Romney and the "Left Wing" of the GOP

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James Joyner, at Outside the Beltway, gives some nice context for a couple of new polls out on the US Republican nomination. 

One of the polls, the Washington Post one, has the following:

Romney received 25% support, followed by Cain with 16%, Perry with 13%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 6% and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 4%. The remaining candidates received lower figures.

Here's a rundown via Gallup (also taken from James):

Romney has a clear ceiling.  And he's the beneficiary of no candidate being able to coalesce the base. If you add up the latest numbers for Perry, Cain, Bachmann, and Santorum you get 41%.  Those candidates all represent the social conservative, Tea Party-influenced elements of the Republican Party.  Those four candidates represent what used to be called "the right wing" of the Republican party.  This term is still used by many journalists.  But as is clear, they are no longer the wing, they are the center of the party.  

Ron Paul really is orthogonal to the rest of the debate with his libertarian side. The Huntsman 2% could be said to go to Romney (or most of it) when push comes to shove.  The Gingrich-ites are less clear to me.  I would think they would lean more towards the Cain-Perry Tea Party side of things, but not sure.  

Romney represents the last quarter or so (20-25%) of the party that would could reasonably be labeled the moderates of the Republican Party.  Or at least nowadays I suppose, less conservative.  In the old days, they would be called The Rockefeller Republicans.  Romney has famously had to spend the last 5 years or so running away from his roots:  he used to be pro-choice now he's pro-life, he helped create a health insurance plan basically similar to Obama's now he's running for its repeal, etc.

In fact I would say (tongue firmly in cheek) that Romney represents the 'left-wing' of the Republican Party. 'Left wing' in scare quotes because there's not much 'left' left in the left-wing.  Only in comparison to the extreme right (who are now the center of the GOP), like Perry, Cain, Bachmann, etc.  

Romeny is the most electable of the Republican candidates in the General Election (since he's closer to the middle), but is weirdly quite vulnerable as a frontrunner for the GOP nomination--as he is really a wing candidate.  

While nothing is certain--a point Joyner emphasizes as there is still a healthy number of undecideds--unless Rick Perry gets his 'stuff' together and coalesces the Tea Party/base support, Romney is going to be the Republican Nominee.  

Sorry I can't take Herman Cain seriously.  What's his path to the nomination?  The first primary is in Iowa--let's imagine he somehow pulls that off. Then it's New Hampshire, where Romney will smoke everybody.  Then it goes to South Carolina--um, how is a black guy going to win the South Carolina Republican Primary?  You can see good ol' boy Rick Perry winnning it, but Herman Cain?  Not so much.


Update I: Right on cue, the GOP establish (a Northeastern GOP Gov.) is lining up behind Romney.  NJ Gov. Chris Christie (who some in the GOP establishment were pushing to run himself) today endorsed Romney for President.  

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  • Comment Link David Wednesday, 12 October 2011 02:57 posted by David

    I like your analysis, Chris. I've been following it pretty closely as well.

    One of the things that concerns me is whether Romney will feel a need to name someone from the right as a running mate, as McCain named Palin his running mate. It might make it a more satisfying ticket for GOP voters, but of course it's a potential disaster for the country. But they might see the need for a moderate, as they probably realize Palin was a disaster and they need independents to win.

    Personally, I'd like to see the double Mormon ticket: Romney/Huntsman. If Romney has the guts to name a fellow Mormon as his running mate, he might even be deserving of my vote. :) Actually, it wouldn't be a bad ticket, by GOP standards.

    Some have said that Republican voters are more divided than ever, but I think what might bring them together is their overriding dislike of Obama. I'm not sure that, in effect, they'll be less unified than they have been in the past.

    On a general election note, I heard that Romney referred to the Wall Street occupiers as engaging in "class warfare." I can't imagine that's a good move for him going into the general election. It was unnecessary and could cost him a lot of votes.

  • Comment Link David Wednesday, 12 October 2011 07:07 posted by David

    I just read that the GOP field is changing their tune about the protests, including Romney. I'll give you Romney's remarks and then a link:

    "Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who at first called the protests 'dangerous' and 'class warfare,' sounded a different note Monday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. 'I worry about the 99 percent in America,' he said, before adding later in the day: 'I understand how those people feel.'"

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Wednesday, 12 October 2011 15:59 posted by Chris Dierkes


    I agree. I think Romney will end up having to choose someone from the base for his VP selection. It could well be Herman Cain.

