Romney’s “challenges” and “legs” ad

So Mitt Romney released a new ad. A number of people have commented on the "legs" side of Romney’s ad, but I thought the "challenges" side was more interesting. Consider some quotes:

  • "An Olympics hit by scandal and deficits"
  • "He turned around dozens of companies"
  • "State losing jobs with huge deficits … cutting spending instead of raising taxes"
  • "At every step, he’s met extraordinary challenges"

Several things about this struck me.  The Olympics quote could be a reference both to the GOP and the country. Is part of the message "I’ve handled scandal before, so I can do it again"? It strikes me that there’s a similar reading about the GOP in "turned around dozens of companies."

So what do Republican primary voters think needs to get fixed?
Republican primary voters think the country is basically "on the right track." They are mostly happy with the economic situation of the country. Perhaps they are unhappy with the party or the government?

Also, given the examples, I have trouble seeing how you leverage these particular examples into facing the challenges that most Republicans that I talk to think are the big ones faced by the country, namely terrorism and security. Isn’t there a fundamental disconnect there?

Or is "Turnaround" another whack at Bush, distancing himself from the administration, which the campaign makes very clear in private that they are trying to do?

Also, there are no personal challenges, just professionalized ones, in sharp contrast to John McCain’s video released today, which does address the security issue too.

More than one kind of swing voter

After writing about Virginia and West Virginia polling yesterday, I got thinking about one of the discussions that is not taking place on the internet right now. The question is pretty simple: who will be the swing voters of 2008? Several possible answers. But let me start with some facts, provided by Democrats:

In 2000, Gore lost white working class (defined as whites with less than a four year college degree) voters by 17 points; this year, Kerry lost them by 23 points, a swing of 6 points against the Democrats. In contrast, Gore lost college-educated whites by 9 points and Kerry lost them by 10 points–not much change.

Therefore, white working class voters were responsible for almost all of Bush’s increased margin among whites as a whole (which went from 12 to 17 points). And Bush’s increased margin among whites, of course, was primarily responsible for his re-election.

Now, if I were to imagine a state that was "white working class" writ-large, I would probably be talking about places like West Virginia. If GOP margins fall in this subgroup from 2004 levels, then we need to make up the difference in the suburbs.

So let’s speculate for a second why the white working class voters — Reagan Democrats and their children — would be voting GOP. There are probably two answers: security and cultural issues.  Economic issues aren’t like to be among them. These are natural Democratic voters on economic issues and Republicans on other issues. Things like gay marriage, abortion-on-demand, hanging out with hollywood, etc. allow GOPers to create real cultural distance between the liberal elite (latte-drinking, etc.) of the Democratic party and this group of swing voters. And it probably isn’t so much any one issue as the cultural distance in general.

Now, what’s going to happen to these voters in this election? Bill Clinton is going to go in and say, "Did 8 years of Bush really work for you? Try coming home to the Democratic Party and give me and Hillary a chance. Remember how good you had it in the 90s? We can do that again." That is going to be a compelling message to significant numbers. Oh yeah, and Iraq probably isn’t helping us. (Incidentally, I don’t think that Obama could do this credibly, for a bunch of reasons)

So the strategic problem for the GOP is going to be how to stop the bleeding there and reach out to the suburban voters. Each of our candidates is going to have a different general election strategy for keeping working class voters. Rudy Giuliani’s 9/11 narrative, the general persona, and his working class roots will help. Mitt Romney’s universal healthcare will help, although I wonder if the zillionnaire thing plus his religion will get in the way. I can see Thompson doing well with these voters.

Then we are going to need a strategy to get the suburbs back.

Logic of the McCain/Romney attack

Patrick Ruffini argues that it doesn’t make sense for John McCain to be attacking Mitt Romney. His argument boils down to the fact that if the punch lands, it still leaves Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson standing and, probably, helps them.

But there are a lot of strategic and tactical things going on here.  First of all, tomorrow Romney speaks to the National Right to Life Convention in St. Louis. According to the AP:

The only major contender with confirmed plans to attend was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who’s facing questions about what an aide called Romney’s conversion to the anti-abortion cause several years ago. Also expected to participate was Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent.

I think that the McCain team is trying to frame what happens at this convention. The people at this convention are likely to determine who, if anyone, NRLC endorses for President. That is why so much anti-Thompson oppo is falling, probably from the Romney campaign. And that is why McCain is dropping it on Romney. And that is why Romney is frantically responding with press release after press release. If RTL were to come out against Romney and do what they did to McCain and 2000, it would be brutal. It would seal Romney as a the country club candidate, which he really is.

So let’s make this clear. Romney is vulnerable on abortion. And McCain and Brownback are interested in laying in the knife. And Romney is scrambling to respond. And in this moment, this issue matters a lot. In this moment, the tactics have huge strategic consequences.

