Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Behind the Scenes Workings"

The Republican party bosses wanted this race over early. They would have been happy to have called it for Mitt Romney prior to the South Carolina primary. Unfortunately, there were a few "annoyances and hiccups.!"

For a few days it looked like Romney had it locked up. He had won Iowa and New Hampshire. He had the endorsement of South Carolina Governor(and Tea Party darling) Nikki Haley. The one Republican who was originally feared to be his most formitable opponent, Rick Perry, "was returning to Texas to access" his campaign. The primary was thought to be a "done deal."

Then came the first "hiccup." Rick Santorum had actually won Iowa. True, the former Pennsylvania Senator had not received the "bump" that he should have gotten after his unlikely win in Iowa. That had unjustly gone to Romney. The "annoyance" came in the form of payback from Newt Gingrich.

Smarting from the super PAC TV pummeling he took in Iowa, the former Speaker retaliated. Recession ridden, South Carolina became acquainted with "Bain Capital Mitt," the downsizer and outsourcer of small business in rural Americana. Gingrich's super PAC onslaught coupled with a solid debate performance delivered the Palmetto State.

Turn-about is fair play. Especially when you have a "Restore our Future" super PAC in your court. The result was a devastating blitz of more negative ads in Florida. Gingrich couldn't effectively respond. His campaign has never been the same; although he did score a convincing win in Georgia. It might be noted that Santorum had cut the campaign short to attend to his special needs daughter's illness in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps Romney strategists never took Rick Santorum seriously. There was certainly reason for it! He had no money and it looked like his campaign would dry up for lack thereof. Then came the sweep. Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri Santorum won in surprising fashion. Romney was quick to downplay all three losses. Missouri was actually nothing more than a straw poll. Romney didn't campaign in Minnesota. Colorado was a disappointment but it had an annoying number of "very conservative" voters.

Most disconcerting was that Michigan and Ohio were suddenly battlegrounds. Romney narrowly won both. But he was forced to pay a "pound of flesh" to do it. The payment came in the form of negative ads from his super PAC. Not to mention his own war chest! Santorum's fundraising efforts improved. But they came from $50 and $100 dollar contributions. His camp was gravely acknowledging how difficult it was to compete with Fortune 500 pocketbooks!

Also coming up short was Santorum's organization. He failed to make get on the Virginia ballot. Ohio was much closer than the lopsided delegate total. The trend of winning in the suburbs continued for Romney and resumed in Illinois. He was dominant with voters in households that boasted 200k plus incomes.

Throughout it all, Santorum continued to deliver the "blue collar," moderate income voters. His performance in Dixie has been impressive. Newt's disappointing finish in Louisiana may be a sign of things to come. But for now, he's still in the race.

Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia are "winner take all." There are 98 delegates at stake. A Romney sweep will once again bring out calls to end the primary and declare Romney the winner. This happened after Illinois, although nobody really thought that Romney would lose. So what is happening behind the scenes?

Florida Governor, Jeb Bush's endorsement may be a clue. So might Jim Demint's unofficial blessing. They are saying it's "time to focus on the general election." They emphasize the importance of "unity within party ranks." The subjectively point to Romney's assumed electability. What they are not stressing is "why" Rick Santorum would not be a viable alternative.

There is fear that the party may split, and for good reason. Conservatives never settled on one candidate. In the fall debates there was constant emphasis and magnification of "non general election issues." Three candidates with executive experience exited the race. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin(not to mention Bush) never became candidates. Considering the stakes, it wasn't the strongest of fields!

Some say that Santorum survived only because he was never on the radar. As we move in the "second half" of the primary season, he looks to be the only possible option to Mitt Romney. So why is Romney having such a difficult time closing the deal? Maybe it's because conservatives see him for what he is!

As one good friend in Fort Lauderdale phraised it, "Mitt Romney is a carbon copy of Bill Clinton. If you liked Bill Clinton, you'll love Mitt Romney. He's Clinton, without the sex scandals."

Don..., a lifelong Democrat admitted to having voted for Obama in '08. "But," as he surmised, "Obama turned out to be a lot more liberal than advertised." He will "enthusiastically" vote for Mitt Romney if he is the Republican nominee.

Don's perception seems to be consistent with most fellow Jewish voters in Broward County. Describing himself as a "Bill Clinton Democrat," Don thought that Hillary was "too polarizing." He had voted for Obama, thinking that he would be more moderate. He compares Romney to former Massachusetts Governor, William Weld, former Florida Governor, Charlie Crist and certain prominent Democrats.

"Mitt is similar to his old friend, Paul Tsongas." Don added. Tsongas, who ran unsuccessfully for President in 1992 as a Democrat, described himself as a "pro-business liberal."

