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Wrongness You Can Count On

[ 71 ] June 18, 2011 |

It’s nice to have constants you can count on in this ever-changing world, and Matt Bai’s political analysis being wrong is hence reassuring.   Seriously, Huntsman?   Care to make it interesting?

Comments (71)

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  1. Erik Loomis says:

    Shorter Bai: “If you think the Republican Party is what myself and other Beltway insiders dream it should be, Huntsman is gold.”

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I’m sure Mike Castle and Lincoln Chafee (and that radical liberal Republican Orrin Hatch) find Bai’s ideas fascinating and would like to subscribe to his newsletter.

    • DrDick says:

      I want some of the drugs they are taking.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    On the other hand, I continue to be amazed that seemingly smart people like Jonathan Bernstein (to whose blog post you link) continue to present Rick Perry as a sensible, “electable” conservative.

    I get why Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have that reputation. They clearly come across as less nuts than Bachmann or Cain.

    But Perry?

    The only thing that seems obviously more “sensible” or “electable” about Perry than Bachmann, Cain, or Palin is that Perry is a white male.

    Now it’s possible that “electable” in the GOP is still code for “white male” (remember when sensible Democrats opposed Jesse Jackson ’cause he wasn’t electable?).

    But I’m gonna charitably assume that Jonathan Bernstein doesn’t mean that.

    So perhaps he should spend a little less time worrying about Matt Bai (who, as you say is always wrong) and get to know the governor of Baja Oklahoma a little better.

    • Rob says:

      Its gotta be the hair

      • mpowell says:

        It’s the white male part. Their only familiarity with Perry comes from photos. Remember, this is not a group of people that considers doing actual research part of their job.

    • DivGuy says:

      Bernstein has a strongly elite-driven model of primary politics. Rick Perry has been vetted and approved by the Texas Republican Party, which is home to a huge number of the party’s elites, the party’s top fundraisers and bundlers, and so on. It is his position as governor that makes all the difference. If Perry already has the implicit support of such a swath of party elites, he’s a strong candidate for the nomination.

      I’ve responded to you before on Perry, and I think I have a handle on your complaint – you’re saying that Perry is actually too far to the right to be a viable nominee. Is that correct? The idea is that although Perry was acceptable to party elites as a governor, they will not support his presidential run because they will see him as too unelectably rightist?

      Certainly, this could be the case. I’d be open to seeing the evidence. But on first blush, it seems much simpler to say that Perry is the multiple-term governor of Texas because these elites do like him and will support him, and so he’s a strong candidate for the nomination.

      Simply presenting evidence that he believes crazy shit isn’t sufficient here. They all believe crazy shit. You have to show that he lacks elite support.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        I’ve responded to you before on Perry, and I think I have a handle on your complaint – you’re saying that Perry is actually too far to the right to be a viable nominee. Is that correct?

        Not exactly.

        In fact, I believe that there is no such thing as a Republican nominee to far to the right to be viable (or, for that matter, a Democratic nominee too far to the left). Anyone who gets a major party presidential nomination can, under the right circumstances, win the White House.

        My argument about Perry is that, if one is going to play the game of dividing the GOP field into viable and nonviable candidates (or, in Bernstein’s case, of “nuts” and “non-nuts”), Rick Perry looks a heckuva lot more like Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin than like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty (with the singular exception of the number of X chromosomes he has).

        But your comment addresses another important question as well (and something I think I agree with you about): can the fact that Rick Perry is governor of a large state be taken as evidence that he might be more acceptable to party elites? Yes, though it’s fairly loose evidence, as Texas electorate is not exactly the same thing as national party elites.

        But I’ll go this far with you: Perry is probably more likely to win the GOP nomination than Bachmann or Cain because he is probably more acceptable to national Republican Party elites, who have a huge impact on the nomination process.

        But I don’t think that makes Perry any more (or less) viable a general election candidate than Bachmann (were she to get the nomination), nor does it make Perry any less nuts than Bachmann by any objective measure.

        • DivGuy says:

          That’s fair, I think. Judging how electable a candidate is, before they have a significant national profile, is tricky. I think we can say Palin’s about as non-viable a candidate as you’re going to see, and Romney is pretty damn viable, and beyond that there’s a lot of probabilities.

          In general, I agree with you that most anyone can win a general once they’ve got the nomination, given the right circumstances.

