Mitt Romney: The Imaginary Frontrunner

Whether based in reality or not, the media has imposed a set of "tiers" on the presidential primaries, and in their quest for aesthetic symmetry they have decided that the number of candidates in the top tier has to be three. While this makes at least a modicum of sense in the Democratic contest (Edwards could, conceivably, prevail over Obama and Clinton), the logic breaks down for the Republican hopefuls. McCain and Giuliani are deservedly considered "top tier" in the GOP contest (for now), but the inclusion of Mitt Romney is, at best, premature, and at worst, laughable.

In almost all cases (save, notably, in New Hampshire to which he is a friendly neighbor with much higher name recognition) Romney's poll numbers weak, peaking nationally at 10%. Considering that ever-mischievous devil, good ol' Margin O'Error, it's hard to say that Romney's support warrants even serious acknowledgment, let alone coronation to frontrunner status (Edwards, I realize, has comparable national numbers, but he leads in many Iowa polls, which, as you know, is The Most Important State in the Country).

I believe that Mitt Romney's position as a top contender for the presidency is an invention of the press, and will prove ethereal as soon as any votes are cast. As I mentioned, there is a narrative being written by the media-at-large of a "three and three" battle in each party's nomination contest. While a supporting cast of Bidens, Richardsons, and Tancredos help make things colorful, the reality show we're watching is about two houses, both alike in dignity, with a triad of statespersons vying for leadership of their respective families. There truly are three frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, but there are only two Republicans who (for now!) have any serious shot to win. It is early, and the tectonics have many drifts yet to make, but the current numbers don't lie. Barring unforeseen upheavals, Romney is not going to be the nominee, and we should stop behaving as though he might.*

Why include Romney? In short, he looks good on television. While the other conservative alternatives to McCain and Giuliani like Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee are respectable and charismatic, neither have the Ken doll good looks of Romney, the prominent chin, or the low-baritone voice. Add to that with an easy-going manner (when he's not fudging another position -- more on that later) and his status as a GOP governor of a very blue state, you have someone that, one would think, ought to be a frontrunner!

But it must be clear, by now, that he is no such thing. The justification for the Romney candidacy is that he is the electable, conservative alternative to McCain and Giuliani, but with every interview and article that justification erodes. A quick scan of Romney's press will tell you a few important things...

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Confused Authoritarians

This is an interesting video by Anklebitingpundits in which McCain goes to a house party in New Hampshire.  I found his garden variety joking insults of the press fascinating, as the crowd tittered as McCain called the media 'Trotskyites' and 'media jerks'.  That was the joke, that journalists are trotskyites and jerks.  Weird.

The Stop Giuliani movement is starting, though it seems rather pathetic.  Rudy's Really Liberal is launched, along with a conservative declaration of independence in which signees pledge not to support Rudy.  There are fewer than 100 signatures, and only four inbound links.

Eyeon08 says that lobbyists love Romney, and his fundraising will come in fairly high (rivals are saying Romney could bring in $40M).  And here's the deal with Fred Thompson:

The point here is that different people are behind these two movements. The insiders hate McCain, and many in the conservative grassroots won't stomach Rudy (and, perhaps Romney).

I think that in both of these cases, though, these people are prime targets for the Fred Thompson campaign. I'm still thinking about Thompson but will have something up soon about it.

My read on all of this is that the Republican coalition is splintering among various authoritarian groups.  The nonsense that the right-wing base cares about social issues is coming to full fruition as Giuliani cleans up in the polls despite his embrace of gay rights, abortion, and cross-dressing.  Romney partially represents the business and lobbying elites who want to keep the profits flowing, and McCain has his base among journalists and old establishment grasstops that owe him favors.  The hunger for Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich is a proxy for Ronald Reagan's legacy.  

What Reagan did in 1981, as far as I can tell, is unite various authoritarian groups into a political coalition based on a hatred of liberalism and a fear of disempowered racial groups.  These authoritarians all wanted different versions of authoritarian rule (gold bugs versus Christian dominionists), but standing in the way of all of them were the old GOP risk-averse moderates and liberal Democrats.  Reagan welded a coalition of the risk-averse moderates and right-wing revolutionaries together into an uneasy balance.  Gradually, the risk-averse moderates with links to mainstream America lost influence in the party, until George W. Bush stomped them into nothingness.  And then Bush failed to institutionalize authoritarianism sufficiently in his time and screwed up Iraq, and so the groups are now all at war with each other to be put in charge of the party and finish what they think Reagan started.

These groups might want to bring back Reagan, but it's the Reaganite coalition that itself is now perceived of as a threat by the public.  Reagan never lost a war, because he was checked by a Democratic Congress and moderate GOP elders.  Bush, by following the interest groups that propelled Reagan to the White House but without any checks on his impulses, lost two.

And so the GOP frontrunner is a pro-choice and pro-gay rights cross-dressing New Yorker who says that he favored most of Clinton's policies.  And the 'conservative' base thinks he's a rock star.

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Stop the Criminalization of Mental Illness

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The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Several days ago, I wrote about the prison industrial complex in America that is driven largely by profit motive rather than improving society through rehabilitation or crime reduction. One component of America's incarceration industry is the criminalization of the mentally ill.

An example of this callous ineptitude is former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The November 27th, 2006 edition of the Worcester Business Journal, reported that the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health refused to admit any more patients to its hospitals or units. The drastic action was the direct result of cuts Romney imposed on the agency. Perhaps he did so to burnish his credentials as a fiscal conservate prior to announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Insiders Poll: Romney, Clinton Lead

On Saturday, the LA Times released a long poll of Repbublican and Democratic insiders (members of the RNC and the DNC).  The results (and I've looked here to try to avoid double posting) would seem to be disastrous for former front runner John McCain, a bit of real cheer for Mitt Romney, and (overall) encouraging to all Democratsic contenders not named Hillary Clinton.

The poll gives first choices, second choices, and even a response for will not vote for as well as a "strongest" candidate rating. So let's get to the data (and it was over 30 pages).

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Editorial Changes Proposal

Contrary to the high road taken by John and Elizabeth Edwards, who display such dignity and class in their response to Ann Coulter's notorious remarks at CPAC, it has been proposed that until further notice the editorial standards of Liberal Blogtopia should maintain a conscious effort to hang the Harpy formally known as The Coultergeist around the neck of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, to wit:

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