There are perhaps millions of voters like Don in America. The Republican establishment thinks so. These "moderate Democrats to mushy Republicans,"living in the suburbs are comfortable with Mitt Romney. Many voted for Obama in 2008 and are unsatisfied, if not angry with his report card. The question becomes, "are these voters numerous enough to make the difference?"

Republicans are nearly unanimous in their preference for Marco Rubio as the Vice Presidential pick. Romney's glaring weakness with Hispanics would be greatly diminished with Marco on the bottom of the ticket. "Blue collar" Democrats gravitate to him. Younger voters see him as a "rock star." His record with women voters is impressive. Experts believe that he would deliver five key states to Romney.

At 41, Rubio would be positioning himself for a future presidential run. His close friend and mentor Jeb Bush has endorsed Romney. Why would there be hesitation? Maybe it's due to Romney being a "carbon copy" of the man he routed in the Florida Senate race.

A heavy underdog, Rubio overcame Republican national money and a cold shoulder from party leadership to run an unlikely campaign against an incumbant governor. Throughout the race, he never referred to Charlie Crist by name. He labeled him "the Arlen Specter wing" of the party. It's possible, if not probable that he sees Romney in the same light.

Rubio has not endorsed any of the candidates. But it might be noted that his people worked on the Gingrich campaign. It's also fact that Crist's former staffers aided the Romney Florida campaign. Rubio has admitted that he and Romney were "in agreement" on foreign affairs. Domestically, Rubio is a "supply sider." Romney is a "Keynesian."

In 2008, Rubio supported Governor Huckabee and applauds his "fair tax" proposal. Romney is a "progressive." Unlike Rubio, who favors an overhaul of the current tax system, Romney seems to be satisfied with adjusting the current structure. Romney believes that small business is the "backbone" of America. Most of Romney's financial support is coming from Fortune 500 companies.

In short, these two men are miles apart on most things. Without question, Romney would be happier to have a Bob McDonald, Mitch Daniels or Chris Chrisie as his running mate. But Governor Romney is a smart man. He knows that without the voters Rubio brings, he's in trouble.

There is concern that conservatives may revolt if Romney is the nominee and loses in the general election. This has been a long time in coming. That time could be upon us. Rubio could check that, turning a loss into a win. The Repubican Establishment is keenly aware of this.

In short, "will Marco Rubio do one for the team?" The "bluebloods" are utterly counting on it. But what if he doesn't?

Then there is the question of Romney failing to procure the necessary 1144 delegates. He is confident that he will get there. A sweep of Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will be big and it could happen. Santorum isn't on the ballot in D.C..Romney is polling ahead in Maryland. Wisconsin is still up for grabs. A Santorum win in the Badger state could prolong the outcome through May. The inevitability of a brokered convention would look more probable than ever! Then what?

Establishment types do not want Santorum as the nominee. Not because he can't beat Obama! He can and would be actually stronger than Romney in the general election. However, his past anti-right-to-work votes make big business nervous.His plan calls for bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores. Some see him as a "closet protectionist."

Romney's aide's now famous, "etch-a-sketch" analogy has become a keynote in the campaign. This hints to the fear that Romney has an alternative message for general election voters. Establishment fears the same from Santorum. Not that he would attempt to "remake" his campaign! A better description would be to "complete it."

There is no way to discuss renewed manufacturing in America without including measures to curb offshore outsourcing. This is a sensitive subject in California and the Industrial Midwest especially. Santorum is from a part of America that has been hurt by jobs shipped abroad for promise of fewer regulations and cheaper wages. Republicans agree on the regulations but not on the wages. A Santorum administration could easily introduce legislation that would tax companies who chose to ship jobs overseas. It wouldn't bode well for Fortune 500 companies.

That's why there will be an all out effort to convince Marco Rubio that he needs to be Romney's running mate. If he gives the Establishment bosses the same cold shoulder that they gave him in 2009, all bets are off. He might even do the "unthinkable" and endorse Santorum!

What about Newt? He has vowed that he will stay in the race until Tampa. Still, there is the chance that if he finishes May with 200 delegates and a real chance to thwart Romney's bid, he might do it.

Californa has 172 delegates in a winner take all primary. Romney holds the lead, but does not have a majority. If Gingrich chose to endorse Santorum and actively campaigned for him, it might be enough.

Ron Paul doesn't look to drop out. California has a strong representation of Libertarians. It's conceivable that the Texas Congressman could take 10-12% of the overall votes cast. Odds are, three fourth of Gingrich's supporters would back Santorum. There is also the chance that some of the other GOP heavyweights such as Sarah Palin might jump in on behalf of Santorum.

Anyway you cut it, even with super delegate help, Romney would be in deep trouble if he loses California. The Establishment hopes that these super delegates won't be needed. But if Romney shows up to Tampa with 1000 delegates, look for Santorum to be the nominee.

