Friday, November 30, 2007

The Romney Republicans

Last night, I placed Mitt Romney as the biggest loser in the debate, which was saying something on a night where Giuliani had to fend off scandal after scandal and made some of the nastiest comments I've yet seen in a debate. The reason I found Romney to be the big loser was a combination of his trademark Ken Doll roboticism and his outright apparent meanness and wilfull ignorance in his exchanges with Huckabee and McCain on immigration and waterboarding, respectively. So horrible did I think Romney came off that I thought the exchanges made Huckabee and McCain the big winners on the night.

At the end of my post, I indicated that Michelle Malkin and Powerline both placed Romney as the winner. In response I said the following:

"If they [Malkin and Powerline] represent the Republican base, then we really are watching the death of Lincoln's Party."

Well, as it turns out, Joe Klein has a column today that completely validates my fear- Malkin and Powerline really do represent the average Republican Joe. Apparently, Klein was present for Frank Luntz's debate focus group, in which Luntz purports to measure the attendees' reactions at various points in the debate. Now, I should say that I've always found Luntz to be quite the partisan hack himself, and I think his results should always come with a massive grain of salt.

But in this case, the results of Luntz's focus group are staggering. According to Klein, Luntz's "undecided" Republicans overwhelmingly had positive reactions to Romney and negative reactions towards Huckabee and McCain in Romney's exchanges on immigration and torture. Interestingly, the group generally liked Huckabee- except for when he had the confrontation with Romney on immigration, a confrontation in which I thought that Romney just came off as being plain mean.

More interestingly, the group's most negative response came when McCain bluntly said that waterboarding is torture, and if it isn't then nothing is torture. So here we have a guy who was actually tortured in wartime by a foreign enemy telling us his sincere beliefs about torture in an argument against a guy who never served in the military just giving the rote response of refusing to say whether this very specific act amounted to torture....and the Republican base sides with Romney, while getting angry at McCain? At the very least, you would expect Republicans (who used to be a fairly normal group of Americans no more or less decent than Democrats) confronted with McCain's passionate argument to give McCain a respectful hearing on the issue. But that's apparently not what they did- instead, they just tuned him out even more. What makes this even more bizarre is that Republicans supposedly worship people with military service, and yet in this case they chose to tune out the guy with the military service while listening to the guy with none. The only conceivable way that I can see someone siding with Romney in that exchange is if the person were themselves a Romney clone- robotic, and unwilling to allow themselves even one unorthodox thought- whatever party orthodoxy may be at that moment in time.

Assuming Luntz's group was in fact representative of average Republicans these days (a big assumption), then Republicans really have turned into a party of empty, robotic automotons.