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Why Mitt Romney is still the favorite (Elites are behind him, attacking Palin)
Salon's War Room ^ | March 8, 2011 | Steve Kornacki, News Editor

Posted on 03/08/2011 8:04:09 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

It is tempting -- very, very tempting -- to write off Willard "Mitt" Romney as a serious contender for next year's Republican presidential nomination. And, in fact, several knowledgeable observers already have.

Romney, in case you haven't heard, embraced a healthcare reform law in Massachusetts five years ago that ended up being the model for the national program that President Obama pushed through Congress without a single Republican vote last year. He's also dogged by the impression that he's an unusually spineless opportunist (the result of the extraordinary pains he took to win over socially liberal voters in Massachusetts before rebranding himself as right-wing culture warrior) who doesn't actually believe ... anything. And, of course, there's the matter of his Mormonism and the concerns it raises among some of the Christian conservatives who are so important in the GOP's nominating process.

Thus, even though the rest of the GOP field isn't (at this point) particularly strong or deep, Romney -- despite being crowned the front-runner as soon as the 2008 campaign ended -- is lucky if he breaks 20 percent in polls of national Republicans. The most recent Gallup poll, released earlier this week, has him at 16 percent -- in a virtual tie with Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

And yet, despite all of this, I'd still bet that GOP's standard-bearer next year will end up being Mitt Romney. Why? Even though he disagrees with my conclusion, the New Republic's Jonathan Chait offers a useful guide to analyzing the emerging Republican field:

My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda. The elites are the prime driver of the process; they can communicate, via organs like Fox News and The Weekly Standard, which candidates may be undeserving of serious consideration despite their emotional appeal to base voters. That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable).

But elites don’t always control the process. Sometimes they can get together and virtually determine the winner in advance (i.e., George W. Bush in 1999-2000), but, often, they can’t pick candidates without the assent of the base, which is capable of winnowing out elite-approved candidates. Think John Connally, Phil Gramm, or others for examples of candidates who made it through the elite primary but were nixed by the voters.

So, if you want to find the next Republican nominee, you need to find a candidate who’s acceptable to both elites and the base.

Applying this logic, Chait concludes that Palin, Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour would be disqualified immediately by the elites, with the base rejecting Jon Huntsman for his service in the Obama administration, Mitch Daniels for downplaying social issues, and Romney for his healthcare plan. Which would leave Pawlenty, who doesn't have any obvious flaws that would prompt the elites or the base to dismiss him off the bat.

Most of this makes sense. Certainly, as I've written, the GOP elites won't allow a Palin nomination -- they've already taken great strides toward extinguishing her hopes. And given his racial baggage, I agree that they'll resist Barbour, too. And since Huntsman and Daniels (if he even runs, which he probably won't) don't start off with big, built-in bases, I also agree that their apostasies are probably disqualifying. I'm inclined to disagree on Mike Huckabee, but it probably doesn't matter: It's doubtful that he'll run. So I can get it down to Romney and Pawlenty, too. But, for all of his woes, my sense is that Romney has more going for him than we realize.

When you look back at other competitive nominating contests in the modern era, the reality is that the GOP tends to nominate candidates who began the campaign with potentially severe problems with the base. John McCain, who was championing a Ted Kennedy-backed immigration reform plan when the '08 process began (and immigration was hardly his only problem), is the extreme example. Bob Dole, once dubbed "the tax collector for the welfare state" by Newt Gingrich, was hardly a perfect fit for the rabidly anti-government Republican Party of 1996. Nor was George H.W. Bush the ideal option for conservatives in 1988, even if he was Ronald Reagan's vice president. After all, he owed the vice presidency to a compromise after the 1980 primaries, in which he'd run to Reagan's left as a pro-choice opponent of trickle-down (or, as Bush put it, "voodoo") economics. Bush had been nothing but loyal to Reagan as V.P. (and had dutifully switched his positions on abortion, tax cuts and other issues), but the "New Right" hardly trusted him -- and Reagan himself actually stayed neutral in the GOP primaries.

