Some implications of Thompson’s entrance

The Politco’s Mike Allen had the scoop on Fred Thompson yesterday. Race42008’s HeavyM pulled out a couple of important points but did not really elucidate. So let’s work on some details.

First, the fundraising. As I said in April:

Fourth, look at the timing that is being discussed. Novak says June. This freezes the money and endorsement game for almost the entirety of Q2. As the Q1 fundraising numbers were being reported, the mantra was: Q2 CoH is the only number that matters. And now that whole environment is messed up.

Therefore, the Q2 numbers will be very, very hard to interpret. If Thompson raises any money in Q2, he can claim success. If Thompson doesn’t, you can’t claim he failed. How will we interpret the numbers?

Second, Thompson will probably skip Ames, for a bunch of reasons. He probably won’t have the opportunity to succeed. And it would take most of his money, stopping him from building staff in early states. Therefore, any meaning that people try to extract out of an Ames victory will be more obscure. Furthermore, this will create quite a problem for Newt Gingrich or other candidates. A whole bunch of third tier candidates will drop out at that point. Their staffs will have to decide who to go with. Newt had hoped to pick up those staff. Now Thompson will try to suck them up. This will make it very hard, mechanically, for Newt to enter.

In other words, Thompson has figured out how to screw with the standard narrative of what happens after Ames. Thompson will be able to claim some degree of victory, regardless of what happens. And it will put a clear asterix on anyone who does win. It will be especially damaging to Romney.

Now the question is going to be how they roll out the endorsements, like this one in Florida, and how they control and maintain the momentum. This will be fun to watch.

Romney attacks Thompson on campaign finance

Well, well, Fred Thompson gets in and flip-flopping pandering Mitt Romney drops the hammer on Thompson over campaign-finance reform. You will recall that this is the same Mitt Romney who was against public funding of campaigns in 1994, for it in 2002, and now against it. And the same one who was for radical campaign finance reform, well to the left of McCain-Feingold.

So what is going on? Mitt Romney is scared of Fred Thompson. David Yepsen explained why Thompson seriously damages Romney in Iowa. Over to Yepsen:

There is some evidence to suggest Thompson would hurt Romney, one of the three front-runners in Iowa, by entering the race.

It comes by comparing two polls of likely GOP caucus-goers taken during May.  The Iowa Poll, taken by the Des Moines Register, did not include Thompson, who has not formally announced.  But the American Research Group poll, taken by a Manchester, NH research firm, did include Thompson.

When you compare the findings of the two polls, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain actually increase their support if Thompson is in the race.  Romney drops.

Yepsen also says:

But Romney’s also been plagued by talk he’s a flip-flopper on conservative issues, while Thompson’s conservative credentials are solid. And Thompson also seems like an electable candidate to many Republicans who have been dissatisfied with the 2008 field.  So, GOPers looking for good, electable conservative may well move from Romney to Thompson.

Now, the thing that could save Romney is that he’s running a fantastic campaign (too bad about the candidate) and Thompson might not work hard enough.

Border security group attacks Romney for flip-flopping on immigration

Tasty quotes, full release after the jump:

In 2006 Governor Romney supported the President’s immigration policy as well as the McCain-Kennedy bill.  He expressed support for an immigration program that places large numbers of illegal residents on the path toward citizenship and said illegal immigrants should have a chance to obtain citizenship.

He even went as far as to say that Republicans that break from the President on this issue are making a "big mistake" according to the Associated Press.

Governor Romney has a long history of flip-flops on issues from abortion, to gun control, to gay rights.  This pattern of shifting positions should concern Iowa conservatives who are dedicated to securing our border and solving the illegal immigration crisis.

One wonders whether Mitt Romney’s flip-flops on immigration are going to create problems with conservatives on immigration. Ultimately, the issue is trust, much more than the issues, as much. Poll after poll have revealed that conservatives agree with what’s in the bill, but they don’t trust the elites. Why would someone who panders to them be more trustworthy?

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Romney, 1994 flier, and consistency

A number of Mitt Romney’s supporters have pulled out a 1994 campaign flier and argued that it shows that he has always been a conservative. First of all, one might wonder why a conservative in 1994 would have opposed the Contract with America and called it "partisan".. That wasn’t my reading of it.

