The Other McCain

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‘Key Social Conservatives’ in Iowa Plan Last-Ditch Effort to Discredit, Marginalize and Completely Embarrass Themselves

Posted on | November 23, 2011 | 50 Comments

I’ll explain why my headline describes the most likely result, after first giving you highlights of the CNN story:

Key social conservatives secretly
meet to stop Romney in Iowa

Representatives for leading social conservative groups in Iowa held a secret meeting Monday as part of an effort with one main goal: find and support a Republican presidential candidate who can stop Mitt Romney in Iowa. . . .
Multiple sources have described to CNN details of the meeting and the general effort.
The meeting, the group’s first, took place in a private office building in Des Moines on Monday. In attendance were representatives from the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, The Family Leader, the group Iowa Right to Life, and a representative for the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America. Some pastors from prominent Iowa churches also attended the meeting. . . .
Sources say there were about 20 to 25 people present at the meeting and that another meeting is planned for Monday of next week.
The effort is said to still be in the discussion phase. Participants were said to have narrowed their focus down to four candidates: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

This is a disaster in the making for social conservatives because (a) it’s likely to fail, and (b) it’s going to breed deep resentments within the “Stop Romney” coalition. The attempt by a secretive cabal of self-appointed leaders to anoint one of the Not Romneys will almost certainly produce a backlash that will end up hurting whichever candidate they end up endorsing, and the appearance of a conspiracy against Romney will create sympathy toward him, causing some Republican caucus voters to rally behind Romney, just to defy the will of these would-be kingmakers.

The “leaders” have reportedly narrowed their list to four names — Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Santorum — and if they back anyone else on that list except Rick Santorum, they’ll be accused of either (a) pragmatism, desiring to back a “winner,” or (b) anti-Catholic bigotry, or possibly (c) both. 

While I suppose some will focus on the absence of Cain from the socon cabal’s “final four,” I’ll let that slide for now, because there can be no doubt that if social conservatives in Iowa mean to recognize any candidate as sharing their values and having campaigned tirelessly in Iowa, it’s Rick Santorum.

If the leaders reject Santorum, there will be hell to pay, and that will be especially so if the socon cabal backs Newt Gingrich. For them to reject a faithful cradle Catholic like Santorum in favor of the thrice-married not-exactly-lobbyist-for-Freddie-Mac and oh-by-the-way-now-I’m-Catholic-too like Gingrich . . .

Oh, you’d just never hear the end of it. And I bet you dollars to donuts that, if the socon cabal backs any one candidate, they’ll back Newt. The reasoning: Perry had his chance and blew it, and some would say the same about Bachmann, plus she’s a woman and there’s a built-in fundamentalist bias against women in the executive position. As a legislator, OK, but as Head Honcho? Uh . . . kind of maybe a problem for some few hard-core types, so that’s going to work against her within the socon cabal, and let’s not pretend otherwise.

Yet of the four candidates on the short list, only Bachmann and Santorum have worked Iowa with the kind of early-and-often effort that is supposed to be crucial there. However, Perry’s the Not Romney candidate who’s got the most money and Gingrich is the Not Romney riding high in the polls at the moment. Therefore, one suspects that the internal dynamics of the socon cabal involve trying to talk the stubborn supporters of Bachmann and Santorum to support either Perry or Gingrich — especially the latter — in the name of political pragmatism.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

It’s possible to war-game six or seven bad consequences of this operation, whereas there could be only one good outcome — i.e., backing a candidate who beats Romney in Iowa then goes on to win the nomination. Having scratched Cain from their list, for whatever reason, the “key social conservatives” might plausibly be able to defend an endorsement for Perry, even if he doesn’t win Iowa, but they’ll be in hot water if they pick Gingrich, because the Bachmann/Santorum people would go ballistic. And I still say the Newt Bubble won’t last.

So their two smartest moves would be for them to either (a) just forget the whole thing, rather than risking a divisive backfire, or (b) play the long odds and bet the whole stack on Santorum.

Honestly, I bet they’ll do something stupid instead. The fact they’re having “secret” meeting (that don’t stay secret) is a solid indication this might be a good time to start buying Romney shares on InTrade.


50 Responses to “‘Key Social Conservatives’ in Iowa Plan Last-Ditch Effort to Discredit, Marginalize and Completely Embarrass Themselves”

  1. Josh Painter
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    “Oh-by-the-way-now-I’m-Catholic-too” – That was just stupid,  ignorant and nasty.  In Luke 15, Jesus said that will be more joy in heaven over the lost soul who repents than 99 of the faithful. Your ride on the Cain train seems to have had a profound effect on you, and none for the better.

