The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why Dan Balz Is Wrong

Posted on | October 5, 2011 | 43 Comments

Two words: “Conventional wisdom.”

With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie forgoing a run for the Republican presidential nomination, two questions hold the key to the future of the GOP race: Can Mitt Romney finally expand his support within the party, and can Rick Perry bounce back?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take Dan’s “two questions” seriously, in which case the answers are:

1. Who cares?


2. Not bloody likely.

As to Dan Balz Question One, if Mitt Romney manages to win the nomination, all the conservative spokesmen currently denouncing Romney as a worthless RINO will take a deep breath, put their integrity in a lockbox, and spent the months leading up to Nov. 6, 2012, proclaiming that Mitt is the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan. So it doesn’t matter, at this point in time, whether Romney can “finally expand his support.” What matters is whether any of the other candidates can put together enough mojo to beat Romney for the nomination.

We won’t know the answer to that before next April, so we’ll leave the cart of analysis behind the horse of electoral facts, and not borrow tomorrow’s troubles with premature worries about where to find the best price on an Integrity Lockbox™.

To fully explain why Dan Balz Question Two is utterly wrongheaded would require more words than I’d care to write today, so I’ll just quote myself:

“There have been a few little things … that lead me to think Perry is a lot less certain ultimately to win the nomination than some people seem to think. What I fear will happen is that Perry will spend several months sucking up media oxygen and burning through GOP donor cash, only to collapse early next year. This will have the effect of suffocating other conservative candidates, and thereby lead to … Romney 2012.”
Aug. 9

“Dude. When your “conservative” candidate makes Mitt Romney look like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it’s over.”
Oct. 1

There are some issues a Republican can afford to be wrong about, but immigration isn’t one of them, and Perry’s unforced error — telling conservatives “you don’t have a heart” — is also a fatal error. Seventeen million dollars won’t be enough to buy back the credibility he lost with that one phrase.

All my friends who bought that Texas pig-in-a-poke and jumped on the Perry bandwagon with both feet — you know who you are — are currently doing their Kübler-Ross thing because they don’t want to speak those four fateful words: “Stacy McCain was right.”

But while my friends continue to deny or defend their own wrongness, thereby depriving me of timely credit for my rightness, I must look forward to try to discern what comes next. As I explained last night, there are reasons to think Rick Santorum could be on the verge of a breakthrough: The wheels are falling off Bachmann’s campaign, and she was previously considered the pre-emptive favorite in Iowa. So if Santorum can show strong in the next two debates (Oct. 11 at Dartmouth and Oct. 18 in Las Vegas), he might be the “flavor of the week” by Oct. 19.

That’s all the more reason to write off Perry’s chances of recovery. Santorum is a brutal counter-puncher in debates, and Perry’s got a glass jaw. As I noted the day after the Orlando debate, several observers had especial praise for Santorum’s performance there.

And what the hell, right? Santorum’s got nothing to lose by an all-out kamikaze attack on Perry: If Santorum gets hurt by the blowback, so what? He’s already in single digits nationally, and his hard-core base of Christian conservatives in Iowa isn’t going to abandon him for being “too mean” to Perry. Furthermore, the guy who does a savage debate takedown on Perry is going to buy himself some MSM coverage, and even if the liberals on MSNBC despise everything Santorum stands for, they’ll cheer him for dismantling Perry.

Dan Baltz may not have noticed, as I did, that Santorum just made another three-day trip to Iowa. With Bachmann hurting and Perry melting down, the Hawkeye State is wide open for a Republican who refuses to apologize for being a pro-life Catholic.

Of course, I’m the conductor calling “all aboard the Cain Train,” but I don’t want anyone to be blindsided if, two weeks from now, the talking heads on TV are all about Rick Santorum. Even though he’s not my horse in the race, I’ve felt he was overdue for some respect ever since I covered his barn party in Roland, Iowa.

Should my prophecy prove correct, don’t look for this front-page headline in the Washington Post: “Stacy McCain Proven Right — Again.” My point is that you’re never going to see these things ahead of time if you let Conventional Wisdom peddlers like Dan Balz prejudice your thinking.