I was struck by how much he has moved around on a number of these issues. The question shouldn’t be whether or not he was a real conservative. Instead it should be, what kinds of principles, if any, he has, and how they will relate to how he would govern if he were to become president. So let’s look at this with that in mind.

First of all, we need to realize what this is. It is a political communication. He tried to differentiate himself from Kennedy on some things and blend the differences on others. So, as a political communication, he is saying that the only thing that he agrees with Ted Kennedy on is abortion and gay rights. And on abortion he argued that he was more trustworthy to pro-choicers than Ted Kennedy because Ted Kennedy had flip-flopped(!!!). And on gay rights, he argued that he would be better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy.

The second point to make is that Romney’s image has several problems. The first one is that he’s a simple "flip-flopper". But the second is that he’s a sleazy panderer. The car salesman thing. That he will tell you whatever you need to hear for you to support him. That he has no principles. That’s what really struck me with this.

So, to illustrate, let’s do a little exercise. Let’s take a couple of these issues and see where Romney has gone with these since 1994

First, abortion. Romney’s story is that he changed his position over the stem-cell fight in 2004. But it is worth pointing out that Romney was also sounding pro-life in 2001  when he was considering running for office in Utah. His problem isn’t that he converted. It is that he converted and reconverted and reconverted and reconverted. All occurring while he was running for office and well into middle age and parenthood.

Or, look at his position on campaign finance reform, under the heading of "Congressional Reform." In this 1994 flier, he says that he opposed Taxpayer Financed Campaigns. But in 2002, he supported partial public funding of campaigns, even supporting taxing private contributions to pay for public funding. Now, presumably, he’s against it. So this is his third position on campaign finance reform.

Or, look at this positions on health care. He did not support either a "government takeover of health care" or "requir[ing] employer mandates". But he did sign a health care plan, with the same Ted Kennedy that he is differentiating himself from in this flier, that included employer and individual mandates. (Indeed, it looks like Barack Obama’s health care plan is, in some sense, to the right of Romney’s. Ezra Klein points out that Obama’s plan does not mandate that people purchase health care, whereas Romney’s creates criminal sanctions if you do not)

Tables are often clarifying:

  Romney in 1994 Romney in-between Romney Today
Abortion Pro-choice Pro-life, then pro-choice Pro-life
Public funding of campaigns Against For Against
Employer mandates Against ?? For

"The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind."

Campaigns versus movements 2

Patrick Ruffini wrote an interesting post about, what he called, different modes of activism. I thought that he was arguing that the online left was unfocused, and that it was hard to convert to GOTV, which was where the rubber really meets the road. I responded and argued that there was a real disconnect on the left between the "movement," which the netroots are pushing, and the party, which is much more static.

Patrick responded that this criticism was too campaign-focused was a little unfair:

Actually, I don’t. My objective in the original post was to lay out a framework in which winning campaigns could build and sustain a movement beyond Election Day. Campaigns should be cumulative. We don’t have time to relearn all the lessons from cycle to cycle, nor to reactivate our volunteers.

And, indeed, he is right that these are great ideas. His story about the President demanding a strategy that "leaves something behind" is a little inspiring. And I was in Ohio for a couple of weeks. A nuclear bomb was dropped on the Ohio GOP, and it faced minimal legislative losses and even picked up a seat on the state high court. There is no question that BC04 left "something behind" there.

But the party also did something else. It centralized an enormous amount of information. I don’t know what all I know is covered by some sort of confidentiality agreement, but there were a lot of data-appends from a lot of sources. And that applies to voter lists, volunteer lists, etc.  In some sense, the party is capable of mobilizing the current coalition without going to the groups.

It seems that Patrick and I agree that this coalition, the "movement", and the party is probably not enough. And the question for us is going to be where we go:

Even then, the question is what does a new conservative movement look like? We’ve been running on low taxes, social conservatism, strong defense for thirty years. Are there new issues to rally around? Usually, movements arise because of needs unmet by the establishment. Right now, that’s immigration and spending (though on the latter, the leadership pays lip service to the cause).

As recent readers will notice, I don’t think that immigration is going to be the issue that gets us to a majority. The real point that Patrick makes is:

So, the movement will probably have to be outside the current campaigns.

