right said fred

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It’s real people. Fred is here in South Carolina. He had an overflow crowd of very enthusiastic FredHeads today at the local Golden Corral, and there are similar reports of this all across the state. Unfortunately, not many of us actually heard his speech. This sort of dampened the mood, but I’m not sure that those who came hadn’t already made up their minds for Fred. There were some technical issues with the microphones, and I heard that every time they tried to turn it up, it was interfering with the media’s cameras and mics. So…another thing to blame the media for. 🙂 What the people heard, they really liked. Fred knows the issues of importance to SC, and he didn’t hesitate to hit on those themes. I’m feeling very confident in the ability of the local folks to understand which candidates are the best fit for our state, and to ultimately reject McCain and Huckabee. More on that later.

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An NRO reader writes in to the Corner:

My son and I just returned from the Fred lunchtime rally at the Golden Corral Buffet & Grill in Rock Hill, SC. His bus rolled in at noon from Spartanburg where he had already done a rally and some national TV. The crowd was large and enthusiastic. A York County Republican official told me they estimated there were far more than 500 people there. Unfortunately the sound system would have been better for a group of 100— it was difficult to hear him from very far back. Those who could hear were very pumped up and loud as he hit his key points. When he was through speaking he was mobbed for a long time by fans and signed autographs on FRED08 signs, DVD’s of “Hunt for Red October”, and anything else people asked him to sign. Fred was gracious and my son pointed out on the way home that he sure didn’t look or act like a guy who doesn’t enjoy campaigning. He finally made it back out to the motor coach and headed for our county seat, York, SC for another event before heading to Columbia for a 6PM rally. He’s campaigning hard here in SC and had a very enthusiastic, large crowd at lunchtime in Rock Hill.

After Fred left, I went back to get something to eat. There were some Fred fans still hanging around at that point, and I talked with one of the guys at length about his impressions of the Republican field. He said something interesting that completely goes against the MSM narrative. About McCain, he said that he’s the kind of guy who will stick his finger to the wind to decide what to do next. We need a President ready to make tough decisions, and he didn’t see McCain as that kind of guy. Before this conversation, I bought into that conventional wisdom of the tough, decisive McCain who would defy the odds and earn the forgiveness of South Carolina conservatives.

I then asked about Huckabee and Romney. He said that Huckabee’s Arkansas record did not do much to recommend him as a Presidential candidate. He didn’t trust Huck, and good for him. He also said that he thought that Romney was more liberal than Rudy Giuliani. That’s something I hadn’t heard before, but it confirms my suspicion that not everyone has bought into the Romney conservative conversion. I’m not sure how representative this man’s view is, but I don’t think this is a unique view.

Like I said before, the local folks are plugged in and well-informed on the issues and the candidates. I am confident they will vote to reject McCain and Huckabee, and maybe even vote for Fred. But I’m making no predictions about the rest of the state. Not every Republican here is a conservative.

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5 thoughts on “right said fred

  1. You’re right, the idea that McCain does only what is politically expedient doesn’t fit the standard anti-McCain narrative. But the perception does make sense to me, after all, if you look at the breakdown of who voted for who and why in Michigan, McCain did better with anti-war voters than did Romney and vice versa yet one would think that McCain’s strength lies in his unflagging support for the war. Again, this info belies the standard McCain storyline. The fact that McCain is so difficult to classify may be his biggest, and in my estimation most insurmountable, flaw.

    As far as this one voter’s perception of Mitt Romney, the general distrust of Romney is perhaps not without merit, but it is in the end a mistaken perception endlessly fed by the anti-Romney press mainly as well as the McCain campaign. The explanation goes like this. The Romney campaign, mistakenly perhaps, initially sold Romney as a social conservative. After all, when all is said and done Romney is a social conservative. But because the voting public perceived that the timing was suspect going into the evangelical state of Iowa, they assumed that somehow no, Romney is no social conservative. The voters smelled a rat, but the rat was not that Romney is not a social conservative, the rat was a cynical campaign decision to highlight, and place to much emphasis on, Romney’s somewhat shaky perhaps, social conservative credentials. This mess has resulted in the tagging of Romney as flip flopper, a charge the McCain campaign has been peddling from day one and that the liberal media fans the flames of because they ultimately are afraid of the strength of Romney ticket against whatever hack their team ends up trotting out. The idea that you promote Lisa, that Romney had a ‘conservative conversion’ is also incorrect.

