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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Strategic Fumbles in 2008

I’m not a big fan of Michael Barone after his long drift into predictable conservative punditry, but the man does still know a lot about politics. And in a column earlier this week, he conducts an interesting analysis of the strategic deficits that afflicted the entire Republican presidential field in 2008.
He concludes that all of them, including the ultimate nominee, John McCain, had flawed strategies that either defeated them or (in McCain’s case) nearly did. And he suggests that none of the currently-named Republican candidates for 2012 looks to be in any better a position.
I won’t go through the whole analysis, but Barone seems to think that Mitt Romney made the most avoidable mistakes: flip-flopping conspicuously on cultural issues to make himself the Iowa front-runner, at the expense of his image of “authenticity” and the resources he might have devoted to croaking McCain in New Hampshire and beyond.
But in mocking McCain’s “next-in-line” strategy, Barone also implicitly mocks the widespread belief that Republican nominations sort of just happen, as “disciplined” conservative voters wait to be told who has earned the nod via long and loyal service to the party. I’ve examined that myth at some length over at fivethirtyeight.com, and found it less than persuasive.
So while we are a long way from 2012, it does matter how Republican candidates prepare themselves for the contest. And right now, there’s no one with anything like a big strategic advantage.

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