And that’s really the point. And that’s what the netroots have been doing. They weren’t happy with the party or the campaigns. And so they started to rejigger the coalition. They didn’t need the party’s permission to kick its butt.

The original point that I tried to make is that there is a fundamental difference that "we" have been pursuing and what they are. They are rebuilding their coalition. In some sense, I think it is easier for them because the main component of their coalition that they are adding and activating is middle and upper-middle class "liberals", as opposed to the parts of the coalition that are interest group related. These people have been entering the Democratic coalition for a while. The netroots have been consolidating them.  In 2004, we consolidated the coalition. The problem is that now, that consolidation may be for naught.

If there is no consensus on where the party goes, then this will probably be decided by a series of experiments involving primaries, national elections, and evolving coalitions in Congress. One upshot of the Goldwater/Reagan model was that the party agreed where to go from there. That’s what Reagan running in 1968, 1976, and 1980 did.

The question for us is going to be what constituencies or ideas we can add, in a coherent way. And we need to figure out who we have been bleeding and why. There are several ideas floating. One is anti-immigration, which is both wrong and small ball. One is David Brooks’ recent musings. One is Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam‘s "Sam’s Club Republicans". The Bush answer is that we expand the current coalition beyond its white base. It is becoming entirely clear that some nostalgic returning to Reagan will not do it. That is why the Fred Thompson candidacy is both soothing and ultimately losing. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have other answers. Another answer is Mitt Romney’s, which would resemble the Thompson/Reagan strategy with a new image on health care. It is hard to know who he would add, except at the margins. No ideas, just image.

Returning to the question of comparing the use of technology on the right and the left, we may have to offer tools to make building this new coalition easier. But, again, this is a secondary question to actually having a coalition. Alternatively, we might just need to make the existing coalition more effective, while the political problem is resolved.

Healthcare lobbies campaign in early primary states

I thought this was interesting. It appears that two different healthcare lobby groups are using a strategy of grassroots and media campaigns in early primary states. I have copied the ad for the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. The Hill runs a story about AARP and a bunch of patients groups running media and grassroots campaigns in early primary states:

The senior citizens’ lobbying group AARP and a handful of patient-advocacy groups have joined together to stage events in key presidential primary states to sway the debate on healthcare, a key emerging campaign issue.

This morning, the chief executives of the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association will hold press conferences, rallies, training seminars and visits to campaign offices in early-primary states to promote healthcare coverage and access, particularly for people with chronic diseases. …

The AARP will hold its event in Concord, N.H., while the diabetes and cancer groups will hold a combined event in Des Moines, Iowa. The heart association will gather supporters in Columbia, S.C., and the Alzheimer’s group will meet in Reno, Nev. Each event is expected to draw somewhere between 100 and 200 people. …

Apparently, AARP had been doing this already:

The AARP has been positioning itself to play a major role in influencing the presidential candidates’ stances on healthcare and financial security for older Americans. The organization has been carrying out its “Divided We Fail” campaign in early-primary states and plans to expand the effort nationwide using its network of state offices as November 2008 approaches.

This is a good strategy for moving the debate. It will be interesting to see how the various candidates handle this.

Did Romney belittle a veteran on Memorial Day?

Everyone knows that our veterans healthcare system is screwed up and brave soldiers are falling through the cracks. In this case, an injured Guardsman isn’t getting the care that he needs, and his friend asks Mitt Romney for help. Romney is not helpful. Read on:

Romney questioned the man’s status, wondering why the military wouldn’t help him if he is active duty.

"He’s in the window," Joyal said, before Romney cut him off.

"Don’t give me, ‘he’s in the window,’" Romney said. "He’s either active duty or not."

Romney said that this was a sign that Washington is broken. (Duh! Thank you!) But he had nothing useful to say:

But the only solution he offered was urging Roy to contact one of his U.S. senators. …

That answer appeared to frustrate Roy and his wife, Darlene, who said she already had contacted numerous state and federal officials.

Maybe it is just the way that this was reported, but it certainly doesn’t sound good for the governor.

Employers getting unhappy with immigration bill

While I am a supporter of immigration in general and some sort of comprehensive immigration proposal, I am not yet decided on this immigration bill. Earlier, I pointed to a place where business is unhappy with the current bill. Today, the NYT reports one place where these problems are becoming clearer. For example, Microsoft’s head lobbyist says:

The deal is worse than the status quo, and the status quo is a disaster. We are troubled by the grand bargain.

