Reading the Tea Leaves

 

When the primary results started coming in last night, James Carville put a post up on CNN.com that deserves attention.  Here is how it began:

A long time ago a great three-time governor of Louisiana, Earl Long, said about Jimmie Davis, the two-time not very good governor of Louisiana, “You couldn’t wake up Jimmie Davis with an earthquake.”

As I go around the country and see various Democrats and talk to them on the phone, honestly I’m beginning to think that we have become the party of Jimmie Davis.

Carville’s point was simple. “Wake the you-know-what up, there is an earthquake. You think that Democrats around the country are going to win — as I hear time and time again from people on the street. Democratic fundraisers, activists, supporters, and even politicians alike have somehow collectively lapsed into the sentiment that the president is going to be reelected and that we have a good shot to take the House back while holding the Senate. I ask: What are you smoking? What are you drinking? What are you snorting or just what in the hell are you thinking? Look around the world — do you see any governments or incumbents winning any elections out there? Did it happen in small elections in Germany or Britain, big elections in France and Greece or how about huge elections in the United States in 2008 and 2010? Please folks — wake up!”

He is surely right. In November, there is going to be an earthquake, if Mitt Romney and the Republicans have the wit to take advantage of it. Obama and the Democrats are going to go the way of Sarkozy and the Gaullists in France and of PASOK and New Democracy in Greece. If you have any doubts, look at what happened yesterday in Indiana and West Virginia. In the former, a thirty-year-veteran of the Senate was defeated in his fight for re-nomination by his own party by a margin of twenty percent. In the latter, a convict residing in a federal prison and running for the Democratic Presidential nomination against Barack Obama received forty-one percent of the vote. These were anticipatory tremors, and they ought to wake up Mitt Romney and those staffing his campaign. It proves a point I have made repeatedly in the last three years: We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

In normal circumstances, the rule of thumb is that one runs to the right in the Republican primaries, and one then moves to the center for the general election. That is surely what Romney’s team – with its Etch-a-Sketch planning – has in mind. They and he are the exemplars of conventional thinking. They believe that the American people are half-asleep and stupid to boot. Watch this video if you have any doubts, and weigh the fact that Eric Fehrnstrom is still a senior adviser to the Romney campaign:

There is one problem with Fehrnstrom’s calculation. Those most likely to vote in November are not half-asleep, and they are not stupid. As a consequence, in today’s circumstances, the center cannot hold. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have polarized American politics. They did so deliberately, and they woke up the American people and paid a terrible political price.

When the so-called stimulus package was jammed through the House and Senate early in February, 2009, the Democrats did not court Republican votes. Instead, they spurned them. In a spirit of vengeance, Pelosi denied the Republicans earmarks in the package, and, with a single exception, the Republicans in the House got their backs up and voted against it.

Obama, Pelosi, and Reid conducted affairs in the same high-handed manner when they forced through Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. The result was not only that they stirred up the Tea-Party Movement. It was also that they put the Republicans in a perfect position to absorb and profit from that impulse. They took a party ready to jump on the bandwagon and gave it the semblance of backbone.

I say that the Republicans were ready to jump on the bandwagon, and I use the word “semblance” for a reason. Three years ago, on 2 May 2009, well after the Tea Party had gotten off the ground, Jeb Bush met with Eric Cantor and Mitt Romney at a pizza parlor in Arlington, Virginia to launch the National Council for a New America. According to The Washington Times, in his remarks,

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Saturday that it’s time for the Republican Party to give up its “nostalgia” for the heyday of the Reagan era and look forward, even if it means stealing the winning strategy deployed by Democrats in the 2008 election.

“You can’t beat something with nothing, and the other side has something. I don’t like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that,” Mr. Bush said.

The former president’s brother, often mentioned as a potential candidate in 2012, said President Obama’s message of hope and change during the 2008 campaign clearly resonated with Americans.

“So our ideas need to be forward looking and relevant. I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia and the good old days in the [Republican] messaging. I mean, it’s great, but it doesn’t draw people toward your cause,” Mr. Bush said.

This was a message intended for the Tea Party, and at the time neither Romney nor Cantor distanced themselves from what Jeb Bush had to say. They wanted no part in the eruption taking place.

It comes, then, as no surprise that, on 30 July 2009, Romney made a concerted attempt to get on board with Obama, penning an op-ed for USA Today, offering the President Republican cooperation in forging a federal healthcare plan for the country modeled on Romneycare. “Republicans,” he promised, “will join with the Democrats if the president abandons his government insurance plan, if he endeavors to craft a plan that does not burden the nation with greater debt, if he broadens his scope to reduce health costs for all Americans, and if he is willing to devote the rigorous effort, requisite time and bipartisan process that health care reform deserves.”

