January 16, 2008

Breaking Through the Media Meme on GOP "Disarray"

Marc Comtois

Ian has linked to a typical MSM piece that purports to show that the GOP is in disarray because there have been 3 different winners in the caucus/primaries so far. It's a common theme. My gut reaction is that--contra the Democrats--Republicans are fighting over ideas, not identity, and that takes some figuring out. But a more basic fact is that, for the most part, the primary calendar is such that the early states are outliers to a typical primary. In short, they are wide open to others than simply Republicans. If you look closely at the numbers, you'll find that, thus far, Mitt Romney is doing very well amongst Republicans. (Everything that follows has been distilled from here).

First: there is a long way to go. But the 4 states that have made decisions actually do provide some insight into how Republicans are thinking (at least, Republicans in those states). Again--remember--of the four states, only Wyoming has a GOP-only(ie; "closed") primary. The rest are "open" to independents (and even Democrats). That is why for Iowa, NH and Michigan, there is a disparity between the overall % of vote garnered and the GOP-only vote:


Now, there are benefits to open and closed primaries, but my point here is to argue against this idea that Republicans are in a state of flux. So, in addition to the above, Romney won 67% of the Wyoming primary (which is "closed") and Thompson got 25%--both are more traditional Republicans of the Reagan mold (...that is supposedly broken).

Finally, taking a look at both the current delegate count and the % of GOP votes cast so far, it's pretty clear that Romney is the GOP frontrunner.


The only social conservatives Huckabee has proven he can get are Evangelicals (who are falling for "identity" politics, btw) while McCain relies heavily upon center-left Independents. Romney is the only one who has consistently pulled traditional, conservative Republicans, no matter how you spin it. Obviously, these "standings" can--and will--change. Giuliani is banking on a Florida + Super Tuesday plan and Thompson is banking on South Carolina. Both are more traditional Republicans (of the left and right kinds) than either Huckabee or McCain, so there will probably be some cutting into Romney's hold on the core demographic of, you know, actual Republicans.

ADDENDUM: Contra to some of the comments, I'm actually not a Romney guy, fellas. And trying to cite the media for proof of anything is exactly the problem. It is they who are "vexed" because they rely upon a simplistic frontrunner/underdog narrative to push their product. The GOP voters aren't complying by selecting multiple winners in, as I said, 3 (or 4) very different states. What I think the numbers show is if you focus just on GOP voters only, you'll see that the majority favors a candidate--Romney--with a more traditional, Republican message. (I also agree that Romney's 11th hour Michigan bailout is most definitely not "Reaganesque." However, most of his philosophy is what can be classified as tradional Republican--especially when compared to McCain or Huckabee).

Also, to reiterate, the GOP vote may swing to Guiliani or even Thompson in the upcoming states and I think either are more traditional Republicans--Guiliani a typical Northeastern Republican and Thompson a typical southern one--than either McCain or Huckabee. As for a national poll, well, primaries (and caucuses) are 50 individual contests--most for Republicans only and not just those who say they're Republican over the phone--and they can change based on the latest "conventional wisdom" and actual, you know, changes on the ground as candidates campaign in each individual state. Finally, I think Romney has enough money to stick it out for a while whether he wins or loses the next few states.

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So Marc, how exactly does Romney's $20 billion, uh, "five-year plan" to bail out the auto industry, rolled out on the eve of the Michigan vote, fit into the Reaganesque, traditional conservative mold you attribute to him? Maybe fiscal conservatism isn't part of Reagan fetishism anymore?

Posted by: Pragmatist at January 16, 2008 1:29 PM

Here's the dirty little secret, the only Republican who can win in November is John McCain. The only Democrat who can lose is Hillary Clinton. I think the Obama nomination is just about a foregone conclusion. It will be interesting to watch the party regulars jump ship after he smokes her in the SC primary. Will the R's be smart enough to nominate McCain and make it a horse race? I wouldn't bet one way or the other right now.

Posted by: observer at January 16, 2008 1:37 PM

Aside from the Mass mandatory health care and the flip flops, there is something about Romney that isn't selling me. Maybe its electability because I have a real hard time seeing it.

I agree that the electability card plays very well for McCain, but it depends on the opponent. I think Hillary will make McCain look like Reagan; but I think Obama will make McCain look like Bob Dole.

I've got all digits crossed for a miraculous Giuliani come-back starting with Florida. He's still the person I'd be most comfortable with in the White House and, despite current polling, I think he could beat either Hillary or Obama.

Posted by: George at January 16, 2008 2:06 PM

A day after the Rasmussen polling organization defined the NATIONAL Republican race as a two man one between McCain and Huckabee, how is it that Marc comes up with a contradictory interpretation that seems to support his candidate? Is he forming conclusions from a subset that doesn't really represent the whole? Before drawing such conclusions, wouldn't it be better to wait until the information comes in from South Carolina? Can a Republican candidate win without taking the South? Is Marc really aware of what transpired in Wyoming (where some Huckabee counties are represented by delegates committed to Romney due to someone footing the bill for convention expenses)? Has Romney's original strategy been successful? Does he have enough resources to make it successful?

Posted by: Barry at January 16, 2008 2:13 PM

Romney: I don't like him. Comes across as better than you and me.

McCain: Don't like him. He's a fan of taking apart free speech and his campaign finance reform made things worse.

Thompson: I like him. But that's because I don't know what he believes in.

Giuliani: I would have walked across hot coals for him after 9/11. Now? I am so underwhelmed.


I'm either staying home or voting for "ABH" (Anybody but Hillary) or for Obama.

