Mitt losing the media (update)

Update: A reader points out the date of this: Feb. 28, 2005. This is after Romney’s supposed conversion. Romney now says that he was pro-life when he gave this interview. Does this sound pro-life:

I’m personally pro-life but I won’t change the laws, you could describe that aswell I don’t think you can describe it in one hyphenated word.

Mitt Romney claims to defy description. I’m believing that.

After an overnight flight to Brussels, where I will be until Sunday, I sat down to read the DC news. And one of the first things that pops up is this review of Mitt Romney by Ruth Marcus:

I reprint so much of Romney’s answer (you can read or listen to the full exchange online) because its baroque circumlocutions seemed to say so much about him. It was hard to know what Romney actually thought about abortion rights other than that this was a political minefield it was best to avoid stepping into for as long as possible.

But it was also hard to see how a man with deeply held convictions on abortion rights — either for or against — could take a position so calibrated and inconclusive. Listening to Romney that day was like watching a chameleon in the fleeting moment that its color changes to suit its environment. Indeed, several months later, after vetoing a bill to expand access to emergency contraception, Romney wrote in the Boston Globe about how his views on the subject had "evolved and deepened."

I am struck by the language of this. The media respects and perhaps even fears (feared?) George Bush. Remember all the stories, now seemingly false, about the White House run with military style?

The media doesn’t respect Mitt Romney. They think he is phony. They think he is lying. In the end, you can defeat a media that opposes you. But can you lose a media that dismisses you as merely a fraud?

Why is Mitt going on the air?

As everyone knows by now, Mitt Romney has gone on the air in a bunch of states. Here is the ad. Mitt is doing this because he has a problem. A recent post on the Gallup poll blog gets it right:

At the other end of the spectrum is Mitt Romney.  His name ID is just 36%.  But he already has gained significant negatives, to the point where his image ratio is 1.0, based on his 18% favorable and 18% unfavorable rating.   Relatively few people know who Romney is, but those who do are split on what they think about him.

This suggests that the people who are getting introduced to Romney aren’t doing it on his terms. Romney has bombed in the MSM. He is getting defined by other people. So he goes on the air himself.

It is worth pointing out how bad his numbers are. Compare him to Rudy Giuliani:

Rudy Giuliani has the best overall image ratio, 3.0, based on his current favorable rating of 66% and his unfavorable of just 22%.

In other words, even though only about 1/3rd of the population knows who Romney is, about the same number of people who disapprove of Rudy and Romney. If that pattern continues, it is the end for Romney.

Mitt’s three-step on taxes

MItt Romney’s appearance on This Week will likely be viewed as one of the fundamental mistakes in the campaign. Not only has he had a problem with his statements on why he voted for Paul Tsongas. He is going to have another problem on taxes. In talking about taxes and the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, he said:

"But you can read the pledge, if you will," Romney said in his "This Week" interview, "and you can see that it’s drawn very narrowly. It’s not drawn very broadly. It talks about raising the highest marginal income tax rate. It does not talk about all forms of revenue for the government."

And so Romney already tries to finesse his position on taxes. So you see, Romney starts on the far left of the Republican Party when he calls the ATR Tax Pledge "government by gimmickry". Then he signs it. Then he soft sells his position. Furthermore, he will likely continue to try to sell his position as having never raised taxes even though he raised fees and taxes substantially:

“Rather than forcing the Legislature to close the budget gap through spending cuts alone, Romney raised some $500 million in fees.

“Romney raised corporate taxes by an estimated $210 million and only backed down under pressure from pushing for even higher taxes on business.

Romney’s "Mitt-flopping" will morph into "Multiple Choice Mitt" and, perhaps, into simply problems with the truth.

Romney not making sense (telling lies?) about Tsongas

Mitt Romney explained today why he voted for Paul Tsongas in 1992. He said:

"When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican."

However, there are several problems with this:

  1. Erick Erickson points out that it is not how Romney has explained it in the past.
  2. Romney donated money in 1992 to Democrats. He even did a fundraiser for a Democrat. So perhaps he wasn’t helping Republicans that year?
  3. Romney said he wasn’t for Bush. Again, in 1994, he said, "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

Can Mitt Romney stop lying? Is it possible?

Furthermore, this is just dumb. Why is he talking about this? He could just admit that he was wrong and go on. But no, he has to invent something.

Southern Baptist leaders weigh in on candidates (update)

Update: Hugh Hewitt responds to the Giuliani bit with an explanation that reminds me of Jonah Goldberg’s thesis.

