Last night, conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham made news for telling Sarah Palin, “To fish or cut bait.” A friend on Twitter said,”If Sarah Palin has lost Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter….” To which, I responded that Sarah Palin never had Coulter or Ingraham. Ann has been jonesin’ for Chris Christie–whom I would bet she doesn’t believe it’s too late for him to enter the race. Laura is predisposed to Romney.
What struck me about the talk about Sarah Palin, though, was that it really wasn’t about Sarah Palin at all. The Ann-Laura analysis was only about Sarah Palin to the extent that Ann and Laura believe Sarah Palin, or conservatives like her, are unelectable.
Many, if not most DC conservative pundits believe that only a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy can win the election.
I disagree. In fact, I think a center-right moderate is very nearly a sure loser in the 2012 election. Specifically, I think Mitt Romney is a troubled candidate. Here’s why:
Social conservatives don’t trust Romney.
Think that’s no biggie? Social conservatives voted against John McCain in the Republican primary. They thought he was weak candidate. They found him untrustworthy. Sound familiar? Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on the abortion issue depending on what’s politically convenient. A great way to suppress turnout among social conservatives, again, is to have a weak candidate, again.
Small government types (aka Tea Party) don’t trust Romney.
They see Romneycare and flee for the hills. It’s not that they mind Massachusetts residents binding themselves with their own velvet handcuffs, it’s that they don’t like the big government impulse Mitt Romney has that would see the government as a better solution than the private sector. Over and over, the government has shown itself to be unwise stewards and yet Mitt Romney trusted the government to control a big portion of each citizen’s life. Romneycare is a failure.
Evangelicals don’t trust Romney.
I live in Texas. Don’t shoot the messenger. Many religious conservatives see the Church of Latter Day Saints as a cult. My choice after Fred Thompson in 2008 was Mitt Romney. Evangelicals? Well, they loved Mike Huckabee–who I viewed as a charlatan. No matter. People worry about a conservative winning the north. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Romney winning the south?
Romney as milquetoast.
John McCain refused to go negative on Barack Obama. Afraid of being cast as racist? Probably. Still hoping for fawning press? Definitely. I see the same streak of public weakness in the face of what’s going to be a brass-knuckled campaign from Romney. Now, the Romney campaign is dirty. No fear there. It’s the perception that I’m talking about. Passive aggressive, below-the-belt punching by proxies will be de riguer with a Romney campaign. Fine. That’s politics, too. This year, though, the GOP candidate needs to be willing to scrap openly with Obama. This is, of course, why people like Ann Coulter yearn for a Chris Christie candidacy. They know that the populace wants to see some fight. They want a happy warrior. Mitt Romney seems like a bland banana in contrast to a rather boring Obama.
A word about, strategy and messaging. In 2008, one of the arguments against Sarah Palin as Vice President, and the only one I saw as even mildly valid, was that Sarah Palin’s short term as Governor would undermine the experience argument with Barack Obama. No, it was not fair, because she’d been in public service for years, because she was the Vice Presidential nominee and he was the presidential nominee, etc. Still, the people who blew up that argument (namely Dems and the DC GOP Smartypants Set) are the same ones saying Mitt Romney is an awesome candidate.
Well, a Romney candidacy effectively neutralizes the single most hated legislation ever passed in the history of America. From a strategic perspective, having Romney as the nominee is just stupid. The left can say, accurately, that Obamacare was built off the Romneycare template and Romney loves (and still defends) Romneycare.
A conservative candidate, in contrast, will be able to show the differences both rhetorically and in action. Rick Perry is ideally suited to do this. Conservative policies have created a haven in Texas. The contrast to liberal policies nationwide, and in Massachusetts, is easily defined and patently obvious.
It’s conventional wisdom that a Romney campaign is a shoe-in to win in the general election. The conventional wisdom is, as it was with McCain, wrong. Mitt Romney has a deeply flawed campaign–one that counts on an awful Barack Obama, rather than a great conservative message. Again, this is reminiscent of the McCain candidacy. The “I-hate-Bush, too” wink-wink straddle wrapped in mild words for opponents and harsh words for allies does not win elections. The candidate this year will need the base to be fired up.
