Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Mar/10

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Contingencies on Mitt Romney

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A few weeks ago I posted some on Mitt Romney. Since then his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness has come out. I do not think it bodes well that David Frum, who I suspect is close to the Center-Right demographic that Romney will target in 2012, gives the book mixed reviews. But a bigger issue: if the Democrats make the individual mandate to buy health insurance a feature of American landscape, can Mitt Romney shake his own endorsement of this policy in Massachusetts? I am generally a believer that the media has a short time-horizon on these sort of issues because it has to cater to the dull public. Fall of 2012 is over 2 years in the future. But, it seems likely that if the Democrats succeed the health care debate will be a live issue up to the 2012 presidential election, especially if the Republicans retake at least one of the chambers of Congress on a plank of repealing what the Democrats may enact within the next month (whether they can actually repeal much of anything before 2013 is doubtful because of presidential veto).

Here are my odds: I think Mitt Romney has a 1 out of 5 chance of gaining the nomination in 2012 for the presidency if the Democrats do not pass health care legislation. This is in my estimation the modal probability in the field for individuals which we know of. That is, I think this is better odds than any other potential candidates currently on offer (remember, I think there’s a serious chance that a “dark horse” may rise to prominence and win the nomination, so I would still put “someone-we-don’t-know/aren’t talking about” as a higher probability than any of the “top-tier”). If the Democrats do pass the individual mandate I put Romney’s odds at 1 in 20, and would guess that other 2012 hopefuls such as Tim Pawlenty would now have a greater probability of gaining the nomination (for what it’s worth, I think Sarah Palin’s odds are around 1 in 20 with our without health care).

What are you assessments of the odds?

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25 comments

  • NotA · March 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think Romney’s chances are somewhere near zero, always have been, and will be no matter what he does or how he tries to portray himself. His flaws, even without the health-care problem that you brilliantly explained above, are fatal, and were fully demonstrated in 2008. They have nothing (much) to do with his Mormon faith. They arise from his 1994-to-2008 flip flops. The social right will never trust him, because his positions seem convenient. The fiscal right/social left will never support him because of where his flip flops placed him. And the fiscal rigth/”social issue-indifferent” crowd will (and perhaps the MassCare evidence matters here, regardless of whether ObamaCare passes) recognize him as a hopeless, tangled squish.

    The upshot, and the heart of his flaws: he has no natural home or base. And there’s nothing he can do about this problem now that won’t alienate virtually everyone even more.

  • brandon · March 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I don’t think the nomination itself hinges much on health care. Romney is almost a given to win the nomination though. I would say the chances are more like 9 out of 10. Pawlenty strikes me as a third tier candidate without much of a chance, might win his home state but that’s it. Palin has zero chance. Out of the current potential field, Huckabee and Gingrich are the only ones with the means to beat Romney. Huckabee would be able to sweep the south. Newt has pure star power and superior intellect to the other candidates. I could see Newt winning the NH primary and taking the momentum. He also has the benefit of being able to appeal to all parts of the country. He can be strong in the south, but doesn’t come off as
    a “country bumpkin” or redneck so he could do equally well in the northeast, midwest and the west.

    I read some portions of Romney’s book, and found his opinions on why the various empires collapsed to be a complete misreading of history. In fact I was so turned off by much of what I read on a wide range of subjects, that I decided there’s no way I’d vote for the guy.

    He’s basically a more organized version of George W Bush.

  • Hisham · March 11, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    If Romney decides to run in 2012, I would assume that his odds of gaining the nomination would automatically be greater that 1 in 20 since the pool of major contenders that are willing to risk taking on an incumbent president will be limited.

    Of course that’s depending on whatever Obama’s popularity will be in 2012.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 11, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I would say the chances are more like 9 out of 10.

    oh wow. do you know of any online betting services which would allow us to put money down on this? i think this is way too confident for any political assertion made with a 2 year time horizon, barring trivial stuff like “we will not reduce our national debt in 2 years.”

  • Matt Springer · March 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    At some point I’ll post my own wild guesses (which are not precisely Built on Facts), but for what it’s worth two things seem pretty clear:

    Palin will not be nominated.
    Huckabee will not be nominated.

    Other than that, who knows? I admit Romney seems unlikely, but does any one else with a chance have name recognition? Maybe Petraeus, if he wants it.

    The funny thing is that other than his lineage, Jeb Bush would be an obvious top-tier candidate. Clearly he won’t run though, as his probability of nomination is mathematically 0. His probability of winning the general may actually be negative.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 11, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    The funny thing is that other than his lineage, Jeb Bush would be an obvious top-tier candidate. Clearly he won’t run though, as his probability of nomination is mathematically 0. His probability of winning the general may actually be negative.

    as implied above, these assertions are contingent on how the economic fairs 2010-2012.

