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Tilting at Windmills

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January 14, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

ROMNEY IN MICHIGAN....Kos is still pushing Democrats to cross over and vote for Mitt Romney in Tuesday's Michigan primary and Matt Yglesias remarks that "cynicism aside, it really does seem to me that Romney would be a less dangerous president than Mike Huckabee or John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Voting for Romney in a primary is win-win."

Is that true? That's the way I see things too, but the other day I ran into Hugh Hewitt at our local Ruby's and it got me to wondering. Hugh is a smart guy and a consummate Republican Party apparatchik, and he supports Romney. I don't remember all the specific details of why he prefers Romney, but just in general he obviously thinks that Romney is the most reliably conservative candidate in the GOP field. I, on the other hand, also support Romney, but I support him because I think he's just pandering to the base right now and, in fact, is the most reliably centrist and technocratic of the Republicans currently running. If you put a gun to my head and forced me choose one of the Republican candidates to be president — well, I'd probably just go ahead and shoot myself. But if I didn't shoot myself after all, I'd go with Romney.

So what I'm wondering here is, who's getting suckered, me or Hugh? Would Romney really be worse than, say, McCain or Giuliani from a liberal perspective? That's hard to believe, frankly. But that's what Hugh Hewitt thinks, and his fealty to the conservative cause isn't really open to question. So who's right?

Kevin Drum 12:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (97)

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I would say it comes down to Supreme Court justices. Romney can reliably be counted on to have no personal opinion on justices beyond the political expediency of using them to satisfy conservatives, much like Bush. Whereas I can actually see McCain having strong views on something trivial like, I dunno, checks and balances and the separation of the three branches of government.

Posted by: Chris on January 14, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Neither. Romney is the candidate of the corpocon. That's marginally better than being a theocon from your perspective, and a lot better frow Hewitt's. Likewise, a corpocon is better than a neocon, especially a batsh*t crazy one like Rudy!!

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 14, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, Romney would not be worse than Giuliani, who won't win the nomination anyways. The options are Huckabee, McCain, and Romney, and please don't use up all the bullets.

Posted by: reino on January 14, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Whereas I can actually see McCain having strong views on something trivial like, I dunno, checks and balances and the separation of the three branches of government.

I do not know why people give McCain a pass on things like this. He's consistently supported the president's dismantling of power of the first branch of government.

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 14, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Hewitt's more likely -- he has skin in the game, and thus is more desperate to believe.

The GOP field has fragmented the GOP base, and there's a lot of desperate self-delusion out there right now.

Posted by: Morat20 on January 14, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

It's just hard for a non-rightwinger to really understand the differences among the Republican candidates. I mean, maybe one of the dog-whistle phrases that Romney is using says he practices cannibalism every other Thursday. Who knows?

Posted by: MattF on January 14, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Would Romney really be worse than, say, McCain or Giuliani from a liberal perspective? That's hard to believe, frankly.

Kevin, I think all of them would make good Presidents and trying to say one would be bad would be slander. Giuliani's emphasis is in terrorism and 9/11 and his ability to protect this country from the terrorists. Mccain's emphasis would be that he is war hero, a straight talker, and his long years of experience in the Senate. Romney's emphasis would be that he is former governor of a large important state and enacted a universal health care plan. I don't have a preference for any one of them, but I think each of them would be good in their own way.

Posted by: Al on January 14, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Too funny. Except the '08 Rs are indeed a game of Russian roulette.

Posted by: Lucy on January 14, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well, consider what happens if Romney gets the nomination. Based on his history, and his ambition, once he wraps up the nomination he will instantly shift his positions to be more moderate, and closer to those he had as governor of a blue state. He'll try to be subtle about it, but this is the age of YouTube, where everything you ever said on television can be widely circulated. He'll be toast.

His other choice is to stay a hard-core winger, which will get him the 30% of people who voted for Bush. Yes, there are many more who swore they'd never vote for Hillary, or who fear that Barack's a secret Muslim, but many of them will just stay home.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 14, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh is a smart guy and a consummate Republican Party apparatchik

Which is why he supports the most electable Republican candidate. His priority is getting a Republican into the White House, not nominating the most reliably conservative candidate -- who might then go on to lose the general election.

If only Democrats were so calculating.

Posted by: CN on January 14, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Of the Republican candidates, Romney is the most electable based on appearance. Romney, as others have pointed out, at least resembles what Americans think a 'decent' Republican should be. It is not about how he will govern, but how he will appeal to the electorate.

Cross over voting is troubling, though. As a Democrat, I would not want to compete with W. Bush Republicans voting in a Democratic primary. I would prefer Republicans go to hell rather than influence who the Democratic nominee will be.

Posted by: Brojo on January 14, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I like Atrios' opinion. Vote for Romney. It's one more vote to waste Tagg's inheritance.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on January 14, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

You mean who's the "real" conservative?

Who knows or cares, the point is to keep mulitple GOP candidates going.

Ron Paul!

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 14, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think Romney would be the most dangerous candidate the Republicans could select. Not only is he the most personable, but he is the most authoritarian. He accepts everything David Addington or John Yoo might have written
…In response to the question of whether the president has "inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes," Romney answered:
"Intelligence and surveillance have proven to be some of the most effective national security tools we have to protect our nation. Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive and the President should not hesitate to use every legal tool at his disposal to keep America safe."

