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Mittens: The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

[ 56 ] September 26, 2011 |

I’m pretty much where my fellow Mittens skeptic Jon Chait is. I still don’t think my analysis of Romney’s fundamental vulnerabilities was wrong; it’s still amazing that someone who lost a race against zero serious orthodox conservatives is poised to win a race with a more conservative primary electorate while in the interim his signature public policy has become absolutely toxic to said electorate.

But there’s no way around it; Mittens has to be considered the overwhelming favorite, Matt (and Rob) were right and I was wrong. Romney at least had a floor created by his basic political competence. Rick Perry would be running away with it if his debate performances could rise above “prepared exclusively by combining heroin and Tylenol PM” and he hadn’t written a book less than a year ago in which he said the quiet parts loud, but fortunately for Romney he seems unable to clear this low bar. I still think Romney would get crushed by a halfway decent orthodox conservative candidate, but it seems increasingly clear that this is irrelevant.

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  1. Jim says:

    It would, however, seem that the idea of a “halfway decent orthodox conservative” is just that–an idea. Being a solid voice for the Tea Party and being a good national candidate are mutually exclusive. Each time a light is shone on a new face, its either revealed to be a raving lunatic or someone the GOP hates.

    • DrDick says:

      Being a raving lunatic is an asset in the primary, though likely fatal in the general.

      • firefall says:

        This is why I think – once the actual voting starts – it will come down to Bachmann vs Romney. Perry is too obviously flawed & cant even line up TP support reliably, so it will be Romney and a huge pile of cash against the Tea Party and a ton of zealotry. My bet would still be on Romney, but just by a nose

        • NonyNony says:

          Right now it’s looking more like Cain vs. Romney, what with the way the flavor-of-the-month, which-way-are-the-winds-blowing tea partiers are going with their guts this way and that.

          And actually, if we’re going into a crazy-off, Cain probably gets the easy win here. Not because Bachmann or Perry are more or less crazy than him, but because Cain hasn’t ever held an elected office and so he doesn’t have to come up with tortured explanations for why at some point in his past he did the “wrong” thing and voted or acted in a “not-conservative” way. Cain can go full wingnut and never have to explain uncomfortable facts, like working for the IRS in the past, or allowing children of undocumented immigrants to attend state schools at in-state rates, or pushing through a health care mandate.

          Cain doesn’t have to justify anything he’s ever done – he can just keep thumping that podium and pandering without ever being called out on it.

          • mark f says:

            Plus he told Bill Clinton to shove Hillarycare up his ass to his face!!!, thus single-handedly postponing Hell on Earth by like a decade and a half.

            • efgoldman says:

              And maybe the TeaTard voters won’t notice he resembles the president in one very important and oh so dark way…

              • witless chum says:

                All a black person has to do to be accepted by the right is spend the last year or so pandering to them and telling them they’re great and so not-racist, while sharing their concerns and appealing to their near-religious veneration of rich people.

                What’s so hard about doing that, other black people?

              • Anonymous says:

                That is crazy. The more racist the voter, the more they like Cain. I mean until the racism becomes Klan racism.

                Proof? Robert Stacy McCain, a racist’s racist, supports Cain in a huge way

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Being a raving lunatic is an asset in the primary, though likely fatal in the general.

        Unfortunately I think you might be wrong about the second half of that statement this time around.

        • DrDick says:

          That is why the qualifier. Under normal conditions, it would unquestionably be lethal, but given the economy there is a not insignificant chance that the electorate really will elect a mad man or woman.

    • Charlie Sweatpants says:

      “Being a solid voice for the Tea Party and being a good national candidate are mutually exclusive. Each time a light is shone on a new face, its either revealed to be a raving lunatic or someone the GOP hates.”

      That’s true as far as it goes, but right now there is still time for them to wish and speculate and fantasize about someone new. Sooner or later they’re going to have to swallow hard and pick someone. And while I’d agree that Romney has a better chance than any other individual, I’d bet the field before I bet him. Someone, and it could easily still be Perry, is going to emerge as the consensus “Not Romney” candidate, and my money’s on whoever that turns out to be.

      Mittens can’t be ruled out, but he had a clearer path and friendlier electorate in 2008 and couldn’t do it. The rest of the field is weaker this year, but so is he.

      Does anyone know if the RNC is still planning to force states that jump the schedule to pledge their delegates proportionally? That could make a real mess of things.

  2. efgoldman says:

    Benen has more proof, as if any were needed, about what a weasel Mittens has become.

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_09/mitt_romney_fair_harvard032432.php

  3. DrDick says:

    I think you may be right here. It would seem to be another example of the McCain Effect (the candidate that nobody really feels passionate about is the last man standing in the bloodbath that is the modern Republican primary campaign).

