LATE BREAKING UPDATE
4/25/11 1:55pm PDT
Haley Barbour is out – done – not running.
“I will not be a candidate for president next year,” Barbour, a Republican, said in a statement. “This has been a difficult, personal decision, and I am very grateful to my family for their total support of my going forward, had that been what I decided.”
We’ll never know why, but in my opinion he would have faced the biggest uphill slog of anybody that is truly viable in history. The deck was stacked against him from the beginning. As I have said, I think his presence would have brought a racist taint to the party as a whole – Again, I have no idea whether Barbour is a racist or not, but it just would have been de facto with the MSM. Barbour can do a lot of good for the party in other roles.
And now back to the original post.
Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump…
There has been enough press on Trump seeking the GOP nomination in the last few days that I am almost beginning to doubt my own conviction that the whole thing is a scam designed to get media attention for Trump. The Donald seems to have convinced Charles Krauthammer and Franklin Graham. Every time someone tries to call his bluff, he ups the ante. Some are beginning to postulate that he is vying to play spoiler for Romney. (Why? – “rich guy” jealousy? Doesn’t make sense, most presidents are wealthy. If such is the case it is more likely he is a closet Democrat – see “call his bluff.”)
And yet, I think I will hold my conviction. He really does have some serious issues.
At least 75% of Republican voters and at least 75% of American voters surveyed said they were undecided or didn’t know enough about Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour and Jon Huntsman to give an opinion of them.
Translated, that means there is a media vacuum – and Trump is rushing to fill it because none of the legitimate candidates are in a hurry to do so. The press has been complaining loudly about how “slowly” the GOP race is forming, mostly because they are geared up to cover it and there is nothing to cover. So Trump steps in. You have to remember, the Trump story started floating as much as 5-6 months ago, but got no traction. Of course it got no traction – hardly the first time Trump has tried this gambit. He has floated himself early in the last several cycles. But go back to that observation that I said would make you laugh: It’s about Trump and the near collapse of his financial empire a few years back:
Donald Trump is the living, breathing proof of John Maynard Keynes’ famous maxim: “If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.”
Trump is in point of fact a master at upping the ante. He wants media attention, he’s not getting it – so he ups his game. He calls Krauthammer; he interviews some hires; he does whatever it takes to make you think he is serious, thus forcing coverage.
One thing is for sure, I will never play poker with Trump.
Politico, Anti-Mormonism, Religion and the Race in General
Middle of last week, we linked to Ben Smith’s attempts to look at the Mormon issue. I have no idea why Smith is doing this, the story by his own tacit admission seems to have no legs. But he kept it up. Does he think the work has not been done here? (Of course not, Politico does not read this blog.) But his approach is from data on public attitudes, which is only part of the picture. The effect on the primaries last time simply cannot be measured in looking at the attitude of the average Republican voter.
There were really only organized anti-Mormon forces in Iowa, and to a lesser extent South Carolina. And of course, they never confessed to being “anti-Mormon,” it had to be inferred from their behavior – how fast did they jump behind Huckabee after the NYTimes interview? – things like that. Such small numbers of people are not going to look, on a national basis, like significant anti-Mormon sentiment. But those are two extraordinarily influential states. Romney more or less bet the farm on winning Iowa, thus enabling a relatively few anti-Mormon zealots to have an enormous impact on the outcome of the primaries.
Secondly, there is the factor that people do not so much vote against another religion as they vote for their own. (Despite what Pat Robertson says – or maybe because of it?) This certainly had an effect in the rest of the nation. The CJCLDS has always had to combat the image of “otherness” – “they are just not like us,” is something I have heard over and over. (In my experience if you remove the theological distinctives they are very much like us, but that is a story for another time.) There are things the church can do to help combat this “otherness” issue, but such is their decision to make. There are also signs that Mormons may be ahead of the curve with regards to developments in evangelical theology. (The observations in that link were originally pointed out to me by a Mormon friend in an email exchange a couple of weeks ago.)
But the question of anti-Mormonism amongst Republicans is a distraction. The left we know hates religion generally. They work very hard to play on our divisions and turn them into chasms. They are also not afraid to mischaracterize us. That is what we need to stay focused on.
The Race Is Starting To Shape Up
Jonathon Martin points out that April/May is when a lot of the names that have been tossed about have said they will make decisions. Everybody is trying to assess the field some well, some so-so, some not so well and some are arguing with the not-so-wells. And don’t forget what the wives are saying!
The role of Florida is still in serious play. And so with that…
…Let’s Look At The Players
Oh yeah, there is a new player – Gary Johnson. Think less charismatic version of Ron Paul and move on.
Mitt Romney – The best measure that Romney is “the guy to beat” than how much effort is being expended to criticize him. It’s coming from all over the political spectrum. I am sure the governor will answer all this an more when he actually begins to campaign, but for now its is simply and indication that he is well placed.
Mitch Daniels – wonkish wishes.
Sarah Palin – I agree with Franklin Graham here, but why is he quoted authoritatively?
Newt Gingrich – missteps again.
Fred Karger – gee ya think? BTW, nothing to do with homophobia, just seriousness.
Lowell adds . . .
John and I have been noodling back and forth a little on what Politico is up to regarding Romney, Romney-Huntsman, and Mormonism. I don’t know if John agrees with me, but I think Ben Smith is just looking for GOP presidential race stories, and it seems that Romney-Mormonism is always there on the shelf, ready for bored pundits to use.
What’s interesting about Ben Smith’s latest is that his quotation from an e-mail exchange with his latest expert, David Thomas Smith,who offers some pretty tired analysis:
One of the interesting things about Romney is that anti-Mormonism doesn’t seem to have been an issue for his dad back in the 1960s. Some of the professors at Michigan [where Smith used to teach] remembered Romney Sr.’s tilts at the presidency when he was governor of Michigan, and they don’t remember Mormonism ever being mentioned. Looking back at books and media from that period I can see that it was mentioned, but rarely negatively or as any kind of impediment to his chances. The probable explanation is that Evangelical Protestantism is a far stronger political identity now than it was then. Evangelicals, who were much more evenly dispersed across the parties then (as well as across the ideological spectrum), didn’t have the kind of sway in the GOP that they have now and were probably quite used to voting for candidates whose beliefs and values were remote from their own. Also the LDS Church in those days resembled a mainline Protestant church in its outward appearance and was probably seen in a more benign way than it is now. So the whole fact that Mormonism is a problem for Romney now in part reflects the way that other political and religious identities have developed.
Is there anything new here? I don’t think so. What is missing from any Politico piece about The Question that I have ever seen is any discussion about how the left might use Romney’s faith – indeed, the faith of any Republican candidate – against him. We likely won’t see anything like that unless Romney gets the nomination. If that happens, we will be in a whole new Article VI world.