Fuel Gauge in Middle PositionIn an obvious effort to get conservatives to warm up to the idea of moderate Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee for president, talk show host Michael Medved does a little jujitsu move against election facts. As I have shown elsewhere, in every presidential election since 1972, GOP candidates do better when they are seen in greater contrast with the Democratic nominee. This was never more true than in 2008, and though Medved admits that John McCain was a moderate, he implies that the GOP would have won if they had nominatedsomeone even more moderate than McCain. This is pure poppycock. Medved confuses things by mixing apples and oranges, facts and fallacy.

Apple I: Some moderate Senate candidates did better in liberal states than McCain did.

Orange: It is irrelevant that moderate candidates did better than McCain in liberal states like Maine and Vermont. We are not a liberal country.

Apple II: Moderates won in conservative states in which McCain lost.

Orange: Lindsey Graham did win in conservative South Carolina, but not by that much (58 to 42%), considering that his opponent only spent $15,202 compared to the $6.5M spent by Graham, and of whom Graham said

“Almost no one knows my opponent,” Graham said. “The Democrats really didn’t field a — make a serious challenge — in terms of trying to find an opponent for me.”

Apple III: McCain’s problem was not among conservatives, who showed up in big numbers, but rather among moderates, who voted for Obama

Orange: While it is true that Obama won the moderate vote and conservatives showed up in droves, Medved assumes wrongly that self-attesting moderates are more likely to vote for the moderate candidate. This is to misunderstand who moderates are. They are a swing vote precisely because they don’t vote on principles. It is not that they are passionate about their moderate positions, it is that they aren’t impressed with party labels, and don’t consider themselves ideologues. Many of them are independents who are looking for a candidate with character.  When it comes to positions, they are really more conservative than liberal, but won’t waste their time voting on candidates who run to the right during the primaries and change their tune during the general election. You can’t blame them for being skeptical.

So it isn’t that moderate candidates don’t fire up the base, it is that they don’t attract the middle. Good candidates persuade voters to come to their positions, not stick their fingers to the wind. This is exactly what Medved wants the candidates to do: Find the voice of the people and run to it. That isn’t leadership, that is pandership. I like Michael Medved, he is a reasonable fellow, but his biggest fault in politics is his desperate attempt to win moderates to the GOP by convincing Republican politicians to be moderate or at least talk like a moderate. Sadly, he has accepted the notions of pollster Frank Luntz, a self-proclaimed expert on the language of politics. Luntz is the go-to-man for all the GOP pundits who want to politic like Bill Clinton governed by focus group, and Luntz relies on this approach almost exclusively.

Apple IV: GOP House members got less votes than McCain nationwide in 2008.

Orange: This one is totally irrelevant. First, it does not tell us how conservatives did compared to moderates while running in moderate areas. Second, it does not take into account the coattail effect. Had McCain run as a conservative and painted Obama as the liberal many others knew him to be, perhaps both would have had higher numbers.

Apple V: Medved wrote:

It’s true that Ronald Reagan’s inspiring, comprehensive conservatism brought two sweeping victories (in 1980 and ’84). But the same supremely gifted candidate lost two prior runs for the presidency (in 1968 and 1976) to two charismatically challenged, moderate rivals, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Orange: This is Medved’s biggest error and refutes his own point. Gerald Ford LOST in 1976 and the more conservative Reagan might have won against Carter (he creamed him in 1980, so history supports my premise).

Apple VI: Medved wrote:

It is much harder (if not impossible) to describe the sort of voter—Republican, Democrat or independent—who would refuse to support Mr. Romney (over Barack Obama!) but would somehow eagerly back Messrs. Perry, Cain or Gingrich, let alone Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul.

Orange: I have to admit this one baffles me. There are tons of Paul supporters who won’t back Romney over Obama. And there are no doubt many moderates who will stay home if they don’t see a difference between Obama and Romney, and why shouldn’t they? Give them a Santorum or Bachmann and they might just surprise you, Mr. Medved. Moderate are as fed up with the country as anybody – and they probably make up a significant portion of the Tea Party. And Romney doesn’t inspire them.

Shedlock is author of the soon to be released book, With Christ in the Voting Booth: Casting Out Political Demons Before Casting Your Vote (with a Foreword by Mike Huckabee). 

