Brooks on the future of the GOP, Huckabee, and McCain

Yesterday, we saw Mitt Romney, the candidate of the establishment, the lobbyist class, the interest group class, etc., get rejected by the people of Iowa.  David Brooks understands the broader implications, which I have also talked about:

On the Republican side, my message is: Be not afraid. Some people are going to tell you that Mike Huckabee’s victory last night in Iowa represents a triumph for the creationist crusaders. Wrong. Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize.


In that sense, Huckabee’s victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition.

A conservatism that recognizes stable families as the foundation of economic growth is not hard to imagine. A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

What does the establishment do now?

So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike.

McCain has touted his newspaper endorsements. Romney’s campaign have attributed this to liberal media bias. But when I see conservative papers like the Boston Herald, Union Leader, and Detroit News go one way, I wonder if the establishment is getting ready to go with a new horse. The Victor Davis Hanson piece made me think this again.

Red states gaining, but beware of resting on laurels

I highly recommend the book How Congress Evolves by the late Nelson Polsby to any student or practitioner of politics. Polsby documents the interplay between Congressional rules, demographic shift, and partisan realignment. The essential fact was that Southern congressional districts fell to the Republicans as a result of southern migration from the traditionally Republican Northeast and Midwest. (Polsby points to the rise of residential air-conditioning and military-industrial complex) The first seat to go reliably Republican was in St. Petersburg, FL. Gradually, the loss of conservative Southern Democrats shifted the Congressional Democratic Party to the left. Gradually, a more liberal Democratic Caucus changed House and Caucus rules to force conservatives to concede, retire (usually handing seats to Republicans), or switch parties.

Winners Losers
Texas +4 Ohio -2
Florida +2 New York -2
Arizona +2 California -1
North Carolina +1 Massachusetts -1
South Carolina +1 New Jersey -1
Georgia +1 Pennsylvania -1
Utah +1 Michigan -1
Nevada +1 Illinois -1
Oregon +1 Minnesota -1

It is with that context that I look at a post by Brian Faughn over at the Weekly Standard. His thesis is simple:

The New York Times reports that while the subprime mortgage crisis has slowed the population shift away from states such as California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, the trend for the decade is clear: the red states are gaining people and electoral votes while the blue states are losing them

With the conclusion:

This would represent a shift of eight seats from Kerry states to Bush states. A Democratic candidate who held all of Kerry’s states would also need to win Florida, or a similar combination of smaller states, to gain the presidency.

I quibble with his language here. He says "a shift of eight seats" when it is really a shift of eight electoral votes. And that’s the rub. I have two points that I significantly differ with him. The first is that I wonder who actually fills those seats. The second is captured by his caveat, "states change character and become more or less competitive for parties over time."

First, who fills the seats. Let’s take the states one at a time. Based on Polidata projections, Brian lists the states that win and lose. While I only have specific knowledge about some of these states, we can do some rough estimates. It seems that a large source of migration into Texas is Hispanic which is still significantly Democratic. It seems that the Texas seats would go GOP/Dem 1/3 or 2/2. The growth in Florida is in South Florida, which went substantially blue in the last election. Perhaps a split, although gerrymandering could result in a 0/2 GOP pickup. Arizona is unclear to me. Most of the Southern states are likely to be GOP pickups.

Out West, it is probably a different story. My gut is that Nevada’s seat goes blue or we lose Rep. Jon Porter (R)’s suburban Clark County seat, resulting in a wash. It is hard to imagine that Oregon’s growth is somewhere other than the Portland area, which we lose. Utah is, of course, the exception.

Looking to the states that lose seats, it is actually kind of grim for Republicans. Clearly we lose the California seat because of redistricting. There is no seat to lose in Mass. We will lose the Illinois seat because the partisan gerrymander will combine two GOP suburban districts. Michigan is also a highly gerrymandered state that over-performs GOP at the congressional level, not to mention the strong possibility that we lose MI-07 this cycle. New York lossage is almost certainly from upstate, and there is a strong chance that we lose the state senate by 2010, which could create the circumstances to lose more than 2 seats. Pennsylvania is another state with a strong partisan gerrymander that will likely be broken by a Dem governor and state House.

The upshot is that who fills the seats is, at least, mixed.

Second, the issue that "states change character." The swing states are different than they were several years ago. The argument for Colorado and Virginia being purple is now transparent, something that might not have been true in 2004. Selling a Southern evangelical in 2000 and 2004 to West Virginia and Arkansas seemed easy, but a zillionaire Massachusetts Mormon? Bush suprisingly pulled off New Mexico, but it seems unlikely to be a repeat performance for the GOP. The upshot is that the sentence, "[a] Democratic candidate who held all of Kerry’s states would also need to win Florida, or a similar combination of smaller states, to gain the presidency," seems remarkably un-farfetched.

