Earlier this year I raised the ire of some by predicting that Mitt Romney would, based upon an examination of history, be the Republican nominee for President. Six months later I feel that I must, with some reluctance, recommit myself to that prediction. With the latest polling showing that then intense negative attacks on Newt Gingrich have eroded his chances of winning in Iowa the last realistic chance of stopping a Romney nomination has evaporated.
Let’s look at the latest polls. Ron Paul’s fanatical supporters are busy cheering the fact that they show their candidate with a statistically insignificant lead. However, their real importance is that they show Gingrich declining and Romney rising. Ron Paul is anathema to the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party. Paul’s rise in Iowa is extremely helpful to Romney because it will cause, especially if polls in the final days of the race show Paul in the lead, voters to trickle away from other candidates to Romney in order to prevent the embarrassment that a win by the clownish Ron Paul would represent.
The latest national polls likewise show that the slow decline of Gingrich’s numbers is allowing Romney to finally climb higher than the low-20’s cap on his support that we’ve previously seen. Having to write about the fact that the chances of Speaker Gingrich being nominated for President are declining pains me – it is certainly not without a basis in reality that I have previously been referred to as the “Asian Newt Gingrich” and I certainly have a long-term affection for the Speaker and agree with him on almost every issue of national and international importance. Indeed, I still think – all other things being equal – that of all of those campaigning to be President that Gingrich has the most obvious potential to be a great and transformational President. However, from where I am sitting it seems to me that the massive deployment of money and resources against Gingrich in Iowa have blunted his advance there and that overcoming such a reverse would require a lot of money or time and, alas, Gingrich has neither at this point. Without Iowa the chances of the Speaker winning the nomination rest upon winning South Carolina and then Florida and then defeating Romney over a marathon-length campaign and I just, from where we are standing today, don’t see where either the money or the institutional support for such an endeavor would come from.
Thus, without something like another miracle for the Speaker (something that I wouldn’t say is impossible, given that it took one for him to get to where he is today), Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President.
The reasons I enumerated in June for predicting Romney’s nomination remain, in my view, sound. The Republican Party has a long history of eschewing politicians who excite the party’s base in favor of nominating the early frontrunner who is typically the runner-up from the previous contest for the nomination. The only Republican nominees in that period to truly defy this pattern were Dwight Eisenhower (a World War Two hero who only barely won the nomination from the pattern candidate, Robert Taft), Barry Goldwater (who defeated Nelson Rockefellar scandal tarred his campaign) and George W. Bush (who was the son of a former President and was running four years after a weak cycle in which no genuine runner-up emerged). Well, I suppose that Gerald Ford might also qualify here but, insofar as he was an incumbent President running under unique circumstances he can be considered anything other than an outlier.
Mitt Romney meets both historical criteria. He was the runner-up in 2008 and he has consistently managed to regain a narrow lead in national polls even as one candidate after another has briefly managed to overtake him.
The truth is, as I have said before, that we could do worse than have Mitt Romney as President. While it may not thrill many hearts to hear a man described, as I would Romney, as having a record of competence in the public and private sectors and moral rectitude in his personal life, it’s definitely not bad. The Presidency is so singular and unique a job that no one really knows with certainty how one will live up to it until they actually get started.
I will say this for Governor Romney – I believe that he can do the job. He reminds me a great deal of Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. I believe that, like Harper, Romney is a careful politician of basically conservative instincts who has repeatedly compromised to navigate the hazards of a liberal electorate. Yet I retain hope that a President Romney, like Prime Minister Harper, will, especially if he has the aid of a Republican-controlled and Tea Party-oriented Congress, prove to be a capable steward of the nation’s affairs and be able to use his basic solidity as an asset in leading a careful and steady rightward march. It may be infuriating at times to fire-breathing conservatives such as myself, but it absolutely could be made to work.
Adam Yoshida is a the author of The Blast of War.
One of the primary reasons for the hurried construction of The Blast of War and its forthcoming sequel (which I hope to have ready for release in the next few weeks) A Land War in Asia is that much of the timeline I set forth for the hypothetical Third World War depicted therein takes place in the very near future and it has always been my hope to have the full work (which will, when complete, total in the range of 200,000 words) finished before any of it comes to pass. Of course, the altruistic motive for doing this is to illustrate the very dangerous path that we are presently on in the hopes that someone in power will execute a course correction. The more selfish motive is so that, when much of what I have written actually happens, I can point to my words and say, “I told you so.” In the latter spirit more than the former I thought I would take a few moments, as I procrastinate over the conclusion to A Land War in Asia to review a few of the predictions made in The Blast of War that have already been realized or begun to be realized in some form.
