February 3, 2008

How Romney Might Win (Inspired by Patrick Ruffini)

Hatched by Dafydd

You all know I rarely do this, but this post by Patrick Ruffini on Hugh Hewitt's blog is so definitive, so beautifully argued, and so clear, that I simply have to point you at it and say "Read and educate yourselves."

(Blast. I knew I couldn't resist; I just have to talk about it myself. Never let the genius argue his own case, that's what I say; always engage in a little tomato-juicing myself! That's why we get the big buck, you know.)

Here it is on a nutshell (all emphasis my own; dainty Ruffini doesn't do italics or boldface):

There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state....

Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment's decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder.

The take-away (as far as I'm concerned) is that, if Mitt Romney wants to be able to beat out McCain for the Huckabee vote when Huckabee drops out -- which is Romney's only strategy at this point -- then he had better begin campaigning vigorously on faith issues... something McCain is not particularly doing either, but doesn't need to do. That is, McCain can win a plurality of those Huckabee voters without specifically appealing to faith, while Romney can only win them if he really reaches out.

Focusing on economics is fine. But Romney also needs to focus on the bread and butter issues of faith: abortion, marriage, a religious civil society, revivalism.

My suggestion would be for him to play directly to the "sinner reformed," "prodigal son" impulse within the Christian community: For religious reasons, Christians tend to be very sympathetic to a narrative of the form, "I used to be benighted on this issue, but now I've seen the light" (Christianity being a very evangelical religion, unlike, say, Judaism.)

And Romney certainly fits that paradigm. He sincerely believes that he has "seen the light" on a number of issues where he used to be more liberal but is now more conservative; he's just been loathe to talk about it.

There is no lie here, no dissimulation: It's just a matter of Romney actually vocalizing in speeches what he has hinted in debates; of him changing the emphasis of his stump speech to encompass more than just a technocrat's analysis of the economy. We need to see the religious Mitt, not just the Beantown beancounter Mitt.

I would have Mitt Romney say something like this:

I have always personally opposed abortion and supported traditional marriage. But for a long time, I thought it wasn't something the government should mandate. I thought, Let people make up their own minds! I would rather they came to embrace life on their own, by their own consciences.

Boy, was I wrong. While I was governor of Massachusetts, I realized just how stacked the odds were against people of faith, against life, and against traditional marriage.

While I was waiting for people to make up their minds, preborn babies were dying in record numbers. While I confidently assumed that the people's firm support for traditional marriage actually counted for something in a democracy, the courts jumped in and threw out the eternal verities as too old fashioned.

Now they not only force abortion down voters' throats, they even ordered my state to start handing out marriage licenses not just to Bob and June, but to Bob and Jim! No vote, no referendum; the courts didn't care what the people believed. They only cared what their elite ideology told them was best for us.

Those sure aren't the kind of judges I would appoint.

But the liberal Democrats in Congress and the state legislatures are just as bad as the courts. I fought like hell against court-ordered gay marriage. I fought tooth and nail. But the Massachusetts political establishment, the Ted Kennedy machine, was too powerful even for the governor to buck. I only had the people on my side; they had the legislative rules committee.

Try as I did, and despite winning a vote for traditional marriage in the legislature, I just couldn't force the party bosses to send an amendment banning gay marriage to the people for a vote. The liberal elite are afraid of votes up there in New England, because they know what the majority of Americans think about their pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, atheist agenda.

I can't promise I'll win every battle; but I can promise I will fight every battle to keep America what she is: the most religious nation in the West. It's our most precious freedom, and it's why we're free in the first place.

I will fight like hell for traditional values -- for life, for marriage, and for the constitutional right to freely exercise our religion, no matter what the ACLU says. We may disagree on a lot of religious dogma... but I sure hope we agree on just how important these issues are, not just to conservatives, but to America and the world.

Simply put, if Mitt Romney doesn't make a play for Huckabee voters, then when Huckabee drops out of the race -- as I believe he finally will (perhaps after Über Tuesday) -- the plurality of his votes will go to McCain... not Romney.

It's time for Romney to throw away the green eyeshade and finally start showing some passion for something. Since nobody is going to follow him in a crusade for passionate economics, it's time to start talking about the other great passion in his life -- his religion. It sure as heck can't hurt to let people know there are some things that Romney believes deep in his heart that are more important than interest rates and tax policy and the other technowonkery he has pushed so far.

And it's also long past time for Romney to start praising McCain and Huckabee to the skies: "I think I would make a better president, but these guys are great choices as well!"

One of the three of them (actually, one of the two of them; Huckabee really isn't in the hunt anymore) is going to be the Republican nominee. He can't go into the race crippled by horrific attacks by his fellow Republicans (leave that to the Democrats).

