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.

A view on Iowa from New Hampshire

Cross-post from Redstate. I am posting there primarily, but I will try to cross-post here more.

Mike Huckabee’s stunning victory in Iowa will have a number of consequences in New Hampshire, where I am now. Last night John McCain flew from Iowa to New Hampshire for his caucus-watching party. At the same time, Rudy Giuliani left New Hampshire before the caucuses even began. It is not clear to me that he is coming back to New Hampshire.

Until a poll shows otherwise, this is still a John McCain versus Mitt Romney fight at the top, just like Iowa was a Romney versus Huckabee fight. Iowa’s results seem to help McCain and hurt Romney in NH. At the same time, it endangers Rudy.

Mitt Romney took a hit. Look at the opening paragraph of the AP story:

Republican Mitt Romney failed Thursday to pick up the first of two back-to-back wins he hoped would propel him toward his party’s presidential nomination, losing the Iowa caucuses five days before what is now for him a pivotal New Hampshire primary.

(That’s actually significantly toned down from the first story that hit the wire) The Romney campaign, already down, can expect much more negative coverage from the media, which already dislikes him. It is certainly possible that there will be falling turnout at his events and fewer volunteers. Already down 6-9 points to McCain, this just makes his life harder.

McCain is trying to turn this environment tactically against Romney. Excerpts from his statement:

Negative campaigns don’t work in IA and they don’t work here in NH. … 100th townhall tomorrow in NH. … We put the old lightening back in the bottle. … We will continue our positive campaigning…. Very confident of victory.

McCain is trying to remind the people of New Hampshire of his special relationship with them. The press is not reporting McCain’s placement, and in 2000 he placed even lower. Local reporters and pundits expect no negative impact of McCain’s showing.

The conclusion for the top-line race is this: McCain keeps his momentum, while Romney, his most likely challenger, will likely take a significant hit. Advantage McCain.

For the rest of the candidates, read on.

Huckabee faces a uniquely awkward environment, even if he has 9.5% in the RCP average. In Iowa, he posted 14% of non-evangelical vote, versus 50%-ish of the evangelical vote. But there are very, very few evangelicals in New Hampshire. His message here is about his record on taxes. It will be interesting to see where this climbs to and who it comes from. Any Huckabee succcess will be interpreted as proof that he can perform outside of evangelical voters.

Rudy Giuliani. Rudy has a problem here. He is gone, and people will notice. He got 1/3rd of the vote of Ron Paul in Iowa. If he repeats that, the fundamental logic of his candidacy disappears. (Incidentally, recent polling suggests that he has a similar problem in Michigan)

Fred Thompson. Fred’s game is not in New Hampshire. It is South Carolina. He has virtually no organization, and has only been here … twice? He might do a drive-by, but no one expects him to succeed here, and he is currently at the bottom of the big-5 here. It does not look like Fred’s 3d place Iowa showing is really being reported, so he is unlikely to get a real bounce here.

Ron Paul. He could do well here. There is a natural crusty libertarian base here that he appeals to. And there is plenty of evidence of a good grassroots organization. But his message appears limited here.

Today I am off to Romney, Huckabee, and McCain events to see what is going on here. If you have ideas for questions or observations, email me at

Romney: Check with lawyers and notes

Mitt Romney made what may prove to be a major league gaffe today. In response to a reporter’s question, perhaps triggered by an aggressive web ad, Romney said:

Mr. Romney: I don’t recall all the things that I said at that time, so I’d just have to go back and look at my notes at that time.

This is, of course, reminiscent of Romney’s statement that he would need to check with lawyers before defending the United States against Iran. At a time when he is falling in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, Romney cannot afford gaffes that emphasize his inexperience in foreign policy.

While it may be that McCain’s web ad was a little over-the-top, it appears that the Romney campaign fell for the trap, hook, line, and sinker.

