State Legislators Like Romney, A Lot

December 1st, 2011 at 12:50 pm | 14 Comments |

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Scottsdale, AZ–Even as he continues to fight off challenges from an ever-changing troop of “flavor of the week” candidates, Mitt Romney’s organization appears to be gaining the type of support it most needs to win primaries–the support of conservative legislators.

Here, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (where I’m a policy advisor) holds its “States and Nation Policy Summit” at a resort in the Phoenix’s super-suburb of Scottsdale, Romney’s name is on everybody’s lips. And this means a lot.

While ALEC isn’t nearly the sinister, hyper-conservative secretive organization much of the organized Left makes it out to be (about 20 percent of members are Democrats) much of what goes on in the members-only task force meetings is pretty boring. However, its conferences are a very good place to take the pulse of right-of-center-state legislators nationally.

The media tracks endorsements for primary candidates in early primary states (Romney has the most on every list I’ve seen) but, for the most part, there’s no systemic list of endorsements elsewhere in the country. Indeed, focused as they are on winning early primaries, it’s quite possible that campaigns themselves don’t really keep such lists. That said, the number of such endorsements is a key indicator of how a candidate will do and ALEC legislators are a particularly good bellwether.

Quite simply, the types of people willing to travel long distances to meet (and, yeah, drink beer) with fellow legislators who they see mostly at conferences also tend to be the activist types: men and women who show up at every small town political meeting, constituents’ birthday parties and any other place they are invited. They’re also the key to mobilizing activists and getting out the vote during primaries. Except in a few big states, serving as legislator is a low-glamor job and the people who run for seats are often committed activists who can turn out primary voters.

At every meal I’ve attended, and in every conversation I’ve had about the elections, Romney’s name has come up. While two Iowa legislators seated at my lunch table were public Romney supporters (one had previously supported Pawlenty), I was surprised that every other legislator I spoke with at the table–a good national cross section–was either a formal Romney endorser or clearly leaning in the direction of supporting the former Massachusetts governor. Even the handful of people I met who support other candidates (Gingrich and Cain) seemed to accept the idea of a Romney nomination as more-or-less inevitable.

Political fireworks will likely continue for a while but, baring some dead-girl/live-boy type scandal, Romney seems to be doing a very good job getting support where it matters in primary contests.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    You’re also talking to a subset of folks who are looking to their future political careers … and who know that will be enhanced by hitching their wagons to the guy who will actually win the GOP nomination.

    I have to admit even I was surprised by just how poorly Perry has performed to date. Anyone who supports Cain at this time should have their head examined – he is clearly on par with Palin ’08 with respect to understanding international politics, and he’s running for President, not Vice President. Gingrich is just playing this thing out for the money and will have no legs in the primaries. Bachmann is just a bad joke. Romney will continue to box out any hope Huntsman has of getting any real traction.

    So yeah – even if you consider Mitt to be too ideologically impure, or unreliable, or whatever – if you’re an ambitious politico wanting to make sure you tie yourself to the right horse in the GOP primaries, there’s no other smart bet these days.

    Hell – ask Frum!

    • TJ Parker

      I have to admit even I was surprised by just how poorly Perry has performed to date.

      Yeah, I mean it all worked out so great in “Dave” and “Being There”. Idiots should make great presidents!

      Sigh, maybe life doesn’t imitate art …

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    Yeah, this is the reason why I’ve been arguing all along that Romney will win– the party elites like him and don’t like the others. Huckabee had a ton of grass-roots enthusiasm last time around, but couldn’t raise any money, and the palatable-though-not-beloved McCain emerged.

    Maybe things are different this time– because it’s more of a nationalized race, with Fox News appearances more prominent than the press-the-flesh stuff you expect to see in IA & NH; because the Tea Party, which I’ve always taken to be the same old GOP base wearing silly hats, will energetically fund & support some non-Mitt; or because online fundraising weakens the influence of party elites. Or whatever other factors I’m forgetting.

