Cruise liner

The Net brims with explanations of how Romney could have blown South Carolina, but as usual my favorite comes from Mark Steyn:
Why is the stump speech so awful? “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” Mitt paid some guy to write this insipid pap. And he paid others to approve it. Not only is it bland and generic, it’s lethal to him in a way that it wouldn’t be to Gingrich or Perry or Bachmann or Paul because it plays to his caricature — as a synthetic, stage-managed hollow man of no fixed beliefs. And, when Ron Paul’s going on about “fiat money” and Newt’s brimming with specifics on everything (he was great on the pipeline last night), Mitt’s generalities are awfully condescending: The finely calibrated inoffensiveness is kind of offensive. . . . Mitt has a ton of consultants, and not one of them thought he needed a credible answer on Bain or taxes? For a guy running as a chief exec applying proven private-sector solutions, his campaign looks awfully like an unreformable government bureaucracy: big, bloated, overstaffed, burning money, slow to react, and all but impossible to change.
Well, if he loses the nomination, maybe Romney can shoot for EU president.

P.S. -- but I'll still vote for him if he wins the nomination. A.B.O.


Grim said...

It appears there has been some news this weekend, while I've been forcibly detached from reality.

So it looks like Romney is coming out swinging today. Gingrich is a failed leader with serious ethics problems (as far as I know, that's an undisputed fact rather than a rhetorical charge). Whatever his qualities may be, Romney is unelectable for the simple reason that voters reject him.

There's still one more option...

Cass said...

Whatever his qualities may be, Romney is unelectable for the simple reason that voters reject him.

Apparently you're not watching the national polls.

I think Steyn has a valid point in the linked post, but mistaking primary voters for voters in the general election doesn't make any sense, Grim.

Grim said...

The strange thing about Romney -- well one of many strange things: Romney's been ahead in every poll forever. Yet somehow those polls don't line up with election results.

This was true in 2008, too: the McCain campaign's polling collapsed in mid-2007, and Romney took a commanding lead. (McCain had 7 percent at one point, to Romney's 35.)

I'm not sure what that means, but I'd guess that it means that his campaign is really good at getting his name out there so people know to offer it when pollsters ask them whom they might support. He's had a big money advantage in both this election and the last one. That would explain the front-runner status in the polls, but not why people don't end up pulling the lever for him. He was up by double digits in the polls in SC last week, and in more than one poll.

Grim said...

Now, mind you, I realize that my current candidate is vanishingly unlikely to win. The odds are not in his favor. He has neither the advantage of money nor the advantage of bombast; he lacks name recognition, and what name recognition he has is badly tainted by a years-long character assassination campaign led by radio host Savage.

I've already been badly disappointed by Rep. Bachmann, whose initial performance in the early debates suggested that she really got the issues that were facing this country. Unfortunately, she proved to be tempermentally and intellectually removed from the qualities a President really needs. It's probably a good thing she didn't win, and I'm grateful to the debate series for making that clear well before the voting began.

Still, it was a real disappointment. Even later in her campaign, when her weaknesses became clear, every now and then she'd say something that was clear and insightful, and made her stand out head and shoulders above those candidates who were just following a talking-point script.

Anonymous said...

Romney doesn't mind being offensive. He loves to run a negative campaign, and he is repeating his losing strategy of 2008.

I was in DC for the shutdown, and there was a time when I thought Newt was absolute poison. But I knew the Democrats were reaching with the ethics charges, and indeed, Newt was eventually cleared.

He got busy after he got out of office, and I was surprised and pleased to watch him discuss some workable capitalist-oriented solutions to our education problems. If I had known in advance that he would be on the program, I probably would not have bothered. That would have been about 2009.

In 2012 I read some scandalous accusations that his proposals were racist, demeaning, and counterproductive. The descriptions did not correlate with what I remembered, so I went looking. I found a concerted effort to swamp some good proposals with knowingly false mischaracterizations. It was difficult to get back to the original documents and videos, but I managed.

Because you're from his home state, I asked you about your sources, because the cognitive dissonance at the national level, at least, has gotten my attention.

At the moment, I don't think Rick Santorum can win this election. I foresee that should he become the frontrunner, he will confront numerous accusations of hypocrisy, racisim, sexual impropriety, etc., just like every other non-Romney Republican this election cycle. My take on him is that he won't have the chops to answer back in an effective manner. We have already seen that denial of false charges doesn't work.