All three of these apostates survived, even though there were elite-approved alternatives challenging them. Part of this was luck: A panicked GOP rushed to Dole's side when he lost New Hampshire to Pat Buchanan in 1996; but had Lamar Alexander finished in second place instead of Dole, all of that support might have gone to him instead -- with Dole wiped out. Similarly, McCain benefited from the inability of either Romney or Huckabee to corner the market on cultural conservatives, allowing McCain to win South Carolina and hold his own on the South on Super Tuesday (while winning the big non-Southern states with ease). But the examples of 1988, 1996 and 2008 also demonstrate that simply being an elite-approved candidate with potential appeal to the GOP base (think Jack Kemp -- aka Reagan's "true" heir -- in 1988) doesn't ensure that you'll break out, even when your opposition has serious problems with the base.

Indeed, there are some troubling early signs for Pawlenty, who is trying as hard -- and probably harder -- than any other Republican candidate. It's not that he's polling so poorly in national and early state polls; it's early and no one knows who he is yet -- that will happen. But even with audiences among whom Pawlenty is known and has had a chance to make an impression, the reviews and the results haven't been impressive. Consider last month's CPAC straw poll, which Pawlenty worked hard. But his speech largely fell flat and he finished in a three-way tie for 6th place with 4 percent -- behind even Chris Christie, who stayed as far away from CPAC as possible and who has repeatedly insisted he won't run. Pawlenty may yet catch fire with activists and opinion leaders in the GOP -- although I have trouble seeing how -- but simply being the only elite-approved candidate not named Mitt Romney is not going to vault him to 30 percent in Iowa.

Meanwhile, Romney, for all his flaws, starts with a significant base of support -- or at least potential support. The elites still see him as an acceptable, maybe even preferable, option for the nomination and plenty of Republican voters are still open to supporting him. If you assume that Huckabee and Palin won't run (or that Palin, if she does, will be marginalized), then Romney still begins this campaign as the closest thing there is to a default choice for Republicans. This doesn't mean that another candidate can't come along and supplant him, but it does give him a chance to fend off anyone who breaks through into the top tier.

Think back to that 1996 example: Buchanan ended up breaking through as Dole's main rival that year -- and (as Chait notes) since Buchanan was totally unacceptable to the elites (and to many non-elites), Dole then won with ease. So while we can dismiss, say, Gingrich now as unacceptable to the party elites, it doesn't mean that Gingrich (or someone like him) won't begin moving up in polls, or even have a surprise showing in an early state. It just means that, if it comes to it, the elites will turn on him hard. If Romney is the default alternative, then I doubt his healthcare baggage -- especially if he's saying all the right things about learning from the Massachusetts example, letting states decide for themselves, and wanting to repeal "ObamaCare" -- will prevent him from securing the nomination just like Dole did.

So, at least for now, my money's on Mitt. I just don't think Pawlenty has the chops to break out from the pack. (And even if he does -- let's see how he holds up under that microscope.) Nor do I see any of the other likely Romney rivals winning, for the reasons Chait describes. Now, if Chris Christie were to change his mind ...


TOPICS: Massachusetts; Issues; Parties; Polls; State and Local
KEYWORDS: 2012; backstabberromney; cheaterromney; freepressforpalin; gomermcromneylenty; miltromney; miltthemagicrino; nevertrustromney; obama; palin; poorsportromney; rinoromney; rinos; romney; romney4iag; romney4obamacare; romney4tarp; romneycare; sarahpalin; soreloserromney; themostrinoromney
Then there'll be a serious conservative third party campaign.
1 posted on 03/08/2011 8:04:13 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
RINOBOYS
2 posted on 03/08/2011 8:06:44 PM PST by FrankR (The Evil Are Powerless If The Good Are Unafraid! - R. Reagan)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I think there are some people who hope to make a profit by having Mitt run and spending tons of money. Imagine getting 5% of what Mitt will spend, especially if he thinks he’s tanking?

So win or lose they win, or at least certain bank accounts do.


