Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Romney's Other Problem

President Obama came out swinging today speaking to the UAW. It was a good day to give a speech pointing out how wrong Mitt Romney was on the auto bailout ... and everything else. More generally, if Romney is struggling to beat Santorum among Republicans, how's he going to beat this guy in the Fall?

Democrats for Santorum

Will Democrats give Michigan to Santorum? The final night of the PPP poll in MI has Santorum nominally in the lead 38-37 and Santorum did better than that on the final night of polling (39-34) so perhaps Santorum is finishing strong.

But buried in the numbers was this nugget: Democrats, who make up a very small portion (8%) of likely voters in the Republican primary, favor Santorum 47-10. This 37-point lead among 8% of voters amounts to a 3-point edge in the topline numbers. If PPP's poll is an accurate snapshot of what will happen tomorrow, Democrats will have given Michigan to Santorum. My official prediction for Michigan tomorrow?

Santorum - 40
Romney - 38
Paul - 14

If that is roughly the outcome, we're in for a very long primary fight. Santorum has a bunch of states he can win on Super Tuesday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Michigan, the Nomination Fight, and NASCAR

This is not quite what is meant by "being the NASCAR candidate." Asked today whether he follows NASCAR, Romney said:
Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.

The latest PPP poll has Romney up 2 in MI. I suspect Romney will win a close race in MI on Tuesday night and he'll blow Santorum out in Arizona. What should Santorum do? Santorum should spend some time on Tuesday night asking Republican voters a simple question. "Do you want a candidate who can only win the nomination by tearing others down?" That's what Romney appears to have done again, this time in Michigan. According to PPP, in the last week in MI, Santorum's net favorability has dropped from +44 (67/23) to +15 (54/39).

I'm not being all pollyannish about this. I know negative campaigning is not exclusive to the Romney camp. But I'm not sure I've ever seen a candidate get as far as Romney has on negative campaigning alone. He has no positive message branding. Quick ... what is Romney's economic plan? What's his plan for Afghanistan? I don't know his position on anything. I don't think Republican voters do either. Santorum should ask those questions. What is Mitt Romney for? When will he win a significant state without tearing down everybody else?

The advice is free Rick.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Good Lord. Mitt Romney is such a horrible, horrible candidate. He gave a big speech today that landed with a ... thud. First, the quote that sums this guy up perfectly:
This feels good being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height, the streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.
"Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs." Oy.

Then, there's (as Paul Harvey used to say) "the rest of the story." Romney spoke to an empty stadium, his jokes fell flat, and his proposals were the same tired ones he's already put out there. The Hill provides details here.

I was getting ready to write a blog post today about how Romney is likely to win Michigan despite the polls showing a statistical tie but now ... who knows? This guy just can't seem to do anything right.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Where Are We?

Nate Silver points out what you probably were already sensing:
Mr. Santorum’s bounce has already had considerably more staying power than those of some of his rivals. Newt Gingrich’s surge in the national polls, for instance, peaked just 24 or 48 hours after his victory in South Carolina, whereas Mr. Santorum’s has now persisted for more than a week.
Mitt Romney may really be in some trouble this time. His inability to connect just seems to be getting worse and worse.

Nationally, Romney appears to have lost his lead to Santorum:

Rick Santorum, the guy who lost his re-election bid in Pennsylvania by almost 20 points, is beating Mitt Romney.

The numbers at the state level are not good for Romney. He's losing in Michigan. He's losing really, really badly in Ohio, by 18 points according to Rasmussen. He's not only losing badly to Gingrich in Georgia but Santorum is about tied with him for second there so Gingrich + Santorum in Georgia is truly horrific for him. Romney is not up by much in Arizona. Rasmussen has a new poll out there that has him ahead by just 8 and PPP is polling the state now. My guess is they will show a smaller lead for Romney by the end of the weekend.

Meanwhile, various polls have Obama moving ahead of Romney in trial heats nationally. CNN has Obama over 50% and ahead by 5. Democracy Corps has Obama ahead by 4.

