The EFM Feature

This morning, over at The Corner, Jonathan Adler — a supporter of Senator Thompson’s — put up a post that made at least two dubious claims regarding Governor Romney.
The first is the idea that “Romney has not [won] any seriously contested” primary. Sorry, Professor Adler, but Governor Romney won Michigan, and while your guy may not have had the resources to compete there, the same was not true of Senator McCain — who won there in 2000 — or Governor Huckabee. Senator McCain predicted he would win Michigan again, and he and Governor Romney went toe-to-toe for days on the economy. Governor Huckabee, on the other hand, was leading in some polls, spent a great deal of time in the Grand Rapids area (which some call the evangelical Mecca), and had many others rounding up support for him. Michigan was seriously contested indeed, and Governor Romney won big.
The second bone I’d pick isn’t an outright statement by Professor Adler, but rather the implication (present in his entire post, I think) that Governor Romney just doesn’t know how to appeal to voters. This is an interesting statement given that he’s gotten more primary votes than anybody else. Still, there’s no question that things have not gone as the campaign planned, or as we had hoped. But this accusation — which many have made — doesn’t really hold up, and I think that’s going to become increasingly clear as the race progresses.
If you look over the primaries at this point, the places where Governor Romney has done less well than we’d have liked have been the retail states — Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. (Professor Adler’s candidate has claimed to be “all in” in two of those places and has flopped in all three, but we’ll leave that aside for now.) Governor Romney did best in Michigan, the biggest and most urbanized of the major early states. Now, ask yourself this question: Which of those states most closely resembles the battles to come? Unquestionably it’s Michigan. If you compare the size (big) and demographics (diverse) of Florida to any of these other places, Michigan’s the only reasonable answer. And then after Florida we have February 5th — where there are numerous contests across the country.
In both cases — Florida and February 5th — the candidates simply are not going to be able to reach most voters one-on-one (Senator McCain’s specialty) or prevail by appealing to a select set of religious believers (Governor Huckabee’s only recourse). They are going to have to do a lot of TV and use messages that resonate with a lot of people. That’s Governor Romney’s strength, and Michigan is the proof. He didn’t win there on account of his dad — if you look at the exit polls, he actually lost among the older voters who’d actually remember George Romney’s 1960s governorship. He won because he reached a huge number of voters on a topic they care about (the economy) with a message that was both conservative and forward looking (a.k.a. non-Huckabeean).
Those who — like Professor Adler — don’t think Governor Romney can connect with primary voters are misjudging this race. This isn’t 2000, 1996, 1992, or any of the other recent campaigns — where you won by doing well in a large number of diners early on. That happened, but it didn’t prove decisive. Given that, we’re now in a different type of campaign — one where the primary weapons are broad-based, public appeals. And we’re also now at the stage of the campaign where the options available to conservatives who don’t want to find themselves making a choice in November between two people who might have been on the Democratic ticket in 2004 — Senators Clinton and McCain — are narrowing. As things start to settle, I think they’ll like what they see — mainly on TV, and addressing the range of issues we care about — from Governor Romney.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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