    But until we see those things actually happen, we have to look to the past, and it seems like party elite support really, really matters. And Mitt’s got it.

    • tommyudo

      Maybe the party elite don’t matter. They are a distinctly small voting block, and they will go along with the mass and get on board. It’s clear that Fox can’t stand Willard, and will be pulling out all stops for Gingrich. Fox viewers don’t have rational, critical brains, so they will be influenced by whatever the talking heads of Fox say. Even the Right Wingers know that Willard is a hollow man. Better to have that scary black radical in the WH as the boogey man than 4 years of a guy who can’t be trusted.

      • jdd_stl1

        “Better to have that scary black radical in the WH as the boogey man than 4 years of a guy who can’t be trusted.”

        That is the first time I have heard Cain called that….

  • wileedog

    “Yeah, this is the reason why I’ve been arguing all along that Romney will win– the party elites like him and don’t like the others. Huckabee had a ton of grass-roots enthusiasm last time around, but couldn’t raise any money, and the palatable-though-not-beloved McCain emerged.”

    Maybe, but I do think there is some blowback from the last election on McCain that has to give Romney pause. Many of the Tea Party types were not happy that McCain was basically foisted on them by the establishment, and he was anything but palatable to many until he put Palin on the ticket.

    I think Romney is having so much trouble in the polls now precisely because the base simply does not like him, and they refuse once again to be saddled with a candidate they don’t wan’t just because the RNC establishment thinks he is the most electable.

    He’s still the odds-on favorite because the big $$$ is backing him. But if he stumbles out of the gate once the voting starts and Newt gets some momentum it could get interesting.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Yes, and President Hillary Clinton shows just how valuable these early endorsements by everyone is, 4 years ago at this time she was considered an absolute lock and as we all know those early endorsements proved invaluab….what, have I been misinformed…you mean they were not invaluable and that she did not win?

    Did 2007 teach you nothing? If Romney is 3rd or worse in Iowa and barely wins NH, or worse, loses it to…choke, gasp, it hurts to write this…Gingrich, it will be lights out for Romney. If he wins like Hillary did in NH then he can make a horse race out of it but only because Gingrich is such a pig not because anyone is enamored with Romney.

  • yank3525

    Mainstream Republicans can keep telling themselves that Mitt will be fine, but he is in big trouble. He will win NH, but Newt is going to win Iowa, NC, and FL. Sure he has the money, but he will have no momentum, while Newt will.

    His best hope is for Newt to cut his own throat, because if he doesn’t he is toast.

  • Oldskool

    Rachel Maddow is pointing out how important the Murdoch primary is. And the boys and girls at Fox seem to be leaning toward Gingrich. That’s much more of a coup than any state legislators no one ever heard of, eh? Poor Mitt was not a happy camper with his treatment on Fox today.

  • Graychin

    “Mitt Romney’s organization appears to be gaining the type of support it most needs to win primaries–the support of conservative legislators.”

    Silly me. I thought that a candidate needed to win over Republican primary voters to win the primaries. Conservative legislators get only as many votes as there are Republican legislators.

  • SteveT

    State Legislators? Must be good for some 2000 votes. He’s a lock.

    Seriously, however, the poll numbers for all government officials are subterranean. You’d be better off in most cases having them endorse your oppenent.

  • Nanotek

    “While ALEC isn’t nearly the sinister, hyper-conservative secretive organization much of the organized Left makes it out to be…”

    nor as un-sinister as the organized Rights makes it out to be…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

  • valkayec

    ALEC is a blight on democracy and the free market. As Bloomberg Businessweek points out, the organization assists in stifling competition, which increases costs, and reduces freedoms.

    Anyone who works for or with ALEC, including its membership, are anti-free market and anti-democracy.

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/pssst-wanna-buy-a-law-12012011.html

  • TJ Parker

    Knut/Sarah 2012!!! Its what the GOP deserves!!!