BREAKING NEWS – 4 HOURS AFTER ORIGINAL PUBLICATION
John Thune will not be running for the Republican nomination for the presidency. The field narrows. And now back to the original post…
After CPAC, which someone jokingly said should just go ahead and change to ‘LPAC’ (Libertarian…), it seemed like a quiet week. As David Paul Kuhn said:
In reality, the Republican primary is already underway. Undeclared campaigns are speaking to top shelf operatives and influential Iowa activists. Candidates are publicly gauging their appeal. Most likely candidates traveled to Washington last week for a de facto presidential audition before the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The meme seems to be that the field is “wide open” and “anybody’s game.“ Yeah, well, we thought that last time, particularly when the next-in-line John McCain faltered so badly just six months before Iowa, and yet it did not prove to be nearly a wide open as the Democratic primary season where everybody thought Hillary was unbeatable. And of course, VOA and NPR are not exactly unbiased observers. But when it comes to sheer bias it’s hard to beat Salon, who just seems to want to make fun of Republicans generally. I am struck by how often we confuse wit with actual knowledge-based intelligence. They do, despite themselves, rightly note that Romney and Pawlenty are the two serious players at the moment.
But if you want to get serious about how things will iron out, this Politico piece on where the Florida primary should go is the most telling. You will recall that Florida was the hinge on which the primary race turned last time around.
But if anyone enjoyed a serious bump coming out of CPAC, it’s none other than…
First of all, despite hitting a homer at CPAC, his running is still a very open question, and the key factor is his wife. Here it is from the horse’s mouth.
After CPAC some have said it is Daniels “moment,” but not everyone is on board. Rich Lowry was quick to point out that his CPAC speech was “not a typical speech for any politician anywhere.” Others have noted similar things. Which really is the issue here. Daniels “wonk appeal” is undeniable, and as refreshing as such plain talk is, there is a reason such speeches are atypical – they do not translate into votes with the general populace.
Some, including the very moderate leftie Morton Kondrake, went to great rhetorical lengths to praise Daniels. But there is little higher Republican praise than that which flows from the Bush family. Jennifer Rubin points out that it is not all about fiscal policy, which is where he shines. His social issues comments still plague him, even if it was “strategic.” He may be facing immigration troubles as well. He does; however, have a youth movement that will not quit.
So here’s the analysis – with a wife now being publicly (If she thought a tiny South Bend television station was not that public, she has not figured out the Internet yet.) hesitant about a run, even if non-committal, it’s not happening. But any Republican nominee would be very, very smart to have Daniels on the policy team – and publicly so. If fact, once it is official he is not running, any candidate would be smart to have him on board ASAP.
But where Daniels has a social issues problem, one of the majors polished his credentials in that area…
Pawlenty has a major, major speech next week. That will be an interesting space to watch, his performance is likely to play large in his forthcoming decision. But what was really interesting to watch was that he has stepped into enemy turf with a religious tinge. That’s right – he went to Arkansas – Huckabee turf. And David Brody gave him a push this week. When you combine this with all the overt God stuff in his book, one has to think Pawlenty is working really hard right now to establish an evangelical base.
My guess he he will then use that base to tack centrist as things heat up, but will it work? My analysis is that overt Evangelicalism is largely relegated to a ghetto of true-believerism at the moment and not much of a political force. Not only that, as true-believer types they will quickly walk away from him if he moderates the God talk which he will have to do when things get serious.
He is also assuming that Evangelicals are “low hanging fruit” in a race where Romney is his primary opponent. I am not convinced of that. I think many an Evangelicals learned their lesson last cycle and will back Romney based on competence.
It is going to be interesting to see how the Pawlenty strategy plays out. But when it comes to religion, the major talk still belongs to…
Time offered him up in their profile of the “leading 12.” They mention the Mormon issue only in passing, and it is not the “Romney, a Mormon,” formulation that became so common last time. Rather it was, “He also struggles with some social conservatives because of his Mormon faith and unsteady footing on abortion.” There are a couple of points to make out of this. The first is it appears The Question has simply become part of the wood work. Everybody knows it’s an issue on one level or another, but nobody can really put their hands on it or around it. This piece shows that there really is nothing new to say on the subject. Hence it is reduced to passing reference or off-handed comment.
The reason no one can get a handle on it is really two-fold. Firstly no one will state it as a problem for them directly and overtly. Those willing to say “No, I won’t vote for a Mormon,” are few and very far between. Anti-Mormon bias expresses itself most frequently as a distrust and an unwillingness to believe what a Mormon is saying. Note how Time wrapped Romney’s abortion issues into the same sentence with his faith. The Vanderbilt study, demonstrating that many who say “flip-flop” mean “Mormon” must always be kept in mind. That being the case, it is very hard to separate anti-Mormon bias from more legitimate cases on political disagreement.
Consider this piece from the ‘Evangel’ blog at First Things. The author attempts to make the case that:
I know many will point to Mitt Romney’s run for president in 2008 as proof of anti-LDS bias, but too much may have been made of it. Mitt Romney had several pretty serious problems facing him in the presidential primary.