  4. NonyNony says:

    I still think Romney would get crushed by a halfway decent orthodox conservative candidate, but it seems increasingly clear that this is irrelevant.

    I’m unclear about what you mean by “orthodox conservative candidate” – at least in this environment. Do you mean someone who is exactly like Mitt Romney (current revision) but without his history as governor of MA that he has to excuse and not a Mormon? Or do you mean something else? Because I think there were a couple of “orthodox conservative candidates” of that stripe who got into the race (Pawlenty) and/or seriously considered entering the race (Daniels) and they have bailed already.

    Also too, I think you’re seriously underestimating Romney’s infrastructure, connections and money here. You might chalk it up to “luck”, but the only reasons Romney can be in this race for the long hall are his personal fortune, his connections among the elite, and the fundraising/election experience he built 4 years ago. Without those things he’d be Pawlenty – or more to the point WITH those things Pawlenty would still be in the race and likely doing at least as well as Romney is doing. Romney can afford the slow burn where other candidates can’t.

    • SamR says:

      Short answer: Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels.

    • DivGuy says:

      Do you mean someone who is exactly like Mitt Romney (current revision) but without his history as governor of MA that he has to excuse and not a Mormon?

      I think he means someone who professes to believe the things that Mitt Romney professes to believe, and someone who professes to support the policies that Mitt Romney professes to support, whose record contains even the slightest hint that these are their actual beliefs and policy preferences.

      Romney has held office and run for office while both being and claiming to be a liberal Republican. He has never held office while being or claiming to be an orthodox Republican, and 2008 was the first time he had ever run for office while claiming to be an orthodox Republican.

      I really don’t blame Republicans for not trusting Romney.

      Imagine if Ben Nelson ran for president, and claimed he was actually a pro-choice, progressive populist. Would anyone really believe him? Even the second time around?

  5. Erik Loomis says:

    I too was wrong. I was sure that Perry was going to take it. He’s known as a tough campaigner who never loses. I did not think he would implode.

    Given that Mittens is a much more serious competitor to Obama than Perry, I worry.

    • Chris says:

      It’s important to remember who Perry has campaigned against in Texas, which is to say, no one. Hutchison doesn’t count, because she ran such an awful campaign. The Democrats don’t count, because they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell anyway. Hell, in 2010, Perry barely even acknowledged his opponent. Perry’s reputation as a campaigner therefore seems to have been manufactured entirely out of thin air.

    • Captain Splendid says:

      Nah, no worries for Obama. When faced, with two good-looking wonkish bureaucrats, most of the swing voters and independents will pull the lever for either a)The celebrity president or b)the wonkish bureaucrat they’re familiar with.

    • Walt says:

      I have no idea how Perry got this reputation. The first time he was re-elected, he only won because there were three other candidates in the race splitting the anti-Perry vote — a Democrat, a moderate Republican running as an independent, and Kinky Friedman. If any one of those candidates had dropped out, Perry would have lost.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Politicians sometimes get really lucky like this, as Perry did more than once, and they build an aura of invincibility that is undeserved.

        • catclub says:

          See Obama v Keyes – as the last standing of a self destructing set of candidates.

          See Obama v Clinton – whose campaign manager has justly earned fame for not knowing how to count delegates.

          See Obama v McCain – ‘ puuting campaign on hold to fix financial crisis, look like deer caught in healdights at financial summit, Palin.

          Really lucky indeed.

          • Charlie says:

            Uh, catclub, I’m er uh gonna have to go ahead and sorta disagree with you there about that there uh middle one.

            As near-sighted as the Clinton ’08 campaign was, Hillary was a serious contender. Had she simply eschewed Iowa and had a better post-Super Tuesday game plan, we’d all be listening to leftier-than-thou shitheads complaining about what a sellout President Clinton 44 is and whining that if only Vice-President Obama were in charge things would be different.

            I was an Obama supporter from pretty early on, but she had some really strong debates and at points certainly had me worried. If you’re suggesting that the ’08 primary was a cakewalk, I wonder where the hell you were in spring ’08.

          • What Charilie said.

            However, in your defense:

            Obama NOT vs. Jack Ryan – wherein our hero’s strongest potential opponent’s divorce file is made public, complete with abusive sex scandal

          • Walt says:

            Obama has been lucky in his opponents as well, so there would be a certain symmetry if he ended up facing Perry.

  6. strannix says:

    I’m at the same place I was a few months back: persuaded by the cold hard logic of the pro-Mittenists, while at the same time, completely unable to see the GOP actually nominating Mitt Romney.

    And with that said, I’ll simply note that it’s not even October yet. Long way to go, twists and turns, etc. It’s just too early to say.