Specifically, on the high-tech worker side:

“The reforms in the Senate bill do not help the business community. Indeed, they hurt the business community. Under the current system, employers file petitions with the government to show why a particular employee is needed and should get a green card. The Senate bill would eliminate the employers’ ability to petition for specific workers.”

The bill would increase the number of visas for highly skilled workers, a goal long sought by the high-tech industry. Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, won adoption of an amendment that would increase the fee charged to employers for such a visa, known as an H-1B, to $5,000, from $1,500. The money would be used to finance scholarships for American citizens studying engineering, mathematics, computer science or health care.

Life isn’t any better on the low-skill worker side:

“It’s a travesty,” Mr. Silvertooth said. “It eviscerates the temporary worker program, which was one of the central reasons for the business community to be involved in the immigration debate.”

"It" is an amendment that lowered the number of temporary worker visas to 200k and removed the provision that would increase that with demand. Note that all the amendments made that make this a worse bill were offered by Democrats.

Movements versus campaigns and parties

Patrick Ruffini argues that the GOP has the right model for online activism:

I can sing chapter and verse on why our model was better. Lateral communications (or community building amongst supporters) is a worthwhile goal in itself, but often gets confused with what it takes to do GOTV in the final days of an election. That’s when you want a unified message, and you don’t want canvassers coming up with their own talking points. The end result of that strategy is Dean in Iowa.

I am torn on this question. On the one hand, the GOP online effort did convert better to GOTV, and winning the 2004 election. But there is another question about long-term investment. Indeed, the underlying question is apples and oranges. Campaigns versus movements.

In 2005, the Dean list and community was converted into an unprecedented grassroots candidacy for DNC chair. And the Deaniacs took over state parties and county parties around the country. The Deaniacs lost the 2004 primary campaign but may yet transform their party over the long-term. That’s a movement, not one campaign. And, over the long-term, movements have a lot more power. In short, the online left is solving a different problem than the Bush campaign was. The online left is trying to change their party, not elect candidates.

Now look at what Patrick says:

Did we sustain it? Well, that’s a fair question. The Bush list did continue on at the RNC. We did parties. We activated the base on key issues. That’s a greater continuity of effort than we saw on the other side. Terry McAuliffe famously boasted of wanting to bring all the Democrat candidate email lists in-house to the DNC. In the end, not one obliged, not even John Kerry. He kept his own list, blasted to it regularly during the 2006 elections, and as Chris Cillizza has been fond of harping on, that 3 million list alone was probably the only reason he could be considered viable for 2008.

MoveOn and Dean for America, rebranded as Democracy for America, did continue to activate with their 3m list. And they don’t have to take orders from the party. To them, candidates are a way of effecting policy changes, not the objective in-and-of-themselves, like they are for a party committee. Whatever candidate we nominate in 2008 is going to have a different coalition. Will the Generation Joshua guys show up for a Rudy Giuliani, a John McCain, or a Mitt Romney? I kinda doubt it.

I continue to believe that the right way to understand the online left is not as a party, but as a movement. Their historical antecedent is the New Right, using direct mail, the new technology of the day, to raise money and deliver message. In essence, the new technology is being used to expand the power and size of a part of the coalition that hasn’t had a seat at the table of the Democratic Party. For example, the Rock-the-Vote voter registration engine:

What’s happening this cycle could be ground-breaking, in that Rock the Vote is building a voter registration engine with an API anyone can innovate on top of.  Groups and individuals will be able to capture the number of people they register, the data of the people they register, and the contact information of those they register.  This means that, unlike with a standard voter registration download form, the person who asked you to register, presumably someone you trust, will be reminding you to vote.  That’s a big deal.  They will also be able to get credit for registering you to vote, since the voter engine will let people see how many people have registered through a page.  It’ll be kind of like Actblue, for voter registration.

This doesn’t help parties. Parties have voter registration lists. They keep them (kind of) up to date. This helps the interest groups, outside organizations, and movements.

The online left is a movement to reinvent and renew the Democratic party. The question for the GOP is whether we need something similar. A newly organized coalition, etc. I think that the answer is "yes." Perhaps Patrick disagrees with me?