Anecdotes ? Data

But it sure is interesting:

OTTUMWA, Iowa–Last night, I attended a Mike Hucabee event at the Bridge View Center here and made the conservative estimate that he drew a crowd of 400 to 500 inside an auditorium that held 650. When I noticed that Mitt Romney had an event at the same place this afternoon, I looked forward to getting an apples to apples comparison. I showed up again today and walked into the auditorium where I had seen Huckabee the night before, only to find it empty. The Romney event "is in a much smaller room on the other side," I was told. Whereas the room where Huckabee spoke was the size of a large movie theater, for the Romney event I was directed to "Conference Room 1," where I counted about 100 people once the event started.

If this is real, and I am not necessarily advocating the position that it is, you have to wonder what the head of the Iowa Christian Alliance was thinking. That said, nice get by Mitt Romney.

Pro-Huckabee group goes up with anti-Romney ad

Trust Huckabee, the somewhat controversial pro-Huckabee 501(c)(4), has gone up on the air with a pro-Huckabee ad and launched an anti-Romney site.

No news yet about the size of the buy. It does strike me that, at this point, Mike Huckabee is more likely to lose votes to someone else than to Romney. Romney’s ads probably remove some votes from Huckabee and add them to someone other than either one of them. Similarly, these ads may not add votes to Huckabee, but they may tear down Romney.

It is unclear how big this buy is. Previous attacks on Romney have been press releases.

UPDATE: Bob Novak notes that, in a suspicious poll that puts Fred Thompson below 1%, John McCain is the 2nd choice of Huckabee and Romney supporters. If they tear each other up this week, does it mean that McCain rises? I doubt that you can come to any meaningful conclusion in an unpublished poll with silly answers. But something to ponder.

Romney ad “misleading”; McCain responds

Mitt Romney dropped a negative ad in New Hampshire attacking John McCain. However, it seems that Romney, again, has some truthiness problems. Given the factual errors below, it is clear why McCain goes straight to Romney’s credibility problem., "More Mitt Malarky":

Romney’s latest ad attacks McCain in New Hampshire with false and misleading claims

WaPo’s Howie Kurtz:

Mitt Romney, who targeted Mike Huckabee in an earlier commercial, is now running the most negative campaign of any presidential candidate in either party. … Romney’s description of McCain’s failed immigration bill — which was backed by President Bush — is so selective as to be misleading.

New York Times:

Specifically, Mr. Romney assails Mr. McCain on both tax policies and immigration. On both topics, the commercial presents facts that could be construed either as selective or worse, misleading.

Mark Halperin from Time points out:

First negative ad against Romney by any candidate, first negative ad by McCain, first negative ad by any candidate besides Romney.

Negative campaigning. Lying. Debating what the definition of "saw" is. Who does that sound like?

Desperate Romney flip-flops and goes negative in NH

UPDATE: NYT fact-checks the ad. Some misleadin’ and some makin’ up.

This is pretty funny. Mitt Romney told Jill Zuckerman of the Chicago Tribune reporters should stop looking at his "old quotes":

"I know that there are some—particularly in opposing campaigns—who will try to look at old quotes, and perhaps take them out of context and perhaps not, and go back 14 years or 15 years, and say, ‘You said this here, you said that there,’ " said Romney. "But… if you want to know what I’d do as president, you can see what I did as governor."

14 or 15 years? How about 24 hours? The closing graf was:

Romney’s campaign produced two television ads Wednesday in New Hampshire. He said both were positive, containing his closing argument to voters, and that he has not yet decided whether to air any "contrast" or negative ads.

Let’s be clear. Wednesday (afternoon?) Romney told the Trib reporter that they are going positive. By Friday morning, they were going negative, according to the AP:

Mitt Romney takes GOP presidential rival John McCain to task on taxes and immigration in a new advertising push in New Hampshire as he seeks to fend off the Arizona senator’s challenge.

Of course, Romney’s problem is that he is out of credibility. As the Union-Leader pointed out, "the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes."

You know though. Maybe he was right. He did flip-flop in under 48 hours as governor in some cases. Or maybe the Wednesday night tracking polls were that bad. Or maybe (probably?) he just lied to a reporter. Again.

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.

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.