January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

James Taranto in his Best of the Web column today puts into words very well something I’ve been thinking for some time but haven’t been able to express nearly so well:

Such empty oppositionalism has been the dominant theme of Democratic politics at least since the emergence of Howard Dean in 2003. But there is a weird genius about the way Obama, with his soothing style and inspiring persona, is able to present it as if it were something of real substance.

This is the real issue with Obama – there’s no substance there and yet he’s able somehow to convince his supporters that there is. Will the media ever call him on this? Or will the scales fall from the electorate’s eyes at some point anyway? I find it hard to believe that he can really keep this up for another nine months, but with the media’s help it’s perhaps just possible.

January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

A strategy memo from the Romney campaign citing figures from Florida exit polls has made its way into the blogosphere and shares a lot of my own thoughts about how Romney wins – some key points:

  • McCain has won around a third of the vote even in states where he won overall. This means two thirds of the vote is up for grabs by Romney (at least theoretically)
  • Romney leads McCain in several important categories and if he can reinforce these and switch some voters to his cause in certain others this will be enough to be at least competitive on Super Tuesday
  • If you take away the effect of McCain’s misleading comments about withdrawal timetables in Florida, that race would have been even closer.

In short, there’s still everything to fight for. Good to see that the Romney campaign thinks so too.

January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

I see that Mark Levin has officially endorsed Romney in a piece on National Review Online. About time, too. These guys have been saying for weeks now that either McCain or Huckabee would be a disaster. Since Rudy’s dropped out and Paul was never in, that really leaves only Romney. So why haven’t these guys (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity primarily, but also others) endorsed Romney outright? He needs that kind of boost to push his campaign as we head for Super Tuesday. Good for Levin for being the first of the big ones, but let’s hold off on the talk about the conservative movement having fractured (Rush) and the pretend conversions (Hannity) and look at the task in hand – nominating a conservative candidate.

January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

Time’s debate scorecard for last night’s debate demonstrates some incredible mental dexterity from Mark Halperin, who gave McCain a winning B grade (Romney got a D). The following quote is the first two thirds of his blurb on McCain’s performance:

As a testament to his suddenly strong position in the battle for the nomination, he showed off all of his worst traits — and still won! Alternately cranky, elderly, caustic, equivocating, inarticulate, passionless. But he flexed his ability to intimidate Romney as needed, usually with an arch one-liner that was 3/5 mean-spirited and 2/5 light gag. Made little effort to defend his own tax record or negative Florida attacks, and failed to drive a positive message.

And this is the guy who won? It reads like satire. The idea that Romney was intimidated bears no relation whatsoever to what actually happened in the debate, where Romney stood very firm and countered all of McCain’s smears. In the last third of Halperin’s summary he suggests that questoiners and the other candidates treated him as the front runner. No doubt the questioners did – this has been their line for the last several weeks, even when McCain was badly lagging Romney in the delegate race. But given there are only two serious candidates left in the race, who else was Romney to go after? Huckabee? Paul?? And McCain certainly focused his attention on Romney – does this mean he thinks Romney is the front runner? The whole thing is bizarre, and another sign that the media is desperate to have McCain as the nominee – either because they believe he will implode or because they like his centrist positions better than Romney’s conservative stance.

January 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

I’ve been increasingly frustrated over the last several weeks by the media’s insistence that McCain, not Romney, has been the front runner. It happened despite Mitt’s wins in Michigan and Nevada and his strong second place showing in two more states. He was leading by a wide margin in delegates until Florida, and had he captured just a few percentage points more there would now be streaking ahead instead of lying in a close second.

The usual story is that, since Romney has outspent and out-campaigned (horror of horrors) the others in some key states, that his results don’t really count. To which you have to counter, “have you seen who he is running against?” and “have you seen the stories they write on Mitt?”

First, who he’s running against. McCain and Giuliani have been the only serious candidates in this thing from the start. Ron Paul certainly has his small but vocal fan base, and Huckabee and Thompson likewise had their niches, but the front runners in national polls all along have been McCain and Giuliani. McCain has run previously and as such has high name recognition and a following built up over the last eight years. Giuliani was the high profile mayor of the first mainland American city to be attacked in living memory. These guys don’t need the advertising because if anyone doesn’t know who they are at this point, it’s not because they haven’t seen enough ads but because they are completely disengaged from the political process.

Then you look at the stories which have been written about each of the candidates from the beginning of the campaign. Paul has lots of articles about his plucky Internet supporters, Huckabee benefited from stories about his (brief) “surge” in the polls just before and after Iowa (and perhaps the occasional piece about weight loss and the Fair Tax). But all the pieces about Romney are in one of four camps: “he is outspending all the others with his vast personal fortune”, “can a Mormon really be elected?”, “Romney is a flip-flopper” and “isn’t he too perfect?” All the other candidates have at least merited a serious evaluation of their policies and achievements, but not Mitt.

So what’s he supposed to do but go on the attack, advertise like crazy to get awareness of his candidacy but more importantly awareness of his positions and achievements out there? And when through this well thought out strategy he takes, as he puts it, two golds and two silvers and leads the early running, who do the media call the front runner? McCain. Which is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy, since people like to vote for winners.

All of this goes back to the fact that these primary campaigns have always been about momentum, and the media has always enjoyed the opportunity to call the election by anointing front runners. Their frustration this year has been that simply calling one candidate a front runner and writing off others hasn’t been enough because it’s been such a tight race with at least two real contenders on each side. But they keep reverting to type by attempting again and again to call the election prematurely for their favoured candidate. It hasn’t worked so far (except perhaps by pushing McCain over the top in Florida) but we certainly have to hope that the electorate is smart enough to recognise that there are two front runners on both sides and vote their consciences and not what the media tells them to.

January 29th, 2008 by Rightsideup

This article by a non-Mormon living among Mormons makes excellent arguments for why the conservative base should be getting behind Mitt Romney, and especially why evangelicals share far more than they differ on with Mormons.

This paragraph is representative:

As a seeker of knowledge that is too analytical to achieve faith, of any religion, I am befuddled by the apparent animosity of evangelical Christians towards The followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons have been the equivalent of at least a couple of vertebra of the back bone of the Christian conservative movement that has brought to fruition the Reagan Revolution and all subsequent gains in the growth of the conservative movement.