  • Kalim Kassam · March 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    do you know of any online betting services which would allow us to put money down on this?

    The phoney money prediction market at HubDub has Romney being on the GOP ticket at 42%.

    I don’t know where you can bet cold hard cash on something like this, but wherever it is, it won’t be based in the US–that’d be against the online betting prohibition.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 11, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    18% chance that he’ll win the nomination:
    http://www.hubdub.com/m34459/Which_candidate_will_win_the_Republican_nomination_in_the_2012_election

    rather close to the 1 in 5 “no health care” option i gave above.

    (and yes, i think he is a good chance to be VP if one of the more retarded candidates manages to be on the top of the ticket. cheney showed how efficacious a VP can be if you have a lazy/dumb president*)

    * i think bush was more lazy than dumb fwiw.

  • Ross · March 12, 2010 at 12:34 am

    FWIW, according to the book maker Paddy Power the odds for the Republican nomination are:

    Romney: 3/1
    Barbour: 4/1
    Palin: 5/1
    Gingrich: 5/1
    Boehner: 8/1
    Pawlenty: 10/1
    Huckabee: 10/1
    Huntsman: 12/1
    Jindal: 12/1

    Whilst there are quibbles with the list, the basic point remains that Romney has a better chance than any individual more religious candidate at the moment, but the chances are that one of the more religious candidates will win.

  • TangoMan · March 12, 2010 at 1:21 am

    At some point I’ll post my own wild guesses (which are not precisely Built on Facts), but for what it’s worth two things seem pretty clear:

    I’d say that nothing is pretty clear this far out from an election. In fact, for those who form their opinions in an environment shaped by like-minded people, the case of American Idol tonight should clearly illustrate that the public votes can run counter to the prognostications of leading commentators and opinion shapers.

    As for Mr. Hume’s prediction I agree that Romney’s chances, for an analysis this far out, will indeed diminish if the Democrats pass HCR, however most elections are characterized by issues swirling about near the time of the election, so while HCR is big now there is always the possibility that something else will galvanize the public in 2012. If the election were to be held in a few months, then this analysis of Romney, Palin, Pawlenty, Huckabee, vs Obama would be anchored in more detail regarding the mood of the voting public. We don’t know what issues are going to break and how each potential candidate could exploit the issues to their benefit or to the detriment of their opponents. This is a good stab at trying such an analysis with respect to Romney and Health Care, but it would seem to me that the approval and disapproval ratings for all of the players would be dynamic, in that if Romney is negatively affected by the individual mandate and sees his popularity decline then this will simultaneously make other candidates more appealing, including Palin, who should move up from 5% to 5+x%.

    Also consider the shifting mood of the public on populism – if the Democrats tee up Amnesty and Cap and Trade and ram them through despite public disapproval, then the whole elites flipping the bird to the public will work against candidates perceived to be from the elite class, which I would think would also include Republican elites, especially if the voting public remembers the behavior of Republican politicians when they controlled Congress.

    Point: there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

    re: palin, if romney loses traction i don’t see much of his vote going to her (or huckabee). so x ~ 0, though it will be a bit higher than zero. i think it’s a zero sum game between romney and the other person(s) who get the establishment backing. similarly, i see zero sum aspects to palin vs. huckabee, but i think palin’s support is firmer, though huckabee can cut into more of the electorate because he’s seen as softer edged. i assume the size of establishment vs. populist segments is partially going to be contingent on turnout, and partly people on the margin switching between the two (which will be dependent on events as you note above).

  • Matt Springer · March 12, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I’d say that nothing is pretty clear this far out from an election.

    I can’t argue with that. In 2005 it seemed pretty clear a Giuliani/Clinton presidential slugfest was in the works. I suppose a few clever people might have guessed Obama, but I don’t think anyone thought McCain had the slightest shot at the nomination. I didn’t.

    That said, it would at least be very unexpected for Palin or Huckabee to get the nod.

  • Susan · March 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

    According to very recent polls of Republican voters in Florida and Colorado, Romney has a huge edge over Palin and Huckabee, the only three choices the poll respondents were given. In Florida, it was Romney 52%, Huckabee 21%, and Palin 18%. In Colorado, it was Romney 44%, Huckabee 17%, and Palin 25%.