It was not until early August 2009, when ordinary citizens began showing up at Town Hall meetings to denounce the various healthcare proposals under discussion that Republicans, such as Charles Grassley of Iowa, began to recognize that they could not simply ignore or dismiss the concerns raised by the Tea-Party Movement. And even then – as I demonstrated two months ago in a post entitled What Does Mitt Romney Really Think? – Romney was behind the curve.

I would like to believe that Romney finally gets it – that he recognizes that we are living at an abnormal moment in which the old rules do not apply. And maybe he does. But there is clear evidence that the Republicans do not.

I heard a talk at Hillsdale earlier this month on healthcare reform. It was delivered by the point man on this subject in the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. The proposal that he was pushing was nothing more than a revised version of Romneycare. This time, there was no individual mandate, however. This time, in its place, there was a tax break for those getting health insurance that was meant to serve the same function by herding us all into the arms of the health insurance industry. To get an idea of what the Republicans have in mind, take a look at the new plan cooked up by the social engineers at the Heritage Foundation, and keep in mind the fact that its authors are the very folks who invented the individual mandate back in the early 1990s.

YounGunsForLugar1.jpgHere is another indication of what the Republican establishment is up to. In the last couple of weeks, the Young Guns Network run by two aides of Eric Cantor was caught supporting the campaign of Richard Lugar to the tune of more than $100,000. In one mailer, Cantor’s minions urged Democrats to vote in the open Republican primary for the octogenarian, attacking his opponent for wanting to shut down the Department of Education. In another, they attacked Richard Mourdock on environmental grounds. Who needs Democrats, one might ask, when you have the Young Guns of the Republican Party?

YoungGunsForLugar2.png

James Carville thinks that, if the Democrats pull up their socks, they can still win in November. When his fellow Democrats argue that Mitt Romney is a pathetic candidate, he responds,

Actually pathetic is a kind word for Romney and this campaign. Mitt Romney is to presidential campaigns as the Delta House grade point average was to Faber College — the worst in history. I mean, my God, when you hold a press conference to rebut charges that you have a Cold War mentality and then you have foreign policy “experts” talk about Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in “contemporary” terms — really?

I know that the Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts drive swing voters and independents over the edge. I’ve gotten all of the reports from focus group moderators as to how devastating this is to Romney.

Why a man who knows he is running for president (who claims to know something about the American economy) would for any reason keep money in offshore accounts, I have no idea. And I know that we are going to take him out to the cornfield (like at the end of the movie “Casino”) on the Ryan budget.

However, I fear that all of this will not be enough unless we have real change of attitude about the difficult campaign ahead of us. It has been said that, “Nothing so focuses a man’s attention as the prospect of being hanged.” Look around Democrats — Come November lets make sure that it’s Mitt and his bunch at the end of that figurative rope and not us.

I think that Carville underestimates Mitt Romney’s strengths. Yes, indeed, Romney has his weaknesses, and, yes, he lives to some extent in a bubble. No one in his right mind who wants to be President of the United States would have offshore bank accounts. I am certain that Romney is innocent of wrongdoing. He is a decent, honest, generous man. But appearances matter, and when it comes to understanding how the rest of us see the world, Romney is clueless.

In ordinary times, this would be fatal to his candidacy. In the end, however, I doubt very much whether anyone will much care this year. When people are thinking about the economy, the deficit, and Obamacare, it will be hard for the Obama campaign to demonize an earnest, sober, obviously honest, good-looking turnaround artist like Mitt Romney.

But if Mitt Romney and the Republican candidates really want to win – above all, if they want to be able to govern after winning – they will have to recognize that 2010 was a far better indicator of what is possible in 2012 than was 2008. When the mainstream media falls silent, we are all apt to forget. But, in 2010, the Republicans on the state level showed a strength that they had not demonstrated since 1928, and they did so because, at least rhetorically, they embraced the principles of limited government. To sustain what they began in 2010, they will have to do more than pay lip service to the principles underpinning the American regime. They will have to articulate those principles and accentuate the differences distinguishing them from the party that openly and enthusiastically embraces the administrative entitlements state.