The base won’t be fired up with a Romney campaign. They’ll be angry at more of the same. They view the problem to be not just Democrat policies but the Republican acquiescence when faced with these policies.
A Mitt Romney candidacy would dishearten and fracture the Republican base.
Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about that?
David Brooks flaps his jaws again and this time, he’s going after his beloved, well-spoken Barack Obama for falling into the same trap as Republican president George W. Bush, except, I don’t see the parallel. At all. Here’s Brooks:
It’s not that interesting to watch the Democrats lose touch with America. That’s because the plotline is exactly the same. The party is led by insular liberals from big cities and the coasts, who neither understand nor sympathize with moderates. They have their own cherry-picking pollsters, their own media and activist cocoon, their own plans to lavishly spend borrowed money to buy votes.
Well, that perfectly describes the Senate on both sides, but I don’t see how it’s the Conservatives controlling anything. In fact, had Republicans stood up for fiscal responsibility, one could argue that an Obama presidency wouldn’t have even occurred.
So, President Bush talked God with a cowboy dialect but his actions were all moderation. Hello? AIDs spending in Africa? School reform with Teddy Kennedy? Amnesty? And all these things made the federal government bigger (or would have), more powerful and invasive. The Bush presidency wasn’t about restraint and limiting government power–traits I associate with conservatism.
David Brooks and the Beltway elites are delusional. If President Bush governed conservatively, then David Brooks would put nearly every conservative person I know into the Right Wing Extreme camp. No wonder Barack Obama sounded good to him. Obama moderate? Is he insane?
Dan Riehl says of Brooks new found Gah!-Barack-Obama-Is-A-Liberal! Religion:
This is all great. But if Brooks is so smart, where the hell was he during the campaign when the rubes knew what to expect?
Right. David Brooks knows politics. He’s smarter than you. And he knows a Moderate when he sees one.
During McCain’s tedious, frustrating campaign season, Meghan McCain’s blog shone as a bright spot. Her cute behind-the-scenes pictures and sunny outlook made me like John McCain just a little more. Like many conservative-libertarian types, I held my nose and voted for the man believing that he would be a less-bad alternative to Barack Obama. I’m not sure if that assessment would turn out to be right. We’ll never know.
Since the election, Meghan McCain has made quite the splash. Because she’s young, vapid and, like her father, hates her own, she’s a media darling. She is the perfect embodiment of what it means to be a moderate. As Kim Priestap says about Ms. McCain in her Pajama’s column today, ” ‘I love you. Now please change.'”
Kim disagrees with this urge from moderates:
Ms. McCain is like an ideological carpetbagger. A moderate, she floats into the political culture on the wings of her father’s name in order to set Republicans straight and push them into what she defines as the mainstream, a mission eerily similar to the one her father engaged in for many years. It is unfortunate, for the sake of our Republic, that John McCain was defeated in November, despite his moderate leanings. However, if the Republican Party were to follow the advice of another McCain, the result would be more electoral defeats, further shrinking of the Republican base, and more blurring of the differences between the two parties.
It’s true that the blurring of the parties makes it difficult for voters to get what Republicans stand for and so vote for the clearer message coming from the Left. It is also true that moderates follow personality. And not to knock presidential hopeful John McCain, but he was an old guy who came across like the curmudgeon who yells and shakes his cane at kids running through his yard. Hip and happening he was not.
Where Meghan is right is that Republicans are going to have to find a way to sway political superficials like her or else they’ll continue losing elections. A vast group of people, many women, vaguely follow election coverage, don’t really care about issues and vote on personality and “feelings.” While in Chicago I had a conversation with a couple such women. My travel companion was appalled at their ignorance. I just smiled, asked questions they couldn’t answer, and pondered how the Republican party is going to reach these people.
