The Expectations Game

January 4th, 2012 at 7:57 am David Frum | 118 Comments |

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Byron York has a tough read on the meaning of the Iowa result for Romney.

In the end, Romney escaped humiliation, and he did it at far less cost than in 2007-2008, when he gave Iowa everything he had in his first run for the GOP nomination. “If you look back four years ago, we had 52 paid staff in Iowa, and this time around, we have five paid staff,” top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said a few hours before Tuesday night’s results came in.  “In terms of advertising, we spent $10 million in the run-up to the caucuses four years ago, and we’ve spent a fraction of that this time.  And in terms of the candidate’s own appearances in Iowa, he was here 100 days or so four years ago, and this time we’re at about 15 days.”  [It was actually a few more, but that doesn't change Fehrnstrom's point.]

So Romney avoided what would have been an embarrassing loss after his decision to go all-in in Iowa.  But what now?  He’s heavily favored to win in New Hampshire, but he’s likely to face a reconfigured field that will give his rivals the opportunity to pick up more support in the quest for a candidate to go up against Romney one-on-one. Iowa insiders predict that Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, who received ten and five percent of the Iowa vote, respectively, will be out of the race within 48 hours.  Nationally, Bachmann and Perry are at a combined 12 percent in the polls — support that will go to some other candidate or candidates, but not to Romney.  That will make Romney’s job 12 points harder.

The Iowa race ended far differently than Romney had originally foreseen.  For a while he stayed away from the state for fear of suffering a humiliating loss.  Then he moved into Iowa in hopes of winning and thereby dealing a devastating early blow to his rivals.  Nothing turned out quite the way it was expected to, but in the end, Romney managed to get away with his life.

I’d turn that interpretation upside down.

Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost. The question through the past year was: lose to whom? This was a state designed for Rick Perry to take away from Romney–and thereby launch a powerful national conservative challenge. Instead, Perry is heading home to Texas. Gingrich–another, less plausible, alternative–has collapsed into bitterness and sulk. Romney won by a narrow margin because the remaining conservative alternatives looked unconvincing even to Iowa social conservative voters. A Romney-Santorum contest is not much of a contest at all. If that’s not obvious today, it will be obvious a week from today, after New Hampshire reports.

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118 Comments so far ↓

  • anton

    has there been any official statements from the Perry campaign regarding dropping out?

  • balconesfault

    My God you pundits love your horse races!

    First, it’s silly to think that the amazing amount of time and money that Romney spent in Iowa in 2008 didn’t have any resonance.

    Second, you can’t talk about what happened in Iowa without talking about the Restore Our Future SuperPAC dedicated to electing Romney via kneecapping anyone in the race who gains momentum.

    Third – less than 3,000 extra voters showed up for the 2012 GOP Caucuses than showed up in 2008. And evidence is that about 12,000 more Independents and Dems showed up for the GOP caucuses than did in 2008 … probably because there weren’t any Dem Caucuses.

    The GOP punditocracy can spin it all they want, but the inevitability of the Romney nomination is not inspiring GOP rank and file voters. In fact, it could end up depressing primary/caucus turnouts for the rest of the season. The number to watch from here out isn’t going to be % for Romney … it’s going to be turnout vs 2008.

    • Dex

      Or, as Paul Begala tweeted: “In 08 Romney got 30,021 votes. Last night he got 30,015. Mitt & his SuperPAC spent $4 mill to lose 6 votes.”

  • rubbernecker

    I’d turn that interpretation upside down to say squeaking through by 8 votes with less that 25% of the vote after campaigning for president forever is pitiful. Obama will be re-elected despite the stagnant economy. Yeah!

  • hisgirlfriday

    There are 3 million people in Iowa. How did the GOP only get 125,000 people to the caucuses in a year that there is no Democratic contest?

    It’s kind of insane that such a self-selecting group is given so much power and sway by the media.

    I also read that Michele Bachmann had about the same number of votes in the caucuses as she had in the Ames straw poll. Can that Iowa GOP fundraiser never be covered by the media ever again?

  • Oldskool

    The way Romney won made him a lot of enemies and it’ll come back to bite him in the ass. And it should, he’s as cynical as Shrub and as indifferent to facts.

