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Speak Mitt Romney

The Republicans are having a seminar-room style debate in New Hampshire, and they've just concluded a good 10-20 minutes on health care reform. The only one who seemed to know anything about healthcare policy other than "socialism bad" was Mitt … Read More

By / January 5, 2008

The Republicans are having a seminar-room style debate in New Hampshire, and they've just concluded a good 10-20 minutes on health care reform. The only one who seemed to know anything about healthcare policy other than "socialism bad" was Mitt Romney, who — for possibly the first time in a major public event since the beginning of the campaign — gave a detailed defense of the health care plan he enacted in Massachusetts, a kind of public-private hybrid that's supposed to provide universal coverage. That sounds interesting — I'd like to hear a lot more about it.

At last, we got to see a bit of the competent, managerial, innovative liberal Republican platform I had hoped Romney would have run on from the beginning. To be sure, Romney's exposition of his health care policy probably didn't score very well with Republican primary voters, but it's not as if pretending to have had a Damascene conversion on every position he held prior to 2006 is working all that well for him either.

UPDATE: Bill Richardson (slight paraphrase): "When I was Energy Secretary, I worked on securing fissionable material with the Soviet Union…One of the first things I would do as president is sign a non-proliferation treaty with the Soviet Union." What the hell? At least when Fred Thompson goofs like this, he has senility as an excuse. Somebody give Richardson the hook.

UPDATE: As Josh Marshall notes, there was one moment of emotional pique in the Democratic debate, all three main contenders seemed to spar pretty well, it's not clear who got the best of it, and from there the debate drifted into a dying fall. For what it's worth, Obama has now jumped ahead of Clinton at Intrade:

Clinton: 42.5/42.6 (-8.6)

Obama: 53.1/54.0 (+8.3)

N.B. to David N. Friedman: There used to be a lot of liberal Republicans, like, for example, George Romney. Go here and search "Conservative vs. Progressive Republicanism" to see a clip of Jacob Javits and William F. Buckley discussing what a liberal Republican is — and Javits explain why he likes the term "liberal." A liberal Republican isn't the same thing as a liberal simpliciter. That tradition is basically moribund today, but Romney Jr. governed Massachusetts as a liberal Republican, and the staggering phoniness and clumsiness with which he presents himself as a National Review cover boy today underlines the implausibility of his having had a genuine conversion coincide neatly with the beginning of his national ambitions. The fact that, for one moment tonight, Romney finally expressed himself fluidly and naturally belies the idea that his only mode of expression is a phony and clumsy one. Which is to say that the Romney campaign, to date, has been a months-long, shameless eruption of bullshit.

UPDATE: More Intrade movement, this time on the Republican side:

McCain: 33.1/33.9 (+0.5)

Giuliani: 31.2/32.0 (+4.5)

Huckabee: 14.5/15.7 (+0.1)

Romney: 10.2/12.0 (-4.1)

 

Two observations here: First, Romney is bleeding confidence like a punctured artery. That big bid/ask spread suggests traders with stock in Romney are doing their damnedest to preserve a little value before they sell, but nobody's buying. Romney's on his way to becoming a penny stock. Second, Giuliani is bouncing back, and is basically even with McCain. Currently, however, the media have written off Giuliani (myself included) in much the same way they wrote off McCain a few years months ago [odd slip --- it was very late when I wrote this --- DK].

How to explain the Giuliani mini-rally? It might just be an epiphenomenon of the Romney collapse, but here's one potential story of a Giuliani comeback: The Republican debate tonight was a pretty ugly pile-on of Romney — McCain was frankly immature, cackling like Victor Von Doom as David Weigel put it — and if Romney is going down, he's got the money and organization to stay in a long time and do his best to take down his opponents if he wants to, and I think he does.

If Romney stays in through South Carolina and Michigan, that splits the non-dogpatch vote going into Super Duper Tuesday. If John McCain crushes Romney and gets the GOP establishment behind him, there won't be any oxygen left for Giuliani. On the other hand, if Romney stays in and can fight at least to an indecisive result in New Hampshire and Michigan — that is, if there isn't a clear anti-Huckabee before Feb. 5 — Giuliani may still be viable. It's a long shot, but the logic dooming every single Republican candidate also means it's premature to count any of them out.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting the prediction markets are anything but a measure of conventional wisdom on how things will play out. On Thursday, a trader with some money to invest could have made a very safe and very profitable bet arbitraging the discrepancy between Obama's winning-Iowa price and his winning -the-nomination price (well, it's not a true arbitrage, but you get the idea).

 

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