I have often stated here that I am perfectly open to supporting (among others) John Kasich. That stands, but I admit to being troubled by this item from National Journal that compares him with one of 2012’s premier disasters, Jon Huntsman.
And, though NJ doesn’t pick up on it, he brings to my mind not just Huntsman.
With his blunt style, willingness to jab at the GOP base, and sterling establishment credentials—a former House Budget Committee chairman and a second-term governor of the most important state in presidential politics, for starters—Kasich has emerged as one of the press corps’ favorite dark-horse contenders in 2016.
But as he prepares to launch his campaign for president Tuesday in Columbus, Kasich risks becoming the purveyor of hard truths that the press loves to print but the Republican Party base hates to read.
“My party is my vehicle, not my master,” as Kasich likes to say.
Sounds a bit McCainish, doesn’t it? But back to Huntsman:
There is recent precedent for such a candidate. In 2012, another media sensation who relished breaking with GOP orthodoxies jumped in the presidential race late, only to flame out early. His name was Jon Huntsman.
Kasich shares far more than Huntsman’s willingness to scold fellow Republicans. Kasich has essentially imported both Huntsman’s campaign strategy (betting on New Hampshire) and his campaign team. Three of Huntsman’s old top advisers—strategists Fred Davis, John Weaver, and Matt David—are leading both Kasich’s campaign and his super PAC.
Weaver, I will note, served not just on Huntsman’s campaign, but also worked for McCain in 2000 and 2008.
But enough of the comparisons. NJ adds, as others have as well, that Kasich’s electability argument may come with a non-nominatibility clause:
Already, Kasich’s list of GOP apostasies is long.
He’s expanded Medicaid in Ohio as part of Obamacare, over GOP objections. He’s proposed a fracking tax, despite his party’s embrace of “drill, baby, drill.” He supports the Common Core educational standards and proposals for comprehensive immigration reform that rankle the Right. And, perhaps most importantly, he seems to relish the role of party scold.
“He is going out of his way to tell people he is no longer a conservative,” said Brent Bozell, a longtime conservative activist and chairman of ForAmerica, a tea party-style group. “Why should conservatives vote for him? He’s telling them to drop dead.”
One negative article (and, if you read the whole thing, it contains some counters to what I’ve quoted) is not going to change my mind, but the comparisons to Huntsman and McCain are troubling. Do we really need another ‘party scold’?
Since some of the other posters from R4’12 seem to be returning (great to see you, Matt and Mark), I thought I might do the same. A good place to start might be with a very preliminary assessment of the field that is shaping up. In order to do that fairly, however, I think I need to first position myself, so that you know from what perspective I’m coming (or, if you prefer, what my biases are).
In the run-up to ’12, I was an ardent Mitch Daniels supporter. After Daniels withdrew, I never really settled on another candidate, though I tried to get hyped up about several, most notably Tim Pawlenty; hell, I even gave Jon Huntsman a look (and then quickly backed away). Eventually, of course, it became obvious that Romney would get the nomination, but I couldn’t work up enthusiasm about him, either, since I was fairly certain he’d lose (admission: there was a point in October where I came around to thinking he might pull it out – wrong again!). However, I was out of the country by then and unable to do anything other than go to the nearest consulate and vote for him).
Which brings us to 2016. I would still support Daniels in a heartbeat, but he seems perfectly happy at Purdue, and getting him to change his mind about subjecting his family to the ugliness that American politics has become is about as likely as the Romney and Palin supporters of R4’12 organizing a ‘Draft Bob Hovic’ movement.
So I’ll have to find someone who can fill the same slot – reformist, executive experience, competence, able to relate to ordinary people, fiscally conservative, socially conservative, and defense-minded.
On those last three points let me add this: our party (and any party that is going to be more than a splinter movement – I’m looking at you, Libertarians) is a coalition. Any candidate that is going to unite a coalition must be acceptable to all major factions. Not that s/he is the favorite of all of them (or any of them). But s/he must not be obnoxious to any of them.
Matt Coulter listed a number of subgroups in his recent (excellent) post, but I’ll be old-fashioned and go with the old ficons, socons, and defcons. The Republican nominee need not be a hard-core deficit hawk, but must not go far in the opposite direction; need not be a culture warrior but must not be pro-choice (or even weakly pro-life); need not be an interventionist, but must not be isolationist. Which means the candidate must be able to thread needles quite nicely.
Oh – and one more qualification: I refuse to support anyone who can’t win.
For an early choice I’m leaning toward Scott Walker. Walker is identified primarily with fiscal and reform issues (especially reining in public employee unions), but his social policy credentials are sufficient that I think my most ardently socon friends would find no problem accepting him (part of why I think this is because he is well to my right on social issues). I know nothing about his defense views (having held only local and state offices, he has not had occasion to take positions on defense). I’ll look forward to seeing what he has to say about defense and foreign policy.
He also comes from a solidly middle-class background (mom a bookkeeper, dad a Baptist minister) and can relate to the suburban and blue-collar people Republicans must get in order to win. He has that Midwestern Nice thing going for him (though it did nothing for Tim Pawlenty). Coupled with his inoffensive (some say ‘bland’ and/or ‘boring’) manner, he (like Daniels) seems able to take strong positions without being offensive to middle-of-the-roaders.
My early second choice is Bobby Jindal, who shares many of Walker’s qualities – a proven record of reform at the state level (including a successful school voucher program), plus strong ficon and socon credibility. In addition, his grasp of policy is legendary, and to be blunt, his skin color is a positive. As with Walker, I know nothing of his defense views, and I’ll be waiting to learn more.
On the negative side, I have a perception of Jindal as being very outspoken on social issues – to the point that it might create problems for him with social moderates (whether or not strongly-held socon positions are a big political negative in a national race is, in my opinion, dependent on words and tone more than the positions themselves). This is just a perception, I admit, and only time will tell. I also think a Midwesterner would be a better choice than a Southerner.
It’s no accident that my two main choices are both governors. I strongly prefer governors for two reasons: 1) If Obama has proven anything, it is that executive experience matters greatly; and 2) I think the anti-Washington mood will continue into 2016, and these two will have little difficulty painting Hillary as an ‘insider’ and contrasting her to themselves.
These are the two I’m most interested in at this point. There’s a long way to go, obviously (at this point last time, Mark Sanford headed my list – but I’d rather not discuss that, thank you), so I retain my option to change at any time.
As for the others, just a few words on why I choose not (for now) to back them.
Mitt Romney – Obviously meets my executive experience criterion, in spades. He totally fails on appealing to blue-collar types and is past his sell-by date. In any case, I’m inclined to think, for now, that he isn’t running.
Mike Huckabee – Another governor who can sell socon positions with a smile, though I think he is so closely identified with social issues that he comes across as a one-issue candidate. His Arkansas record makes ficons like me uneasy, to put it mildly. I can’t support him for that reason, and I think he will have problems with a big enough bloc of Republicans that he’ll be stymied.
Rand Paul – Certainly a better salesman for libertarianism than his father, though that isn’t saying much. (As a libertarian myself, I prayed nightly for Ron Paul to just go away). Unless he starts quickly to moderate his foreign policy views, however, I think he has zero chance of getting the nomination. Also – no executive experience.
Jeb Bush – If only he had a different last name. By all accounts an excellent governor, but … well, let’s put it this way: We have an opportunity to run against a hard-core insider and we are contemplating nominating a Bush? Really?
Marco Rubio – No executive experience. Shot himself in the foot on comprehensive immigration reform, but probably backed away sufficiently that it will be forgiven/forgotten. Probably hasn’t been in Washington long enough to be perceived as being one of them. My problem with him is that I see no reason to support him other than his ethnicity. (We do owe him thanks for ridding the party of Charlie Crist).
Ted Cruz – Another short-term Senator. In addition to having no executive background, the guy is a loose cannon. Heaven only knows what he’d spout on the campaign trail.
Rick Perry — We’ll see if he learned anything from 2012. If he did, he might be worth giving attention to (though I think he’s damaged goods). If he didn’t, we won’t have to wait long for him to be gone.
Chris Christie – “Shut up and sit down!” might go over big in NY/NJ, but it will get real old real fast in the rest of the country. The guy just lacks the temperament for a long national campaign. I’ll never forgive him for embracing Obama right before election day – that finished the guy for me.
Paul Ryan – A ficon’s wet dream and one of my ABR options late in the 2012 primary season. On sober reflection, I don’t think a Representative can do it – though he has the advantage of having run a national campaign (losing, but still …). My objection is no executive experience, but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if he were the nominee.
