Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Romney, Pro and Con 

Two giants of the righty blogosphere, Power Line's John Hinderaker and John Hawkins of Right Wing News, have articulated the pro and con cases for Mitt Romney. Since that is a debate that has raged in the comments in this diminutive blog, we provide both links for your reading pleasure.


The “anybody but Romney” mentality that grips many Republicans is, in my view, illogical. It led them to embrace Rick Perry, who turned out to be unable to articulate a conservative thought; Newt Gingrich, whose record is far more checkered than Romney’s; Ron Paul, whose foreign policy views–indistinguishable from those of the far left–and forays into racial intolerance make him unfit to be president; and Michele Bachmann, whom I like very much, but who is more qualified to be a rabble-rouser than a chief executive....

In electing a president, we are choosing someone to run the Executive Branch. A leader, to be sure, but not a speechmaker, a bomb-thrower, a quipster, a television personality or an exemplar of ideological purity. At this point in our history, the United States desperately needs a leader who understands the economy, the world of business, and, more generally, how the world works. We have had more than enough of a leader who was good at giving speeches and was ideologically pure, but who had no clue how the economy works or how the federal government can be administered without resort to graft and corruption. It is time for a president who knows what he is doing.


Mitt Romney was a moderate governor in Massachusetts with an unimpressive record of governance. He left office with an approval rating in the thirties and his signature achievement, Romneycare, was a Hurricane Katrina style disaster for the state. Since that's the case, it's fair to ask what a Republican who's not conservative and can't even carry his own state brings to the table for GOP primary voters. The answer is always the same: Mitt Romney is supposed to be "the most electable" candidate. This is a baffling argument because many people just seem to assume it's true, despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary.

All regular readers know that I tend to agree with John Hinderaker. Mitt Romney is not a perfect candidate for the Republican Party. But we have learned something important in the last year: The Republican Party of 2012 is short on strong presidential candidates. The most promising, sober, accomplished candidates -- Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and two or three strong senators -- either chose not to run or could not get traction (which may reveal that they were not so promising). The rising stars -- Rubio, Christie, Jindal, and Haley, to pick four out of a hat -- are nearly as green as Barack Obama was in 2008 and basically not vetted on the national stage. The rest who have chosen to run are very problematic. Rick Perry looks like Ronald Reagan and has a lot of his personal charm, but apparently only about half of Reagan's IQ. Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, and Bachmann look for the world as if they will gaff their way through the fall campaign, and even if they were elected, can you imagine any of them in charge of, say, our nuclear arsenal? If they all speak before thinking deeply, how do we know they will not shoot before thinking deeply?

There are many reasons for the lame Republican field, but first among them is that the George W. Bush Administration did not leave us any strong successors. Dick Cheney, who is superbly qualified to be president, is too old and has enormous baggage. Same for Don Rumsfeld. Condoleezza Rice may prefer the repose of private life. And, in any case, the last person elected president from the cabinet with no other experience in elective office was Herbert Hoover, perhaps the single most "qualified" person to seek the office since George Washington (which tells you that resume qualifications are at most table stakes, but hardly sufficient, for success in the White House).

Similarly, the last presidential ticket has not left the Republicans with a successor. McCain is too old and in any case vilified on the right. His running mate, Sarah Palin, wisely assessed her public image and decided to brush up her Shakespeare before making another run.

So that leaves Mitt Romney, who I endorsed with some reluctance over John McCain almost four years ago. The reasoning in that original post mostly holds, although I would revise it if I re-wrote it today.

There are conservatives who do not want to "settle" when they smell the chance for a purist to win. Is that a sound choice if it reduces the chance of winning and increases the chance of another Obama term?

Suppose, though, that John Hawkins is right and Mitt Romney is not more electable than Newt Gingrich, meaning that we have as great a chance of electing Newt as Mitt. Do you really want that guy with his finger on the button, in charge of our foreign policy, or sitting down to negotiate with Nancy Pelosi? Newt is erratic, and says the first crazy thing that pops in to his head. He has been doing that his whole life. That makes him interesting, and definitely an ideal dinner guest. He can grace my salon at any time. But Newt Gingrich has demonstrated time and again that he is not nearly measured enough to be president. We would be fools to think that will actually change.

Newt is also an egomaniac, on the scale of Obama. Not only is this unappealing, but it is dysfunctional. See, for example, this contemporaneous account of Gingrich's mishandling of the budget negotiations with the Clinton White House. It is not hard to see, between the lines, that Gingrich's control impulses and outsized sense of his own abilities led to his downfall. Gingrich supporters should read it, to refresh their memory of his poor record of leadership when last in a position of actual power.

Finally, there are those who say that there is time for a better candidate to emerge. No, there isn't. The political clock is inexorable, and only a miracle or a tragedy could create room for a heretofore unannounced Republican candidate.

Release the hounds.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Dec 28, 10:45:00 AM:

Hawkins misunderstands Romney's (limited) appeal. He Looks like he is going to win the nomination because his opponents are all so uniformly bad candidates, and not because anyone presumes Romney possesses some special quality of "electability".

If anything I think GOP primary voters have obviously worried Romneyis going to be tougher to elect than they would like.

Voters have shifted desperately around the list looking for someone to support precisely because they think Romney has serious issues with his electability, and one by one the others have fallen by the wayside. Romney's strategy is to be the last man standing and he may just pull it off.

If he becomes the nominee, I imagine people will enthusiastically vote for him in the general. After all, he's the "not-Obama".  

By Anonymous Dan D, at Wed Dec 28, 11:13:00 AM:

I'm very much torn this year, and will remain resentful at the women in the Mitch Daniels family whose sense of duty to their country is sadly lacking. Without Daniels or Pawlenty or Ryan, Jon Huntsman appears to be the best remaining dark horse, but his chances are extremely slim to gain the nomination.

I suspect there are good reasons for well-tested candidates surviving to the convention, especially through more than one election cycle. The preparation may be essential for the tough job of commander in chief.