          My understanding of Bernstein’s and Silver’s arguments has been that they think Perry is a strong candidate for the GOP nomination, not that he’s a particularly dangerous general election candidate. I think we have solid reasons for believing Perry would be a strong primary candidate, and I’ve taken that as their main argument.

          I think it’s pretty fair to say that folks who clearly do not have elite support within the party – Palin first and foremost, beyond her Bachmann and Gingrich and Cain – are pretty much non-viable primary candidates. The Republican elites have an extremely strong track record of controlling access to the nomination. I think it’s likely that the elites won’t block Perry’s nomination.

          The argument in this thread is that Huntsman (and probably Romney) will find their path to the nomination blocked by the base, and by an ideological subset of the elites.

          That leaves Pawlenty as the only candidate acceptable to both groups. The argument of Bernstein and Silver is that Perry would also be acceptable to both elites and the activist base. He’d be a very strong competitor, then, given how few other viable candidates exist.

          • DivGuy says:

            That last “viable” refers to viability for the Republican nomination, not in the general election.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              I think we’re both on the same page. But I’m not sure Bernstein actually agrees with us. If I’m reading Bernstein correctly, he’s specifically arguing that Perry is not a nut. Here’s the key paragraph:

              Jonathan Chait beat me to the punch on the first part of it, and he covers it well. I’d say it slightly differently…yes, most Republicans aren’t nuts (in Bai’s words: “stereotypical birther types with pictures of Sarah Palin on their refrigerators and nothing but Bibles on their bookshelves”). They are, however, conservatives. All else equal, most Republicans, especially those who vote in primaries and attend caucuses, are likely to prefer a more conservative to a less conservative candidate. They might not go for a Michele Bachmann or a Herman Cain because of concerns about November, or even because they’re not sure those candidates are really up to the presidency. But Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and (if he’s in) Rick Perry should all be at acceptable on both counts. So Huntsman’s appeal is going to be limited to actual moderates, which just isn’t where the party is. The truth is that the one who is being condescending here is Bai, who apparently doesn’t get that not all strong conservatives are also off their rockers.

              The mistake that Bernstein makes here is to assume that the category of “conservatives who are not nuts” is the same as the category of “conservatives who are acceptable to party elites.”

              And the point I was making (and will continue to make) is that Rick Perry, while acceptable to party elites, is, in fact, a nut (unlike, say Pawlenty or Romney).

              Finally, there’s a larger point here: to the extent we want to distinguish nuts from non-nuts, we should avoid simply associating nuttiness with someone’s having fallen out of favor with the establishment. Not only does this association do a bad job of correctly identifying all the nuts on the right, it also misidentifies as nutty some perfectly sensible progressives who fall outside the narrow band of officially acceptable, “serious” political discourse.

              • DivGuy says:

                I see, and I agree. I still think, reading over plainblog, that Bernstein is mostly focused on the question of viability in the nomination fight, but you’re right that in that quote he’s moved over into different and less defensible territory.

                I would say, though, that the claim that Pawlenty and Romney are “not nuts” requires some mind-reading. The actual statements that Pawlenty and Romney are making, on the stump and in debates and interviews, are totally nuts.

    • cleter says:

      Rick Perry is this cycle’s Fred Thompson. Six months from now everybody will be talking about how crappy Perry’s campaign was.

  3. joejoejoe says:

    If you look at the campaign calendar the winner of Florida is going to have the delegate lead and a week of great press leading up to Super Tuesday. Huntsman’s campaign HQ is in Florida, Florida is unhappy with Tea Party crook Gov. Rick Scott, and has a more diverse primary electorate than other states. Huntsman will still have an incredibly hard time winning a plurality in FL but if he can do it, he can win the entire ballgame. Huntsman’s chances are more like 5% in FL than the 1% he is showing in national polls.

    • So, the Guiliani strategy?

      • joejoejoe says:

        Yep. Minus the 9/11 resume but also minus the divorces, pro-choice record, and eau de Bernie Kerik. It could work. Giuliani was a terrible candidate and still got 15%.

    • cleter says:

      The winners of Iowa and New Hampshire–assuming this is two different people– are going to have some great publicity going into Florida. Jon Huntsman will not. There’s going to be a frontrunner with some momentum by the time Florida comes around, and that frontrunner is not going to be Huntsman. By the time Florida has it’s primary, the only question reporters will ask Huntsman will be “when are you dropping out.”

