Is Mitt Romney the GOP’s Michael Dukakis?

posted at 4:15 pm on October 29, 2011 by Karl

The answers are “yes,” quite a bit of “probably not” and a little bit of “maybe so.”

George Will’s blistering column about Mitt Romney’s candidacy can be split into two parts. The first part explores a few of Romney’s mryiad flip-flops, straddles and waffles on various issues. Is Will right about Romney being the “pretzel candidate”? Yes. Indeed, on this point, Will did not even scratch the salt off the pretzel.

However, it’s the second, shorter conclusion of Will’s column that is getting the buzz in political circles:

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

Although the future is full of possibilities, Will is probably wrong about most of this. The general consensus among political scientists is that in presidential elections, the dominant factor is the economy, with candidate ideology being a distant second. Indeed, the studies suggest that a moderate does 1% or 2% better. For those skeptical of academic consensus, note this finding holds for Democrats as well as Republicans. The general rule seems to be holding up this year, as public opinion polling generally has shown Romney a few points more competitive than NotRomney against Obama throughout the campaign to date. Of course, state level results are more important than national polling, but if the GOP nominates NotRomney, Team Obama will run the 2010 playbook by which Dems won Senate campaigns in key states by painting all those tea party energies as extremism (I question whether that strategy would be effective, but consider that Dems are likely to have more favorable turnout demographics in a presidential election than in a midterm).

Moreover, it is far from clear that having Romney at the top of the ticket would drag down Senate candidates. Will provides no examples of where he thinks it might happen. Notably, 2012 GOTV efforts will be conducted by groups affiliated with both Karl Rove and the Koch Bros. More conservative Senate candidates will likely get assistance from the latter, and possibly from the former (In 2010, American Crossroads stepped up in Nevada after the RNC and NRSC ran away).

Is Mitt Romney the GOP’s Michael Dukakis? Here again, Dukakis performed about as well in 1988 as would be predicted from the economy at the time. Although we remember his missteps as a candidate, we tend to forget that the effect of those missteps was marginal. Furthermore, as noted, to the extent Romney is a squish, it marginally helps him, relative to a NotRomney nominee.

None of which is intended to dismiss marginal effects. In a close election, what happens at the margin is important, perhaps crucial. Thus, whether Will is ultimately right depends on the reader’s own assessment about how close the election may be, which ought to turn mostly on the reader’s certainty in his or her forecast for the economy.

On another level, Will’s final question is perhaps not quite the dig at Romney it seems to be in print. Has conservatism come so far to settle for this? If NotRomney voters cannot settle on a consensus NotRomney candidate, conservatism will have to settle for Romney. And that is not Romney’s fault in the slightest. Will’s real dig may be at what conservatism has managed to produce as the alternative to Romney.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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The president elected in 2012 is very likely to appoint two, maybe three justices to the Supreme Court. This president must be a Republican. Must. If the court turns left, every one here who says they’ll “stay home” or “vote for the democrat” will get their wish ever after. There will be no reason to ever vote for a Republican or a conservative again. Whatever reforms he/she pushes through will be overturned by a socialist court. Buh-bye First Amendment. Buh-bye Second Amendment. Buh-bye ALL property rights. That isn’t hyperbole. If the court says it, it is so. And a court with appointees like Obama has made will say that. No doubt about it.

If you cannot gather any intensity to put the Republican candidate in to office, for God’s sake gather the necessary intensity to remove Obama from office.

Rational Thought on October 30, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Watch in the coming months as Romney becomes the face of the 1%

shanimal on October 30, 2011 at 10:04 AM

That’s totally fair too – because Romney IS the 1%.

This is a guy who grew up in a wealthy political household (though he accuses others now of being “career politicians”). Both Romney’s Dad, and his Mom were politicians (his Dad, of course being more successful than his mom at it). Romney was “shielded” from the Vietnam draft by Mormon missionary deferments as well as student deferments. When he finally became eligible for the draft – he drew a high lottery number (as all kids did back then who have parents of wealth, privilege, and influence).

Romney went to the finest schools – courtesy of his rich parents.

Not very hard to do well on Wall Street when you have Romney’s contacts and education – which were “gifted” to him by circumstance of birth.

He’s the definition of the “ONE PERCENT” – Hell, I can’t think of a better poster child for the “ONE PERCENT” than Mitt Romney and, I’m being honest here.

Might be different if he had WORKED his way out of the “99 Percent” to earn what he has (like Perry and Cain did). However, little Mittens was born into a life of privilege – and all he really needed to do was “punch” the tickets his parents told him to punch.

I’m FINE with that – but, I don’t want a guy like this to be the nominee of the GOP – it’s farking insane.

Mitt Romney hasn’t done anything to “reach out” to the 99 percent. As Herman Cain says … “I’m Main Street – Romney’s Wall Street” – and he’s spot on correct. I’m sorry – but buying and liquidating companies, to me – that’s a wealth builder – not a company and job creator.

Again – nothing wrong with a “wealth builder” – except for when he claims that his “wealth building” experience would be better in the Oval Office than Perry’s actual “job creation” has been – or Herman Cain’s track record of taking failed companies and making them successful. When Mitt Romney met a failed company – he liquidated it – he didn’t normally turn it around! LOL

And – further “One Percent” proof? Hell – he’s been unemployed since he left the governor’s mansion. This is the guy who calls others a career politician – yet he hasn’t worked a day since his last gig as a politician. When does Mitt Romney plan to get a damn job?

HondaV65 on October 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Romney is the moebius strip politician: he only has one surface and one edge.

He can stay on a straight line, but always winds up on the other side of any issue over time.

All politically expedient politicians with their fingers raised to the winds are moebius strip politicians. They can always go from one side to the other, but they never stop on the endless quest for power.

ajacksonian on October 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM

The president elected in 2012 is very likely to appoint two, maybe three justices to the Supreme Court. This president must be a Republican.

Give us a nominee we’ll vote for, then. The last Justice appointed was a female Harvard faculty Latina, and you’re insane if you think Mittens would have done anything but greenlight that.

Marcus on October 30, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Give us a nominee we’ll vote for, then. The last Justice appointed was a female Harvard faculty Latina, and you’re insane if you think Mittens would have done anything but greenlight that.

Marcus on October 30, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Romney would never have submitted a leftist like the wise Latina for the court. He has Bork advising him, for God’s sake. Get a grip. I am no Romneybot, though I’m sure many here will call me one, but it is just absurd to suggest that his Supreme Court appointments would be as bad as Obama’s. Just absurd. Obama is appointing Marxists. Romney isn’t going to do that. But I’ll put you down as one of those principled types who is absolutely cool with a Marxist-majority Supreme Court. You’ll really need those principles then, because you’ll probably be heading off to jail for voicing them.

Rational Thought on October 30, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Mitt will go along to get along.

SurferDoc on October 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Romney will get my vote in the general election is he is the Republican nominee, but he will not get my vote in the Illinois Republican primary. I am still undecided – much will depend on those still int he race when our primary rolls around.

Sheerq on October 30, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Both Romney’s Dad, and his Mom were politicians (his Dad, of course being more successful than his mom at it). Romney was “shielded” from the Vietnam draft by Mormon missionary deferments as well as student deferments. When he finally became eligible for the draft – he drew a high lottery number (as all kids did back then who have parents of wealth, privilege, and influence).

Romney went to the finest schools – courtesy of his rich parents.

Not very hard to do well on Wall Street when you have Romney’s contacts and education – which were “gifted” to him by circumstance of birth.

He’s the definition of the “ONE PERCENT” – Hell, I can’t think of a better poster child for the “ONE PERCENT” than Mitt Romney and, I’m being honest here.

Might be different if he had WORKED his way out of the “99 Percent” to earn what he has (like Perry and Cain did). However, little Mittens was born into a life of privilege – and all he really needed to do was “punch” the tickets his parents told him to punch.

Honda, this reads like a liberal!

For one, Romney had deferments like all missionaries from ALL churches do…this has NOTHING to do with his Dad. Another point, his Mom was not a career politician…what she ran for office once? Romney ran in 1994 lost and went back into the private sector and then ran again about NINE years later and was elected for 4 years! Hardly the career politician as all the other candidates minus Cain.

Romney is brilliant and that is how he achieved his success! When you are graduating from at the top of your class at BYU then earning both an MBA and Law Degree at Harvard in the top 5% has NOTHING to do with who your Dad is…

Again what does it matter what income he has…as a conservative, we never care what a person earns because that is what most all want to achieve to better our families and the lives of other Americans.

g2825m on October 30, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Many of you on here have been drinking this anti-Mitt Kool-Aid that you all believe what you hear OR what you want to perceive to hear or read about Romney. It’s crazy talk!

Romney is the same candidate that a long list of conservatives endorsed last time! Romney is not gaining over his 24-26% right now because the vote is spread too thin among 8 candidates…basic math.

g2825m on October 30, 2011 at 12:46 PM

“I’m Main Street – Romney’s Wall Street” – and he’s spot on correct. I’m sorry – but buying and liquidating companies, to me – that’s a wealth builder – not a company and job creator.

Honda,
This is another ridiculous comment as when the Main Street companies begin to fail: Staples, Sports Authority, etc, the Main Streeters would be out on the street if someone like Romney had not come in and saved the business thus saving hundreds if not thousands of jobs!

Romney did the same thing with the Olympics, State of MA that was deep in the red, and will do the same with our economy…IF we can get those that say I am going to sit at home and pout if Romney is the nominee and get them to come out and vote.

g2825m on October 30, 2011 at 12:52 PM

One last comment before I log off here to those that say they are going to sit at home if Romney is the nominee.

First off that is your right.

