A GOP victory is not absolutely out of the question, of course, but getting there would take a forward-looking agenda, unparalleled message discipline, a strict focus on the millions of independent voters, an innovative candidate and campaign and a lot of luck.
In other words, don’t bet on it.
A successful Republican candidate in Ohio will have learned how to articulate a culturally conservative message fused with government accountability and economic opportunity specifically tailored to voters in the industrial heartland [bold mine-DL]. Without the support of the anxious working class, Ohio will also turn deep blue. And so will the United States. ~Frank Luntz
It is in the realm of possibility that the GOP could put forward a candidate who could make this sort of pitch to Ohioans and other Midwesterners, but the likely spokesmen for such an appeal are either not running (Pawlenty) or are trailing badly in all polls (Huckabee, The Other Thompson, Hunter). Fred has been dusting off the old anti-Washington populist lines, but when it comes to policy he seems to offer nothing that could be called, whether as a compliment or criticism, innovative. Fred’s popularity is the result of a longing for the tried and true path of down-home elite-bashing that has served the GOP, whose leaders are about as elite as they get, so well, but he has never made a name for himself in pushing actual populist policies with respect to trade or economic policy. A former lobbyist and trial lawyer, Fred is also personally a terrible torch-bearer for the GOP in the Midwest.
Romney’s message stresses concepts of opportunity and innovation, but his economic views are those of the corporate executive and as master of the downsizing, streamlining “turnaround.” There is probably no worse candidate for the GOP in Ohio than Romney, who embodies everything about corporate America and Republican free trade policies that a lot of voters in Ohio (and elsewhere)currently despise. Nominating Romney (which Republicans are not going to do in any case) would be a signal of just how far out of touch the party had become. His nomination would probably be a prelude to epic political disaster.
Giuliani and McCain poll better in named match-ups with Democratic contenders than the other two “leading” candidates, but on trade and economic policy they have nothing to offer Ohio, Pennsylvania and other Midwestern states. Leave aside their foreign policy craziness for a moment, and remember (if you somehow had forgotten) that these two are the strongest pro-immigration advocates in the field. That will not, already does not, play well with Republican voters, and it likely will not play very well with the electorate in Ohio, either. Needless to say, the state that went for Bush in ’04 at least partly thanks to the gay “marriage” ban referendum is not going to be a good fit for Giuliani.
The Republicans need to be able to compete in Ohio and Midwestern states like Ohio, and they appear to be gearing up to nominate a candidate that will make them relatively more competitive in either the South (Fred), California (McCain), the Northeast (Giuliani) or nowhere in particular (Romney). They have apparently learned nothing from the close call in 2004 and the repudiation of 2006. Quite apart from tone-deafness on the war, many Republicans seem to be of the mind that if they say the words “low unemployment” and “recovery” often enough that it will persuade all those voters who feel real economic insecurity (even though they are employed) that all is well.
Bill Kristol’s latest exercise in optimism in place of analysis is the latest to mistake economic indicators for political reality. It might be worth noting that the recession had ended by the middle of 1992, but that didn’t mean much to those still feeling the effects of the recession. Likewise, we may have been enjoying a reasonably good multi-year recovery, but that raises the questions: good for whom and how widely distributed have the fruits of the recovery been?
Indeed, the endless chirping of certain pundits about ever-higher indexes in the stock market may have the opposite effect of the one intended by the boosters of the “Bush recovery.” Far from persuading those who are anxious about the state of the economy in their part of the country, it simply reinforces their sense that the interests of finance and corporations do not seem to coincide with their own. It persuades them that the last few years have been quite good for some, and rather less spectacular for everyone else, which makes them much more receptive to economic populist messages that purport to explain this gap and propose alleged remedies for it. The mentality that makes Kristol’s article possible is the same one that will send the GOP to an impressive defeat next year.