Let’s take a look at Romney

Time for some preemptive oppo research. The Salt Lake City Olympics might be a good place to start.

With Mitt Romney looking more and more like the likely Republican nominee for 2008, &#8212 especially with Jerry Falwell announcing that his Mormon faith (which many if not most fundamentalists regard as non-Christian) isn’t a problem &#8212 it’s time for Democrats to start digging into his background and performance. We can’t afford to repeat the mistake we made with GWB in 2000, failing to exploit obvious weaknesses (such as his use of the power of eminent domain to seize private property without adequate compensation in order to enrich himself and his Texas Rangers partners).

David Broder provides a Romney primer. Two things to note:

1) When the likely conservative candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination has as his flagship program mandatory health insurance, it’s clear that health care finance reform is an idea whose time has, once again, come. That seems to me like an excellent reason not to run as our candidate a person associated with health care finance reform failure.

2) Romney’s “rescue” of the Salt Lake City Olympics may not bear close scrutiny. Sports Illustrated had a devastating investigative story, which I can’t find on line but which suggested that Romney took Federal taxpayers for a ride while enriching some influential Republicans.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Let’s take a look at Romney”

  1. When I visited SLC as a teen, I remember the talking moving dolls exhibit that reenacted the Mormon story. It was great campy fun. Tony Kushner featured the display prominently in Angels in America.
    I came back with my wife a few years ago, eager to see the doll show again. All I could find were these boring still-life diaramas. I asked one of the young women docents where the dolls were, and she told me they got rid of them for the SLC Olympics.
    I guess the Mormon image overhaul is to make it more boring. What a shame.

  2. Romney has no hope of the nomination. He's got
    the wrong religion, too much flip-flopping on
    social issues – he claimed to be pro-choice when
    running for governor, and he wouldn't even deliver
    Massachusetts' electoral college votes. On the
    other hand, the Republican candidates are a sorry
    bunch indeed. McCain is too old and too hawkish,
    Allen suffered spontaneous combustion, Brownback
    is a religious nut, Giuliani has plenty of muck
    to be raked (e.g. Kerik). And Gingrich is
    revolting both personally and ideologically.
    Barring some unforeseeable Haggard-like cataclysm,
    any of the likely Dem candidates wins this one
    easily.

  3. "Barring some unforeseeable Haggard-like cataclysm, any of the likely Dem candidates wins this one easily."
    The stars were aligned for a GOP implosion in 2004, too. For that matter, the crystal ball in 2000 would've foreseen the weakness of GWB as a candidate, as Mark observes.
    What's with all the Mormon-bashing? Sure they're weird, but so is every religion. (Which IIRC was the upshot of the South Park episode on the topic.)

  4. Richard Cownie
    It is far, far too early to make claims like that.
    Remember Bush lost to Gore. But he was running ahead in the polls before the weekend, *and* he wound up as president.
    Bush *should* have been vulnerable in 2004. OK Kerry was not the best campaigner. But still, Bush won handily.
    The Republicans were down 10 points in the polls before the 2006 elections, but only lost by 6 points. Move less than 10,000 votes, and they still control the Senate.
    If a Democratic president had been where GWB was in 2006, the Republicans would have taken 50 seats, not the 25 or so the Democrats managed.
    The Republicans always do better on the campaign trail and in the electoral booth than the Democrats. They have the money, the data, the ground operation and the dirty tricks brigade. And their political consultants are a lot more inspiring than the Democratic ones.
    And they have an almost unstoppable ground force in Florida, if not Ohio, plus a completely secure southern base. And a capacity to rig elections (to put it impolitely).
    Look again at the Democratic lineup for 2008. We all know Hilary's flaws: at least 40% of the country will never vote for her. That's a heck of a place to start a campaign.
    Bayh? Edwards? Not exactly a stunning field.
    McCain v. Clinton McCain takes it
    McCain v. anyone else McCain takes it
    Romney v. anyone is not going to be easy– there is a lot about George Romney that makes him sound like GWB in 2000 without the intelligence issue. His biggest weakness is that some evangelicals may not vote for him.
    Grumpy
    The key problem for a lot of Christians is that Mormons are not Christians. (I would put myself in that category of viewpoint in fact, and I am no evangelical– the difference being if I were an American, it might not change my vote).
    I sometimes wonder: is America ready for a Scientologist President?