Kos is naïve: this is Hewlitt's man for a reason.

Posted by: Mike on January 14, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

If McCain gets the nom I think the Democrats are screwed. In addition to the anyone-but-Hillary and anyone-but-a-black-man demographic, there go the Independents and maybe even some liberals who believe that McCain is a "moderate".

Posted by: Lucy on January 14, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of who is the least bad candidate, it is wrong to vote in the other party's primary just to create mischief. I don't see any difference between that and voter suppression techniques like vote caging.

Posted by: nonplussed on January 14, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Hewitt is a smart man, however, he is supporting Romney because Romney's state positions fit Hewitt's best. Hewitt, no doubt, thinks Romney is the most electable Republican candidate, but he is just simply wrong in this case.

The correct play, if you are a Democrat-leaning voter, is to sabotage McCain's campaign in Michigan by voting for a less electable Republican. It really has nothing at all to do with who Democrats could live as a Republican winner in November.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 14, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

...it really does seem to me that Romney would be a less dangerous president than Mike Huckabee or John McCain or Rudy Giuliani.

Disagree. I think any of them are potentially very dangerous if your criteria for "danger" might be starting another war of choice. Actually I would see Huckabee as the least likely of the bunch to intentionally *provoke* a war. If I had a gun to my head and was asked to choose an R it would be Huckabee. Why? He would lose big and his appeal would stay contained to the South, and the country would finally have the issues of Church/State separation on the front burner. Also, in the process of elucidating the goofiness of his tax proposal it would would place an even greater highlight on how the rich have been getting away with all the goodies and everybody else has been screwed.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 14, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

"So what I'm wondering here is, who's getting suckered, me or Hugh?"

Both you and Kos are. Romney is the GOP candidate with the best odds of beating any of the Democrats likely to be nominated. He's currently ahead in the delegate count, and a win for him in Michigan will only give him more momentum than he needs to stay in the race.

If you're hoping for a Democrat to occupy the White House next year, then the guy you want to see lock up the GOP nomination as early as possible is Mike Huckabee. He's absolutely certain to be pasted in the general like a june bug under a steam roller.

Posted by: s9 on January 14, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think you could argue that the same phenomenon exists on the Democratic side. Many Republicans would consider Obama the "less-bad" choice, and certainly Obama is garnering support from many of the Hewitt equivalents on the Democratic side.

Of course, if by "less-bad", Republicans mean more in-line with their policies, then they're most likely wrong. Therefore, if the analogy holds, then perhaps we should believe Hewitt.

Posted by: MattP on January 14, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Romney probably comes closest to best representing the views of moderate Republicans like Kos and seems the most electable to neoconmen like Hewitt.

Posted by: Brojo on January 14, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Mitt Romney: "Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive...."

Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Posted by: Stefan on January 14, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

You mean you ran across right-wing vermin like Hewitt at the grocery store and didn't kneecap the SOB? You should have run at him full tilt and dived at his knees from the side, thereby crippling him permanently. You could have said you tripped while rushing to the cheese counter.

Either that, or pelt Hewitt with glass jars of pickles and mayonaisse, aiming for his temple or nose. A little shattered glass in his skull might make him a little smarter.

Fight him!

Posted by: Mean Gene on January 14, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with S9. Romney would be the best candidate for them. He would beat any member of the present Democratic field. Hillary is the Democrat's most electable choice. But I think she would (actually, I think she WILL) lose to Romney in the general election. Of the Republicans Romney definately scares me least. He's (as people here have said) is a classic corporate Republican. And he's only pretending to be far right.

Posted by: Pat on January 14, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it obvious that a lot of high-level Republican players like Hewitt suport Romney because they think he's the one that can best sustain the current structure of the Republican Party and of conservatism in general -- the structure in which they're high-level players?

Blogger Jonathan Schwarz wrote about this principle, the Iron Law of Institutions, a while ago. He's right.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden on January 14, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

according to a CNN poll today:

"According to the survey, both of the Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, hold mostly double-digit -- and statistically identical -- advantages over Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, drawing greater than 50 percent support in each hypothetical matchup.

The Republican candidate who gives Clinton and Obama the closest race in the new poll is Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is essentially tied with both: He draws the support of 48 percent of those surveyed to Clinton's 50 percent and Obama's 49 percent."

and

"The poll contained some worrying news for Romney: 62 percent of those surveyed say they will definitely not vote for the former Massachusetts governor in the general election, compared with just 13 percent who say they will definitely support him -- the worst showing of any of the major candidates."

Posted by: cha cha cha on January 14, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Both CNN and Rasmussen national head-to-head polling over the past few months consistently shows the following:

1) John McCain is the most dangerous GOP candidate in the general (Rudy would be, but he's toast after Tsunami Tuesday).

2) Hillary is the weakest Democratic candidate in the general. McCain beats her easily in most match-ups.

3) John Edwards is the strongest Democratic candidate in the general. He consistently beats all the Republicans but Rudy, and he at the very worst (Rasmussen latest) ties Rudy at 44% each.