    He has a bestselling book (debuting as #1 on the NY Times list) and is currently on a forty city tour to promote it. He’s drawing substantial crowds–a big one in Mobile, Alabama, for instance, which is interesting. Whether this will benefit him two years down the line is hard to say: people have short memories. Maybe he should have held off on the book and the consequent publicity tour till next year.

    At the moment, his odds to be the nominee look better than anyone else we know of. At the moment.

  • TangoMan · March 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

    i think it’s a zero sum game between romney and the other person(s) who get the establishment backing.

    This process that you’re describing seems awfully similar to the process that Obama exploiting where he was a blank screen upon which voters projected their own vision of him as a candidate. I think that it’s an easy mental model to simply posit some establishment candidate that will readily absorb the willing votes and support of establishment-favoring voters. How about though, if that candidate is Governor Jeb Bush? He fits the bill, doesn’t he? Do you think that his particular mountain to climb might involve people being dead set against another Bush taking office in the family dynasty? My point is that each candidate is going to have their own unique baggage which will make blanket projections (such as wholesale transference of support between same-type candidates) come loaded with HUGE error bars.

    Considering that my POV is that each candidate can win the election if the right circumstances, which directly benefit their strengths or character, come to fruition, then it would seem to me that we could craft just so stories for each candidate. What needs to take place for Romney to beat Obama, what needs to take place for Palin to beat Obama, etc. Then we assign probabilities to these events unfolding as they’re needed. At least with this process we try to account for the effect of events yet to happen rather than basing projections on future electability on the situation on the ground as of today.

    Look, a few months ago the cop killer in Seattle hadn’t killed any cops yet and Huckabee wasn’t known for pardoning the guy so that Huckabee could satisfy his ego with playing the role of redeemer. Today, that event and Huckabee’s role have changed Huckabee’s chances, especially so if it is exploited by his primary opponents.

    Palin is now working on a 2nd book, one which deals with her political ideology. In my mind the public reception of that work will move her needle with the public, could be positive, could be negative, but it will have some effect. If she’s written, first about herself, then about her ideology, it would seem to me that the next logical step would be a 3rd book about policy, backed by examples of her significant accomplishments in Alaska, accomplishments which eluded her predecessors for about 30 years.

    This same process of events breaking for a candidate also applies to Romney, and you incorporate it into the heart of your analysis – HCR hurts him and significantly so, but he won’t be static in the next two years and, looking at his background, he might be able to exploit his executive competence if Obama keeps on governing like a Keystone Kop, or his private sector skill set might become a dominant theme when compared against Obama and company’s resumes that have no exposure to the private sector.

    So yeah, I agree with part of your original post, but I see it as a very isolated analysis on only one factor that pertains to Romney and his chances in 2012. Where I disagree is the conclusion about electability – there are too many unknowns for such a conclusion to be credible.

    Susan,

    At the moment, his odds to be the nominee look better than anyone else we know of. At the moment.

    That may well be true, but it has the same level of import as saying that Guiliani, in 2005, had the best shot of being the nominee.

  • TangoMan · March 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    re: palin, if romney loses traction i don’t see much of his vote going to her (or huckabee). so x ~ 0, though it will be a bit higher than zero. i think it’s a zero sum game between romney and the other person(s) who get the establishment backing.

    One more thought on this – timing is crucial. If there is no other establishment candidate because we’re so far into the primary race and then news breaks, say ObamaCare legislation kicks in and forces people to confront the specific early implementation of some provision, then this event drives home the point of Romney’s weakness regarding Health Care which he may have been able to hold at bay when everything was still generalized and off in the future, thus preventing another establishment candidate from gaining traction. In this matter of timing, where do establishment-favoring voters transfer their vote?

    As you well know, people are pretty ingenious when it comes to rationalizing their decisions, so I’m pretty confident that if we face a Romney-Palin showdown and Romney is dealt a crippling blow late in the contest, that many Romney supporters will be able to convince themselves that Palin can indded walk and chew gum at the same time and that she’s to be preferred to Obama.

    So here the question becomes when does Romney suffer his knock-out punch, early in the contest allows another establishment candidate to build support in the primaries; late in the game and Romney may have sucked the oxygen out of the establishment room.

    Yeah, it’s a Just So scenario, but I hope it reinforces my point that the path to nomination is very prone to random events having significant effects.

