Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
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MARCH 14, 2012 2:13AM

Post-Mitt-Mortem: It's beginning to look a lot like Reagan

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Ah, the South: Kicking expectant presidential candidates in the balls since 19… whatever. OK, with the GOP, that's not always true. Though early-voting South Carolina and Georgia can be a little fickle, the rest of the states -- when they don't have a local boy in the race -- tend to fall in a winner-take-us-all pattern.

No, really. Let's play the Presidential Primary Game that everyone loves best: The last time a Republican lost Mississippi and won the nomination was in… wait for it… Never. Since Mississippi began holding presidential primaries (instead of caucuses), no candidate has lost Mississippi in the primary and won the nomination.

What about the last time someone lost Alabama and won the nomination? OK, OK, 2008. John McCain won Mississippi but lost Alabama -- to Mike Huckabee. So, more interesting question: When was the last time a non-southerner won Alabama but didn't win the nomination?

Well, for that, we'd need to travel back to a simpler time, a time when candidates came to office through the auspices of double resignation. It was a time when a young, former Democrat from Illinois (and California) with just a smile on his face, a dream in his heart, and a plucky second wife on his arm made a charge through the country calling for change -- for the second time.

And suddenly it's 1976 in here.

GOP 1976 Primary map

That year, the incumbent, President Gerald Ford, did win Mississippi's state delegation support (no primary yet), but he lost neighboring Alabama to a little upstart Californian governor named Ronald Reagan.

Reagan fought Ford all the way to the Kansas City convention, where his unfortunate choice of a Pennsylvania moderate as a running mate lost him just enough conservative support to guarantee Ford the victory.

We aren't there yet with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney's still massively ahead in money and delegates. His political machine can grind Santorum's into the dust, and Santorum's conservative appeal seems to play well in the central-southern part of the country where, yes, the most conservatives live but also the least number of people (and delegates) actually live, as well.

Still, it's kind of fun to think of Romney as Ford and Santorum and Reagan, isn't it? One, inadvertently stumbling (pun intended) into a reputation as a bumbler; the other, a darling of the party's conservative wing but lacking (at first) the political machinery to actually mount a serious challenge -- until, with a sudden, unexpected string of victories, he could.

What's not at all alike in these scenarios, of course, is the Republican party. The primary issues in 1976 were foreign, not domestic, and certainly not broadly social. In the words of Professor John Aldrich, in his 1980 book Before the Convention: Strategies and Choices in Presidential Elections, "Reagan… had the problem of running a campaign against an opponent whose basic domestic positions were just not that different."

Does that sound much like today? Well… no. It's hard to believe that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are part of the same party, much less that their domestic agendas might look anything alike as potential presidents.

Where 1976 does look more familiar is in the way that the convention fell apart. Here, though, I see Romney as Reagan -- too eager to compromise, too quick to court. Reagan in '76 reached for a moderate in an attempt to secure a few super delegates from the North, and in so doing, lost Southern and conservative support.

Romney, in '12, is reaching out to grasp the wrong hands all the time. Instead of owning his own record and his own positions throughout the campaign, he's been running to the locals -- a disastrous attempt when you so very, very clearly aren't from around these parts. If we get close to the convention without a declared victor, there's nothing in his current and past behavior to signal that he wouldn't try to cut an impossible, backfiring, ridiculously unprincipled deal to tie up the remaining votes.

In fact, I think that's the only way Santorum wins the nomination: Only Romney can beat Romney now.

The good news for the governor, I guess, is that even Reagan had to run three times before he could win. Romney 2016? Anybody?

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Politics makes strange bedfellows, and at some point, Romney's going to offer the VP slot to either Newt or Rick. My guess is Rick, since there's no love lost between Newt and Mitt. But that won't happen until Romney's delegate count assures his nomination. With Rick in tow, Romney can swing as far left as he wants in the general campaign.

And should that duo carry the election, it will time for yours truly to take his leave of this country, since it's already taken leave of its senses.
Romney's convention deal will not be unprincipaled, since Mitt's only principal is "I should be president."
A Rick Santorum in the VP slot would make Dan Quayle look like Thomas Jefferson.
Stim, you're right, of course. I wonder if there's a better term. Non-principled? Anti-principled?
You don't think a white knight scenario is plausible? It's pretty clear abig chunk of the Repub base doesn't like Romney. I'd still bet on Romney, but not a lot of my own money. And the scenario I worry about is the $5 gallon of gas leading to just enough voters to decide against Obama.
This is a fairly tortured bit of wish fulfillment.

The clue to the future is Stim's remarkable statement that Romney is possessed of an obsession to be president. At that table, Obama sits at the head with Gingrich and Santorum at each side. Romney is clearly the most laid back, and that quality alone will land him in the White House.

I'd be stunned if nominee Romney selects either Santorum or Gingrich. Both have demonstrated unappealing personal qualities in the primary process. They even come close to Obama's clear willingness to throw the country under the bus if necessary to advance their political careers.

No, Romney will select from among a large group of talented Republicans who have not been lessened by being bitten by the presidential bug. And that team will clean the White House for sure.
The difference between 76 and now is the growth and devolution of the Right, now ironically called "conservatives." What were once dog whistles are now close to cross burnings.

All presidential candidates are possessed with ego, Gordon. The difference with Mitt is he's overcome with a sense of privilege. That comes through in the way he speaks and acts. He-he-he just can't avoid sounding like-like-like he shouldn't have to be wasting his time bowing to the base by playing policy limbo. Why not just declare him the candidate and move on? After all, he's Mitt - deus ex CEO!
Where Bush senior got in trouble by checking his watch during a debate, Mitt is in a constant state of checking his calendar. While acting like you're stupid is a requirement for a GOP candidate to get past the benighted base, Mitt can't do that with any more sincerity than he can do "smart." Stiff, staccato, and blatantly insincere won't work in the general any more than it's worked in the primaries. Once you add the normal Americans to the GOP base voter pool, you significantly raise the voter IQ number. After having to play dumb for the base, moving back to the "middle" will be an exponential amplification of insincerity.

I think Sat is right. Mitt is probably already has a Plan B strategy for 2016. I wouldn't compare him to the Great Communicator, for obvious reasons.
I'd go with Harold Stassen.
Yeah, definitely it’s hard to believe things for success when you encounter a lot of failures but that will always happen when you won’t try to engage of giving up. pmp practice tests
Its like the competition is too close.
But still, we will know after who really deserves the position once we see their performance not only whats in their platform.
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