11 comments
  1. He wasn’t saying that we needed to nominate someone more moderate; he said we needed to nominate someone who could appeal to independents better than McCain did.  And he was right.  Barack Obama won by winning the Center, not by McCain losing the Right.  If conservatives want to win, then we need to win back the middle.  That’s not gonna happen if we nominate Gingrich, Bachmann, Santorum, or even Paul.  Romney’s got the best chance.  Moderates will have a better time telling the difference between Romney and Obama than, for example, you will.  They already give Romney higher marks in virtually every swing state in the country, where, like it or not, every presidential election is won or lost, with a few rare exceptions.

    1. He wasn’t saying that we needed to nominate someone more moderate; he said we needed to nominate someone who could appeal to independents better than McCain did.

      Even though Medved doesn’t say it explicitly, the tenor of the whole article implies that we need someone even more moderate than McCain to appeal to moderates.  

      Well, why did McCain lose?  Was it because he simply wasn’t moderate enough?  I don’t think so.  I think McCain lost because:

      1) The country was in a very anti-establishment mood.  They were fed up with Bush and the Republicans, so they wanted to oust the incumbent party.  I’m not sure any Republican, including Mike Huckabee, could have beaten Obama in 2008.  

      2) McCain’s appeal was just too, well, moderate.  😉  His whole campaign was tepid and half-baked.  He wasn’t that charismatic, he didn’t have great strategy or organization, and he made silly decisions like deciding on his VP candidate only a few days before the announcement.  And the logic I read about why he ended up picking Palin wasn’t real discriminating.  Of course, to be fair, I don’t think Palin really hurt McCain any–I don’t think he would’ve won no matter who he had picked.  

      So, McCain didn’t lose to Obama because he wasn’t moderate enough IMO.  He lost because our country wanted a change and because he just wasn’t a candidate folks could get that excited about.  In many ways, the election ended up being more about personality than actual issues.

      1. I don’t think Romney appeals to the center because he’s more moderate than the others; I think he does so because he’s more qualified than the others.  Setting aside his unparalleled resume, Romney has laid out more detailed policy proposals (both more detailed and more proposals) than any other candidate, including Gingrich and the incumbent.  Maybe he’s not as exciting as either one, but at the end of the day, he could win in exactly the same way that Reagan won:  by asking voters if they’re better off than they were four years ago.

      2. You make some good points.  However, I’m not sure Romney’s recent change in popularity with independents is quite that easy to explain.  Here’s what ABC News had to say just about a week ago:

        This [latest] poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that Romney’s favorability rating has advanced by 13 points among independents since mid-October; 45 percent now see him favorably, 30 percent unfavorably. That’s improved from a more negative 32-36 percent split on Romney among independents a month and a half ago. Romney’s gained ground among very conservative potential GOP voters as well.

        So, as recently as mid-October, independents weren’t exactly groovin’ to Romney, and more viewed him unfavorably than favorably (or the split was about even perhaps, considering the possible margin of error).  But now he’s doing better, and has gained ground with conservatives as well.  His qualifications haven’t changed, though, so something else must be going on.      

        Since defeating an incumbent usually boils down to a floundering economy, I agree that Romney, like Reagan, could win by asking voters if they’re better off now than they were four years ago.  The thing is, other candidates might be able to do so too.  

        Anyway, from what you wrote, it seems that, unlike Medved, neither of us believes Romney’s “moderation” is his Greyhound ticket to the Presidency.  🙂

    2. So you agree with me then, SMM?  Ronald Reagan won the moderate vote by being a solid conservative and articulating it will.

      1. Hell no.  Reagan took what he could get.  Remember Arlen Specter, the politician from Pennsylvania who used to be a Democrat and then became a Republican and then became a Democrat again?  Reagan was the one who recruited him to become a Republican.  He didn’t care that Specter lacked conviction to such a degree that he defected twice over the course of his political career; all he cared about was getting another supporter, another surrogate, another voter.

        That’s how Reagan built his coalition; all those Reagan Democrats who, when Reagan was no longer around, went right back to voting for Democrats.  They weren’t swayed by conservatism; they were swayed by how well he worked with Tip O’Neill, and by how poorly Jimmy Carter handled the economy.

