As regular readers know, Lynn Vavreck and I are writing a book about the 2012 presidential campaign called The Gamble. (I would like to note, by way of preface, that we got to the gambling metaphor well before Mark Halperin and John Heileman decided on Double Down: Game Change 2012. We they picking from this list, perchance?)
In cooperation with Princeton University Press, Lynn and I have been serializing chapters—the first two of which are here and here. We’ve been gratified for the attention those chapters have received—such as from James Surowiecki at The New Yorker and Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed. Lynn and I have had some great conversations about the book at Heath Brown’s podcast, The Takeaway, the Kudzu Vine, Britannica, and VoxEU. Andy’s gracious comments are here.
We’re pleased to announce that the third chapter is now available. The homepage for the chapter is here. A pdf is here. The Amazon listing is here. (There is already a negative view from a Ron Paul supporter!)
This new chapter, entitled “All In,” picks up the story on the eve of the Iowa caucus and takes it through Romney’s de facto nomination in April. The chapter is thus the story of Romney’s success. Of course, at this point, the Republican primary seems like ancient history. But I think there is value in realizing why it was that the party coalesced around Romney.
One of my favorite graphs in this chapter looks at the size of various groups within the GOP —as measured in YouGov polls—and the percentage of those groups that supported Romney or Santorum.
What this graph shows is that contrary to some characterizations of the Republican Party—such as Frank Rich’s “The Molotov Party”—those who identified with the Tea Party, or said they were “very conservative,” or said that abortion should always be illegal, or said they were “born again” were minorities among even Republican likely voters. More moderate groups—such as those who did not identify as born again, or believed abortion should be legal always or sometimes—were much larger.
Moreover, it was among these larger groups that Romney was the favored candidate. Santorum’s appeal was much more niche. That is one reason why Romney became the nominee: this “Massachusetts moderate” appealed to a wider swath of the party than his competition.
In mid-September, after the 47% video came out, I was pretty cautious about labeling Romney a terrible candidate. I’m equally cautious now, even after his loss has inspired a long list of detractors calling him a “meandering managerial moderate” and no doubt worse. Given that the election turned out quite close to what the fundamentals suggested all along, I think it’s premature to pile on Romney, and understanding the Republican primary helps identify the strengths he brought to the ticket.
We’ll have more to say about Romney’s candidacy and much else in forthcoming chapters. Stay tuned.