      The presidential landscape is littered with corpses of candidates who’ve tried variations of this strategy. Ask President Guiliani or President Graham how that worked.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Unlike in 2008, Florida is no longer winner-take-all. In 2008, a candidate could try to build a strong lead in Florida, hope that lead would endure despite the momentum other candidates had coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire (and all the negative stories resulting from a bad loss there), and get such a big early delegate lead from Florida as to suddenly be back in the race in a commanding position. That was the theory for the Giuliani campaign in 2008, and as a theory it wasn’t prima facie absurd, though it certainly didn’t work out for him.

      With Florida no longer winner-take all, the scheme doesn’t even work in theory any more. A convincing win in Florida for a dark horse candidate would barely manage to get them back into the race – and not in a strong position. If they can even pull it off, after getting their keister handed to them in the preceding contests.

  4. joejoejoe says:

    Shorter me: If 90% of Republicans can be convinced Sarah Palin is a great choice as John McCain’s running mate in one week, 90% of Republicans can be convinced that the handsome white guy is the best conservative in the race because he’s leading the race out of Florida and gosh darnit, Republicans are winners.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Actually, as you pointed out in your earlier comment, the nature of GOP primary rules is that 90% of Republicans don’t need to be convinced. In fact, 50% of Republicans don’t need to be convinced. All you need in a state like Florida is a plurality of voters, and that can be a very small percentage with a crowded field like next year’s. And you’re right: if the Florida GOP electorate ends up looking more like the one that nominated Charlie Crist for governor, someone like Huntsman stands a chance (albeit a small one) of stealing the Sunshine States’ delegates with c. 25% of the vote.

      • Ed Marshall says:

        The Republicans changed their rules for the 2012 primary, it’s only winner take all after April, and the dates aren’t set yet. This contest won’t be 2008.

      • joejoejoe says:

        That’s right. John McCain won FL with 36% of the vote in 2008. If Huntsman can pull 33% in some larger more moderate states he can grind out a win in a large field. It’s not likely but it’s a plausible strategy.

  5. Rob says:

    Huntsman is running a foreign policy centric campaign against the guy whose foreign policy team he was a part of. At best he’s running for VP.

    • R. Johnston says:

      Huntsman’s not running for V.P. He’d be vetoed by the Republican party establishment every bit as quickly as Joe Lieberman was in 2008.

      Huntsman’s probably running for 2016 or 2020. Maybe he’s running for consideration as Secretary of State if Republicans win in 2012 or 2016. If he’s running to be on the 2012 ticket then he’s crazier than Michelle Bachmann at a lesbian orgy.

      • He’d be vetoed by the Republican party establishment every bit as quickly as Joe Lieberman was in 2008.

        I question that. The Republican Party establishment didn’t like Lieberman because he wasn’t a Republican.

        The knocks on Huntsman, from a GOP POV, are criticisms from the base, not the establishment.

  6. John Huntsman, on the merits, should be a top-tier contender for the Republican nomination. This business of writing him off because he served his country overseas – and not in some cushy reward-assignment, but as Ambassador to China – is disgusting. What ever happened to “Country First?”

    But no, he’s toast, because that’s just how the Republican Party rolls these days.

    • Murc says:

      I dunno, joe. I find the whole ‘Huntsman worked for Obama, therefore he is tainted’ argument to be WRONG, but not illegitimate.

      I’d be deeply suspicious of any Democrat who willingly accepted a formal position advancing the foreign policy agenda of the Bush Administration, for example.

      • Would you really extend that to ambassadorships?

        John F. Kennedy appointed Henry Cabot Lodge to this same position. Did that make Lodge part of Kennedy’s foreign policy circle?

        I don’t think this is like Richard Cohen being Clinton’s Sec. of State. It’s more like Jim Webb being Reagan’s Navy Secretary, or some general getting bumped to Service Chief during a President’s term. You might as well check to see who was President when someone graduated from West Point.

        There has to be government service outside of partisan politics, or we’re doomed.

        • I don’t think this is like Richard Cohen being Clinton’s Sec. of State.

          Or even his Secretary of Defense.

        • Murc says:

          Mmmm. It’s a legitimate question, joe, and I would have to go with a qualified ‘yes, but.’

          This isn’t so much about partisan politics as it is about implicit or explicit endorsements of policy positions. You’re correct that someone like a Service Chief would be somewhat different; I agree as far as that goes. Career military are expected to suck it up and serve the office, not the man, and their tenures will stretch across many different administrations.

