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.


McCain’s Luck

February 18, 2008

In a Cook Report/RT Strategies national poll conducted at the beginning of February, John McCain was the clear front-runner, garnering 39% of the vote. The rest of the field: Romney – 24%, Huckabee – 18%, Paul – 6%. Factor in the second choice of Huckabee and Paul voters, and there’s a dramatic upheaval in the standings. Romney marches into the lead, with 44%, while McCain slips to 38%. The anti-McCain vote was split among three candidates, and the fractured field eventually handed McCain the nomination.

A series of improbable events awakened McCain from his summer slumber. First, immigration, the issue credited with temporarily sinking his candidacy, largely disappeared from the media spotlight. His gamble on the surge also paid off, lending him crucial credibility on the war in the general election. Then, Huckabee upstaged Romney in Iowa, improving McCain’s chances in New Hampshire. McCain’s luck compounded as Giuliani had pulled out of the Granite State, leaving his moderate voters to McCain. Take any one of these dominoes out of the chain, and it’s likely another candidate would be claiming the nomination.

Roundup: Chalk Another Gold Up For Romney

February 3, 2008

Mitt scores a victory in the lonely Maine caucuses.

Obama draws 15,000 in Boise – seven times the number of people who caucused in Idaho four years ago.

He picks up the endorsement of President Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower.

The gender gap between Hillary and Obama narrows.

Yet two national tracking polls show her picking up ground.

She unveils a new, thematic stump speech invoking Robert F. Kennedy.

Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson will watch the Super Bowl together.

“Yes, we can” in musical form:

Mitt Romney’s Fourth Quarter Fundraising

February 1, 2008

Money raised: $27.2 million ($18 million of Romney’s own money)

Money spent: $34 million

Cash on hand: $2.43 million

The same caveat applies as before – these numbers are as of December 31.  With the $18 million from the fourth quarter, Romney has now given $35.3 million to his campaign.

Romney in Florida

January 21, 2008

Results in a cringe-inducing moment:

“Hey buddy! How’s it going? What’s happening? You got some bling bling here!”

Shortly followed by a rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Willard Mitt Romney, just blending in.

The New Hampshire Editorial Boards Pile On

December 26, 2007

On the heels of the Concord Monitor declaring anyone but Mitt, the New Hampshire Union Leader echoed a similar sentiment yesterday. The Union Leader, which has endorsed McCain, wrote “the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes.” Although not as influential as, say the Des Moines Register in Iowa, the New Hampshire editorial boards continue the calculation vs. conviction storyline contributing to McCain’s resurgence in the state.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Republican primary voters are prepared to vote for principles over positions. McCain still holds many views out of line with the base, most notably on illegal immigration (which sank his campaign over the summer) and campaign finance reform. While Romney has reversed his positions to more conservative stances, it is unlikely that he will change again if in the Oval Office.

However, the deciding issue for voters desperate to maintain their hold on the White House may be electability. McCain runs the strongest amongst the Republicans, beating Clinton by an average 4.7%. And, can the party that skewered John Kerry really nominate their own Massachusetts flip-flopper?

Update: Rasmussen has recent numbers measuring the core opposition for each of the major candidates.  A startling 47% of the electorate said they would definitely not vote for Romney, while 33% said the same for McCain.  What’s remarkable is the intensity of dislike toward Romney despite his brief stay on the national scene.

Anyone but Mitt

December 23, 2007

So says the Concord Monitor in a scathing editorial deeming Romney a “phony.”

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you’d swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core.

Not only has Romney slipped into second in Iowa, but he now faces increasing pressure in New Hampshire from a resurgent John McCain. This editorial further fuels a central distinction between the two candidates. McCain, endorsed by the Boston Globe and the New Hampshire Union Leader, is perceived as the candidate of straight talk. On the other hand, Romney is portrayed as a flip-flopper.