Romney as the new Dukakis

The analogy is pretty obvious. I brought it up in March, and George F. Will concludes a recently column with the idea:

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

In hindsight it does seem to be strange that the Repubicans don’t have a more robust field. The “incentives,” the terrible economic conditions, seem perfect.

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10 Responses to Romney as the new Dukakis

  1. Susan says:

    Dukakis might have been the brightest little feller at Brookline High, but he didn’t translate that alleged acuity into his gubernatorial career in Massachusetts. For someone supposedly data-driven, he only believed the data that corresponded with what he already wanted to believe. That is far less true of Romney.

  2. David Hume says:

    #1, i hope you’re right! (i suspect you are, though romney is so willing to say what ppl what to hear he can muddle his own objective competence)

  3. Clark says:

    Dukakis faced a double wammy. His dorky looking appearance in that tank and then having to run against Reagan’s legacy at a time Reagan was still popular despite Iran-Contra. Finally the fear of crime mentality was still dominating America – this was during the crack epidemic and Dukakis’s program in MA was ripe for the picking for some unsavory ads by Bush & Gore.

    Romney isn’t beloved by Republicans, but then few candidates have had that kind of spirit for quite some time. (Arguably since Reagan) Also Republicans have oddly tended to nominate moderates since Reagan. (I know liberals hate to call Bush a moderate, but had it not been for 9/11 he would have definitely been one and looking at his 9/11 acts along with Obama it’s hard to know what a moderate position is anymore)

    The biggest facet about Romney is that the anti-Bush fervor washed out most of the experience leaders who could have run for President. What are left are either inexperienced or have bigger issues than Romney does. Add in the fact that Romney is a known quantity and I think it has been inevitable that Romney would win the nomination. (Although hardly completely certain still)

  4. John says:

    “In hindsight it does seem to be strange that the Repubicans don’t have a more robust field.”

    Part of the problem is that the people that (in my humble opinion) would make the best presidents are not electable. If I could handpick the next president from the current field, I would be giving long interviews to Gingrich and Bachmann, but neither of them are going to even win the nomination. I’d also be very happy with Tom Colburn, Jim DeMint, George Allen, or Haley Barbour, but probably none of them could win either. We have the leaders, the problem is that not enough people want to follow them.

    So I guess we’re stuck with Romney.

  5. Eric says:

    The biggest problem (or really the root of all this frenzy regarding Romney) is the very obvious division in the GOP between fiscal and social (“evangelical”) conservatives. Based on the true philosophy of each, they do not coincide 100%…maybe 60-70% of the issues at best would you expect them to agree. The biggest problem facing our country (and EVERYONE agrees on this) is the economy and unemployment. Romney is high in the polls because of that. What I have noiced (and Will alludes to this) is how many people are driven completely by data and results while others are driven by principle (which is often reinforced by “fuzzy” math). We have seen almost 4 years of a liberal democrat driven by principle and fuzzy math. Therefore, I would think the best answer to that would be a GOP nominee who is driven by RESULTS and NOT idealism ( IS vs. SHOULD). Idealism is so often attributed to the left when there are just as many, if not more, on the other side of the isle.

  6. Polichinello says:

    There isn’t a principle Romney’s met that he isn’t willing to shed. That said, he’s the best of a bad lot. I don’t think he’ll suffer the same problem Dukakis did, because Dukakis went out of his way to seem out of touch.

    Bush gets knocked by the usual sort of weepy whiner we’re afflicted with these days, but WTF? He maintained a bill that let out a convicted murderer. Why shouldn’t he pay a political price for that, even if it makes SWPL’s cry?

    As far as unsavory ads go, nothing quite meets the mark as claiming voting for the GOP is equivalent to blowing up black churches, or not signing another odious hate crimes bill is like dragging a dude behind a truck.

    Back to Romney, the one thing the man can do is answer questions about the economy with some facility. That’s what a candidate needs to be able to do. Sure, he’s going to lie, as will the others, but at least this guy KNOWS when he’s lying.

  7. Clark says:

    Both sides definitely have harsh ads that go beyond the actual policy debate. I wish we had fewer of them but the fact is that many voters make their decisions emotionally rather than rationally.

  8. Polichinello says:

    I don’t have a problem with “harshness” per se. Negative ads are often more factual than positive ones. If the Democrats in ’04 had run pictures of dead and wounded soldiers from Iraq, that would have been fine, IMO, as it was a consequence of Bush’s policy. Voters need to know if a candidate is a f*** up.

    The real measure should be truth content. Dukakis did sign on for a furlough program that got two people killed. Did it really matter that the murderer was black? Do you think Bush or Gore would have not run the ads if Willie Horton had been white? Obviously not. The ads were perfectly fair, which was absolutely not the case with the mendacious church ads.

  9. Acilius says:

    Romney’s far from inevitable. The former Massachusetts governor and current New Hampshire homeowner will lose his frontrunner status unless he wins the New Hampshire primary. He probably will win it, but that contest has been unpredictable in the past and the state’s Republican voters are not in sympathy with their counterparts elsewhere in the country. There is a distinct possibility that Jon Huntsman could win New Hampshire, and if there’s some big news on the economy or the wars in the next ten weeks Ron Paul might match Pat Buchanan’s 1996 first place finish. Of course, Romney did lose New Hampshire in 2008, and none of the other pre-Super Tuesday states that year was going to give him any good news. He won the Nevada caucuses, which gained him nothing but a bunch of commentators pointing out that there are a lot of Mormons in Nevada. The other early states were very inhospitable to Romney then, and the calendar is just as unforgiving for him this year.

    If I had to guess how likely each candidate is to get the GOP nomination at this point, I’d give Romney a 65% chance and Perry a 25% chance, with the other 10% scattered more or less evenly between Cain, Huntsman, Gingrich, and Bachmann, with a little sliver of likelihood always reserved for freak occurrences such as the death of a leading candidate or a deadlocked-convention scenario. If that’s a fair assessment, then it’s pretty safe to assume that Romney will get the nod, and almost completely safe to ignore the possibility of anyone other than Romney or Perry being nominated. But Romney’s dependence on a New Hampshire win means that it isn’t fair to say that “we’re stuck with Romney.”

  10. Mike H says:

    Honestly, I think the GOP’s biggest problem is that much of the party was wiped out in 2006-2008 and whatever has grown again in the Obamacare backlash since is very inexperienced and the real talent hasn’t yet become obviously apparent.

    Rick Perry would be the most conventional choice, a successful governor of a big state, but then that state is Texas and Perry’s weaknesses are almost exactly those of G.W. Bush and the country isn’t ready to head down that road again any time soon.

    Old figures like Romney, Gingrich or Santorum just seem decidedly “ho hum”, new talent like Cain or Bachmann seems like flavor of the month type stuff that falls almost as quickly as it rises. No new serious name in the GOP has really gained sufficient profile yet to run in 12.

    Another issue is that the reason the country wiped out the GOP only 3-5 years ago hasn’t just disappeared. Obama’s lack of popularity does not translate into GOP popularity. The stench of the Bush years and the scandals of the Congressional GOP (DeLay) hasn’t faded sufficiently to actually feed a pro-Republican mood rather than just an anti-Democratic mood. The right-leaning public is drawn to flawed, charismatic outsiders rather than slick GOP pros, the general public seems rather skeptical of both.

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