Romney may surprise me, but it feels like the best we could expect of his Presidency, should he be elected, is another GHW Bush type of muddle.

Still, that would be a huge improvement over Obama. Should he lose to Obama, I suspect there would be a long-term realignment of the electorate strongly against the Democrats. Hopefully the country could survive a second term of Obama disfunction.  

By Anonymous Old Fan, at Wed Dec 28, 12:03:00 PM:

I have to agree, the choice is obvious.

Mr. Hinderaker leads in the face of robust fashion weakening all.

However, this is something I completely disagree with "John Hawkins is right and Mitt Romney is not more electable than Newt Gingrich".

Mr. Hawkins truly underestimates a number of aspects. First, Newt Gingrich is an Icon of the Beltway, which is completely held in contempt by the American Public today. As foolish as it was to run the tired Beltway Celebrity of John McCain in 2008, Newt Gingrich is as poor as an offering. Newt has no serious private sector experience, no genuine executive ability, no worthy economic clout, a very unattractive record - having resigned in disgrace as Speaker (with an ugly personal existence). Gingrich is just another symbol for the problems in Washington - and his image in Our superficial society would only reelect Obama in a flash.

Romney on the other hand, is underestimated due to the bias amongst us. Americans are craving for a "doer" who will actually make Washington work in some manner. They also remain deeply concerned about economics, thus a proven Free Market success is very attractive. It is Mr. Romney's Private Sector status, his coming from outside of the Beltway, his seriousness, stability, articulation, etc., which makes his offering unique for the GOP. This is not a Candidate Democrats will be able to cheaply denigrate with ugly stereotyping.

Mr. Hawkins is wrong, Newt would be doomed in any National Election. Mr. Romney has an excellent chance.

The fashion is small actually: Mr. Cost references the mythic offering in this piece:
"That said, the conventional wisdom about Romney’s candidacy—that there is a huge “not Romney” bloc of GOP voters out there—is massively overstated. Romney’s favorable rating among prospective Republican primary voters is quite high, upwards of 60 percent, and the latest CNN poll of GOP voters shows that 80 percent of Republicans either support him now or would consider supporting him at some point; this is a larger number than that of any of his major competitors"

This fashionable identity game amongst us has produced a very poor political offering. It simply is not based on fact, reason, logic, etc. It even unfairly views the GW Bush Presidency: the emotive reactionary debasing of Our own interests only enabled the worst after 2004, as today the record clearly reveals the vindication of much of the Bush Administration policy and action. This misguided fashion remains lost, wildly romanticizing the lackluster, often vilifying the sound. It is the emotive hype which is weakening all. The safety of the sideline is producing some very poor offerings. We watched so many professional voices providing the very worst, including irresponsible forms of populist "establishment" warfare. It is embarrassing to see so many toss away their credibility.

Ann Coulter was right again, and led bravely in the face of this self destructive fashion. We shall see, but there is no doubt who is the best offering, Mr. Romney.  

By Anonymous Old Fan, at Wed Dec 28, 12:35:00 PM:

I want to add, forgive me, this little aspect regarding Mr. Hawkins' poor insight:

"Mitt Romney was a moderate governor in Massachusetts with an unimpressive record of governance. He left office with an approval rating in the thirties and his signature achievement, Romneycare, was a Hurricane Katrina style disaster for the state."

I have to honestly ask whether Hawkins actually studied Romney's record thoroughly and fairly. When Romney left Office, he had been running for President in a true Blue State as a Republican. Of course his ratings would drop, as Democrats in this die hard Partisan arena would rally around the Democrats - especially in the late Second Term of the Bush Administration. I believe Hawkins is young, but this just is not his best offering.

For example, there is nothing "unimpressive" with cutting taxation 19 times in an entrenched Democratic Partisan State with a Democrat controlled State Legislature. Balancing a 3 Billion dollar inherited deficit in a place like MASS is impressive - not "unimpressive". Romney did effectively begin to turn around an anti-business climate, very worthy in this traditionally dreadful environment. Vetoes of gay marriage, minimum wage increases, funding for illegal immigrant education, etc., are also very sound - truly impressive from a conservative point of view.

This "Hurricane Katrina style disaster" labeling is just sophomoric exaggeration, which simply is not accurate. Romney cannot be blamed by the Democratic Partisans poor alteration of his Reform effort. The Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, etc., a vast number of conservatives endorsed and produced 'Romneycare'. The Health Care problem in MASS was already severe with booming costs. The reform never raised taxation, never altered the plans of the 92% who already had Health Care Insurance, got the rest of the 8% to pay their fair share, did not provide a government run system, etc. We can understandably (I did and still do) reject the premise of a State Mandate with our political convictions. But the failure of many on the sound side to objectively discuss the nuts and bolts of the actual Mass Health Care Reform is a primary symbol of the problem for all. It isn't conservatism. This superficial offering only grows the robust juvenile stereotyping, ironically it is the same folly we encounter coming from the Democratic Partisan side - providing the worst policies and representation.

Hawkins provides enormous emotive hubris in relating this to "Hurricane Katrina". It reminds even reminds one of the overtly dramatic description of the Gingrich Campaign in referencing their failure to get on the VA Ballot. These vivid exaggerations may placate the fashion to grow readers, attention, or sell books, but like tossing gas on a fire, it is far from reasoned or constructive.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Dec 28, 02:28:00 PM:

Romney is "the best offering" only when measured against Perry, Gingrich, Santorum and Bachmann (I don't consider Ron Paul a Republican). There are lots of things not to like: his muddled economic plan, with it's 59 points of mildly impactful mayonnaise, his history with Bain, which will yield lots of advertisements, his nasty negative campaigning, violating the eleventh commandment, and his controlling, secretive, technocratic personality.