    I can see why they are changing their tune. Though interestingly Cain is the most anti-Occupy Wall Street of them all. So if he gets the VEEP nomination, that will hurt Romney.

    Still at the end of the day the question is really whether the majority of the electorate will be simply against Democrats and Obama because they blame them for the economy or scared to vote in a party that has publicly voted to begin dismantling Medicare, privatize Social Security, austerity, and so forth.

    I don't have a particularly high view of the intelligence of the mass US voter. My gut tells me Romney is going to win--not necessarily because he is the better candidate or has better ideas, but because people want to express their anger. I think it strange in many ways to express such anger at a President, but there it is.

    I will say this for Romney. He is light years better as a debater than he was in 2008.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Wednesday, 12 October 2011 19:35 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Gents, I appreciate your close understanding of the American political arena. It seems to me though that there's a voice missing here, one that's no longer interested in *either party* at all. Chris Hedges gave voice to this the other day:

    "These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back".

    And this isn't just coming from the likes of a Hedges. Democrat Alan Grayson put it pretty succinctly the other day on Real Time with Bill Maher:

    "They’re complaining that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person’s been indicted or convicted for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well".

    How would you incorporate that heap of America in what you've laid out above?

    I think the change of tack by Romney etc. around the protests is an important one to highlight. As history shows, and someone like Howard Zinn was always quick to point out, popular movements can press politicians into shifts in policy (sometimes dramatic). I'll link to a recent article below that speaks to some of that. But I think we're in a non-traditional time full of contingency and potentially non-linear dynamics. The protests could provoke a 'black swan' within the political process of the next several years.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Wednesday, 12 October 2011 23:22 posted by Chris Dierkes

    well at this point, the Occupy movement has explicitly denied interest in joining either party (particularly the Democrats). So it really depends on how the movement decides to relate to the 2012 election--which is a long way off at this point. who knows where the Occupy movement will be by then.

    But if they choose to remain in a stance of trying to build a different political structure and by and large stay out of the election, then probably the Republicans win pretty easily.

    The history of US politics is periods of plutocracy, followed by a depression, then a reform movement--which starts out grassroots and then eventually pushes the Democratic party in the direction of change.

    This happened in the 1890s which led to the first progressive movement. Then the 1930s, which lead to New Deal Liberalism. Now we are in the post-2000s depression. But it's not clear to me whether it will express itself in constitutional electoral politics or not.

    For one, the Democratic Party has a stronger wing of neoliberals. For two, the previous two versions of progressivism occurred with 'devil's bargains', uniting poor and reformist whites in both the North and South. This time around, we live in the post-gay liberation, post-abortion, post-Civil Rights movement which has left Southern Whites with GOP plutocrats. And now with Occupy Wall Street if the more left-political wing of the country doesn't want to at least hold their noses and vote Democrat in 2012, then in the short term it will increase the power of the Plutocrats, not decrease it.

    Now the Chris Hedges school says that both parties are totally corrupted, so why even bother with them. While conceptually I sorta get that, I think politically it's a questionable point of view. I don't see any reason why that group can't be working both ends simultaneously.

    The GOP is running on a platform of repealing the healthcare law, repealing the weakened financial reforms that did pass, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare, ballooning the debt and deficit even higher, cutting spending with austerity measures, refusing to increase taxes.

    So while I'm no water carrier for the Democratic Party, I have to say I get very pissed off when I hear people say there's no difference between the two parties. There are differences, extremely important differences. Sure, the Democratic Party is not as unified and progressive as I would like it to be. I think the Occupy movement is good to point out corruption. But like I said, if they don't also vote in the next election, then the GOP will win. And yeah in some world of revolution and total political purity, its okay to say there's no difference between the two, but practically there is a difference. It's certainly not as absolutely different as the current system is from what ows would like. But relatively it makes a substantial difference.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Thursday, 13 October 2011 22:43 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Chris, you might be happy to hear that there's an emerging Occupy the Polls movement happening alongside/within the broader Occupy movement. That might be a meme that you/we would want to support and get out there more.