If we are ever to have a Rick Santorum as president, it will take a Newt Gingrich to clear the way. Maybe that will happen during this election cycle, but I can't see that happening just yet.


Grim said...

Sorry, Valerie, I'm still catching up!

I remember seeing Newt give that education speech -- I think it's one of his standard addresses that he's been giving for the last few years on the talking circuit. It's a good address; perhaps I should look it up again so that we could talk it over, because there's some good material in it, though I don't agree with some of his thinking on China.

Newt did the right thing by stepping down. He fell on his sword because his leadership had failed to produce the results he had promised. The ethics charges weren't the main part of that, as you know.

The real reason he resigned was the reason that a Prime Minister would resign in Parliament: his party failed in the elections of 1998. Traditionally a Speaker of the House, like a Prime Minister, takes responsibility for their party's losses by resigning in favor of new leadership.

By resigning not only from the post but from the House, he took responsibility and opened the way to a new leadership that could pose an effective challenge to the Clinton administration. However, it really was his failed leadership that was at issue -- his own caucus was internally quite divided, and much of it was against him.

So, it was proper for him to take the hit. He took it, which is an honorable thing by comparison with most of our current political leadership. Still, it's also proper to recognize that he ought to have resigned, given what he had done with the moment.

Cass said...

The strange thing about Romney -- well one of many strange things: Romney's been ahead in every poll forever. Yet somehow those polls don't line up with election results.

If primary voters were the same as general election voters (they're not - not by a long shot) then you might have a point. But national polls composed of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans don't align with polls of primary votes. They just don't.

Whoever the GOP candidate is, the race will be between him and Obama, not him and some other GOP candidate. Wrongly conflating primary voters (the most motivated and ideological of Republicans) with the general electorate is a grave error.

Thinking anyone who doesn't agree with you, does so because they believe lies spread by various folks is another grave error. Santorum's social conservative view are unacceptable to many Republicans and even more Independents. That's a problem for him. As for Savage, I was utterly unaware of anything he's had to say on the matter so that dog won't hunt.

As for Gingrich, though some pundits have lied or exaggerated his baggage, there's more than enough in the unvarnished record to cause problems. Valerie mentions the racist thing but I never bought into that, either.

It's his actual record that is problematic. No one needs to lie about it for it to be a problem.

I can understand being willing to gloss over it, though obviously I don't agree. But it's probably unwise to attribute the opposition to Gingrich or Santorum to lying liars who lie.

bthun said...

RE: Grim said at 11:48 AM Yup...

We are, IMHO, living in an age that can fairly be described as one of style over substance.

Forget going back to the JFK vs. Dick debates on TV, or even further, just considering the most recent general election. How can anyone explain the rise of a junior Senator with no record of accomplishment being elected to the highest office in the land? It beats me, unless I'm willing to give a great deal of credit to the opiating effect of the styling, profiling, passionate, yet ambiguous blather delivered with the precision of an accomplished thespian to a demographic willing to accept so little from the leader of the free world.

With the performance of the government since the Dems took over the Congress, what, these last 5-ish years, the electorate is increasingly fired up. It looks to me as if more and more of the electorate want candidates who are fired up too, albeit candidates with the right answers, consistently delivered dither-free.

IMHO, if Mitt wants to rock the theater and be THE POTUS, he'll need to inject a good deal more passion into his rhetoric than he's mustered thus far.

*makes a note to take a double dose of cynicBgone with lunch*

Grim said...


I don't mean to attribute opposition to Santorum entirely to character assassination -- though in the general population you're talking about, it's a real factor. SNL plays off Savage's line about Santorum too.

Now, you're right to say that social conservatism isn't attractive to many voters. I support it anyway, because I think it is -- broadly speaking -- the right way to order society. That it isn't what people want is true enough, but what very many of them want is unsustainable. The clear advantage of a socially conservative society is that it can take care of itself, not just now but over generations.

As for the polls, you're partially correct and partially not. The polls showing Romney with a 12-point lead last week were not general population polls, but were targeted at the race being voted. My point is that he does a lot better in polling than in actual elections, and that seems to be true across the board. I'm not sure why it's true -- my thoughts are only a suggestion -- but it seems to be true.

Cass said...

I haven't paid much attention to primary polling because my opinion is that it's highly unreliable from the get go.