That's exactly why the "wheels are turning" behind the scenes. A Rubio endorsement of Romney could seal the deal nicely! And certainly more safely!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Romney Contributors are Consistent With His Image.

GOP Establisment choice, Mitt Romney is easy enough to fathom. While professing to be a Washington outsider, he definitely knows his way around K street!

Washington D.C.'s K Street is where the power brokers reside. These political insiders are investing heavily in a Romney-Obama match in November. In fact, in a recently published Newsmax article, it was reported that nearly 390 registered lobbyists and lobbying politcal action committes had contributed $1.5 million to Restore our Future. This super PAC has backed Romney and been the source of millions of negative political ads targeted at other Republican candidates.

Many Romney donors represent the healthcare and financial services sectors. These included familiar names such as Merck, Medronic, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. One of the power players is Charles Black, Jr. who lobbies for A.T.&T. and Wal-Mart. Another is Wayne Berman, who represents Pfizer Inc. and Visa Inc. Then there is Ed Rogers, who lobbies for defense contractor Raytheon Co and drugmaker, GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

When Rick Santorum says that his "donors come from grassroots America while Romney's largely come from Washington lobbies," he's telling the truth! Santorum has received less than $20,000 from these sources. Newt Gingrich received slightly more(about $93,000). Ron Paul received a whopping $750!

Reality is, many of these same big players are likewise contributing to the Obama campaign. They are effectively hedging their bets! You can't say the same with Santorum's $20 givers!

Which brings us back to the original question: "Can the establishment successfully cram Romney down the throats of Republican conservatives?" Their primary weapon has been the same one used in 1980.

We recall the assumption that Ronald Reagan was too conservative to win the general election. His opponent, George Herbert Walker Bush was the moderate with a grand resume. Bush backers touted his electability. He had everything in his favor, the state primary sequence, the money and the establishment's blessing. But Reagan had one thing that Bush lacked: passion. He connected with America. We know the rest of the story.

We should not forget the lesson of 1980. Not that Reagan won the nomination as much as how decisively he defeated Jimmy Carter. For those who remember, they recall that Carter made a huge judgment error. He allowed the environmental movement to effectively "break line," placing their agenda ahead of the unions. The country was regulated to the hilt. Don't look now, but Obama is making those same mistakes!

The opportunity was perfect for a real conservative to win and Reagan took advantage of it. Would Bush have capitalized in the same manner? Probably not! A devout "Keynesian, Bush called Reagan's supply side theories "voodoo economics." True, he likely would beaten Carter. But the badly needed course change wouldn't have happened!

Like Bush the elder, Romney is a "Keynesian." Unlike Bush, he has two major hurdles. One is healthcare. His plan is simply too close to Obama's for comfort! He also has major problems with Hispanics.

Rick Santorum can pick up on this, even more so than Newt Gingrich. "Romneycare" allows Santorum to present the contrast between himself and the President. Romney loses this card. Plus, Latinos will unquestionably gravitate to the "son of immigrants, from a blue collar family." It certainly doesn't hurt that he's a Roman Catholic!

Assuming that Santorum is insightful enough to choose a Hispanic running mate, he could eclipse the 44% Latino vote tally that George W. Bush won in 2004. Romney will be fortunate to receive 30%(he's currently polling at 14%) of the Hispanic vote. That could tip the scales in Florida and key southwestern states in favor of the Democrats.

"Where" his money came from will enter the picture. Class warfare will be Obama's strategy. Romney will be positioned as "Fortune 500 Mitt," the candidate of Wall Street, the big banks and K street lobbies. Voters will be reminded of his historic friendliness to "offshore outsourcing." This, in itself is hypocritical. But "blue collar" Democrats will buy it!

Somehow, the brightest minds in the Republican party are slow to reach for their history books! The position taken is "the polls indicate that Romney would do better in the general election than the other candidates." A closer look shows that these polls include New York, Maryland, California and Connecticut? The fact that Romney might lose 53-47 as compared to Santorum losing 59-41 in New York won't matter in the final electoral count.

The real test is whether Romney can energize the base. The establishment thinks that he can. But indications suggest "tepid acceptance at best." The hope is Evangelicals will vote against Obama while holding their noses! Yet the party "bluebloods" may be overestimating Mitt Romney's electability. Or, underestimating that of his opponents.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Can Romney Win?

Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," former Romney campaign manager, Mike Murphy sounded annoyed that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had not already quit the race. His notion is consistent with Eastern establishment Republicans.

There seems to be a universal point of view that "by prolonging the primary, those unable to see the "Romney light" are alienating Independents." Is this practical? Is this presumptuous? Could it even hold a taint of arrogance?

