This post is not intended to hack you guys off, but I’ve rapidly moved toward cynicism on the whole Romney v. Huckabee end of the world death match. Today, Romney will be heading to College Station, Texas to the George H. W. Bush Library to give a speech that, while being covered, won’t get the coverage it could have gotten by being some place within a reasonable driving distance of an airport we could all get to. I think it is more strategic than necessary or anything else.
Romney supporters are starting to cry wolf about anti-Mormon bigotry. Sadly, to a degree, I think they are right. But, let’s keep this in perspective. In national polling, Romney is at 10.7% in the RCP Poll Average, which is about a four percent increase from February 6, 2007. So, it’s not like this bigotry is having a massive effect on his polls — unless it has been there all along, in which case it is probably too late to be giving this speech.
In Iowa, Huckabee has had a tremendous surge. But, again, according to the RCP Poll Average, Romney is at 25.4% , virtually a 1% increase from July 2, 2007. In fact, Romney’s high point in Iowa came at the beginning of September when he hit 31%. Coincidentally, that corresponded to a spike in Huckabee’s popularity too. And now Huckabee is only about 2% ahead of Romney, with most of his gains coming from others.
Romney is a text book perfect candidate. He’s right on the issues. He’s right on the looks. He’s right on the money. He’s right on the executive experience. He’s right on the organization. He’s right on the family. He’s right on the strategy. He’s right on the pre-campaign book launch. He’s right on who he got to support him in the conservative opinion community. It’s like his campaign checked all the boxes before he started and expected things to just work. The problem of course, is that Romney did the same thing in 1994 and 2002 and on both occasions he checked all the boxes on the other side. You’ll have to forgive voters, particularly evangelicals who’ve seen their hopes go up in flames before, from trusting the guy now. There is a manufactured, astroturf feel to all of this and it wouldn’t matter whether he was Methodist or Mormon. Republicans have a track record of producing poor self funders who check all the boxes expecting campaign flowers to grow. Just ask Pete Coors.
As Jay Cost said the other day, the Romney inexperience is showing. He is poll tested, mom sanctioned, and kid approved. He’s a manufactured candidate and it is starting to show. When he makes immigration a big issue and the Boston Globe outs his landscape team, he fired them. When Huckabee starts gaining ground with social conservatives, the group Romney tried to get, he says this campaign will not be on social issues, but flies to Texas to give a speech on faith. It’s all too accumulated and transparent now.
And all the more cynical now, we have this Article VI movie coming out. It’s about “the role of faith in politics” and it’s put out by Romney supporters. So, he’s going to go give a speech on faith in politics and have a movie funded by supporters coming out at about the same time. We’ve all said we can’t underestimate his money and this is another example. The movie, by the way, will launch in ten key primary states. Coincidence? Of course not.
So let’s get to the heart of this. Why is Romney doing it? Here is my cynical nutshell opinion: Huckabee talking about faith is working. Romney is incapable of doing it. We saw how he reacted to the Bible question in the YouTube debate. How odd it is that Huckabee is starting to be accused of mixing church and state in a Republican primary. A Republican primary. Good grief. Anyone ever hear of George W. Bush? I do believe he once said his favorite philosopher is one Jesus Christ. You might have heard of him. His birthday is coming up.
Unfortunately for Romney, George Bush’s religion talk worked. And Huckabee’s is too. Look again at the RCP Poll average for Iowa. Notice that precipitous fall in Romney’s support corresponding to the rise in Huckabee’s support? I can’t see it either. Huckabee isn’t taking votes from Romney totally. He’s taking them from everybody and he’s pulling in people who think the rest of them, well, not to repeat myself, but they all suck.
So, the super predictable strategy? Try now to take religion off the table. Romney failed to capture those voters, so now we’re hearing hints of bigotry and suggestions that Huckabee is too much of a Jesus freak for American politics.