  • ottovbvs

    Perry ceased to be a contender at least three months ago so I’m not sure how Iowa was going to be a showcase for him. My takeaway expectations from last night, incidentally confirmed by Frum’s comment, is that the Republican establishment are going to try to shut this down by essentially declaring Romney the pr-emptive nominee. As it happens I think he is the pre-emptive nominee (the huge amount of secretly funded trashing of Gingrich in IA largely neutered him and almost certainly seriously damaged his long shot candidacy although his support is holding up reasonably well in national polls of Republicans). And yes we’re likely to be saying goodbye to Perry and Bachmann. So yes Romney is probably the nominee so David and the beltway Republican crowd can breathe a sigh of relief. However, none of this really invalidates York’s comments about the nature of Romney’s win in IA and the underlying schisms it reveals. It will be interesting to see if the pre-emptive shutdown by the leadership is successful. I suspect not in the face of Paul’s dedicated cadre, Newt’s desire to get even, and religious conservatives obvious distaste for Romney which they will express via support for Santorum. This show is not yet over although we may have a fair idea of who the winner is going to be.

    • hisgirlfriday

      Who in the establishment do the GOP voters actually listen to?

      The GOP pretends the Bush presidencies never happened by focusing all their love on Reagan and Bob Dole and John McCain are punchline RINOs as far as the base is concerned.

      Is there a single voter in the GOP primary electorate that will look at John McCain’s endorsement of Romney today and rethink their objections to him?

      Romney has Nikki Haley backing him in South Carolina, but you have to wonder whether that is an asset with her poll numbers in the 30s right now.

      • ottovbvs

        “Who in the establishment do the GOP voters actually listen to?”

        It’s not a simple as that is it? The Republican establishment has access to the money and to the chattering classes (many of whom just recycle their press releases) so they are able to shape the message and create perceptions (about the inevitability of Romney for example).

  • Holmes

    George Will is predicting Obama will win. He finds Mitt an unconvincing conservative; worse yet, an unconvincing candidate even to moderates and independents. In Will’s view, the only hope for Republicans this year is the prospect of gaining a majority in the Senate.

    • ottovbvs

      “George Will is predicting Obama will win.”

      This is and always has been the likelihood which largely accounts for the carnival that has been the Republican nominating process. As Erick Erickson pointed out a few weeks ago the Republicans are about to nominate a Wall Street asset stripper, who governed like a Democrat when in power, is a member of cultish religion, and has a long history of being all over the board on his positions… and Obama has a billion bucks to tell people all about it.

    • balconesfault

      He finds Mitt an unconvincing conservative; worse yet, an unconvincing candidate even to moderates and independents.

      Well, what is there to be convinced about Mitt about … except that he definitely wants to be President?

      In Will’s view, the only hope for Republicans this year is the prospect of gaining a majority in the Senate.

      Will the GOP be praying then for a 3rd Party candidate to actually pull conservatives (particularly social conservatives) out to the poll next November if they really don’t want to vote for Romney?

      • bdtex

        Bingo. Romney will be a drag on GOPs in down-ballot races. Establishment GOPs just can’t seem to wrap their brains around that.

    • hisgirlfriday

      Don’t you think any part of Will is a little bitter that now that Perry’s dropped out his wife is out of a job?

    • bdtex

      He musta saw Romney’s speech last night. Very inspiring. lol! What Establishment GOPs don’t get is that Romney will be a drag on GOPs in down-ballot races just like McCain was.

  • indy

    Is Santorum the newly minted ‘next in line’?

    • Raskolnik

      Having spent waaaay too much time lurking on RedState recently, I can confirm that Santorum is seen by GOP primary voters (at least RS GOP primary voters) as a flash in the pan whose success in Iowa only splinters the more “viable” anyone-but-Romney candidacies of Gingrich and Perry(!).

      Also, as balcone noted above, Perry is most likely not yet completely done with this fight, and “word on the street” is that Gingrich is preparing to adopt a scorched earth policy vis-a-vis Willard in retaliation for the smear blitz. It makes sense if you consider that Gingrich was mostly concerned with selling books; he may not be able to secure the nomination, but with concerted effort he could torpedo Romney’s chances.

      • balconesfault

        You also have to ask – does Gingrich make more money over the next 4 years with Obama in the White House, or Romney?

        My guess is the former, and I’m betting Gingrich sees it that way too.

  • sparse

    I cannot help but to focus on the fact that Santorum had a last minute surge. Although he is a weak candidate, and folks had months and months to choose him, they did not. Until it came time to face the fact that Romney was going to win. They essentially chose to roll the dice rather than vote Romney. Romney may be the eventual nominee, but it is the right hand that holds the nose while the left hand pulls the lever. That is going to hurt in the general election.

  • indy

    Good sportsmanship award goes to Buddy Roemer:

    I almost have enough votes in Iowa to start a bowling league.

  • TerryF98

    No one really knows Romneys strength or ceiling until the field gets whittled down to 3 candidates. That time will come. If he stays at his present support level of 25% which is pitiful for a supposed front runner then he is toast.

    The question is where are all the not Romney votes going? And how come a man who has been campaigning for 8 years and has more money than God is doing so poorly.