So it doesn't surprise me that primary polls would be inaccurate at all. Averaging a large number of national polls (as RCP does) is a better picture and less vulnerable to sudden swings or outliers.

re: Michael Savage. I had been blogging for over 6 years before I even heard that name for the first time. I still have never listened to him nor do I know (or care) what he says or thinks. So I think it's probably a mistake to pay too much attention to anything related to talk show hosts. They're mostly irrelevant gadflies preaching to their respective choirs.

I suspect the debates are causing us to focus on the wrong things. I'm not terribly impressed by politicians who like (or are good at) the kind of shallow, sound byte nonsense that goes on during debates. Real life isn't ever that simple and moreover, I trust actions far more than words.

To the extent that they tempt us to pay attention to the wrong things, I expect they're harmful. Gingrich's answer the other night is a prime example. This is a guy who rose to power by accusing others of various breaches of family values and ethics violations.

And yet... :p

Somehow, all that has been forgotten. Unbelievable, but such is the power of bs.

Cass said...

Romney doesn't mind being offensive. He loves to run a negative campaign, and he is repeating his losing strategy of 2008.

Well, there you have it Grim! You think Romney's afraid/unwilling to give offense and Valerie thinks he's doing it on purpose! :)

Seriously, this is kind of my point. Defining everything through the lens of our own perceptions distorts reality. The truth is that none of us - you, Valerie, or me - knows what his motivations are. All you see are externalities, to which you apply an interpretation that may or may not be correct.

MikeD said...

The Steyn piece hits on exactly what my problem with Mitt Romney has been all along. The appearance of being noncommittal about everything. I'm not saying he is, just that he gives the appearance of being bland and almost plastic.

Cass said...

I agree, Mike. I don't share that perception but I agree that it exists.

Newt, on the otter heiny, seems incredibly glib most of the time. He hasn't actually ever run anything even approaching a country or a state, yet he breezily tosses off assurances that, "Oh you know it's easy...".

I suspect that Romney, having actually been on the pointy end of the spear, is uncomfortable with such assurances and so he looks uncertain. I've often noted that people with actual experience doing something are usually the most cautious about making promises. That's because if you've seen the sausage being made, you know all the things that can go wrong.

And that has always been the rap on Congress - they pass laws they will never have to implement and there's no one person you can point a finger at when things go tragically wrong.

In my field, it is always the people who know least about a given topic that are the breeziest about it. The ones who have actually done the work generally take a more measured view of things :p

Texan99 said...

A leader can't play it that safe and be effective, no matter how easy it is to understand his motives for playing it safe. Romney is going to have to find it within himself to wake up.

DL Sly said...

"Newt, on the otter heiny..."

*heading over to VC to see if the supply of brain bleach is still in my corner*

Anonymous said...

Ohh, I'm not trying to minimize Newt's baggage: I'm trying to find out how much of it's for real. So far, I know the adultery is for real, the racism is not, and it looks like he is neither venal nor unethical with respect to his legislative behavior.

I'm also trying to find out if there's a policy gem hidden in the Republican field.

I've had a lot of people tell me from the get-go that Romney's the only sane one in the bunch, but it just bothered me to listen to him. I saw him recently in a TV interview after one of the debates, and I think it may be that he's too letter-perfect on his answers. It gives the impression that they aren't his answers. That could be an artifact of nervousness.


Texan99 said...

Thomas Sowell:

"Does Gingrich have negative qualities? More than most. Wild statements, alienation of colleagues, reckless gambits. His use of the rhetoric of the left in attacking Bain Capital was a recent faux pas, though one that he quickly backed away from.

"But if we are serious -- and there has seldom, if ever, been a time in the history of this nation when it was more necessary to be serious -- then we cannot simply add up talking points for or against a candidate. What matters is how that candidate stands on issues that can make or break the future of this country.

". . . Sometimes caution can be carried to the point where it is dangerous. When the Super Bowl is on the line, you don't go with the quarterback who is least likely to throw an interception. You go with the one most likely to throw a touchdown pass."

Cass said...

The problem, Valerie and T99, is that the arguments that will persuade you aren't the ones that will persuade folks who are more moderate than you are (but whom we need to win).

You're already on board with fiscal conservatism. It's the rest of the country we need to persuade now, and you don't build coalitions by hurling Molotov cocktails at your intended audience.

