What is an Establishment Candidate?

I can’t tell you how many places I’ve read that have people on the farther side of the right spectrum complaining about how Mitt Romney has been “forced” on voters as the GOP nominee. He’s just what the establishment wants. Well what does being the establishment candidate who is forced on us really mean?

It’s a legitimate question to explore since I don’t particularly like him. But, I don’t think forced is an accurate term, nor do I think what is happening with Mitt an example of the establishment anointing a candidate. If you really want to see a case of that happening, look no farther than Pennsylvania.

Consider the Keystone State’s U.S. Senate race this year. There are three reasonably well-known candidates, and one really rich guy who can buy enough ads to make himself well-known. Candidate A from the state’s population center is wealthy, but he’s never run a campaign. He’s only reasonably well-known in political circles because he has tried to run before, but he never actually got any campaigns off the ground since better-known Republicans stepped in and asked him to step aside. Candidate B has run a campaign and came within a very close margin of winning in a district that had voted Democratic for the seat since 1974. He has a national fundraising list to bring to the table, and he has a record with a campaign that could put numbers on the board even in a tough district. Candidate C is a former gubernatorial candidate who really didn’t resonate with GOP voters in his last primary, but he at least has experience trying to run in a statewide race. He would have a statewide donor list, presumably, so that should count for something. Candidate D is just the rich guy who doesn’t seem to bring much else to the table.

So, given all of these factors, you’d think that Candidates B & C would be the likely strongest candidates, right? Well, the state GOP leaders decided that they liked Candidate A. They liked him so much that they will provide him with official party resources in order to win the primary so he can work against other Republicans. Voters will technically have a say in the primary, but they want to make sure that party resources are provided for shoving their choice in our faces before the general election.

That, my friends, is what I call an establishment candidate. When the party quite literally spends official resources to back their personal favorite and possibly use the resources to attack other Republican candidates, that’s not allowing voters to really decide. I had never heard of such a process until I moved to Pennsylvania. It’s not just at the state level. I’ve watched county GOP officials disparage other Republicans who aren’t in their little approved circle and take them to court for minor things. It’s absurd to waste party resources eating our own, but that seems to be the official GOP way in Pennsylvania.

So, considering this example of truly having a candidate financially backed by party resources and picked in a room of party leaders, is Mitt in the same category?

The fact is that Mitt has won 772,064 Republican votes, according to the Wall Street Journal. To me, that means that Republicans are voting for the man. I may not like him, but I’m not going to claim that those 772,000 are all secretly party leaders picking the presidential nominee for the party. They are voters.

23 thoughts on “What is an Establishment Candidate?”

  1. The better question would be, “Did those 772,000 Republicans who voted for Mitt do so because they like him and his policies, or because they believe (not necessarily rightly) that he has the best chance of beating Barack Obama?”

    Fair question, I think.

    1. I disagree that it’s a better question simply because I don’t think it’s relevant. Who am I to judge someone’s motive in picking a candidate if they simply vote on different factors that are important to them? If they believe that Mitt is the best candidate to defeat Obama in November and defeating the incumbent is their priority, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to vote for a candidate.

      Some people vote the Second Amendment first. Others primarily vote on foreign policy matters. A very vocal portion of voters put abortion as their number one factor in selecting a candidate. Many put a broad number of economic issues as the top priority for a nominee. There are also quite a few who are looking at this as a race to simply defeat Obama, so they want electability to be their first and foremost driver in the primary. All of that okay by me. If you personally want to reorganize everyone’s priorities to fit your own, well, then you’re just against voters having a say at all.

      1. Quite true, and well-stated.

        Personally, I find “electability” to be a weak factor in deciding who to vote for, preferring to measure a candidate by a number of issues. But as you said, that’s my opinion and others may not share it.

        I stand corrected.

        1. I like electability. The number one goal is getting BHO out of office in 2012. You can run an ideal party candidate who does not appeal to independents you won’t win the Whitehouse. There are things I like about each candidate, and things I don’t like about each one. But it comes down to a few things, in no particular order, for me. 1. Can they beat BHO. 2. Can they raise funds to run a successful general election campaign ( more than 600 million dollars). 3. Can they win support of the independents. 4. Do they fall on my side of the aisle.

          There will never be an ideal candidate, and if there ever is you better be really worried about them. I know there will never be a candidate that support all my views, unless I run for office. I have to make a compromise, and that compromised in 2012 is for a candidate who can and will make BHO a 1 term’r

          1. Really, does it matter if we get BHO out if we replace him with more of the same?

            At least with BHO I can blame the numerous mistakes on him. With a Republican it will be a media frenzy shark feast and constant attack after attack. And a big push to compromise.