    As Balcon points out, there is a severe lack of enthusiasm in the GOP ranks for these candidates.

  • zaybu

    The biggest news in IOWA was the turnout, which isn’t great news for the GOP.

    • ottovbvs

      It was 128,000 I heard. Is that bad in historical terms?

      • PracticalGirl

        Last time around, they had roughly 120,000 turn out. Analysis would point to more independents and Democrats (slim, at 2% of the vote) as the reason for the addition. Most credit Ron Paul for the additions, which makes his 3rd place seem even weaker going forward in a GOP primary.

        We also know that Romney got 6 fewer votes this year for the win than in 2008, where he was pummeled by Huckabee. We saw more of a split this year in social conservatives, I guess.

        • ottovbvs

          So turnout was up! Were Dems and Independants barred last time? If not there was a larger turnout under the same ground rules. I’m not sure how this is bad for Republicans one way or the other. Basically Romney got the same as last time in absolute numbers and percentage terms which happens to be exactly where his national ceiling has been until now.

        • balconesfault

          Were Dems and Independants barred last time?

          In 2008, Dems and Independants had a very sexy Obama v Clinton v Edwards race to vote on.

          Apparently the % of self-identified Republicans voting in the caucuses dropped from 86% to 75%. So that means you had LESS self-identified Republicans voting this year.

      • TerryF98

        This is what happened.

        “Lesson Three: Republicans aren’t so excited about 2012. Four years ago, a depressed GOP went to the precinct caucuses, very well aware that Democrats had all the energy. The total GOP vote: 119,188. This year, Republicans should be psyched about the chance to uproot Barack Obama. There will be something above 122,000 total votes. An improvement, right? Well… in 2008, 86 percent of the people who chose the GOP caucuses were Republicans. This year, 75 percent of the electorate was Republican, with the rest of the vote coming from independents and Democrats. What the hell happened?”

        From Slate.

      • zaybu

        @ ottovbvs

        239,000 Democrats voted in their Caucus in 2008 compared to only 122,000 Republicans in their caucus this year.

        • ottovbvs

          Do you know how many Dems voted in the Dem caucus this year? Ever heard of apples and oranges?

    • armstp

      I agree the turnout is a big story.


      I thought the Republican/Tea Party were outraged and want to get rid of Obama. So why not much more political participation? That does not bode well for the GOP in the general, particularly if Romney is the nominee. Obama and the Dems just need to fire up their base. Maybe using a OWS type rallying cry.

      It will be interesting watching rich Wall Street Romney debate community organizer modestly wealthy Obama on issues like income and wealth inequality.

  • Deep South Populist

    If Gingrich keeps his word and spends his money taking out Romney in SC, Santorum might win in SC. SC is already a state relatively favorable to Santorum. So, it looks like the field will come down to Romney, Santorum, and Paul. Perry and Bachmann’s support will go to Santorum after they drop out, and Paul draws enough support from other sectors of the GOP base to hang around until the end too.

    • ottovbvs

      “If Gingrich keeps his word and spends all of his money taking Romney in SC, Santorum might win in SC.”


      • Deep South Populist

        I think Santorum will be an indirect beneficiary of the Gingrich attack ads if he goes scorched-Earth in SC. I expect they will damage Romney but not enough for Gingrich to win because Perry and Bachmann’s support will have moved over to Santorum at that point.

        • balconesfault

          Perry and Bachmann’s support moving to Santorum will clearly give him a sizable bump in the polls …

          Enough to have the Romney death star PAC turn its laser beams on Santorum?

        • Deep South Populist

          The Death Star PAC; that’s hilarious. I just got this from CNN.

          Source close to Michele Bachmann campaign: No “viable way forward” after sixth-place finish in Iowa. Briefing at 11 am.

        • ottovbvs

          So it’s not going to the Southern boy? Unlikely I’d say but anything is possible.

  • jamesj

    “I’d turn that interpretation upside down. Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost. The question through the past year was: lose to whom?”

    I think you misinterpret York’s gist, since it sounds like you agree with him. He’s not saying that any other Republican candidate is fit for leadership or primary support and thus giving Romney a run for his money. He’s saying that Romney barely scraped through despite zero of his opponents being even half-way responsible or sane. I guess you can look at it from many different angles, but seeing the soulless robotic Romney and the frighteningly-ignorant Santorum share the spotlight scares me. As a still-registered Republican, I get more embarrassed with each passing day.

  • LFC

    “In terms of advertising, we spent $10 million in the run-up to the caucuses four years ago, and we’ve spent a fraction of that this time.” –Romney Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom

    It was about $4.7 million including the SuperPAC. I guess technically 47% is a fraction, but it’s a pretty big fraction especially when you consider the field of nitwits, morons, and frothers he was up against. And for that he barely squeaked out first place. Looks like there is little love for Mitt in the GOP.