Hmmm…. Methinks he doth protest too much. (sic) By setting up the piece in response to a piece on Romney’s Mormon problem and by attempting to juxtapose the “real” issues with the Mormon one, one is forced to wonder just how much the Mormon issue is really at play in the psychology of the author. Why not simply write the piece about the problems Romney is facing? He has plenty as Jennifer Rubin points out. And then there is the fact that such an article of protest comes from distinctly Evangelical precincts.
I think it far to say, in the broadest view, that amongst a significant number of Republicans there is a trust issue with Romney, and that his faith is tied into that bundle. Perhaps by attacking it as a trust issue rather than a religious one, the religious aspects can be overcome? The left, of course, wants to build on the distrust. It certainly is going to be in play in Iowa. And of course, in Nevada, everybody will try to play the Mormon card overtly. The Nevada angle cracks me up sometimes, it’s a state of gambling, heavy drinking and legalized prostitution. There is a significant Mormon presence in Nevada, but influential – please. Try and order a drink in a restaurant in Utah – then you’ll know about Mormon influence in a state.
In the area of serious politics, the NYPost was all over Romney, basically regurgitating the class warfare line that Ted Kennedy used to beat him in their Senate race. Politico was all over it. Said Ben Smith:
This is, indeed, the likely main line of attack on Romney if he’s the nominee; it’s the one Ted Kennedy used against him in ’94. I just didn’t expect to see it first in the Post.
I’m thinking inoculation here.
There was another possible that tried to hit the religion marks this past week…
While is is close to a decision and his role as Senator is a big part of that decision, he did manage to check in with David Brody at CBN. He did not say anything wrong, but to the Evangelical ear to discuss a ‘Christian worldview,’ but not a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ,’ is a bit of a cop-out. I wonder if he will be plagued by such imprecise declarations of his faith as the campaign rolls forward, should he elect to run? And if not, would a Romney or Huntsman be better served by discussing their “worldview” rather than their faith? Of course not – distrust is distrust and bias is bias.
The Rest Of The Field
Michele Bachmann is apparently going to rely on the Holy Spirit (my paraphrase) to decide whether she will run or not. And Romney has a “theocracy” problem?! The left will go nuts over this if she gets in.
Sarah Palin is too coy for her own good.
Newt Gingrich has resources. If I was Newt I’d sell them. They are worth more that way.
Oh yeah, Mike Huckabee – well, he’s in trouble with some notable Tea Party types, he lacks confidence in his own capabilities, and the left thinks he can set the agenda. (That last one raises a smirk.) Actually, that middle link deserves a brief comment:
Said Vander Plaats: “I have told many of these candidates that they may make Huckabee’s decision for him. If a Pawlenty or Thune or Bachmann catch fire among the base, I could see Huckabee saying, ‘I think I will sit this one out’.”
So, the Huckster does not really want the job – he just wants someone other than…Romney?! In poker they call that “a tell.” Actually, that last link makes it a bit more than just a tell. Quoting an unnamed source:
“[Huckabee] hates Mitt, and his goal in Iowa last time was to stop him,” said one prominent Republican, who’s known both men for years. “If he sees an opportunity to cut Mitt off [during the nominating process], he will take it.”
The piece contains the usual denials and spins from named sources and the Huckster has issued a outright denial, but the fact that this story has hit the major political outlets matters. (Not to mention we have been through a – say it, “I didn’t say that” cycle – with him more than once before.)
Dear friends, what could possibly create that level on animus? Think about it – here is an admission that Huckabee’s goal was not to win, but to stop Romney. – Something we have suspected all along. That means he was willing to dupe thousands, if not millions of people out of their hard earned cash to fund a campaign the point of which was not to win. That means he took many, many months out of his life just to injure someone else. Can hatred on such a scale be personal? I certainly hope not for if it were it would be narcissism on a scale that the nation simply cannot tolerate.
Hatred writ that large can only be based in religious fervor. I would say that it is now beyond speculation; some of Huckabee’s actions in the 2008 primary campaign were based in religious bias. I am sorely tempted to say any number of uncharitable things at this point, but then I would be guilty of the same sin I would seek to condemn. Shame on Mike Huckabee.
Tony Blair – leftie, but smart.
Slate, the home of the phrase “the founding whoppers of Mormonism, has no business deciding what is and is not “anti-Mormon.“ Frankly, Slate is beginning to strain my cherub-like demeanor.
Why do we worry so much about the faith of former presidents? We were treated this week to pieces on George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower. The Eisenhower piece is not so bad, it’s encapsulating his grandson’s most recent book (great read BTW) and eyewitness accounts are reliable, but in the end presidents should be measured by what they did, and in both of these cases they did pretty good.
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a piece by David French on how Mormons and Catholics were supplanting Evangelicals as the predominate relgio-political force in the nation. Others liked the French piece as well. Some, not so much. Tim Muldoon’s response in so left leaning as to not even be funny. He acts as if it is reasonable for the religious to “take their cues from secular society.” That sort of defies the point of religion.