The question right now is simply whether things are just bad for Romney or bad for Romney with a chance of rain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Santorum, Joe the Plumber, and Ned Flanders

No, not THE Joe the Plumber. I mean Joe, "a metaphorical" plumber.

We've seen a number of polls out of Michigan that have Santorum ahead of Romney (for now) by anywhere from 2 points to 15 points. This morning, a Quinnipiac poll has Santorum ahead of Romney in Ohio (a Super Tuesday state) by 7. One thing these states have in common is there are a lot of blue-collar men willing to vote in the Republican Primary who are increasingly unhappy with Romney and who are easy pickings for Santorum's message on reviving manufacturing. Nate Silver gets at this in his thoughtful article today suggesting that Santorum may not be all that less electable than Romney. Jonathan Chait makes a similar argument pointing out that
I don’t think it’s sunk in quite how poisoned Romney’s image has become among downscale voters. Coverage of Romney’s wealth, corporate history, and partially released tax situation coincided with, and almost certainly caused, a collapse in his support with white voters with income under $50,000.
Then there's geography. Look at the states Romney has won: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, and Maine (sort of). Look at the states Santorum has won: Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado. Put these on a map and you can see that Michigan and Ohio sure seem like Santorum country.

The bottom line is that Romney is winning "around the edges" and Santorum is winning in what Ned Flanders likes to call "the real America." We don't know yet if Santorum's surge will last. But one thing that suggests the Santorum surge can be more lasting than the previous surges is that Santorum's persona and message actually match the electorate he's winning over right now. Rick Perry was never a good match with voters in the midwest. Gingrich's appeal to evangelicals was always tempered by his, ya know, two mistresses and two divorces. Having never held office, Herman Cain was just not a credible national candidate. But Santorum lives the family story values voters talk about. He has the manufacturing message that voters in the Midwest like. He knows how to debate and he speaks the language of downscale voters. Mitt Romney does not.

I really think the only thing holding Santorum back right now is Gingrich. If Gingrich were to leave the race (not likely to happen soon), I think Romney would have a good chance of losing the nomination. As it is, Romney is going to have to muddy himself further by doing to Santorum what he did to Gingrich ... spend millions on negative ads tearing him down.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romney Flip Flop After a Sentence

Mitt Romney has achieved something I didn't think possible. He changed his position after a sentence. He said one thing. And then changed his mind in the sentence after. I don't know if he took a breath in between but I doubt it. Let's take a look:
This week, President Obama will release a budget that won't take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis. The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.
Let it settle in for a moment.

He criticized the President for failing to take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis ... and then criticized him for cutting Medicare benefits for seniors. The Medicare cuts were about $500 billion over 10 years for those scoring at home. Not meaningful? Maybe Romney should ask the other Romney who is running around beating the President over the head for cutting Medicare.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hey Michigan, Gingrich is Awful

That's the message Mitt Romney is sending loud and clear with his new tv ad buy. It is a curious move since Santorum seems to be the one surging. I assume the meeting at Romney SuperPAC HQ went something like this:

Political Consultant #1: It appears from the polls we are no longer winning in Michigan.
Political Consultant #2: What have we done in the past when we found we were not winning somewhere?
Political Consultant #3: When we found ourselves down in Iowa and Florida, we ran a ton of negative ads about how awful Newt Gingrich is.
Political Consultant #1: It is agreed then. Let's spend half a million on negative ads targeted at Newt Gingrich.

That's Team Romney ... Rinse, Lather with napalm, Repeat.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nate Silver is Wrong

Bet you didn't think you'd hear me say that.

Last night, Nate said that Romney's victory in Maine does help him. He said this on the basis that it will affect the media narrative (which is all about how Romney is in trouble) and engender momentum. He explains:
Yes, Mr. Romney’s margin of victory — 196 votes — was not overwhelming. But the fact is that Mr. Romney can very much use some favorable news of any kind, given how poorly he did last Tuesday.