    On that note, in terms of how to affect change, I'm a big supporter of the ecology view- hit as many points as possible at once in a collaborative and networked fashioned. So yes, I think voting is actually (also) quite key. However, given the degree to which both parties in the US have been captured by monied interests (the docu Casino Jack shows this nicely), then we need to be clear that simply working within that system, or sitting back and watching it hoping that it will create the change we desire, is foolhardy to say the least. We need the pressure from below, and we need new experiments in living on the ground to slowly create alternative systems of exchange and living alongside the calcified, decaying one struggling to hang on.

    At any rate, I'll stop there. But yes, Occupy the Polls!!

  • Comment Link David Marshall Monday, 31 October 2011 02:49 posted by David Marshall

    Interesting ideas, guys. I always meant to respond to this; sorry it took awhile.

    Chris, yes, Herman Cain looked pretty strong when you wrote that, but he has taken a bit of beating in the press since then, hasn't he? But it hasn't hurt his poll numbers in the GOP primary at all. He's still neck and neck with Romney. It could still be him, but I agree that his anti Occupy Wall Street stance could be a liability for Romney.

    Romney has the potential of being a relatively non-divisive candidate, I think, so hopefully he won't choose a running mate from the far right. But he may end up doing that, as you say.

    Have you seen Herman Cain's "smoking" ad? It's quite unbelievable. His campaign manager takes a drag from a cigarette at the end:

    Trevor, I'm hoping that Americans Elect or someone can humble the two big parties, too. As you know, I posted an article about that on my Facebook wall the other day; I will post it here in case anyone hasn't see it:,0,4671890.column

    So I am hoping Americans Elect shakes things up and does well, but it could possibly have negative consequences. Even though some dispute it, my sense is that Ralph Nader's candidacy helped push Bush over the top in Florida in 2000.

    It's good to hear about the Occupy the Polls movement. OWS needs to be heard at the polls, particularly in congressional elections. I look forward to 2014 if Americans Elect can get candidates on the ballot then. Here is an excerpt from the article I linked above:

    "Another is that the group is aiming at the wrong target. Presidential elections aren't the main source of polarization in American politics; neither Obama nor Romney is an extremist. Most of the polarization we're seeing comes from Congress, where districts have been drawn to protect incumbents and where donors and interest groups have more influence on the nominating process.

    "The group's organizers say they understand that. 'To change the system, you have to change it at the level of Congress and state legislatures,' Sragow said. 'But we think the national level is the best place to get started.'

    "That start is certain to be an interesting experiment no matter what happens. But its real potential will come in 2014 and beyond — if it can stay on the ballot and break the two parties' oligopoly in congressional elections, where the real problem lies."

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Wednesday, 02 November 2011 22:27 posted by Chris Dierkes


    Thanks for the comment. I continue to think (bad press or no) that Herman Cain isn't actually running for president but running for Herman Cain Inc. Cain is a motivational speaker on the rightwing circuit and he gives cover to Republicans who want to claim whites are aggrieved and that minorities (like Obama) are the products of unfair advantage. He has no real on the ground campaign staff which is how you actually get votes out in a primary--rather than what abstract poll numbers say.

    As to the 3rd Party thing, there's talk of this every year (was in 2008) and every year it fizzles. I can't see the demand for another ritchie rich like Bloomberg to run. Centrism is a big fantasy of the Washington (or in this case LA) press core. What others call The Village. When Bloomberg is out yesterday saying that the 2008 mortgage crash is entirely the fault of the government and the banks are completely innocent, hard to see how he represents some great alternative to say Mitt Romney (who whatever he personally believes will run on the same platform).

  • Comment Link David Marshall Saturday, 05 November 2011 07:00 posted by David Marshall

    Chris, I think you might be right about Cain not actually running for president, at least in the beginning. But the scary thing is he now leads Romney in the polls! I think it might be because of his discredited 9-9-9 plan--I think it's the sort of thing the Tea Party might like.

    I think Romney is having trouble convincing conservatives he is a "real conservative." Brit Hume even said that conservatives "don't trust him" the other day:

    That seems remarkable, coming from Fox News.

    Yes, I agree that some of what I have heard coming from Americans Elect doesn't sound that revolutionary. But if it could shake up congress in 2014, especially if they have rules about taking money from special-interest groups, it could be worth it.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Saturday, 05 November 2011 22:48 posted by Chris Dierkes


    It's an interesting time to be sure. National polls in a primary race are always tricky as they don't necessarily reflect the early states. The other thing is that Cain doesn't have much of a ground team (by the reports) and that could really hurt him in Iowa. He has to win Iowa to have any chance. We'll see how these allegations of sexual harassment play out and whether that will hurt him.