        Reagan wasn’t a purist; he was the Great Compromiser.  And it’s time you faced that fact.  He “flip-flopped” on abortion, energy, education, and everything else people accuse Romney of flipping on.  Their shared strength was the economy.  The big differences between them was that Reagan was an actor and better able to project the “common touch”; also, Reagan didn’t have to deal with the Tea Party.  Other than that, there’s not much difference between Romney and Reagan, except which coast they inhabited.

      2. Where is the book Romney wrote about abortion? (Reagan wrote one) Oh I forgot, Romney never was pro-choice, so he didn’t really flip-flop or change for that matter.

      3. There are books, though; by Romney and others.  Read “No Apology”.  Some try to make hay out of one line that was modified for the paperback edition, but the larger context reveals that the passage is consistent.  Also, read Hugh Hewitt’s 2007 book “A Mormon in the White House?”  He does address Romney’s conversion on abortion.

        If you’re looking for Romney to do everything the same way that Reagan did, then you’re a fool.  Romney’s his own person.  He’s been in the same church his whole life, been married to his high school sweetheart for over forty years, and after working at the same company for twenty-five years, not one of his partners, bosses, associates, or employees has ever accused him of doing anything unethical.  Does that sound like someone who will “do or say anything” to get ahead?  No.  His “flip-flops” have been exaggerated all to Hell.  He thought he could be personally pro-life and professionally pro-choice, until he became a governor and actually had to choose.  That was the mistake he made when campaigning, both for the Senate and the governorship.  But he governed pro-life; and he’ll be a pro-life president.

  2. The circus…..goes on and on and on. And the guy who is twice divorced and had an extra-marital affair with his current wife hopes to gain the most from this. AMAZING!! More than ever, as I look at the sorry set of Republican “rivals” on the other side, I am THANKFUL to have Barack Obama as  President, and as a viable candidate for re-election. Mr. Obama: your heart, your values, and your basic decency are all in the right place. BUT…your hands are tied. Unfortunately they were tied by us, the electorate…..when we failed to provide you with a Congress that you can work with. Instead, you are saddled with a don’t-tax-the-1%-do-nothing Congress that battles you at every turn, while the people suffer. God, they don’t EVEN let you pass your own appointments. It’s not Tea-publican gridlock -it’s Tea-publican sabotage. Heck, it’s Tea-publican treason….while the 99% BLEEDS. And then they try to pin the blame on Mr. Obama. These people have no shame…or else its been purchased by those who can afford to do so. In her last years, Grandma gets her meager Social Security check, and they DARE to call it “socialism”. Give me a break! (and Grandma too!) Thankfully, with Occupy Wall Street, America has found its voice: a voice that reminds us that people -ordinary down-to-earth working people- really DO matter. Not “corporations are people -people” , but REAL people! Tea-publicans want even MORE 1%-tax-break-corporate-loopholes….while these “job-creators”  send our jobs overseas, and wish that we’d go away too…. as they buy every politician in sight. And if these politicians don’t have ENOUGH mistresses, I can hook them up with a few gorgeous -and rich!- oil companies. It would be a perfect blind date, except for the fact that they’re ALREADY in bed with them  :-).   But instead of talking about LESS government, and LESS taxes on the 1%, and MORE corporate welfare, and MORE painful cuts to those who can LEAST afford it….Occupy is a voice that demands a government that WORKS, a government that works FOR ALL OF US, not just for a favored few….not just for the rich. It’s a voice that comes up from the grassroots, and lifts us up in turn: because it insists that this land IS our land…and that we WANT IT BACK!  It’s a voice that will help us re-elect the President AND give him a more progressive people-oriented Congress to work with. Mr. Obama: I wish you well…. because you STILL give us hope! 

  3. Romney loses every election he has been is exexpt 1.  He is a sure loser.  Nominate Romney if you want 4 more years of Obama.

  4. If Medved doesn’t realize it yet, he will soon enough–he’s got a food fight on his hands!

    According to data from the National Restaurant Association, 72% of the time the person who gets the first shot in ends up winning the battle.  So, the smart money is on having an apple in your shirt pocket ready to fire as soon as you enter Medved’s office.  Also, keep in mind that less common fruit, such as quince and pomegranates (which are currently in season), make wonderful projectiles as well!

    Medved appears to be one of those guys who are right about half the time–the rest of the time, it seems best to ignore him.  Oh well, at least his batting average seems to be a bit better than, say,  Ann Coulter’s.  😉

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