Posted by: Greg at January 16, 2008 2:13 PM

The GOP likes to have a candidate early and takes every measure possible to avoid a drawn-out primary fight, from the pre-primary coronation of Dubya in 2000 to the winner-takes-all-delegates rule in virtually all their primaries (while thanks to the proportional delegate counts in nearly all Democratic primaries, Clinton and Obama will have a long, expensive war of attrition, with the superdelegate thing being the insiders' way of fixing the outcome in Hillary's favor).
Neither party wants to go to the convention with the nominee unsettled. Those of us who appreciate the dark arts would get a kick out of a convention that's not an anticlimax.

Posted by: rhody at January 16, 2008 2:18 PM

Good points, I tried to clarify in my addendum....

Posted by: Marc at January 16, 2008 2:38 PM

Romney is as genuine as the Clintons. a vote for anbody but McCain is, at this point, a vote for Clinton.

Posted by: Mike at January 16, 2008 7:59 PM

McCain (a/k/a McAmnesty-Feingold) is a vindictive whack job.

Romney is a windsock financial bureaucrat "moderate" a/k/a liberal.

Giuliani is a liberal.

Huckabee is an ordained Jimmy Carter.

The Democrats are all insignificantly different shades of socialism.

Thompson is imperfect but really the only choice.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 16, 2008 9:05 PM

You said:

The only social conservatives Huckabee has proven he can get are Evangelicals (who are falling for "identity" politics, btw)

I think you are sadly mistaken. Though that may be what you are getting from the news, in all actuality, that is wrong. I thought for sure there would be more Evangelicals among Huckabee supporters here in RI. But, alas, I find in our Huckabee gatherings that I am the only one who describes themselves as an Evangelical. We have a huge group of Catholics, and even non-religious people.

Also, you comment that we are falling for "identity politics."

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination

Have Evangelicals had a shared experience of injustice? Have we been marginalized or oppressed? Not that I am aware of. (Unless you count the disdain we receive here in the liberal Northeast, where these democrats who preach about equality and freedom, like to tell us we are wrong for our beliefs).

There is so much more to Gov. Mike Huckabee than many people give him credit for. But, alas, I really just wanted to share this Huffington Post piece:


Posted by: Christine at January 16, 2008 11:37 PM

Identity politics is being used when a single-factor is used to unite a portion of the polity. In the past, that has meant race or gender, both of which fit within the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition (good web site, by the way) which is predicated on some history of being downtrodden or the like. In today's culture wars, I'd bet that Evangelicals do believe that their morals--if not they themselves--have been shoved aside and ridiculed (as you yourself state occurs in the Northeast). Whether real or imagined, this persecution is something that Huckabee's candidacy speaks "truth to power" to. That is what makes him so attractive: he is an evangelical with whom other evangelicals can identify on a personal level. But while he is a social conservative, he is not an economic conservative, which some evangelicals don't care about, but most of the rest of the party does (including other evangelicals).

The numbers bear out my contention. Here is a breakdown of the percent of how many of all Evangelicals and non-evangelicals went his way:

State - Evangelical / Non-Evangelical
Iowa - 46%/14%
NH - 28% / 6%
MI - 29% / 8%

Obviously, other, non-evangelical social conservatives find him attractive, but the bulk of his support clearly comes from evangelicals.

Again, I'm not trying to belittle evangelicals. I probably agree with them on most social issues. But so far, Huckabee has only been able to generate solid support within that one demographic. That may change...we'll see.

Posted by: Marc at January 17, 2008 9:00 AM

Marc, Are you making the mistake that Romney made in Iowa? Romney's advertising at the end of the Iowa race was actually counterproductive because he couldn't tell the difference between a Methodist and a Mennonite. The upcoming South Carolina race has the media grouping Fundamentalists [Bob Jones III], Pentacostals [Pat Robertson], and Evangelicals [Huckabee] all under the same vague group title of "Evangelicals" when actually some of them pride themselves as NOT being Evangelicals [e.g., specifically Bob Jones III]. It has to be a lot more sophisticated than that to approach reality (and support your arguments). It was the late Lee Altwater who mastermined the move of the South Carolina primary in order to bring some political reality to the Republican appeal to morality. He once appeared in Time magazine significantly in front of a map of the United States with colored areas denoting geographical demoninational dominance. But then he was politically sophisticated to a degree that seems to be totally lacking in Romney (and McCain, and even to a much lesser degree in Thompson--hence his failure to catch on politically despite his early instant support). This should be of concern to Republicans who want to win the general election. The Democrats are making fools of themselves by following their consultants advice to quote Scripture [even in a certain blog in Rhode Island]; they always misquote it in such a way as to turn off the people they are supposedly trying to appeal to. The Republicans should learn a lesson from this. Yet the Republican field has plenty of candidates (and commentators) who have demonstrated they need to bone up on their knowledge of non-liturgical denominational groups. And Marc, please cut the disingenuous Huckabee-is-not-an-economic-conservative mantra. Policies addressing cultural decline by trying to stop the expensive extension of socialist benefits to illegal immigrants--which benefit a few of the very rich at the expense of the country--are a legitimate political issue in conservative circles.

Posted by: Barry at January 17, 2008 9:55 AM

Who would thought a guy like Huckabee, who seemed like the answer to many conservative Republicans' prayers (so to speak), would be a more divisive force within the party than a moderate or liberal Republican?
Willard's just mad because Huck poached on his religious conservative turf, forcing him to reinvent himself for the umpteenth time. Without Huck, the religious conservatives who are suspicious about Mormonism would've come around to Willard at the end.

Posted by: rhody at January 17, 2008 11:35 AM
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