43 Responses to “Why Dan Balz Is Wrong”

  1. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    You nailed it RSM: 

    Yeah, many of us prefer Herman Cain over Romney.  I am starting to seriously doubt Palin is coming in.  But if Romney ends up being the nominee (which he could be) I will support him over Barack Obama.  I will also support every conservative candidate I can for House, Senate, State, and Local elections. 

    Perry?  If he comes back it depends on Perry (and the other candidates losing momentum).  Right now I do not see it, but if Perry starts acting impressive and Romney and Cain flounder, who knows?  At this point it seems unlikely. 

    And Rick Santorum will not be a contender, nor will Huntsman, nor will Bachmann, for different but equally fatal reasons.  I do not see it unless every other GOP contender gets on the same plane and it crashes.  And in that case, we would probably see the return of Fatty McAwesome or some other opportunists. 

  2. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

    “Stacy McCain was right.” 

    Come on guys, say it, you can do it, just let those words roll out…

    On the big issue. 

    And I understand why you might dig Santorum going in and putting Perry down.  I agree it is probably Santorum’s best shot (although Santorum is never going to be the nominee or even on the ticket, he is way alienating for indies and conservatives are distrustful of him too) and it certainly does Cain a favor (he needs to rise above Perry and show the base and general electorate he is ready to be CIC). 

  3. McGehee
    October 5th, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    if Mitt Romney manages to win the nomination, all the conservative spokesmen currently denouncing Romney as a worthless RINO will take a deep breath, put their integrity in a lockbox, and spent the months leading up to Nov. 6, 2012, proclaiming that Mitt is the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan.

    Good thing I’m not a spokesman.

  4. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    You just have to take a stiff drink, hold your nose, and pull the lever McGehee.  At least Romney is not John McCain. 

  5. Steve in TN
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    For all RSM seems to have divined about Perry, he is equally wrong about Cain.  Cain is a dilettante on foreign policy by his own admission.  He has failed to clear up his error on the words “shall not be infringed.”  His 999 still smacks of gimmickry.

    And his is almost as un-vetted as was Obama.

    I still like Palin more than any of the announced contenders, and if you know me, you know how startling that is.  The GOP roster for 2012 POTUS stinks.

  6. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    Herman Cain is the cure for electile disfunction! 

  7. Steve in TN
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

    It looks like nose clips will be required should any of the current candidates get the nomination.

  8. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    I don’t fully buy the conventional wisdom on immigration (assuming that’s what RSM is giving us).  This issue seems a lot muddier than how it’s often portrayed.

    Consider, for example, the difference between the WSJ editorial page and, say, Mark Krikorian of CIS. Both of these are definitely on the right side of the political spectrum, but have vastly different views on immigration.  Is one side bigger or smaller in the primary electorate?  In which states?
    That said, Perry completely fumbled the handling of immigration.  Personally, I can’t say that I was offended by the infamous “heartless” remark, but I often find myself in the minority on stuff like that.  Frankly, I’m more offended by the regard for my intelligence that Romney has when he tries to defend Romneycare.

    RSM has definitely been prescient with respect to The Herman so far.  We’ll see how far that goes.

  9. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    I tend to be more forgiving on immigration than most conservatives.  I think the current policy is complete and utter bullshit.  Wink Wink, come “illegally” but there is just a few show enforcement actions and employers can utilize the cheap labor.  Then the GOP says the illegals are breaking the law?  How stupid are we politically?  Well they are but so are the employers.  Big time. 

    I could end 90% of illegal immigration tomorrow.  Enforce civil penalties for employers utilizing illegal labor.  You fine them.  You want to carve out an exception for seasonal ag workers, okay.  Let’s start fining those who hire lawn care (he Mitt remember that landscaper of yours), or nannies, or construction day laborers, or dry wall workers, or roofers, or restaurant workers, or hotel chambermaids, etc., etc. 

  10. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    The other thing about Texas in particular is that they don’t have personal income tax, so they rely on the sales tax, which illegals actually pay.  So there is less of a freeloader effect there than in, say, California.

    Personally, I would be fine with open borders if it weren’t for our welfare state.  Hey, what were the immigration laws like originally?

