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More Mittens


In comments, DivGuy argues that I’m being too hard on poor Willard.  Responding to my point about how Clinton’s foolish Iraq War vote probably cost her the nomination:

However, if we’re accepting the Clinton comparison, I think that’s a good argument against saying Mitt’s “drawing dead.” It would have taken only minor shifts in the electorate or in the primary voting rules for Clinton to have won the nomination. She was hurt by her vote, not hamstrung by it. I’d guess Mitt’s the same way. He’s still got a good shot, especially with the enormously weak crowd of candidates he’s currently in competition with.

I don’t buy it, for two reasons.   First, I think Romney instituting a decent health care policy is Massachusetts will be a far bigger drag on his candidacy than the Iraq War vote was for Clinton.   The Iraq War was a peripheral issue in the 2008 Dem primary — it mattered only because it was so close and it gave Obama the traction he needed — and that won’t be true of health care for the GOP in 2012.  But the even bigger problem here is that the comparison between Mittens and Clinton is way, way too charitable to the former.   Clinton was (or is, should she run again in 2016) inherently a much stronger candidate.   The 2008 primaries make that clear.   Even with the Iraq War vote dragging her down, she finished a very close second to another formidable mainstream Democratic candidate.   Mittens, without his health care policy having transformed from reasonable compromise to the death of liberty itself, finished a distant second although the 2008 field didn’t have a serious campaign from an orthodox conservative. If Romney can’t win in that context, he has no chance.   Whether it’s Pawlenty or Daniels or someone else, a plain-vanilla conservative is going to get some traction in the 2012, and there’s no way Romney can survive against one.   Even without the health care albatross he’d be a huge longshot; the Republican demonization of the ACA just settles the question.

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  • wsn

    There will be no part of the Republican establishment (outside of that paid by Mittens) that will say “although regrettable, Mittens’s Obama-care clone was not that bad in context.”

    There were was a sizable part of the Democratic establishment (including that paid by Obama) that would say “although regrettable, Clinton’s Iraq war vote was not that bad in context.” If only because a lot of Obama’s part of the establishment voted for the war too.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Also: Huntsman, who is both an orthodox conservative and a candidate who will take away the one natural constituency that Romney has in the GOP.

    • wsn

      one natural constituency that Romney has in the GOP

      Moderatish Mormans with ties to Obama?

  • IM

    I still think he will win, if only for the lack of alternatives.

  • Murc

    Something I think bears mentioning; John McCain didn’t really ‘win’ the nomination in 2010 so much as everyone else lost it. If you’ll remember, there were quite a few states where he ‘won’ that in fact voted anywhere between 55-65% for ‘Not John McCain.’ The winner-take-all structure of the Republican primaries and the presence of Rudy, Fred, Huckabee, Ron Paul, etc. basically made it a crap shoot.

    People keep talking like Romney or Huckabee or whoever has to win a majority of Republican primary voters somehow. They do not. If you have a crowded field (that’s an important ‘if’ but I think we will) they merely need to command a plurality in certain states in order to basically be ordained. At that point it comes down not to the basic strength of the candidates involved but to who is fortunate enough to have or engineer a split among the other candidates coalitions. Palin and Huckabee cannibalize each other. Romney and Huntsman do as well. Teabagger endorsements end up being crucial. Etc.

    And this means that Romney isn’t down and out just because of his health care votes and religion. He has a big institutional advantage (he can argue that it is his turn) and can tell the money men ‘Who else are you gonna support? Huckabee?’ If he can command between 30-40% of the vote in some key states at key times, that might be enough.

  • John

    I think Romney’s best chance is if Palin runs. If Palin doesn’t run, one of your “plain vanilla conservatives” is in a good position to win the evangelical anti-mormon vote and the tea party anti-Mitt vote along with whatever portion of the establishment he needs to win the nomination.

    If Palin runs, she’s going to have a large portion of the crazies locked up. That removes air from the lesser known plain vanilla conservatives, and turns the campaign from Mitt vs. Not Mitt (in which not Mitt has a big advantage) to Palin vs. Not Palin (in which Not Palin has a big advantage and Mitt has a good chance to become Not Palin).

  • IM

    You can’t beat something with nothing. To defeat Mitt, you need a anti-Mitt. And none of the candidates right now:

    – the Snow Queen
    – the preacher man
    – the ambassador of the kenyan usurper
    – the writer of alternative history

    can do it.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      No you don’t.

      For Mitt to win, he needs to command a significant percentage of the vote …though it’s true that in the Republican winner-take-all system, it needn’t be much more than thirty-odd percent.

      I just don’t see 30+% of GOP primary voters pulling the lever for him, regardless of who the other candidates are.

      At best, Mitt is the GOP equivalent of Wesley Clark: a man who a small, but significant percentage of his party are somehow convinced is unbeatable, but who the rest of his party simply doesn’t like very much. And, frankly, Clark never had half the baggage within the Democratic Party that Mitt carries within the GOP.

  • Tom M

    Mitt won’t have enough of an organization to win. He won’t attract the worker bees needed to be delegates and persuade other delegates. He has the money but….

    If nothing else works, he could try to claim he was brainwashed by the Massachusetts liberals.

    • rea

      That strategy did not work out too well for his dad.

      • IM

        But his father said the truth – a lie will work much better.

  • efgoldman

    I have no sense whatsoever of where the GOBP might be headed next year.

    On the one hand, murc is right, that it doesn’t take even close to a majority to get the GOBP nomination.
    But that can cut both ways. If enough of the “traditional” GOBP, in enough states, goes for Willard, he can win it.
    On the other hand, whoever wins the nom, will do so with a mathematical minority of a minority (in many states). We saw what can happen, in the ’10 senate primaries, if enough dedicated crazies focus on (or against) one candidate.

  • rea

    Well, it all depends on what happens in the next few months. There is some hope that the crazies are in the process of overreaching and discrediting themselves–that’s Mitt’s best chance. If the crazies are still rampant in ’12, Mitt’s toast.

    • chris

      There is some hope that the crazies are in the process of overreaching and discrediting themselves

      In the eyes of the whole electorate, sure, but we’re talking about a Republican primary here. Can they really discredit themselves *to other Republicans*?

      If the last of the Eisenhower/Rockefeller/etc. types flee the party (assuming there are some that haven’t already), that just leaves the primary more full of concentrated crazy.

  • BC

    Mitt not only has the baggage of RomneyCare, he also has a history of flip-flopping from pro-choice to pro-life, etc., etc., etc. His claim to be able to govern won’t help him, as nobody on the Republican side really wants to govern anymore, they just want to destroy the government. I’m not sure who will come out ahead on the Republican side, I don’t pay that much attention, but I am sure that the Christian fundamentalists will find it hard to pull the lever for a Mormon. I would expect a lot of abstentions from the religious right if Romney is on the ballot against Obama.

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