I would also like to see a loud and enthusiastic promise by Mitt Romney that he will support to the hilt and campaign for whichever candidate finally wins the GOP nomination... and a challenge to all the other Republicans still in the race (including Ron Paul) to make the same pledge.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 3, 2008, at the time of 2:50 AM

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Tracked on February 4, 2008 5:28 PM


The following hissed in response by: hunter

Too much too little too late for voters to understand.
If he really wants to be Prez, there is 2012 or 2016.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2008 5:16 AM

The following hissed in response by: eliXelx

A starving fox was walking by the riverbank when he saw a school of small frightened fish swimming crazily and furiously hither and thither.

"What's the matter little fish?" asked the disingenuous fox, "Can I help?"

"There's a big fish right behind us," said one of the putative victims, "and he's coming to get us!"

"No problem, little fish" said the clever(sic!) fox, "I'm bigger than the big fish; just you lot come out here on land, and when he chases you here, I'll defend you." (From the Talmud.)

Before I tell you the fish's answer I want you to substitute the words "MITT ROMNEY" for "STARVING FOX", and "EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS" for "FRIGHTENED FISH"!

The above hissed in response by: eliXelx [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2008 7:32 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

Before I tell you the fish's answer I want you to substitute the words "MITT ROMNEY" for "STARVING FOX", and "EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS" for "FRIGHTENED FISH"!

Or, after Tuesday, put Hillary in the "starving fox" and moderate confused conservatives, (and libertarians)in the "frightened fish" catagory.

Dafydd, Romney could have used this "advice" a month ago, and the results may have still come out the same. Romney supporters are only just now realizing that Huckabee has become Al Gore's Nadar.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2008 9:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Older Belligerent Men...hey, I like that!

What is this new swing voter bloc?

..First, the exit polls. McCain does best with older voters. He does better with men than women. He wins military veterans and those who believe the war in Iraq is the most important issue. None of this should be surprising. All of these qualities apply to McCain personally.

But there is something more raw and instinctual at work here too. Older belligerent men are not afraid of confrontation, either personally or politically. I’ve heard more than one guy mention McCain’s volcanic temper as a positive.

Good article! My main concern has always been - that I wanted a candidate who would at least keep the same pressure that 'W' has placed on the Muslim world, or better yet, one who would increase that pressure. Then I would get caught up in all the Blog and Talk Radio stuff (abortion, immigration, judges, etc.), and lose track of the fact that America is in a War.

America is already too far to the left for me, and it may never be able to swing back to the right until we Americans have been brought to our knees by our 'own hands'...so to speak of such issues as SS, Taxes, healthcare, Taxes, welfare, Taxes, oil and energy, Taxes, etc. In the meantime, we have a War to win, and I want to see the Muslim world on its knees before ours meets the ground.

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2008 9:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Too much too little too late for voters to understand.

I don't think the GOP delegate race will be over immediately after Über Tuesday; I think McCain will be far ahead... but not yet past the magic threshold.

Thus, there will be time; at some point, Huckabee will likely drop out (possibly at the convention itself, if it's brokered). And at that point, if Romney can get a much bigger chunk of the Huckabee delegates -- and especially if it becomes a replay of Gore Vidal's movie the Best Man -- then having made a strong play for the evangelicals currently following the doomed Huckabee may turn the tide.

But he's got to get on the hump now, not a month from now.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 3, 2008 4:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: Pat Curley

One big problem with this notion; the Conservative Christians remember who ran negative ads about their candidate, who erupted in anger and dismay when he won Iowa, and who stood there calmly and said "Governor Huckabee's a fine man and would make a great candidate."

And don't think they didn't notice that while their guy was "unacceptable", the guy who was acceptable is a Mormon.

But realistically? It's over after tomorrow.

The above hissed in response by: Pat Curley [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2008 8:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Oh great herp,
Please note that my frustration stems fromthe Romney-centric reporting that has infested the blogosphere.
Teh enws articles are not written much about what McCain has done *right*, but rahter what romeny has to do to win.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2008 11:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

When I read and hear all the current vitriol against John McCain, I wonder whether the Republican Tent has gotten so tiny that I'm not even inside anymore. If I look up, will I see fabric, or see stars? I don't know.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2008 7:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Greg Marquez

The people who support Romney have relentlessly attacked Mike Huckabee, lieing about him, as they are now about McCain, treating him like the crazy cousin at the family get together, referring to him as the Huckster and to his followers as his flock, and otherwise denigrating a man who spent 11 years as governor of a state.

Now they expect his supporters to support the guy they like? I think I hear someone in the background yelling, "The plane, the plane…boss."

Greg Marquez

The above hissed in response by: Greg Marquez [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2008 2:24 PM

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