Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Philosopher in Winter

The philosopher in all eras must be prepared for disgrace and exile:
In spite of his exile, he had a wide circle of friends and admirers to whom he wrote unbuttoned letters. In the most famous of these, to Francesco Vettori, we glimpse his addiction to hobnobbing with simple people over cards and drinks at the tavern. When in the late afternoon he is through with that recreation, he goes home, dresses in handsome garments, and converses with the ancients, "asking" them about their lives and actions. During these four studious hours he is never bored, he forgets his poverty and disgrace, and does not fear death."

Who was this philosopher who knew how to live in winter? Answer at end of next post.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lion's Den

The commentators expecting Mitch Daniels to make a strong outsider run for the 2012 GOP nomination as a fiscal conservative underestimate the impact of Daniels' intentional snubbing of social conservatives via a "truce" on social issues. The idea is ill thought out in every respect. It took a couple weeks before Daniels clarified that the truce was with liberals -- who are not interested in any such thing. No explanation has been given why a legislature cannot act on economic and social issues both. Most importantly, socons know that people who think that way would always find a reason why urgent concerns of some other kind demand a "temporary" putting aside of social issues. If the economy was hot, the suddenly urgent issues might be inflation and infrastructure.
Socons cannot elect a nominee, but they can defeat one. By taking them on, Daniels has put a target on his back -- metaphorically speaking only, of course.
Now Jennifer Rubin has identified two other significant groups of Republican conservatives that Daniels is alienating. "National security hawks are concerned that he is sounding more Robert Taft (Midwest isolationist) than Ronald Reagan internationalist." Worse than that, although the whole rationale for his candidacy is his economic expertise, Daniels is not a tax cutter, as are the great majority of GOP fiscal conservatives. Says the Cato Institute:
"He's kind of a more of a 'trains run on time' kind of guy, like a balanced budget kind of guy. He wants the government to be efficient but he doesn't necessarily want it to be smaller. Other than his property tax cut, he hasn't cut state level taxes at all. He hasn't really even proposed to cut them. Indiana has an above-average business tax."

What's going on here? Is Daniels setting himself up to run a brave-speaker-of-truth maverick campaign, Daniels as the prophet challenging the established wisdom of his party and warning of the danger to come? This kind of campaign wins disproportionately large coverage and editorial raves from the New York Times and Washington Post but doesn't win nominations even in the Democratic Party (Paul Tsongas; Gary Hart) where their seal of approval is valued. Or by snubbing social conservatives does Daniels hope to become the Establishment candidate, taking over as frontrunner if Romney implodes? But while the GOP Establishment might silently cheer as Daniels disses social conservatives, they will not make him their candidate, because they do not support candidates who intentionally divide the party.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Morning Line: 2012 GOP Nomination Odds

NEW: 2012 GOP Nomination Morning Line January 2011:

Romney 5/2
Pawlenty 7/1
Huckabee 7/1
Daniels 9/1
Palin 11/1
Gingrich 11/1
Thune 15/1
Jeb Bush 15/1
Barbour 20/1
Field 15/1


There are two parallel GOP primaries. The social conservative primary is between Huckabee and Palin plus outsiders such as Pence and Bachmann. The winner of that primary goes up against the Establishment Republican primary, between frontrunner Romney and everyone else. The winner of the Establishment Republican primary should win the nomination. The best chance for the winner of the Socon primary is winning Iowa and running respectably in NH while Romney collapses, and then winning in South Carolina and Florida, taking a commanding lead before the establishment wing of the party can compose itself and unite behind someone else.

The candidates with the best cross-appeal to both factions are Gingrich and Barbour.
Barbour was going to be my long-choice for the nomination. The very day I was going to write about that, he shot himself in the foot in the Weekly Standard interview.They would have a great opportunity should Huckabee and Palin both decide not to run.

Despite my making Mitt the favourite, I would definitely not place my bet on him. 43 years ago his father was the favourite for the 1968 nomination, before collapsing in the winter of 1968 after admitting to/complaining about being "brainwashed" by the generals about Vietnam. Romney doesn't excite many people, has the burden of explaining the difference between his Massachusetts health care plan and Obamacare, and is still mistrusted by people who are suspicious of a Republican who tried to beat Ted Kennedy by running to his left.

Compare my odds with the results of the recent Republican Insider poll, converted into odds:

Romney 4/1
Daniels 7/1
Pawlenty 8/1
Thune 9/1
Palin 10/1
Huckabee 13/1
Barbour 13/1

I think that the Insiders underrate the degree to which Daniels has pinned a target on his back by his call for a truce on social issues. Socons will now exert themselves for his defeat. The Insiders, obviously appreciative of the difficulty that any Socon will have, still underrate Huckabee's high favourability with the race. Thune is apparently a highly thought-of establishment dark horse; Gingrich didn't even make the top 7.

Jeb Plants His Flag

Laura Ingraham notes Jeb Bush's incessant repetition of the term "center-right" in his plea for a long-term outreach strategy to Hispanics, most obviously, but maybe also to anybody else who doesn't seem inclined to vote Republican. Laura asks "Query: Have the Bushes decided to start moving away from the word "conservative"? I think we can answer that one with the a clear "Yes". The dad never liked being associated with conservatives except at primary time, and brother George had to paste the "compassionate" disclaimer on before he would use it. Jeb is clearly going to differentiate himself from the Palins and Huckabees and anybody else who doesn't have who don't have a clear business agenda.
No surprise that Jeb is going to do a lot of pandering to Hispanics. Absent from his pitch is both the word and the concept of "immigration", showing that Jeb isn't going to doom any future candidacy immediately by showcasing his softness on the subject. Notice the vacuity of the Jeb agenda:
A center-right agenda means keeping taxes low and easing the regulatory burden on small businesses to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and job growth. A center-right agenda means instituting real education reforms that reward outstanding teachers and empower parents with choices if their children are trapped in a failing school. In short, a center-right agenda provides opportunity for those willing to work hard."
Yawn. Looks like a "center-right agenda" is marketable as an insomnia cure. Observe the complete absence of any social conservatism in the agenda, along with the commitment of redoubled efforts at the kind of incoherent and off-the-point education reforms also dumped unto the national agenda by little brother. If he keeps this up Jeb is going to have to switch quickly to a long-term outreach strategy to conservatives.