John Hawkins wrote an excellent piece yesterday about how ideological purity will consign the Republican party to irrelevance. He says:
If you’re conservative or even a libertarian who places a high priority on small government and restraining spending, there is no perfect option. All you can really do is try to get the Republicans back in power, hold their feet to the fire, and get as many Americans as possible to come around to our way of thinking on capitalism, free markets, deficit spending, and the government.
Ideas matter. Principle matters. The Republican brand has been destroyed by hypocritical Republicans who have abandoned any substance that defined them–fiscal restraint, small government, maturity.
Image and message matters too. Republicans have been long on facts and short on story. They’ve done a good job projecting a morally superior, logical argument when people don’t respond to being preached to and are rarely convinced by logic. People don’t like being hectored.
People, especially women, respond to how they feel. Go ahead and curse this reality. Bray at the moon that women like Meghan McCain will be the deciders in the next election. But the fact is, they will be.
So the candidates must have core conservative values but be appealing to the people who follow trends instead of principle. John McCain just didn’t do it for these voters. And if a moderate platform was the key, he would have won in a landslide. But he didn’t.
And moderates need to get this, too. John McCain, the towering moderate that he is, got his butt kicked. Blame Sarah Palin. Go ahead. That’s convenient and maybe partly true. But the bigger problem was McCain’s message (vague, tongue-tied and incoherent) and his ideas (all over the map).
Republicans need to do better. They need to be more principled and more defined and also appeal to people who find smooth talking, fine suits, fabulous mascara and superficial trappings important. To ignore either part of this puzzle will cause us to lose again.
I’ve been waiting to add a link to a very important piece about this topic. Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse has a rather depressing take, but one that deserves consideration.
Cross-posted at RightWingNews
On David Frum: Stop Base-Baiting
Frum is a tool. Ace makes easy work of him.
If the pointy heads weren’t so dang condescending and superior, their baby mea culpas would be more satisfying. If the country wasn’t going down the crapper, with President Barack Obama doing the conga line as Gordon Brown gets dissed and GM teeters on the brink, I’d enjoy this more:
Contrast Buckley, Gergen and Brooks with, let us say, Rush Limbaugh, whose appearance at any chic cocktail party would cause the hostess to faint dead away, or with Thomas Sowell, who occupies probably the most unfashionable position in the country, that of a black conservative.
Limbaugh and Sowell both got Obama right from the very get-go. “Just what evidence do you have,” Sowell replied when I asked, shortly before the election, whether he considered Obama a centrist, “that he’s anything but a hard-left ideologue?”
The elite journalists, I repeat, got Obama wrong. The troglodytes got him right. As our national drama continues to unfold, bear that in mind.
I would enjoy their drumming at the hands of a friend a whole lot more if these jerks didn’t buy the groceries to pack the hand-basket that is now being swung merrily by President Obama on the road to hell.
Instead, I’m just angry as hell.
It’s all well and good to get religion now. How convenient. My only solace is that I’m not sure that John McCain would be any more sure during these economic troubles. I am quite certain, though, that he would know to have a state dinner for the Prime Minister of England, our staunchest and longest and most beloved ally. I’m quite sure that John McCain would not be sending secret written letters to freaking Russia. I have no doubt that John McCain wouldn’t even entertain meeting with the murderous thug Basher Assad. So while, I wasn’t convinced of John McCain’s genius, I knew he wasn’t a fool.
Barack Obama is exactly the sort of leader the unwashed masses on the Right expected. That is, he’s an arrogant professor comfortable in the realm of the theoretical, confident behind a teleprompter and calculatingly genius when it comes to campaigning. He’s young, inexperienced, and unschooled in the form and function of President.
It’s embarrassing. Worse, it’s enraging. Useful idiots, unbothered by compelling evidence, bought the “hope” and “change”. Not that I cared much what they said before, but Brooks, Buckley and the rest have a very long way to go on the road to redemption. Being that easily duped displays the same lack of judgment possessed by the commander-in-chief they voted to elect. There aren’t enough tax dollars to be extracted to make up for that mistake.
So yep. Rubbing it in. I wish being right felt better.