  • Matthew · March 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    A dark horse has the best shot at beating Romney. But the dark horse will need to be able to compete in all regions. If not, Romney will win the nomination with his key support coming from Mormons and Moderates, while remaining at least somewhat competitive among conservatives.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    This process that you’re describing seems awfully similar to the process that Obama exploiting where he was a blank screen upon which voters projected their own vision of him as a candidate.

    no it’s not. and yes, i know you think palin is the most awesome political talent in the history of american politics who you’re familiar with. i get it dude ;-)

  • TangoMan · March 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    i know you think palin is the most awesome political talent in the history of american politics

    Political talent comes in many flavors and while Palin is lacking on some vectors she clearly dominates her competitors on other vectors. I’m not smart enough to be able to predict which vectors are more worthy than other vectors considering that the voting public is so difficult to read. My defense of Palin has more to do with arguing against attempts to easily dismiss her rather than thinking she’s the ideal political candidate.

    Each candidate has positives and negatives attached to them. Palin was a demon with her veto pen, she seriously curtailed requests for federal earmarks, she cleaned out corruption in her own party, she was a very prudent fiscal manager, and she governed for the people, rather than for special interests. Each of these points, in my mind, are ticks in the positive column which can counter balance some of her heavily reported negative attributes.

    You write about the albatross around Romney’s neck, but the dark horse establishment candidate who will rise in his stead will also come with negative attributes, so I’m skeptical about electability predictions regarding a political environment that is far in the future. If the public in 2012 is in the mood for a “common sense conservative” who is a demon with the veto pen, who’ll target self-dealing and corruption, etc then that public mood won’t work to the benefit of an establishment candidate who built a career on go-along to get-along.

    To further complicate the prediction analysis, Instapundit is today reporting on how TEA Party operatives are holding workshops on how to get elected as delegates to Republican Party conventions, and others have reported on how to take over precincts and so impart their flavor of politics on the most local level of the political hierarchy. This movement seems to me to be working against the interests of establishment candidates. I have no idea how much fruit will come from this tree, but its pretty clear that such efforts, especially if they spread across the nation, will introduce significant error bars to political calculations.

  • Clark · March 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    NotA has it right. It’s Romney’s continual flip flopping and opportunism that was and remains his problem. He wants to be all things to all people. He’s like Clinton but just isn’t a natural “persuader” like Clinton was.

    If Romney wins, it’s only because the rest of the field is amazingly dismal. What is it about Republicans that they can’t field remotely competent leadership?

  • George · March 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    No one is more qualify, most experienced,and better than Mitt in the U.S at this time.Mitt is the smartest,strongest,and has most leadership style,only him can beat Obama by landslide in 2012,go Mitt,you are the right man for America.

  • Author comment by David Hume · March 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    What is it about Republicans that they can’t field remotely competent leadership?

    usually they look to governors. what’s on the bench? 2011 (when the $ is going to be raised for 2012) is a way off still….

  • Susan · March 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    @TangoMan: That was my point, that at this very moment, Romney’s chances of being nominated look better than anyone else’s. Unless I’ve misread Razib’s original post, that’s what we were discussing–who looks likely, as we speak–so to speak–to be the Republican nominee in 2012. Of course we understand that could, and very possibly will, change over time.

    Palin’s next book will be, to quote from the publisher’s press release, “a celebration of American virtues and strengths.” This may well deal with her political ideology, as you say, but it will not be an explicit statement of her personal ideology, but rather an implicit one in terms of those historical figures whom she chooses to celebrate.

  • Mittens And The Brain « Around The Sphere · March 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

    [...] Razib Khan at Secular Right: Here are my odds: I think Mitt Romney has a 1 out of 5 chance of gaining the nomination in 2012 for the presidency if the Democrats do not pass health care legislation. This is in my estimation the modal probability in the field for individuals which we know of. That is, I think this is better odds than any other potential candidates currently on offer (remember, I think there’s a serious chance that a “dark horse” may rise to prominence and win the nomination, so I would still put “someone-we-don’t-know/aren’t talking about” as a higher probability than any of the “top-tier”). If the Democrats do pass the individual mandate I put Romney’s odds at 1 in 20, and would guess that other 2012 hopefuls such as Tim Pawlenty would now have a greater probability of gaining the nomination (for what it’s worth, I think Sarah Palin’s odds are around 1 in 20 with our without health care). Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)new mittensFO: Mitten MagicBack from the dead [...]

  • 8 · March 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    What’s the probability that Joe Smith’s vision of the Golden Plates (delivered by the Angel Moroni…as in Mormon) actually occurred? About the same as the Mittster’s chances for Prez…

    Either way, the default position should be…Anyone but Mitt (or, go Hillary)

  • kurt9 · March 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Mitt Romney has zero chance of being a candidate because he supported the Massholecare, which is now bankrupting the state.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,589754,00.html

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