The Weathervane Avoids Disaster

 

What could have been a very bad night for Mitt Romney, a/k/a The Weathervane, turned out to be mixed.  He won handily in Arizona, a state none of his opponents seriously contested.  In Michigan he dodged a bullet by eking out a 3 point victory over Santorum  The problem for the Weathervane is that Michigan should have been one of his strongest states, a state where his father was governor, and which he won by nine points in the Republican primary in 2008.  Outspending Santorum three to one, he barely won a victory in a state which should have been his going away.  Ironically he owed his victory to the fact that his old nemesis Gingrich stayed in and deprived Santorum of a winning margin.

Santorum missed a prize opportunity to do serious damage to the Romney campaign.  His off performance in the Arizona debate last week probably cost him a few points and the press coverage of him, as I am sure he expected it would be, has been largely negative.  However, he is clearly the anti-Romney candidate now, and in one of Romney’s strongest states he came close to winning.

Santorum needs more discipline as a candidate.  His speech in Michigan election night was a rambling tribute to his mother, energy policy, etc.  It was too long and lacked focus, and should have been a tightly written concise oration stating the main themes of his campaign and looking forward to Super Tuesday.  Romney is still reliant solely on his money advantage, in Arizona for example he outspent Santorum 14-1, and has great weaknesses as a candidate where that money advantage is less than completely overwhelming.  Unlike Florida where he humiliated Gingrich with a 15 point thumping, his victory against Santorum in Michigan indicates that he may be up against an opponent now who may be able to largely negate Romney’s strategy of smothering opponents with negative ads.

All should be clearer after Super Tuesday next week.  Go here for a good look ahead at Super Tuesday by Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics.

32 Responses to The Weathervane Avoids Disaster

  • Dale Price says:

    That’s as good a spin for Santorum as can be hoped, but the GOP electorate has decided that the most electable candidate is the one that takes Obamacare, energy production and the HHS mandate off the table.

  • Dale Price says:

    I know Santorum can recover. In an interesting development, he won southern Macomb County’s congressional district, home of the Reagan Dems.

    But I continue to be stunned by the unexamined assumption that Mitt is the most electable. I guess those folks assume gas will be at $5 a gallon and Romney will somehow wave away his cap-and-trade law.

    Here’s hoping Ohio has better critical thinking skills.

  • Romney appeals to those GOP insiders who always wish to go with the safe choice. Play it safe is always the motto of the GOP establishment, the same type of people who backed Ford in 1976, Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008. The safe choice can win but it is always by a hair, Nixon in 68, Bush in 2000 and 2004, unless the Democrat implodes, McGovern in 1972 and Dukakis in 1988. Fortunately for Romney, if he does end up being the nominee, I think Obama will be in sad shape in November due to high unemployment, high gas prices, perhaps sky high gas prices, and the coming war with Iran. The announcement by the Israeli government yesterday that they will not give the US government prior notification of an attack on Iran I suspect was done on behalf of the Obama administration to give them plausible deniability of being in cahoots with Israel prior to the attack being launched.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Super Tuesday will largely hinge on Ohio. Oklahoma is a layup for Santorum, and Mass is the same for Romney. Georgia is going to be interesting. It’s Newt’s “home” state (despite not being raised there and not currently living there), but Santorum was fairly close in the latest polls. I haven’t seen polls in North Dakota but I would assume that favors Santorum. Tennessee also looks good for Santorum, and Vermont should be another Romney win. Currently Santorum is doing well in Washington, which has its caucus on Saturday. Now I don’t know how recent events will make things shake out, but it’s looking like next Tuesday should be a fairly good day for Santorum.

    As for Michigan, I note that it was the senior vote that put Romney over the top. I can only speculate that many of these folks just thought they were voting for his dad.

  • bill bannon says:

    I can envision Obama’s campaign speeches against Mitt….” my wife doesn’t have a couple of cadillacs and I don’t bet $10,000 on anything and that orientation of ours comes from the gravitas that most families have about life and money irrespective of net worth. To send people into war or to withdraw them from war at the right time requires gravitas…not the light headed modality of someone who seems to never have suffered.”
    It’ll be so easy for Obama writers.
    If Mitt gets that far, it’s going to be impossible not to watch the gaff meter….like counting the number of times basketball player Allen Iverson said “practice” to the sports media in his now
    famous sports press conference of another time. How many hard pressed families can Mitt offend per week by implying they are not successful in the shallowest area of life. It’s going to be pro choice versus smiley shallow. Obama may even raise the question as to whether God has ensouled Romney to date (ergo his lack of empathy with the unsuccessful)….God ensouled Adam while the latter was fully adult and breathed the soul through Adam’s nostrils. Can’t rule it out.

