bbc.co.uk Navigation

Value for Romney?

  • Justin Webb
  • 7 Feb 08, 09:18 PM GMT

This is the clearest exposition I have seen of the (lack of) choices available to the Republican Party now: advice that the party rallies round and takes the medicine if that is not too much of a mixture of metaphors...

This, from the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman, puts the Romney campaign spending in perspective:

deflated Romney thunder stick"Republican campaign operatives call it the Gramm-o-meter, the money a candidate spends per delegate won, in honor of Phil Gramm, the former Texas senator who spent $25 million and won just 10 delegates, or $2.5 million per, in 1996.

"By Republican strategist Alex Vogel's calculation, Mitt Romney is giving Gramm a run for his money. The former Massachusetts governor has spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination.

"By contrast, Mike Huckabee's campaign has been the height of efficiency. Delegates haven't yet been officially apportioned, but roughly speaking, each $1 million spent by Huckabee has won him 20 delegates."

But will he be back to spend more cash in the future? Apparently so.

I hope he comes back to the race next time with a slightly improved view of his neighbours to the east.

"Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality..." This is what he said today about my home continent.

I must say, the morality point is hard to take. I much prefer living in the United States, but the idea that Europeans are somehow immoral - or that European society is morally flawed in comparison with the US - seems to me to be bizarre.

There: I have written about Mitt Romney without even mentioning his faith...

Some answers...

  • Justin Webb
  • 7 Feb 08, 07:50 PM GMT

WASHINGTON DC: Today's events have prevented me considering your questions.

I had a look at some readers' questions last night, though - the ones collected by the website's Have Your Say team, before I asked for questions via the blog.

Another day I'll try to answer some of those too, but here are my answers to the first batch:

Q How do parties decide on the delegates in those states where they did not conduct primaries or caucuses, and who selects these people? Are they completely free in their choice?
Werner Radtke, Paderborn, Germany

A The answer is that all states hold some form of competition: it is just that they sometimes hold the Republican and the Democratic sessions on different days. But every American (even, on the Democratic side, those overseas) has the right to take part in the process.

Q Which Democratic candidate is better placed to beat McCain, who seems to be the front runner for the Republicans? The Republicans have hinted that they wanted Clinton because she seems easier to beat in the final race for the presidency. What do you think?
Mim Sekandi, Edmonton, Canada

A My feeling is that Mrs Clinton is easier to beat - there is less of a difference between her and him, and while she would do well with her own party base I think, he would steal many independents and those who simply cannot abide the Clintons. So, Obama for a win it seems to me.

Q Do you think Bill Clinton has helped or hurt the Hilary Clinton campaign thus far?
Matthew Hurst, Los Angeles

A He has helped her and hurt her in equal measure: in South Carolina he hurt her at least in terms of the short-term aim of winning the state. But maybe his attacks on Obama had the effect of bringing the Illinois senator down from the heights, made him less of an untouchable star, and took away some of his wider appeal. I really think it is unknowable at the moment: and will one day be the subject of a doctoral thesis or two!

Q Is there any chance of Clinton askimg Obama to become Vice-President or of Obama asking Clinton to do the same?
Terry Brennan, Liverpool, England

A Yes, every chance she will ask him, if he continues to chase her all the way to the convention in the summer - because he will need to be bought off, and he brings people to the voting booth she cannot reach. That is also true of her for him, but I suspect he might go for a white man who can win him some states as well.

Q Could we have a situation equivalent to a by-election for the Democrats if the result is a tie? What happens?
Henry Farotade, Lagos,Nigeria

A It cannot be a tie - because some superdelegates can change their minds, and the pressure on them to do to so would be too huge to ignore. The problem is that a close-fought battle would lead to great bitterness and would remind many Democrats of the Bush 2000 election result, where the courts get involved. This is where the two candidates arrange some kind of deal to avoid such a struggle.

Q How will all the late independent voters sway the course of this election in the long run? Voters like me will make a decision at the end, and would this really affect the outcomes if the delegates have already made their respective decisions?
Raquel, San Francisco, California, USA

A Well you cannot over-rule the delegates! But independent voters are the sexy force this time round are they not? McCain would need them and so would Obama. And Hillary will do her best to get them, or risk going down with only her base onside. So I think you are in the driving seat...

Q Is there any sense over there, from voters, journalists or party members, that at 71 (and a half) years of age Senator McCain is too old for the nomination? He would be 72 by the time of the inauguration and 80 by the end of a potential second term, pretty old in modern political terms.
James Loew, London, England

A Oh yes, there certainly is. It was picked up strongly in the exit polls on Super Tuesday and it matters down the line, however much McCain might make light of it. The view of Grover Norquist - a party bigwig I was talking to this week - is that McCain might well do some deal for a one-term "fix the mess" presidency and then agree to step aside.