Rick Santorum – He apparently hasn’t figured out that the only reason he did so well in ’12 is that he was the final ABR. If Huckabee gets in, Santorum will be eliminated in Ames, otherwise he might make it to New Hampshire.
Ben Carson – Okay, I’m scraping bottom now. Time to quit.
Huntsman scolds GOP, will skip convention
Washington • Still smarting from his unsuccessful presidential campaign, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he won’t attend the Republican National Convention or future gatherings until the party starts to tackle the bigger issues.
Huntsman, who says he’s been at every convention since 1984 when he was a delegate for Ronald Reagan, told The Salt Lake Tribune in a statement that he’s been asked repeatedly whether he would attend the August convention in Tampa, Fla., but that he’s skipping it.
“I will not be attending this year’s convention, nor any Republican convention in the future,” Huntsman said, “until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States — a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits.”
In a statement this week, Huntsman said he wanted his party to return to its moorings that mirrored his last-minute campaign theme of “Country First.”
“I encourage a return to the party we have been in the past,” he said, “from Lincoln right on through to Reagan, that was always willing to put our country before politics.”
Jon Huntsman garnered all of three delegates in his well-funded campaign — a campaign the media flogged from Day #1. The highest support he ever got was 3.4% on the RCP average. He couldn’t even break five percent. He was — as I used to put it — a solution looking for a problem.
The query, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it makes a sound”, comes to mind.
Methinks this guy has a grossly over-inflated image of his own importance.
The original version of this article had “…PPP average”. As Jeff Y pointed out in the comments, it’s really the “…RCP average”. Thanks, Jeff.
Memories and Lessons of a Just-Completed Campaign
Now that the primary season has all but officially ended (mercifully and at last), it is time for political analysts to look back at the yearlong trek that got us Nominee Romney and see what conclusions we can draw from this prolonged fight. There are several things that led to Romney’s success this time around:
The Job Interview
At first glance, it may seem the most cogent lesson is the simplest one: the Republicans once again nominated their next-in-line candidate. Just as John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford before him, Romney was widely perceived as “earning his turn,” so to speak. But there is something going on at a deeper level here – why (with the notable exception of George W. Bush) does the modern GOP seem to hand their nomination to the next-in-line? After all, this is a truism, a force, strong enough to revive John McCain from political death a thousand times over in 2008. And it was enough to protect Romney from one of the most anti-establishment, angry conservative electorates in recent memory. How?
It has been said that the Republicans treat their primaries much like a job interview, while Democrats treat theirs like a dating game – a comparative analogy that has some heft behind it to be sure. Democrats get excited about insurgent candidates that send thrills up their legs, whereas Republicans like to sit back and determine whether our candidates have the experience necessary for the job. Looking at the 2008 primaries in an parallel universe, then, we wouldn’t have been surprised to see a Mike Huckabee vs. Hillary Clinton general election matchup – where Huckabee had won the Democratic primary and Hillary the Republican one.
Insurgent candidates are just not built to survive modern Republican primaries. And so Romney perhaps had the huge advantage in this way from the outset: with no Huckabee and no Palin in the mix, he was the only “serious” candidate applying for this job. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum were never going to pass the job interview process. Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry both had a chance based on the resumes they had submitted, but as soon as they were called in for a face to face interview they were both summarily dismissed from contention. And so, after inspecting each of the job applicants in turn, ultimately the Republican Party ended up calling the candidate that looked the most attractive at the beginning of the process and saying, “You’re hired.” It’s a familiar process that makes sense for the “party of business” to follow.
Continue reading for Cycling Seppuku, I Can be Your Friend, Where in the World is Romney Sandiego, and “Establishment” Support…
Final vote tally for the Florida Primary with all precincts reporting:
Votes Percentage Romney 771,842 46.4% Gingrich 531,294 31.9% Santorum 222,248 13.4% Paul 116,776 7.0% Perry 6,742 0.4% Huntsman 6,182 0.4% Bachmann 3,947 0.2% Cain 3,481 0.2% Johnson 1,186 0.1% Total 1,663,698 100.0%
Margin of victory for Romney over his three main rivals:
Votes % Total % of Romney Gingrich 240,548 14.6% 31.2% Santorum 549,594 33.5% 71.2% Paul 655,066 39.9% 84.9% Gingrich + Santorum 18,300 1.1% 2.4%
So even if every single Santorum voter had voted for Gingrich, Romney would still have won. And we know from both anecdotal evidence as well as several polls that there was a large percentage of Santorum voters who would voted for Romney over Gingrich.
