The 2008 cycle taught lot of people a lot of things, but for this observer the biggest lesson learned is that an early start creates more opportunity for mischief than it helps build momentum. And so I’m hoping once the flurry of announcements is through things will quiet down until fall. I am certain that is what Romney wants. Mark Halperin accuses him of “playing possum,” but in reality he is just biding his time until it is smart to get really active.
Case in point: Newt Gingrich has been on vacation these past few weeks – timed, apparently, to let the furor over his opening missteps subside. Unfortunately he came back to even bigger problems – see the BIG News section below.
But before we get really deep into the race, let’s look at…
The Announcements Yet To Come
There are two – Michelle Bachmann and Jon Huntsman. Note who is missing – Sarah Palin. The MSM want her so bad, they think of her as a bobo doll for their hatred of the right, and if they have her, they have a solid target. It’s actually funny to watch her play that desire on their part for all its worth – whistling all the way to the bank.
Bachmann has hired Ed Rollins to run her campaign. Regular readers here will remember the Rollins name – he ran Mike Huckabee’s campaign last time around. There were two memes around Bachmann this week past. One is that she is the candidate for Evangelicals, being open about her faith and speaking their “code.“ (And this is the kind of nonsense such things bring us – ridicule.) The other is that she is some sort of psuedo-Palin, which she most assuredly is not. This latter meme show how much the press wants a Republican bobo doll, they’ll make one if Palin won’t give them one. The former meme, along with her decision to hire Rollins, tells you pretty much all you need to know about the Bachmann candidacy. She is looking to follow the Huckabee path to fame and media fortune – same players, same memes. Last time, Huckabee had to pick on Romney to get where he wanted to be. This time Romney is in a much different position and Bachmann, personally, is different from the Huckster. She may have to pick a target in order to endear herself to the audience she seeks. Rollins acted like he wanted to make Palin that target, and so far it is backfiring. I’m thinking it will be Huntsman in the end.
Speaking of Huntsman, he is playing pretty smart, maybe even gentle. He misstepped in an early radio interview, but generally seems to be playing this serious and smart. Although it still smells to me like he is trying the Giuliani path.
Speaking of Rudy Giuliani, the rumors keep floating. We are not seeing any hiring or organizational stuff. I am beginning to think he will get in, but still in a fundraising, not a serious, mode. Although these rumors are sourced at Bill Kristol and he was wrong about Huckabee and Daniels.
The BIG News
Newt Gingrich‘s campaign imploded last Thursday. There is discussion about why. (Money?) A lot of people think the staffers will jump to Perry. Gingrich is done, even though he does not know it just yet. It’s really sad to see one of the more talented politicians of my lifetime fall apart this way. One of the former staffers has gone on record.
My analysis is this – Gingrich was never in to win; he was in to maintain his public profile and therefore media/moneymaking presence. Hence the effort at an “unconventional” campaign. Here’s the problem that all media candidates eventually run into: If it’s not genuine, people will figure it out at some point . That means to pull it off, one has to be consummately gifted at misdirection, if not outright lying. The Ed Rollins/Mike Huckabee team proved pretty consummately gifted, which is something for the Bachmann backers to think about; Palin keeps using the word “unconventional” – also food for thought.
As to Perry, I think it is too early to know what is going to happen there even if the drumbeats keep getting louder. There is some sense to the rumors, but I also think the press wants the drama of a later entry by a perceived swoon. We’ll see.
“The Question,” Asked Weakly
There was a lot written about The Question in this week past, but it all seemed a little wrong somehow. Again, it just is getting no play on the right at all, and that which is written seems to just recycle the stories from last cycle.
The nasty Warren Cole Smith piece we took on a couple of weeks ago drew some fire from the official LDS spokesman. It only got coverage in the religious press, creedal and LDS. This is the first indication that there is no real interest in The Question this cycle.
Likewise, the Newsweek cover. This summarizes all the coverage save for our own. Again, all sources with some sort of religious angle. No traction here.
Lots of people asked The Question, but look at the sources:
There was a poll about it and the headlines just cracked me up:
A Third of Voters Have Qualms About Mormon President, Poll Says
Poll: Two-thirds of Americans OK with Mormon candidate
Can you say spin? Which really seems to be what is going on here. Romney himself has brushed the issue aside. He is being attacked from some of the usual right wing sources, but its only being covered by the left. I would judge there is no real steam left in the issue, but that people still want to try and make something of it. I think this headline says it all:
Romney Well-Positioned, Despite Voters’ Attitudes About Mormons
Which brings us to the serious political news about Romney and the others running…
When it comes to Mitt Romney, one Politco column says, “Everything’s coming up Romney.” Peggy Noonan says Romney “Had a Good Week.“ He is polling ahead in South Carolina – that’s huge folks. He’s doing exceedingly well in the money department. FOXNews thinks he’s the frontrunner – even Tim Pawlenty concedes that Romney is the frontrunner. And this pullquote is somewhat how I see things:
His party keeps moving away from him.
