Friday, February 8, 2008

Breaking analysis from inside of the Beltway


Frankly, I thought Mark Daniels covered the bases on why Romney lost, but other voices had to weigh in on the topic.

John Ellis probably cribbed from Daniels:

1. Romney had to address the Mormon issue early and often in the first half of 2007....

2. Packaging Romney as a 700 Club Republican was a non-starter from day one....

3. Romney never addressed the War with anything but boilerplate....

4. The Romney campaign never made the pivot to the core economic issue....

5. They sold silly spin all the way to the end....

Then there's Tom Bevan:

Romney's initial year-long push to frame himself as a social conservative was undercut severely by his '94 run against Ted Kennedy and his '02 run for Governor....

It seemed Romney the buttoned down businessman had planned for every contingency, except one: Mike Huckabee....Huckabee's presence in the race exacerbated Romney's core weakness and presented evangelicals in Iowa and beyond with a stark choice: why settle for someone repackaged as a social conservative when you could have the real deal?

Then Charles Krauthammer looked for a conservative...and couldn't find any:

On Super Tuesday, John McCain secured the Republican nomination. How did that happen? Simple. In the absence of a compelling conservative, the Republican electorate turned to the apostate sheriff....

There would have been a far smaller Republican constituency for the apostate sheriff had there been a compelling conservative to challenge him. But there never was.

The first messianic sighting was Fred Thompson, who soared in the early polls, then faded because he was too diffident and/or normal to embrace with any enthusiasm the indignities of the modern campaign.

Then, for that brief and shining Iowa moment, there was Huckabee -- until conservatives actually looked at his record (on taxes, for example) as governor of Arkansas, and listened to the music of his often unconservative populism.

That left Romney, the final stop in the search for the compelling conservative. I found him to be a fine candidate who would have made a fine president. But until very recently, he was shunned by most conservatives for ideological inauthenticity. Then, as the post-Florida McCain panic grew, conservatives tried to embrace Romney, but the gesture was both too late and as improvised and convenient-looking as Romney's own many conversions. (So late and so improvised that it could not succeed. On Thursday, Romney withdrew from the race.)

But Krauthammer doesn't blame Romney for this. He blames Bush.

[T]here's an even more profound reason why no Reagan showed up this election cycle and why the apostate sheriff is going to win the nomination. The reason is George W. Bush. He redefined conservatism with a "compassionate" variant that is a distinct departure from classic Reaganism.

Bush muddied the ideological waters of conservatism. It was Bush who teamed with Teddy Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind, a federal venture into education that would have been anathema to (the early) Reagan. It was Bush who signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. It was Bush who strongly supported the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. It was Bush who on his own created a vast new entitlement program, the Medicare drug benefit. And it was Bush who conducted a foreign policy so expansive and, at times, redemptive as to send paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan and traditional conservatives like George Will into apoplexy and despair (respectively).

Who in the end prepared the ground for the McCain ascendancy? Not Feingold. Not Kennedy. Not even Giuliani. It was George W. Bush. Bush begat McCain.

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