Monday, September 12, 2011


Most of the chortling about Tim Pawlenty's endorsement of Mitt Romney focuses on the sense that Pawlenty seems desperate to be short-listed for the #2 slot. (New York magazine: "Tim Pawlenty’s Hopeless Quest for the VP Slot Commences.") But while I agree that, in the unlikely event that Romney beats Rick Perry for the nomination, he's going to recognize the need to choose someone more teabag-friendly and more charismatic than TPaw as his #2, I also wonder why Romney even wants Pawlenty's endorsement at this moment. I would think he would ask Pawlenty not to endorse him yet.

Romney is bleeding voters because Perry comes off as adequately mainstream and thrillingly hardcore (according to the new CNN poll, GOP voters think Perry is more electable). I'm using "hardcore" in the sense of "says things that piss off liberals and seem over the top to Beltway insiders." What Romney needs right now is an endorsement from someone who has a little of that going. Maybe if Rick Santorum dropped out of the race and endorsed Romney it would be helpful; maybe Romney could use a nod from a Bush (W or Jeb, not Poppy or Bar) or a Cheney (Liz would do, though Dick would be better). But I think a Pawlenty endorsement, at this moments, hurts Romney.

It makes it seem as if his campaign is being run by Donald Rumsfeld or Robert McNamara -- I keep thinking of Vietnam or Iraq, some war America screwed up because the planners never understood that the enemy wasn't fighting it conventionally, and that just executing the original war plan well was never, ever going to lead to victory.

This is the kind of conventional war-fighting I gather Romney is trying to do -- but I think the more he does this, the further behind he'll slip in the polls, even if he does everything by the book, because his enemy is the Viet Cong, and he doesn't grasp what that means:

...for other high-profile Republicans sitting on the sidelines, still pondering who has the best chance to beat Obama, Pawlenty's decision might persuade others to follow suit. As Jonathan Bernstein writes, endorsements have a group effect:
Collectively, high-profile endorsements are a way for party actors to signal to each other their preferences, which helps them to coordinate their collective choice -- or, in the case of factional battles over the nomination, to coordinate a faction. In that sense, endorsements are quite important.

Not this year. Not in the current-model GOP. The voters don't give a crap what "party actors" think, or signal. Ask Bob Bennett. Ask Mike Castle. Ask Trey Grayson. Ask Sue Lowden.