Q Is there any difference between the Republican and Democrat nomination process?
Asif Akhteruzzaman, Dhaka, Bangladesh

A There are huge differences of detail but overall the process is pretty similar: both parties are electing delegates to a convention at the end of the summer when the formal vote will be taken for the nominee. One piece of detail that matters this year though - while the Republicans have several winner-takes-all states, the Democrats elect delegates proportionally in all their contests, thus ensuring in 2008 that it goes on and on and on and on and on...

Q Do you think the Obama surge has gone as far as it can? Sure, he won states where there is a strong African-American presence and other smaller states but he is losing where it counts - Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California.
Michael Pearson, Nantucket, USA

A There is a legitimate view, I think, that Barack Obama picks up the kind of support that does not necessarily translate into a general election victory. So he won in Georgia and North Dakota but the Democrats are not likely to get those states in the bag in November. He also tends to win wealthier people (nothing wrong with that!) but his failure to excite the blue-collar base of the party is a problem for him. Having said that, he is incredibly well-funded now and he is trying to change not only the US but the mode of selection of candidates, so I am not going to bet against him...

Q I have been following the Super Tuesday elections, but what I don't understand is that Mr Obama has won 13 states and Mrs Cliton 8, so why is Mr Obama not a winner since he got more states? Could you please shed more light on this?
Moses Chama, St-Petersburg, Russia

A Yes it's easy: this election was for delegates (a certain number from each state based on the population) and the number of delegates is what counts. So he won more states but she won bigger states (California and New York for instance) and so more delegates. One issue though: it may be that the number of delegates will be quite even at the end of the process of counting, in which case it is a draw - although please see the answer above for why it might not be!!

Q I would like to know if you think the American media is showing bias and if so, toward which candidate?
Sherry Smith, Phoenix United States

A Not conscious bias, but McCain and Obama are friendly to the press and love is a powerful weapon...

Q Can the party hierarchy override the final delegate votes? For example, if Clinton wins the required delegates before August, could the party still opt to put Obama up as its presidential candidate (likewise for Mccain and Romney)?
Umran, London, UK

A No. Though on the Democrat side, what would happen if Hillary Clinton needed the delegates from Florida to win but those delegates remained barred by the party? (They were barred because Florida held its primary too early and was punished.) The answer is that she could go to court to force the Florida delegates back in (she won there) and have them elect her. Far-fetched? Maybe, but this has been an election of surprises. It could yet end in court.

Romney departs

  • Justin Webb
  • 7 Feb 08, 05:48 PM GMT

WASHINGTON DC: In a speech he is making around now Mitt Romney intends to say: "I hate to lose. But if I fight on, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or (Barack) Obama would win in November."

romney_ap203.jpgSo he will depart leaving only Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and John McCain in the race - but only McCain with any hope of winning.

The 71-year-old has made it.

Mitt Romney looked at one stage last year as if he might be the answer to Republican prayers.

He had a background as a governor - he had run something - but he'd also been a very successful businessman, he had worked in the private sector.

There were problems though - first he is a Mormon, and there is some resistance, particularly among evangelical Christians, to a faith that many Americans regard as eccentric.

But he also had difficulty convincing his party that he held strong beliefs on some very important subjects. He appeared to change his tune on abortion rights, on immigration, and on gun ownership, to suit his presidential aspirations, and ultimately the party didn't buy it.

Mitt Romney is very wealthy - his fortune has been estimated at around $200m (£100m) and he used millions of those dollars of his own cash to fund his campaign.

It is interesting that the cash did not buy success.

Only politics

  • Justin Webb
  • 7 Feb 08, 04:55 AM GMT

WASHINGTON DC: While all the fuss on the Republican side is focused on the crazies in the world of talk radio, there are other Republicans sharpening their knives. People like Dick Armey - the former leader of the party in the House of Representatives - who tells me the anti-McCain forces are small and have nowhere to go.

Armey - an affable Texan - really does see the McCain ascendency as a chance to see off the people he thinks have damaged the party: the Bill Frists, the Tom DeLays, in fact all the forces of social conservatism who hijacked the party in the early part of the century. I wonder whether the "civil war" might be rather short and easily won by Armey and those of his opinion - there is something rather unserious about people who want to prosecute the war in Iraq but will vote for Mrs Clinton in a hissy fit brought on by dislike of the senator from Arizona.

By the way, thanks to Alex for the (long) thought-provoking post on Obama. I am thinking about it: I must say, the news that Mrs Clinton is reaching in her own pocket does make you wonder whether she is as in control of events as Mark Penn et al would have us believe. I am interested too in what Tyson P says about votes counting this time - a fair point that democracy is actually about arguments as well as the coming together to get things done stuff. Carol Felton seems to think I don’t like Hillary (I thought we were in her pay or something) which just goes to show that it is possible to upset Democrats of all stripes without trying to...

I like this view of the hypocrisy of some of McCain's critics. And this timely thinking on the ability of political parties and individuals within them to kiss and make-up when necessary.

Armey told me a great story about two Republican ladies who had a fist-fight over Bush senior and Reagan when they were battling it out in the late seventies. Then, when the fuss was settled and Reagan picked Bush as his VP, all was smiles and the two ladies were best of friends.

It is only politics.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk