Money, the pundits have long said, is the ‘mother’s milk’ of politics. On the other hand, the Beatles might counter, “money can’t buy you love.”
Multi-millionaire and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is about to find out if all the money he’s spent on consultants, ads, and organisational infrastructure trying to win the Republican presidential nomination will buy him the love of voters in today’s Michigan Primary.
Michigan is a must-win for Romney after coming in second in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Winning the silver, the former CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics calls it.
He won the Wyoming Caucus, which received scant attention.
“Romney has got to stop the haemorrhaging,” Bill Ballenger, a Lansing, Michigan-based political consultant told the Los Angeles Times.
“His strategy is predicated upon winning in the first three contests, and he’s already lost two of them.
“This is his native state. He’s invested an enormous amount of time… and he’s spent $1.5 million on TV already.”
At the moment, Romney is behind ‘comeback-senior’ John McCain, the 72-year-old Senator from Arizona, in national polls among the crowded GOP pack.
But there is more at stake for Romney since Michigan is his home state, where he lived until 1965.
He left for Stanford University, which he attended for two quarters before leaving to serve 30 months as a Mormon missionary in France.
He then went to Brigham Young University and subsequently earned a joint Harvard Law and Business School degree.
His wealthy father George W. Romney was an American Motors CEO before becoming Governor.
According to Politico.com’s Jonathan Martin, who covered Romney in the closing days before today’s primary, his roots have made a difference.
“At every step during a Saturday dash across the state, Romney laced his remarks and public appearances with words and images meant to remind locals that he had grown up in the state and would offer special attention to a place that, as the all-too-familiar refrain goes, is ‘suffering through a one-state recession.’
“Romney, whose last chance to secure his party’s Presidential nomination may be riding on today’s results, is offering voters here something of a bargain: Give him a chance at the Presidency, and he’ll return Michigan’s economy to a vigour last seen when the Big Three automakers reigned supreme and jobs were as plentiful as tail fins,” Martin writes.
Conveniently enough, the Michigan Primary overlaps with the North American Auto Show at a time when automakers are laying off hundreds of workers, the state unemployment rate is 7.4%, the highest in the nation, a plight that has not received this amount of attention since Chrysler faced bankruptcy in the late 1970s.
As a not-so-subtle affront to President George W. Bush, more and more GOP candidates are talking about the possible recession in advance of the Michigan Primary and the South Carolina Primary on January 19th.
A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows that “nearly three-quarters of Republican primary voters said it was still too early for them to make up their minds ‘for sure,’ meaning that they could shift their allegiances” from McCain.
The survey also found that voters are “in their darkest mood about the economy in 18 years, by some measures; 62 percent said they believed that the economy was getting worse, the highest percentage since the run-up to the recession in 1990.
“Seventy-five percent said they believed that the country had ‘seriously gotten off on the wrong track,’ also similar to levels in the early 1990s,” when Bill Clinton’s campaign was energised by the slogan, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”
The survey found that other rock bed Republican issues such as immigration, taxes, and more values, are considerably less important.
The poll, conducted January 9th to 12th, with 1,061 registered voters, put McCain ahead with 33% of the Republican vote going into the Michigan Primary; with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee receiving 18% and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani receiving 10%, down 22 percentage points from last month.
Romney is in single digits.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll, however, found McCain with 28%, Huckabee with 20% and Romney in a virtual tie with 19%. Giuliani came in with 15% and Thomposon with 8%.
A New York Times overview of local Michigan polls, however, tells a different story, though a sizeable number of voters say they still are undecided.
A Detroit News/WXYZ poll conducted between January 9th and 12th among 604 voters found McCain with 27% and Romney virtually tied with 26%, and Huckabee with 19%.
But Romney leads in two other polls: the McClatchy-MSNBC poll conducted January 9th to 11th among 400 voters placed Romney first with 30%, McCain second with 22% and Huckabee with 17% while a Detroit Free Press/Local 4 Michigan poll conducted January 9th to 11th among 600 voters placed Romney 27%, McCain 22% and Huckabee with 16%.
But Romney’s focus on the automakers draws attention to another change in position.
On CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday Romney told host Bob Schieffer, “We need to be investing in basic science here. And we need to stop throwing anvils around the neck of the domestic auto manufacturers.
“This idea, for instance, of saying we’re going to have unilateral caps and trades on greenhouse gases that are not participated by other nations, that would only hurt Detroit.
“It would only hurt American manufacturers. We’ve got to stop thinking about being popular around the world and doing what’s right for America,” the Washington Post reported.
The Post pointed out that when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he “initially supported but then abandoned a regional pact in the Northeast to limit greenhouse gases,” telling Schieffer that “he believes the U.S. should be ‘investing substantially more in basic science and research’ than the current $4 billion a year it devotes to energy and fuel technology-related science.”
It is just the latest in a long line of flip-flops on gays, stem cells research, and abortion that have come to characterise his candidacy and cause many, including one-time supportive gay Republicans, to question his judgment, integrity and authenticity.
Romney’s flip-flops on gay rights infuriated Log Cabin Republicans so much they raised money for political advertising and anti-Romney campaign efforts in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationwide.
On their website, they spell out Romney’s changes in positions. In his 1994 Senate race against Democratic incumbent Edward Kennedy, for instance, Romney sent a letter to the Log Cabin Republican Club of Massachusetts asking for their support.
Romney wrote: “We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which I have agreed to co-sponsor, and if possible broaden to include housing and credit, and a bill to create a federal panel to find ways to reduce gay and lesbian youth suicide, which I also support.
“One issue I want to clarify concerns [grammar in context] President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” military policy. I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction.
“I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.
“That goal will only be reached when preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians is a mainstream concern, which is a goal we share.”
But in a 2006 interview with the National Review, when asked if he still held those positions, Romney replied:
“No. I don’t see the need for new or special legislation. My experience over the past several years as Governor has convinced me that ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalise employers at the hands of activist judges.
“As for military policy and the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, I trust the counsel of those in uniform who have set these policies over a dozen years ago.
“I agree with President Bush’s decision to maintain this policy and I would do the same.”
In an interview with the Boston Phoenix newspaper in May 2004, Log Cabin points out, Romney declared as “too extreme” a 2002 effort by “pro-family” groups to enact a state Marriage Protection Amendment banning same sex marriage, civil unions and same-sex public employee benefits.
But on his September 17th 2007 MSNBC show Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asked Romney:
“Do you support a national constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage?”
Romney replied: “‘Boy, I sure do. You know, that’s a topic that’s really, I think, very important to the country because marriage is not just about adults.
“Marriage is about the development and nurturing of kids, and in my view, the development of a child is enhanced by having a mom and dad.
“And so, I think it’s very important that we have a national standard because marriage is a status.
“You get married in one place and then you move to another, you’re still married at least in the eyes of the community and the children and the benefits may not follow you, but ultimately we’re going to have one standard of marriage in this country and that standard ought to be one man and one woman.”
Of Romney, openly gay Representative Barney Frank has said:
“The real Romney is clearly an extraordinarily ambitious man with no perceivable political principle whatsoever. He is the most intellectually dishonest human being in the history of politics.”
Last December, the Democratic National Committee voted to strip Michigan of all its 156 delegates to the national convention to punish the state for moving up its primary in violation of party rules.
Michigan officials had hoped that the early primary would insert the state’s dire economic and job concerns into the Democratic Presidential contest.
New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel have kept their names on the ballot, though they have not campaigned in the state; Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards took their names off the ballot.
The DNC similarly punished Florida last August for moving its primary up to January 29.
The two moves by the DNC are being questioned by politicos who note that the heated contest between Clinton and Obama may come down to a delegate count.
Karen Ocamb will be covering politics from an LGBT perspective in the run up to Super Tuesday. Ocamb is the news editor for IN Magazine.
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