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.