  5. The 2006 midterms showed that the Bush-era
    Republican GOTV effort isn't the great advantage
    they claimed. The Repubs lost the Senate popular
    vote by about 7M. And every Republican in the
    House and Senate is heavily tainted by their past
    fawning over, and unconditional support for,
    the now-unpopular Bush.
    Add to that the loss of many governorships and
    state legislatures, and the demographic trends
    which are making Democrats competitive again in
    the mountain West, the Midwest, and even border
    states such as Virginia, and the prospects for
    the Republicans in 2008 look gloomy.
    Someone says McCain looks like a winner. I don't
    think so – his actual positions are far-right,
    especially on Iraq and other military adventures,
    at a time when the US public is heartily sick of
    foreign wars and massive military budgets. His
    popularity relies on obscuring his likely
    policies – a trick which Bush pulled off in 2000,
    but I don't think we'll get fooled again like
    that, especially with actual wars in progress.
    And then there's the simple matter of age
    and health – McCain would be older than any
    other President at time of election; I believe
    he's suffered skin cancer; he hasn't been looking
    great recently, and the stress of a presidential
    campaign is brutal.
    On Romney, I'm not bashing him for his Mormonism –
    as a Massachusetts resident, I'm bashing him for
    spending most his time as governor travelling
    the country dissing the state he's supposed to
    be running. And flip-flopping on important
    issues like abortion. If he ever had any
    principles, they have been sacrificed to his
    ambition. The Mormonism however, certainly has
    to be considered as a factor in Republican
    primary voting – they've never nominated a non-
    Protestant, ad I don't see any JFK-like qualities
    in Romney that might cause such a break with
    tradition.

  6. If health care finance reform is your issue, why wouldn't you look at Romney to see if you'd support him, rather than assuming that whatever candidate your side throws up would be better on the issue? Or, like so many, would you rather have the issue than a solution?
    I think Mark is right and Richard is wrong on the odds of a Romney nomination. People say lots of things about how Republican politics works, but the truth is, since 1980 the various factions of the party have all found a candidate willing to endorse their views, even if they had to "evolve" to do it.
    Richard has apparently forgotten about Thomas Dewey, the first Catholic nominated by one of the two major parties. He also misunderstands the interaction of the direction of Romney's change on abortion and his religion. The fact that, generally speaking, Mormons are prolife allows Romney a bit more credibility when he professes his opposition to abortion. And no one doubts the extremism of the MA electorate on the issue, and thus it isn't surprising or even particularly disappointing that Romney ran for governor promising not to change the state's abortion laws.
    There isn't any dirt on Romney, unfortunate as that may be for someone like Mark, who loves to play politics in the gutter and who would hate to see such an accomplished Republican in public life. Whatever issues there were with the SLOG predated Romney's involvement.
    No, the way to beat Romney is the way that Kennnedy beat him: attack his leadership of Bain (they fired people! and some of the companies they own don't offer health insurance!) and attack his Mormonism. That sort of populist and bigoted campaign will make Mark proud, no doubt.
    (Also, there's no doubt that some intellectual sorts will say that whichever mediocrity the Democrats nominate is smarter than Romney, with a more nuanced understanding of the issues facing the country, etc. More than ever that line will be a lie, but it's never needed to be true–it's always been about the speaker of the line, not the subject.)

  7. Thomas
    Al Smith was also Catholic? Ran against Coolidge.
    ie the first Catholic nominated by either Party was a Democrat.
    Richard
    As I recall, the Republicans were behind 10 on the weekend before the Nov 2006 election. In the event, they were behind 6 in the actual polls.
    That 3-4 point 'adjustment' between declared voting intentions and actual outcome, seems pretty stable across US elections.
    It's way to early to make a call on 2008 for the Republicans. They have pulled rabbits out of the hat before.
    And never underestimate the Democratic ability to shoot itself in the foot, or to hire 'TV focused' political consultants, in an era where TV is increasingly irrelevant to political outcomes.
    Romney could run as the anti-Massachussets Massachussetian ;-). And he could well take Michigan, on fond rememberances from voters for his father.
    A Republican electoral map that includes Michigan would be formidable. Very tough to beat.
    The Western states may be p'd off with the Republicans, but they are anything but safe Democratic territory. Yes, there is hope in demographic trends, but those are long term factors.
    McCain? Well, irritatingly, he may be bulletproof. The 'Ross Perot' faction wants a leader, (call it the not so religious guys who drive pickups, own guns, are sceptical on immigration– classic independent voters), and if the Republicans pick such a leader who appeals to them, they will be hard to beat.

  8. Well, we just had a national election for the
    Senate, and the Dems won the popular vote by 7M.
    That's a big margin, and a huge repudiation of
    Bush and his policies. Also, it seems very likely
    that we'll still have US troops getting killed in
    Iraq during the 2008 campaign. So how do you pick
    a prominent Republican as a candidate who a) has
    enough national-security experience to be a
    plausible wartime CinC, and b) hasn't expressed
    strong support for Bush's debacle in Iraq ?
    Condition a) rules out most governors – Romney
    in particular. And condition b) rules out
    almost all current Senators – McCain in particular.
    It's going to be extremely hard to find a
    Republican who can get through the campaign
    without having the millstone of Bush's
    unpopularity hung round his neck.
    On the Dem side, frankly I think it's going to
    be Edwards, notwithstanding the Hillary buzz.
    Edwards has been through a campaign and performed
    creditably, he looks good, speaks well, and his
    populist message resonates. Also the primary
    calendar favors him. He's light on the national-
    security stuff (as is Hillary, whose hawkishness
    looks dumb these days), but will work to fix
    that. The poll numbers at this stage don't
    mean a thing.

  9. Romney is as likely a nominee as Vilsack.
    Really, you need to get a clue. Mormons are deeply unpopular among fundamentalists.

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