The closing argument: Experience versus management

It is clear that in Iowa, the debate is not  about experience. It will be a fight between Mitt Romney’s money and Mike Huckabee’s churches. There are real doubts that Huckabee can sustain a challenge to any mainstream GOP candidate. Ultimately, his foreign policy and other flubs might create real problems. One imagines the pressure of the establishment and the media turning on him in a big way.

The fight in New Hampshire seems increasingly the decisive one on the GOP side. (Of course, if Fred Thompson were to come in 3rd in Iowa, that might shift to South Carolina) There, the fight is between Romney and John McCain. Especially in the context of the Bhutto assassination, McCain is trying to frame the debate as around experience, as is Hillary Clinton. Romney is focusing on judgment:

“If the answer for leading the country is someone that has a lot of foreign policy experience, we can just go down to the state department and pick up any one of the tens of thousands of people who spent all their life in foreign policy,” he said. “That is not what a nation needs in a president. The person that is president of the United States we look to have leadership skill. Which is the ability to assemble a great team of people, to be able to guide and direct them to understand what decision has to be made on the basis of data and analysis and debate and deliberation. An individual who knows how to make difficult decisions.”

Romney is focusing on his ability to "manage", something long-time campaign-mouthpiece Hugh Hewitt has focused on. There is a reason that Hewitt and Romney focus on management skills. He doesn’t have much in terms of experience. As Hugh says in his book on Romney:

And Romney knows the war. He he worked to learn its complexities and the nature of our diverse enemies, constantly reading the sorts of books that must be absorbed.

McCain contrasts this "book-learning" with his knowledge. From the Des Moines Register:

"I knew Benazir Bhutto. I know Musharraf very well," McCain told an audience of about 200 at the Elks Club in Urbandale. "If I were president of the United States I would be on the phone right now and I would be meeting with the National Security Council."

Seemingly a contrast between book-smarts and street-smarts. McCain knows the actors (thus his thoughts about Putin, which President Bush seems to have gotten wrong and McCain right) and operates from that position. One gets to argue from data though. How have people argued in the past from the input of experts? Ronald Reagan, of course, rejected the experts on "tear[ing] down that wall" and the SALT Treaty. He even created a new intelligence agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency because he wasn’t satisfied with the experts at the CIA.

Of course, if you rely too much on the experts, you run into the problem of being "brainwashed by the generals and the diplomats," to quote Romney’s father.  (National Journal/MSNBC notes that Romney is closing on, in part, his father) It seems that if you take Romney’s "judgment" answer, you are trapped by your advisers, a problem that Reagan transcended.If you have your own experience, you have something to work with.

I think that I know where I would prefer to be. I wonder where the people of New Hampshire will land.

Why foreign policy experience matters

Imagine what would happen if this happened on the first day of a Barack Obama or a Mitt Romney presidency, from the New York Times:

An attack on a political rally killed the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto near the capital, Islamabad, Thursday. Witnesses said Ms. Bhutto was fired upon at close range before the blast, and an official from her party said Ms. Bhutto was further injured by the explosion, which was apparently caused by a suicide attacker.

That’s why Michael Medved said:

 In the last week before the caucuses, voters are finally taking a serious look at which candidate represents the most plausible commander-in-chief. McCain’s biggest advantage in Iowa, New Hampshire and across the country involves his military background, personal heroism in Vietnam, and courageous consistency concerning the Iraq War. The unmistakable success of the surge (even Harry Reid now admits that the new policy has delivered big time military progress) validates McCain’s leadership and underlines his expertise on defense and foreign policy. A month before making up their minds, citizens may cast about for a “fresh face” or an “agent of change,” but when they face a fateful decision on caucus night or primary day they generally prefer a president who’s ready to lead the ongoing war on Islamo-Nazi terror from day one.

For all the guy’s warts, John McCain really is ready to  be commander-in-chief.

links for 2007-12-25

links for 2007-12-23

Is the Romney campaign lying to reporters again?

From the Boston Phoenix: (H/T The Page)

Two women contacted the Mitt Romney campaign this week, offering their memories of seeing Romney’s father march with Martin Luther King Jr., in Grosse Point Michigan in 1963. Campaign officials were well aware that the women were mistaken. Yet, they directed those women to tell their stories to a Politico reporter. …

Then-governor George Romney did indeed march in Grosse Pointe, on Saturday, June 29, 1963, but Martin Luther King Jr. was not there; he was in New Brunswick, New Jersey, addressing the closing session of the annual New Jersey AFL-CIO labor institute at Rutgers University.

