MittRomney4.jpg

Landslide on the Horizon

When I read Nate Silver, Sean Trende, Charlie Cook, Jay Cost, and the others who make a profession of political prognostication, I pay close attention to their attempts to dissect the polling data and predict what is to come. But I also take everything that they say with a considerable grain of salt. You see, I lived through the 1980 election, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I was struck at the time by the fact that next to no one among the political scientists who made a living out of studying presidential elections, communism in eastern Europe, and Sovietology saw any of these upheavals coming. Virtually all of them were caught flat-footed.

This is, in fact, what you would expect. They were all expert in the ordinary operations of a particular system, and within that framework they were pretty good at prognostication. But the apparent stability of the system had lured them into a species of false confidence – not unlike the false confidence that fairly often besets students of the stock market.

There were others, less expert in the particulars of these systems, who had a bit more distance and a bit more historical perspective and who saw it coming. The Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik wrote a prescient book entitled Can the Soviet Union Survive 1984? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn predicted communism’s imminent collapse, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan suspected that the Soviet Union would soon face a fatal crisis. They were aware that institutions and outlooks that are highly dysfunctional will eventually and unexpectedly dissolve.

In my opinion, none of the psephologists mentioned above has  reflected on the degree to which the administrative entitlements state – envisaged by Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives, instituted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and expanded by their successors – has entered a crisis, and none of them is sensitive to the manner in which Barack Obama, in his audacity, has unmasked that state’s tyrannical propensities and its bankruptcy. In consequence, none of these psephologists has reflected adequately on the significance of the emergence of the Tea-Party Movement, on the meaning of Scott Brown’s election and the particular context within which he was elected, on the election of Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey and of Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia, and on the political earthquake that took place in November, 2010. That earthquake, which gave the Republicans a strength at the state and local level that they have not enjoyed since 1928, is a harbinger of what we will see this November.

Yes, Barack Obama is ahead in some polls. And, yes, it looks like a neck-and-neck race. But that is because the President is spending everything that he has right now in a desperate attempt to demonize Mitt Romney, and it is because Americans are not yet paying attention. Obama’s support is a mile wide and a quarter of an inch deep.

Of course, if Romney were a corpse as yet unburied on the model of Bob Dole and John McCain, he would lose. If you do not all that much care whether you win or not, you will lose. But Romney wants to win. He is a man of vigor, and he has a wonderful case to make. He is a turn-around artist, and this country desperately needs turning around. Barack Obama has no argument to make. He can only promise more of the same — yet another stimulus and higher taxes on the investing class. All that Romney has to do if he wants to win is to make himself presentable, and that should not be hard. He is handsome, tolerably well-spoken, and accomplished. If, in the debates, he stands up to the President, he will seem the more presidential of the two – and that will do the trick, as it did in 1980.

The question that everyone will pose to himself on the first Tuesday in November is this: “Do I want four more years of this?” And Romney can drive it home: “Do you want four more years of massive unemployment? Do you want four more years of food stamps? Do you want to lose the job that you have? Do you want to be out of work when you get out of college? Or do you want to see this country get moving again? Barack Obama took his shot – the stimulus bill, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank. And where has it left us? With the most anemic recovery in the history of this country!”

Romney can go on to speak of Obamacare. He can point to the corruption that Barack Obama brought from Chicago to Washington. He need only mention Solyndra and sound the theme of crony capitalism. Romney can also point to the President’s systematic misuse of the executive power – to defraud the salaried employees of Delphi and the bondholders of General Motors and Chrysler, to gut the welfare reform passed by New Gingrich and adopted by Bill Clinton, to let school systems out of No Child Left Behind, to sick the IRS on political enemies, to force people into unions, to encourage voter fraud, to deprive Catholics and other Christians of the free exercise of their religion. The list is long.

When the American people pause to pay attention, they will not vote for four more years of misery, four more years of corruption, four more years of lawlessness, four more years of race-baiting, and they will certainly not vote to embrace Obamacare.

If Romney wants to win really, really big, there are three things that he needs to do. First, he needs to tie his argument for paring back the administrative entitlements state back to first principles – back to the origins and purpose of government – and he needs to assert the necessity to return to limited government. What I am saying here is that he needs to occupy the moral high ground, to defend free enterprise not only as efficient but as right and just, and to criticize “spreading the wealth around” and taking from Peter to pay Paul as shameful and unjust. Politics is ultimately about justice, and justice should be his theme.