If he is nominated I'll vote for him, as I said earlier. But I do it hoping for the best, knowing that a second Obama term where he isn't worried about reelection would be horrible beyond description, and with the reassurance in mind that a GOP Congress will hopefully reinstitute a more limited and less expensive government, no matter the proclivities of Mitt ("a mandate is a Conservative principle!") Romney.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Dec 28, 03:53:00 PM:

Don't believe everything you read about Mitt's new inevitability. Newt still has big leads in South Carolina and Florida. If Newt doesn't implode, he'll end January with a lot more delegates than Mitt. That would say more about Mitt than it does about Newt: Most of the GOP doesn't want Mitt, clearly. (So far it's been a referendum on Mitt. He's still losing this referendum. When the anti-Mitt flavor-of-the-month melts, those votes gravitate somewhere else -- never to Mitt). Mitt could even be third behind Ron Paul, if Paul wins Iowa.

This thread is ignoring Huntsman. Why not Huntsman? If Newt could jump into the lead as the anti-Mitt, why not Huntsman?

Huntsman wouldn't be my first choice but he's far more electable than Romney in the general. I don't see a case that Romney is more "conservative" than Huntsman. I question how good Huntsman will be at taking the fight to Obama (he could use surrogates ... paging Dr Palin!) but if Mitt is the candidate Axelrod will make it all about Mitt, not about Obama.

Successful businessmen don't usually do well as political candidates. Ask Meg and Carly.

The skills you need as a business executive aren't the same as those you need as a political executive. It's very different actually. Mitt has little to show that he has the chops other than RomneyCare.

Romney has a bad habit of needing to spin things so that he's never been wrong. It will bite him in the ass in the general, often.

Our next President needs to undo a lot of what Obama & Co. did, but that alone isn't sufficient. We've got a federal government that needs to be cut substantially. You can't put the blame for that all on Obama. It'll be painful for many, but not addressing it will be even worse. I don't see a Latter Day Robber Baron as an effective salesman for this. That's not personal, just a fact. Mitt also won't want to take on the Big Banks and the Fed, which is a big part of the problem.

If he's elected Romney will be a disaster. Richard Nixon without the charm.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Dec 28, 04:05:00 PM:

So you'll vote Obama over Romney?

No, of course you won't. Or at least i presume you won't.

And as for Huntsman, I'd love to talk more about him. First, though, lets see if he rises from his 3-5% in polls to the point where he actually challenges for the nomination. Until then he's an afterthought.

Gingrich is scarier than Romney. He's the sort of guy who might have dinner with Goodwin Liu (by all accounts a charming guy) and appoint him to the Supreme Court on a whim. Newt might make for a good kitchen cabinet member but I question if he can be trusted in any sort of an official role, much less as President.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Dec 28, 04:06:00 PM:

Never forget that Hinderaker and company persuaded themselves that Obama would be a moderate president.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Dec 28, 04:45:00 PM:

It boggles the mind to state this, but I don't believe any of the existing candidates can beat Obama, who has been one of the worst presidents in history. It is a sad reflection on the state of our electorate.

Romney is unelectable. Democrats and the media will skewer him, somewhat accurately, as a blue-blood, silver-spoon, elitist corporate vampire who got wealthy by buying corporations using borrowed money, sucking out their lifeblood, and tossing the hollowed out carcass aside. And to top it off his income was primarily Carried Interest taxed at 15%. Good luck selling that in Peoria.

This election will be over the moment Obama confronts Romney with this narrative in a televised debate. I suspect the Dems will wait until August or September to draw that wound. Mitt will drop 10-20 points in the polls and will be forced to open his tax returns, which will be the final cut.

-Anon Attorney  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Dec 28, 04:58:00 PM:

"So you'll vote Obama over Romney" No. But I can see a lot of people who will.

I agree with Anon Attorney about "carried interest". 2012 is the worst time to run a guy like Romney. It'll be worse than what Teddy Kennedy did to Romney in their Senate race. It'll drag down the whole ticket. "Montie" Burns would do better.

This is so obvious that you have to have no political instincts not to see it coming. Mitt should know it's a huge problem. Ergo, Mitt has no political instincts or he's blinded by narcissism, your pick. He -- and his enablers -- don't think it will matter against Obama, but it will.

We're partly in this pickle because Romney purposefully moved early with a display of "Shock and Awe" of money, connections and organization to scare off any serious wannabees. Well played, but not very sporting.

I'd take the bet that someone sent Mitch Daniels polaroid snaps of his wife playing Tattoed Love Boys with a biker gang. Could have come from Romney's camp or Axelrod. Karl Rove sent the message to others "It's not your night". "Not my night???"

Seriously, if after Florida Romney's behind a field of circus geeks what does that say about Romney and about the state of the Republican party?

It's not too late to open this up. Huntsman worth a look.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed Dec 28, 05:49:00 PM:

New Hampshire should be a good electorate for Huntsman. He's not doing well here. If that's the case, I can't see him doing well elsewhere.

It is best not to overvalue "what the Democrats will say in campaigning against X," including Romney. They will say horrible things about anyone, true or not, and play entirely the PR game rather than the what-is-fair game. Remember Clinton running against Bush with the "worst economy in 50 years" tag, or how vilified Bob Dole was. These were both decent men, neither hyperconservative, pragmatic politicians whose only problems in governance were working with Democrats too easily and trusting them too much. Democrats will now bemoan the good old days when Republicans would run such decent men. (Reason #1 to keep their perfidy in mind when discussing elections.)

The quality of the Republican candidate will have nothing to do with how negative the Democrats will go, so keep it out of your calculations entirely.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Wed Dec 28, 05:59:00 PM:

GOP had its best shot at unseating an unpopular democrat. They came up with zippo. Good luck next time.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Dec 28, 07:44:00 PM:

Meanwhile, under the radar: Obama to Ask for $1.2 Trillion Increase in Debt Limit

"President Obama will ask Congress this week for $1.2 trillion in additional borrowing authority, which would raise the federal debt limit to $16.4 trillion and avoid the need for further increases before the 2012 elections, administration officials said Tuesday.

