Carol Platt Liebau: Romney Wins

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Romney Wins

I am a Romney and/or Giuliani partisan, but Frank Luntz's focus group on the Fox News Channel confirmed my sense that Romney won this debate. He was serious, pleasant, focused and seemed to display the leadership qualities that have been his rationale for running. The discussion of economics is a strength for him, as is the contrast between executive experience and legislative experience. He would do well to stress that, unlike almost anyone else on the stage, his executive experience is private, as well as public (it's impressive to remember that he's had to meet a payroll, etc.). But he did what he needed to do -- in fact, it would not surprise me if his performance tonight helps him come back over McCain. It's hard to underestimate just how much damage Romney could have done to his candidacy if he hadn't had a great night tonight, and he's a smart man, so he had to know it. His ability to perform well under great pressure is impressive (and contrasts tellingly with Hillary's inability to do the same last night).

As for Senator McCain, he did better tonight than last night, because clearly someone on his team warned him against coming off as thin-skinned, testy, grumpy and sanctimonious -- qualities that remind many in the Republican base why they have disliked him so much for so many years. But with the discussion about immigration and tax cuts, it strikes me that the topics of the debate did nothing to help him hold on to his lead in New Hampshire. He can't ever admit that he was wrong about anything -- from the disastrous McCain-Kennedy immigration bill he tried to impose on America last year to the Bush tax cuts he opposed. He was, however, smart to resist the open invitation from Chris Wallace to go after Mitt Romney for the negative ads Romney has run against him. Sometimes, experience does show.

In contrast, Mike Huckabee revealed that he's simply not ready for the big leagues. When he was invited to complain about the negative ads against him, he actually took time to discuss his own record of commuting murderers' prison sentences -- why would a candidate take the floor to discuss one of the biggest problems for his candidacy in a way that doesn't take the problem off the table? What's more, the complaining doesn't sit well with voters. If he can't take Mitt Romney's comparison ads, he sure isn't going to like what Clinton or Obama (and the press) do to him in the fall.

Huckabee also bobbled the first question about tax cuts, where Romney pressed him effectively -- and didn't hold up well under pressure from Fred Thompson about the habeas corpus rights that would be provided to Guantanamo detainees if they came to the United States. Doesn't he understand that no matter what the Supreme Court says, there's no reason to offer Al Qaeda members a prison cell on American soil, and with it the opportunity to recruit inside American prisons? What's more, he muffed the discussion when it came to world opinion -- who would actually say he doesn't care what the world thinks, especially when it's so patently untrue? I shudder -- shudder -- to think how completely Barack Obama would eviscerate him in a head-to-head debate.

As always, Giuliani turned in a solid performance. And Fred Thompson was solid, likable and once again came across as something of a referee of the debate, rather than a participant. I agree with lots of what Thompson says; what a shame he doesn't seem to have the fire in the belly that he needs to win at the top of the ticket.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was serious, pleasant, focused and seemed to display the leadership qualities that have been his rationale for running.

And according to one of the guys in Frank Luntz's focus group, Mitt Romney showed why he is more credible on pro-life issues than Mike Huckabee. At that point, you had to realize either the fix was in or the people in Luntz's focus group weren't exactly the brightest bulbs on the string politics-wise (or possibly both).

Don't get me wrong, Mitt did much better than last night. (Of course, I am not sure it is possible to do any worse than Mitt did last night.) It's just the whole post-debate analysis with Luntz was a joke.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...


Perhaps you could explain something for me. There's tons of talk by the pundits about what a victory in one primary (Iowa) means for a candidate in the next. That is, why is it being spoken of so often, that for Romney or Guili or Thompson or whoever not to be first or second, that it means doom at the next place? Don't the voters of the next place have minds of their own? Do you change your vote because your guy didn't perform well in Iowa? I can understand the Dems reacting in that manner, since they don't act on substance anyway. But for our side to be so affected seems, well, so liberal. I've heard Hewitt talk about the impact on the candidates of their showing in Iowa, as well as others on the radio. I just think it promotes more voter stupidity to suggest that it should matter in one state how a candidate places in another. Help me out here, please.

10:59 PM  
Blogger B said...

Oh Carol,

I also prefer Rudy or Mitt.

BUT - the Luntz factor again is not as reliable as you want to think.

Here's why: I actually know one of the couples in the room tonight with Luntz. And here's something you should know. The majority of people in the room entered the room "undecided" but ALSO mostly anti-Huckabee. They told me that tonight the discussion in the room before hand was definitely anti-Huckabee (including the husband in the couple I know). I can identify them if you like.

So, is it accurate to say someone is "undecided" when he or she is actually already set AGAINST a candidate?

You are the only site I will post this on, because frankly I am disgusted with the amount of conservatives who post on sites and so often take leave of their senses and grasp of reality when it comes to their choices on candidates.

I fear for the future of the Reagan coalition. I guarantee it will not be the same going forward, no matter who - from either party - is elected. And this is mostly because the "Republican establishment" is refusing to acknowledge the angst of middle-class Republicans - rising gas prices, the AMT, rapidly changing credit/loan rates, decreased non-credit purchasing power. It's far more powerful than many want to admit. Middle class conservatives don't want socialism, they want someone in the "establishment" like a Rush Limbaugh to be as mad about the AMT - which does not affect him personally - as he is about the "Death" tax (which does.) 2 Young Republicans at a nearby campus told me 2 weeks ago, "Rush is great", but he doesn't really relate to them as much as does Sean Hannity or Michael Medved (their choices exactly). In fact, Rush is not gaining in the under 44 crowd, is at 77% of his peak audience of 6 years ago, and will, in less than 2 years no longer be #1 in overall listeners. I don't say this with glee; I just have been watching the trends.

Mike Huckabee might not win the nomination. But Rudy or Mitt, whom I favor, are "old school", and "establishment". National Security, great. Social issues, that's the Supreme Court, mostly, and they're both great on that. But if they don't fix the AMT and Social Security, they will have a far bigger problem than "immigration" on their hands. The "establishment" is on it's way to the sidelines. It will take awhile, but it is going to change.

2:36 AM  
Blogger JohnnyT. said...

I wish Fred would step up to the plate, also. As for Barack taking Huckabee apart in a debate, Im not sure how he can do that with platitudes and slogans. Barack may have a formidable intellect and persona, but his lack of actual experience will have to be undeniably exposed on the big stage. I even expect Hillary to start hitting him a little harder on this. 2 years in the Senate is no qualification for President of the United States. His veneer will show through when more people start asking the tough questions.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I think the focus group is mere theater. Any thinking person would see the debate and decide for themselves how each candidate performed and which one was most convincing on each issue.

Having said that, Luntz's work in this area - and his analysis - is FAR superior to any similar work I've seen on CNN. The guy is good at his job.

One other note:

You can tell by the way the left apologizes for Huckabee and throws mud at Mitt and Rudy that they truly fear Mitt and Rudy. I think this reveals a lack of confidence in whomever wins their nomination.

As for me, I would gladly take Mitt, Rudy, or even McCain (ugh) over ANY of the contenders on the Democratic side. Go ahead. Pick one, any one. They will be defeated come November no matter which Democrat you pick. They simply are not serious about defending America and their party, as a whole, has been disasterously ineffective for years.

I can't wait for November!

11:32 AM  

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