          An Ambassadorship is different. Those are traditionally political appointees, NOT career civil service people. There’s a reason 90%+ of them resign every time a new President takes office.

          In my being suspicious of a hypothetical Democrat who agreed to by GWBs Ambassador to China, we would be talking about someone who willingly agreed to be the Bush State Departments mouthpiece (which is what Ambassadors are today, lets not kid ourselves) and be a forceful and effective implementer of their foreign policy agenda re: China and the far east in general, and to jump every time Colin Powell and Condi Rice said ‘frog.’

          I’d be immediately suspicious of anyone who agreed to do THAT job absent other evidence they had a good head for policy. Not because they served in a Republican Administration, but because they served in an administration that was, to anyone with a working brain, a stunning combination of both evil and incompetent. Wouldn’t you be?

          • There are lower-level positions at Foggy Bottom that would worry me more than an Ambassador to China. I think you overstate the degree to which the job is about pushing a particular administration’s policy initiatives, rather than running a continuing mission.

            I’d equate it to a United States Attorney, and I’d vote for a Democrat who’d served as a USA – an important one, like Manhattan – under Bush.

          • We – all of us, wherever we are – have been thinking about your question about someone who served in the Bush administration, and come up with this:

            I would make an exception for the Bush administration because they so openly and clearly made a point of rejecting the notion of straight-up public service detached from partisan politics and the advancement of an ideological agenda (the value I’m appealing to here). US Attorney-gate, Monica Goodling, Mike Brown at FEMA, the Heritage Foundation interns sent to run the Iraqi economy: the Bush administration didn’t believe in just painting the yellow line down the middle of the road, and didn’t like anyone who viewed his job that way. So, I wouldn’t trust anyone from that particular administration.

            But I wouldn’t say the same about people who worked in the Bush41, Reagan, or Ford administrations.

            • Murc says:

              That I’ll agree with. It really comes down to the administration in question. I don’t approve of Reagan’s foreign policy, but I wouldn’t regard a Democrat who served as a political appointee in that administration with immediate suspicion absent other cause.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          “or we’re doomed.”

          Exactly. We’re doomed. Or more specifically good governance and admirable public service by Republicans is doomed for several more generations.

  7. Murc says:

    I actually know a few fellow lefties who are really really scared of Huntsman. They see a possible candidate Huntsman as providing really plausible cover for the crazies who actually run the Republican Party, and whose legislation Huntsman WILL sign into law after said crazies pass it through Congress.

    A possible candidate Huntsman provides a mask for that, coming off as sensible and friendly and someone who will responsibly steward the nation. And when (not if) the Republicans torpedo the economy again, that sort of thing could REALLY do a number on Obama.

    His road to the nomination isn’t that implausible. Remember about this time of year in 2007 when John McCain was being pronounced DOA?

    • If Huntsman were to beat Obama, it would be because he managed to convince a lot of voters to cross over. This would probably mean a lot of split-ticket voting.

      • DrDick says:

        I think that Huntsman has the potential to do that. Certainly more so than most Republicans right now.

        • Certainly more so than most Republicans right now.

          You sure you want to stick your neck out like that? ;-)

          Seriously, Huntsman could have crossover appeal, even grading on a tougher curve than Palin-Gingrich-Bachman-Perry-Romney-Cain.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        If Huntsman (or anyone else) beats Obama it will be because the state of the economy will have convinced enough swing voters that Obama doesn’t deserve a second term.

        This election will be a referendum on the Obama Administration (as all presidential elections featuring an incumbent are).

        Whoever the GOP nominates will be the (potential) beneficiary.

        • We were talking about the effect of the election on control of Congress.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            I was responding to this comment of yours, Joe:

            If Huntsman were to beat Obama, it would be because he managed to convince a lot of voters to cross over. This would probably mean a lot of split-ticket voting.

            To me that appears to be about the conditions under which Huntsman might win, not the control of Congress (though I guess it’s also implicitly about the control of Congress). And I was disagreeing: if the 2012 electorate looks like the 2010 electorate, Huntsman can win without a lot of ticket splitting.

            Can we just stipulate that you always believe that I’m arguing in bad faith and/or have utterly failed to pay attention to what other people have written, so you can skip repeating the accusation in ever damn conversation we have here? In fact, I don’t do either of these things, but you seem incapable of responding to me without accusing me of doing so and it’s getting very tiresome to have to defend myself against these baseless accusations.

