Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

Who Wears the Mitts In This Family?

Another day, another set of encouraging poll results for Newt, and discouraging ones for Mitt. This time an automated Rasmussen poll of likely Republican voters nationwide has Newt handily beating the rest of the field with 38% compared to Mitt’s second-place 17%.  This is Newt’s largest lead in any nationwide survey so far. (I’m not going to start parsing the internals of the various polls this early in the process – you’ll get plenty of that later on.)  And it simply adds to his polling momentum – the RealClear Politics composite polling average shows Newt’s survey support (he is in green) heading north, while Mitt (purple) and the Herminator (red) go South.

 As I noted in an earlier post, although I’ve been touting Newt’s debate-based surge for some time now, the media-driven conventional wisdom has been slow to adjust to events on the ground.  Only now are they showing signs that they recognize that Newt’s polling arc is not likely to follow the same pattern as that exhibited by previous “Not Mitt” candidates.  In their defense, however, the speed of ascent, and his evident staying power, took even the Newtster by surprise.  In an hour long interview – more like an extended “infomercial” – with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity before an appreciative South Carolina audience last night, Gingrich admitted that his intended strategy had been to stay in the race until South Carolina, where he then hoped to make his move with a strong showing.  Instead, he is now the undisputed frontrunner.

Which raises the question: did he peak too soon?  And what does Mitt intend to do about it?  I suggested yesterday that it was time for Mitt to put up his, er, dukes and start directly targeting Newt.  Media reports from today suggest that Mitt and his advisers are finally recognizing  the difficulty of running a classic front-runner’s race when by all indications you are no longer the front runner.  Indeed, as Newt put it last night, the race has turned quickly from Mitt versus non-Mitt to Newt vs. non-Newt – with Mitt in real danger of not being the non-Newt. But, how to respond? Evidently Mitt and his Merry Mittsters are debating how to take on Gingrich directly without mussing Mitt’s hair.

While Mitt dithers, Ron Paul isn’t waiting, as the following campaign ad (hat tip to Peter) indicates (cue dramatic music!):

Despite the annoying music, the Paul video succinctly spells out the major talking points that will undoubtedly be at the heart of any future attacks on Gingrich’s record:  his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, his more moderate stance on many issues, his ad with Pelosi recognizing global warming (a “mistake” Gingrich openly confessed last night), his support of health care mandates, his criticism of the Ryan plan as “right wing social engineering” and, of course, his messy personal life.

To this point, Newt seems to have developed a set of talking points designed to respond to these criticisms. It remains to be seen whether those talking points will be enough to blunt the impact of these attacks which are sure to escalate in intensity in the next few weeks.  As of now, Mitt still seems reluctant to muss his hair with direct attacks on Newt, so he may rely on surrogates like Chris Christie to carry his dirty water for him, and hope that the other Republican hopefuls will follow Paul’s lead and launch their own broadside at Newt’s very broad side.  In the meantime, I expect to see lots of Romney ads featuring his wife and family (no messy personal life there!) and constant references to his private sector experience.  The problem is that this may not be enough to overcome the persistent skepticism among Republican voters regarding Romney’s own inconsistencies – a skepticism that dates back at least four years and which seems to have set the Mittster’s ceiling of support at about 25% of likely Republican voters.

Meanwhile, how will Gingrich adjust to front-runner status?  Critics are waiting for him to implode – to engage in the self-centered, petty behavior that contributed to his downfall as House Speaker.  To this point, however, we’ve seen a new, wiser, more mature Newt, one who while still showing flashes of smugness and intellectual condescension, has also managed to come across as mellower and more introspective.  Already he has instructed his staff  to avoid critiquing Romney, continuing his steady adherence to Reagan’s 11th commandment.  Meanwhile, he may have his sights set on a bigger target: a poll released today shows that for the first time Newt has pulled even with the President in a national survey of likely voters.

So, which is it?  Will Newt solidify his lead in the next month in preparation for the Iowa caucuses?  Or is he destined to follow the downward trajectory experienced by the other non-Mitt’s who temporarily shot to the top of the pack.  Are we seeing a new Newt, or will he relapse into the bombastic bomb-thrower of yore, as critics contend (and hope!)

I know what Newt thinks – he told ABC’s Jake Tapper this afternoon that  “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.”