Mitt Romney's campaign has boasted the best organization, most money and all that accompany a five-year march toward the White House. In the early stages of the campaign, Mitt was mostly focused on Barack Obama. Then, as the challengers came forth he turned to his mega-pac to systematically destroy them with waves of often stinted, negative advertising.

Perhaps these opponents got what they deserved! After all, common sense would have dictated that Romney was the logical candidate. It was, in fact, "his turn" to be the nominee. He had resources, name recognition and the blessing of Wall Street and the Eastern bankers. A presumptive appeal to Independents made him the "most electable" option.

Somehow the party brass forgot that the nation doesn't end at the 40th parallel. Or, on the eastern shores of Lake Erie! They also failed to remember that the country is increasingly diverse. To gain White House entry, Republicans must capture a fair representation of Women, Hispanics, Millinials and "blue collar" Democrats.

There is evidence that the former Massachusetts Governor is gaining traction in the Jewish community. Sunday, House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor endorsed Romney. This is good. Jewish Americans represent 2% of the country. A 50% showing would be a first for Republicans! Considering Barack Obama's coolness toward Isreal, it should be higher!

The bad news is a much larger block of voters, the Southern Baptist Convention isn't sold. Influential SBC leader, Dr. Richard Land compares Romney's Mormanism to Islam. Land likens the book of Morman to the Koran. He considers Mormans "non-Christians." This is bad!

Romney "e-verify" proposal may look good at first glance. But the "holes" are beginning to surface. "E-verify" would promote growth of a "shadow economy." In the end, it will cost the Republicans Hispanic votes.

Are young people open to a change? Under thirties voted two-to-one for Obama in 2008. They are restive. Unemployment coupled with huge student loan repayments outweigh the benefit of remaining on their parents health insurance plan until age 26. These "millinials" have flocked to Ron Paul. That enthusiasm isn't party based. Many if not most are Independents. It doesn't translate to support for Governor Romney; unless Paul is his running mate.

What about women? Over the past months Mitt Romney has out performed Newt Gingrich heavily and Rick Santorum to a lesser extent with females. Romney insiders are confident that they will come his way. The message of "private sector experience" and how to fix the economy are his fortes. But Democrats are claiming credit for marginal improvement in the economy. Will Mitt's message of "fixing" the ecomony be as effective with an unemployment rate of 8% versus 9%?

Rick Santorum has been labeled a "fake" by Ron Paul due to his consistent votes against Right to Work. Romney has seconded that motion in statements that ridiculed the former Pennsylvania Senator's "pro-union" positions. This may win delegates for Romney. But what about swing state voters in the general election? Odds are Santorum would perform better against Barack Obama in Pennsylvania and Ohio than Romney. Primary liabilities would become general election assets for the former Pennsylvania Senator. Eastern "brain trusts" seem to have overlooked this!

There are questions regarding "how well" Romney can perform in the South. Establishment concludes that Obama will face difficult terrain, irregardless of the opponent. That too may be slightly presumptuous. Many Evangelicals are registered Democrats. True, it will be difficult for Obama to win Alabama and Mississippi. But in the close states such as North Carolina and Florida, Christian voters may be the difference. A low Evangelical turnout in Texas coupled with a poor Latino showing(Texas is 42% Hispanic) could spell disaster for the GOP!

Amazingly, Easterners such as Mike Murphy don't see this. Could that view be an America that ends at the 40th parallel and at the shores of Lake Erie? No, their thinking couldn't be that confined!

These "Republicans" are hedging their bets. Many are even contributing to both the Romney and Obama campaigns. After all, Romney's historical beliefs (not his current rhetoric) are more closely aligned to Obama's than to Santorum's, Gingrich's or certainly Paul's! My question is, "why are these "Republicans" leading the party?" Ability to "manipulate the process" might have something to do with it!

Eric Cantor is easier to understand. There will always be a kindred spirit with "religious minories" as Cantor confessed to NBC's David Gregory. Romney will do better with Jewish voters than any of the other candidates. Why any Jewish voter would opt for Barack Obama is puzzling in itself!

Unfortunately the nomination process is just that: a process. Romney's people know the game. It's about delegates. Even if they come from "blue" states the party can't win, they count. The magic number is 1144. Getting there, by hook or crook, utilizing any combination or method, is all that matters!

General election math is cloudy. Romney would win New Hampshire. He might win Maine. In Virginia he has solid backing from Governor Bob McDonald, as well as Cantor. The added Jewish vote helps in Florida. I-4 corridor Independents aren't engaging Obama. Strong endorsements from Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio might be enough! Could he duplicate the winning 2004 delegate map?

Establishment Republicans think that he can. "Have they misjudged the landscape?" Or, do they even care?