Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Can Romney Buy?

This week's poll summaries on show a striking state of affairs in the Republican primaries: whereas nationally Mitt Romney is an anemic-looking fourth (behind John McCain), he's solidly ahead in Iowa, and in the number one spot, ahead of Giuliani by a couple of points, in New Hampshire. After that, he barely manages to rise to the top three in any other primary state. In fact the only state where he manages to place second in the polls is in Michigan, where his father was governor and a favorite son candidate for president in 1968. So the question is, what happens when a nationally unpopular candidate wins in Iowa and New Hampshire? The strategy is to convince enough voters to jump on the bandwagon that Romney goes from zero to hero both nationally and in important primary states like California, Florida, and South Carolina. This week's polls suggest that this time around that strategy is not a sure thing. But say the strategy works. Will that be a good thing for Republicans? There are problems on two levels: for the Party, the rank and file will have been sold a candidate who wouldn't have been their first choice without the artificiality of the "bounce" out of Iowa and New Hampshire; more reason to adopt a rotating first-primary schedule, in the name of small "d" democracy. This is acute in this situation because a larger than usual percentage of the candidate's money comes from his own fortune. We should all be wary of the plutocratization of politics, already too far along for the country's good. But second, what happens in the general election when the Party nominates someone who wasn't even popular with the faithful in the first place?

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