            If they’re both going to have near identical policies, I’d rather BHO bear the blame and burden. Otherwise, our chances of getting a REAL candidate in some day will be over for good.

            1. Would you rather have 4 more years of him. That’s really your choice. Vote for BHO, vote for the other guy, or stay home and don’t vote. But, if you stay home and don’t vote; shut your pie hole for the next four years if you don’t like the outcome of the election.

            2. I think we’ve outlined here why Mitt is not Obama. You have a chance at swaying Mitt, but Obama without the concern of re-election or the burden of Blue Dogs who want to try and “save” the party brand will be unreachable by anyone who considers themselves to be moderate or remotely right-of-center.

  2. The AJC is reporting on a study by Wesleyan Media Project that there were almost 13,000 pro-Romney ads aired in Florida vs 200 Gingrich ads; a 65:1 ratio. IMO, Romney’s campaign war chest is solid evidence that he is the Republican “establishment” candidate. He will bury Gingrich with ads on Super Tuesday; forcing Gingrich to bankrupt his campaign trying to keep up.

    1. So having money is the definition of an establishment candidate? Does that mean that Candidate D in my Pennsylvania scenario is the true establishment candidate since he’s the independently wealthy one who has actually gone to air in the Senate race here?

      I’m just curious because it’s a question of defining the term.

  3. Not just “having money”, but having more money by orders of magnitude over your opponents combined. All that cash is coming from somewhere; it ain’t all Mitten’s trust fund. On the way home yesterday, I heard a CNBC(on XM) interview by Maria Bartiromo with a pair of Republican congresscritters whose names I don’t recall. Both were just gushing over Romney’s chances of winning it all. It’s all about the money – IMO, Romney poses the least danger to the status quo. The gravy train for Wall Street and D.C. will just keep on running until the money runs out and the dollar hyperinflates.

    1. That doesn’t answer my question about applying that rule across the board. Is Candidate D who has given himself and raised more money in Pennsylvania and actually run tv ads far before any of the other candidates the true establishment candidate by your definition?

      If the definition is set at the most money, then wasn’t Mitt the establishment candidate in 2008 even though he wasn’t the nominee? John McCain’s campaign was on financial life support as the primaries started; he had to lay off a significant number of staff because he didn’t have the money to spend. Yet we heard in 2008 that he was the establishment candidate that no voter really wanted. The reason he ultimately won the nomination was because he came back to win several states that gave him enough momentum to eventually earn enough delegates to the convention.

      I would also pose this to the money issue, do you consider this a problem that needs to be “fixed” in some way? Are we to restrict who gives money? Do we drop the giving limits even lower than what they are? Do you want to keep outside groups out of all elections?

  4. I guess that I misunderstood the question. I thought the question was, “Is Romney as establishment candidate”. I don’t have any simple rules as I detest simple rules – that’s the nonsense that gives us “zero tolerance” nightmares in public schools. With regard to your last paragraph, wasn’t that what McCain-Feingold was all about? Wasn’t there a recent SCOTUS decision that put that to bed?

    1. Since you detest simplicity when it comes to definitions, I’ll just say that no, the Supreme Court did not “put that to bed.” McCain-Feingold is still law in many regards even though it’s been in front of the Supremes multiple times. It was also highly complex in that it covered who could give, whether we have the right to donate to candidates at all as part of an expression of political speech, how money could be spent, and how much money could be raised. So see, none of that simple nonsense that gives us zero tolerance. :)

      The question is partially whether Mitt is the establishment candidate, but I’m also trying to understand how people define it and whether their definitions apply. Yes, I’m going to keep questioning because I’m curious about why people feel this way. If it’s money, then what are the complex rules you think apply in making this the rule? I may challenge back, but that’s because I think it’s an interesting topic to ponder.

  5. Why do so many Republicans back Romney?

    1. Some because they think a “moderate” Republican has the best chance of defeating Obama. They may be right. Gingrich has enormous negatives. I like Santorum, but he’s too social conservative for many voters.

    2. Some because they are themselves moderate Republicans who believe in capitalism, free enterprise, and fiscal responsibility…but they aren’t radicals like me.

    3. Some because they find social conservative ideas distasteful, but find Ron Paul’s foreign policy naive, or the Ronulans disturbingly cultic.

    It does not matter who wins the Republican primary race: I’m voting for him in the general election, even I have to wear a wookie suit. Ron Paul may destroy this country with his naive foreign policy; Obama will destroy this country with his fiscal policy.

