Assessing Romney for Veep

March 30, 2008

Vice presidential candidates generally balance the ticket, shoring up the presidential nominee’s weaknesses. For McCain, the recommended attributes in a veep pick would include a relatively young candidate with chief executive experience – perhaps Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. There’s also speculation that Mitt Romney is angling for a spot on the ticket, evidenced by his recent fund-raising swing with McCain. Fred Barnes outlined his case for Romney, offering the following criteria for the selection process:

He wants a candidate who will be seen as a plausible president. That’s criterion number one. He also wants someone who won’t subtract from his campaign in any serious way. That’s criterion number two.

Our contention lies with the second criterion. McCain has carefully nurtured an image as a straight-talking maverick unafraid to buck party line. Romney is the polar opposite – an artificial, flip-flopping candidate adopting the policies suited to the context of whatever position he is running for. Romney’s dissembling compromises McCain’s candor, arguably his most appealing trait.

The other perceived plus for Romney is his expertise on economic issues. Barnes writes:

With the downturn worsening, the economy may surpass national security as the top issue of the campaign. And after years of success as a big time player in the global economy, Romney understands how markets work. He could shore up McCain’s admitted weakness on economic issues.

Romney’s business credentials are indeed impressive; consider his successful tenure at the helm of Bain Capital. Yet he failed to translate his private-sector accomplishments into a triumph at the voting booth. Examine Florida, where 45% of Republicans considered the economy the most important issue. Logically, Romney should have performed extremely well among that demographic, but McCain won the bloc by eight percentage points. Florida is not an aberration either, as many other states (Connecticut, California, etc) had a similar pattern.

Barnes himself points out the flip-side of the economy argument:

As a corporate turnaround artist, [Romney] rescued companies, sometimes by laying off workers. When he ran for the Senate from Massachusetts in 1994, the incumbent, Teddy Kennedy, raised the layoff issue with punishing effect. No doubt Democrats would use it again, and it might have resonance if a recession hits and unemployment is increasing.

Take a look at these compelling ads from Kennedy’s 1994 Senate campaign, featuring factory workers laid off from a company bought out by Romney’s Bain Capital. In a general election match-up that may hinge on white, working-class voters with low job security, Democrats could simply re-run the tapes to devastating effect. As of now, McCain has a decent shot at capturing Pennsylvania, a crucial step on the Democrats’ path to the White House. Placing Romney on the ticket, and thus acquiring the layoff baggage, could squander that opportunity.

Perhaps the most important disqualifier, McCain simply doesn’t like Romney. During the acrimonious primary battle, McCain once said about Mitt, “Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You both get dirty.” McCain advisers say loyalty and an ability to work together are two of the most important qualities for a vice presidential pick.

Also, as McCain fills his number two spot, he is essentially anointing his heir. Republicans generally coalesce around a big-name candidate early; there’s a turnstile through which only one passes through (see Reagan in 1980, H.W. Bush in 1988, Dole in 1996, Bush in 2000). If McCain were to lose, Romney would be ideally positioned for a 2012 run; if McCain won, Romney would be the natural successor. Since McCain detests Romney, he would hardly want to hand him the power associated with a vice presidential nomination.


The Bosnia Fallout

March 26, 2008

Since the beginning of the campaign, Hillary has been viewed as the least trustworthy candidate. Up until now, that weakness was an isolated character trait, affecting primarily her personality appeal. Though after the Bosnia flap, it cripples her substantive appeal as well. The dishonesty associated with resume-padding permeates Hillary’s entire experience argument – increasing skepticism of her other claims. Essentially, her greatest weakness is undercutting her greatest strength.  That’s a dangerous development with the potential to puncture the entire campaign rationale.

Directed by Mark J. Penn

March 26, 2008

A brutal mash-up of Hillary’s initial Bosnia bravado and the actual footage:

Hillary’s Excuse: “I Was Sleep-Deprived”

March 25, 2008

Retracting her bogus claims of experiencing a harrowing scene on arrival in Bosnia, Hillary dithered, “I was sleep-deprived, and I misspoke.” So each of the countless times she recited the debunked drama, stamped a “real whopper” by the Washington Post, drowsiness prompted the concocted embellishments?

What’s worse is that Hillary’s account was challenged a week ago by the comedian Sinbad, who accompanied her on the trip. He listed the scariest moment as deciding where to eat, in a region described as “one of the safest places in Bosnia.” Yet she dismissed him as a comedian and proceeded to elevate the story’s drama, citing “landing under sniper fire” and running for safety “with our heads down.” Take a look at the clip showing her arriving in Tuzla, Bosnia:

Finally, the media is dismantling Hillary’s experience facade, shining a spotlight on her more egregious claims. See her exaggerations about bringing peace to Northern Ireland and falsehoods about negotiations in Kosovo. And her famed human rights address in China? Exactly what she chides Obama for, simply a speech.

More on the Clinton Memo

March 1, 2008

Another excerpt from the Clinton expectation-setting memo released today:

In fact, when all is totaled, Senator Obama and his allies have outspent Senator Clinton by a margin of $18.4 million to $9.2 million on advertising in the four states that are voting next Tuesday.

Senator Obama has campaigned hard in these states. He has spent time meeting editorial boards, courting endorsers, holding rallies, and – of course – making speeches.

If he cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there’s a problem.

Balderdash. One candidate has been in the public sphere for sixteen years, establishing a personality entrenched in the electorate’s mind. Another has been on the national scene for a relatively short time, and has yet to present himself to the voters. Obama started out behind – down by more than twenty points in Texas and Ohio – but has managed to close the gap.

Flip the argument around. Hillary has obviously also campaigned hard in Texas and Ohio, has sent out negative mail in both states, has the support of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and his political machine, and has the endorsements of nine congressmen from March 4th states. If she cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there’s a problem.

Spin should, at the minimum, have its foundation in logic. However, the Clintons’ increasingly desperate spin is an utterly inane interpretation of the political landscape.

Five Superdelegates for Obama

March 1, 2008

The coalition grows, as the following endorse Obama today:

Brian Melendez, chair of the Minnesota DFL
Donna Cassutt, associate chair of the Minnesota DFL
Renee Pfenning, DNC member from North Dakota
Rep. Yvonne Davis of Texas
Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

Rockefeller is the most notable supporter, as the West Virginia Senator is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a longtime Clinton ally. He’s the second senator to endorse Obama this week, the other being Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Both are experienced legislative hands, clearly not discouraged by Obama’s short stay in Washington.