"Since President Obama took office, the debt has shot up 42 percent, to the current level of $15.1 trillion ... Debt held by the public, considered by many economists to be the more significant indicator, is 65 percent higher now than in January 2009 ... In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the government spent $3.6 trillion and collected $2.3 trillion. "


Despite the Tea Party, raising the debt ceiling has bipartisan support and will happen this week without a fight.

Federal debt is rising much faster than our economy is growing. On current trajectory, that won't change and may accelerate. Which means that Debt/GDP will continue to increase, even if rates stay low. It'll really acclerate if rates revert to even historical averages.

How long can Big Ben keep 20 plates spinning on 20 sticks? My over/under is 2.5 years.

Big Ben may be doing what he thinks is necessary to avoid ruinous deflation. But it's had the effect of giving Obama and Congress a pass on dealing with runaway spending. So long as this continues through 2012, it will have a big effect on the election by masking the need for hard policy choices and letting it default to just a contest of dueling personalities. Obama can beat most -- if not all -- of the current Republican field in a personality contest.

The Republicans will soon have to fight with Obama again over extending the payroll tax cut. Do you think they can even win a symbolic freeze on federal salaries as part of the deal? My money says no.

ps. Huntsman is in double digits in NH. He barely has a pulse anywhere else. He could come third in NH, which would keep him in the game.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Dec 28, 09:13:00 PM:

"GOP had its best shot at unseating an unpopular democrat. They came up with zippo. Good luck next time."

What a ridiculous thing to say. May I remind you all that at this point in the last *pre-primary* portion of the 2008 campaign, everyone, and I mean everyone, predicted a Hillary win. I remember her smarmy speeches about "when I'm president."

I'd also like to point out that about 55% of the polled public believes that Obama doesn't deserve a second term, and 60% believe he'll lose. That second statistic is hugely important. If people who are lukewarm think their guy is going to go down, they won't bother, and the prophecy will be self-fulfilling.

Lastly, wait till summer. That's when I reckon all the economic arguments that have been sat upon will be unleashed and F&F will go front page. Obama will have a bad campaign.

Writing this off as a loss now is absurd.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Wed Dec 28, 09:42:00 PM:

From Ace of Spades blog:

"And defending the (individual) mandate as "conservative," every inch of the way, and actually showing uncharacteristic passion while doing so, is would-be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

I'm sorry. I have tried. I recognize the attractive parts of Romney. He's smart, he's put-together, he doesn't scare the moderates, he polls consistently well, he has a nice family that recommends him.

But Romney will not bend in his singleminded mission to make himself unelectable.

It's going to be hard enough to repeal ObamaCare without our own nominee flacking for it.'


I still think Romney could win were he the nominee, but stuff like this will make it difficult to rally the base.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Dec 28, 11:36:00 PM:

Of course, most Republicans are completely full of it on the question of the individual mandate. They will not acknowledge that you cannot have community rating without an individual mandate of some sort, because community rating (the abolition of pre-existing conditions as a bar to coverage) is incredibly popular. But the two go hand in hand, obviously. So the only opponents of the individual mandate who have any credibility say they are also opposed to community rating. Name a Republican who has said that. Very hard to find.

And, of course, the whole fight over the constitutionality of the individual mandate is technical, because of a political choice made by the Democrats, rather than substantive. Yes, the mandate may be unconstitutional, but clearly they could have accomplished the same result with the taxing power. They just did not want to do that because that would have required them to violate Obama's chimerical pledge that he would not raise taxes on anybody who made less than $250,000.

Point is, few Republicans are intellectually honest on the individual mandate.

(And, by the way, neither was Barack Obama -- during the campaign he opposed the individual mandate, which was a central feature of Hillary's plan. He reversed course after he actually won.)  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed Dec 28, 11:37:00 PM:

Oh, and there is no chance that Obamacare will be repealed. It can be improved, amended, and so forth, perhaps, but there is no conceivable majority for its repeal. Why? Because too many people have pre-existing conditions and are relieved that those will no longer be a bar to getting health insurance.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Dec 29, 12:10:00 AM:

Because too many people have pre-existing conditions and are relieved that those will no longer be a bar to getting health insurance.

The fact that health insurance costs in community rating states like New York is double or triple that in non-rating states might be a bar to getting insurance.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 07:16:00 AM:

The mandate has been seized upon by small government advocates as a lever to overturn Obamacare, obviously, and I certainly hope you are wrong that there is zero chance it will be overturned. The Court might do the deed, via holding the mandate structure unconstitutional, but might highest hopes are for a giddy Republican majority in Congress ripping the cancerous bill out of our body politic in the "first hundred days" sort of rush of activity. The minute they start thinking too much in Congress, and money starts influencing, it'll end up sticking around in some substantive way. Elect a GOP majority and President, and kill it, fast, and i believe we have a chance.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Thu Dec 29, 07:35:00 AM:

Dawnfire82, I agree that there is time for things to happen between now and election, that said, I think "absurd" is a word more appropriate for most of the current GOP candidates. Romney excepted, but he has some electability issues from most sides of the political spectrum.

BG, aka the ridiculous one. Happy New Year to you too.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 08:38:00 AM:

To pilfer an old adage, I try to read the Bible and DailyKos every day just to see what both sides are up to. Here is a post from DailyKos yesterday that foreshadows what Romney will have coming at him from the Democratic Media Complex regarding his Carried Interest Problem.


This narrative is a head shot, not a flesh wound. Politically, Romney is a dead man walking. And the Republican candidates are doing the party a disservice by failing to raise the issue now.

-Anon Attorney (who believes, btw, that the S.CT. will hold the mandate unconstitutional and that one or more conventionally leftist judges will join the opinion)  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 08:51:00 AM:

So, if the mandate is held unconstitutional, there are two paths forward.

1. The Supreme Court might sever the mandate from the rest of the Obamacare law. If that happens, private insurers will be quickly wiped out and the left will get exactly what it wants, which is a single payer system. I believe that this is the most likely scenario for reasons discussed below.