4) Romney is weaker than McCain, much weaker.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman on January 14, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Why all the pessimism folks. The Democrats have the wind at their backs. I don't see any of the Republicans winning next year. The only one with a shot would be Huckabee and that shot is less than 10%. If any of the others are nominated the Republican base will stay home in droves. If you are identified with the Republican establishment, you are toast this election.

Posted by: coprus juris on January 14, 2008 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the standard for Republicans was "Who would you want to have a beer with?"

Posted by: Lux on January 14, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

A buddy of mine, and Michigan resident, on why this is not a good idea.

http://misterfurious.blogspot.com/2008/01/mitt.html

Posted by: Angelos on January 14, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Hugh Hewitt the guy who wrote the book about the permanent Republican majority, Painting the Map Red, or something like that?

The book came out right before the 2006 election.

Doesn't seem so smart to me.

Posted by: Jose on January 14, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

As an ex-OC resident, I profoundly miss Ruby's. Once I came out of the fugue state the mere mention provoked, I finished reading your post and pondered your question. Then I wished I had a chocolate malt from Ruby's to wash down the distaste.

When in doubt, I go with the most likely answer based on past performance - you are right and Hugh is delusional. Mitt will go along with the Dem congress to enact reasonable policies and make himself look good, which is always his main goal.

Posted by: Dawn on January 14, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

So what I'm wondering here is, who's getting suckered, me or Hugh?

Well since Hugh has a history of being right on the money, I guess it's you.

Posted by: h. motes on January 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed, why all the pessimism? Even George Will is predicting a Dem victory in the Fall. The Iowa turnout for Dems was twice that of Repubs and in New Hampshire it was 20 percent higher. Dems like both of their possible candidates and republicans are at war with each other after seven disasterous years of W.

Posted by: Stew on January 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee. He's the one they're trying to bury; he's the east connected to the RNC (except for Paul), and the dumbest.

Posted by: pbg on January 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Think of Mitt Romney as a less adaptable version of George H. W. Bush. He is a technocrat, and is , lying out of his ass on conservative issues. He's for business, thats it. The thing is though, the following. He can self finance, important for a cash strapped GOP. He is more telegenic than McCain, Rudy or Huckabee. And he is loyal to the GOP cash machine. Romney has two problems. One, the GOP base can see that he is bsing them on everything except business and taxes. The second is that the rest of us draw exactly the same conclusions as well. Who knew there was something that the GOP base and mainstream America agreed on?

Posted by: Alex on January 14, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

With the big issues of health-care reform, global warming and ending the war in Iraq, it's time for the Republicans to serve in the minority. This means a combination of stifling the Dem agenda, shaping that agenda and getting ready for the next cycle. The best way to take advantage of Dem weaknesses is for Republicans to maintain their coalition and show strength. Change can come later. Win or lose, Romney is the best hope to keep the coalition together in its present format.

Posted by: harris on January 14, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot to add that Romney has zero chance of getting elected in Novemver, against any Dem. Not gonna happen.

Posted by: Dawn on January 14, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect his fealty to the Hugh Hewitt cause may be a factor.

Posted by: david on January 14, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

coprus juris asks: "Why all the pessimism folks. The Democrats have the wind at their backs."

Because Democrats have a world-class knack for snatching electoral defeat from the gaping jaws of victory in Presidential politics. That Clinton won, twice, despite the incompetence and overt sabotage of the Democratic Party leadership and operatives who moved heaven and earth trying to make him lose, is one of the minor miracles of American politics in the last forty years. It will not be repeated this year— or perhaps again for as long as we all yet live.

Never underestimate the power of the Stupid among Democratic Party strategists, especially when they gather in large numbers around a Presidential candidate in the general election.

Posted by: s9 on January 14, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

go with huckabee. he's got the best running mate --- dr. stephen colbert, dfa.

Posted by: dr.filbert on January 14, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

THE QUESTION OF WHICH REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE WOULD BE THE LEAST BAD PRESIDENT IS NOT THE QUESTION WE SHOULD BE ASKING. They would all be minutely varying degrees of horrible. We should be asking which republican is the most formidable candidate in the general election, and that's easily McCain. Michigan democrats should be voting in the republican primary for whichever candidate is best poised to take the wind out of McCain's currently billowing sails. That's apparently Romney, so Kos is dead-on correct.

Posted by: Tom in Houston on January 14, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

...the other day I ran into Hugh Hewitt at our local Ruby's and it got me to wondering.

Wondering why you weren't driving a full-sized Hummer at the time, I hope.

Given his the size of his manmaries, I'd guess Hugh had a plateful of sliders and a double chocolate shake in front of his gob.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on January 14, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised that anyone cares who the Republican nominee will be.

Then again, millions of people will care who's going to win the NFC Championship game next Sunday...who will go on to lose to the New England Patriots two weeks later.

It's all a moot point, every damned bit of it. More words to write and read. More time to waste. The next President will NOT BE A REPUBLICAN, and well may end up in third place if a strong Third Party candidate enters the race.

The Billionaire's Boys' Club has one more year left to plunder with impunity. Huzzah!

Posted by: Daddy-O on January 14, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

It will not be repeated this year— or perhaps again for as long as we all yet live.

It was with great effort that I pulled the razor away from my wrist when I read that...