    But with the early states being Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Cain has some distinct disadvantages. NH is Romney territory. Nevada has a strong Mormon population which helps Mitt. South Carolina--I have trouble imagining South Carolina is going to vote for a black man in the Republican primary. But who knows.

    As to Mitt--the conservatives are right not to trust him as a real conservative (since he isn't). At least he's not a social conservative. He is definitely an economic conservative (but all of them are) just not a Tea Partier. And Mitt has loaded up his foreign policy team with neocons so he's a neocon there.

    One thing that will be interesting to see is that this year the GOP has a proportional delegate process like the Democrats had in 2008--if the GOP had such a system in 2008, Mitt might very well have won the nomination. So we'll see. I still can't believe how badly Rick Perry has done. Perry had this thing gift wrapped for him and screwed the pooch big time.

  • Comment Link David Marshall Thursday, 10 November 2011 06:41 posted by David Marshall

    I think you're right about Cain's primary disadvantage, Chris. I was quite surprised when he won that Florida straw poll. I'd be especially surprised if he could win a primary after all these harassment allegations. But he's still ahead in RCP's poll of polls:

    It's kind of an odd year for Republicans, isn't it, with a lot of doubt about Romney and no one but Cain really rivaling him. I read this the other day in the National Review, from the "Not Mitt Romney Coalition":

    "Mitt Romney is an honorable person. But he is not a conservative. His record over many decades is unquestionably moderate. . . . Half measures are not what America needs at the present moment of extreme peril."

    I found the second sentence of that quote funny and at the same time sad--"His record over many decades is unquestionably moderate." As if "moderate" is almost as dirty a word in conservative circles as "liberal." Moderates in both parties are being ostracized. I think this polarization is one of the most troubling things about American politics now.

    But I think there may have been a turning point yesterday. The anti-union law was voted down by 22 points in Ohio--and Romney supported it.

    Conservative pundits have been saying there has been a conservative shift in the American electorate since the mid-term elections, but I don't think they will be able to say that anymore. I've even heard them say Obama has a particularly big problem in Ohio, but it looks like the Republicans could have at least as big a problem in Ohio now. I think the Obama camp must be feeling encouraged.

  • Comment Link David Marshall Friday, 11 November 2011 02:40 posted by David Marshall

    I think Charles Krauthammer, an Obama-hating modernist conservative (free right), gave a fairly reasoned interpretation of the recent elections. He does still want to spin it a bit in the Republican's favor, saying it wasn't a Democratic victory but simply a slowing of the "great Republican resurgence of 2009-10," but all in all it's still pretty balanced and informative. I will quote you the beginning, and then give you a link for the rest, if you are interested in reading more.


    "To be sure, Tuesday was not exactly the Democrats’ night. They did enjoy one big victory, repeal of government-worker reform in Ohio. But elsewhere, they barely held their own. The bigger news was the absence of any major Republican trend. The great Republican resurgence of 2009-10 has slowed to a crawl.

    "On Tuesday, Ohio was the bellwether. Voters decisively voted down the Republicans’ newly enacted, Wisconsin-like rollback of public-sector workers’ benefits and bargaining rights. True, it took a $30 million union campaign that outspent the other side 3-to-1. True, repeal only returns labor relations to the status quo ante. And true, Ohio Republicans, unlike Wisconsin’s, made a huge tactical error by including police and firefighters in the rollback, opening themselves to a devastating they-saved-my-grandchild ad campaign. Nevertheless, the unions won. And they won big.

    "And yet in another referendum, that same Ohio electorate rejected the central plank of Obamacare — the individual mandate — by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin. Never mind that this ballot measure has no practical effect, federal law being supreme. Its political effect is unmistakable. Finally given the chance to vote against Obamacare, swing-state Ohio did so by a 31-point landslide.

    "Interesting split: Ohio protects traditional union rights, while telling an overreaching Washington to lay off its health-care arrangements. Indeed, there were splits everywhere. In this year’s gubernatorial elections, both parties held serve: Democrats retained West Virginia and Kentucky; Republicans retained Louisiana and Mississippi.

    "This kind of status quo ticket-splitting firmly refutes the lazy conventional narrative of an angry electorate seething with anti-incumbency fervor."

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