Is Newt right?  Are we looking at a Gingrich-Obama slugfest this fall? If not, then who will be the Republican nominee?  It’s time to stake out a claim.  At stake: one “It’s the Fundamentals, Stupid” t-shirt to the person who can tell me who will win the Republican nomination. To make it more interesting, you must tell me the order in which the 8 Republican candidates will finish, based on the candidate’s delegate totals when the race finishes or the candidate drops out.


Game on.

It’s Time to Put Up Your Mitts, Mitt

To date Mitt Romney has been content to adopt the classic front-runner’s strategy; except for the occasional veiled critique, he’s largely ignored his Republican rivals and instead has focused his attacks on President Obama.  In turn, strategists in Obama’s campaign have largely trained their guns on Romney, in the apparent belief that he is the President’s most likely rival.  While the media pundits have been hyping the anticipated Romney-Obama contest, Newt Gingrich has largely kept his big head down, obeyed Reagan’s 11th commandment and, primarily on the basis of a series of excellent debate performances, quietly marched to the front of the Republican race in most of the key early nominating events.

Somewhat belatedly, it appears that Mitt may be beginning to realize that the conventional wisdom may be wrong, and that without a change in strategy he is in danger of losing this nomination fight.  In an interview yesterday with Fox News’ Bret Baier  Mitt didn’t exactly take his Italian-made genuine leather exterior rabbit fur-lined gloves off. But he did loosen them a little to throw what by Mitt’s standards is a gentleman’s punch.  When asked about the Union Leader’s endorsement of Newt, Mitt replied that Newt was a “life-long politician” who was not as likely as Mitt to beat Obama in the general election. Romney concluded: “I believe that my views are essential to get this country going again, so, no problem with Newt Gingrich, good man, but very different person than I am based on our life experiences.” Not exactly fighting words, to be sure, but for Romney that passes for a political attack. Let’s go to the video (and note that caption “Robot Romney” is not mine).

Note that when Baier pressed him on whether his previously stated views on immigration were essentially no different than Newt’s, Romney went into front-runner mode again and refused to address Newt’s views, focusing instead on clarifying his own immigration policy which, essentially, is that illegal immigrants must “get in line” for citizenship, (or for some other legal status).  Notably, Mitt did not say whether that line formed outside or inside the United States.

As the interview went on, Mitt got a little testy (I thought I saw a hair strand or two move), particularly when Baier asked him to defend his Massachusetts health care policy, but except for the one gentle jab at Newt this was for the most part more front-runner posturing.  And it raises the question whether Mitt can afford to keep acting as if Newt is the latest Republican afterthought.  Because right now the political winds are blowing strongly in Newt’s favor. The latest poll in Florida has Newt trouncing Mitt, 41% to 17% in that crucial primary state, a margin that almost certainly reflects the movement of former Cain backers to Gingrich.  As the chart below shows, that puts Newt up in the RealClear Politics composite tracker by 16% over both Cain and Romney among Florida voters, with Cain dropping fast. (Newt is green, Romney purple and Cain red in this poll.)

Meanwhile, Newt continues to lead the polls in both Iowa and South Carolina, and the latest New Hampshire poll – and the first since the Union Leader endorsement – has him down only 10%, 34%-24%, to Romney. That represents a gain of 23% for the Newtster in the last month in a state that Romney simply cannot afford to lose.  Today Romney rolled out his second television ad in New Hampshire.  Although the tone is positive, the message touting Romney’s private sector experience can be construed as an implicit attack on Newt, the career politician. Time will tell whether Mitt is going to have to engage Newt more directly in the New Hampshire media campaign.

And what of Cain?  As of tonight, it appears that he will remain in the race, so he will likely retain at least some of his dwindling support.  But, consistent with my post from yesterday, Mark Halperin at the Pollster website cites additional evidence based on two more polls indicating that should Cain choose to drop out, Gingrich will be the primary beneficiary.

We are still a month away from the first caucus.  Much can change in 30 days. So why bother parsing polling results at all?  Because, for better and for worse, candidates must use something to gauge whether their message is resonating, and how they are faring against the competition.  At this stage, polls are important less for their predictive capacity than for signaling to the candidates whether their strategies are working.  And right now, Mitt’s strategy is not.  It may be time, gosh darn it, for Mitt’s valet to roll up Mitt’s suit jacket sleeves, muss up his hair, and tell him to put up his…er…mitts.

10:09 P.M. Addendum – A second Florida poll just came in, and it shows Newt up over Mitt by an even bigger margin: 47%-17%, with Cain at 15%.