3 posted on 03/08/2011 8:08:55 PM PST by DBrow
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

yeah, but if it’s proven that his father was born in Mexico he’ll never make it. this has been kept up wraps for quite a while .


4 posted on 03/08/2011 8:13:12 PM PST by MissDairyGoodnessVT (I am keeping the faith, I have not finished my course and I am fighting for the good)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I voted for Romney in the last Republican Presidential primary. He dropped out the next day. I won’t be voting for him again in the primary OR the general election. He pissed me off! If the Mama Grizzly Party doesn’t field a candidate, I’ll just write in Palin and Bachmann.


5 posted on 03/08/2011 8:16:52 PM PST by FlingWingFlyer (Just say NO to union greed!)
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To: MissDairyGoodnessVT

This guy Romney couldn’t compete with McCain so he quit. Obama beat McLame like a cheap toy. Romney is two things a mini statist and a quitter. He would doom the the country to 4 more years of Obama cause he couldn’t even carry his own so called base. I sure as hell wouldn’t vote for him. I say if your gonna get a commie anyway go for the real thing.


6 posted on 03/08/2011 8:18:18 PM PST by Breto (never accept the premise)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

This article is all over the place. The bottom line is that Romney is disliked by the base on Romneycare alone. There is no way around that issue since it is Obummers Achilles heel.


7 posted on 03/08/2011 8:18:39 PM PST by Lazlo in PA (Now living in a newly minted Red State.)
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To: DBrow
Good point.

You can think of it as a private sector stimulus bill for unemployed political consultants.

8 posted on 03/08/2011 8:21:02 PM PST by OddLane
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Isn't that precious?

The ruling class thinks they're still in charge!

9 posted on 03/08/2011 8:21:37 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum ("If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." -- Barry Soetoro, June 11, 2008)
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To: FlingWingFlyer
I did too, but only because the alternative was McCain.

Thankfully, I had a severe hernia on Election Day, so I didn't have to make the horrible choice of whom to vote for in the general election.

10 posted on 03/08/2011 8:23:39 PM PST by OddLane
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To: Breto

“Trump” would be better than Romney!
Romney’s going to do what ever the heirachy of his church tells him to do...they have a political/monetary/control agenda ..and religiously as wacky as the Islamic goons.


11 posted on 03/08/2011 8:23:56 PM PST by caww
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

12 posted on 03/08/2011 8:29:16 PM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist (Luke ScottWalker - The Force Is With You)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The Country Clubbers can hold their noses this time.

Pray for America


13 posted on 03/08/2011 8:32:03 PM PST by bray (Vote for Palin and against the Country Club)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

In this entire article not one mention of the Tea Party, as if its anti-elite powers do not exist and nothing has chamged..


14 posted on 03/08/2011 8:46:20 PM PST by DaxtonBrown (HARRY: Money Mob & Influence (See my Expose on Reid on amazon.com written by me!))
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To: DaxtonBrown

chamged=changed So any Typos, so little time.


15 posted on 03/08/2011 8:48:22 PM PST by DaxtonBrown (HARRY: Money Mob & Influence (See my Expose on Reid on amazon.com written by me!))
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To: FrankR

Favorite among who?


16 posted on 03/08/2011 8:50:35 PM PST by freekitty (Give me back my conservative vote; then find me a real conservative to vote for)
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist
I love that cover.
17 posted on 03/08/2011 8:58:23 PM PST by OddLane
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To: bray

“The Country Clubbers can hold their noses this time.”

Post of the Week and a great tagline.


18 posted on 03/08/2011 9:17:01 PM PST by headstamp 2
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To: bray

“The Country Clubbers can hold their noses this time.”

That would be a good campaign theme for next year’s primaries.


19 posted on 03/08/2011 9:30:34 PM PST by Comparative Advantage
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Then there'll be a serious conservative third party campaign.

Consider the source-Salon.

This is a piece of hogwash; A leftist stunt constructed with the goal of convincing us that Mitt Romney is the only electable candidate. The only thing that I get from this screed is that if a Republican is elected, they hope it's the RINO Romney. That's what this piece is about.