  11. Adjoran
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

    Dan Balz is just a regurgitator of liberal conventional wisdom, which is nearly always wrong, which is why I’ve been skipping anything with his byline for years.  He comes as close to accurate here as he ever does, glancing off the truth like a stone skipping the surface of a pond.

    Perry can repair the damage.  He has the money, but now Florida has robbed him of time for the sort of effort he needs – getting back to the retail politics he does well.  But he was undeniably hurt by the hype which made him out to be something far more than he is; the man looks frail and weak compared to the myth we were sold leading up to his entry.

    If Santorum were going to be a “flavor of the week” he would have been already.  He is well known to the Republican primary voters and appeared on dozens, if not hundreds, of Sunday talks shows while in the Senate.  There is nothing there for anyone to discover.

    Granted, he’s performed well in the debates, but so has Gingrich, and Newt’s performances seemed to have given him a leg up into the top tier, knocking at the door of the envied double-digit club.  Rick’s haven’t, can’t, and won’t.

    Attack dogs in politics may tear down, but they seldom arise from their bloody prey to win.  See Bachmann – but hurry:  she’s getting smaller all the time.

  12. Bob Belvedere
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    Why, Joe, why?

    If we elect a Romney then our chances of doing anything but slowing down our head-long race to perdition will be considerably weakened.

  13. Bob Belvedere
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    Hey, Joe, whatever floats your boat – it takes all kinds and all that.  For me, only Sarahcuda can cure mine.

  14. Bob Belvedere
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    Santorum’s got nothing to lose by an all-out kamikaze attack on Perry….

    The free-est man in the world is the man who has nothing to lose.

    Go Rick!

  15. McGehee
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

    I don’t drink hemlock.

  16. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

    Back in 2008, I thought about the difference between a McCain and an Obama Presidency.

    I figured that McCain would be for all sorts of squishy progressive-lite stuff, and because he was a Republican, the Republicans in Congress would be fairly likely to go along.  At least enough to combine with Dems to make lots of bad laws.

    On the other hand, if Obama were elected, the Republicans would oppose things vehemently for partisan reasons, even if McCain would have proposed them himself.  Hey, gridlock!

    Of course, the Republicans did vehemently oppose, but it wasn’t enough.  You just have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it.  Maybe it is.  I agree that we really need to peel back a lot of the filth.  But on the other hand, can I live with myself by hastening the day of reckoning and hoping for catharsis that doesn’t kill us?  What will happen to my kids?

  17. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    You are absolutely 100% right.  You cannot have open borders and a welfare state.  It cannot work. 

    I heard some guy on NPR yesterday talking about how European immigrants who came to California were undocumented. You mean like “WOPs”  Okay, those Southern European immigrants were not illegal. And they did not have any social safety net to fall back on (other than their own community or maybe a church). 

    But today’s illegals, they are using lots of social serivces (which out paying for them).   

  18. ThePaganTemple
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    Immigration would be the easiest problem there is to solve. All it takes is enforcing the laws that are already on the books. You don’t need anything else, including a fence, which would take years to construct and probably result in hordes that would scare the shit out of Attila coming over wherever the fence hasn’t been built yet. Of course, you could demand boots on the ground where the fence hasn’t yet been built, and the feds would listen to you just as good as they are now. And once its finished you got scores of ranchers deprived of multiple acres of their land because, you know, its kind of difficult to build a bridge in the middle of a fucking river and just as impossible to build it right at the water’s edge.

    Our brilliant government has created a problem where there need not have been one and it gets worse every year. I have zero faith in their ability or inclination to solve it now.

  19. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    Is Obama getting re-elected better than Romney replacing him?  Is that your position?

    I am not a Romney fan, I want Herman Cain, but if Romney is the nominee there is no way I am sitting this out and letting my non-vote help Obama (or voting third party as a protest).  Obama is that bad. 

    Guys, think about that. 

  20. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    But it would be better to allow Obama in charge?  That is like saying, we would linger with Stage II cancer with Romney, but we can kill the cancer if we let the patient (us) go Stage IV with Obama. 

    I am sure we would kill the cancer, but at what cost. 

  21. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    Anything that helps Obama is pretty unpalatable to me. 