2. The Supreme Court will respect the law's (non)severability clause and not sever the mandate from the rest of Obamacare, in which case the whole law will go down. The problem is, there is a massive amount of detrimental reliance on the law already. The uncertainty of its reversal will create years of chaos, especially for people with pre-existing conditions who will be very sympathetic media victims.

My own guess is that the Supreme Court will not have the stones to throw out the whole law -- it is too huge with too many implications, and would put the Court at the risk of a Roosevelt-like intervention. So they will either (i) sever the mandate, which will drive us very quickly to a Canadian/British system, or (ii) contort themselves to find that the mandate is effectively a tax, and that it is therefore permissible under the taxing power.

Here's the real problem that Republicans have not faced up to: Community rating (eliminating pre-existing conditions as a bar to coverage) is extremely popular when people understand it. There can be no community rating without a mandate or the economic equivalent through taxation. If Obamacare goes down, the media will see that the Supreme Court and the GOP will own every cancer patient who cannot get health care coverage. Neither wants that.

Frankly, we desperately needed a major overhaul of our system of healthcare finance (an admission that goes against my personal financial interest, I might add). I would have much preferred a market-driven approach that severed it from the employment relationship. The GOP might have made that happen under Bush, but farted it off at every opportunity. That put the Democrats in the driver's seat. Now the best result would be some considered amendment of the law. Anything else will be a total mess.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 09:46:00 AM:


I don't practice in the health care area and am not an expert in Obamacare. My understanding is that Obamacare does not have an affirmative non-severability clause. Rather, it lacks an affirmative severability clause. And I recall, perhaps incorrectly, that the legislative history of the act included a severability clause but it was stricken from the bill. If my facts are correct I believe the entire law falls (the severability issue will split 5-4).

Back to Romney, Ignoramus and I have argued that Romney's carried interest problem renders him unelectable in 2012. You seem disinterested in it, as if it is a speed bump. What say you? How does Romney win in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa with his tax record?

Ignoramus is right. The commercials write themselves. Joe the Plumber is going to be replaced by a steel worker who lost his job and health insurance when Bain Capital bought out his company and is now eagerly anticipating coverage under Obamacare. Leona Helsmley will make a comeback with her "taxes are for little people" comment. It's like shooting fish in a barrel . . .  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 09:53:00 AM:

Regular readers know that I favor treating carried interest as ordinary income. However, I do not think this will be the albatross that you think it will be. First, hardly anybody understands it, and Romney can respond to the attack ads by saying that he paid all the taxes he owes under the law. Second, private equity has given a lot more money to Democrats than Republicans, and the Democrats have consistently failed to do anything about carried interest. It will not be hard to make the point contra. Where is Barack Obama's bill repealing cap gains treatment for carried interest? It does not exist.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 09:55:00 AM:

As for "the little people" issue, two items. First, the antidote simply cannot be Newt, who is a condescending snot. Romney is at least a nice guy. Second, even in populist moments Americans have had no problem electing patrician types. FDR is the archtype, followed closely by TR. I am not sure it is as important as you think.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 10:42:00 AM:

Not that it means very much, at this very early stage, but today for the first time Romney outpolled Obama by a wider margin than generic "Republican".

Generic has outpolled the President for quite a while, as all here probably know, but the CW has simultaneously been that as soon as there is a real name running against Obama then the results will change. That theory has been supported in polling hypothetical match ups (ie, when specific names are polled) right up until today. Rasmussen says for the first time that Romney would beat Obama by a wider margin than Generic if the election were held today.

In related news my favorite lefty Nate Silver (now writing for the hated NYT) has concluded the GOP will retake the Senate, and might possibly do it by big numbers unless Obama can find a way to turn around his polling.

In combination with dismal economic prospects, you have to believe the" Hillary for Biden switcheroo" countdown will soon be reaching an end, and the Obama/Clinton ticket will be officially on. It's the Presidents best chance for a positive turn in his polling.

Drudge has the Rasmussen poll linked if anyone wants to go check it out.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 10:47:00 AM:


Thanks for articulating your position. Just to be clear, I am not advocating for Newt or any other Republican candidate. I am simply stating my belief that Romney is unelectable.

The best thing the Romney campaign could do would be to release the tax returns now and put it all on the table during the primaries so that it can be dismissed as old news when the Democrats raise the issue. I am surprised the party elders have not forced Romney to do so. It shows how out of touch they are.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 10:50:00 AM:

If Romney is unelectable, then we are doomed, because he is more electable than the anybody in the clown posse running against him (Huntsman is not a clown, but has no game).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 11:16:00 AM:

First, let me be clear: I'll vote for Donald Duck if he's Obama's opponent.

"Rubio, Christie, Jindal, and Haley, to pick four out of a hat -- are nearly as green as Barack Obama was in 2008

Rubio possibly, but Christie, Jindal and Haley (I assume you mean Barbour)? I believe the expression is "What color is the sky on your planet?"

"Community rating (eliminating pre-existing conditions as a bar to coverage) is extremely popular when people understand it"

People who understand it understand that eliminating coverage for pre-existing conditions is already illegal for group plans, which is the type of health inurance nearly everyone in this country who has health insurance is on. It is popular, but it's not an issue except for people who buy insurance on their own. I don't know what percentage of people with insurance do that (9% according to Wikipedia), but it's pretty low.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 11:17:00 AM:

Just to clarify, it was already illegal before Obamacare.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 29, 11:29:00 AM:

"First, hardly anybody understands [carried interest]"

You don't have to. It's so easy to demagogue. I gave a "comic book" version here last week. It's the Warren Buffet line: "my tax rate is less than my secretary's" which morphs into "pays less taxes". "You know Romney tithed more to the Mormon Church!"

But "carried interest" is only part of the picture of how Romney singlehandedly "rationalized" companies and even industries by eliminating American jobs while turbocharging the pay of a handful of executives with capital gains on stock options.

