Saturday, August 27, 2011

This is Very Telling

Rick Perry has surged to the lead in the Republican race for the presidential nomination. Polls have not just moved; they have absolutely turned upside down in just two weeks. Romney always was a very weak frontrunner and to see him slipping is no great surprise. But still, the speed by which Perry has moved to the top is startling.

Obama's numbers, on the other hand, are in free fall. His campaign team must be about ready to panic. Recent polls in Pennsylvania and Florida and the success of the Republicans in Wisconson bode well for the Republicans in 2012. The decision of Russ Feingold not to run for Senate or Governor in 2012 is a sign of Democrats with common sense hunkering down and waiting out the Obama disaster.

David Brooks, who used to be a conservative but now is a progressive, is enamored with Obama and would like nothing better than to see him re-elected. Failing that, he would like to see the least conservative Republican possible nominated. Since Huntsman is going nowhere, that means Romney. So what is his advice to Romney on how to beat Perry? Notice both the advice itself and Brooks' assessment of the situation, as summarized by Jeff Poor of the Daily Caller:

In an appearance on Friday’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks explained that Romney will have to “do something aggressive” to remain formidable.

“He has only been in the race a couple of weeks but the polls moved to a degree that is almost unprecedented. He has catapulted and catapulted along all wings of the party. He is the guy they were waiting for — somebody who has a harder edge. Somebody who has very strong conservative credentials but who has been elected, run a major state, and I think Mitt Romney has to be thinking ‘I’m an outsider now. I’m behind and I have to do something aggressive to try to get back.’”

Brooks seems to think that Perry is not just a Tea Party conservative like Bachmann and that he is gaining support from throughout the party. This makes him dangerous. The last real conservative to do that was Reagan.

So how is Romney going to win?

And times have changed, Brooks says. Had this been the 2008 cycle, a candidate like Romney might stand a chance with an electorate that nominated a moderate like Sen. John McCain.

“But, if this was 2008 with the 2008 electorate, Romney would win because there are a fair number of moderates who voted — about 40 percent of the people in the Republican primary were moderates in 2008. But the 2012 electorate is not the same as 2008. It is much more conservative, it’s much angrier. Rick Perry sort of fits the mold. So I think he’s real. I think he has to be considered the frontrunner.”

However, later in the segment, Brooks explained it would take a different strategy for Romney to beat Perry at this point in the game.

“Yeah, I — we’ll see,” Brooks said. “It’s very tough to do. But I more or less agree with Mark [Shields],” he said. “I would give Perry a couple debates to implode. Give him a chance, couple weeks. There are three debates next month. If he doesn’t implode then then you have to go after him. But you can’t try to pretend you are as conservative as he is. If Mitt Romney does that — it’s disastrous. It’s artificial. It won’t work. You can’t really attack him for being conservative the way [Jon] Huntsman has tried to do because that is where the party is.”

What would that take? Brooks said it would take something scandalous involving Perry’s campaign funds — which Brooks said wasn’t necessarily a far-fetched possibility.

“That is where the party is, so you don’t want to offend them,” he continued. “Somehow you have to shift things. And I think the most fruitful lines of attack are to say, ‘This guy is Tom Delay,’ which is to say he uses campaign money in funny ways to – not for principled reasons but for political reasons, to feather his own nest and his buddies. And I do think he’s vulnerable on that. And the second thing is you have to remind people what are we fighting about here? We’re fight being America’s role in the world. It’s not Washington we have to fundamentally worry about. It’s competition there China and India and the new global economy. He’s got more credibility talking about how to create an innovation economy than Perry does. He has less credibility in fighting Washington.”

So the essence of the strategy to stop Perry is to ignore the issues and to ignore the will of the party and to try to make Perry seem corrupt.

This is very telling because it means that Brooks has analyzed the situation and concluded that Perry is the candidate the party really wants and one who can win in 2012. Since Brooks (like progressives in general) want something the Republican Party and voters in general don't want, the only way to get what they want is to frustrate the democratic process by creating a false impression about Perry's honesty thus eliminating him as a viable candidate.

This is a long way from an honest election in which the issues are on the table, the candidates take positions and the electorate chooses based on the issues. Brooks does not say that Perry is any different from any other politician. Goodness knows Obama has been handing out goodies to his base ever since he got elected. Unions and Wall Street never had it so good. But what Brooks is suggesting is that the cultural elites who supposedly know better than ordinary Americans what is best for them should essentially manipulate the election so as to cause the result they want against the will of the people.

As the 2012 campaign progresses, it would be good to keep in mind this unwitting confession from a moderate progressive of what is really going on. Amidst the fog of (electoral) war it is difficult to separate truth from fiction. Conservatives should be prepared for a lot of manipulation and not expect a fair fight. Something tells me that Rick Perry just might be the exact kind of candidate conservatives need at this point in history. At least, David Brooks is doing a good job of convincing me that that is, indeed, the case.

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