But the national agenda keeps moving toward him.
I don’t so much think he is parting ways with the party so much as he is moving away from one small segment of the party that would rather lose than compromise, but I really agree with the part about the national agenda. He will not participate in the Ames Iowa straw poll. I’m with Geraghty’s take:
Er, but maybe the argument is that over time, Ames means less – if it ever really meant that much at all.
We’re back to the whole thing about “mischief” in the opening paragraph. All-in-all, I’d say a great launch.
Speaking of which, Tim Pawlenty‘s well-executed launch is beginning to pay dividends as well. Afer his “hard talk” tour he is now making some solid policy statements and starting to attract press, commentary and momentum. So far, he is the only solid beneficiary of the Gingrich meltdown. Not to mention, some very smart people like him.
It really is looking like a two horse race at the moment.
Finally, Religious Reading
From an interesting HuffPo post, it’s kind of smart…
But this one example underscores the point from above that just because a person adheres to a religious tradition does not mean that one can know how they view the world. As the joke goes, two Baptists (or Jews, Muslims, etc) three opinions — just look at Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Harry Reid.
but I feel a wrong turn coming somewhere down the line.
Religious conversations may intensify over the next 18 months as the election campaign captures our focus and the religious identities of candidates become scrutinized by the media and voters for clues as to who they really are. It is fine for people to talk about their religion if that is important to them, but let them go deep enough to be truly helpful in revealing their core convictions and how that will influence the way they will govern, and not use religion as a trump card to garner votes; or use religious language in a way that raises suspicion about people of other traditions.
I agree with the “not a trump card” part, but the “core convictions” stuff is troubling. As we have seen time and again, such calls, particularly from the left ,are really calls for us to give them something to ridicule.
But this piece is smart, if a bit convoluted:
As Christians we will always live in some tension with the way in which our nation navigates history. If we do not have the same sense of tension with the world around us, in fact, we are probably not paying attention to God, the world, or both. We can and should engage political question, but we will often be forced to do the complex work of evaluating secular priorities in light of the transcendent claims that God makes on our lives.
Good note on which to end.
Lowell adds . . .
Just before publishing this post we ran across a dust-up between Hugh Hewitt and Politico’s Ben Smith, arising from Smith’s piece entitled “Mitt Romney leads the Drudge primary.” Hugh begins with this:
But Smith joins with them and advances their line when he writes in the second line of this morning’s lead story, “Mitt Romney leads the Drudge Primary,” that “[t]he former governor of Massachusetts may be the punching bag of the conservative media, ridiculed on blogs and talk radio as a plasticine, untrustworthy flip-flopper and the grandfather of the hated Obamacare.”
Let’s start with this: It isn’t true. Not remotely so. It is in fact lousy reporting that is easily understood as such by anyone who listens to say Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Mark Levin or me. Quick, Ben, get me a quote conveying such an opinion that from Hannity or Medved who between them cover most of the afternoon drive in the east. One quote will do. You won’t find it because it doesn’t exist. Those hosts come on just before me and I listen to their shows driving to my studio. The fact is they both admire Romney, know his strengths and weaknesses, and wouldn’t say anything like what Smith wrote, which of course completely undercuts Smith’s premise and thus his credibility.
This spilled over onto Hugh’s Twitter feed, with Hugh challenging Smith, then inviting the Politico pundit onto the Hugh Hewitt Show, with Smith declining – all via Twitter. How times keep changing!
John noted above Peggy Noonan’s piece on Romney. Her closing paragraph is worth quoting:
In a silly and baiting interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Mr. Romney swatted away an insistence that he delve into Mormonism and, by implication, defend it. It was like seeing some Brit in 1960 trying to make John F. Kennedy explain and defend Catholicism. It’s not something we do in America. Because we still have a little class.
When Mr. Romney’s father, George, ran for the GOP nomination in 1968, his religion was not an issue. Forty years later, when his son first ran, it was. Has America grown more illiberal? Maybe not. In 1968, evangelical Christians voted in Democratic primaries, because they tended to be Democrats. By 1980, all that was changing: evangelicals went Republican with Reagan and never came back.
Catholics do not tend to take a harsh view of Mormonism, nor do mainstream Protestants. It is evangelical Christians who are most inclined not to approve. In a general election this would not make much difference: Evangelicals will not vote for Obama. But in the GOP primaries it could still hurt Mr. Romney. No one knows, because no one knows what kind of year this is. Maybe evangelicals will have seen enough of him not to mind; maybe the Obama presidency convinced them it’s not so important.
My own read is standard Catholic. Mormons have been, on balance, a deeply constructive force in American life, and it is absurd and ignorant not to support a political figure only because you do not prefer or identify with the theology of his church.
Really, grow up. Enough.
I do wonder what Thaddeus McCotter’s game is.
And finally, Michael Smerconish writes an op-ed that is worth reading.