Consider the alternative: if Mr. Romney had lost the state by 196 votes, the narrative might have been that Mr. Romney’s campaign was falling apart. That might or might not have been fair to Mr. Romney, but I think it’s possible that’s how it would have been perceived. People like to see patterns in the data, and the pattern would have looked like a bad one for his campaign.
Let's put aside the fact that not all of Maine has yet participated (Nate followed up with a post looking at whether Paul could conceivably win) (and let's put aside that Romney won by 194 votes, not 196). Does Romney's 194-vote victory generate favorable news and create momentum?

Sorry, no. First, the results were announced on a Saturday night which helps bury the story of this runaway victory. Second, the story was easily overshadowed by Whitney Houston's death and the Grammy Awards this weekend. Third, if you think the lead political story in the morning will be Romney's 3-point victory in Maine, try this tweet from PPP on for size:
Barring some big shift in tonight's calls Santorum will be up by 10-15 on the Michigan poll
PPP will be releasing their full MI poll in the morning. Or try this tweet from PPP:
Gingrich dropping out would be worth 7 pts on the margin to Santorum, Mitt better hope he stays in:
That's nationally folks. I'll take either of those as newsworthy over Willard's romp through Maine.

Yes Nate, losing Maine would have been worse for Romney but when we get to the point that the lack of a disaster is "helping" Romney, he's got problems that the state of Maine just can't fix. Romney needs the narrative to change and Maine won't do it. If he has a great debate or if he wins in Arizona and Michigan in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, that could work. Michigan is starting to look dicey for him. I wonder if anyone will remember how Romney opposed the auto bailout???

UPDATE: PPP has Santorum up by 15 in Michigan, very similar to results nationally. ARG (though I don't trust their polls much) has a poll out this morning that has Santorum ahead by 6. In this case, I'd tend to believe the real numbers are closer to ARG's but it is clear that, at least temporarily, Romney is behind in one of his 43 "home states."

Saturday, February 11, 2012


The lack of enthusiasm for Romney is what hurt him in Colorado. Some very interesting graphs from Seth Masket on this point.

The summmary is that Republicans voters who are "okay with" Romney are not turning out for him in very good numbers. So even the numbers he's getting in polls are a bit soft.

Romney Tumbling

PPP's new national poll is out this morning and it is a big scoop of bad news for Romney plus some bad news sauce and a bad news cherry on top. One minor caveat is that PPP does not use cell phones so that might understate Romney's numbers but only by a couple of points if at all. The topline numbers:

Santorum 38
Romney 23
Gingrich 17
Paul 13

Both Paul and Gingrich are closer to Romney than Santorum.

More bad news:

- Romney's favorability is 44/43. Translation: As I said yesterday, a lot of people dislike Mitt Romney. In December, he was at 55/31. Those unfavorable numbers are hard to bring down ... and remember, this is among Republican Primary voters. There are a lot of Democrats who dislike Romney too!

- Santorum is now winning 53-20 among those describing themselves as "very conservative" ... over Gingrich. Romney is down at 15%.

- Santorum is ahead among Tea Party voters 51-24 ... over Gingrich. Romney is at 12%.

- Santorum is ahead among Evangelicals 45-21 ... over Gingrich. Romney is at 18%.

- Among all Gingrich voters, 58% say they would go to Santorum and just 22% would go to Romney while 17% would go to Paul.

Just 48% of voters say their choice is solid so Romney can do his usual routine of getting his checkbook to hold Santorum while his credit cards pound Santorum in the stomach and his Cayman Islands stock portfolio asks Santorum why he's hitting himself.

But the key news item here is that Republican voters are really disliking Romney and it is really quite late for this kind of fluidity. There is something very wrong in the relationship between Romney and the Republican base.

Nate Silver described yesterday why Mitt's delegate lead is NOT like Obama's delegate lead in 2008:
Mr. Romney’s lead is more like the one held by a driver leading the Indianapolis 500 — after six laps have been completed. It might be argued that he is the better driver or has the better car. But the physical lead itself is not worth very much. All sorts of crazy things happen when there are 33 cars on the track, and one poorly timed pit stop would be enough for him to relinquish his advantage.
More broadly, Republicans have so far declined several opportunities to coalesce around Mr. Romney. They did not do so after he announced his candidacy, nor after Mr. Perry sunk in the polls, nor when Mr. Cain withdrew, nor after Mr. Romney’s apparent win in Iowa and actual win in New Hampshire. And after big wins in Florida and Nevada, he is struggling yet again.
While it remains hard to see anyone else winning the nomination, it is becoming easier every day to see how Romney could fail to win the nomination. What a glorious mess.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Romney Ebbing ...