  • dante

    I don’t know, DF, I think that’s trying to spin it *just* a little too much. Why exactly should Romney have lost?

    1) He “only” spent a couple days here in Iowa, but has been effectively campaigning for the past 4.5 years. Iowans got to know him well enough the last time around…

    2) He might have only spent a fraction of the money he spent in ’08, but his secretive SuperPACs probably spent *more* than Romney spent last time around. (not correct, thanks to LFC’s post above)

    3) At the end of the day, I see the results as:

    Not-Romney: 53.1%
    Romney: 24.6%
    Ron Paul: 21.4%

    Perry and Bachmann are gone. Gingrich has vowed to take it to Romney, whether to support his own candidacy or just to screw over Romney. That leaves it as a bitter 3-way fight between Romney, Santorum and Gingrich with Paul standing on the sidelines throwing bombs at everyone.

    What a cluster#%@&. Great entertainment, though.

    • overshoot

      What a cluster#%@&. Great entertainment, though.

      Seriously, I never dreamed that I would get so many grins from a primary season as I have from this collection of clowndidates.

      The last time primaries were remotely this interesting was in 1968. And that needed tear gas to do the trick.

  • Compilation of analysis and reaction to the photo finish in the Iowa caucuses | Saint Petersblog

    [...] David Frum: Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost. The question through the past year was: lose to whom? This was a state designed for Rick Perry to take away from Romney–and thereby launch a powerful national conservative challenge. Instead, Perry is heading home to Texas. Gingrich–another, less plausible, alternative–has collapsed into bitterness and sulk. Romney won by a narrow margin because the remaining conservative alternatives looked unconvincing even to Iowa social conservative voters. A Romney-Santorum contest is not much of a contest at all. If that’s not obvious today, it will be obvious a week from today, after New Hampshire reports. [...]

  • Rubicon

    Great win for Romney!

  • icarusr

    “Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost.”

    As others have also asked, I’d be interested in knowing why that is. Does Frum think Iowa Republicans are particularly more stupid than other Republicans? Or that running for the second time in six years in Iowa means that Romney’s cynicism, lies and robotic anticharm have no caught up to him in Iowa? Is it Romney’s Mormonism? Why should he have lost Iowa and not, say, Mississippi or Alabama or Montana?

  • LFC

    Every comedian (except Dennis Miller who unfortunately had his sense of humor surgically removed long ago) in the nation is praying that the GOP nominee is Santorum. There’s a whole freight train load of man on dog jokes just waiting to be told.

  • Graychin

    This post reminds me of the expression “whistling past the graveyard.”

  • Wrath Of A Newt Scorned | Poison Your Mind

    [...] balconesfault at FrumForum has a rational actor hypothesis for Newt’s actions: ”You also have to ask – does Gingrich make more money over the [...]

  • chephren

    American political customs are nuts. The media has been full of Iowa, Iowa, Iowa for weeks – and for what? So 100,000 or so people can pick fewer than 1% of the Republican convention delegates?

    You’ve had almost a year of this endless electioneering and will have many months more of it – the same bromides, sound bites and canned speeches, endlessly repeated, the endless fundraising appeals, the wall-to-wall media circus that replaces real debate with daily spin.

    Meanwhile, in parliamentary systems, elections are called, fought and decided within 2 months. In Canada, corporate and union contributions to campaigns are banned – only individuals can donate to candidates to a maximum amount of $1200 annually. Elections are about issues, not spin.

    You’ve managed to turn democracy into an endless sideshow. No wonder your government doesn’t function.

  • Rocketship7

    Watching Santorium last night I see a realness in him. A sense of humanity. Compare this to a plastic Romney, and a aloof Obama this guy could go all the way.

    • wileedog

      Nobody is ever going to win the Presidency on a “ban birth control” platform.

    • TerryF98

      I think you have taken your rocket ship to another planet. You certainly are not living on Earth.

    • balconesfault

      Santorum might be real … but he really represents about 40-45% of the GOP at most … which means he represents about 15-20% of America. Good luck with that.

      Obama … aloof? You embrace the right wing blather too much. Obama treats people like adults, and a lot of people would rather be told fairy tales. Santorum may have humanity – he seems to (like Huckaby, in some ways) understand that the free market is an amoral force which will grind up the idylic American lifestyle and spit it out to make a few more bucks for some multinational corporation – but he has no realistic solution for it.

      Or at least … I don’t think his solution (return America to a morality where abortion was illegal, babies born out of wedlock were considered bastards and their mothers harlots, and gays knew their place was behind their hatboxes and nightgowns in the closet) is a realistic way of solving the economic problems faced by the middle class.