    I think it was probably dumb of Pawlenty to drop out. Did Kerry fold when he was riding the single digits in polls? No. And then a bunch of stuff happened and he was viable again. Similar story with McCain in ’08. Could Pawlenty have done the same this time around? I don’t see why not. There’s a difference between “uninspiring” and “unacceptable”, and I’m not sure Pawlenty understood that.

    • NonyNony says:

      Pawlenty didn’t have the money to run and, when he couldn’t generate the buzz, wasn’t able to fundraise to get the money. He was relying on good press and buzz to get him campaign donations and when he didn’t get that, his campaign fizzled.

      Kerry, on the other hand, had connections that Pawlenty didn’t have – let’s just start with the kinds of connections that the Senator from Massachusetts who is married into the Heinz Ketchup empire might have compared to the governor of Minnesota. Kerry also had a fairly massive election warchest and fundraising apparatus that he assembled while a Senator – a Senator who has held that position for a number of years and sits high up in the leadership. He could afford to do the slow burn – Pawelenty couldn’t.

    • mark f says:

      Kerry was the Villager/institutional party favorite long before his polling went to shit, though. He wanted to run for president for pretty much ever, picked his spot and faced off against of hey-why-not old dudes (Gephardt, Graham), new face longshots (Dean, Edwards) and niche vanity candidates (Kucinich, Sharpton). I don’t think Pawlenty got the background encouragement Kerry had.

  7. actor212 says:

    Mittens has to be considered the overwhelming favorite

    That’s like saying death by lethal injection is the overwhelming choice of death row inmates everywhere.

    Mittens is disliked by the Teabaggers, but he’s hated by the Republican establishment. he has baggage out the wazoo that puts his candidacy in mortal danger from the Christian conservatives. To say he’s “overwhelming” anything is to look simply at the obstacles in front of him, not the ones he’s throwing down the road.

  8. Murc says:

    Am I the only one who thinks its still a bit early to make these kind of pronouncements?

    Remember July 2007? John McCain was dead. DEAD. Didn’t really stop him taking him the nomination eventually.

  9. Ken says:

    Jim and NonyNony raise good points. Perhaps as a service to readers, the word “conservative” should always be qualified with a year: Goldwater was a 1960 conservative, Reagan was a 1980 conservative, Romney is a 2007 conservative, Perry is a 2010 conservative.

    It’s not clear whether there are any 2011 conservatives – Perry is getting heavy flak for his immigration programs, for example – and heaven knows what a 2012 conservative will have to look like.

    By the way, am I the only one who’s getting a weird vibe from the candidates when someone in the debate audience claps (or cheers or boos) something outrageous? They freeze for a second, and I can almost see some of them thinking “do I really have to…,” and then they grit their teeth and agree with it.

  10. actor212 says:

    It’s not clear whether there are any 2011 conservatives – Perry is getting heavy flak for his immigration programs, for example – and heaven knows what a 2012 conservative will have to look like.

    I’m thinking he’ll have Charlie Chaplin’s mustache…

  11. ScottC says:

    I’m surprised there’s never been a Rob Portman boomlet. On paper he’d seem to easily fill the void of a “halfway decent orthodox conservative candidate” (electoral success in swingy Ohio + Bush ties + popular among House Republicans). But whether that candidate would be him or someone else, there’s a surprisingly short list of “halfway decent orthodox conservative candidates”.

  12. cpinva says:

    a clarification:

    romney would get crushed by an orthodox conservative cadidate who actually spoke in the english language, instead of in tongues. speaking in tongues would be ok, if at least one of them was english, which doesn’t appear to be the case with rick perry.

    no shock that he isn’t mr. popular in his home state, those poor slobs have had to listen to him for a decade now, their brains hurt. probably explains how he gets re-elected, they hope he’ll just shut up!

  13. mark f says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Chris Christie, who has apparently never heard of Wes Clark, Fred Thompson or Rick Perry, seems ready to announce.

  14. Rarely Posts says:

    Personally, I’m still hoping for Romney. Although he would be horrible, I’m hopeful that he would be first-Bush horrible. Even if he’s worse than that, at least he isn’t a sociopath. I’d sooner have him in charge than Perry or any of the others, and since the outcome of the general will mostly be driven by fundamentals, I’d prefer the Republicans choose someone sane even if it slightly increases their chances of winning.

    I’d also point out: Romney’s Massachusetts-Obamacare will make it difficult for him to run against Obama on that issue.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I’d also point out: Romney’s Massachusetts-Obamacare will make it difficult for him to run against Obama on that issue.

      “Mitt Romney says his plan was nothing like Obama’s. Opinions differ on this issue.”

  15. [...] establish what we already know — Romney is theoretically very vulnerable, and has been remarkably lucky not to get a serious challenge from a plain vanilla conservative. But when it comes to identifying [...]

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