;-)

Posted by: Daddy-O on January 14, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is the reliable BigAuto-BigOil guy who will make sure that the public does not force BigAuto to make greener cars that use less oil.

Romney represents the corrupt crony wing of the GOP.

Posted by: bakho on January 14, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Well, with the proverbial gun to my head, I'll take Romney or McCain over Il Duce or a theocon. (I guess I'd even take narcoleptic Fred over them, too. I liked him in Die Hard II, and his answer to how to respond to the tertorists' demands--"Obey"--might even make a nifty viral video.) But deciding who is the best (or, more accurately, least dangerous) among this bunch is like arguing whether the Hulk or the Thing is stronger--the Hulk is stronger, but it don't matter a whit to the guy who is clobbered by either one.

As to who is the weakest candidate, I think it is clearly Romney (why some consider him the strongest is baffling to me). He is so obviously a phoney, both in appearance and flip-flop substance, that it comes through to even casual voters. His phoniness is so evident that even the horrid MSM facts checks him on occasion. While any Republican (even a ressurected Nixon or McCarthy) will have the MSM coverage in his favor, the balance would be least bad with Romney. While the sheer awfulness of Il Duce is gaining traction (and some crazed anti-press explosion from him is always possible) there is still enough "America's Mayor" crap from the press to prevent balanced coverage. Huckabee is largely a rerun of Bush 2000--the press thinks he is a likeable buffoon, will swoon over every bass note, and refuse to perform any real analysis of his policies (some say he is a theocrat with a regressive, unworkable tax plan, and pardons rapists to rape again in order to ingratiate himself with the crazed right wing, OTOH, some say he's just a loving Christian gentleman with a populist streak, and a big heart taking heat for his good intentions). With McCain, though, it is game over--Pravda's coverage of the West during the Cold War would look fair compared to the coverage of a McCain-Obama race (and a McCain-Clinon race would be so horrible that even Bob Somerby may be incapable of fully imagining it). The press will perpeuate his sainthood 24/7 and we would bleed independents so hard that even fairly blue states would be in jeopardy.

Posted by: Marlowe on January 14, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the general election is the cakewalk many Democrats like to think, but if Bob Shrum dies before November 1, then that will greatly increase the odds.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 14, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

As far as crossover voting, I hope anyone suggesting this is picking the guy they think will be easiset to beat in November nor someopne they have fanitisized is better than another repub.

Any conversation that one of these is better than the other is revealing though. ALL of them will put judges in place who will put the final nail the Great American Experiment's coffin if it hasn't already been done.

This talk of rationalizing Romney into somthing other than the most deceptive candidate the nation has EVER seen is really silly shit.

I see now why the dems can't stand up, they wouldn't know the opponent if he goose stepped them in the butt.

Posted by: Pernell on January 14, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I believe Hugh see '08 as a lost cause and he is more concerned about keeping movement conservatives in control of the Republican Party, that is why he sees Rudy as a fall back. To him either Huckabee or McCain mean the Party goes in a direction he sees as worse than a loss. He as much as said this on his program last week.

Posted by: al on January 14, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

go with huckabee. he's got the best running mate --- dr. stephen colbert, dfa.

Good point.

The next President will NOT BE A REPUBLICAN, and well may end up in third place if a strong Third Party candidate enters the race.

I don't share the sunny optimism of Kevin Drum, Daddy-O, and anybody who thinks the Democrats are going to waltz into the White House come November. After all, we live in the country that returned a complete disaster of a president to office in 2004, followed by the Democratic party smart money backing Hillary Clinton, a suicidal general election pick.

Ouf.

Posted by: Lucy on January 14, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

If the question is who would have the least bad policies proposals, I'd say... tough question... McCain, maybe? The top four (R, H, McC, G) all suck.

If the question is who is least likely to get bad policies implemented, I'd say Huckabee. He'd be in way over his head and would have a hard time against even the lame opposition of Pelosi and Reid.

But McCain is the one to fear the most in the general, especially since the media is on his side.

Posted by: F. Frederson on January 14, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Why do democrats help Hickubbee by propping up him selling himself as a "populist" - he may, in a field of fascists, be the "populist-like" but does anyone really believe that in the real world he's a "populist"?

So the man has a little less fascist and a little more theocrat than the others. He is not a populist because he difffers from corporate fascists on an issue or two.

Of course the dems will help him sell himself as a man of the people and most importantly help Hickabbee make sure the country knows that he is NOT Bush and the country will fall for it again and be happy Bush is gone and the new and improved "conservative" has won.

Posted by: Pernell on January 14, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I suggest that crossing over is a very bad idea and you should vote for your candidate or uncommitted.

Posted by: MarkH on January 14, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh's in a bad corner. He sold his soul to the GOP's then ruling elite, the corpocons. Who else CAN he possibly back? Giuliani is fine with corporate corruption, but he's mostly a nutjob neocon, and anyway, the prevailing wisdom is he's no longer in the running anyway... Hugh never backs a loser. McCain has a long memory; Hugh and Hugh's cronies have stuck way too many knives in Mac's back for Hugh to want him anywhere near the throne. And Huckabee -- are you nuts? Huckabee's is Hugh's worst nightmare, a theocon who means it. Sure he'll try for a 'Fair Tax' that will be an enormous windfall for Hugh and his posse, but who knows what the hell all else Huck will try to get enacted while in office? You look up 'loose cannon' in the dictionary, you see a picture of Mike Huckabee... and maybe, in a much smaller inset, John McCain, too.