... not Santorum surging.

PPP and others have polls in the field that show Santorum either tied or moving to the lead nationally. To quote PPP's twitter account:
We're going to have our new national GOP poll, showing a pretty healthy Santorum lead, out tomorrow morning

Meanwhile, PPP also reports:
Santorum topping Romney on the first night of our Michigan poll. This may be the biggest surge yet.
And a new Rosetta Stone/Landmark Communications Poll (yeah, I never heard of it either) has Georgia at:

Gingrich 35
Santorum 26
Romney 16

Obviously, Santorum's surge has very little to do with Santorum. I could be a Republican candidate for President right now and, so long as I was enough of an empty vessel for voters to pour their hatred of Obama and dislike of Romney into, I'd be beating Romney too.

The problem for Romney, as I've been saying for a few days now is getting worse because his viable options are narrowing. He can pour tons of money into smashing Santorum with negative ads. But this will hurt Romney as well as Santorum. He can take increasingly conservative positions on issues but that not only harms his general election chances, it also reinforces his image as a man who will say anything to win and who has no core.

We're now at a very weird point in the Republican nomination fight. I don't see how anyone else can win the nomination. But it is becoming increasingly easy to see how Romney might not win. Paging Mitch Daniels.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Technically Accurate, Politically Untrue

Paul Begala says Tuesday night mattered:
The lesson from Missouri, as Santorum’s talented admaker, John Brabender, told The New York Times’s John Harwood: “in a clean one-on-one with Romney, we beat him.”

Team Romney might say, "Au contraire." They would surely note that Missouri didn’t count. Technically accurate, politically untrue. Romney losing a nonbinding primary to Santorum is like the New York Yankees losing an exhibition game to a church-league softball team.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We're Number 1 ... or Number 2!!!

Mitt Romney got absolutely shellacked in Missouri, is getting shellacked in Minnesota, and he may even lose Colorado. From TPM:

Romney thanked all his supporters, including those who have gone out caucusing tonight in Colorado. "The race is too close to call in Colorado at this point, but I'm pretty confident we'll come in Number 1 or Number 2."

That's right ... he's "pretty confident" that he'll come in "Number 1 or Number 2." As Andrew Sullivan pointed out tonight, it appears that if he doesn't have a week and millions of dollars of negative ads to pound his opponent with negative ads, he can't seem to win.

We've now had 7 contests (IA, NH, SC, FL, NV, MN, MO) with one more pending. Romney has won 3 with CO pending. Santorum has won 3 ... with CO pending. Rick Santorum is pushing Mitt Romney. Really.

UPDATE: Yeah, Romney lost Colorado too. Something really bad has happened with Mitt Romney tonight. The bottom really dropped out. In talking about the low turnout in Florida, I had said Michael McDonald was actually understating what a major potential problem this was for Romney. Nate Silver points out that this pattern has finally cost Romney ... big-time:

We have repeatedly noted the pattern in which Mr. Romney's stronger states and counties have been associated with lower Republican turnout.

So far, it was not clear that this had lost Mr. Romney a state -- save perhaps Iowa, when virtually anything might have altered the result.

But in Colorado, where the demographics were reasonably favorable to Mr. Romney -- he won 60 percent of the vote there in 2008 -- it may have made the difference. Mr. Romney's stronger areas in the state were associated with turnout declines of about 20 percent. But turnout was steady or slightly up in places where Rick Santorum did well.

Among other problems for Mr. Romney, this suggests that suggests that the caucus states could be problematic rather than advantageous to Mr. Romney, with his superior organization being outmatched by very conservative voters who have low levels of enthusiasm for him.