  6. Establishment to me means:

    a) will mostly continue status quo with little variance

    b) is politically and/or financially connected

    c) is being actively pulled for by the major party

    d) has polls and elections called for him longer before results are in, often with incorrect results. And is repeatedly called the front runner and/or winning candidate by established media sources.

    e) has big donor campaign financing.

    1. By those standards, the only way to have a non-establishment candidate is to pull someone out of the phone book, verify they aren’t affiliated with any political party (which largely means they aren’t even registered to vote), and telling them they “win” hours after the polls close. That doesn’t exactly sound realistic.

      As for the called elections, that’s actually correct far more often than it’s wrong. It’s based on which precincts are reporting. Based on voter registration data, outlets & candidates know where the numbers are. If all of the precincts with the biggest numbers are turned in, and only the outliers that can’t sway an election remain, why shouldn’t they call it? When we went to our state rep’s watch party in 2010, they updated the results by precinct so we could see what areas of the district were still out and had a good idea of when it was definitely by a margin of votes that could not be overcome. Just because you see that only 20% of precincts have reported in an area doesn’t mean that only 20% of the votes have been counted.

      1. Bing, Bing, Bing! We have a winner!
        That is the truth of the matter – every canidate is an “establishment” canidate.

        Just because we get to make a choice, does not mean that we have a choice.

        1. If you’re unhappy with the choices, it’s your fault. Until you step up and run, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.

          1. It’s my fault!?
            Now I feel the need to apologize to everyone. Because of my laziness you all will have to choose from several flavors of vanilla come this November. If only I had known that the decision to add strawberry to the selection rested with me, I would have acted sooner. I’m sorry. :)

            But in all seriousness, ignoring the fact that I’m to young to run for office, if I did run, it would not make any difference on who we get to pick from for our final choice, nor how the county is run.

            But I will agree with you that if I did run then I could complain from a superior position, I just don’t think that it is required.

            1. I’m sure you understand the larger point that if the crop of candidates isn’t good enough, the only way to fix it is to run for office yourself. It’s the only way you’ll be 100% happy with the positions of the candidate in the race. Presidential elections aside, there are plenty of local and state offices that have very low minimum age requirements.

      2. I think the “called elections” comment was in reference to Romney (not) winning Iowa, yet that “fact” was broadcast from the rooftops.

  7. You raise a good question; however, I will argue that not all of the 772,064 votes are not necessarily “Republican” due to open primaries in MA and SC (remember Operation CHAOS?) Having said that, I will grant you that New Obama (now 50% whiter) is more popular than I would like to admit. I attribute this to the fact most Americans want the maximum personal freedom for themselves and the largest ability to restrict freedoms for their neighbors. Whether it’s gun control or religion, Americans try to foist their opinions on their neighbors. Combine that with the insatiable lust for power among political parties and incessant attempt to buy influence, it’s no wonder that we have two parties dedicated to bigger government. Because of these factors, candidates and legislation passed by the two major political parties tend to reflect the “average American’s” desires depsite what we’d like to believe. Bottom line–there is truth in what you’re saying.

    Now, why is there a persistent belief in the existence of a GOP “establishment candidate?” I believe it stems from several things. The first problem is the stupid primary system. Instead of catering to a few states and leaving most of us near the end with no choice, have a national primary day. Everybody votes on the same day. That way, you get the candidate that the most people want instead of what IA, NH, SC, and FL want.

    Second, stop worshipping moderates. They come off as spineless, which nobody really wants. Bush I got in the coattails of Reagan. He got stomped in ’92 because he had spent four years urinating on his base (guns & taxes, specifically). Perot had nothing to do with it. Dole got trounced in ’96. Bush II squeaked one by in ’00 as a more conservative alternative to McCain. He won again in ’04 (as a wartime incumbent, which isn’t that hard historically). In ’08, McCain (even more progressive than Bush) got his butt handed to him. In ’12, the presumed nominee is even more liberal than McCain. I predict you’ll depress Republican voter turnout and lose again.

    Third, stop the in-fighting. The RNC never said anything to McCain when he said he didn’t need conservative to win in ’08. They also never said anything when he called the Tea Party folks “hobbits.” You don’t see this sort of crap on the Democrat side.

    Fourth, stop treating the conservative vote as a given. Act like you have principles you stand for instead of trying to get the mainstream media to like you. If you’re making them happy, chances are you’re not making the base happy.

    I will finish by saying that the choices really are underwhelming this year: New Obama, the Globalist, the Ayatollah, and the Crazy Uncle.

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