      Perhaps you do?

      • ottovbvs

        “Santorum may have humanity”

        Well if your definition of humanity is sleeping with dead children and suggesting various grisly ends for homosexuals I suppose this might be true.

  • LFC

    This, if true, is very interesting. After having his egotistical ass handed to him, Newt Gingrich might simply shift into Romney attack mode. He’s got the delivery that red state, red meat Republicans just love, and they’re already predisposed to disliking and distrusting Romney.

    I’ll have to dig up the concession speech later to see how much it looks like Newt is going to become an “anybody but Romney” attack dog.

    • rubbernecker

      Newt was pissed.

      • dante

        I’m pretty sure “pissed” is an understatement. It’s more like ****PISSED****.

        • ottovbvs

          Well comments from Corn have to be taken with a pinch of salt but clearly the Newtster wasn’t happy and he has to know the Republican establishment have provided the money and the leaks to sink him so what’s he got to lose?

        • Traveler

          Pass the popcorn.

    • icarusr

      Could not have happened to more deserving fellas, I say.

  • armstp

    Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost.

    Why should he have lost? The far right vote was split amongst several candidates.

    More than 50% (excluding Paul votes) of Iowa primary voters voted against Romney. That sounds like a loss to me. 25% support is a joke.

    • nuser

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing , is it not?

      • armstp


        How do you figure? “Highsight” for Frum?

        Easy math. You have the majority of the Iowa far-right voters (which is most of the voters) being split amongst Perry, Santorum, Bachman and Gingrich. That was a know fact before the vote. It should have been far easier for Romney to walk up the middle and win. 25% was not a winning number in 2008, but was a winning number in 2012, given the far right vote was split. It is the opposite of what Frum is saying, more should have been thinking Romney had a very good shot at winning.

        • Geprodis

          You left out Ron Paul in your list- I suspect he got more social conservatives than Gingrich.

        • nuser

          Yes , Frum is using classic hindsight, or if you like rationalization.

  • dante

    By the way, the lack of any discussion of the recess appointment of Cordray as head of the Consumer Protection Bureau on this website shows absolutely PERFECT timing by the Obama administration. Most Republicans are too busy talking about Iowa results and looking forward to NH to spend much time on a recess appointment…

    • chicago_guy

      “meep meep, mo fos”

    • ottovbvs

      It also means that Cordray can stay in office until TWO years from now.

    • sweatyb

      Well, yes. Congress is in a recess after all, so they’re not really in a position to do more than send out press releases. Televised Presidential Address always trumps a press release.

      But I think it speaks to Frum Forum’s devolution away from political analysis into handicapping the Republican horse race.

      • ottovbvs

        “Well, yes. Congress is in a recess after all,”

        Actually Republicans are claiming it’s not in recess and hence these appointments (he’s just made another three) are illegal and they will challenge them in the courts. I doubt they will but even if they do I’m sure Obama would be happy to have a public argument about the need to have a consumer protection head to protect the public from predatory banking and credit card practices. Their claim his appointment is a threat to jobs is nonsense and everyone not on the kool aid knows it. They can make Obama’s day if they want.

        • dante

          Agree 100%. I’d also like to add that if I showed up for my job, clocked in, waited ~20 seconds before clocking out and going home, my boss would say I “wasn’t at work”. Maybe Republican standards are a bit lower?

          I’ve also heard rumor that it was actually a *Bush* legal opinion that Bush never actually used… :)

        • sweatyb

          Silly, everyone knows Bush was a Democrat.

  • nhthinker

    “ Here’s a contest that by all odds Romney should have lost.”

    1) Over the last 6 months, probably 5 separate candidates polled ahead of Romney in “conservative” Iowa

    2) Romney recognized this early and did not even compete in the straw poll.

    3) Romney watched while Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Paul and Gingrich all take leads.

    4) Every one of the conservative leaders self-destructed only to be replaced by another one- but in a game with the last musical chair-Romney’s supporters decided to make one move- block Gingrich from sitting in the Iowa chair. Romney supporters were aided and abetted by Ron Paul.

    5) Romney himself kept his attacks trained on Obama and shrugged at Gingrich.

    It was pretty masterful.

    I wonder if Ron Paul thinks he will get proper props from Romney at the convention…

    I also wonder if Romney has a deeply hidden grudge against the military-industrial complex that supported “brainwashed” propaganda to destroy George Romney’s chances of being president.

    • ottovbvs

      “It was pretty masterful.”

      After Romney and his surrogates have spent millions in IA promoting his candidacy and trashing Gingrich; Romney ends up with exactly the same number of votes and the same percentage as last time around. Yep masterful is certainly one way to describe it…of course there are other rather more realistic terms you could use but that requires an enbrace of reality.