  22. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    Herman smells like pizza.  Granted not the best pizza, but I can bear him without a nose clip. 

  23. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

    Saracuda is a cure for it too!  But she is not in the race and it looks like she is not coming in. 

  24. Thomas Knapp
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    There are some issues a Republican can afford to be wrong about, but immigration isn’t one of them

    Interesting proposition, but I don’t see how it supports your case. Of the “top tier,” Perry’s the only one who seems to be anywhere in the same general neighborhood as right on immigration. And even that’s stretching it — he’s more in a “not quite as good as Reagan, maybe, but at least not as batshit insane as Tom Tancredo or Duncan Hunter, like the others are trying very hard to be” space, pretty much by himself.

  25. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    I like Cain, but you’re absolutely right that he hasn’t gotten the scrutiny yet.  I guess that will come soon, and we’ll see how he handles it.  Fortunately for him, his past flubs were before he was a first tier candidate.

  26. Mark Goluskin
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    You know who may be this election cycle’s Sen. John “F— You” McCain? Newt Gingrich. I know, but look, he has low numbers. And no where to go but up. Like it or not, he is a proven winner. 1994 anyone? And has been out of government long enough to realize how screwed up it is. And I am not supporting him. Just looking at the field.

  27. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

    Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell Santorum!

  28. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    I am surprised how few people opt to run for President anymore.  I agree, this is the best we got? I like Cain but your concerns are legitimate (of course they also apply to Palin). 

    Who would be your fantasy pick (other than Sarahcuda)? 

  29. Joe
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Yep.  Notice that no one really ever pushes for enforcement of existing laws.  Why is that? 

    We do not have to round up illegals.  Just enforce current penalties against employers.  No jobs, most illegals go home. 

  30. Dede Scozzafava
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    I love him, almost as much as meatballs.   I find him delicious! 

  31. Thomas Knapp
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

    Interesting proposition … but I think it’s a stretch.

    In September of 2007, McCain was polling at 17-20%. In September of 2011, Gingrich was polling at 9-11%. He has a lot more ground to make up than McCain did.

    Also, McCain had a presidential campaign under his belt already, with the assets that he developed during that campaign ready to be re-activated. Gingrich has been running some orgs that somewhat replicate the fundraising contacts, etc., but how well that crosses over … well, it doesn’t seem to have crossed over much.

  32. smitty
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    Having faced cancer and bested it, I have nothing but confidence in the chap.

  33. smitty
    October 5th, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    Fantasy? Fred Thompson.

  34. ThePaganTemple
    October 5th, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

    That’s actually the main thing that worries me about him. He’s elderly, and I am afraid the stress of the office of President might actually cause a recurrence of his old cancer.

  35. Steve in TN
    October 5th, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    Paul Ryan intrigued me.

  36. McGehee
    October 5th, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    Joe, you’re arguing a hypothetical. Mitzi Romneycare is not the nominee. If the Republican Party knows what’s good for it, he won’t be.

    If they want to win this election, he won’t be. They need to know that. Telling them “I don’t want your warmed-over also-ran from 2008, but I’ll vote for him if you insist on nominating him,” sends them the message they can keep doing what they’ve always done and there will never be consequences.

    Frankly, I’m getting sick and tired of being hectored to do something I’ve been saying all along I will not do — and if that keeps happening I’m going to start handing out “F@#$ You” cards.

    Drop it.

  37. ThePaganTemple
    October 5th, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

    That’s where the Republican Congress steps in and puts the hammer down on his ass and lets him know 2016 is just a few short years away.

  38. ThePaganTemple
    October 5th, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    I’d say for the ones that have been working seasonal farm jobs and otherwise obeying the law to grant them temporary worker’s visas. Problem solved. They’d gladly step out of the shadows then, because that would resolve a level of stress nobody wants. They can work, go back home, and have the identification they need to come back and pick some more lettuce for another season. It would also be easier to limit new illegals, because they wouldn’t want the competition. We just have to make it clear that harboring or encouraging more illegals would be grounds for revocation of their status. We can see over time about legalizing them once we get the damn border finally secured, but we need to made it abundantly clear that until the border is finally secured, that’s just not going to happen.

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  40. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 5:58 am

    They are all old.

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