The Republicans of Indiana and forty-one percent of the Democrats in West Virginia voted yesterday to say that they have had enough – that they want things changed. How long will it take the Republican politicians in this country to catch up with the American people? If Mitt Romney makes it clear that he understands, he will win by a landslide, and the Republicans will take the Senate, perhaps with sixty or more seats, and gain further strength in the House. If he runs a timid, milquetoast campaign, as is his wont, everything will be up for grabs. If he offers the American people a choice, they will make it. If he hints that he is not really a Republican, that he is a progressive just like the Democrats, as he did when he ran for the Senate and for the Governorship in Massachusetts,  he might squeak by. And, then again, he might lose. No one warms to a tepid candidate.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Guruforhire

    I think the general national mood is that people understand we have to have a government we can afford, but we want all the social goodies as much as possible.

    I would tell the democrats to come up with a realistic 2.7 trillion dollar spending plan, and the republicans to come up with a tax plan that realisitically gets it.

     The days of trying to balance the budget by not doing it are over.

    • #1
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    @FredCole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Fred Cole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance. · 7 minutes ago

    You could start by quoting me right now because I am perfectly prepared to say that Gary Johnson has no chance. I would go even further and say that he deserves none. Cutting the defense budget in half is suicidal.

    • #3
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    @MelFoil

    I have to believe, when pollsters ask white people about their support of Obama, no matter how the pollster asks, what some hear (in their minds) is, “do you support President Obama, or do you still have some racist tendencies that prevent you from supporting a black President?” I don’t believe that Obama’s real support is at parity with Romney’s. There’s some psychological factor skewing the results of the poll.

    • #4
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    @Guruforhire
    etoiledunord: I have to believe, when pollsters ask white people about their support of Obama, no matter how the pollster asks, what some hear (in their minds) is, “do you support President Obama, or do you still have some racist tendencies that prevent you from supporting a black President?” I don’t believe that Obama’s real support is at parity with Romney’s. There’s some psychological factor skewing the results of the poll. · 1 minute ago

    I think like Mr. Long said a long time ago on a podcast before his show got bought by sony that the act of being observed on some issue changes what you say.  Kind of like quantum encryption, the act of observing it changes its state.

    • #5
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    @FredCole
    Paul A. Rahe

    Fred Cole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance. · 7 minutes ago

    You could start by quoting me right now because I am perfectly prepared to say that Gary Johnson has no chance. I would go even further and say that he deserves none. Cutting the defense budget in half is suicidal. · 1 minute ago

    Suicidal to whom?  The United States of America?

    You’re concerned about being overrun by hordes of…?  

    Look, you might have a valid point if we weren’t spending more per capital, inflation adjusted, on defense than were were at any point during the Cold War, including Vietnam.

    Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482 in April of 1969.  That’s over half a million men engaged in a hot war, half a world away.  Why are we spending more, per capita, inflation adjusted than at the peak of Vietnam?

    usgs_line.png

    (Here‘s that chart a little bigger.)

    Tell me we can’t cut.

    • #6
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    @katievs

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant analysis.   I agree with every word.

    You might have mentioned what happened in Wisconsin yesterday too. Here’s Christian Schneider in the Corner earlier today:

    Walker garnered about 15,000 more votes than Falk and Barrett combined. Republican voters had absolutely nothing to vote for, and yet they turned out in droves to send a message.

    I hope to God Romney has staffers reading Ricochet.

    • #7
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    @Casey

    Those most likely to vote in November are not half-asleep, and they are not stupid.

    I’m not convinced this is true.  Hence my pessimism.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Fred Cole

    Paul A. Rahe

    Fred Cole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance. · 7 minutes ago

    You could start by quoting me right now because I am perfectly prepared to say that Gary Johnson has no chance. I would go even further and say that he deserves none. Cutting the defense budget in half is suicidal. · 1 minute ago

    Suicidal to whom?  The United States of America?

    You’re concerned about being overrun by hordes of…?  

    Look, you might have a valid pointifwe weren’t spending more per capital, inflation adjusted, on defense than were were at any point during the Cold War, including Vietnam.

    Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482 in April of 1969.  That’s over half a million men engaged in a hot war, half a world away.  Why are we spending more, per capita, inflation adjusted than at the peak of Vietnam?

    (Here‘s that chart a little bigger.)

    Tell me we can’t cut. · 7 minutes ago

    We can’t cut.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Guruforhire
    Fred Cole

     

     

     

    Suicidal to whom?  The United States of America?

    You’re concerned about being overrun by hordes of…?  

    Look, you might have a valid pointifwe weren’t spending more per capital, inflation adjusted, on defense than were were at any point during the Cold War, including Vietnam.

    Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482 in April of 1969.  That’s over half a million men engaged in a hot war, half a world away.  Why are we spending more, per capita, inflation adjusted than at the peak of Vietnam?

    Because we dont have an army of slaves, and are much less tolerant of the people we hire dying in warfare.  Besides Per Capita is a silly metric to argue appropriateness of spending levels.

    I think portion of budget or portion of the total economy is a better metric on whether or not defense spending levels are out of line.

     I am willing to agree that our aquisitions programs can be reformed to make planes and tanks cheaper, but there are lots of problems there as well…..

     Don’t get me wrong, I am sympathetic, but we need the rest of the world to play along too.

    • #10
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    @PaulARahe

    The real question to ask about the defense budget is whether it is adequate to allow us to project power where we may need to. And usually if you can project power, you do not have to use it. China’s aim is to deny us access to East Asia. If they succeed — and there is excellent reason to fear that they will — you will see the re-emergence of something like Japan’s East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. If we sustain our ability to project power in the region, Japan and the other countries there will not all in line, and the free-trade regime that exists now will be sustained.

    Fred Cole’s chart does not take into account the growth in our own GDP since 1950 or that in the GDP of our potential rivals. Nor does it take into account the increased cost of 21st-century weaponry. Nor does it take into account the pensions and VA medical responsibilities we have inherited.  All of which is to say that it is highly misleading.

    • #11
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    @MelFoil

    Re: Defense budget

    Having “enough for deterrence” obviously depends more on how the enemy’s mind works–not how ours works.

    • #12
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    @GiveMeLiberty

    If I remember correctly, Steyn recently wrote about waste in our military spending and how we should use our resources more wisely, but to have a blanket 50% cut in spending is beyond absurd and reckless.  If Johnson can’t convince a reasonable number of people to support his ideas in one of the 2 major parties where is he going to to get support enough to matter anywhere else?  There is a lot to like about Libertarians but the penchant for fantasy is not one of them. 

    • #13
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    @jpark

    I agree with Paul Rahe’s post and with his comments on the defense budget.  Now is not the time to cut defense spending or to raise taxes, for that matter.  The world around us is sufficiently unfriendly that we should maintain, rebuild, and improve the state of our defenses.  Plus, the economy doesn’t need the baggage of additional taxes.

    With respect to the election, if there is something tectonic going on, it’s incumbent on Romney to turn it into an earthquake.  As William Kristol pointed out some time ago, “An election is a terrible thing to waste.”  Let’s not waste this one. 

    • #14
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    @Mendel
    Paul A. Rahe

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I must disagree.

    Let’s recap the events so far:

    – The Republicans nominated the moderate next-guy-in-line.

    – The “Tea Party representative” Eric Cantor funnelled money to a moderate dinosaur in his campaign against the Tea Party candidate.

    – The “Tea Party Congress” punted so hard on the debt ceiling that they are now arguing against the spending cuts they themselves voted for.

    – The President’s approval rating and re-election chances rise and fall with traditionally populist economic indicators such as unemployment and gas prices.

    – 60% of Americans think the rich pay too few taxes and support the Buffett rule.

    Sounds a lot like business as usual to me.

    Prof. Rahe, I’ll grant you that this election cycle may see more outlier events than usual.  But if I had to bet, I’d place my money on the conventional wisdom.

    • #15
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    @Mendel
    Paul A. Rahe  Obama and the Democrats are going to go the way of Sarkozy and the Gaullists in France and of PASOK and New Democracy in Greece.

    Sarkozy was replaced by a Keynesian Socialist, and the biggest winner of the Greek elections was the party of the Radical Left.

    I don’t think the European elections have anything to say about the mood in America at the moment.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Mendel

    Paul A. Rahe  Obama and the Democrats are going to go the way of Sarkozy and the Gaullists in France and of PASOK and New Democracy in Greece.

    Sarkozy was replaced by a Keynesian Socialist, and the biggest winner of the Greek elections was the party of the Radical Left.

    I don’t think the European elections have anything to say about the mood in America at the moment. · 5 minutes ago

    You miss the point. In both cases, the establishment got the boot. As James Carville understands, voters tend to vote against and not for, and, in bad times, they tend to vote against those in power. This year, that makes them unusually open to criticism of the administrative entitlements state (which is the status quo).

    Most of what you say in Comment #15 supports my contention that the establishment Republicans still do not get it. Had there been a plausible alternative to Romney in the race, he would have lost. The most viable alternatives were a disgraced former Speaker of the House who is unable to control his impulses, and a former Senator who lost his seat in a landslide. Some choice.