So, we've now had 8 contests, Santorum has won 4 and Romney has won just 3. That's a pretty poor resume for Mr. Inevitable.

Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado

Well, I got one thing right last week when I said Santorum is the biggest threat to Romney. Santorum has a really good shot to win two of tonight's contests (Minnesota and Missouri) and he is even in good position to come in second in Colorado.

My reasoning was only slightly off. I had said that Santorum dropping out would boost Gingrich. It seems Santorum is a threat to beat Romney in key places. But the reasoning is not as far off as you might think. Santorum doesn't just have a chance to win in Missouri ... he could get close to 50%. This matters because my logic had been that there are some states where Santorum + Gingrich > Romney. Missouri provides a real test of this proposition because Gingrich is not on the ballot. Even with Paul on the ballot, Santorum is inching towards 50% (he got 45% in the PPP poll).

Meanwhile, Romney is downplaying the importance of tonight's contests. Like Iowa and South Carolina, they don't really matter apparently. My favorite part of this memo is their invoking the fact that John McCain lost 19 contests in 2008 so we're really doing just fine. What ever happened with that President McCain anyway?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Del Boca Vista Turnout Low

As I mentioned the other day, turnout was quite low in Florida compared with 2008. So reports Michael McDonald and he plots turnout by county compared with 2008 against Gingrich's share of the vote. What he finds is that turnout was particularly low in the places where Romney did well and particularly high where Gingrich did well.

What do these data mean? McDonald says:

What will happen in the general election if Romney is the nominee is anyone's guess. I suspect that Republican conservatives will line up behind Romney, but they will not do so enthusiastically. And while Romney does well among moderate, urban and suburban voters, the lack of enthusiasm exhibited by these voters should caution Romney that he may not continue to do as well among these voters when his opponent is Barack Obama. This would not matter in deep red states, but could matter in some battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia -- states where the Obama campaign appears to be targeting and where he can rely on enthusiastic African-American voters.

I think McDonald is understating the importance of what we're seeing here. Independent voters are not liking what they are seeing from Romney so far. Today's jobs report is not going to sour them on Obama further ... at least not right now.

Romney will get conservative voters to turn out for him. We've known that. What has been unclear is what price he'll pay among independents for getting them to show up. If Newt Gingrich can hold on to conservative support until Super Tuesday, he can do some damage there and force Romney to do some more pandering to the right. It is already a good bet that Romney will have to pick a running mate who is Palin-esque. DeMint anyone?

It seems to me the low turnout in Del Boca Vista and the surrounding communities is a bad sign for Mitt and his hair. Getting on stage with the Donald isn't helping any.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Very Poor

I guess Romney's definitive statement that he's not concerned about the very poor was enough to bring Trump on board!

The Romney camp responded to the brouhaha about Romney's comments by saying that his comments need to be taken in context. Here's the more full clip.

It's actually not any better. First Read correctly points out that the problem with the gaffe (and this is when a gaffe is actually dangerous) is that it reinforces an existing narrative about Romney. It only matters because people already think Romney doesn't care about the poor. In Romney's defense, he does come back to say "There's no question. It's not good being poor." I can just imagine Romney's advisors popping antacids and tugging at their shirt collars watching that.

But there's another more subtle but long-term problem here. Look at the reasoning Romney uses. He literally says, "You can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That's not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That's not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans ..." So, here's what happened ... and I really believe this: Romney was in a meeting with his advisors and they said to him, you've already got the support of the rich and there's no votes to be had in doing something for the poor. We're focusing on the middle class. Remember Mitt, you're focused on the middle class. So he goes out and does an interview and says, "You can choose where to focus."

Keep repeating that line. "You can choose where to focus." It is the essence of Mitt Romney. He is absolutely telling you, "I have no core. But my advisors say there are votes to be had in the middle class. So I'm going to focus there."

Just as a post-script, a new poll is out by PPP in Ohio. Obama 49, Romney 42. Obviously, a full lifetime to go in this race but ... Middle income. Middle America. Not digging Romney today.