However, I want you to think about something next November if you choose to do this. I have fought over in Iraq and Afghanistan (currently) to help the citizens participate in free elections for many their first time. The Iraqis and Afghani’s risk their lives still to come out of their homes and go to their polling locations to vote and what is sad is these individuals appreciate what was bled for them and have higher participation than Americans do.
So go ahead and sit at home all of you and be upset if Romney is the nominee but I know this Vet will be very upset that you do not take your FREEDOM to vote more seriously like the Afghani’s and Iraqi’s even though they are threatened with death if they do. What are you threatened by?

Good night from somewhere in Afghanistan…

g2825m on October 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM

HondaV65 on October 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM

You’re picking up the bigotry right where that other bigot left off.

csdeven on October 30, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Waking up to George Will’s column this morning after the Sooners getting back on track yesterday started my day off right.

Will has pegged Romney. While doing some research for my blog, I discovered that Romney was for pro-gun control while running for Governor and as Governor.

Why is he even considered a conservative by anyone? He is a moderate to liberal and posing as a faux conservative.

PhiKapMom on October 30, 2011 at 2:54 PM

See, this is what I am talking about. This country is gonna be destroyed by so-called conservatives who would rather have a Communist running the country than a moderate Republican.

If Obama wins re-election, which I guarantee he will, it will be the fault of conservative voters and not “the establishment”. It’s the pouting conservatives who will refuse to vote.

The Notorious G.O.P on October 30, 2011 at 2:40 AM

Conservatives and those whom they like and admire are trashed for 3 years; then when election time looms it’s “do your patriotic duty and vote for whatever crap we run out there and build up, or else the country goes up in flames!!!!!”

Same sh!t, different cycle. It’ll be about as effective as it was in 2008.

ddrintn on October 30, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Although the future is full of possibilities, Will is probably wrong about most of this. The general consensus among political scientists is that in presidential elections, the dominant factor is the economy, with candidate ideology being a distant second. Indeed, the studies suggest that a moderate does 1% or 2% better.

By the way, WHAT??? I assume that “moderate” is referring only to GOP moderates, in which case I would ask, who was the last flaming Republican moderate to win a national election?

Otherwise, everyone knows that all Democrats are by self-definition “moderates”, from Evan Bayh to Barney Frank to Barack Obama.

ddrintn on October 30, 2011 at 5:06 PM

The president elected in 2012 is very likely to appoint two, maybe three justices to the Supreme Court. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . If you cannot gather any intensity to put the Republican candidate in to office, for God’s sake gather the necessary intensity to remove Obama from office.
Rational Thought on October 30, 2011 at 10:18 AM

It may stink (depending on the nominee), but it’s TRUE.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 5:49 PM

g2825m on October 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Lord knows (and so do most of you) I’m not a Mitt Romney backer in this PRIMARY, but IF he wins the nomination, then I WILL VOTE FOR HIM in the general next year.

Well, I mean if the Rapture doesn’t come first!

By the way g2825m, the word ‘somewhere’ is awfully vague. How about the GPS coordinates, next time?
: ) (smartass here)

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 6:06 PM

HondaV65 on October 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM

+1000

DanaSmiles on October 30, 2011 at 6:14 PM

“Settle”? Why should I?

kingsjester on October 31, 2011 at 6:02 AM

HondaV65 on October 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM

+1000

DanaSmiles on October 30, 2011 at 6:14 PM

Really? Wow! That would make it the hugest chunk of liberal garbage since Obamacare.
If you think all it takes to succeed is a silver spoon … you’ve failed the test.
Money and talent can only carry a person so far.

I know people who are what some would say, “richer than god” and I cannot tell you how pathetic their heirs are. Aside from their trust funds they are poor in every way. Several that I know (personally mind you) have taken second and third generation businesses and ruined them overnight. One such business was destroyed because three brothers, envious of their kid sister’s midas touch, fought her in court to take back what they thought should’ve been theirs. Instead of tending to their own declining businesses, or asking for her advice, they took the whole empire down.

kregg on October 31, 2011 at 7:27 AM

Maybe!!!
I want to vote for Mitt but hes off base with a few items. I want to vote for him, because I think he can give some confidence to the business community, something this so called admin isn’t. As a Tea Partier, I can’t and won’t put my $.$$ in yet. As Rush says, “Mitt is going to have to be pushed into conservatism”. And if thats the case, I’m voting holding my nose!!

mmcnamer1 on October 31, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Only Ron Paul would lose my vote if he got the GOP nod.

And that’s as likely as Michelle Obama passing up a plate of greasy hot wings.

profitsbeard on October 29, 2011 at 6:56 PM

A jackass who would insult the mother of two beautiful, well-behaved daughters – and thereby betray the shallow depths of his intellectual ability – has neither the hindsight, foresight or comprehension skills necessary to evaluate all things foreign and domestic.

Real Conservatives fight against bad ideas without needlessly maligning their opposition. Given that you and I are supposed to be on the same side I have no compunction pointing out the fact that you are making the rest of us look bad.

I’m fairly certain that Ron Paul wouldn’t WANT your particular vote.
Personally, I don’t think it would hurt a nice guy like Ron if you just stayed home.

bmowell on October 31, 2011 at 9:31 PM

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