For reference, here are the results from the 2008 Florida Primary:
John McCain 701,761 36.0% Mitt Romney 604,932 31.0% Rudolph W. Giuliani 286,089 14.7% Mike Huckabee 262,681 13.5% Ron Paul 62,887 3.2% Fred D. Thompson 22,668 1.2% Alan Keyes 4,060 0.2% Duncan Hunter 2,847 0.1% Tom Tancredo 1,573 0.1% Total: 1,949,498 100.0%
So Mitt improved upon McCain’s percentage by 10 points and his own by 15. Mitt has 70,000 more votes than McCain had in 2008 and improved his own total by 166,000 votes.
One of the conventional wisdoms of this election cycle has been that the myriad debates have been a decisive factor in the primary process. In a way, it’s not surprising; Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have all risen in the polls based on their strong debate performances and Governor Rick Perry’s campaign has collapsed based on his poor to disastrous debate showings. So the debates have been the most critical factor right?
If you were to look at the results from Iowa and New Hampshire, the answer is less clear. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, the top three candidates were not made or destroyed by the debates. Governor Romney, as the frontrunner, has been strong and steady during the debates, but his campaign was never defined by his debate performances. Congressman Paul’s fervent support was never created from a standout debate.
The other two candidates who have finished in the top 3, Senator Santorum and Governor Huntsman, both achieved their showings in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively not through their debate performances, but through retail politics. Senator Santorum spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, which resulted in his extremely strong 2nd place showing. Yet, the Senator was never considered the winner of any of the debates. He simply worked the ground in Iowa longer and more strenuously than his rivals. The same thing occurred in New Hampshire with Governor Huntsman. It wasn’t his debate performances that gave him the bronze medal; it was those 150 public events that held throughout New Hampshire. Both Senator Santorum and Governor Huntsman finished ahead of Speaker Gingrich, whose debate performances have been a cornerstone of his popularity.
This isn’t to say that the debates haven’t had an impact on the Republican race; they certainly have. Yet, when it came down to actual Iowa and New Hampshire voters making their decision, the debates had less impact than actually being on the ground, meeting voters and making the case in person, face-to-face.
From the official release:
2012 is the most important election in our lifetime.
After three years of bigger government, higher taxes and more spending, America desperately needs a return to conservative principles: limited government, lower taxes and balanced budgets.
On the campaign trail, I have spoken often about the need to fix not only our nation’s economic deficit, but also our deficit of trust and unity.
America is more divided than ever, and for our nation to move forward together with new leadership and unite, the Republican Party must first unite.
Today I am suspending my campaign and supporting the candidate who is best-equipped to defeat the president and return conservative leadership to the White House: Governor Mitt Romney.
To our many supporters and volunteers, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Mary Kaye and I are equally humbled and amazed at the outpouring of support we’ve received from friends and complete strangers.
Today our campaign for the presidency ends, but our campaign to build a better and brighter America continues.
We will continue to fight for a tax code that unleashes opportunity rather than stifles it; an energy policy that ends our addiction to foreign oil; congressional term limits; education reform that prepares our kids for the 21st Century; and financial reform that protects taxpayers from future bailouts.
Over the last six months, I have seen the best of America. I’ve seen it in the spirit of our entrepreneurs, the courage of our veterans, and the unyielding optimism of our young people. I saw it in China 10,000 miles away, meeting with dissidents who had been tortured and beaten, but who drew strength from our nation’s values — our openness, our freedoms.
Half a world away, they could see America’s light. That is the power our country still represents.
I will never stop fighting for America, and I will continue to put her welfare first, ahead of any partisan or special interest.
I am unshaken in my belief that with the right leadership, we can move forward together, and ensure that America’s light shines bright for generations and generations to come.
God bless you, and God bless America.
[Update] Romney’s response:
Boston, MA – Mitt Romney today made the following statement on Governor Jon Huntsman’s announcement:
“I salute Jon Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye. Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support.”