Indeed, the challenge for the GOP is going to be fighting back against the intra-state trends. In Virginia, southeastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the GOP needs an agenda that is more relevant to the suburbs. In the West and Florida — and nationwide — we need better Hispanic numbers. And in the rust-belt, we need a response to irresponsible Democratic anti-globalization demagoguing.

Interestingly, the 2008 GOP presidential field features three different kinds of heterodox candidates who try to address these failings. Rudy Giuliani might well offer an answer in the inner-suburbs. John McCain provides a path to greater penetration in the Hispanic vote and a personality that appeals in the upper-Midwest. And Mike Huckabee offers a populism that could help consolidate the weak Southern states and the rust-belt. The fourth option is, of course, the status quo. National Review, in an article about how broken the GOP coalition is, characterized it like this:

Romney and Thompson, meanwhile, are fighting over who is the most conventional, paint-by-numbers conservative circa 1987.

In conclusion, I think that Brian is right in some sort of static analysis. But the world isn’t static. The Reagan and even Bush coalitions are basically gone. It is very, very dangerous for the GOP to look at 2012 with anything but great apprehension. That’s why we need a candidate at the top of the ticket in 2008 who has something different to offer. And that’s why we need a Congressional party that is willing to substantially address some of our flaws. And I am not seeing it.

Thoughts on Iowa debate

The loser was clearly the moderator. What was Alan Keyes doing there?

But I thought that Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson did well.

Interestingly, CNN and Fox both had dial focus groups. CNN had a Huckabee clip that he performed well on. Fox had Romney and Thompson.

Probably the most memorable piece was Thompson refusing to raise hands. That’s kinda lame.

I also think that Huckabee dodged a bullet. It could have been a great opportunity for everybody to whack at him. It was probably the last opportunity for people to do that. And it didn’t happen.

UPDATE: Also, there was Rudy Giuliani’s line that might come back to haunt him.

CBS gets Republicans on the record on global warming

CBS News has been running an interesting series called "Primary Questions." They ask the candidates a variety of policy and personal questions. Sometimes this format seems closer to what we’d like from a debate in terms of clarifying policy differences. However, it doesn’t always result in the nice contrasting sound-bites that you might otherwise get.

  Giuliani Huckabee McCain Romney Thompson
Human caused yes yes? yes yes maybe 
Cap-and-trade   yes yes    
Nuclear yes   yes  yes  
Must solve globally       yes

Tonight, the candidates are answering the question: "Do you think the risks of climate change are at all overblown?" I have discussed the real-world politics (what real people actually think) and some of the beltway politics of the issue. It is clear in New Hampshire, at least, that Republicans think that global warming is an issue that the government must act on, even if it is one that is a low-priority for primary voters.

In the end,  as I have said, I think that this is an issue that is more important as a credibility issue than a ballot issue. Very few people are going to vote on the specifics of plans on global warming. But people, including Republicans, are increasingly seeing this as an issue that candidates need to have a credible position on to be a credible candidate. Anecdotally, it seems clear to me that this is something that is important to a number of Evangelical and Catholic groups.

I have summarized the responses in a table. I think it is revealing.

The main proposal on the table is cap-and-trade. Greg Mankiw, a Romney economic advisor and a former Bush Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors has a very cogent criticism of cap-and-trade, but calls for carbon taxes instead.  The quotes from the candidates are after the jump. Continue reading

A brokered convention?

My friend David Freddoso asks about the possibility of a brokered convention. What do we think of this?

The first thing that I think is that a brokered convention would be very difficult for us. The biggest issue is fundraising. I don’t think that the party will be able to raise money. The issue profile will depend so much on the candidates. Will the social conservatives give money if there is a possibility that Rudy Giuliani could be the nominee? Would the anti-immigration parts of the base be willing to give when there is a chance that someone like Giuliani, John McCain, or Mike Huckabee would be on the ticket? Of course Giuliani has demonstrated a fundraising prowess of the first tier (well, second, …. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the first tier). Next is, of course, Mitt Romney. Then the rest of the plausible candidates.

The next set of issues surround electability. I think that the argument is clear that McCain is the most electable. The McCain campaign has made the argument and Adam C. over at Redstate has made a similar analysis. Giuliani and Huckabee may also have a similar analysis, although with markedly different constituencies. Romney, whose high numbers depend on enormously expensive advertising, probably could not sustain them. He simply can’t afford to buy that much TV. But it seems clear that McCain wins on the electability analysis. Note that electability is important because of the lack of money. Electability and media-and-poll driven notions of electability will be incredibly important. Blogs and MSM will drive the opinions about the candidates. My gut is that Romney and Giuliani do not do well in that environment. I don’t know about Huckabee. And, to some extent, McCain has already been run through that grinder before.

