to be lining up with Romney) and Buck McKeon (a fellow Mormon).

I expect that McCain will find many of his Congressional allies in the fiscally-conservative part of the Republican Study Committee and some Republican Main Street members. Arizonan RSCers John Shadegg and Jeff Flake, who Boehner recently kicked off a presitigious committee for "bad behavior", are likely more typical of the support McCain is likely to get. While they are rarely called mavericks, they share McCain’s tendency to stick fingers in the eyes of leadership (Boehner, Hastert, etc.) for ideological reasons. And on a number of fiscal issues they have worked quite closely with McCain. I also expect that McCain will get significant support from Main Street, whose members McCain has worked with in the past also.

One of the most interesting questions will be how the social conservatives break. Senator Brownback takes a leading role in the Senate’s Values Action Team and his House allies may just support him if they don’t believe Romney.