The news that Governor Jon Huntsman is dropping out of the race has been pre-ordained since his failure to secure a breakthrough in the New Hampshire Primary. The Governor’s campaign as of 11:00 am tomorrow morning will exist only in the history books. Looking back, many people will be confused as to why a candidate with a unique combination of both executive and foreign policy experience failed so badly. But people shouldn’t be surprised, because this is a show we’ve seen before. In fact, it was another campaign, eerily similar to Huntsman’s that showed us what would happen to the Governor. The campaign was that of his fellow Utahan and 2000 presidential candidate Senator Orrin Hatch.
Few nowadays can remember that Senator Hatch actually ran for President, but he did. In every sense of the term it was a disaster. Hatch got in the race late (July of 1999), finished dead last in the Ames Straw Poll, ran at a lackluster, lazy pace, finished last in the Iowa Caucuses (behind John McCain who hadn’t even campaigned in the state) and dropped out the next day.
It didn’t necessarily have to be that way. In many ways, Senator Hatch could’ve been an appealing candidate. Compared to the rest of the field, the Senator had some strong attributes. His voting record was more conservative than John McCain’s. He was far more experienced in national affairs than George W. Bush, and unlike Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes or Steve Forbes he could’ve been a viable nominee.
So why did Senator Hatch fail so abysmally? Maybe it was his relatively boring speaking style. Maybe it was because he got into the race so late. Maybe it was his lack of impression during the Republican debates. Certainly all of those factors were important, but there was one very critical aspect of the Hatch campaign that crippled his campaign from the start; the very reasoning for a Hatch run was pathetically weak. Senator Hatch’s entire campaign was based on the idea that once George W. Bush faltered, Hatch would swoop in and scoop up the pieces. He would be the backup plan if Bush failed. Well, as they say the rest is history. Bush didn’t fail and Hatch got nowhere.
Which brings us back to the Jon Huntsman campaign. The Huntsman strategy was essentially the Hatch strategy reborn. Stay in the race, hope for the frontrunner to fall, and come in to replace them. It’s a strategy that’s now been proven disastrously inept for two Utahans and should serve as a lesson to future presidential candidates; if you want to succeed in the high stakes field of presidential politics, your strategy better be more than “when that guy falls apart, it’s my chance.” If anyone wants proof of that flawed idea, look no further than Orrin Hatch or Jon Huntsman.
Would you like to support a candidate who led fights for education and tax reform in his home state and who has a committment to the right to life that’s beyond question? That sounds like great qualifications for a Republican Primary candidate.
Jon Huntsman had this and more. I remember being impressed when I first saw him speak at a Values Voter event. Yet, despite the mainstream media pumping his name, as well as some right-leaning voices who praised for being reasonable, Huntsman lost.
Why? He could have run on his points of common ground with conservatives? He could have run on the things he’d do that would further the goals of the people he was asking to support him.
Instead, Huntsman ran a campaign whose sole appeal was to Independents living in the State of New Hampshire, relentlessly criticizing and attacking the people whose support he would need to win the nomination. He told us more about why Mitt Romney shouldn’t be President than why he should be and on the day he leaves the race, he’ll endorse Mitt Romney, which probably tells us more about the sincerity of Jon Huntsman’s campaign than he said while it was going on. The New York Times writes:
But the campaign of “civility, humanity and respect” that Mr. Huntsman promised quickly faded into the background as his Republican rivals seized the attention — and the support — of a party faithful that seemed more interested in red meat politics.
Of course, far from running a campaign of civility and respect, Huntsman ran a swarmy, sarcastic, and condescending campaign that satisfied Democrats who voted in the Republican Primary in New Hampshire, but not conservative voters. Now the media will write its obituary and place Jon Huntsman into a hallowed place in the Media Book of Reasonable Candidate Martyrs, but let us not kid ourselves, Jon Huntsman loss this campaign because he ran as a liberal.
I told friends that Huntsman’s record was far more conservative than he let on, and people brushed off because Huntsman’s record was inaudible over his overwrought attacks on conservatives. In the end, a man with an admirable record and life history made himself noxious to those he wanted to support him. He went out of his way to offend conservatives. And that’s the only thing he succeeded at.
He ran a bad campaign, and there won’t be an encore. The Huntsman won’t be reborn.