    • #17
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    @Viator

    There has been a lot of talk about the Social Security Trust Fund.  But let’s look at some other trust funds no one has ever heard of –  the Federal Employee Retirement Fund (FERS) and the Military Retirement Fund (MRF) – each bigger than the SS Trust Fund.

    Since this is a discussion about military funding let’s concentrate on the Military Retirement Fund.  Like much government bookkeeping – all governments, not just the US government books – it is rife with, to put it politely,  misdirection and wishful thinking.

    Note the fund is predicated on expectations of 5.75% interest income but thanks to Federal Reserve Bank policies – QE, financial repression – it, like all creditors and pension funds, is receiving close to 0%.

    The unfunded liabilities of the MRF is currently $1.3 TRILLION. It could easily be as much as $2 TRILLION in ten or so years.

    Even in present Washington, DC a trillion here and a trillion there still add up to real money.  These trillions of red ink appear nowhere in those graphs referenced above or discussions of military spending which is currently about $685 billion.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-18-02/military-winning-war-over-pensions

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Mendel
    Paul A. Rahe

     In both cases, the establishment got the boot. As James Carville understands, voters tend to vote against and not for, and, in bad times, they tend to vote against those in power.

    Most of what you say in Comment #15 supports my contention that the establishment Republicans still do not get it. 

    I agree completely and disagree completely.

    You are right that agitated electorates often vote much more vehemently against the incumbent than for the insurgent. 

    But, to follow this logic, I think you are overestimating the extent to which the protest vote against Obama is a mandate for the conservative agenda. 

    Politicians are masters at knowing how to get re-elected. That so many self-proclaimed Tea Party Congressmen have become traditional Washington insiders within two years tells me that the demand for true reform among their constituents is lower than the enthusiasm of 2010 may have suggested. 

    The fact that a majority of Americans still want to soak the rich confirms that the public, while perhaps no longer on board with Obama, has not undergone a sea change in its view on the role of government.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Western Chauvinist: There’s some evidence that someone somewhere in the Romney campaign has a clue as to what you’re addressing, Prof. Rahe. The fact that Romney’s victory speeches after he’d pretty much secured the nomination started to sound conservative, indicates that someone knows Romney has to offer a choice other than Democrat-lite. I don’t follow the polls closely enough to know how this impacted Romney’s standing in the national polls, I only know Romney gained significantly in my internal polling. · 2 hours ago

    At the very least, the fear among conservatives that Romney will be “another McCain” should have been alleviated over the last few weeks.  He plainly does intend to fight.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Western Chauvinist: There’s some evidence that someone somewhere in the Romney campaign has a clue as to what you’re addressing, Prof. Rahe. The fact that Romney’s victory speeches after he’d pretty much secured the nomination started to sound conservative, indicates that someone knows Romney has to offer a choice other than Democrat-lite. I don’t follow the polls closely enough to know how this impacted Romney’s standing in the national polls, I only know Romney gained significantly in my internal polling. · 4 hours ago

    I noticed this as well, and I am told that in his private talks to fundraisers Romney is blunt. Let’s hope . . .

    • #21
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    @PaulARahe
    Maggie Somavilla

    Paul A. Rahe

    . . . This time, there was no individual mandate, however. This time, in its place, there was a tax break for those getting health insurance that was meant to serve the same function by herding us all into the arms of the health insurance industry.

    This is tangential to your main point, I know, but it is a matter of concern and I must be missing somethng. Why would it be bad to have a tax deduction for individually purchased health insurance? People who get it through their employer do not pay taxes on that benefit. Why should people, such as the self-employed, who spend upwards of $12,000 a year of their own money for health insurance not be able to take a deduction? · 3 hours ago

    I agree that the current system is biased and should not be. The problem is that, like the tax break given employers and those they employed, this is just another way of forcing us to behave in the way the powers that be want.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    wmartin

    Western Chauvinist: There’s some evidence that someone somewhere in the Romney campaign has a clue as to what you’re addressing, Prof. Rahe. The fact that Romney’s victory speeches after he’d pretty much secured the nomination started to sound conservative, indicates that someone knows Romney has to offer a choice other than Democrat-lite. I don’t follow the polls closely enough to know how this impacted Romney’s standing in the national polls, I only know Romney gained significantly in my internal polling. · 2 hours ago

    At the very least, the fear among conservatives that Romney will be “another McCain” should have been alleviated over the last few weeks.  He plainly does intend to fight. · 2 hours ago

    Edited 2 hours ago

    Yes, he does — and neither Dole nor McCain was willing to do anything more than go through the motions.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Inactive
    @GiveMeLiberty
    Western Chauvinist: I don’t follow the polls closely enough to know how this impacted Romney’s standing in the national polls, I only know Romney gained significantly in my internal polling. · 4 hours ago

    Your “internal polling” is probably tracking the same direction as mine and I would bet the same as the Romney campaign’s internal polling.  

