Majority Accountable Project

Last week, I wrote about the Dems use of technology. On Tuesday, I learned about the Majority Accountability Project. One of the people at that presentation said something to the effect of, "This is the first good idea that narrows the gap between the right and left online." I think that this is right, and I think that there is much to learn from that statement.

What is MAP? MAP a research operation dedicated to spreading the message that the Democratic Congressional majorities will not uphold their commitments to the American people, and are therefore unsuitable to lead Congress. There are three components to this.

First, it MAP is a research operation dedicated to spreading a message. It is not a fancy technology. Still, the most powerful tool that the online right has is the Drudge Report which is run with mid-nineties era technology. (the 2007-era features just make it profitable!) Ultimately, the video and Web 2.0 features have at best marginal value. If MAP has an impact, and I suspect it will have a large one, its impact will be solely due to its content. Remember: content is king.

Second, MAP intends to spread a partisan message: that the Democratic Congressional leadership will not uphold its commitments. Most of the blogs on the right are, ultimately, intended as personal reflections about what is going on. There is neither a message nor an attempt to stay "on message". The right blogosphere has been effective at moving messages when there is a clear focus, such as electing George W. Bush and defeating John Kerry. Most of the rest of the time, it has been unfocused, unlike much of the infrastructure of the left which has had (and to some extent still has) a clear purpose.

Third, and somewhat corollary to the second point, the partisan message has a clear electoral instrumentality. MAP intends that the information it produces will be used to defeat Democrats in elections. I can think of very, very few websites on the right that are not run by a candidate, PAC or party committee that have that kind of agenda. But there are clearly quite a large number on the left.

I would also make a fourth point. MAP was conceived by political operatives to achieve a political objective. This is not quite a rehash of other points. Perhaps Redstate is the only major conservative website that is run by political operatives. (perhaps Newsbusters too?) However, Redstate’s impact is well out of proportion with its readership because it is relatively focused.

In the end, MAP will be the TPM Muckraker of the right. That’s a good sign.

McCain attributes Romney’s OBL position to “naivete”

Race4008‘s Jen Rubin asked Senator John McCain about Mitt Romney’s statement about Osama Bin Laden. McCain attributed his position to "naivete."

Recall the quote:

[Romney] said the country would be safer by only "a small percentage" and would not see "a very insignificant increase in safety" if al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught because another terrorist would rise to power. "It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney said. Instead, he said he supports a broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement.

In response to Jen Rubin’s question, Senator McCain said, (quote from NH Pres. Watch):

On a conference call with "bloggers" Senator John McCain took aim at Romney. In response to a question, McCain said "this is a national security issue," and that he "disagrees in the strongest terms." He also criticized Romney by saying "it takes a degree of naiveté to think he’s [bin Laden] is not an element in the struggle against radical Islam."

Note that this is the second major gaffe on a national security issue. Earlier, Romney had mentioned a secret timetable for withdrawal that Duncan Hunter blasted. This was similar to a plan offered by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) which got no traction.

Senator McCain also mentioned bin Laden’s return to operational control of al Qaeda. There was also recent discussion of bin Laden’s assassination plot against Vice President DIck Cheney.

This whole discussion seems strange in light of Romney’s speech at Yeshiva University:

“Jihadism – violent, radical, fundamental Jihadism – is this century’s nightmare. It follows the same dark path as last century’s nightmares: fascism and Soviet communism. The September 11th Commission reported that al-Qaeda had been trying to acquire or build nuclear weapons for well over a decade. Former CIA Director George Tenet said that Osama bin Laden sees the acquisition of WMD as a ‘religious obligation.’ … We are faced with the horrific proposition that those who speak of genocide are developing the capability to carry it out. Radical, nuclear Jihad is the greatest threat that faces humanity. It cannot be appeased. It can only be defeated.”

Romney’s former driver, Dean Barnett, claims that this speech indicates that Romney "gets it."  I wonder if it suggests more than Romney is confused, or, as McCain says, "naive."

Romney says we don’t need to get Bin Laden

The day after Reuters reports that Osama Bin Laden has returned to operational control of al Qaeda, Mitt Romney says that we don’t need to get Bin Laden. Huh? Byron York gets it right, "Perhaps Romney should watch the tape of the planes hitting the towers again." This highlights how shallow Romney’s national security experience is. Recall that the highlight of Romney’s national security career is denying someone police protection. In Boston.

Why is Romney talking about campaign finance laws?

Because he is pandering. It is that simple.

Five years ago Mitt Romney believed in public funding of campaigns and taxing political contributions.

Thirteen years ago he believed in outlawing political action committees. 

Ramesh Ponnuru, after studying Romney’s position on campaign finance laws concluded that, "All told, those positions place him to the left of McCain-Feingold."

Don’t believe me? Watch (H/T Caucus Cooler):

(Perhaps Romney is personally pro-campaign finance reform but publicly not?)

It is a wonder that Romney’s hair doesn’t blow in the wind while the rest of him does.

By the way, I hope that Jim Bopp and Wisconsin Right to Life prevail today.

What is going to happen to the primary calendar?

As has been repeatedly noted, the primary calendar is strongly in flux. However, one of the most interesting questions is: what happens if New Hampshire moves up sharply, as I expect it will. Consider some facts:

  1. New Hampshire is committed (and empowered) to move up before, at least, Nevada, meaning that the latest it is held is probably Jan. 15th.
  2. Florida is committed by law to be one week after New Hampshire.
  3. The South Carolina GOP has committed to moving up to be the "First in the South" primary, which probably means before Florida, but after New Hampshire.
  4. The Michigan Dems have stated that if New Hampshire moves up too much, they will do something radical. And if they do, the Michigan GOP has committed to re-evaluating its date.