  • Blackadder says:

    Michael Barone has an interesting analysis of last night’s returns suggesting that they show Romney’s potential strength in the fall (in brief: Romney managed to do better in the suburbs than Republican presidential candidates have done in 20 years).

    Looking at the delegate math, it’s not clear to me that Santorum has a path to victory at this point. He can draw out the campaign, potentially damaging the eventual nominee in the fall, but I don’t see how he wins a majority of delegates.

  • Big Tex says:

    Currently Santorum is doing well in Washington, which has its caucus on Saturday.

    Two things… Saturday is just at the precinct level. Then we have the county level on 3/31. Then state is somewhere down the line from there. The WSRP is notorious for going for the safe choice. Also, WA is a rather left wing state, so a moderate is about all I expect to get WA’s delegates.

  • “Also, WA is a rather left wing state, so a moderate is about all I expect to get WA’s delegates.”

    Actually Washington is a divided state, with the Republicans tending to be very conservative and the Democrats being very liberal. I expect Santorum to do well there.

  • “Looking at the delegate math, it’s not clear to me that Santorum has a path to victory at this point. He can draw out the campaign, potentially damaging the eventual nominee in the fall, but I don’t see how he wins a majority of delegates.”

    Considering that the contest has just started BA, I don’t see how anyone can do delegate math and reach that conclusion. As to damaging Romney, I think Romney manages quite capably by himself in regard to that. If anything, this contest will make Romney a better candidate in the Fall, if he gets the nomination, assuming he has any sort of learning capability at all in regard to becoming a better politician, something I doubt.

  • T. Shaw says:

    Bill:

    President Obama’s wife spends on average $2 million (taxpayers’ money) a month on vacations.

    After nearly tthree years in control, Obama had the garvitas to getUS troops out of Iraq. Gitmo is still open. President Obama imnmediately stopped water-boarding three mass murderers; and ordered the aerial drone assassinations of hundreds muslim suspects.

    President Obama may now get us out of Afghanistan, after his apologoes got a bunch of our soldiers shot in the backs of their heads.

    But hey, I’m with President Obama on the apologies initiative.

    If I were President Obama, I would release the following statement:

    “On behalf of the Fifty-Seven United States of America, I apologize for the deaths of 19 muslims who were killed by New York City’s World Trade Center on 11 September 2001.”

  • Blackadder says:

    Donald,

    CNN has an interactive delegate calculator that lets you look at various options. I’ve played around with it a fair amount. Romney currently leads Santorum by 100 delegates, and has another 140 all but guaranteed in Massachusetts (his real home state), Virginia (where Santorum isn’t even on the ballot), and Utah (self-explanatory). If we assume on the other side that Santorum will win Pennsylvania (which is winner take all), that still leaves him with a 168 delegate deficit to Romney. Given that the delegates in most of the remaining states are allotted proportionately, the only way that Santorum can come back from this delegate hole is if Romney collapses completely, which is not going to happen.

  • Big Tex says:

    Actually Washington is a divided state, with the Republicans tending to be very conservative and the Democrats being very liberal. I expect Santorum to do well there.

    It would be nice. However, my experience is west of the Cascades, which is a different reality than eastern WA. Four years ago, all I heard was “We must support McCain! He’s the only one that’s electable!” There were better conservative options, in my opinion then. Can the east’s more conservative bent overcome the west’s more liberal tendencies? I hope.

  • Pinky says:

    Santorum reminds me of a good sports team that can rally to beat their rivals in one game a year, but don’t have the talent to put up a playoff-quality W/L record over a season. Santorum basically tied Romney in Iowa, where Romney didn’t spend much time. Rick swept the three non-binding states on February 7th, but again, they were largely uncontested. Rick avoided direct fights with Romney in Maine, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. Michigan was the first time the two of them invested effort in the same state, and Mitt won.

    If Romney gets a boost in the polls after this win, he could have a pretty good Super Tuesday. If Santorum can win OH, OK, and TN, he’d prove himself to be a contender, but if he loses any of them then Romney will return to being the presumed nominee. And I think he can grind out a win from there.

  • “if Romney collapses completely, which is not going to happen.”

    Frankly BA nothing would surprise me this campaign. Additionally I assume that Gingrich will give his delegates to Santorum eventually if he can forestall the nomination of Romney by doing so. I rather suspect that Ron Paul would do the same for Romney if that is what it takes to ensure that he is the nominee so there are wheels within wheels here. California with 169, and New Jersey with 50, are winner take all states on June 5, and they may decide it.

  • Blackadder says:

    Donald,

    If Paul does give his delegates to Romney, then that will more than cancel out any advantage Santorum gets if Newt gives him his delegates (though I don’t expect it will come to that). In fact, if the Paul camp is to be believed a lot of Santorum’s delegates are really Paul delegates, since they come mainly from caucus states that Paul claims to have infiltrated. Of course, all that only matters if there is a brokered convention, which I doubt will happen.

