One of the most common insider assumption in American politics right now is that the Republican Party, having richly indulged the tantrums of its radicalized conservative base going into the midterm elections, will revert to its grown-up habits in 2012 and nominate for president someone like that boring but respectable grown-up, Mitt Romney. Never mind that Romney’s long and unrepudiated championship of a health insurance purchasing mandate is going to be a major problem for him next year as congressional Republicans treat the ObamaCare mandate as a devilish product of the slavedrivers of collectivism; the Mittster has earned the right to the nomination by running a decent race in 2008, we are told, and GOPers will not be stupid enough to choose a Palin or a Huckabee or a DeMint.
Maybe that’s how it will all come down, but as John Ellis noted, Team Mitt is not making things any easier for him, as illustrated last week when one of his advisors deliberately dissed the Iowa Caucuses, where Romney’s 2008 campaign came to grief:
After the 2008 debacle, one might have assumed that Romney would clean house and get himself a new team. No dice. Roughly the same team is still in place. And they’re busy making new stupid mistakes which make Romney’s nomination as the GOP standard-bearer in 2012 less likely.
Consider the state of Iowa, home to the nation’s first presidential preference vote (a straw poll attached to precinct caucuses). Iowa has played host to the GOP’s first serious presidential straw poll for as long as anyone can remember. And it will again in 2012.
Not so fast, says Mr. Romney’s legal advisor Ben Ginsburg, who may be the only person in the world who thinks Iowa will not lead off the 2012 presidential campaign voting. Specifically, Mr. Ginsburg is quoted as saying: “Whether Iowa goes first in 2012 is up for grabs in unprecedented fashion….”
This is no small matter. Political activists in Iowa, as in New Hampshire, are acutely defensive about their “first in the nation” status, and do not tolerate even a hint of a challenge to that status from presidential candidates. Indeed, their willingness to puniish candidates for doing so is the real source of their power to maintain the status quo.
So the Romney campaign’s apostasy is not going to go unnoticed:
Iowans will translate Ginsburg’s musings as follows: “Romney really doesn’t like us very much, doesn’t want to campaign here, thinks Iowans are too difficult and prickly, so he’s going to do everything he can to lessen our influence on the nomination process.” ….
[D]issing the first-in-the-nation caucus state is an astonishingly stupid tactical error. That’s what the Romney campaign just did.