  2. Charles
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    If they are renaming the movement Anybody but Romney or Cain, being accused of anti-Catholic bigotry is the least of their worries.

  3. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

    These groups are never as influential as they would like to believe. People (yes, even union workers) don’t like being told who to vote for in any election.  Beyond that even if they were “successful” and manipulate the Iowa caucuses to go for Santorum in the end they’ll end up helping Romney. If all of Iowa’s delegates go to a candidate with no chance like Paul, Santorum, or Huntsman it won’t bother Romney at all. If those delegates go to Perry, or Gingrich that would concern Romney.

  4. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    Social conservatives are, in their own way, a lot like libertarians: They don’t march in lock-step on the command of self-styled leaders, at least not in the GOP primaries (in the general election, that characteristic is less pronounced, but still present in the form of depressed turnout for candidates they don’t like, and some minor “leakage” to third parties). They stick to their principles as best they can, for as long as they can.

    In practice, that means they lose if the “pragmatic/electable” faction can get anything like consensus on a candidate and start the “inevitability” ball rolling.

    Some Protestant social conservatives aren’t going to vote for the Catholic from Pennsylvania or the Catholic from Georgia.

    Some Catholic social conservatives aren’t going to vote for the Minnesotan former Wisconsin Evangelical Synod Lutheran (that denomination claims that the Pope is the Antichrist) who moved to a generic evangelical church right before declaring for president.

    Some of them are going to parse abortion positions and reject certain candidates as insufficiently genuine or firm in their pro-life beliefs.

    And so on, and so forth.

  5. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    Wait….isn’t the Family Leader the group that was upset that Cain wouldn’t sign their pledge because it said, in effect, “black people were better off during slavery because we made up a stat that shows out of wedlock births were lower then….”

    Doom can only come from this endeavor.

  6. Bob Belvedere
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 1:59 pm


  7. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    If they’d actually said that you might have a point.

  8. Dai Alanye
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    Perry has a chance? A chance to further embarrass himself, perhaps.

  9. James Goswick
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

    I think the author is off on this one. Santorum is going to win Iowa, and probably the election. He is the only true social conservative. Christians should do everything they can to stop Romney. It is an indisputable fact Romney is in a cult [mormonism], and a liberal. He is an ecumenist just like glenn beck.

  10. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    It didn’t say that exactly (because that would be “racist”) but that was the implication….no other way to take it….

    Doom! I say!

  11. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    Larry Santorum…yea…he has a chance /sarc

    Of course, Santorum is the natural choice for this group, but it does seem like RSM indicated; an attempt to extract Santorum and Bachmann supporters rather than an honest vetting.

  12. Nicholas Rizzuto
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    If they didn’t actually say it, why’d you put quotes around it?

  13. richard mcenroe
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

    I call for the secret committee to endorse Newt Gingrich.  Particularly the Concerned Women for America; they were quick enough to stick their blue noses into Herman Cain’s business, give equal time to the honkey.

  14. JeffS
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    Could you expand on your incoherency, Josh?  Thanks.

  15. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    I propose using some of the new Zombie Reanimation Nanotech to bring
    Barry Goldwater back from his eternal sleep and save America.

  16. richard mcenroe
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Pfft!  That RINO… *g*

  17. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Dai,  Every one of the candidates have embarrassed themselves at some point. Huntsman and Gingrich fell for the global warming hoax, Romney admitted he’ll say anything to get elected, Cain has had his issues between the Right of Return confusion to using 9-9-9 as an answer to every question, Bachman over played the vaccine nonsense in attacking Perry, Santorum has whined about lack of questions at every debate (might be valid complaint, but still made him seem weak), Paul has basically been Paul. So all in all none are free from the stain of an embarrassing moment. No votes have been cast and all gaffes can still be overcome.

  18. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:21 pm


         I’d like to know what you base your opinion on that Santorum can/will win the election? He probably agrees with my point of view on more issues than the others, but I don’t see him having any chance at all. He seems petulant & whiny during the debates. People can give in and elect someone they disagree with on an issue or two. It is much less likely than people will vote for a guy they just don’t like. Likability is summed up by the question of would it irritate you to have this guy’s face/voice on your living room TV for the next four years?

  19. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    They said that…they just left off the words “better off.”

