Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Ben Smith earlier this week:

My instinct on the 2012 Republican field, with its crop of half-in-half-out governors, is that the people who are unambiguously angling for the job -- at this point, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee -- have a certain advantage.

I don't see it. There is simply very little real indication that candidates who start "unambiguously" running in the days and weeks after a President is inaugurated actually have an edge over those who get into the race later.

Having recently finished reading What it Takes, the outstanding book on the 1988 primaries, I do remember that presumptive Democratic favorite Gary Hart was pushed out of the race long before the first vote was cast and that Dick Gephardt, who had begun staking out Iowa in 1985, won that state and just about only that state.

Thinking back even just the past few years, it's not hard to remember that the big winners on the Republican side during the run up to 2008 were not the candidates with the strongest organizations, whether within a state or around the country, but rather a woefully underfunded former Governor (Mike Huckabee) and a big name who by the time voters were going to the polls had only about enough money to fly himself from state to state (John McCain). Mitt Romney, who started early and invested tens of millions of his own dollars didn't win, nor did Rudy Giuliani, whose endorsements and $59 million raised earned him a single delegate at the Republican National Convention.

This isn't to say that starting early is going to inhibit a candidate, Romney or otherwise. What's more, there have certainly been cases where the candidate organized earliest has won (though that has tended to be in cases where the candidate is an heir apparent like Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000). But the idea that those clearly in the race today have a real advantage seems like a conclusion based on common wisdom rather than actual reality, and I would be fairly surprised to see the eventual GOP field devoid of some strong late-breaking entrants.

Tags: Mitt Romney, Republican Primaries, White House 2012 (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

There's no doubt in my mind that Newt is also in for 2012. Newt's probably thinking that 2012 is his only shot. The Repubs will likely have some younger talent on display in 2016, unless they're so completely marginalized that no one will care.

by Bob Miller 2009-06-01 04:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?
Early on, Newt will have the full support of the Faux News Channel. Romney is a little too slick for the populist shmoes who still believe that FNC is a real news source. Repubs still worship Newt's actions to humiliate a sitting Democratic president. His latest comments on Sotomayor feed directly into GOP hatred and frustration. He will become Sean Hannity's favorite candidate.
by KoolJeffrey 2009-06-01 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

The best comparison might be John Edwards, who never really stopped running after 2004.  It certainly didn't help him at all.

by aaronetc 2009-06-01 05:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Historically speaking, Huckabee and Romney DO have an advantage over others - not because of their current overtones, but because they have both been there before...

Case in point:

1976 Reagan comes in 2nd in GOP primaries
1980 Reagan wins GOP nomination

1980 Bush (41) comes in 2nd in GOP primaries
1988 Bush (41) wins GOP nomination

1988 Dole comes in 2nd in GOP primaries
1996 Dole wins GOP nomination

2000 McCain comes in 2nd in GOP primaries
2008 McCain wins GOP nomination

In fact, if you look at all but one presidential election since 1968, the GOP nominee has always been either an incumbent president, or someone who had previously run for president and lost.  George W. Bush was the first Republican to win his party's nomination on his first try since Barry Goldwater in 1964.  And even in the case of Dubya, he wasn't exactly a totally unknown newcomer, but rather the son of a former president.

History indicates that more often than not, the GOP nominee in any presidential election has been there before.

by Obamaphile 2009-06-01 06:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Odd... I was just pointing out yesterday after his appearance on FNS that Romney is clearly starting early. Can it work? Maybe... but the real forces against him are bigger than he can control. He could be seriously in good shape if

a) he figures out how to get right wing evangelicals comfortable with his membership in LDS

b) he figures out how to either neutralize the crazy wing of the far right, or learns how to win them over without going to crazytown himself (or, why will Mike Huckabee never really get it together?)

c) the general mood of the country sours on lefty approaches to big issues like healthcare and the economy.

Look, Romney is telegenic and comes off as nice, and pretty smart, without seeming too calculating. I've long thought that Republicans don't quite know what they have in him - especially as a private business exec with some real skills as a Manager. But the bigger forces are in many ways beyond his control, and the too-perfect good looks turn out to be a hindrance in some ways more than a help. If he does get it together... I'd worry. So far... I'm not worrying quite so much.

by nycweboy1 2009-06-01 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Even if Mitt does somehow figure out a way to get evangelicals on board, I don't believe it can be achieved by 2012. This would be a massive shift in worldview for evangelicals. They've turned their backs on traditional denominations, but they still view them as Christians. The Mormon church is too bizarre for evangelicals to support. Huckabee would crush him again.

by KoolJeffrey 2009-06-01 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

Huckabee would crush him again

Again?

You do realize that on the day that Mitt Romney withdrew from the race (February 7th), he was LEADING Huckabee by a fairly sizeable margin of delegates?

GOP Delegate totals on February 7, 2008

Mitt Romney 277
Mike Huckabee 182

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Results_of_ the_2008_Republican_presidential_primari es

In the end, Huckabee surpassed Romney in total delegates, but that only happened in the month after Romney dropped out while Huckabee stayed in the race.

Romney didn't quit because he was losing to both McCain and Huckabee (he wasn't - he was only losing to McCain at that point), he quit because it was obvious to everyone (except Mike Huckabee) that McCain was gonna be the nominee by the beginning of February.

I feel fairly certain that had Romney stuck it out as long as Huckabee did (March 4), he would have finished with more delegates than Huckabee.

by Obamaphile 2009-06-01 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

John Edwards started campaigning in Iowa in 2005 and Obama 2006. Hillary started in June 2007. Doesn't this itself show that those who start early has the advantage?

by Elvish 2009-06-01 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?

The idea that running early is a good thing can be attributed to the successful campaign of Jimmy Carter.  Bill Clinton reinforced that notion, and Howard Dean nearly did so.

For 2012, I think that the lack of any clear front-runners helps someone who starts out early, but I think that Romney is too much of a known quantity to get much of an advantage from that.  The type of politician who would benefit most from starting an early presidential run is probably someone who is relatively young and relatively unknown to the point that people say that person should wait until 2016 or later.

by Anthony de Jesus 2009-06-01 08:34AM | 0 recs
The media are badly overestimating Romney...

I'm perplexed at the lack of political acumen among the punditry on Romney.  They really don't stop to realize how badly he really damaged himself in 2008.

Romney ran a perfect campaign, did all the right things, and was the runaway frontrunner in both Iowa and NH, all against a weak field.  And yet he imploded because voters just didn't take to him, and illustrating his weakness was that DIFFERENT guys took him down in the two states.

NOW Romney would be running with NO political platform to base his candidacy, being in 2012 SIX years removed from a one-term governorship that was the only political career he ever had (no, running and losing to Kennedy a decade earlier doesn't count).

Maybe the pundit class recognizes his weakness but still see him as the least-weak among weaklings.  But they don't say that.  They talk about him as if he still has strengths.

Huckabee is in a stronger position than Romney because he beat expectations last time.  He still won't get it unless every credible potential candidate out there takes a pass (noting Romney isn't my idea of "credible"), in which case we're looking at a LBJ 1964-level blowout win.

But Romney has proven a weakness that makes it virtually impossible for him to win the nomination even against a very weak field.  He's toast.

by DCCyclone 2009-06-01 10:28AM | 0 recs
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