January 16, 2008

The Fall of the Conservative's Last, Best Hope

Despite the win in Michigan, I think he's likely whistling past the graveyard. Back in October I attempted electability ratings for the Republican candidates from a Midwesterner's perspective. Since then much more information has come to light not the least of which has been the debate performances of the protagonists:

Old Viability Ratings (scale 1-10, from least able to defeat Hillary Clinton to most able - '10' means a 50/50 chance in general election)

Giuliani = 9
McCain = 8
Romney = 7.5
Huckabee = 6.7876
Thompson = 3
Ron Paul = 2
Everyone else = 0
New Viability Ratings

McCain = 9.5
Giuliani = 8
Huckabee = 8
Romney = 5
Thompson = 5
Ron Paul = 2
Everyone else = 0
McCain's "9.5" doesn't imply in any way he's a slam dunk to beat the Democratic candidate, merely that he has the best chance. A "10" merely means a candidate has a 50-50 chance to beat his opponent.

Giuliani went down a step because of the cell phone wackiness with his wife and for basically skipping Iowa & New Hampshire. Both things give the impression that he doesn't want the job as badly as Clinton and Obama do.

You certainly can't say that about Romney though. But Romney, it turns out, just can't connect with voters. That he doesn't connect with voters on an emotional level doesn't bother me much - I don't look from inspiration from political leaders - but I recognize it will affect others and so I have to take that into consideration in order to put up the most conservative, viable candidate in '08 ("conservative, viable" is getting to be an oxymoron unfortunately).

Rich Lowry wrote this in NR and I think he's dead right:
Halfway through Mitt Romney’s town-hall meeting at a school gym here, a polite, sincere young girl near the front gets the mike. She says she’s been trying to ask her question at events for other candidates, but this is the first time she’s gotten a chance. Her 26-year-old cousin was hurt in a rugby accident and is paralyzed from the neck down. She wants to know the former Massachusetts governor’s position on stem-cell research.

It wouldn’t take an act of Clintonesque empathy to express sympathy for this girl. To ask how her cousin is doing. To recognize the pain her family has gone through. Any minimally adept city-council candidate would do it. Indeed, pretty much any person — even without the incentive to try to win people over for an election — would do it. It takes a prodigious emotional reserve, or a monomaniacal focus on policy, or some other unfathomable quality, not to do it.

But Mitt Romney doesn’t. “Great question,” he says. “Let me tell you where I would invest federal dollars.” He then launches into a detailed explanation of stem-cell research, describing a meeting he had a few years ago with a professor at Stanford University who told him about altered nuclear transfer, or “alternative methods of getting embryonic-like cells.” By the end of his brief discussion of “reprogramming” and “pluripotent cells,” there is no doubt that Mitt Romney knows stem-cell policy. All that he fails to address is the human element of the question.

On paper Romney looked certain to appeal to mainstream Republicans, and had the potential to unite the Right in a very crowded field. But in practice he has fallen short, and the difference has been his inability to move people...He has competence, but that is only one quality people look for in a president, and it’s not necessarily the foremost one.
2008 is definitely the year of lackluster Republican candidates.

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