I have conservative friends who are turned off by Newt's rhetoric - yes, it "energizes the base" but jiminy christmas - the base is *already* energized! It's the folks in the middle who need to be persuaded. And you don't do that by insulting them.

Your "playing it safe" is interpreted very differently by folks who see the world differently from you. Maybe it's because 35 years ago, I leaned liberal. Maybe it's because I have dear, very smart, very good friends who are Democrats.

These people think Gingrich is batsh** crazy, and they really, deeply dislike and distrust him. Of course, so do I :p

Valerie, I haven't had time and frankly have been weighing whether it's the right thing to do, but I am considering writing about Newt's 'baggage' - mostly because I hear people on the right dismissing it or playing it down. I think that's a mistake. I see a very consistent pattern in his career wrt ethics and it's a troubling one. Moreover, I am certain that, were this same behavior coming from someone advocating for Leftism, it would be roundly condemned by conservatives.

I've seen a lot of folks make the argument that the Left cheats and fights dirty and so should we. I see the same folks saying we need a clear contrast between us and them.

What's it to be?

Texan99 said...

Of course we shouldn't fight dirty. Unfortunately, we don't have candidates who fight clean any more than the left does -- and that includes Romney. So I'm forced to settle for candidates who can be distinguished from liberals on policy grounds. Romney passes that test, but only barely.

I too have dear, very smart friends and relatives who are liberal. They don't agree with me at all about what needs to be done to get our economy and our political system out of the mess it's in, so there's no chance of coming to agreement with them on policy issues even though I care for them personally and recognize in them many of the beliefs I used to hold. Agreeing with them isn't the question. The question is going to be whether enough independents can be persuaded to agree with conservatives on some key points about the free market and the role of government. I agree Gingrich will turn many of them off, which will make a coalition between independents and conservatives very difficult. (Santorum will turn them off, too; independents are notoriously hostile to the role of religion in government, and Santorum doesn't seem to know how to talk about that issue without tripping all kinds of anxiety wires.)

In contrast, it probably will be just barely possible to forge a coalition between independents and conservatives if the candidates is all over the map and muted like Romney, especially since the conservatives have no choice at all. We'll take it, because the stakes are too high not to. In the next election, though, we're going to have to come up with better alternatives in the primary. I hope some of the youngsters will have become seasoned enough by then, and that we can prevent too much more damage to the economy in the meantime. They're going to have to be a lot more persuasive than the current batch. It won't be enough for them to be non-threatening. They're going to have to convince people that more of the same, but a little less so, isn't going to cut it. They're really going to have to win some hearts over to a different way of solving our problems.

Unfortunately, the visceral reaction against Gingrich's personal baggage and style will lead a lot of voters to take a chance on Romney's ability to solve some big national problems despite his fuzziness on the underlying principles and desire to placate all sides. I think that's a perilous bet, but it's perhaps the best we're going to be able to do. I don't expect a man like Romney to be able to accomplish much, but he may get out of the way a little more effectively. I still have hopes for a change in Congress, though Romney's coattails aren't going to be anything to write home about.

bthun said...

FWIW, and breezing past the unthinkable, I would imagine a GOP majority in the Senate and the House will be a guidon, not to mention a restraint, for the man who wins the GOP nomination and the general election. No matter which of the current four, three, ah, two win.

This election cycle seems to me to require that those of us who want to change the change, focus on the A.B.O. goal.

As we all know, the current state of the Republic did not arrive at this state of being overnight. And what many of us want to see restored will not happen overnight, or over the next two to four years for that matter.

That said, I've no faith in a prevent-defense, and I'd bet the statistic would show that a prevent-defense doesn't.

2¢ worth from the cheap seats.

A.B.O For the grandchildren©.

Grim said...

Well, if you want to win votes from those who don't agree with you, there are two ways to do it. One is not to scare them, and hope the other guy scares them more.

The other way is to convince them that you're right.

bthun said...

"Grim said at 10:02 PM"

That just about covers it.

The only thing I might add, stating the obvious and all that, is staking out and advocating a firm position on most of the pressing issues of the day is guaranteed to scare large segments of the population. Along with segments who while not so much scared, just opposed to positions to the right of, *picks initials from hat* LBJ, will strongly disagree regardless of the amount of convincing/cajoling applied.

Interesting times...