Who does that leave for Hugh to get behind? Thompson? Not in the running, and most likely would have little patience for anyone as smarmy and obviously barely closeted as Hugh is, anyway.

No, as the map reads right this second, Hugh has to suck up to Romney. But expect Hugh's support to change on a pinhead if any other candidate starts to seriously dominate the race... hell, he'll even hold hands with Huck, if he feels he has to. But right now, he's still a good ways up the slope from having to make that decision.

Posted by: Doc Nebula on January 14, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Also... what makes you think Hugh is being honest with you? In many ways, Romney is the most vulnerable candidate in the general election, so maybe Hugh is talking him up to a well known proggie commenter to sew a little confusion in the enemy ranks. I hardly think such is beneath him.

Posted by: Doc Nebula on January 14, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

As a long time listener to Hewitt's radio show (one must listen to the enemy and he's way smarter and less annoying than Rush or Hannity) I believe that Hewitt is taken by Romney's faith (and wants to bring/keep Mormons in the evangelical conservative camp) and notwithstanding Romney's prior positions sees him as having the most "mainstream" Republican postions accross the board. To Hewitt all the other candidates are flawed. McCain because of immigration, campaign finance reform and his support of compromise on judicial appointments, Rudy on the social and personal issues, Huckabee on the ecomomic populism front, Thompson well Hugh jumped on the Romney bandwagon before Thompson got in but Thompson's lack of energy hasn't caused him to reevaluate. Besides I think Hewitt calculates that Romney's appearance and bearing make him the most appealing/likeable candidate they've got.

Posted by: K. Hughes on January 14, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

...the other day I ran into Hugh Hewitt at our local Ruby's

As if the food wasn't bad enough!

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on January 14, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Why not rephrase your question(s) more directly?

1) If a Republican were to win the presidency in November who would be your "least-bad" Republican (assuming you're a Democrat)?

2) If you had the chance to vote in a Republican primary as a *spoiler*:
a) Who would you want to *prevent* from winning?
b) Who would you vote for to make that happen?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 14, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Of course all of this completely misses the point of Kos's campaign to have Dems vote for Romney in Michigan. It's not about picking the least offensive Republican, it's about keeping as many Republican frontrunners in play for as long as possible forcing them to spend more time and money tearing each other, and their party apart in the primaries. A long, nasty, divisive and expensive Republican fight is good for the Democrats.

Posted by: A Hermit on January 14, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh is a smart guy

That's where you lost me.

Posted by: commie atheist on January 14, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

In the abstract, unconstrained by institutional or political pressure, I have to think Romney would be the best of a bad lot on the GOP side (from a liberal Dem point of view), simply because there's ample evidence that the others (except maybe Drop Dead Fred) would be absolutely horrible, whereas Romney's extreme badness appears to derive largely from political pressure.

But we don't live in the abstract, and pragmatically speaking, Ron Paul would obviously be the best of the bunch. Consider: The next president will likely be working with a Democratic Congress. The sorts of things that President Paul would be able to do without the help of said Congress would, AFAIK, be generally good -- pulling us out of Iraq, etc. Surely he could do some damage as well, but his executive order pen would be put to better use than would the pens of any of his GOP rivals. Beyond that, he simply has no constituency in Congress to get his crazy agenda passed. You think the Democrats are going to send him a gold standard bill, or a bill to dismantle the Dept. of Education? He wouldn't be able to accomplish anything domestically, which is just the kind Republican president Democrats should want.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on January 14, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with commenters above that Hewitt pegged Romney early as the most electable and also as being enough of an outsider to get beyond the Bush Administration negatives. Also, I think Hugh is just kinda gay for Mitt.

Posted by: dc on January 14, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan is usually portrayed as the gold standard of principled conservatism. But his pragmatic governorship contrasts starkly with his ideological campaigning. Even his presidency wasn't that crazy when you consider all the True Believers who surrounded him.

Romney is very capable but he's no Reagan in the acting department. That's why Hewitt's calculation is probably flawed. Yes, Romney would play the game on multiple levels. But he wouldn't be able to disguise the necessary but cynical calculations. His campaign has been a spectacular failure in that way, at least so far. His presidency would be more of the same.

Hewitt does know that showmanship is the sine qua non of a successful presidency. Romney's capacity for mythic self-creation, however, is laughably thin. Please, nominate this guy!

Posted by: walt on January 14, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think voting for Romney is a dangerous game. We could breathe new life into his campaign. Then what do we say if he's elected? Oops, just tried to have a little fun up there in Michigan...

If he wins Romney will be running for his second term the minute he takes office. He will have 4 years with every slice of the Repub coalition watching his every move and threatening to pull their support if he doesn't give them this or that. This will push him to extreems people like John McCain and Rudy Guiliani wouldn't need to go to.

Regards.

Posted by: luko on January 14, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Is it reckless to suggest that Hewitt's support of Romney is premised upon a Democratic victory in 2008 and he's more concerned with building up the Republicans' 2012 chances? In other words, assuming the Dems win this year, whose losing 2008 candidacy would damage the Republicans' position the least? By far, Romney is the least likely to say something so stupid that in 2010 voters will be saying "Jeez, Obama pisses me off, but thank God we didn't wind up with a Romney Administration."