20 posted on 03/08/2011 9:39:50 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse (unite)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Just a different breed of a RINO.
21 posted on 03/08/2011 9:43:10 PM PST by Eye of Unk ("These people are either at your neck or at your knees" A quote by Winston Churchill)
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To: Lazlo in PA
The bottom line is that Romney is disliked by the base on Romneycare alone.

And, is hated by social conservatives because of his radically liberal record in Massachusetts on social issues.

Romney can only win if conservatives don't unify around a candidate.

22 posted on 03/08/2011 10:11:28 PM PST by Redskin Indian Chief
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To: Redskin Indian Chief

I think that if you took Romneycare out of the equation, Romney would be in a solid position for front runner status. I know a lot of fiscal conservatives and non elitist GOP base who would like Willard if it were not for that huge Albatross on his neck.

Right now the one single issue solidifying all factions of the GOP base is dislike of Myths healthcare folly.


23 posted on 03/08/2011 10:29:43 PM PST by Lazlo in PA (Now living in a newly minted Red State.)
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To: OddLane
Thankfully, I had a severe hernia on Election Day, so I didn't have to make the horrible choice of whom to vote for in the general election.

I kind of envy you. It's pretty bad when a hernia is more appealing than voting for the "republican" nominee. Don't blame you a bit. I held my nose.

24 posted on 03/08/2011 10:40:16 PM PST by tsowellfan (Don't Blame Me, I voted for Alan Keyes)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

There are some interesting comments at the site. Worth reading through.


25 posted on 03/08/2011 10:53:43 PM PST by Finny ("Raise hell. Vote smart." -- Ted Nugent)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Romney, in case you haven't heard, embraced a healthcare reform law in Massachusetts five years ago that ended up being the model for the national program that President Obama pushed through Congress without a single Republican vote last year. He's also dogged by the impression that he's an unusually spineless opportunist (the result of the extraordinary pains he took to win over socially liberal voters in Massachusetts before rebranding himself as right-wing culture warrior) who doesn't actually believe ... anything.

The title suggests that Romney is the favorite. Then immediately the thrashing begins. He's Obama-like on healthcare. They apply the phrase "spineless opportunist" to him. He brings nothing to the table (doesn't believe in anything.)

Thus, even though the rest of the GOP field isn't (at this point) particularly strong or deep, Romney -- despite being crowned the front-runner as soon as the 2008 campaign ended -- is lucky if he breaks 20 percent in polls of national Republicans. The most recent Gallup poll, released earlier this week, has him at 16 percent -- in a virtual tie with Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

The author groups him with Huckabee and Palin at this point by poll numbers.

And yet, despite all of this, I'd still bet that GOP's standard-bearer next year will end up being Mitt Romney. Why? Even though he disagrees with my conclusion, the New Republic's Jonathan Chait offers a useful guide to analyzing the emerging Republican field:

Subterfuge.

My view of the primary selection system is that it consists of two basic constituencies, the elites and the base. The elites want to find a candidate who is electable and committed to their policy agenda. The elites are the prime driver of the process; they can communicate, via organs like Fox News and The Weekly Standard, which candidates may be undeserving of serious consideration despite their emotional appeal to base voters. That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable).

I like that word usage: via organs. The last time I heard the word organs in this context, it was usually describing elements of a totalitarian state.
Elites and base. The theory that elites control the base, and what choices they will have. Perhaps that is how the Democrats operate; however, the Republicans have ignored their base in many preceeding years, and paid dearly. Some theory. The motive of this article is next. What a gem.

That’s how the elites have disqualified insurgent candidates like Pat Buchanan (too right-wing) and John McCain (too left-wing); they are now doing the same to Sarah Palin (too unelectable).

He now tries to knock off Palin, calling her 'unelectable'. Palin is the one person they fear most.

So, if you want to find the next Republican nominee, you need to find a candidate who’s acceptable to both elites and the base.anybody but Sarah Palin.

