Patterico's Pontifications


A bigger problem than Bain?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 1:40 pm

[Posted by Karl]

The New York Times picks up where I left off, reporting on Team Romney’s reaction to the attacks from Mitt’s rivals on his tenure at Bain Capital.  The news is not particularly reassuring:

Although the advisers had always expected that Democrats would malign Mr. Romney’s work of buying and selling companies, they were largely unprepared for an assault that came so early in the campaign and from within the ranks of their own party, those involved in the campaign discussions said.

Even as Mr. Romney coasted to victory in New Hampshire, they worry that the critique could prove more potent as the race shifts to South Carolina, where shuttered mills dot the landscape, unemployment is higher and suspicion of financial elites is not limited to left-leaning voters.

They should be concerned, given that New Hampshire and Iowa have among the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  But many more people should be concerned that behind a facade of denial of the Bain issue, Team Romney was surprised it already came up.  During the last presidential nomnination campaign, John McCain raised the Bain issue.  Duncan Hunter raised a Bain issue.  And Mike Huckabee raised the Bain issue, recycling a lefty conspiracy theory, but most famously in his pre-Iowa quip on the Tonight Show: “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.”  There is no way these attacks (regardless of their ultimate merit) should have surprised Mitt Romney or his campaign.

Back to the NYT:

The attacks on Mr. Romney are especially unsettling to his campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, who worries that a narrative depicting Romney as a heartless corporate raider will drag down his favorability rating and be sustained by the Obama campaign, said two people told of the internal discussions. (Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior strategist for Mr. Romney, played down such concerns. “I wouldn’t read too much into the rumors,” he said.)

While his campaign advisers generally agree that Mr. Romney must explain his work at Bain, they are wary of engaging in an exhaustive public examination of the nearly 100 deals he was involved in, anxious that it could bog him down in the inevitably messy details of fixing troubled companies, whether they are job cuts or big financial payouts.

Does Team Romney not realize that the candidate’s image is not fully within their control?  Do they not know that the left — from Team Obama to the establishment media — will have some (perhaps more than some) say in the matter?  People who have $19 million in the bank might have spent a few thousand assigning someone to work on the Bain issue, both in terms of general message and having rapid responses to specific cases ready to email to the media, instead of leaving it to Rich Lowry to explain them after taking the hit.

Mitt Romney is the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination primarily because he is the one with experience running for president.  He is the one who has worn a suit to the job interview, while his rivals, to put it mildly, have not.  If GOP voters begin to think Romney is not running a campaign that competently responds to attacks, he will have a bigger problem than Bain.


Virginia Ballot Likely to Include Gingrich, Perry, Huntsman, and Santorum

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:29 am

News that was broken yesterday — the same day that we learned it likely doesn’t matter.

A federal judge yesterday ordered a halt to the printing of Virginia ballots. You can view the order here. Essentially, the judge says it is likely he is going to strike down the residency requirement for petition circulators, as an unconstitutional limitation on free speech.

This argument makes sense to me.

However, yesterday’s results in New Hampshire reinforce that it doesn’t really matter. Virginia’s rule, in practice, meant that a candidate cannot get on the ballot in Virginia unless the candidate is well funded and well organized. Perhaps Virginia can’t constitutionally mandate the rule, but candidates still need to be well funded and well organized to win.

So maybe the likely losers are going to be an option in Virginia. But as a practical matter, they are still the likely losers.

P.S. It is appalling that we can’t do better than a guy who gave birth to Romneycare. Appalling.

He’s better than the guy who gave birth to ObamaCare. At least he would appoint better judges. But still. The fact that the Tea Party is stuck with Romney is a good indication that nobody, from either side, is going to fix the structural debt problems facing the country.

There. Now that I have said something to upset everyone, I guess I can hit “publish.”

New Hampshire Post-Mortem

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 6:28 am

[Posted by Karl]

Overall, a very good night for Mitt Romney, albeit one with lingering questions.  As I write this, with over 90% reporting, Romney beat his 2008 vote total.  Indeed, he beat John McCain’s 2008 vote total, although he likely will not beat McCain’s 2000 vote total.

Moreover, Romney has drawn Ron Paul as his biggest rival.  (You know who that benefits?)  The exit polling suggests that while Ron Paul won among those looking for a “true conservative,” the Paul 2012 demographic looks much like the Barack Obama 2008 demographic.  For example, Paul won the 18-29 demo, the unmarried demo, the under $30,000 income demo, and the liberal demo.  Although John Huntsman won among the 4% of the pool who were Democrats (Paul came in second with them), Paul won the Independent demo. 

The immediate good news for Romney on that score is that Indies played a bigger role in NH than they did in 2008 (although the reportedly record overall turnout should be viewed in this context and be mildly worrying).  That may be because the Democrat primary was a draw in ’08, more Paulians turned out or — given the demographic similarities — both.  This will be less of a factor in closed primaries and in states generally more conservative than New Hampshire.

The longer-term good news on that front is that while Paul won 32% of the Indies, Romney won 29%.  That’s important for someone whose main selling point is electability.  On that score, 61% of GOP primary voters said they would be satisfied with Romney as the nominee, while none of his closest rivals musters a majority.  55% would not be satisfied if Ron Paul won, which is marginally better than Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, most likely due to the overall tilt of New Hampshire and the relative lack of national scrutiny given to Paul.

Some television pundits pointed to exit polling showing that Romney won among late deciders as a sign the attacks by his rivals against his tenure at Bain Capital did not work.  However, the 32% of the truly late deciders he won represents a drop from the 39% he won among those who decided earlier in January and a huge drop from the early deciders.  The next ten days before the South Carolina primary will give a better indication whether the attacks on Bain are eating into Romney’s support.

I am already on record that most (although not all) of the attacks on Bain are misguided and diminish the Republicans making them.  However, the left was going to launch these attacks early and often if Romney wins the nomination.  The marginal loss is that Team Obama (media included) will package the more egregious comments from Gingrich and Perry into attack ads to legitimize the attacks with the casual voter.  The marginal gain is that we will get to see Romney respond and at least some idea of how damaging such attacks are with Indies inclined to vote GOP.


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