APPARENTLY MATT BAI CAN'T READ A POLL
UPDATE: I wrote this post last night, about why Mitt Romney has a chance of winning the Republican nomination and Jon Huntsman has no chance whatsoever, and I realize I didn't mention the most obvious difference between the two. It seems obvious to me that a big reason John McCain was able to win the nomination in 2008, despite deviations from some right-wing litmus tests, was that he was unabashedly on the same side as the vast majority of his party, including the purists, on the #1 issue of that moment: being a fan of the war in Iraq. Republican voters loved the war, and McCain's love for it was utterly sincere, so that neutralized a fair amount of suspicion.
So what's the #1 issue for Republicans in 2012? Simple: Do you hate Barack Obama? Not "Do you hate his health care policy," or "Do you hate government spending under Obama," or "Do you hate the Obama economy," -- but: Do you think he's simply the worst president America has ever had? Do you think he's a failure in every conceivable way?
On that, Romney is solid -- he thinks Obama is a "failure" and sneers at Obama's "European" policies. Them's fightin' words. Whatever GOP voters may think of Romney, they know he has utter contempt for Obama. And they know Huntsman doesn't. And he's made it clear that he doesn't intend to be an attack dog against anybody in his campaign. So his campaign hasn't got a chance.
Matt Bai, blogging for The New York Times, has a post up right now called "Why Huntsman Should Be Taken Seriously." It's a thoughtful and believable analysis of Jon Huntsman's chances at winning the GOP nomination -- whoops, sorry, no it isn't, because Mitt Romney hasn't been hit by a bus or inadvertently publicly tweeted pictures of his penis. Romney's still in the race. Romney's still sucking up all of the non-crazy GOP vote, according to every poll, as well as some of the crazy (but desperate to beat Obama) vote. Unless that tragic accident or penis tweet happens to Romney, Huntsman is doomed.
I'm not even sure Bai believes what he writers or just wants to write it in order to side with Republicans against those stinky elitist liberals. He tells us:
...let's face it: Democrats and some commentators tend to see the Republican Party right now as a kind of wild, barren land where nothing thoughtful ever grows. If you start from the premise that the Republican grass-roots is made up mostly of stereotypical birther types with pictures of Sarah Palin on their refrigerators and nothing but Bibles on their bookshelves, then sure, Mr. Huntsman's candidacy would seem to be a little laughable.
So, see, it's not really about Huntsman -- it's about you, you filthy Whole Foods shopper, you. Bai seems to be rooting for Huntsman just because it gives him an opportunity to engage in a round of hippie-turned-yuppie punching.
I'm not saying he's completely off base. He writes:
...the presidential primary electorate will be very different from the 2010 primaries for House and Senate, which, like all off-year elections, attracted a relatively small number of Republican voters (even where turnout was higher than usual). In New Hampshire, where Tea Party types overran the state Legislature and wrested control of the state party last year, turnout in the 2010 primaries was under 20 percent, as it usually is.
The turnout in next year's presidential primary, on the other hand, will probably reach 60 percent. That means the influence of the most conservative, most motivated activists will almost certainly be diluted.
He also notes that centrist independent voters in New Hampshire won't have a contested Democratic primary to vote in, so they'll vote in the Republican primary if they vote at all.
To which I say: so? Mitt Romney has a house in New Hampshire. He was governor of a state most New Hampshireites can drive to in an hour or less (often much less). He's blowing the other candidates away in New Hampshire. He might lose elsewhere, but not there. And he seems to have the non-crazy vote locked up right now nationwide.
Hardcore right-wingers question Romney's wingnut cred, but at least he didn't work for President Satan. At least his campaign's chief strategist doesn't insult the Republican Party, as Huntsman's does:
"There's a simple reason our party is nowhere near being a national governing party," [John] Weaver told Esquire. "No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks."
... And in former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, another leading candidate, Weaver sees what he considers the worst tendencies of his party — pandering to the GOP's hard-right margins at the risk of falling out of serious presidential contention.
"Tim's a nice guy," Weaver said, "and there's nothing worse than seeing a nice guy pretend that he's angry. Is that really what we want to be? Is that how we're going to define ourselves? When's the last time an angry man ever solved a problem without using a gun?" ...
I hate to break it to Weaver -- and Huntsman, and Bai -- but even non-Bible-thumping, non-Palin-worshipping Republicans tend to like anger these days ... and guns, for that matter.
Jonathan Bernstein is far more sensible about Huntsman, given Huntsman's decision to ignore Iowa:
Here's what's going to happen. Everyone's attention is going to be on Iowa. Someone is going to win in Iowa; someone is going to come in second; someone is going to finish third. Odds are that those are the candidates who receive most of the publicity in the week between Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates who do poorly in Iowa or skip it altogether will get mostly ignored -- and therefore wind up with disappointing results.
The truth is that people don't win presidential nominations by waiting for the perfect state for the demographics that give them the best chance and then running and winning there. That's just not how the game is played.
Not only will Huntsman not win this nomination, I'm telling you he won't win a single electoral vote -- unless Matt Bai and the rest of the Beltway elite media break off and form their own U.S. state. Then he'll win one primary.