    You are right that New Jersey is winner take all. I didn’t list it as one of Romney’s guaranteed wins, but I think he is very likely to win there because of Christie’s support and the state’s favorable demographics. The demographics are favorable to Romney in California too, but you are mistaken in saying the state is winner take all. As in Michigan, California’s delegates are awarded by congressional district. My hope would be that the race will have concluded long before then. If not, that will be an enormous waste of time and money that could be better spent with an eye towards the fall.

  • “If Paul does give his delegates to Romney, then that will more than cancel out any advantage Santorum gets if Newt gives him his delegates (though I don’t expect it will come to that).”

    It depends upon what the number of delegates are for each candidate by the time of the convention BA, and assumptions on what those numbers will be are merely guesstimates at best.

    “In fact, if the Paul camp is to be believed a lot of Santorum’s delegates are really Paul delegates, since they come mainly from caucus states that Paul claims to have infiltrated.”

    That sounds like the type of conspiracy mongering that I would expect from the devotees of Doctor Delusional.

    “You are right that New Jersey is winner take all. I didn’t list it as one of Romney’s guaranteed wins, but I think he is very likely to win there because of Christie’s support and the state’s favorable demographics.”

    Last night was the first night I believe in which a candidate endorsed by a Republican governor won that governor’s state. We will see what New Jersey looks like by June 5.

    “The demographics are favorable to Romney in California too, but you are mistaken in saying the state is winner take all. As in Michigan, California’s delegates are awarded by congressional district.”

    Most are awarded by district and some are awarded state wide. I was misinformed initially by a site that didn’t note the change of California from winner take all in 2004. As for demographics, unless the Mormons are holding out on their numbers from the census figures, or there is a demographic favorable in the Republican party to fake conservatives from Massachusetts, I am unsure how anyone can speak assuredly about demographics this early in the contest.

  • Bruce in Kansas says:

    Depending on the state, not all delegates are obligated to vote as their caucuses or primaries dictated. There are also super delegates wh can vote however they want.

  • bill bannon says:

    T Shaw,
    Secret Service and secured planes (not poulette au reisling) are the expense in Presidential vacations. Just war theory requires success as possible. That rules out the Afghanistan fiasco. If you owed Visa $14 trillion, would you spend another one trillion rearranging but not changing two unbaptized populations one of whom will be farming opium until Elijah returns? Look at the mountains there…impossible to police. One in five vets has PTSD. That comes from risking for no gain.

  • Art Deco says:

    the same type of people who backed Ford in 1976, Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008. The safe choice can win but it is always by a hair, Nixon in 68, Bush in 2000 and 2004,

    For the record, Mr. Ford was the incumbent president, who had not done a poor job in office. Mr. Dole’s principal opponents were a newspaper columnist and a magazine publisher. Mr. McCain’s principal opponents were the fellow you refer to as ‘the Weathervane’, the fellow you refer to as ‘Doctor Delusional’, and Gov. Huckabee. Mr. Nixon’s principal opponents were Gov. Rockefeller and Gov. Reagan, the latter of whom had been in office all of a year and a half; his margin of victory was shaved to a nubbin by the presence of George Wallace. The show candidate in 2000 was Dr. Keyes, whom I doubt would have improved on Mr. Bush’s performance. I cannot imagine whom you would have nominated in lieu of the President in 2004.

  • Paul D. says:

    “Play it safe is always the motto of the GOP establishment, the same type of people who backed Ford in 1976, Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008″

    Agreed.

    Now, what’s interesting in this crazy election cycle is who has been added to this mix. No conservative in my little corner of the world that supports Romney today was a McCain supporter of yesteryear. Such is the difference in this election.

  • “For the record, Mr. Ford was the incumbent president, who had not done a poor job in office.”

    Disagree Art. I vividly remember the “Win” buttons which was his strategy against inflation.

    “Mr. Dole’s principal opponents were a newspaper columnist and a magazine publisher.”

    I think Steve Forbes would have been far better as a candidate Art than Zombie Dole.

    “Mr. McCain’s principal opponents”

    Better the Huckster than Zombie McCain, although I agree that it was a very bad field that year.

    “Mr. Nixon’s principal opponents were Gov. Rockefeller and Gov. Reagan, the latter of whom had been in office all of a year and a half;”

    You can guess Art who I was supporting at the age of 11.

    “The show candidate in 2000 was Dr. Keyes, whom I doubt would have improved on Mr. Bush’s performance.”

    I was backing Steve Forbes Art, although I hoped that Bush would govern more conservatively than he in fact did.

    “I cannot imagine whom you would have nominated in lieu of the President in 2004.”

    No one Art. I listed 2004 as another example of how safe Republican candidates tend to produce cliff hangers.