      • nhthinker

        Romney and his supporters spent half as much as they did in 2008 and they caused their first place nemesis to go from >15% ahead to move into a very distant 4th.

        That is masterful by any political standards.

        • ottovbvs

          “That is masterful by any political standards.”

          So after five years during which he and proxies have spent millions acquainting Iowans with Romney and trashing his opponents he ends up with exactly the same number of votes as last time. Masterful progress indeed!!

        • dante

          I guess “not losing voters” has to be counted as a win?

        • nhthinker

          Winning counts as a win.
          Romney did not lose ground to any competitor that is seen as a serious challenge… In fact, he deflated Gingrich with repeated truth telling.

        • ottovbvs

          “In fact, he deflated Gingrich with repeated truth telling.”

          You mean a bunch of his millionaire buddies put up the money to trash Gingrich. Not that it was difficult given that Gingrich has about as much baggage as Ted Haggard.

          “Romney did not lose ground to any competitor that is seen as a serious challenge”

          Nor did he gain any in what should have been a walkover against a bunch of bozos (like Perry), crackpots(like Bachmann, Paul and Santorum) and charlatans (like Gingrich).

        • nhthinker

          Primaries are a game of just good enough– If Romney was the first choice of a majority of Iowa caucusers, then he could never appeal enough to independents and moderates for the general election.

          Courting hardliners and moderates takes balance… but 8 votes was shaving points just a little too close.

        • dante

          nhthinker – By the way, I’m pretty sure that Iowa has arcane caucus rules where the delegates are also divvied up not just by total # of votes, but also districts as well. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Santorum comes out of Iowa with *more* delegates than Romney… Not that that matters, but it certainly calls into question the impact of “winning” by 8 votes if you end up getting fewer delegates than the guy you “beat”.

    • balconesfault

      Every one of the conservative leaders self-destructed

      lol … with a little help from Romney’s SuperPAC and millions of dollars in negative advertising, not to mention some very well timed embarrassing disclosures.

      • valkayec

        I was going to post the same thing. It seems there’s not an Iowa Republican who has not been inundated with robo-calls and of course the ubitquitious steady stream of negative ads from Romney’s SuperPAC. Romney’s campaign did not need to pour money, personnel and time into the Iowa campaign. His surrogates did it all for him…which allows him to save his many millions in donations for later on in the presidential campaign.

        What is more interesting that Romney’s campaign is Santorium’s. From a strictly, political point of view, Santorium does not have the money and SuperPAC that Romney does. Nevertheless, he came within 8 votes of tying Romney. That’s gotta say something about the power of one on one retail politics…and the fact that the GOP voters are still looking for that not-Romney candidate.

        If I were in Romney’s campaign I wouldn’t be feeling jubilant about this win or about the campaign. I’d be asking why is my guy not connecting with middle-class and working class voters who make up the electorate.

        It’s one thing to disparage the current president and indulge in the usual lies, but it’s quite another to lay out a positive vision for the future in a time of economic woes and rapidly changing global competition. I understand that Romney is a techocrat and apparently not a gregarious, outgoing personality, but his campaign has to emphasize a vision – a story – that Americans can buy into. He’s not done that work…and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have a story of a vision for a better, brighter future for average Americans.

        • wileedog

          ” He’s not done that work…and maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t have a story of a vision for a better, brighter future for average Americans.”

          Of course not. He has a vision of Mitt Romney as President. And then…. whatevs…

  • LFC

    Good posting on the current GOP rhetoric and Romney in particular:

    Money quote:

    It would be a mistake, though, to believe that, long after Iowa, once the horse race is over, and if he’s elected, Romney could suddenly flip a switch, clear the air of the toxicity left behind by the Republican field, and return to being a cautious centrist whose most reassuring quality is his lack of principles. His party wouldn’t let him; and, after all, how a candidate runs shapes how a President governs. In politics, once a sellout, always a sellout; once a thug, always a thug.

    • balconesfault

      It seems that Romney got the message that the only thing he has that appeals to the GOP electorate is the ability to go super-negative … and so from here out he is going super-negative against Obama. But it looks like he has to keep his foot pressed to the floorboard on that pedal to keep the GOP enthusiasm engine from simply choking out on him. None of which is going to make him appear Presidential to those who don’t already possess an animus towards the President.

      • overshoot

        It seems that Romney got the message that the only thing he has that appeals to the GOP electorate is the ability to go super-negative

        Exactly. Over and above any conceivable policy position, the Republican base wants to get the illegal alien Islamofascist jungle bunny out of the White House. It follows that the most important quality in their standard-bearer is the ability to go nuclear on the coon in chief and keep it up for ten more months.

