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On The Other Side Of The Lake

This is not directly relevant to Michael’s post [1] (which you should go read anyway), but it does have to do with Mitt Romney.  Daniel Gross has an interesting article [2] on why Romney may not do all that well in Michigan, reminding us that people who voted for his father must be at least in their early sixties.  This puts Romney in something of a double bind: the people who fondly remember George Romney make up a small part of the electorate, and Mitt Romney today represents the repudiation of much of what his father represented in his moderate-to-liberal business Republicanism and his later turn against Vietnam.  In a state ravaged by outsourcing, plant closures and layoffs (and, yes, a heavily taxed and regulated business climate), Romney comes actually boasting of his experience as a corporate “turnaround” man and friend of globalisation.  It’s even worse than it might at first seem:

But these days, private equity is a dirty word for many Michigan voters—even the Republican members of the managerial class. Private equity doesn’t signify profits and fortunes. It signifies Cerberus, the new owner of Chrysler, which is presiding over huge job cuts.

Gross points to the natural aversion the state’s Arab-American population will have to Mitt “It’s About Shia and Sunni” Romney.  Not only did Romney blow off the AAI conference last year, which may be relevant to some of these voters, but the man who wants to “double Guantanamo” is hardly going to win the sympathies of voters who believe the government is already too intrusive and abusive in its anti-terrorist activities.  That may provide an opening for Huckabee, though he has lamentably also gone in for talking idiotically about “Islamofascism,” and most of the Christian Arab-Americans in the state belong to churches (Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) that Huckabee backers are specifically not targeting for GOTV efforts [3]

Maybe there will be a big, unexpected surge of Arab-American votes from both parties to support Ron Paul, considering that the Democratic primary is essentially meaningless and will make it possible for antiwar and civil libertarian voters from the other party to influence the outcome?  Polling doesn’t support any realistic hopes for a Paul resurgence, but he did best in New Hampshire among secular and rural voters, and he did well among those for whom the economy was the top issue, so if he can make himself known to those voters he could do better than the current 5% he has in polls.  If Ron Paul did exceed expectations in Michigan, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising.    

P.S.  I neglected to make this point explicitly, but the really damaging thing about Romney’s disconnect with Michigan voters is that pundits and journalists expect him to do well in his “home state” and have already discounted the value of any victory accordingly, and meanwhile he is reinforcing the must-win narrative every time he says “Michigan is personal for me.”  He has set himself up as the favourite in a state where he could very easily finish third; had Giuliani not effectively abandoned Michigan for lack of funds, it could have been worse than that.  There is a difference between projecting confidence and setting unreachable goals–I wonder if Romney knows what that difference is.