Romney’s closing message in Michigan or a new campaign?

Dean Barnett offers a scathing assessment of the Romney campaign today. I don’t want to focus on that here, instead his closing:

I hope Mr. Romney does well enough in Michigan today that he gets the opportunity to introduce the public to the real Mitt Romney. He is a wonderful and gifted guy. It would be nice if he and his campaign allowed the voters in on that secret.

If Mitt Romney’s closing speech to the Detroit Economic Club is the real, Mitt Romney, then we have an even bigger problem then we thought. Byron York had this analysis of the speech:

Romney’s proposals might not be music to the ears of free-market conservatives who believe Detroit made its own problems and needs to fix itself. But it’s what a lot of people in Michigan want to hear.

In other words, Romney ran to the left telling "a lot of people [what they] want to hear." If this is the real Mitt Romney, still telling people what they want to hear, abandoning his new refound principles, then just wait until a general election.

“Insincere” Romney campaign finds more astroturf

Dean Barnett, Mitt Romney’s former driver, attacks the campaign today in the New York Times:

Because Mr. Romney chose to make this argument a secondary matter compared to his stands on social issues, he mounted a campaign that was, at its most basic level, insincere. … But the public correctly sensed something disingenuous about Mr. Romney’s campaign.

This sense of insincerity permeates the campaign. Strategically, as Barnett notes, the campaign is based on the proposition of offering the candidate as something he is not. Tactically, the campaign repeatedly offers astroturf. Earlier, they offered the press staff to talk to without disclosing that relationship. This time, they did a photo-op a staffer’s mom, and didn’t disclose that relationship:

A well-publicized weekend photo-op for Mitt Romney turns out to have been missing a piece of information that might have undermined its credibility: the unemployed single mom at the center of the event was the mother of a Romney staffer.

Romney even offered her advice that seems to characterize him:

Ironically, when it came time to take questions from the reporters gathered around Sachs’ kitchen table, Romney joked: "If you don’t want to answer any questions, that’s fine, too. What I’ve learned is, if they ask a question, you can answer something else."

Romney out of touch?

I have worried about the strange sense that I get that Mitt Romney is out of touch. He seems like a rich guy who doesn’t understand what normal people go through. The question is whether this impression gets down into the voters. MSNBC’s exit polls found that in New Hampshire the only income class that Romney beat John McCain was $150-200k, and they tied above $200k.

I was reminded of this when I saw an AP story today about Romney’s tax plan:

But the former Massachusetts governor goes beyond that to say "anyone" with adjusted gross income under $200,000 — that’s after certain deductions — should be relieved of all taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends, pushing his definition of the middle class well into six-figure incomes.

Now, I don’t have a problem with Romney’s position, but the polling above suggests that people might be getting an impression here. This could be bad news for him in Michigan, when Mike Huckabee is relating to the people who have "been laid off" and Romney is talking about "getting rid of people." Especially when there is 7%+ unemployment.

Romney and Giuliani delegate operations fail in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Secretary of State just released the list of filed delegates. Delegates then need to get signatures to get on the ballots. But… John McCain and Mike Huckabee filed 40 delegates. Fred Thompson 8. Mitt Romney 7. And Rudy Giuliani 0.

There are two stories here. The first one is that Romney’s delegate operation failed. They have the Governor, one of the delegates. The head of Students for Romney is one of the delegates. And that was all they could get. And this is a pro-choice, highly Italian state. Why didn’t they file?

This sounds like wheels coming off an organization.

Turnaround artist didn’t turn around Mass. Job Growth

In March of this year the Boston Globe analyzed Mitt Romney’s economic record in Massachusetts:

On all key labor market measures, the state not only lagged behind the country as a whole, but often ranked at or near the bottom of the state distribution. Formal payroll employment in the state in 2006 was still 16,000 or 0.5 percent below its average level in 2002, the year immediately prior to the start of the Romney administration. Massachusetts ranked third lowest on this key job generation measure and would have ranked second lowest if Hurricane Katrina had not devastated the Louisiana economy. Manufacturing payroll employment throughout the nation declined by nearly 1.1 million or 7 percent between 2002 and 2006, but in Massachusetts it declined by more than 14 percent, the third worst record in the country.

They lost total jobs, ranking 3rd from the bottom:

While the number of employed people over age 16 in the United States rose by nearly 8 million, or close to 6 percent, between 2002 and 2006, the number of employed residents in the Commonwealth is estimated to have modestly declined by 8,500. Massachusetts was the only state to have failed to post any gain in its pool of employed residents. The aggregate number of people 16 and older either working or looking for work in Massachusetts fell over the Romney years.

They lost total population:

We were one of only two states to have experienced no growth in its resident labor force. Again, without the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on the dispersal of the Louisiana population, Massachusetts would have ranked last on this measure. The decline in the state’s labor force, which was influenced in large part by high levels of out-migration of working-age adults, helped hold down the official unemployment rate of the state. Between July 2002 and July 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated that 222,000 more residents left Massachusetts for other states than came here to live. This high level of net domestic out-migration was equivalent to 3.5 percent of the state’s population, the third highest rate of population loss in the country. Excluding the population displacement effects of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana, Massachusetts would have ranked second highest on this measure. We were a national leader in exporting our population.