            • When you don’t understand that a comment about ticket-splitting, in response to a comment speculating about the legislation that a Republican Congress will pass for the President’s signature, is about how the presidential election will effect control of Congress, then you do need to have that fact pointed out to you if you wish to follow or respond to the discussion.

              You insist that you don’t misunderstand what you read, and I believe that you believe that. But you do misunderstand, frequently, without knowing it. You misunderstand comments, you misuderstand blog posts, and you misunderstand linked articles, an order of magnitude more often than any other regular on the site. (How would someone who misunderstands something know that they’d misunderstood it, anyway?)

              I’m actually making an effort to skip over your mistakes as often as possible, repeating to myself the phrase “Someone is wrong on the internet,” to remind myself that it’s not my job to clear things up for you. This time, though, you replied directly to me. I tried to steer you back onto the right track as gently as possible. It appears that the degree of gentility isn’t going to make a difference, though.

    • DrDick says:

      I agree that Huntsman could well be the strongest Republican contender to win the general election, along with Romney. Pawlenty has potential, but has been fumbling the whole campaign. I still would argue, however, that it is exactly the features that make them strongest in the general which make them unlikely to win the primary. They just are not crazy or ideological enough.

      • Pawlenty has potential, but has been fumbling the whole campaign.

        Whenever I watch the Olympics and listen to the announcer blather about favorites and how many medals count as a win, I think the same thing: “These guys have to actually run the race.”

        Pre-judging candidates is like evaluating draft picks. I never should have traded up for Gingrich!

      • Tybalt says:

        And yet, we see all the time wins by candidates who clearly have one or more eyes on the general. Even McCain last time, who ended up making only making two unforced errors the entire campaign, made his crucial mistake of pandering to the base (with the Palin nomination) at the worst possible time, after he didn’t need them anymore.

        I still think McCain would have won (or at worst lost a squeaker) if he’d just relied on the base coming in for him late on.

    • Malaclypse, who will probably go back to being Evil, at least on a part-time basis. says:

      But Huntsman, like Mittens, prays to the wrong version of Jesus to win the primary.

      • DrDick says:

        I had forgotten that, but that is another nail in his coffin. The Talibangelical faction will never vote for the magic underwear.

        • catclub says:

          never is a long time. Does you mean the general or the primaries?

          In the general, given a choice between Obama and Giuliani, the evangelicals will pick Giuliani — of the multiple divorces and pro-choice record.

          They would have no problem with the underwearer under that circumstance.

        • Seth says:

          “Talibangelical”: that’s some tasty snark ;)

      • Seth says:

        Oh, I dunno. Maybe evangelicals can be a little more broadminded than all that. Would they *prefer* Michelle Bachmann? Of course. But a dedicated pro-life guy with a ‘family values’ life-style? To have a shot at beating the Kenyan Commie? And all the Reaganesque, western iconography, too! They seem to have gotten past Ronnie’s divorce okay.

  8. Steve M. says:

    Care to make it interesting?

    InTrade gives him a 12% chance of winning the nomination. I wish I didn’t live in a ridiculously Puritan country, because I’d dearly love to win a big wad of cash shorting that.

  9. Jim Lynch says:

    Robert Gates 2012.

  10. cleter says:

    Huntsman is Romney without name recognition. He’s not going to lose big in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and then magically win Florida and cruise to the nomination. I’ll be surprised if he’s even still running when Florida rolls around.

  11. Tybalt says:

    The problem with Huntsman is he’s entirely blocked by Romney, except possibly on health care, and he’s not making a health care run, he’s running a foreign policy campaign.

    He could, though, get the VP slot if Romney crashes and burns early, since it can be assumed that whoever wins in that scenario would be extra-light on foreign policy, and Obama is going to be running Osama bin Laden ads in every swing state from about April onwards.

  12. Tybalt says:

    Pawlenty is the one I don’t get. This guy should be cleaning up, instead he’s acting scared of his own shadow!

    • DrDick says:

      As I said above, he came out of the gate stumbling and has consistently fumbled it ever since. Like you, I really do not understand what is going on with him.

  13. [...] actual Republicans haven’t gotten his memo about what they believe. It’s all too appropriate that media members seemed to outnumber [...]

  14. [...] by the deficit prospects.There can be only one remaining question:When will Martin Feldstein endorse Jon Hunstman for President? Complete a 1-min form for Income Tax Specialist in your suburb! Check your postcode for quotes [...]

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