Most of this makes sense. Certainly, as I've written, the GOP elites won't allow a Palin nomination -- they've already taken great strides toward extinguishing her hopes.

Yes. Palin is out. I heard you the first time. Dream on. Last thing I heard was that she paid a visit to India (International recognition, small potatos, right?)

I'll skip past a few paragraphs of meaningless drivel here.

Meanwhile, Romney, for all his flaws, starts with a significant base of support -- or at least potential support. The elites still see him as an acceptable, maybe even preferable, option for the nomination and plenty of Republican voters are still open to supporting him. If you assume that Huckabee and Palin won't run (or that Palin, if she does, will be marginalized)

I suppose the author feels it necessary to take a third swipe.

That should be enough. This article isn't about Mitt Romney; it's a thinly veiled hit piece on Sarah Palin.

26 posted on 03/08/2011 11:00:48 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse (unite)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
the question I have to these “thoughtleaders” is how do you marginalize a candidate that people agree with on all most if not all the issues. Pat Buchanan was able to be marginalized because he was a crank on some issue like the jews. Palin OTHO lines up with the majority on almost every issue. To marginalize her you will have to marginalize the majority of the GOP.

the trouble with Palin a sfar as the elites see is the more people see of her the more they like her. therefore their answer is to not allow people to see her. Get her not to run, twist her words make up stuff etc. that type of effort is doomed to failure since it is all based on a lie.

27 posted on 03/08/2011 11:04:40 PM PST by unseen1
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To: MissDairyGoodnessVT; All
yeah, but if it’s proven that his father was born in Mexico he’ll never make it. this has been kept up wraps for quite a while.

Please don't be a dumbass, get some facts: Mitt's dad *was* born in Mexico to two parents who were always citizens of the United States. His father was NEVER a Mexican citizen because the laws of Mexico at the time forbid it. Case closed.

This "birther" stuff has become a kind of mental illness and Obama's got you dancing around like his puppets! He keeps the issue going by refusing to release documentation because it is good political strategy and makes his opposition look a bunch of nutjobs.

Get laws requiring eligibility documentation passed at the state level and MOVE ON! Don't be fooled by Obama's red herring. Stop being his useful idiots!

28 posted on 03/09/2011 1:16:44 AM PST by newzjunkey (No Romney, No Palin, No Huckabee, No Newt in 2012.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Mitchovitch Commney won’t get past his socialist mittcare plan that helped destroy MA. He’ll choke on it sure as water is wet.


29 posted on 03/09/2011 4:20:04 AM PST by Caipirabob ( Communists... Socialists... Democrats...Traitors... Who can tell the difference?)
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To: He Rides A White Horse

Great commentary - thanks for taking the time to post it.


30 posted on 03/09/2011 4:26:07 AM PST by Caipirabob ( Communists... Socialists... Democrats...Traitors... Who can tell the difference?)
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To: Redskin Indian Chief

‘Romney can only win if conservatives don’t unify around a candidate. “

And watch MSM assure that no other candidate “gets traction” by simply ignoring them and reporting that so-and-so “isn’t getting traction” or MSM attention, an Ouroboros loop.


31 posted on 03/09/2011 6:43:24 AM PST by DBrow
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To: Redskin Indian Chief

“Romney can only win if conservatives don’t unify around a candidate.”

This is where, IMHO, Sarah Palin can do a tremendous service. If she were to declare that she was not running but, instead, was supporting acceptable conservative candidate X, the unification you and I seek will happen almost overnight.

Sarah’s capacity to be a kingmaker cannot be underestimated.


32 posted on 03/09/2011 7:06:29 AM PST by Buckeye Battle Cry ("I've got tiger blood and Adonis DNA!")
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To: Caipirabob

Every now and then I get it right ;>)


33 posted on 03/09/2011 2:30:14 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse (unite)
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To: newzjunkey

Do you really believe Obama’s telling the truth? Boy, you are gullible, aren’t you?


34 posted on 03/09/2011 3:20:02 PM PST by conservativebuckeye
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