Second, he needs to force Obama to make errors. To this end, he needs to get under the President’s skin. He did this to Newt Gingrich in Florida, and it worked like a charm. Obama is even vainer than Newt, and he cannot stand mockery. Moreover, he hates Romney with all the resentment that phony intellectuals ordinarily harbor for successful businessmen. The gentler the mockery in this case, the lighter the touch, the more devastating it will be. Romney’s theme should be that the poor fellow is just not up to the job and that he should be left free to spend all of his time doing what he really enjoys — playing golf. The SuperPACs may be able to carry the ball on this.

Third, when the debates come, he should do a Newt Gingrich. When one of the pundits asks a really stupid question that is of interest only to the credentialed elite (and this is inevitable), he should disembowel the man, asking him how he could waste the time of the American people on a matter of this sort when we are on the verge of a second recession and millions are looking for work. In the debates, the trick is to show strength – and nothing shows strength like a dramatic gesture of this sort. He might even find an opportunity to do this to Obama himself. It would be a knock-out blow. At some point, Romney needs to set aside his natural caution and timidity and go for the jugular.

In the meantime, you should not be afraid. This is going to be fun, and our margin of victory is going to be large.

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  1. Nick Stuart
    Paul A. Rahe Third, when the debates come …

    Anybody else think that Obama may conjur up some reason to skip the debates? I know, it’s maybe 100:1 against, still …

  2. Israel P.

    Not everything you think, should you say.

    Not everything you say, should you write.

    Not everything you write, should you publish.

    We have to stay hungry.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Israel Pickholtz: Not everything you think, should you say.

    Not everything you say, should you write.

    Not everything you write, should you publish.

    We have to stay hungry. · 6 minutes ago

    Not to worry. No one will believe me. Conventional wisdom rules.

  4. Nick Stuart

    Paul A. Rahe Third, when the debates come …

    Anybody else think that Obama may conjur up some reason to skip the debates? I know, it’s maybe 100:1 against, still … · 17 minutes ago

    I thought this from the beginning and knew he would skip if, for instance, Newt got the nomination. Romney has a lot of ammunition but as Mr. Rahe says, ‘he’s tolerably well-spoken’ and Obama can probably get by with politico-speak and some lies in a debate with him.

  5. FloppyDisk90

    Mr. Rahe,

    Can we count on you for a public mea-culpa when/if this doesn’t come true?  I will happily do the same should Mr. Romney win by the margins you seem to think he will.

  6. The Mugwump
    Paul A. Rahe

    Not to worry. No one will believe me. Conventional wisdom rules. · in 0 minutes

    I’m one person who does believe you, but I’m still not satisfied.  Liberalism has inflicted tremendous damage on this nation over the past sixty years especially on our culture.  That’s three generations worth of disintegration that needs to be reversed.  Mr. Romney will need to be the equivalent of a Justinian on all fronts domestic and foreign for a restoration to even begin.  And the crisis isn’t just an American phenomenon.  Western civilization in general has abandoned its principles for decadence.  I can play the psephologist, too.  There will be dark days ahead.  The time of troubles is nigh.  But then no one believes me either.    

  7. Indaba

    A few business owners from Colorado met me for breakfast. Their businesses are being destroyed by illegal immigrant workers. They do home renovations and their payroll takes up a third of their costs and then the admin to handle it. They are unable to compete against an illegal who will paint for $8 per hour and work harder probably than his own crew and do a good enough job. They think Obama will get in because he still has an image of being cool and Romney’s image is of a white rich guy elite. He needs to put together for Soccor mums. Why it is mums is because although it is targeted at families, most women are mums and many women want their kids to do piano, math coaching, Soccor, etc. get tax breaks on community sports, pools, etc. please do not have Ann Romney do the women. Not good optics AT ALL. Did we not learn with Hilary?

  8. Keith Preston

    I thought I was the only one who saw it this way.  From your lips to God’s ears, sir…

  9. Doug Kimball

    I believe you as I have written here, here and here.

  10. RFHirsch

    In the 4th paragraph of this excellent essay “Bob McDowell as Governor of Virginia” should read “Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia”

  11. Alan Weick

    Dear Professor,

    I hope and pray you are right.  And, a speedy recovery to you.

  12. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    FloppyDisk90: Mr. Rahe,

    Can we count on you for a public mea-culpa when/if this doesn’t come true?  I will happily do the same should Mr. Romney win by the margins you seem to think he will. · 12 minutes ago

    Of course, and I will then try to analyze the source of my error. But keep in mind that I did not say that Romney could not blow it. He is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Timidity can do that for you. I just do not think that he will do so.