        Gingrich was an exemplary demonstration, and it looks like quite a few people got the message.

        • ottovbvs

          “It follows that the most important quality in their standard-bearer is the ability to go nuclear on the coon in chief and keep it up for ten more months.”

          Romney can go knock himself out with this strategy but as numerous Republican strategists have pointed out it is not without huge risks given the dignity with which Obama exercises the role of president and the personal high regard in which he is held (likeability is in the sixties). In fact the more Romney opts for mud wrestling and Republican house style idiocy, the more it serves to enhance Obama’s image as the adult in the room.

        • overshoot

          Bear in mind that Romney has taken full advantage of the “SuperPAC” proxy: have a front group do the dirty work while you maintain the wink-and-nudge fiction of clean hands.

        • ottovbvs

          “have a front group do the dirty work while you maintain the wink-and-nudge fiction of clean hands.”

          Except it’s very difficult to do this in a general because you are going to be called upon to disavow the craziness. Now even if you parse as obviously Romney would it’s hard to avoid some of the mud that been slung from sticking and if anything a parsing strategy would simply serve to reinforce the flip flop meme. It’s very dangerous as several Republican strategists have pointed out but I’d be happy if the Republicans want to try it.

        • balconesfault

          But I don’t think just setting his super-PAC loose will be enough to make the GOP rank and file love him.

          They want to see his hands in the crap that he’s flinging … and not just know that he has a very well oiled crap flinging machine.

        • Primrose

          Unless something really changes in regards to Mr. Obama, I have to agree with Otto.

          The President has shown a lot of dignity in the face of attacks. He has the Presidential vibe down and his foreign policy style prevents him from being tagged as weak the way Carter was. Romney keeps beating that drum as if Americans are eager for war with Iran. Indeed, he keeps playing old Republican standards regardless as to whether they have meaning.

          Mr. Obama’s approval is going back up (No doubt because people have been made bilious by the current crop of Republican candidates.) Mr. McCain may have ended up appearing old, cranky and out of touch, but people still remembered when they used to like him. When has anyone liked Mr. Romney?

          The only place Mr. Obama is weak is not fulfilling his pledges for civil liberties and of course, the economy. There are the people who feel the President has let them down on matters like the Patriot Act, but whose going to trust Mr. ‘perpetual war’ Romney on that one? The Republicans re-upped the patriot act. Mr. Paul could, as we can see from comments here, but he has other burdens, plus the whole presidential thing again.

          And as for the economy, all they have is giving more money to millionaires. I just don’t think people are buying it. Again and again on radio I hear business people calling up to say, a personal tax cut won’t encourage me to hire. Demand will encourage me to hire. Billionaires are saying tax us, tax us.

          These are not winning strategies. I have to think that the problem is the Republicans simply have no plan to govern. And so far, this year, it looks like the public wants to know what the plan is.

        • valkayec

          One added little note that’s not making headlines – not that anything positive out of the Obama Admin. tends to make headlines – is that Iran is feeling the pinch of the sanctions and has begun trying to figure out how to bargain its way out.

          According to Fareed Zakaria:

          “In fact, the real story is that Iran is weak and getting weaker. Sanctions have pushed its economy into a nose-dive. The political system is fractured and fragmenting. Abroad, its closest ally and the regime of which it is almost the sole supporter – Syria – is itself crumbling. The Persian Gulf monarchies have banded together against Iran and shored up their relations with Washington. Last week, Saudi Arabia closed its largest-ever purchase of U.S. weaponry. Meanwhile, Europe is close to approving even more intense sanctions against Tehran.

          The simplest measure of Iran’s strength is its currency. When Barack Obama became president, you could buy 9,700 rials with one dollar. Since then, the dollar has appreciated 60 percent against the rial, meaning you can buy 15,600 rials. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told parliament recently that the latest sanctions were “the most extensive . . . sanctions ever” and that “this is the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history . . . every day, all our banking and trade activities and our agreements are being monitored and blocked.” The price of food staples has soared 40 percent the past few months, Reuters reported this week.Tehran’s reaction to the prospect of sanctions that affect its oil exports shows its desperation. In recent days, Iran’s vice president – a figure­head with no power – and one of its admirals threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz, invoking the Persian expression that this would be as easy as “drinking a glass of water.” But a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards – Iran’s crucial power source – quickly backtracked, explaining that Tehran had no intention of blocking the straits. It would be madness to do so because Iran would suffer more than any country. Blocking the straits would result in a total shutdown of Iran’s exports and imports; with 60 percent of Iran’s economy coming from oil exports, it would bring the government to a standstill.”

          Moreover, Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group in a FT column today says Iran is making a lot of noise, but the US isn’t biting which is causing even more turmoil in Iranian politics.

