Road to Nowhere
Earnestly and methodically, he has appealed to each of the major constituency groups. For national security conservatives, he vowed to double the size of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. For social conservatives, he embraced a culture war against the faithless. For immigration skeptics, he swung so far right he earned the endorsement of Tom Tancredo.Brooks sees something that many of us have seen but that most Republicans have refused to acknowledge - the end of a coalition.
He has spent roughly $80 million, including an estimated $17 million of his own money, hiring consultants, blanketing the airwaves and building an organization that is unmatched on the Republican side.
And he has turned himself into the party’s fusion candidate. Some of his rivals are stronger among social conservatives. Others are stronger among security conservatives, but no candidate has a foot in all camps the way Romney does. No candidate offends so few, or is the acceptable choice of so many.
And that is why Romney is at the fulcrum of the Republican race. He’s looking strong in Iowa and is the only candidate who can afford to lose an important state and still win the nomination.
And yet as any true conservative can tell you, the sort of rational planning Mitt Romney embodies never works. The world is too complicated and human reason too limited. The PowerPoint mentality always fails to anticipate something. It always yields unintended consequences.
And what Romney failed to anticipate is this: In turning himself into an old-fashioned, orthodox Republican, he has made himself unelectable in the fall. When you look inside his numbers, you see tremendous weaknesses.
But his biggest problem is a failure of imagination. Market research is a snapshot of the past. With his data-set mentality, Romney has chosen to model himself on a version of Republicanism that is receding into memory. As Walter Mondale was the last gasp of the fading New Deal coalition, Romney has turned himself into the last gasp of the Reagan coalition.And the following observation is not the kind I have come to expect from Brooks.
That coalition had its day, but it is shrinking now. The Republican Party is more unpopular than at any point in the past 40 years. Democrats have a 50 to 36 party identification advantage, the widest in a generation. The general public prefers Democratic approaches on health care, corruption, the economy and Iraq by double-digit margins. Republicans’ losses have come across the board, but the G.O.P. has been hemorrhaging support among independent voters. Surveys from the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University show that independents are moving away from the G.O.P. on social issues, globalization and the roles of religion and government.
If any Republican candidate is going to win this year, he will have to offer a new brand of Republicanism. But Romney has tied himself to the old brand. He is unresponsive to the middle-class anxiety that Huckabee is tapping into. He has forsaken the trans-partisan candor that McCain represents. Romney, the cautious consultant, is pivoting to stress his corporate competence, and is rebranding himself as an Obama-esque change agent, but he will never make the sort of daring break that independent voters will demand if they are going to give the G.O.P. another look.
The leaders of the Republican coalition know Romney will lose. But some would rather remain in control of a party that loses than lose control of a party that wins. Others haven’t yet suffered the agony of defeat, and so are not yet emotionally ready for the trauma of transformation. Others still simply don’t know which way to turn.Brooks and other Republicans (and former Republicans) are beginning to realize the the politics of Karl Rove that were supposed to keep the "Reagan revolution" going forever in fact destroyed it. That will be the lasting legacy of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.
We all know that the vast majority of politicians are phonies. That said Matt Yglesias makes what may be a vaild point about Romney.
...to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, one thing I can say about him is that there's some indication he might make an okay president. He ran a successful business. He managed the Olympics well. He took over a state that enjoyed a high standard of living and during his years of governor it continued to enjoy a high standard of living and he never tried to do anything crazy. He's taken a lot of repugnant stands in the campaign, but that's clearly because he's telling people what he thinks they want to hear. When he thoughts his constituents wanted to hear about gay equality and a women's right to choose he said that stuff, too. He's a giant phony. But also a technocrat with some record of competence -- basically a risk-averse guy who knows what he's doing and understands how to color between the lines. It's impossible to imagine him being a great president, but it's relatively easy to imagine him being an okay president.I'm not sure I'm entirely ready to buy that but he probably is the pick of the litter.
The others in the field, not so much. Who knows what wars Rudy Giuliani or John McCain would start? And Mike Huckabee can't even fake knowing what he's talking about for fifteen minutes.