Hewitt’s theory on where Romney is blowing it

Hugh Hewitt is commonly thought of as insanely rah-rah for Romney. But here is Hewitt engaging in some heavy-duty strategic analysis in which he points to a potentially fatal flaw in the Romney campaign: its lack of appeal to the Christian conservatives who favor Huckabee. Now that is rich, given that Romney for many months strove mightily to present himself as a social conservative, but his efforts (whether inner- or other-directed) weren’t appreciated, the pundits all said that he was plastic and phony in that role and that’s why he lost Iowa and New Hampshire and that’s why he only “found his voice” when he began campaigning in Michigan as an economy-minded technocrat. So what’s Mitt to do? Go “phony” again? Hey, why not? Does Huckabee, for all his odd-ball appeal, actually strike anyone as genuine?

Here’s an excerpt from Hewitt article:

It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. [Bull. His coldly pro-forma statements on that issue made it crystal clear he couldn’t care less about stopping same-sex marriage.] But he has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are.

Mitt Romney is trying to unify the party as a business guy from Belmont who is culturally as far removed from Suwannee County, Florida as you can get. He’s going about it very clinically: vote for me because I’m not McCain. But I’m not sure that message holds much sway with an audience that takes its cues from Christian radio not News/Talk and certainly not National Review. And notice his message: it’s all about the economy, and nothing about Life and only a little bit about marriage. Christian voters have noticed…. [W]hat I’m seeing here is not effective coalition politics.

Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder.

- end of initial entry -

Tim W. writes:

To be fair, I think Romney does have a problem with social conservatives. The problem is that he’s a Mormon. Some conservative Christians regard Mormonism as a cult. It’s totally unfair, in my view, because nothing in Romney’s past would indicate that he’s going to try to place America under the Mormon equivalent of Sharia law. I’m a conservative Christian and it doesn’t bother me in the least that Romney’s a Mormon. But in all honesty there are people out there who don’t like the Mormon faith and I suspect that’s helping Huckabee, and thus indirectly helping McCain.

I think it was Thompson who truly blew his chance to appeal to social conservatives. Early on in his campaign, he refused a meeting with Dr. James Dobson. He issued a statement saying “I’m my own man”, or something like that. It appeared to be an attempt to position himself as a strong candidate who wasn’t going to cut deals with various interest groups, but by doing it so obviously he created a distrust in his candidacy among Christians. He then threw fuel on the fire on Meet the Press when he told Tim Russert he opposed both the Human Life Amendment and the Federal Marriage Amendment. If he had merely said that he didn’t think those amendments have much of a chance to pass, so he’ll concentrate on other ways to fight against abortion and same-sex “marriage”, that would have been fine. But to flat-out oppose the amendments and shrug them off sealed his fate as far as many Christians were concerned, and that’s why they migrated so suddenly to Huckabee, in my opinion.

LA replies:

Excellent explanation. I hadn’t focused on Thompson’s failure to win over social conservatives. I had forgotten about his argument with Dobson and about Thompson’s opposing the marriage amendment. I’ve been saying for years that anyone who says he’s against homosexual marriage and doesn’t support the amendment cannot be taken seriously, since it is the ONLY way to stop the spread of homosexual marriage.

Many conservatives and paleocons are, frankly, idiotic about this. They oppose the amendment on the basis of federalism. But the Constitution exists for the purpose of handling issues that can only be handled nationally. As I said, homosexual marriage will keep spreading without the amendment. Second, there’s a need for uniformity on such a fundamental question; a country with some states with homosexual marriage and other states without will devolve into chaos. Third and most fundamentally, if the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not foundational to our society and civilization, and therefore justifiably placed in the Constitution, then nothing is. In the past marriage was not threatened, so the question didn’t come up. Now that it is threatened, it is both right and indispensably necessary that it be stopped through constitutional amendment.

I am appalled at conservatives who claim to oppose homosexual marriage but also oppose the amendment.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 03, 2008 01:45 AM | Send

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