Then you do "one degree of separation" from Romney to the evil princes of Wall Street -- all of whom are his bundlers. Wicked Evil 1% ers!

"Carried Interest" is actually easy to explain: Other People's Money! Most people get capital gains treatment for risking their own money or putting up sweat equity at risk. Mitt got it for no money down off the backs of others, with Big Bank financed debt leverage! Nice work if you can get it.

Q: "Mr Romney did you or did you not get a cut of the "special dividend" that put KB Toys into bankruptcy?"
A: Has to be Yes, if his returns get released.
The Masses: "Not KB Toys!" My kids would string him up right there. One of then can already vote.

... and I'm just warming up. It's not hard to create a Howard Zinn-like "People's History of the Last 25 Years of the United States" with Romney at the Evil Epicenter.

Run with this for a month while Romney is preaching about the virtues of a merit-based society and he'll start losing states in the South.

Axelrod is salivating. Daily Kos should wait, but can't.

Thus, Latter Day Robber Baron is a Dead Man Walking in most scenarios, despite his own protestations that he's the most electable.

Winning the White House isn't the prize. Winning 60 in the Senate and the White House is. It's important to how we address ObamaCare sensibly, among many other things. So a squishy Romney win without a mandate is sub-optimal.

One of the other Republican candidates can demand release of Romney's tax returns and put Carried Interest on the table. Better still, Rush Limbaugh can. I wouldn't wait on The New York Times -- that'll happen in August. It's not to late to test Romney before Axelrod gets medieval on his ass.

ps, Comparing Romney to FDR and Teddy? WTF? FDR ran from the Left, using the Democratic coalition built by Al Smith. Teddy ran as a Progressive. It was JFK's dad who was the Robber Baron, and JFK was charming. None of these guys had "There Will Be Blood" on their hands.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 29, 11:38:00 AM:

I'm another one who's made the bet that the Supremes will hold the mandate unconstitutional 6-3, with Sotomayor crossing party lines (she won't want to sit next to Kagan on this -- it's a career defining moment).

We can't finance our current healthcare model, with or without ObamaCare. It's unsustainable. It's the single thing that's breaking the bank. We may need a minor economic crisis to focus, but that's coming.

"all the economic arguments that have been sat upon will be unleashed" in the summer.

Don't count on it. Congressional Republicans are kicking the economic can down the road as much or more than the Democrats. They don't want the Big Fight, and have muzzled their own Tea Partiers. Obama actually is the one forcing skirmishes, like the Payroll Tax Holiday Extension.

"Exploding National Debt" is academic to most voters. MSM won't carry the narrative properly. Someone like Romney preaching about self-reliance in a merit-based society will only scare a lot of voters into Obama's benevolent safety net.

"and F&F will go front page"

Fast & Furious may lose traction. It needs a Special Prosecutor to move beyond Issa. Its not like we need to know more facts. But under current law appointing a Special Prosecutor is the Attorney General's call. But he'd be the target. This will never happen without sustained MSM outrage, which won't happen. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guardians? Apparently no one -- and our "guardians" know it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 11:54:00 AM:

Current polls say not only is Romney electable but that he is, today, more electable than both other Republicans and the President. Check out the Rssmussen poll and argue with them if you still don't buy it.

There are plenty of Repubs who don't like Romney (like me) but let's not confuse our own beliefs with the general population, because there Romney does well.

Many argue that the Democrats will be viciously negative against Romney. But that will be true regardless of the nominee, because it's the Democrats only hope since their record is so awful, and a reasonable case suggests there is lots less negative to say about Romney than about any other plausible Republican candidate. So far,'Romney has done very well in any instance where some other candidate has gone after his Bain tenure, so I just don't see that line of attack as being effective. His biggest weakness might be his lack of recent political success but he will no doubt argue that is a positive, not a negative, and he might be successful.

Overall, Romney as nominee looks pretty successful based upon present facts. Of course, opinions are different.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 29, 12:01:00 PM:

"Romney has done very well in any instance where some other candidate has gone after his Bain tenure"

Horseshit. Teddy Kennedy played a short version in his Senate race with Romney. Romney dropped 20%. A tight race turned into an ass-kicking.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 12:14:00 PM:

Horseshit? Gingrich tried to nail him in the last debate, and Romney turned it around quite easily. Please be careful with your language when talking to me by the way. I'm not your enemy but I could be, and it's bad karma to use casual, easily misunderstood language in Internet discussions.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Dec 29, 12:16:00 PM:

Where is Barack Obama's bill repealing cap gains treatment for carried interest?

There's nothing to repeal. A lot of posters here clearly don't understand what carried interest is and how it works.

Carried interest is a partnership interest for which the partner didn't make a contribution of capital. It is a profits-only interest in the partnership.

The capital gain attributes of partnership property is passed on to the partners. If said property is eligible for special tax rates when sold, it will be so when that gain is passed on to the partners. A carried interest partner is treated just like every other partner in this regard. There is no special tax treatment for them..

As you can see, slamming Romney is a lie calculated to cater to the average person's ignorance of tax law. Every partner in Romney's firm got 15% rates because of long-term capital gain provisions in the tax code. Removing capital gains treatment for carried interest partners is singling them out for special punishment.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 12:19:00 PM:

"Carried interest" is only long-term capital gains because we choose to define it that way. It is really the fees charged by private equity funds on the gains made by the investment in the funds. Arguably, fees are ordinary income. It is all a function of the characterization.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 12:59:00 PM:


Your argument is risible. TH is correct.

Assigning long term capital gains tax rates to carried interest income is indefensible from an economic point of view, which is precisely why Wall Street has hired armies of lobbyists to ensure the loophole is kept out of sight and out of mind.

I am a capitalist. I believe in low, even zero, taxation for long term capital gains as a mechanism to encourage investment and capital formation. In my personal life I have made a deliberate decision to forgo current consumption to fund six figure investments in small and startup companies which I hope will generate seven figure returns. I want and should get favorable tax treatment for my returns.