I also think that an unbound convention creates a situation in which it will be very, very hard for a pro-choice candidate to win. Of course, convention delegates selected in this process are even less straightforward than they would normally be. But my gut is that there would be a lot of hostility to a pro-choice candidate. Giuliani would have more luck with the Republican electorate at large than a convention electorate.

I also think that watching the Beijing Olympics is going to raise our anxieties about China. Some of those will be just about foreign policy, and others will be about straight up security.

Also, the consequences of the foreclosure disaster will be clearer.

Finally, there’s the issue of what do people actually do in the meantime. With no contests, what can candidates do to stay in the news? They are no longer introducing themselves to an electorate. Even if they meet all 2000 or so delegates, what else do they do? They can’t really campaign around the country because they aren’t the candidates.

All in all, I think that McCain would survive this process the best. Whether the delegates can put up with that is a separate issue. But I think that their willingness to be practical will increase two months out from an election. Of course that practicality could result in a Giuliani candidacy too.

But who knows? I think that David’s article is going to result in some serious discussion of this question.

State of the race

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the race right now. The biggests questions are probably:

First, will there be a Mitt Romney-Rudy Giuliani murder-suicide? Luntz focus groups suggest that Romney might have done better on immigration in the debate.

Second, will Giuliani’s scandals continue? There’s Placa, Shag Fund, and others. Will they drive votes? Perhaps at some point?

Third, will attacks on Mike Huckabee stick? ARG’s polling suggests that 89% of his support in IA is solid  While the most recent attack has focused on immigration, that seems unlikely to stick. I also suspect that taxes won’t work. The only attack that Romney probably has a chance with is ethics. And he probably can’t be the guy to do it.

Third, will flip-flop attacks work on Romney? Ultimately he has a big, big character problem if someone can explain it, but it is unclear that a good messenger will. I thought that the Right-to-Life endorsement might result in an attack on Romney, but Fred Thompson’s race to face-plant seems to make that more unlikely.  In any case, polling indicates that Romney’s supporters are not rabid pro-lifers. Ultimately, exposing Romney’s tax record or ethical problems is probably the solution.

Fourth, does John McCain have a chance in New Hampshire? Polls are mixed, but he seems to be in second. If Romney comes out of Iowa with a bad story and/or there is a sustained attack on Romney, then McCain could move up. It seems fair to say that there will be a sustained attack on Giuliani from Romney. His strategy needs that. Isn’t the murder-suicide a blessing for McCain?

Fifth, will McCain and Huckabee be able to take advantage of their opportunities?

Sixth, electability. McCain has a powerful electability argument. Giuliani has been making a similar one, although less in recent days. I wonder if the ethics scandals are going to drive down Giuliani’s general election numbers, opening up a gap even more clearly in McCain’s favor. Will this get reported? Will it sink in?

Seventh, what happens with the whole Western Watts, anti-Mormon phone calls? Everyone I know seems to think that Romney associates will be implicated. Will it matter? If Romney comes in second in Iowa, and then was somehow complicit in the phone calls… That could blow the race open in New Hampshire.

Eighth, we have nasty Giuliani client stories. My gut is that there are some nasty Romney client stories of an earlier vintage. Will they come? My sense is that the Dems would have to push them. They are clearly playing, although they don’t seem to be clearly picking favorites.

This is going to be very interesting. Keep your seat belts on kids. The next 40 days are going to be a wild ride.

Thoughts on the debate

I didn’t get the chance to live-blog this, but I did take notes. There were some great moments. Rudy Giuliani’s slap of Romney with "sanctuary mansion" was outstanding. Mike Huckabee’s handling of the death penalty question was masterful.  The complexity of his answer to the literalism of the Bible question was even better, especially if you understand the denominational-political overtones. The John McCain-Ron Paul exchange.

There were also poor moments. Romney dodged the Social Security question, "the most important question for a generation."

But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember it, it cannot be turned into an ad. And the moments belong to McCain and Huckabee. I won’t bother trying to order them.

There was clearly a second tier that contained Rudy Giuliani. I don’t think that he went backwards today.

And Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney? They looked bad. Bad.

Huckabee, affluents, and the future of the GOP

Seemingly every day, there is a new piece by a high-profile Republican/conservative attacking Mike Huckabee for being some sort of "big government" conservative or even liberal. Today, it was Bob Novak. I’m not going to quibble on the points, although I would point out that in Northern Virginia, where I sit, raising taxes to fund education and roads is pretty popular among Republicans and the local Chamber of Commerce.

Is Mike Huckabee going to be President? No. Does he represent something about the future of the GOP? I think so. Recall what David Brooks said about George Bush and his compassionate conservative agenda:

while some Republicans argue that big government conservatism started under George W. Bush and that the G.O.P. was in decent shape until Bush ruined it, this is a total myth. In fact, it was Bush in 1999 who single-handedly (though temporarily) rescued the Republican Party. He did it not by courting Republican interest groups, but by coming up with something new. On July 22, he delivered a speech in Indianapolis in which he explicitly distanced himself from Washington Republicans and laid the groundwork for compassionate conservatism.