Perhaps the most important limiting factor here is that New Hampshire can call and hold elections very quickly. Once the ballots are printed, Bill Gardner can call an election almost whenever he wants. Therefore, New Hampshire will be technically capable of holding an election as early as early December. Would Florida be able to print ballots and hold on election on 4 weeks notice? Would the South Carolina GOP be able to do it on 3.5 weeks notice? What if the timing meant that candidates were campaigning over Christmas? (say NH holds it in mid-December, putting the FL and SC elections between Christmas and New Years) Would NV move up to hold caucuses the same day as SC? (they’ve never done caucuses like this before. Are they capable of doing that either legally or logistically?)

Those are merely logistical considerations. What happens when NV becomes irrelevant because it is competing for candidates time with SC and FL, both of which will have more delegates. Candidates will fly from NH to SC and FL.

Finally, what happens if people believe that we are approaching a brokered convention and every delegate will count?

I think that it is fair to say that the current calendar really is more a set of negotiating positions.

Romney buying more straw polls?

Now, I’m no fan of straw polls. It is one thing if the voting universe is small. But it is not at many, and straw polls are usually arbitrary fundraising adventures for the hosts. And for the winners, they are a way of buying headlines. The Romney campaign has been touting their successes with the recent South Carolina straw polls. Just like they touted their successes after buying the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and CPAC(two articles).

Salon has the run-down on this:

At some point on Friday night, Esther Wagner, the county GOP treasurer, spotted a Romney aide across the hall, and accused him of paying delegate fees to pump up Romney’s poll numbers. Wagner’s suspicions had been aroused earlier in the month, when she received a stack of last-minute registrations from about 15 to 20 people. Most of the fees had been paid in cash. "That is unusual," said Wagner, who has done work on the side for another candidate, John Cox, a minor rival to Romney. "Most people pay [by] check." Then she got a call from a Romney supporter named Jeff Lynch, who mentioned in passing that someone had paid his fee.

"Chris Slick, who is Romney’s grass-roots field coordinator, was emphatically denying it," says Betty Poe, the president of the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club. According to three separate accounts of the incident, Slick maintained that neither the Romney campaign, nor any campaign staff, had paid delegate fees. "But he said an individual paid for someone," Poe remembers.

"We were delegates of Mitt Romney, so we didn’t have to pay," Lynch said. Like thousands of South Carolinians, Lynch and his wife, Melissa, have been bombarded with direct mail from the presidential candidates. He sent back a card from Romney, saying he would like to help. Sometime later, he said, Slick, the Romney aide, showed up at his door, and told him not to worry about the money. "He came over and we signed papers to be delegates, so we wouldn’t have to pay the $15 fee," Lynch said. "Is there a problem?"

Perhaps the problem is that the Romney campaign is struggling to find a way to be honest. Again…
Buying straw polls is fine. Touting winning straw polls that you bought is fine. (although a little weird)  Lying about buying straw polls is not. Touting victories in straw polls that you are lying about buying is dumb. Especially when you get caught.

Giuliani and the evangelicals

One of the great questions of this election will be whether social conservatives abandon Rudy Giuliani. Conventional wisdom suggests that they will. The Giuliani campaign has gone to great lengths to argue that they will not. Today, the LA Times weighs in with polls and anecdotes:

"He’s got that New York mentality — that’s why I don’t like him," Veenstra said. "Around here, it’s family, pro-life."

But in conversations with Republicans here in the first state to vote in the 2008 presidential race, the more striking thing is how evangelicals Carolyn Vande Voort, Joy Milby and Mike Brown see Giuliani: They disagree with him on social issues, but lean toward him anyway.

And therein lies a startling aspect of Giuliani’s candidacy: Nationwide, he is the No. 1 choice of white conservative Christians for the Republican nomination. A Times poll this month found 26% of them favor Giuliani — more than double the portion supporting either of his top rivals, John McCain or Mitt Romney.

Now, the questions are: do voters know about his positions and what else could he appeal to them on that would be just as strong. Gallup defends the conventional wisdom:

A March USA Today/Gallup poll found a majority of Republicans were unaware of Giuliani’s positions on abortion, gun control, and same-sex marriage. Research shows that significant segments of Republicans, particularly more conservative Republicans, are less likely to vote for Giuliani once his positions on these issues are explained.

However, the LA Times found a number of people who were not moved by that:

But it also demonstrates the potency of his tough-on-terrorism message among conservatives who prize strong leadership on national security.

"You want someone who’s demonstrated character," said Mike Brown, a Pella city employee walking past tulip beds in the town square, on his way to lunch at In’tveld’s diner.

Brown, 56, thinks Giuliani is wrong on abortion, but he wants a president who will cope with crisis the way the mayor responded to the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001. "Just being able to remain calm, dispatch the people, handle the situation — those are things I really find favorable," Brown said.

In the end, we don’t know. Rudy is betting one way. Romney, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out, is betting another way. We shall see. As I said, elections are experiments.

As I have argued, and Rudy has echoed, he only needs to win enough social conservatives to cobble together a winning coalition. But, ultimately, I suspect, if Rudy can find a winning coalition, it is not likely to be dominated by social conservatives. To some extent, I think that this whole narrative is a product of a press that may not understand what putting together a coalition means.

And, in the end, Rudy’s fate is probably more determined by the issues that Messrs. Veenstra and Mr. Brown mentioned:

"He’s got that New York mentality — that’s why I don’t like him," Veenstra said. "Around here, it’s family, pro-life."

"You want someone who’s demonstrated character," said Mike Brown, a Pella city employee walking past tulip beds in the town square, on his way to lunch at In’tveld’s diner.