Other than Atrios, I’m the only one who thinks Romney would be the hardest Republican for Democrats to beat. Here’s why.
- The Somerby Effect. One thing to keep in mind is that the traditional media narratives, while trivial for all politicians, are strongly biased against Democrats (“Obambi”, obsessive hatred of the Clintons, “The Breck Girl”). Second, on a factual claim, a counter-argument always receives less attention than the original argument because political reporters are stupid and ignorant (not necessarily true of beat reporters), and after adding in the bias, if a Democrat has to make a logical refutation of something the opponent says, it simply won’t get traction. Remember this when there appear to be obvious rebuttals to Romney’s claims–his claims might be outlandish, but debunking them wouldn’t be trivial, given these institutional handicaps.
- Don’t read too much into polls at this point. Many people who vote don’t pay attention to politics at this stage. To a considerable extent, ‘electability’ polls represent ignorance about one (or both) of the candidates in the ‘head-to-head’ comparision. Romney is still unknown, except maybe as ‘that Mormon guy.’ Speaking of religion…
- Republican evangelicals will come home, not stay home. There are evangelicals who lean left, but most politically active and aware evangelicals are Republican evangelicals. And, when it comes to the voting booth, they are Republicans first, evangelicals second. I think this potential schism is more wishful thinking than reality.
- Anti-Mormonism is overestimated. If there’s anything to be learned from the creationism controversy, it’s that people in the U.S., at least in the abstract, like to be fair to the point of extreme pathology. If Romney becomes the nominee, expect to see a backlash against bigotry since the religious bigots themselves will be rallying around Romney.
- Romney won in Massachusetts. Massachusetts isn’t the liberal stereotype Republican propagandists make it out to be, but still, it’s a Democratic stronghold. And he won, even after a lackluster economic performance by his Republican predecessor.
- When Romney was in office, the economy did well, and the budget went into surplus. Mind you, much of that had nothing to do with Romney (a real estate boom and some strong federal outlays in transportation and scientific research) or occurred in spite of Romney (preventing many of Romney’s proposed tax cuts to the wealthy). Nonetheless, he was governor and can (and will) point to this. Remember the Somerby Effect: this argument can be refuted, but it’s somewhat complex, which means that it will be very hard for it to stick in the current media environment.
- Romney cut taxes. While I think the bloom is off this rose somewhat, Republicans and Republican-leaning independent still hates them some gummint. It’s a good way to rally the base. Again, much of this was possible because the property tax base increased, which had little to do with Romney, but the Somerby Effect pertains.
- Romney will portray himself as a businessman. Here’s the Boston Globe:
But it might not make a difference. Voters seem far warmer to the new vision of Romney as a creative businessman who wants to use the powers of the presidency to “fix” American industry.
That vision runs counter to Romney’s gubernatorial record in ways, but it connects to his very real success in building a lucrative business and turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“His main appeal was as a can-do businessman, but he didn’t campaign that way for most of the [past] year,” said Fowler. “I think for him to talk about the economy plays to his strength.”
He was actually a vulture capitalist, but again, the Somerby Effect will make it more difficult than it should be to refute this. There are a lot of chumps out there who think if the U.S. were run ‘like a business’, the country would be better off, Enron, Big Shitpile, and the car companies notwithstanding. There are a lot of desperate people who could buy into this.
- McCain looks tired. I think the more people see McCain, the more tired he looks. Romney, on the other hand, looks energetic. I think elections are decided far less by content, and far more by how that content is expressed, even if said content is a steaming pile of shit. I would much rather face McCain.