The point here was that Bush could pick up working class voters. It is now a truism that he succeeded in spades here. The Bush-Rove plan for domination was to split Hispanics and African-American voting blocs, with immigration reform and religious outreach, respectively. Note that this is a rehash of what the Reagan campaign tried in 1980. (How many WASPs were on Reagan’s Connecticut Committee in 1980?) The possibility of success was demonstrated by "Angela Williams" in John Harwood’s recent WSJ piece on the changing demographics of party identification.

Patrick Ruffini
sees a slightly different side to this:

Bush’s message was at least coherent. It was a savvy tactical response to Republicans constantly getting cut up by the rhetorical meatgrinder of the Clinton presidency. In time, people would come to appreciate the President’s plainspoken and direct approach to politics, in contrast to Clinton’s prevarication. And he was remarkably successful at doing what he set out to do. Eight years later, no one thinks of the Republican Party as stingy Scrooges eager to starve grandma. …

What Bush did in domestic policy was redefine a wayward party by triangulating in a sort of Clinton-Blair “Third Way” mold.

As a comparative point, there was more going on than a Clinton-Blair phenomenon. The Anglosphere left all have no made the same jump. In Canada, the Liberals went center-right on economics. The Australian Labour Party just won an election by trying to blur economic issues. In some sense, with the collapse of global socialism and communism, all the parties have moved to the right. Also, as these societies have grown wealthier, the issue mix has changed.

Harwood’s piece illustrates the flip-side of the problem, and gets to our broader point. Where do we go for adding more votes? One option is to try to get back some of the affluents that Harwood describes us losing and yesterday’s Washington Times describes the Dems picking up.  As Ross Douthat points out, "[t]he socially-liberal upper-middle class is large and growing larger." However, I think he makes a compelling argument that these people are lost to us, ultimately:

[M]ost of the northeastern and West Coast suburbanites the GOP has lost aren’t just social liberals – they’ve become liberals, flat-out, as issues like crime and taxes have lost their salience and the Democratic Party has moved to the middle on economics.

Big business will suck up to Democrats. The hedge funds and private equity are getting all the love out of Chuck Schumer that they need. And, as David Ignatius points out, Hillary is no leftist, even though Hillary is no Bill. And, as Greg Mankiw pointed out, even the Rangel "Mother of all Tax Hikes" is no class-warfare dream.

So, I think, that the other option is to try to dig deeper into the working class. Huckabee’s overt populism is one approach. John McCain’s slightly more low-key populism, on economic issues, combined with a more rabid anti-Washington populism is another strategy and, perhaps, a more likely endpoint than Huckabee’s approach. However, Huckabee does open a window to that future.

In any case, I suspect that the continual attacks on Huckabee aren’t going to be so threatening. First, his voters probably don’t care. As Richard Land said about Duncan Hunter, "A lot of evangelicals are probably sympathetic to his protectionist arguments."  Second, his response that he spent money on school and roads can be pretty compelling to a bunch of Iowa farmers, if he manages to get his message out. And third, I wonder how many of the super-rich Club for Growthers are left? How many i-bankers participate in Iowa caucuses anyways?

Now, this has focused on Huckabee’s economic message. There is an interesting question about Huckabee’s message on moral issues. My gut is that Huckabee follows the breezes in the evangelical community.

Christian right endorsements flow

It has been a pretty remarkable two days in terms of endorsements:

Where is the Fred Thompson endorsement?

What is the Paul bomb?

The Ron Paul money bomb is amazing. On a certain level though, it makes a lot of sense.  I’m about to make a totally obvious point:

Ron Paul’s support is a protest vote.

There are a lot of Republicans right now who are really angry. Republicans are furious with their party.  In 2004, Dems were furious with theirs. A lot of them still are, but they are still in shell-shock after winning the 2006 elections. They don’t realize how much of a bill of goods they were sold. And beating Republicans is still important to them.

Here’s a hypothesis, but a difficult one to test. To some extent, Ron Paul supporters support him because he is a variety of the "Republican wing of the Republican Party". People who hate the war can support Ron Paul. People who hate the spending can support Ron Paul. Those are the primary places where the GOP is losing its base right now. And the part of the base that is leaving right now are the ones who are rich and online. Just like some of the Deaniacs. And the college kids look the same too.

They don’t give the money because they really like Paul. They are just more angry at the party than they know what to do with. In the end, they may be "dated Dean, married Kerry" sorts. They may vote for Paul. They may just force the party to pay attention to them.

And some of them are just racist, bigoted, neanderthals.

But there’s something legit here. And today, the Paul guys got our attention. Good for them.