As a hypothetical alternative, Romney will happily accept all your projections for the next four years.

Posted by: Eric Scharf on January 14, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Follow the money.

Posted by: Juanita de Talmas on January 14, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is the flip-flopper that conservatives only painted Kerry as being.

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on January 14, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshal whom I adore , said ' ...I'm not above liking McCain..." and goes on to say why he knows he's a fuckin moron, but I guess he means personally or something, after covering in not the kindest terms for years why McCain is a fuckin moron, so why in the world would he ever type into the cyber world " I'm not above liking..." I don't understand it one bit. How can anyone,of any stripe , like John McCain? He doesn't make a bit of sense on any issue, hasn't ever been either a straight talker nor a Maverick ( Vomit)...he's another worthless, self promoting fence sitting coward ( and an incurably violent Nationalist danger) sack of gum...and some how he skates through in the 'human' category in all this.The Mans appeal to his base, his beliefs and his voting record are all on a par with Giuliani and worse.

McCain and Rudy, Hare and Broom.

Except McCain decided to be a psyco , Rudy just dropped the veil.

Posted by: A.Scott on January 14, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think you're attributing a little too much brain power to your friend Hugh Hewitt.

Posted by: nemo on January 14, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that Romney won't be a reliable conservative; he might very well be, and you and HH might both be right.

What makes Romney the least bad option, perhaps, is the hope that he won't blow up the world.

Posted by: jc on January 14, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

"If you put a gun to my head and forced me choose one of the Republican candidates to be president — well, I'd probably just go ahead and shoot myself."

Second that. (except I would shoot myself!)

PS: You have it all wrong. The real question is when do we start to hear about Jeb Bush... savior of the Republican criminal empire.

Posted by: Jay in Oregon on January 14, 2008 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand this "who is the best republican candidate" talk. Why are we asting our breath? If the last 8 years has taught us anything its that they all share the same group mind. Any repub would be awful and any differences in that light are trivial.

It's like choosing whether you would prefer shooting, stabbing, or asphixiation.

Posted by: woodynyc on January 14, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Nice to see all you leftists sticking by your anti-war convictions. The only real anitwar candidate still out there is Ron Paul. And he's the only GOP candidate to run ads in Arab-American newspapers in the Detroit area.

And if that didn't attract you, how about this? What better way to really screw-up the GOP race than to vote have a massive cross-over vote help Paul win Michigan?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on January 14, 2008 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it seems to be a lonely spot out here thinking Huckabee would be the least objectionable Repuplican't candidate.

Sure he'd LIKE to appoint theocratic justices, but the even-more-Democratic Senate just should NOT let them through.

He's the least corporatist ReThug. He actually has sympathy for the poor. His consumption tax plan would go nowhere in Congress. He's most likely to sign social justice legislation. He has a sense of humor.

All that means he is THE Republican't who could win, and that he therefore is the one Democrats should NOT vote for in Michigan.

Here's who I think they should vote for: Rudy. He's the most likely ReThug to get creamed in the general as Mitt's flip-flops aside (particularly as his flopped positions were relatively liberal), the biggest vulnerable spot in the Republican't Party is Rudy's honesty, followed closely by his ghoulish fixation on 9/11.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 14, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

As I`ve said before:

They ALL suck & the first one off their knees gets my vote.

Yea, I know, I`ll probably have to write myself in come election day.

"...It is those who describe me as an extremist who happen to be the extremists against whom I am warning the electorate." - George Soros

Posted by: daCascadian on January 14, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

I never thought I'd ever find myself writing these words, but I felt a little sympathy for Romney...

Don't get me wrong, I find him scary as a candidate. He is a salesman through and through, and like any good salesman, he truly believes in the product he's selling -- even if he was selling the opposite product last year. Visit any car lot and you'll see what I mean... a Ford salesman isn't lying when he tells you that the Explorer is the best SUV ever made... it's what he truly believes, even if he was working at a GMC lot last year. Similarly, when Mitt was pro-choice in blue-state Massachusetts, he fully believed in the pro-choice cause because it was the part of the product he was selling at the time. And now that he has a new gig selling pro-life to the evangelical base, why, he'll believe that too with the same passion. Either he's an empty suit, or else he's some kind of Manchurian candidate hiding some kind of deep and awful secret behind his slick car salesman's charm... and I guess it's the latter option that's got me worried.

But that said. The Kossack campaign strikes me as being petty and downright mean in a way that I cannot really explain. The kind of mocking, patronizing insult that Kos is organizing against Romney is more Rovian than liberal. I'm not sure why this bothers me so much when I barely give most hardball political schemes a second glance... but for some reason it does.

Posted by: ForbiddenComma on January 14, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

You don't understand the spasms these guys still get thinking about McCain -- Hewitt and Limbaugh would rather vote for Ward Churchill than accept McCain as the nominee.

Posted by: mr insensitive on January 14, 2008 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

--Cross over voting is troubling, though. As a Democrat, I would not want to compete with W. Bush Republicans voting in a Democratic primary.