  20. Tennwriter
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    well said.

  21. Tennwriter
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    Better off would be an overall value judgement on the whole situation.  Whereas better in one specific circumstance can be an objective fac

  22. ThePaganTemple
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    I don’t know what to make of this take on the Tea Party from a self-described conservative (whom I’ve known, on-line, for years), but I thought maybe people would like to read it. I don’t know what to make of it, or maybe more importantly, just how prevalent of an attitude it is or is getting to be in conservative circles.

    Last Of The Teabaggers

  23. Tennwriter
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

    How ’bout this? Most any R nominee can win if they are aggressive, and don’t seriously depress the conservative vote.  Santorum IS the first, and he won’t do the second.

    What I see is a lot of folk spreading the line, ‘oh, Santorum ain’t bad, but he can’t win’ in th ehopes of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (not saying you’re doing that, not saying you’re not.  Just saying, its happening.)

    And petulant and whiny….I remember your list of flaws for every candidate…and this strikes me as the least of them.

    And what would really irritate me is to have a guy say ‘I’m a conservative, but we have to understand that we can’t do very much, an dhave to work with our Democrat brethren’….now that would cheese me off!

    Its past time to man up, be mature, and say ‘I don’t care if the guy or gal has cute hair. Does he have what it takes to do the job?’  We need to demand more from our countrymen.  A serious leader for a serious time.

  24. Daily scoreboard « Don Surber
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

    […] 23. From Robert Stacy McCain: “‘Key Social Conservatives’ in Iowa Plan Last-Ditch Effort to Discredit, Marginalize and Complete….” […]

  25. Ryan
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

    Good grief, Stacy. We know you’re in love with Herman Cain, but this is ridiculous.

    You know exactly why they rejected Cain. Because his stance on abortion is indecipherable. Just like your continued defense of him.

  26. Bob Belvedere
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    Whoever Beamish is, Pagan, one thing’s for sure: he’s a total idiot.

  27. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    Ryan, in case you missed a point I thought was obvious: The target of this post — what all my sarcasm is intended to point out — is the predictable ineptitude of those who presume themselves the default “leaders” of the conservative movement.

    If our “leaders” were not hopelessly incompetent, they might have long since accomplished something useful. Instead, Obama is president, Harry Reid is Senate majority leader, ObamaCare is law and the conservative opposition — the movement our “leaders” supposedly lead — is a swamp of confusion, incapable of having prevented John McCain’s nomination in 2008, and evidently well on their wail to another massive failure in 2012.

    I am not sure what candidate you support, Ryan, but if these “key social securities” end up completely botching their planned opposition to Romney — and that’s what I expect them to do — they will have discredited not only themselves, but the people on whose behalf they speak. So you can insult me by implying that I am merely disgruntled by their rejection of Herman Cain, and I don’t care about the personal insult. What I care about is your blindness in not apprehending the problem with the conservative movement, namely the stupid willingness of people to be led by such useless “leaders.”

    At times I feel like a corporal in the 7th Cavalry, with orders to follow Custer to a place called Little Big Horn.

  28. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

    Sounds like just a trumped up spin machine message to me.

    Egads! A group of “special interests” gathering to discuss who would best represent their interests? Why, how can this possibly happen in a democracy? Heresy, I say!

    “Secret meetings” happen all the time. They’re also simply known as “meetings.”

    I read this as an attempt by CNN (of the MFM) to inject some dissent into the Right to create hostilities. Oh, and to smear the Bible Thumpers as some sort of radical, rogue group unworthy of voice or at least untrustworthy enough as a constituency because they hold [insert evil organ music here] “secret meetings.” BOO!

    This is a bag of nothing. There’s no point in frothing at the thought that a voting bloc might want to pool resources to select a candidate.

  29. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    Josh, I don’t want to get into an argument with a longtime ally. Contested primaries too often produce this kind of animosity.

    Please see my reply to Ryan below. I’m just tired of watching alleged “leaders” like these “key social conservatives” repeating the same mistakes over and over again. When we find ourselves in August 2012 trying to talk ourselves into believing that Mitt Romney has a real chance to defeat Barack Obama, I think my criticism will look a lot different in retrospect. And when we find ourselves in November 2012 trying to explain why Romney lost, I’ll be vindicated. But there will be no joy in such a vindication.

  30. ThePaganTemple
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

    I’m unfortunately inclined to agree with you, but the thing is, if you had been familiar with him before the Tea Party got started, you would have thought he would have been among its first and staunchest supporters. Whatever happened, I don’t know, but I have to wonder if he’s actually jealous of their influence. He has been among the most anti-statist, ultra-conservative people I’ve known on-line, and I’m guessing his main gripe at first was probably that the Tea Party isn’t sufficiently anti-entitlement and/or pro military interventionist. I would almost have to describe him as maybe the only person I’ve ever known who successfully managed to bridge the gap between Neocons and Libertarians, or at least tried. And now this. It’s very strange. Then again, maybe his whole persona has been a bizarre game and this is just the latest incarnation. But it just goes to show you, you can never be that sure about anybody. 

