Sunday, March 11, 2007

Whiter Mitt?

Because of the uncertain legacy of George W. Bush (and lack of a sitting VP as an active candidate), the GOP Presidential race is more up for grabs now that I can ever recall it having been. And one wildcard in this deck is Mitt Romney. Mitt is a legit candidate, but he has two real strikes against him. First of course, he's a Mormon, which is a legitimate issue and a negative. Second, which hasn't been emphasized enough, is that he's from Massachusetts. Politicians from the BayState, especially Presidential candidates, always seem to lack an appreciation of the nature of political reality in the rest of the country. Put them together, and in a normal year Mitt would be a goner.

But this is not a normal year, so he stays in the picture. McCain is in the middle of imploding. He's been around enough so that he's not fresh and mavericky anymore. Plus, he has no real strengths. I don't expect him to be a contender by the time Iowa rolls around.

Here's the thing that people aren't realizing. Rudy is also a weak candidate. His support is a mile wide and an inch deep. So far all we've heard about is the conservative base of the party coming around to the thought that he might be acceptable in spite of his stands on abortion or gay rights or whatever. What we haven't heard yet is that his supposed strength, the War on Terror and security issues, is not all it's cracked up to be.

It's all the result of his leadership of New York City post 9/11. Inspiring as that was, it has very little if anything to do with the challenges of the US wrt to Islam or jihadism or anything else, and we don't have any idea how he would handle them. All we have left is that Rudy is a general tough guy, and that's just not enough. Counterintuitive as it may seem, I think Mitt is the frontrunner right now.

And here's another loop. To be successful, I think he needs to run from the center or the left. Or to put it better, he needs to run toward his previous apostasies on abortion, etc, instead of trying to hide them. Ie, "I used to think that the difficulties of an unwanted pregnancy justified the choice of termination, but now we know blah blah..." This way, he can hold to conservative positions on social issues without appearing to be at the service of the Religious Right. If he can pull this off, this puts some northeastern states back in play for the general election while still holding the GOP base.

Finally Mitt needs to get his ass to Iowa and compete there, he might even win. With his odd sort of background, he's going to do best at the retail level, and Iowa is retail. Without a successful showing in Iowa, anything he does in New Hampshire will get discounted a little bit because he's from a neighboring state.

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