  13. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    ~Paules

    Paul A. Rahe

    Not to worry. No one will believe me. Conventional wisdom rules. · in 0 minutes

    I’m one person who does believe you, but I’m still not satisfied.  Liberalism has inflicted tremendous damage on this nation over the past sixty years especially on our culture.  That’s three generations worth of disintegration that needs to be reversed.  Mr. Romney will need to be the equivalent of a Justinian on all fronts domestic and foreign for a restoration to even begin.  And the crisis isn’t just an American phenomenon.  Western civilization in general has abandoned its principles for decadence.  I can play the psephologist, too.  There will be dark days ahead.  The time of troubles is nigh.  But then no one believes me either.     · 14 minutes ago

    I believe you.

  14. BrentB67

    The question that everyone will pose to himself on the first Tuesday in November is this: “Do I want four more years of this?”

    According to NRO this week there are now more than 100M people in America receiving federal funded/mandated public assistance not including those that are only receiving social security or medicare.

    I think that is a sizable number of people that will answer your question ‘yes’.

    I am not saying that Obama wins based on a the ridiculous status of our welfare state, but I think we go to bed on Tuesday Nov 6th not knowing who wins because it will be too close to call.

  15. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    RFHirsch: In the 4th paragraph of this excellent essay “Bob McDowell as Governor of Virginia” should read “Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia” · 7 minutes ago

    The author is an addled professor.

  16. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    BrentB67

    The question that everyone will pose to himself on the first Tuesday in November is this: “Do I want four more years of this?”

    According to NRO this week there are now more than 100M people in America receiving federal funded/mandated public assistancenotincluding those that are only receiving social security or medicare.

    I think that is a sizable number of people that will answer your question ‘yes’.

    I am not saying that Obama wins based on a the ridiculous status of our welfare state, but I think we go to bed on Tuesday Nov 6th not knowing who wins because it will be too close to call. · 1 minute ago

    I believe that the vast majority of these people will want to be off welfare and into jobs.

  17. ConservativeWanderer
    Paul A. Rahe

    RFHirsch: In the 4th paragraph of this excellent essay “Bob McDowell as Governor of Virginia” should read “Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia” · 7 minutes ago

    The author is an addled professor. · 1 minute ago

    Addled professor, as opposed to… ?

  18. The King Prawn

    Professor, your words contain the one thing that stands to disprove them. Romney, had he been in power during the 80s, the fall of the Wall, and the disolution of the USSR would have hired boat loads of those who didn’t see it coming to advise him. Today his campaign is most likely staffed with those operating flawlessly on the conventional models of psephology that do not incorporate the data of NJ, Va, Scott Brown, 2010, or the Tea Party. If your prediction does come to pass his advisors probably will not see it coming, or, at the very least, will not see it happening for the reasons that actually drive the event.

  19. BrentB67
    Paul A. Rahe

    BrentB67

    The question that everyone will pose to himself on the first Tuesday in November is this: “Do I want four more years of this?”

    According to NRO this week there are now more than 100M people in America receiving federal funded/mandated public assistancenotincluding those that are only receiving social security or medicare.

    I think that is a sizable number of people that will answer your question ‘yes’.

    I am not saying that Obama wins based on a the ridiculous status of our welfare state, but I think we go to bed on Tuesday Nov 6th not knowing who wins because it will be too close to call. · 1 minute ago

    I believe that the vast majority of these people will want to be off welfare and into jobs. · 8 minutes ago

    If that was the case there are ample opportunities for entry level work that would trim these rolls. Not all are going back to the same income level.

    I refuse to believe that there are more people incapable of feeding themselves in the U.S. than the population of Spain. I hope you are correct, but respectfully don’t share your enthusiasm.

  20. Batman

    Your model is 1980 when people didn’t think President Carter was up to the job but had not yet satisfied themselves that Ronald Reagan was either.  The final debate gave them confidence that Reagan could do the job and everything else followed.  Perhaps this will prevail in 2012.  

    To your first task of Romney I think you should add that we have a choice, not only between a government supported and regulated world versus the first principles of Constitutional limited government.  We also have a choice between American Exceptionalism and seeing the USA as just another big country among the nations.  

    Playing on pride generated by the Olympics, Romney can remind voters to feel good about America.  Playing on the chaos in the Middle East and the impending collapse of European economies, he can remind voters that American leadership and strength — economic, military, diplomatic, cultural — is the greatest force for good in this world.

    The twin arguments are very powerful and the contrast between Romney and Obama is enormous.  Together with forcing Obama into errors, Romney does have a chance for a landslide, even with 90% of the MSM slanting against him.

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