  • Foxfier says:

    Heard some really amusing spin this afternoon– a middle conservative guy talking on the radio about how Mitt beat Santorum by so little just because of the liberals– 41 to 38; about two minutes later, he offered as support for Mitt being popular with those who self-identified as conservative: “Mitt won, 43 to 41!”

    No idea who did the polling he was reading off, but it amused me. ^.^

  • Art Deco says:

    Disagree Art. I vividly remember the “Win” buttons which was his strategy against inflation.

    The WIN buttons were an odd public relations campaign. The actual results were as follows:

    Increase in the Consumer Price Index,

    August 1973-August 1974: 10.8%
    January 1976-January 1977: 5.2%

    I think Steve Forbes would have been far better as a candidate Art than Zombie Dole.

    Whether or not he had been a ‘good candidate’, he was running for public office, which he had never before held.

    I was backing Steve Forbes Art

    The three candidates who actually won delegates and more than a scatter of votes were Gov. Bush, Sen. McCain, and Dr. Keyes. I like Keyes, up to a point. Wrong job for him, though.

  • “August 1973-August 1974: 10.8%
    January 1976-January 1977: 5.2%”

    And Ford had as much to do with that Art as his silly WIN Buttons. Inflation went down after the ending of the Arab oil embargo and the economy adjusted to higher energy prices. That inflation had not been cured by Ford’s ministrations was dramatically illustrated during the tenure of his successor.

    “Whether or not he had been a ‘good candidate’, he was running for public office, which he had never before held.”

    I doubt if Dole’s life sinecure in warming a seat in Congress Art made him much better prepared. It certainly did not prevent him from running one of the most lifeless and dispiriting Presidential races that I have ever witnessed by any candidate not named John McCain.

    “I like Keyes, up to a point.”

    I respected Keyes Art until I witnessed the appalling campaign he put on here in Illinois against Obama in the Senate race of 2004. Dreadful beyond belief.

  • Art Deco says:

    And Ford had as much to do with that Art as his silly WIN Buttons. Inflation went down after the ending of the Arab oil embargo and the economy adjusted to higher energy prices. That inflation had not been cured by Ford’s ministrations was dramatically illustrated during the tenure of his successor.

    I had no idea you had studied the intricacies of monetary policies as followed during the years running from 1973 to 1979. In any case, these are the core inflation figures (price increases during the calendar year with food and energy prices excised).

    1973: 3.6%
    1974: 8.3%
    1975: 9.1%
    1976: 6.5%
    1977: 6.3%
    1978: 7.4%
    1979: 9.8%
    1980:12.4%
    1981:10.4%
    1982: 7.4%

    During the Ford Administration, the core inflation figures began to decline around about March of 1975 and continued to do so (not quite monotonically) until he left office. During the Carter Administration, they began to escalate around June of 1978 reaching their peak in June of 1980.

  • A handy dandy resource for looking at inflation in the US from 1914-2012 is at the below link Art:

    http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/

    Inflation reached a low of 4.9% in November of 1976. In December of 1976 it had bounced back to 5.8%. December of 1977 it was up to 6.5%. Ford enjoyed a brief decline in the seventies inflationary spiral for about a year and a half, but his policies had not touched the core of the problem which took Reagan to address.

  • Art Deco says:

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes this data.

    Month-to-month headline inflation figures bounce around quite a bit. The core inflation figures have the volatile food and energy prices removed so fluctuate less. The month-to-month core metrics were on a downward trajectory from March of 1975 to the time Mr. Ford left office and for some months thereafter. Specifically, core inflation was running at an annualized rate of 11.7% in February of 1975 and at one of 6.3% in July of 1977. The country was not in a recession at that time either. The recession ended in early 1975.

    I do not see how that qualifies as poor performance, no matter how much milage comedians got out of the WIN program. All administrations are messy and make errors. In my lifetime, we have had three administrations (Nixon’s, the younger Bush’s, and the current one) which made far more severe errors than any Gerald Ford ever contemplated without incurring severe intraparty challenges, one administration which incurred a challenge for reasons irrelevant to its actual flaws (Mr. Carter’s), and two administrations among the least problematic of the post-war period who were badly injured by intra-mural party squabbling (Messrs. Ford and Bush the Elder). The only occasion where truly wretched performance met with a relevant challenge (albeit a challenge with poor prescriptions) occurred in 1968.

  • Foxfier says:

    This seems to be the source of that amusing soundbite I mentioned.

    I figured out what was screwy– most major lefties don’t ID as dem, they’re “independent.” If you look at how people self-ID’ed by ideology– which is a bit more reliable– then he was far more popular with “moderate or liberal” than Rick.

    The probability that any people really trying to screw with the primary would lie like a dog makes the data even shakier, but not much you can do there.

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