  31. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

    An excellent analogy, the folks in Iowa need to get over themselves.

  32. dad29
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    Umnnhhhh….seems to me that those august bodies could simply have requested their membership to vote “NOT ROMNEY”, leaving 5+ other candidates as alternatives without prejudice.


  33. reg_rollins21
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

    I don’t understand the hostility to Newt at all.   The last 13 years were money-making ventures and image-rehabilitation attempts. 
    He can defend conservatism better than any of the other contestants, and he has a record of actually balancing the federal budget and accomplishing major reform.  What significant conservative accomplishments have there been since Newt was deposed?  There has been NOTHING done.  It’s just been window dressing.  

     With Newt, I know what I’m getting, and I know what he’s accomplished.  I’ll take Newt back over these other Republicans any day. 

  34. Ryan
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

    You would have us vote for someone for which there is zero evidence that he is conservative, but overwhelming evidence that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

    You’ve been propping up Cain for months, ignoring his incoherence on any issue of importance, including abortion, gay marriage, Right of Return, Libya, Syria, Iran, Cuba, even 999. He can’t explain any of them and yet you continue to defend him as if he is somehow presidential.

    It’s beyond ridiculous that Herman Cain is even in the race at this point and even worse than people like you continue to defend the indefensible.

  35. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    Excuse me, Ryan, but I just checked the dashboard, and the e-mail address on your comment is “[email protected],” which doesn’t encourage me to think you’re being completely upfront. If you are a Gingrich staffer or consultant, OK, you’re earning your pay. But it kind of pisses me off when I take the risk of writing stuff that I know will anger some of my friends, and somebody jumps into the comments to disparage my judgment anonymously.

  36. ThePaganTemple
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

    They just meant they had stronger family units. Granted, it was probably a stupid thing to say, the way they said it, but it was also meant to demonstrate an irony. And it happens to be right. Black families were strong and tight-knit at one time, even during slavery and Jim Crow. They started to break down with the implementation of the Great Society. That is just a fact.

  37. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    How many threads are you going to hijack with anti-Herman Cain nonsense?

    It is fine to criticize Cain (so that others can refute you or join in with you), but to put it bluntly, “you are doing it wrong.”

  38. Anonymous
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

    How can somebody, namely Newt Gingrich, “defend” Conservatism when he tried to kill the Tea Party in its infancy?

    Newt reminds me of a deadbeat dad who only reconciles with his son after the son makes it big and become rich and famous.

  39. intuitivereason
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    The nomination process is working its way down to two candidates.  One will be Ron Paul.  The other will be either Romney or Gingrich. 

    I think your final comment sums up why people aren’t rejecting Gingrich out of hand.  He is viewed as a known quantity.  He has the wonderful attitude you get from retired politicians.  Tough, experienced, flawed. 

    Gingrich is the only candidate that has managed to survive the waters between the discomfort of Ron Paul showing what a Republican should be and Mitt Romney epitomising what a Republican actually is.

  40. ThePaganTemple
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

    Ron Paul is not going to be the nominee. Once Iowa is over and done with, you’ll probably never see him pull more than ten percent of the vote, at least on average, and you just can’t the nomination with those numbers. Every time he gets on a debate stage he gives us three reasons to vote against him for every one he gives us to just think about supporting him.

    Unfortunately, Ron Paul hasn’t learned to navigate the waters between the discomfort of pragmatic conservative common sense and blind libertarian ideology.

  41. Ryan
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

    Right. Because CPA guy and all these other anonymous handles are acceptable. Have you ever used an anonymous name in a story to disparage someone? Those are acceptable, but I use my first name and that’s not ok.

    Total hypocrisy on your part.

    I don’t have a dog in the fight. I want the best candidate possible. That excludes Herman Cain.

  42. intuitivereason
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

    Ron Paul may or may not be the nominee; not my call to make.  But he defines the race in a similar way to Romney.  Most candidates have not been able to measure up against either of them; not as constant as Paul, not as polished as Mitt. 

    Gingrich is capable; I think the main question with him is whether he has the focus and the interest.