But carried interest is the bastardization of capital gains taxation. In most of these deals the PE firms put little or none of their own money down. There is no capital invested, yet by the magic of definition you get capital gains tax treatment for what is really ordinary income. Good work if you can get it.

I'm with Ignoramus that Romney is a dead man walking on this issue. The Democrats will do in 2012 precisely what Kennedy did in his Senate race, and with the same results. Romney then will have to open his tax returns, which will be the end.

And TH, the Obama administration has proposed eliminating the favorable tax treatment of carried interest, probably disingenuously but the record still exists. Google it. Obama is going to mop the floor with Romney on this issue, probably in August or September.

-Anon Attorney  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Dec 29, 01:08:00 PM:

I suppose Anon Attorney I agree with all your comment, except that I am open minded as to the conclusion. The Dems had plenty of opportunity to repeal cap treatment for carried interest and didn't. More to the point, Romney did not violate any law -- he (presumably) filed honest tax returns -- so voters who would be inclined to vote against Obama are unlikely to care too much about it once they understand that point. Romney will be able to ask, "what extra income tax did you pay?" I do think, though, that it would be smart for him to come out with a proposal to eliminate it, perhaps in a more comprehensive tax proposal (so it looks less like a flip and more like a revision in a broader context).  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Thu Dec 29, 01:09:00 PM:

Apologies in advance for drifting off topic.

If the GOP gets 60 senate seats and captures the office of POTUS, why is repeal of 0bamacare impossible? All the polls I read show 60+% of voters opposing it. From my feeble minded point of view it would look like a politically smart thing to do.

OTOH, if 0bamacare stays, what damn difference does it make who is elected? The nation is screwed either way. We can't afford it. And if TH thinks 0bamacare will stay, due to its popularity with people with pre-existing conditions, what does he think will happen if Congress tries to rein in spending on SS and medicare?

The only options will be to print money and raise taxes until the music stops.

And if that is our future, I despair.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Dec 29, 01:26:00 PM:

"Carried interest" is only long-term capital gains because we choose to define it that way. It is really the fees charged by private equity funds on the gains made by the investment in the funds. Arguably, fees are ordinary income.
We define it that way because all partnership profits are taxed that way. There is no special definition of "income" applicable to a carried interest, though the tax changes proposed by the Democrats create that special definition.

The op-eds I'm reading strongly imply that it is carried interest per se that gave Romney the 15% rate, which is of course a lie.

Making a partner whose profits are disproportional to his capital pay a different tax rate on partnership profits than that paid by the other partners seems grossly distorted to me.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Dec 29, 01:35:00 PM:

Assigning long term capital gains tax rates to carried interest income is indefensible
The owner of a carried interest receives 20% of partnership profits. Those profits are eligible for long-term capital gains treatment, so the partner gets long-term gain treatment for that income, just like every other partner does. The amount of capital contributed doesn't change the nature of partnership income when in the hands of a partner. You might disagree with that, but that's light-years away from being indefensible.

As for "we know it's really some sort of fee income", the IRS has litigated and lost many, many times using the "we know what it really is" argument.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 29, 01:43:00 PM:

The disconnect on this thread is that many here think that Romney is a great guy who played by the rules, and has tremendous talent. That may all be true, but it's irrelevant to the Latter Day Robber Baron issue and how it would affect Romney's electability and drag down the entire ticket.

I'm made out to be an asshole here for calling out what polite Republicans won't. Sorry Anon 12:14, I should have said your statement was "demonstrably false". But it's a key point: Romney got borked over Bain before and lost badly for it, but you say "Bain" has never been an issue. WTF?

I didn't much care about politics until I started paying attention to the Obama campaign in the Spring of 2008. When I dug into Obama's backstory (including Axelrod) I was left aghast. In just one example, what Axelrod did to Jack Ryan in the 2006 Senate race was alarming. What Obama was simultaneously saying in public was chilling. That they got away without criticism was a revelation.

Jack Ryan was also a great guy who played by the rules, and had tremendous talent. Axelrod didn't have much to work with to target Ryan, but made what he had work. He's got lots more red meat to demagogue Romney. He'll take the Teddy playbook, and better it if he's given the chance.

"Carried interest" is just a lead trump card for Axelrod to play. In a populist year, Mitt is about as un-populist as you can get it. Obama -- the former Community Organizer -- can fake "populism" quite well. QED.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 02:25:00 PM:


Your posts are an example of circular reasoning. We define carried interest as capital gains because it it is taxed that way, and it is taxed that way because we define it that way. Nice.

Carried interest is a scam in which PE firms magically create capital gains without investing capital, and everyone knows it. I work regularly with private equity firms, and the partners in the firms joke privately about it.

Preferred tax treatment for capital gains on invested capital are justified as an enticement to forgo current consumption to fund capital development, and because the investor has already paid taxes on the income that generated the investment capital. As such, capital gains treatment for carried interest on partnership profits cannot be justified, other than by definition and circular reasoning of they type you have applied.

There is a reason that PE firms and Wall Street fight like hell to keep this issue out of the media.  

By Blogger Cas, at Thu Dec 29, 03:28:00 PM:

I believe it is a given that the Obama Chicago-style re-election campaign will kick into overdrive against ANY opponent, be they what some GOP primary voters consider a RINO, or an "electable" republican, or even a libertarian one such as Congressman Paul.
It doesn't matter who, it only matters that they are opposing the One and attempting to stop him from completing his progrgssive transformation of the US.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 03:32:00 PM:

"I'm made out to be an asshole here for calling out what polite Republicans won't. Sorry Anon 12:14, I should have said your statement was "demonstrably false". But it's a key point: Romney got borked over Bain before and lost badly for it, but you say "Bain" has never been an issue. WTF?"

First off, I don't think anyone called you an asshole: I certainly didn't.