Those facts are indisputable, and quite frankly, the campaign must have known the women’s story would eventually be debunked — few people’s every daily movement has been as closely tracked and documented as King’s. As I write this, I am looking at an article from page E8 of the June 30, 1963 Chicago Tribune, which discusses both events (among other civil-rights actions of the previous day), clearly placing the two men hundreds of miles apart. I also have here the June 30, 1963 San Antonio News, which carries a photo and article about Romney at the Grosse Pointe march; and an AP story about King’s speech in New Jersey.

The Politico story is here. This echoes previous unprofessional and unethical behavior by the Romney campaign:

Deepening the mystery surrounding the anti-Mormon polling calls, the Romney campaign is confirming that it referred reporters to two recipients of the calls without disclosing that the two were also on the Romney campaign payroll, TPM Election Central has learned.

In response to questions from TPM Election Central, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden confirmed that the campaign had failed to disclose this info to reporters. Madden suggested that the campaign had identified them as "supporters," which is a far cry from being directly paid by the campaign, as the two call recipients were.

Of course, this is par for the course for a campaign whose staff and volunteer officials seem to resign regularly under criminal investigations.

Rasmussen: Romney as unelectable as Clinton?

Core Favorability/Opposition Among All Voters

Candidate

Def. FOR

Def. AGAINST

Net

Obama

29%

36%

-7

McCain

22%

33%

-11

Huckabee

21%

34%

-13

Thompson

21%

34%

-13

Edwards

23%

38%

-15

Clinton

30%

47%

-17

Giuliani

23%

42%

-19

Romney

19%

47%

-28

Paul

10%

48%

-38

Bloomberg

5%

49%

-44

Rasmussen has released another set of polling that allows us to compare all the candidates. The summary table to the right captures the main facts. You will recall that there is a horrible environment for Republicans in 2008. On the generic ballot, Democrats crush Republicans. However, Clinton has such an awful public image that the generic GOP problems are counter-balanced. Well, the conclusion from Rasmussen is that Mitt Romney has a comparable problem:

Among the leading Presidential candidates, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have the highest level of core opposition among voters. Forty-seven percent (47%) say they will vote against each of these candidates no matter who else is on the ballot.

Republicans often argue that Hillary is beatable because of this opposition. What about Romney who has no environmental advantages? Back to Rasmussen, which notes that John McCain is doing the best:

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Arizona Senator John McCain. For the second straight month, McCain finds himself with the smallest level of core opposition–just 33% say they will definitely vote against him. That figure is unchanged from a month ago, down from 39% a two months ago and a peak of 42% in June. These results are just one part of the reason that it is a good time to be John McCain.

Assume for a second that swing-voters will be the key in a general election, consider the additional facts among unaffiliated voters:

McCain has the lowest level of core opposition among unaffiliated voters–just 26% are committed to voting against McCain.

On a net basis, McCain (-6) and Obama (-11) have the best numbers among unaffiliated voters. Clinton (-26) and Romney (-20) have the weakest showing among this group.

In other words, the Clinton/Romney unelectability numbers extend into unaffiliated voters. While McCain gives Republicans the best chance of picking up substantial independent voters. That means keeping the White House. 

links for 2007-12-22

Substance-free Drudge attack on Rudy; Same for McCain?

The day of the CNN/YouTube debate, Matt Drudge, handmaiden of  Mitt Romney’s campaign, raised the issue that became known as "Shag Fund." The claim was that Rudy Giuliani had improperly hid expenses for visiting his then girlfriend. Well, it turns out that it just wasn’t true. Powerline and Captain’s Quarters have the details. Total exoneration from the New York Times.

In other words, Drudge pushed a bogus story at a time that was quite opportune for the Romney campaign.

Yesterday, Drudge pushed a story on John McCain. Drudge first claimed that an NYT story was in the works. Then he claimed that it would publish tomorrow. McCain was forced to answer a question. What happened?

No story. Nothing happened in the Times. And, in fact, it was clear from the facts Drudge provided that no story would be there. No substance, as was made clear in the Washington Post story today.

That’s the story guys. Matt Drudge is a Romney shill.