--The Kossack campaign strikes me as being petty and downright mean in a way that I cannot really explain. The kind of mocking, patronizing insult that Kos is organizing against Romney is more Rovian than liberal. I'm not sure why this bothers me so much when I barely give most hardball political schemes a second glance . . .

The thing you have to remember about the Michigan primary is that the Republicans have a long, long, long history of tactical crossover voting the the Michigan primary to mess with the Democrats. George Wallace's win in '72, for example, notoriously was based on Republican votes. The Republican-controlled state legislature could change the primary rules if it wanted to--but it doesn't.

It reminds me of the filibuster. It's a legal tactic that the other side does not hesitate to use--why shouldn't we use it too?

Posted by: rea on January 14, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Either he's[Romney] an empty suit, or else he's some kind of Manchurian candidate hiding some kind of deep and awful secret behind his slick car salesman's charm... and I guess it's the latter option that's got me worried. -ForbiddenComma

Hmmm. Maybe, if he is elected he will give fireside chats from the White House clad only in magic underwear?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 14, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

If you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I guess I'd choose Mitt, too. McCain and Huckabee are scary crazy. One is horny for war and one is horny for a theocracy--and I have a feeling there's something else going on with him, too.

On the other hand, Mitt is all too willing to pander and cave in to the religious right nutballs and appears to have no particular fondness for the Constitution or Bill of Rights. It's true that he was very successful at Bain & Co., but that was a looooong time ago, and in any case, the United States is not Bain. Bottom line, I think he'd sell his mother for the presidency and that is not a trait that I want in the leader of my country.

The problem is, I think Hillary Clinton would sell her nearest and dearest (if any) for the presidency, too. I think, with Romney, she doesn't care about the Constitution or Bill of Rights, and would cheerfully expand domestic spying all the way to cameras mounted in every room of our homes--and I don't see any Congressional Democrats with the spine or the will to withstand her. I don't like her, I don't trust her, and I find her whole persona incredibly grating. Although it would be really funny to see all those Republicans writhing in rage at Hillary Clinton with all the unitary executive powers claimed for the presidency by Dick Cheney.

Obama--well, Obama's a cypher. Even with all the primary hoo-ha, I don't feel I know anything at all about him.

I don't know who the hell I'm going to vote for in this election.

Posted by: Helena Montana on January 14, 2008 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom line is that Hugh supports Romney, and let's get this straight he doesn't just support Romney, his support for the guy has driven him to 24/7 hysteria portraying McCain and Huckabee as to the left of Russ Feingold- but he does so because he has staked what is left of his professional reputation on getting the guy elected and bercause he knows Romney will govern as close to how GWB has governed.

Romney is a corporate shill plain and simple. Him gaining the presidency continues the conservative dream of complete and total corporate governance. Everything that Bush has legislated on will not only be kept in full by Romney but will in all likelihood be expanded upon, especially since Romney will owe his election win to the establishment conservatives that support him so loudly. And they know that GWB was re-elected in '04 when he was generally viewed as a buffoon, despite what kind of candidate Kerry was.

Romney will no doubt be worse that McCain due to whom he owes and Huckabee does not make it to the general. Forget what he did in Mass. He had to govern that way. Forget the divided Congress-the Dems have been inept and GWB has not changed an ounce since taking office what seems like so many decades ago. Romney will drive the horror of conservatism farther down America's throat.

What Kos is doing is not electorally smart and frankly it is kind of childish.

Posted by: PaulE on January 14, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

The one you want is Huckabee. He will lock the Republicans in the electoral ghetto of William Jennings Bryan: the South + the Plains States, and almost nothing else. It's a Dem electoral win of about 325 - 215. And afterwards, the Republicans will have to go through the same stuff the Dems did after McGovern got stomped: they can stay in their Bryan ghetto by clinging to their craziness, or move to the center and become a serious party again. In a very strange, convoluted way, a Huckabee nomination is the best chance this country has of moving back to what it was during the Clinton years, when the Republicans could look at someone like Bob Dole or the elder Bush as a representative of their party. People like that don't stand a chance in the Republican party as it now stands, and until the Reps get stomped really bad, that isn't going to change. Beat the craziest fringe of Republicanism into the ground -- and that's exactly what the Huck represents, and they'll stop believing lunacy and extremism have no consequences, and start paying attention to the rest of the country.

Posted by: Martin Gale on January 14, 2008 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I appreciated your kind words for Hewitt, as opposed to your unnecessary ad hominums for Glenn Reynolds or Bill Kristol... maybe you were only being civil because of the Orange County connection, but I think it's something you should work on.

Posted by: mr insensitive on January 14, 2008 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

Beat the craziest fringe of Republicanism into the ground -- and that's exactly what the Huck represents, and they'll stop believing lunacy and extremism have no consequences, and start paying attention to the rest of the country.
Posted by: Martin Gale on January 14, 2008 at 9:10 PM

Agree 100%. The kooks in the GOP have to be shown defeat, or the GOP is going to wither away, and the uber-rich aren't going to have a megaphone in American politics anymore.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on January 14, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you're the sucker here. Romney's not really a technocrat, he's a cypher with no discernible principles whatsoever. He is the candidate who will say or do absolutely anything to get elected. The truth doesn't lie in his record, it lies in his pandering. And he'll know, like George W., that although he's got to run as a "moderate" in the general election, he'll need the base (and only the base) to govern once elected. That guy makes my skin crawl.