          “But Iran does not want war. Military conflict in the Strait of Hormuz would block its own ability to export oil. An attempt to close the strait would be fruitless because the US Navy could open it within weeks. War could easily spread and lead to an attack on Iran’s crown jewel – its nuclear programme. Ayatollah Khamenei has his hands full at home with a plummeting currency and infighting among his elite. Tehran’s main goal is to scare the US and its allies away from implementing sanctions against Iran’s oil exports. And despite the bellicose rhetoric, there are signs that the regime seeks to return to talks – suggesting a two-track policy.”

          So much for Romney et al calling Obama weak on foreign policy…or an appeaser. Frankly, Obama has had the best foreign policy of any President in a long time…as well as absolutely the most complicated.

        • dante

          valkayec – Shows what can be accomplished by going around the world and getting consensus as opposed to a Swaggering-Cowboy-Diplomacy, doesn’t it? I think it will be a HUGE mistake if the GOP tries to take on Obama on foreign policy.

      • Probabilistic

        Yes, super-negative, with the accompanying claim that the President is sowing deep divisions in the country by conducting class warfare and a few other cliched canards.

        • ottovbvs

          “claim that the President is sowing deep divisions in the country by conducting class warfare”

          Yes I can see this having huge cred given that Romney is a Wall Street asset stripper worth around $350 million who has laid off tens of thousands of workers.

        • Probabilistic

          Are you suggesting truth-value trumps “truthiness”? The value of negative ad is sowing enough doubt in enough number of people for a limited duration. Given the inchoate anger at the state of the economy, a portion of the population is susceptible.

        • ottovbvs

          “a portion of the population is susceptible.”

          But then it’s equally susceptible to a positioning of Romney as a multi millionaire banker and thus by general inchoate reasoning a major author of our problems. None of these things is an absolute as you’re implying. As Erick Erickson at Redstate (not exactly a liberal) has pointed out the GOP is nominating a multi millionaire Wall Streeter, who governed like a democrat, changes his opinions like the weather, and is a member of a religious cult. AND Obama will have a billion bucks to tell everyone about it. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And yes sometimes truth value does trump truthiness (whatever that is…lies?)

    • ottovbvs

      Excellent piece as usual by Packer. His thoughts on the willingness of Republican candidates to literally say anything without regard to substance and be allowed to get away with it by a supine media is completely on the money. McCarthyite craziness is the new norm.

      • dante

        Only in the primary. Once it gets to the general, those little annoying videos can go wild and utterly take down a candidate. (See: Macaca)

        • ottovbvs

          Theoretically but have you seen the media pointing up any of the craziness of Republican policy prescriptions relative to those of the administration over the last year. Holding the debt ceiling hostage for example. I don’t disagree this craziness has more resonance with voters in a general but the media don’t play a big role in highlighting the differences.

        • valkayec

          Speaking of media cowardice, watching NBC’s Meet The Press show, caused me to be ill. Gregory let his guest go on and on, making one unverifiable statement after another, and never called him on any of it. Never questioned one claim. Never asked one question that contradicted the guest’s position. It was one giant stump speech. Disgusting!!!!!

          He does this kind of act all the time. He needs to be thrown out. What ever happened to real news reporter anchors?

        • balconesfault

          All Gregory does is rely on pre-prepared “gotcha” clips to try to point out where a candidate might have contradicted some previous statement, position.

          As for actually having the cognitive capability of challenging ludicrous logical leaps or pathetically obvious misstatements … that’s apparently not a skill Gregory possesses.

        • dante

          By the way, speaking of little video’s gone viral, a friend posted this on FB:

  • Oldskool

    This from 2008 is hilarious. He’s still unpopular and indifferent to facts. Nixonian in a way.

  • Ray_Harwick


  • armstp

    What is interesting is that the Republican Party is really an amalgamation of three groups: (1) 1%ers or wealthy, (2) religious absolutists, and (3) suburban and prairie libertarians.

    The vote in Iowa broke down a third, a third and a third or exactly along these lines. Romney represents the wealthy, Santorum the religious absolutists and Paul the libertarians.

    • balconesfault

      You forgot the nativists/racists, which cut across all 3 groups.

      Perry could have been the unifying candidate – he’s demonstrably in the tank for Corporate America, he has been steadfastly cultivating his fundamentalist bona fides, and his Texas Secessionist rhetoric speaks to the soul of the libertarians.

      I still suspect that the reason that the religious absolutists and a lot of Tea Party quasi-libertarian sorts in particular bolted from Perry wasn’t because of his incoherence in debate … but because he has a record that shows he won’t discriminate whenever possible (a requirement to stay chummy with the developer community in Texas – and homebuilder Bob Perry has been Perry’s biggest financial supporter).