  43. ThePaganTemple
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    Gingrich is a genius, easily the smartest person on that stage, and he has boundless enthusiasm for his projects and ideas. He can probably multi-task in a way that would be the envy of Huntsman or Romney. If he wins the nomination he would be a fierce opponent, unfortunately he would be as fierce an opponent of conservatives as he would be of liberals. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly of any ideological bent. He probably never entered the race with the intention of winning it, the one thing I feel he has in common with Herman Cain. But where Cain was thrown off balance by his sudden surge of support and couldn’t quite adapt, Gingrich has proven the master at adaptation. Think of a person who buys a Powerball ticket on a lark and it turns out to be the winning ticket. You sure aren’t going to throw it away.

    Like I’ve said on other occasions, he’s not my first choice, but I would have zero problem supporting him. They all have their faults and flaws. If I can accept that of the more mediocre of the bunch, I can accept it from him.

  44. Joy W. McCann
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    “If the leaders reject Santorum, there will be hell to pay, and that
    will be especially so if the socon cabal backs Newt Gingrich. For them
    to reject a faithful cradle Catholic like Santorum in favor of the
    thrice-married not-exactly-lobbyist-for-Freddie-Mac and
    oh-by-the-way-now-I’m-Catholic-too like Gingrich . . .”

    Ah–so converts are second-class citizens within Roman Catholicism. That’s nice, Stacy. Real nice.

    Stay classy.

  45. Bob Belvedere
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

    It sounds sad.

  46. Bob Belvedere
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 11:38 pm

    There’s a lot of folks on our side who do, as well.

    Spot-on, Stacy.  This is one reason I never join any of these kind of groups.  Hell, I quit the NRA after a couple of years for the same reason.  I may send them money, but I don’t want to be a part of their group[think].

  47. Danby
    November 23rd, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    If you haven’t seen exactly that dynamic in a lot of traditionalist (read conservative)  Catholic groups and discussions, you’re not paying attention. Yes, it’s incorrect, yes it’s wrong and yes, it’s real. Ask Mark Shea or Scott Hahn.

    That said, as a (cradle) Catholic and a social conservative, my problem with Gingrich isn’t when or even whether he became Catholic. I’ve never had a problem voting for Protestants or against Catholics. It’s that he doesn’t have a socially conservative point of view. By temperament, upbringing, training, history and experience, he’s socially liberal. While he presumably assents to Catholic teaching regarding i.e. gay marriage or divorce, I would doubt his enthusiasm to take a courageous stand on any social issue.

    And while fiscal issues must take a back seat to social issues in this election, my primary support is not going to Huntsman, Romney, or Gingrich. Period. And unless something serious changes between now and then, at least two of those candidates would have to forego my support in the general.

  48. Joy W. McCann
    November 24th, 2011 @ 12:19 am

     Well, there’s clearly a continuum of social conservatism, and I’m perfectly clear that there are plenty of people to my right on social issues.

    I’ll even concede that there are plenty of ultraorthodox Roman Catholics who are more conservative than my cradle-Catholic husband, who makes his views on Vatican II very clear nearly every time we go to mass.

    But 1) what percentage of the very very socially conservative are Roman Catholic in the first place? and 2) is the true problem with Gingrich his theology, or rather his flirtation with centrism (or, possibly, his past from before the time he converted–either in and of itself, or because of concerns about how it would affect electability)?

    The effort to unite the non-Romney forces behind one (or two) people may or may not work. But certainly it’s a noble thing to have people from the various actions sit down and attempt to figure out how to avoid splitting the non-Romney vote.

    We are told repeatedly that Romney is the most electable guy in the GOP field, but I am unconvinced that this is so, and I wonder about the agendas of those who want to coronate Mittens as the nominee.

    And that of those who agitate only for fringe figures, in apparent fear that we might nominate someone who can actually win.

    And to have non-Catholics attempting to foment–or even worsen–divisions within the fold is a bit much. Unless such a person had hard data to suggest that the ultraorthodox, anti-convert lobby were a huge percentage of the SoCon vote, it would come across . . . well, badly.

  49. Danby
    November 24th, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    I agree with you that there’s not a huge anti-convert Catholic voting bloc. And Romney would be a disaster for the GOP. Given the Dem’s penchant for demonization and class warfare, Romney is their  ideal opponent, and would lose. Badly.
    The push behind Romney is not about the general election, though. It’s about breaking the Tea Party. Just like the MD senate election, the establishment GOP would rather lose the election than let Bachman or Cain win.

  50. Joy W. McCann
    November 25th, 2011 @ 12:32 am

    Neither Bachmann nor Cain would win, though.