    The bottom line is, Romney is strong in all three areas of the Reagan Coalition. There is no one in this race who knows more about all the policy details pertaining to each and every relevant issue of the day, especially those close to real conservatives. Now perhaps Romney is even stronger in some areas than in others. For example, the Michigan voters rightly divined that Romney would be the most careful and intelligent steward of what could be a stagnating economy. Perhaps now the campaign will begin to sell Romney as the ‘economy guy’ but I can see why they didn’t do so initially. To sell Romney as a one-dimensional economy expert is to drastically undersell him. The Romney campaign correctly imagined that their guy was collectively stronger, in all three parts of the Reagan coalition, than any other single candidate. Somehow along the way Huckabee and McCain, who really are one-dimensional, as in they each only cater to 1/3 of the Reagan coalition, tricked and/or confused many Republican voters.

    Mike Huckabee might have a stronger record of social conservatism, after all he is an evangelical minister, but he has none of the other areas of conservatism covered. As a big government tax raiser, he’s no fiscal conservative and he, as a ‘bunker mentality’ Bush Basher, is no national security conservative. And with McCain, the only area he has partially (no waterboarding?) covered is national security. We don’t even have to go into McCain’s very shaky record on almost any other issue.

    Republican voters are going to have to figure out that the strongest candidate is the one who is the most conservative on most issues. Collectively, in all three areas: social, economic, and national security. Who is the strongest?

    You know what my answer is. Rich Lowry, Ann Coulter and probably Rush Limbaugh agree with me. Although I will add that on the collective scorecard of Reagan Coalition elements, Fred Thompson also does well enough to finish second and Giuliani comes in third.

    I found this article in the New York Times, of all places, which helped me to crystallize my thesis. Dean Barnett, a staff writer for The Weekly Standard, explains the disconnect between the voterÂ’s perception of Romney and the reality of Romney. Here are the highlights:

    “Â…I spent a lot of time with Mr. Romney that year, and I occasionally served as his volunteer driver, taking him to local campaign events. The Mitt Romney I got to know was warm and likable. He had an electric intelligence. He was unfailingly decent. He was totally committed to his family. He treated everyone with respect and kindness.

    If youÂ’re like most politically attuned Americans, you probably donÂ’t agree with my description of Mr. Romney. You may consider him to be the personification of political ambition. You possibly believe he will say anything to get elected president. You might even consider him one of the least honorable politicians in the country.

    As a longtime admirer of Mr. RomneyÂ’s, it pains me that many Americans believe these things. Even worse, Mr. RomneyÂ’s presidential campaign has given them cause to feel this way.

    I often marvel at how the public perception of Mr. Romney differs so radically from the man I know. The blame for this lies in the campaign he has run.

    Early in the presidential race, Mr. Romney perceived a tactical advantage in becoming the campaignÂ’s social conservative. Religious conservatives and other Republicans with socially conservative views found the two early front-runners, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, unacceptable. As someone who shares the beliefs of social conservatives, Mr. Romney saw an opportunity that he could exploit. He made social issues the heart of his candidacy.

    This tack rang false with the public because it was false. The problem wasn’t so much the perception of widespread “flip-flopping” on issues like abortion. The public allows its politicians a measure of flexibility. But the public correctly sensed something disingenuous about Mr. Romney’s campaign.

    Voters perceived the cynicism of a campaign that tried to exploit wedge issues rather than focus on the issues that in truth most interested the candidate. They sensed phoniness. As a consequence, many have grown to feel that Mitt Romney canÂ’t be trusted. This lack of trust is now the dominant and perhaps insurmountable obstacle that the Romney campaign faces.

    I know few voters will believe this, but Mitt Romney wants to be president out of a sense of duty. He feels our government needs someone with his managerial skills. He also feels that to fight the long war facing us, we need an intellectually curious president whoÂ’s willing to learn about an unfamiliar foe and who will fight resolutely to defeat that foe.

    Mr. Romney cares passionately about social issues, but he knows his Republican competitors can appoint strict constructionist judges as well as he can. The real value of a Romney presidency would lie in the talents, honed in the business world, that he would bring to the White House.