On the other hand, McCain and Huck strike me as decent men with whom I happen to disagree. Of the two, Huck is more ignorant of policy, hence more easily manipulated by the wackadoos. Regardless of electability issues, we're all best off if Saint John is the nominee.

Posted by: RMcD on January 14, 2008 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think that theres a chance with McCain that we could get some 'decent', moderate supreme court judges. I dont think you can say that about any of the other republicans.

He would be the heardest to beat in a general election. But I wouldnt underestimate Romney; he has excellent political skills. He does have the flipflopping though, and the mormonism. I still think he'd be the second hardest to beat though.

Hardest to easiest to beat, imo: 1.McCain 2.Romney 3.Giuliani 4.Thompson 5.Huckabee

Posted by: Jonesy on January 14, 2008 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

There are a lot of good comments here... too many of them. Go find an empty blog if you really want your words read, then be the 1st to comment.

I am confident 2 of the candidates prayed long and hard with their families before investing the past year in this giant mess: Mike and Mitt.
I am personally biased for Romney, and I do not understand why and how so many people can call him heartless and shallow. It makes me think those are the ones who sold their souls.

Goodnight and God bless you all with His peace.

Posted by: Daniel Caldwell on January 15, 2008 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Jeeze, I thought everybody knew. Hugh wants a job in the Romney Administration. He positioned himself for it with that silly book and he's riding those coattails all the way. Principles and Party can go to hell. This election is all about Hugh.

Posted by: Asinistra on January 15, 2008 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Hewitttt and Rommmmney are co-religionists...not that there's anything wrong with that

Posted by: IrishDave on January 15, 2008 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

OOPS, 1,000 pardons, Sahib...Hewittt and Rommney are NOT co-religionists...that would be the Mitttster and Glennn Beck...Hugh is merely a "Christianist' according to Andrew Sullivan. It is so hard to keep your Reich-Wing NutJobs straight...Seems like the Christers,suffreing FundyMental Illness all look alike, sort of like...er, huh, ...nevermind

Posted by: IrishDave on January 15, 2008 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

First time commenting on this list. Nice to hear some thoughtful comments. Seconding Jonesy's rankings and the views that all GOP will be almost equally bad when it comes to what is most likely to be affected - Supreme Court, corporatocrisy, war. Doc on the Radar nails it twice so good on ya, mon. Huckabee's the Hope (of the Dems), but no way GOP nominates him.
So, what to do in Michigan? hard to understand why people see crossing over as some kind of dastardly act -- it's legal, and it's another way to try to get the best outcome for the country, so why not do it?
I do think Kos' "make 'em drag it out" strategy makes some sense, but why support Romney when he is still a threat (leads in delegates, has the most money AND the favor of the true powers behind life, and is the prettiest, to boot)? Support sure loser in the general Huckabee, if you're going to cross over tactically, or even Ron Paul, as someone suggested. I do agree that McCain is threat #1 but don't count out Romney. Track record says the big money wins, on both sides, and we ignore that at our peril.
Bit late for all this, but instructive moment perhaps: Anyone aware of what other cross-over possibilities lurk ahead? A more organized siganling and rallying process than this one could end making a difference, and it is worth thinking through and planning for later. Good start here, though.

Posted by: peaceworker on January 15, 2008 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK
….I think Hillary Clinton would sell her nearest and dearest (if any) for the presidency, too. I think, with Romney, she doesn't care about the Constitution or Bill of Rights….Helena Molehilla at 7:56 PM
Unlike Romney, she has agreed that the powers claimed by Bush are not granted by the constitution, and unlike your power-hungry buddies, there is zero evidence of anything even on the same planet as your delusional imaginary claims of Clinton ambition.
…The only real anitwar candidate still out there is Ron Paul….Sean Scallon at 6:00 PM
That is completely false. Kucinich, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton are all anti-Iraq war, and none are muy loco like Ron Paul. The problem with the economy is caused by the very deregulation that RepubliConTarians cherish, and more of the same will only lead to greater excesses by capitalists. Posted by: Mike on January 15, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Isn't Hewitt the man you referred to once as "The Platonic Shill"?

Mr. "A Solid B+" on the Harriet Miers nomination?

Romney is so transparently a fraud with no principles. He could *easily* become the "double-Gitmo" guy he professes to be.

Posted by: crossdotcurve on January 15, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Would Romney really be worse than, say, McCain or Giuliani from a liberal perspective? That's hard to believe, frankly.

Romney's views on executive power were the worst of all respondents to Charlie Savage's questionnaire. (Giuliani, Huckabee, and Thompson failed to answer.) I provide a spreadsheet and some commentary about it at the link provided to my blog, but see also other reactions like Marty Lederman at Balkinization.

Posted by: Thomas Nephew on January 15, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you mean Hewitt lives in Irvine too? Just a sec... (tap tap tap)... Yeah, I guess so, does he also live in Woodbridge? That's pretty close for comfort.

BTW, I've added you to the WikiPedia section on Irvine's notable residents.

Posted by: The Centerfielder on January 15, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

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