Next, your comment that I claim Romney's job at Bain has "never been" an issue is wrong, or at least I never said that. Indeed, I specifically said it has been an issue at various times in the debates this year, and both Gingrich and Bachmann have run commercials on the subject. Romney seems to have turned those complaints aside with ease, and is gaining poll support even in Iowa (where he has spent less time than any other candidate). When asked in the most recent debate about layoffs at Bain Capital owned companies he made a great riposte in pointing out that Obama made even more dramatic cuts at Government Motors and Chrysler, and Bain, unlike Obama, also has job creating successes to point to.

You cite the Kennedy election in 1994 as proof the issue killed him. I wasn't there and only know what I read, but running against a Kennedy in Massachusetts has to be regarded as a long shot in the best of circumstances. Romney had the best result against TK that any candidate ever had, so it seems he did OK.

Look, I have no particular love for Romney and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of arguing his chances when I'd be perfectly happy seeing one of several other possible candidates running. My overriding interest is in beating Obama, and Romney seems to have a great shot at doing exactly that based on the polling facts at hand. If some other candidate (other than Ron Paul) gains traction and can also make a good challenger I'd be fine with that candidate too.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 29, 04:24:00 PM:

"So far,'Romney has done very well in any instance where some other candidate has gone after his Bain tenure, so I just don't see that line of attack as being effective."

That's what you wrote. It's "demonstrably false".

In 1994 Romney put on the first (and only) serious challenge that Teddy Kennedy ever faced. For a month polling consistently showed Romney with a narrow lead. But then Teddy went balls out in October with ads featuring workers laid off on account of Bain (but none in Massachusetts). Teddy also used Bain layoffs during televised debates. This was at a time when the economy was good. Teddy also forced Mitt to go public with a heart-felt defense of abortion rights. In a bad year for Democrats, Teddy ended up winning by 17%.

During one of the debates, the candidates were asked to discuss one of their own failings. Teddy admitted to be being "painfully aware" of times when he had let his supporters down. Romney said "I guess what I regret is that I'm not able to provide even more help for those less fortunate than myself.... I wish I could do even more."

If Romney gets to the general, nothing will have changed. Bain will still be an issue. Romney will be sure to step on his dick with howlers.


Axelrod will go after whoever the Republican is, true that. But no Republican is quite the pinata that Mitt is.

The best response is to go attack Obama. Mitt's weak on this, because of Romneycare and other flip-flops. Expect Obama to compare his lifetime of underpaid toil for the common man, to Mitt's lifetime of exploiting the common man. Sheeeet. It's too easy.  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Dec 29, 04:50:00 PM:

Expect Obama to compare his lifetime of underpaid toil for the common man

He could, but he'd be lying. Obama was living in a million dollar plus house in Chicago, and his wife had a $300k no-show job. Not exactly a life of underpaid toil.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Dec 29, 05:10:00 PM:

My comment obviously related to the present day candidates, and your obsessive insistence on expanding the definition of "candidate"to include Teddy Kennedy in an election from 17 years ago is silly., so please, enough with the "demonstrably false" canard. I've given you a response on the Kennedy issue in any event, though I obviously didn't make a dent in your previously held belief. I'm OK with that.

Romney will face an onslaught from Axelrod et al. And the President is an adept debater, so he might well gain some traction with the line of attack. So far, Republican challengers haven't. Of course, as many commenters have said, any Republican will face a negative campaign. I think Romney gives less to Obama in source material than any other major candidate, and certainly lots less than Newt, so that's to the good.

I'm not sure who you think will do better at this stage against Obama than Romney. If Huntsman is your choice, I'd support him over Romney as well but unfortunately he hasn't cooperated by making himself a legitimate challenger as of now. If he could win in NH that would obviously change things but he losing ground there over these last few days, not gaining. Newt, with a good shot at winning in Florida (a winner take all state) is in far better position, but my own opinion is that he will make for a far worse nominee. If there is demagoguery to be done by the Democrats, certainly even you can agree Newt gives lots more source material on that score to Axelrod than Romney.

Randian has pointed out that there are good answers to the "common man" BS. Romney himself came up with a great answer on the job cuts issue. There will be a snappy answer on the carried interest stuff. So far, regardless of my opinion of Romney (or yours), he's been the most successful of the primary candidates. If he wins the nomination, I support him.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Sat Dec 31, 12:00:00 PM:

Great post. I concur exactly. The one name you did not mention among those who chose not to run is Giuliani. He was my guy 4 years ago. But Romney will be as good a Republican president as Clinton was a Democrat president. He'll triangulate center-right emphasizing the current consensus to decrease the size of government and reform the tax code similar to the policies of Ronald Reagan, '81-'86. Great.  

By Anonymous SkepticalCynical, at Sun Jan 01, 11:57:00 AM:

A vote for Romney is, above all else, a vote for the status quo. If you believe that what the country needs is the guy Obama pretended to be - a calm, dispassionate manager who can assemble some credentialed experts and follow their consensus - then Romney's the man for the job. He will neither change Washington nor challenge the political class. He may show more competence than the current officeholder.

If you believe the country is on an unsustainable path (as your frequent posts on debt suggest), then it seems folly to select a guy who will set the throttle at 8 rather than 11, but keep steering straight for Niagra Falls.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 02, 08:25:00 AM:

You have to think Romney has already been well attacked, "vetted" as they keep saying, to think he has a chance o beat Obama. This author at the Weekly Standard argues that the candidates have been so busy attacking Gingrich that Romney has gotten a free pass. As proof, he simply says that Romney hasn't had a glove laid on him, and his faults are so obvious, his upper class "secretaries versus bosses" problem so glaring, that anyone with half a brain should realize that Obama is going to destroy Romney should he be nominated. Gingrich, on the other hand, is well vetted (says the author) and we already know the worst stuff about him, so, in fact, its Gingrich who is most "electable" and is best able to beat Obama.

That's his view, fwiw.  

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