    Because Mr. Romney chose to make this argument a secondary matter compared to his stands on social issues, he mounted a campaign that was, at its most basic level, insincere.

    I hope Mr. Romney does well enough in Michigan today that he gets the opportunity to introduce the public to the real Mitt Romney. He is a wonderful and gifted guy. It would be nice if he and his campaign allowed the voters in on that secret.”

  2. As Dean (who I respect a great deal BTW) says, and as you point out, it’s partially the Romney campaign’s fault that conservatives mistrust him. You can’t just blame the media or the McCain campaign for this strategic miscalculation. Romney’s social conservative credentials are questioned because he did run to the left to get elected in Massachusetts. It’s fair for people like the guy I talked to have doubts about whether he’s just adopting social conservative views for political advantage. You KNOW I don’t buy that argument. But the Romney we are seeing now, whether he has been this guy all along and simply fooled the liberals in Massachusetts, is not the same guy that was governor of Massachusetts.

    The YouTubes exist. The fliers courting the gay and lesbian community exist. They weren’t made up by McCain. Romney has taken some past positions that disagree with he says now. I don’t know how you can dispute that. Romney himself says that he was wrong on abortion. It’s true that in his public life he took positive stands on gay marriage and on life issues. But there are some significant contradictions in what his personal beliefs may have been and what he did in Massachusetts. That’s why it’s fair to question his record. If you don’t call that a conversion of sorts, what would you call it?

    My theory on this is that Romney has never been the kind of ideologue that Fred or Huck is. It would have been better if the campaign had done more with Romney’s strengths and not focus so much on the social conservatism. That strategy worked in MI, and it will continue to work.

    Jaz, we really are on the same side here. I’m not the one you need to convince about Romney. Until Fred came in, Romney was my #1 guy, and I will probably go back to him if Fred doesn’t take off after SC. That said, I’m not as convinced as the media seems to be that Romney would be our strongest candidate against Hillary or Obama. If you think Romney’s getting attacked now, just wait until the Clinton machine gets their hooks into him. I’m not sure he could survive it.

  3. Maybe it would be fair to say that Romney transitioned from being somewhat liberal to conservative strictly within the realm of social issues and strictly within the realm of what he imagines is appropriate for public policy (as he always privately been pro-life). But the term ‘conservative conversion’ implies that Romney was an out and out liberal who completely switched sides. Romney has always a been essentially conservative. You don’t earn the level of ire that Romney has from liberals for being too liberal.

    On this issue of conservative credentials, it strikes me that Romney is the inverse of Huckabee. If abortion is the one and only issue you care about, then Huckabee’s your guy. If economic conservatism and national security conservatism are more important to you than social conservatism on it’s own, then Romney is your guy.

    And to try to suggest Romney is weak on social conservatism is an exercise in hair splitting anyway. The guy is telling the truth that he is pro-life, why can’t the pro-lifers take yes for an answer? It’s as if one has to have arrived at all of their political views upon coming out of the womb. If the social conservatives end up not accepting Romney as one of them, it could come to pass that an even less acceptable alternative, as in someone who is blatantly pro-choice, may be elected. I would urge the forces of social conservatism to not cut their noses off to spite their face by applying such impossibly strict standards upon a very reasonable and, in the end, conservative candidate.

  4. I agree. Again, I have been supporting Romney from the very beginning, even though I did have a few questions on his views on abortion. I have never been a single-issue voter, and that won’t happen this time either. I admire your passion for your candidate, and I value your opinion and Dean Barnett’s highly because you both know Romney better than non-residents of MA would. I also take very seriously the endorsement of Senator DeMint, because he is THE conservative senator around here. If anything could convince me, it’s everything I’ve mentioned here. But I’m not ready to support him over Fred.

    Can you take ‘maybe’ for an answer (as far as me throwing my entire support behind Romney)? Because that’s as far as I can go right now.

  5. You’re about as pro-Romney as I could hope for but I could never turn down the opportunity to attempt to set the record straight about my guy. So I have no problem addressing, in a general way, the concerns any Republican voters may have about Romney. I know you generally like Romney, but for purposes of this discussion you were playing the role of devil’s advocate.

    Let me know when I can return the favor. Although I don’t have much bad to say about Fred Thompson. Fred Heads and Romney-ites unite!

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