Does Romney want to take this nationwide?

Steve Forbes, Rudy, Romney, and the economy

(Cross-posted from Redstate)

Two days ago (technical problems delayed this) in Manchester, New Hampshire, I sat down with Steve Forbes, and we talked about his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, and his thoughts on the economic records of the other candidates. As a supporter of Rudy Giuliani’s he has the most to say about what he likes about Rudy, but it was interesting to me that he ripped pretty hard into Mitt Romney’s record.

The next step of the Presidential race will turn to Michigan and South Carolina. Michigan is a big northern state in, perhaps, the worst economic state in the country, the old rust belt. Voters are going to want to know what can be done for the economy. This is different than taxes, which was an important issue in New Hampshire. In Michigan, the question on voters’ mind will be "who will create jobs?" Mitt Romney’s record is weaker than is generally assumed. The Club for Growth is already up with ads attacking Huckabee, although I suspect that this is more press release. John McCain, as a Senator, has his voting record and new policy proposals to defend and propose. Erick and Neil have more on that.

South Carolina is more complicated. I will be back with more about that.

WSJ’s knife in the heart of Romney’s base

Mitt Romney’s voters are upper-middle class. The kinds of people who read the Wall Street Journal. Today the Journal attempted an assist. On the top of the page was a piece entitled "McCain’s promise" with the pull-quote:

It is cruel to compare the senator to most of his Republican competitors.

The next story on the page was "The New New Mitt" with the pull-quote:

New Hampshire voters know Romney’s record better than most. That could spell trouble.

That’s a clear message from the news source of the management and business class that Mitt Romney is not their guy, and John McCain is.

That’s gotta hurt.

When you know that they know

(crossposted from Redstate Redhot)

Two facts captured for me how Mitt Romney’s campaign perceived his debate performance.

First, only two surrogates were in the spin room: Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan. None of the national surrogates in town. No Senator Judd Gregg, Romney New Hampshire campaign chairman. Where was Judd?

That leads me to my second fact. Judd Gregg was the first person to leave the debate. The first one. Not the second. The first.

A Romney NH townhall

(Crossposted from Redstate)

Last night I attended a Mitt Romney townhall in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Politico’s Jonathan Martin has a report from the event.

Several things struck me getting to the event. First, it was packed. Probably 250 or so people. Given the time and place, downtown Manchester on a Friday night, this is good but not surprising. Second, unlike Rudy Giuliani and John McCain’s events, the audience was mostly upper middle class, which as Fred Barnes has noticed, seems to be Romney’s electoral base.

Read on after the jump.

As the event progressed it became clear that this is probably the "best organized" event. People with signs in all the right places. Well timed. Kevin Madden, the national press secretary, chatting up the reporters. Probably a better organized stump speech. Etc. Political theater at its technical finest. Romney was introduced by his wife who gave, of course, a glowing introduction about one of the 5 sons (Matt, I think) and 2 of his kids.

At that point Anne, Matt, and the two grandkids stepped over the velvet rope that surrounded Romney and sat down. In the picture above you can see the rope. This rope was a marked contrast with McCain and Giuliani who frequently offered their microphones to people in front row.

Romney’s stump speech hit all his new themes. Washington is the problem, not the President or the White House. That he can bring change. "It’s going to take someone there who knows how to change things."

Given the audience, he spent a lot of time on taxes. He talked about the previous administration (a Republican) raising taxes (is this true?) by $b, while he didn’t. Of course, he raised revenue $700m by raising fees. But….

A voter asked "the Mormon question." It wasn’t actually the mormon question so much as the "Baptist question" as she clarified later. She said that she was tempted to vote for Huckabee because she understands him and shares his values, while she sees that Romney is a strong candidate. Romney gave his typical answer to applause. (I would note Medved’s piece about the Mormon thing not really being a problem in Iowa)

Perhaps the most interesting quote form that was, "if we made differences based on religion, we would end up looking like Shia and Sunni." I thought that was a little excessive, but…

That’s an awful lot of money

(Crosspost from Redstate)

Byron York learned today:

I talked to a station official who told me that Mitt Romney was WHO’s second biggest advertiser in 2007. Second biggest – behind the number-one advertiser, Monsanto farm chemicals, and ahead of the number-three advertiser, Bayer farm chemicals. WHO is by far the biggest radio station in Iowa,

Compare to New Hampshire. The Granite Prof tells us that Mitt Romney has spent nearly $4m on WMUR, the main New Hampshire TV station. By contrast, that is slightly more than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama combined. More than the entire GOP field combined, outspending his nearest opponent, John McCain nearly 4-1. I am in New Hampshire right now. In 5 days, I have seen exactly 2 positive ads by Romney, and about 20 negative.