    • #24
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    @JamesOfEngland
    Paul A. Rahe

    Fred Cole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance. · 7 minutes ago

    You could start by quoting me right now because I am perfectly prepared to say that Gary Johnson has no chance. I would go even further and say that he deserves none. Cutting the defense budget in half is suicidal. · 8 hours ago

    It’s suicidal, but his record of expanding government while he was in office is worse; he couldn’t pass those kinds of defense cuts, but he could fail to cut spending.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    James Of England

    Paul A. Rahe

    Fred Cole

    We are not living in normal times, and the conventional wisdom does not apply.

    I’ll remember to quote you early and often the next time someone on here says that Gary Johnson has no chance. · 7 minutes ago

    You could start by quoting me right now because I am perfectly prepared to say that Gary Johnson has no chance. I would go even further and say that he deserves none. Cutting the defense budget in half is suicidal. · 8 hours ago

    It’s suicidal, but his record of expanding government while he was in office is worse; he couldn’t pass those kinds of defense cuts, but he could fail to cut spending. · 7 minutes ago

    Tell me more. I know very little of his record as Governor.

    • #26
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    @JamesOfEngland
    Paul A. Rahe

    Tell me more. I know very little of his record as Governor. · 12 minutes ago

    He served two terms, and had some real successes; like Romney, he was a big supporter of school choice. He was also the guy, to an extent, who got New Mexico’s private space industry off the ground; there’s a lot of subsidies involved, but it’s still been a boost to public perception of small government and privatization.

    Like the Contract With America, he gets a lot of credit for having very big dreams of tax cuts, and ended up getting a 6 cent gas tax cut passed. The Cato Institute, in particular, loves promises to cut taxes, bizarrely giving promises made, rather than promises delivered, prominence in their ratings.

    He took over from FY1994, which saw a $9.41b outlay in 2003 dollars, $7.6b in nominal terms. He left with the FY2003 budget spending $13.4b, which he disguises by saying he cut the 10% annual growth he inherited, which he did, to 7.3% annual growth. He did this, in part, by issuing hundreds of vetos, about three times as many as Romney, as I recall.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland

    He supported a combative approach in Congress, and spent a lot of time commenting on federal policy. Easily his biggest passion, though, was drug legalization; on this, as with spending and taxes, he had very big plans, which did not come to fruition. Unlike spending and taxes, though, a New Mexico Governor’s support for drug legalization was catnip for libertarian media (not that they don’t like flat taxes etc, or the fair tax, which he supports now, but there are lots of governors prepared to promise that they’d love to get around to building a tax free state, whereas there was no drug legalizer as keen as Johnson in a position of responsibility).

    In a slightly bizarre move, one of his many vetoes was the largest proposed income tax rate cut that was offset by lowering the points at which the bands started, ie., a partial flattening of the tax; he later regretted vetoing the move towards a tax system he said he wanted; I’m sure there’s a story there, but I don’t know it.

    He commissioned a lot of studies of libertarian policies, which definitely improved his reputation with rightist academics and journalists.

    • #28
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    @TerrellDavid

    We conservatives will drag Romney over the finish line.  We must.

    But I think it’ll be relatively easy.  Unlike with the old horse, McCain, Romney looks like he just stepped off a wedding cake and he’s articulate and smart.

    Romney will ride the Tea Party wind and join the conservative mood to his advantage.  Its the smart thing to do and I think he’ll realize that.  Also, Romney seems ruthless in wanting to win.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland

    He was fond of the shut-down threat as a negotiating tool, and I suspect you’d find a lot to like in him. He lacks much of the eccentricity that a lot of LP politicians are cursed with, and is a solid free trader. He’s a pretty good figurehead for the LP. Still, he’s a big thinker, fond of coming up with radical solutions to problems, or talking to think tanks about their ideas, not a practical thinker who got any of his radical solutions implemented (except, as noted, in school choice and the space industry). His spending increased even faster than the Federal Government. If you want to reshape benefits programs, governing by veto simply isn’t good enough, and he never showed much ability to lead.

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