The last big pro-life event, the March for Life, was basically a Romney-Brownback brawl. Anything that helps Brownback in that fight keeps that fight alive on the right. And, remember something, McCain is the only of the big-4 candidates who supports the Human Life Amendment, which used to be the big pro-life litmus test. McCain probably doesn’t win with a highly satisfied pro-life community in this race because it probably isn’t him. But with an unsatisfied one, he has a chance of drawing some contrasts, picking up some votes, and the votes that he isn’t getting aren’t going to just one candidate.

Now Patrick has another argument about the long-term problems of picking on Romney. I am still thinking about those. But what is going on this week is not about long-term. It is about the next 2 days in Kansas City.

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.

McCain, Romney, and Rudy

AmSpec’s Jim Antle said:

I don’t understand the McCain camp’s insistence on focusing on the candidate behind them in most polls [Romney] rather than the candidate ahead of them in most polls [Giuliani].

The NYT’s Caucus blog has speculated on this too:

The feud between Senator John McCain and former Gov. Mitt Romney is heating up, but it seems the McCain-Giuliani Mutual Admiration Society is as strong as ever. While Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mr. McCain share a reputation for tough talk, they only seem to have the kindest of words for one another

I think that this is clearer than it sounds. There are three separate issues.

First, it is hard for candidates to attack Rudy GIuliani. He has so much stature. Voters just won’t buy it from other politicians. The people who are going to attack Giuliani are going to be the interest groups. As I pointed out earlier, this has started, according to one evangelical leader:

As a matter of fact, he told me point blank, "Rudy must be stopped" and there is a conversation underway on how to do that.

Second, as Hotline points out, it could be that there is a race to be the anti-Rudy.

And, third, every time that McCain takes a pot-shot at Romney, all the stories get retold. And Romney’s numbers are rising. And the press is bored reporting about Romney. So…

Romney’s new Iowa numbers

Hotline discusses the Des Moines Register’s new poll of Iowa likely caucusgoers. They say the numbers should be taken seriously, so I will. In this poll Mitt Romney gets 30% of the vote, John McCain gets 18%, and Rudy Giuliani gets 17%. I suspect that other polls will come out saying different things, but …

One of the questions that you have to ask when you see a big move in polls is what changed? Was there an event that a lot of people would have seen? Was there some sort of communications?

I was struck recently by this post at Cyclone Conservative:

Tonight, their phone rang to the voice of Governor Romney inviting them to participate in a live Tele-Townhall meeting. So I did. I must say, this was perhaps one of the coolest political ideas that I have seen come down the pipe in a long time. From one telephone, Romney can speak directly to literally thousands (and yes, there were thousands of people in on the call) of Iowans all across the state, who can stay in the comfort of their own home.

Between that and sending out 70k DVDs, Romney could have moved numbers. I suspect that it won’t be sustained, but it is clever.  As I’ve said before, the campaign is great. Too bad about the candidate.

Giuliani campaign blogger conference call

Rudy Giuliani’s campaign held a blogger conference call with Campaign Manager Mike DuHaime and Communications Director Katie Levinson.

Two things seemed quite clear to me.

First, Rudy is running on his record as mayor. He is not wrapping himself around 9/11. This cuts both ways. On the one hand, no one in this country will need to be reminded about 9/11 and his role in it. On the other hand, is Mayor too limiting of a role? And doesn’t it remind Americans about New York in the wrong way? Is the difference between Mayor of NYC and President kind of like the difference between one billion and one trillion? People talk about it, but don’t really understand it? I sort of doubt it.

Second, he is running on electability.  After two questions on abortion, DuHaime went into a long, long riff about all the states that Giuliani can win. He said that Rudy could credibly win in NJ, CT, PA, OR, and WA. And he could compete in CA, NY, and IL.

I think that this analysis is correct. However, I think that it is interesting that it came in response to questions about abortion and the future of the GOP (should this be a pro-life party?). The response suggested that their real answer is that we do not have the luxury of picking the "right" candidate, we just have to win. And with polls like the most recent Newsweek poll, there’s something to be said to that. But do primary voters believe that? Do the interest groups? (especially social conservative interest groups could expect to lose power under a Giuliani administration)

Thompson: What celebrity status?

Count me, like Matt Lewis, as a Fred Thompson skeptic.

A Fred Thompson adviser explained to the Politico that they don’t have to campaign because everyone knows who he is:

"Well-known candidates can do things a little differently," explained one adviser. "You show up, you’re accessible, but you don’t have to go to every county seat several times."

There are two problems with this. The first one is that he is not a well-known candidate. His name ID in the last Rasmussen polls is on-par with Sam Brownback’s and lower than Mitt Romney’s. This is not a strategy that reflects the the facts on the ground. The second problem is that new things in campaigns are almost always just ways of doing the old things better. But these Thompson advisors are talking about running an all-new kind of campaign…

Once people are done explaining to me how he can run a different campaign, they usually start explaining, based on how well known he is, just how electable he is.

I’ll start believing when fantasy stops coming out of the mouths of Fred Thompson advisers.