Let’s consider some news from recent weeks which point towards the fulfillment of a few of the prophecies I made in The Blast of War:
China’s boom will transform into bust, with global consequences:
Scattered bits of data – obviously the Chinese government’s official figures ought to be regarded with some skepticism – point an alarming picture. China has experienced a property boom much like that seen in the West a few years ago. The fall, however, appears to have marked the tipping point – with housing prices in most markets having begun to experience month-over-month declines. The Shanghai Composite is down 22% in 2011 after falling 14% in 2010. Violent protests in one Chinese village – Wukan – have escalated to the point that the central authorities have lost control there.
Asia’s problems will be complicated by the revival of American manufacturing:
I’m fond of quoting (in fact, I believe I invoke it in the book) Mark Steyn’s remark that, “China will grow old before it grows rich” but, as I have pointed out in the past, the arc of history augers ill for China in the medium-term as well. China’s newfound prosperity is almost entirely dependent upon the use of cheap labor to export manufactured goods to the West. This is not a long-term solution, in my view, because the rapid advance of technology will soon make local and automated production cheaper than even than the lowest-paid human laborers. When that day comes – and I think it’s coming sooner than anyone realizes – where will that leave China? It will make that nation a powder keg consisting of a billion and a half people, many of them young men doomed to never find wives as a result of that nation’s population policy, governed by an authoritarian government whose raison d’être has just vanished.
Europe will continue to attempt to patch over its problems rather than solve them:
One of my constant fears in writing has been that the European Union and the Euro will blow apart faster than I predicted, thus forcing me to either diverge my narrative from the real world or to conduct a massive rewrite. Instead, the European establishment has behaved exactly in the way that I predicted, refusing to confront its core problems and instead embracing one desperate patch after another. Like addicts who will do anything for a fix there appears to be no level to which the Eurocrats will not sink in an effort to preserve their dream of a European superstate. At the time I first made it I felt that my prediction that the European political class would resort to military force rather than abandon the Euro was perhaps the most far-fetched part of my story. Now I am not nearly so certain.
Britain will extricate itself from the European Union:
Here is one area where I feel that it’s possible that I missed the mark by just a little bit – though we shall see if that is the case in the end.
I have never believed that Britain would, in the end, agree to bind its fate to the continent. Its destiny ought to rest with the rest of the English-speaking peoples. I therefore feel that my predictions have been vindicated to some degree by David Cameron’s decision to use Britain’s veto to protect the City of London from the ravages of new regulations and obligations that might have been imposed by a strengthened bureaucracy in Brussels.
In my book I predicted that Britain would secede from the European Union. I still believe – and fervently hope – that this will be so someday. It increasingly appears that such a move would be a popular one among the British people. Indeed, since his veto Prime Minister Cameron has seen his Conservative Party once again overtake Labour in the polls.
Where I may have erred is in the matter of Cameron himself. I personally believed that Britain’s Europhile political class would never acquiesce in any move against the EU by the British government and that it would therefore require a political realignment to make such a thing a reality. David Cameron, he of the “Big Society” did not appear to be a likely candidate to make such a stand and perhaps, in the end, he will not be. But perhaps he will after all.
Obama will be re-elected thanks to a divided opposition:
Finally, though I have repeatedly stated that I think that President Obama will not be re-elected given his standing in the polls and the state of the economy some eleven months before the election, The Blast of War sketches out a scenario in which he might be re-elected even under conditions where he ought to be defeated. Specifically, in my book Obama wins the election with roughly the same 40% of the vote that George McGovern and Walter Mondale won while losing forty-nine states each. He does this as a result of the presence of two independent candidates in the race who split the vote with the regular Republican nominee. Given that Ron Paul, Donald Trump, and Jon Huntsman have all made noises about running third party campaigns, this is a possibility that ought not be dismissed too lightly. Certainly the Obama campaign and its many friends in the media, being fully seized of the severity of the situation, will actively work behind the scenes to encourage such an outcome.
Anyways, these are just a few thoughts. I suppose I ought to get back to work on Volume Two.