The Hill interviewed Richard Land, the Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention. He had some interesting comments to make about the leading candidates for President. First, Rudy Giuliani:

Beginning with Giuliani, Land said “the vast majority” of social conservative voters will not vote for the former mayor even if he gets the nomination and faces off against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Furthermore, a Fox News poll pointed out that 57% of GOP voters do not know that Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice:

The biggest red flag for Rudy has to be that only 42% of Republicans surveyed correctly identified him as pro-choice. Twenty-one percent of Republican voters have it wrong and think Rudy is pro-life, and another 36% of Republicans don’t have a clue what his position on abortion. In other words, nearly six out of ten registered Republican voters have yet to learn something about Rudy which, we can infer from the first question on abortion, will make close to half of them either "somewhat" less likely or "a lot" less likely to vote for him.

Land also claimed that Rudy’s "personal" problems will create a real problem for Rudy, and Newt!

He also thought that John McCain had problems, with the standard list of problems — judges and BCRA:

Though Land doesn’t question McCain’s consistency on abortion issues, he said McCain’s involvement in the “Gang of 14” — the bipartisan Senate group that prevented the “nuclear” option on judicial nominees — and his refusal to support anti-gay marriage proposals severely hurts his chances with traditional-values voters.

In the end, Land said, social conservatives are concerned about the kind of judges a President McCain would nominate.

Voting pro-life is not enough,” Land said. “He has got to express himself in other venues

Perhaps the most interesting was statements on Romney:

“Conservatives would see that as ‘He’s seen the light,’” Land said. “They would see it as less of a flip-flop than as a journey.”

Of Romney’s Mormon religion, Land said it’s not a “deal-killer.

However, the leader of the SBC’s North American Missions Board, which is responsible for evangelizing to Americans, had some very harsh words to say about Mormonism in the context of Romney and the LDS Church’s PR plan:

He says although the Mormon Church wages an expensive public relations campaign, using terms familiar to appeal to evangelicals, the core teachings of the church do not line up with scripture and are inconsistent with evangelical Christianity.

If the Southern Baptists respond to the LDS PR campaign with their own… wow.

About the 2nd-tier candidates Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee, Land had some positive statements:

“They don’t have to convince other social conservatives they’re one of them,” Land said. “They just have to convince other social conservatives they can win.”

He was slightly more effusive in support of Huckabee, but they have been allies in Southern Baptist denominational politics in the past, so that must be taken with a grain of salt.

Elections are experiments

Jonah Goldberg has a great article at NRO about how Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are two different strategies for handling coming from a liberal, northeastern state. Romney’s strategy is basically to change his position on every issue in sight to come in line with the conservative base. Goldberg doesn’t totally buy it, and regularly readers can see that I don’t either. Rudy Giuliani’s strategy is based on another strategy. His campaign is based on the proposition:

Taken together, terrorism, Iraq and Islam have become the No. 1 social issue for conservative base of the party.

Conservatives will decide that winning the war on terrorism is so important that the rest doesn’t matter or is secondary. Furthermore, Romney’s campaign is based on the idea that domestic issues will dominate the election, and Rudy that security and terrorism will. (although Republicans seem to think that he would do fine running the government)

Which will it be? Time will tell. And what if McCain wins? I think that his campaign is a hybrid. He can credibly claim to be a conservative whose strength is foreign policy. In other words, he could credibly claim to be the best conservative at fighting the war on terror. But, Goldberg would probably argue that a McCain win tells us more about McCain than the Republican Party. I think that’s probably right.

All of these candidates have different theories for where the party is. We will see.

Romney getting bashed in Israeli press over Ford Museum

I contend that it is unfair to attack Romney for holding his announcement at the Ford Museum, (now, it may be fair to criticize his staff for not thinking about it …) but the issue is getting play in the Israeli press. This could hurt him. American Jews, especially those for whom Israel is a central issue, read Haartez. Romney had some good early outreach to the Jewish community. But another campaign stumble….

Does “Rudy wins blogger straw poll!” matter? Yes!

Patrick Ruffini pushed out the news that Rudy Giuliani won the February GOP bloggers straw poll. David All has one interpretation of what this means. I have another. It will be easier for Rudy to control stories about him, especially negative stories.

First of all, this means that when the going gets rough for Rudy — and it will — the blogs are going to be slower to pick it up. They are going to give him the benefit of the doubt. In other words, we aren’t going to see the same sort of blog attack on Rudy that we saw on Edwards last week.

This will give Rudy a buffer on controlling the debate. Drudge may run it, but if the blogs don’t swarm… how much is it really going to matter? Especially when people are aware that Drudge is biased?

Second, as Patrick indicates, and anecdotal evidence confirms, it appears that Rudy Giuliani is taking votes from Mitt Romney:

The shift from Captain’s Quarters readers, the largest blog participating in the poll, is striking. Last month, the results were Romney 31.6%, Giuliani 25.6%, Gingrich 23%. This month, the results were Giuliani 43.9%, Gingrich 21.4%, Romney 16.5%.

This is going to make it even harder for Romney. He can’t defend himself with just the XXXX for Mitt blogs and Hugh Hewitt.

In other words, Patrick’s job is going to be easier. Now, who knows what will happen when people start packing these, as David suggests.