Posts Tagged ‘anger’

“An interview with John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mitt Romney, made clear why he is expected to win easily,” writes the estimable Michael Luo for the Caucus, The NYT Political blog, in a post titled Romney at the West Virginia Convention

[Credit: Kavon W. Nikrad]

“We have had the only organizational presence in West Virginia to speak of,” said John McCutcheon, a state consultant for Mr. Romney. “It’s all Romney all the time.”

Mr. McCutcheon, who has been working with Mr. Romney since 2006, when he had only a national political action committee. The campaign’s field director, Wendy McCuskey, was hired over the summer. In all, the campaign has three paid people in the state, along with hundreds of volunteers.

Early on, the campaign had believed West Virginia might be one of the early voting states before Feb. 5. Even after it became clear that would not happen, the campaign still poured out significant resources in the state.

Mr. McCutcheon described an ambitious county-by-county ground operation, complete with phone-banking, direct mail and radio advertisements, compared to only modest efforts made by all the other candidates.

“Any presence that has come in has been last minute and skeletal,” he said about the other campaigns [...]

Yet Romney’s investment was all for naught. Romney got out-maneuvered by his under-funded rivals. Romney’s response? A burst of rage in the form of a press release:

Campaign Manager Beth Myers On The West Virginia Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kevin Madden (857) 288-****

Boston, MA – Today, Romney for President Campaign Manager Beth Myers issued the following statement regarding the outcome of West Virginia’s Republican Party convention:

“Unfortunately, this is what Senator McCain’s inside Washington ways look like: he cut a backroom deal with the tax-and-spend candidate he thought could best stop Governor Romney’s campaign of conservative change.

“Governor Romney had enough respect for the Republican voters of West Virginia to make an appeal to them about the future of the party based on issues. This is why he led on today’s first ballot. Sadly, Senator McCain cut a Washington backroom deal in a way that once again underscores his legacy of working against Republicans who are interested in championing conservative policies and rebuilding the party.”

Yuh-huh. Note the anger. Note the name-calling. Note to Romney: This is the price you pay for alienating the other candidates. See:

how friend and foe alike make careful note of Romney’s duplicity—on Santorum’s endorsement of Willard Milton Romney, where we discuss the “I hate Romney club”

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney backpedaled Tuesday after saying former Sen. Bob Dole is ‘probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me,’” write Carl Cameron, Shushannah Walshe, and the Associated Press in a http://www.foxnews.com release titled Romney Backpedals Over Bob Dole Comments

Romney made the remark in response to a letter Dole wrote to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh in defense of Romney rival John McCain.

Romney even tried to call Dole, with no luck, from the plane as he and other candidates criss-crossed the country to campaign while voters in the 24 Super Tuesday states cast their ballots for both parties.

“Let me make it very clear. Senator Dole is an American hero, a war hero, a fine man and a great leader for our party,” Romney said in Charleston, W.Va., where GOP voters were a holding a state convention Tuesday [...]

[...] In Charleston, Romney said his comment on Dole was only meant to point out that “the selection of our nominee based on someone having served in the Senate a long time … did not do well for us in that election.”

He said he was referring to “that aspect,” not Dole specifically, when he made his comments.

Romney and McCain have been tireless in accusing each other of being soft on key GOP issues, and with McCain leading in most of the Super Tuesday states Romney has been fighting to stay competitive. The former Massachusetts governor was logging more than 5,000 miles as he undertook a 37-hour coast-to-coast tour in the 21 states holding GOP contests Tuesday [...]

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dr. g.d.

“MINNEAPOLIS — Republican hopeful Mitt Romney said Sunday he was counting on the ‘voices of conservatism’ and a non-binding caucus in Maine to propel him to within fighting distance of frontrunner Sen. John McCain, who has opened a double-digit lead in polls before Tuesday’s pivotal votes,” writes Andrea Stone in a USA Today article titled Romney courts ‘voices of conservatism’

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Romney said his win in Maine “shocked” McCain, who had been endorsed by the state’s senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both widely viewed as moderate Republicans. The results showed Republicans were “staying in the house that Reagan built,” Romney said.Romney reiterated a litany of McCain positions he says are out of the mainstream of their party, including votes against drilling for oil in the Arctic preserve and President Bush’s tax cuts and for campaign finance bills and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Asked about the McCain campaign accusations that he has changed positions on issues such as a 50-cents-a-gallon gas tax that Romney now rails against at campaign stops, the former Massachusetts governor rejected what have now become familiar charges of flip-slopping.

“They have stretched, twisted and completely walked away from the truth,” Romney said [...]

Truth? Just what is the truth to a person like Romney?

Here is the problem for Romney: Romney’s icy-cold persona and ultra-high negatives cannot support a negative message. Romney’s own poll numbers crash whenever he does so. Yet here is, again, in person, attempting to slime McCain at the expense of whatever slim chances the GOP may have had in November against Senators Clinton or Obama.

Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates

Say for the sake of argument that Romney succeeds in driving up Sen. McCain’s negatives to the point that Sen. McCain is no longer viable. History would predict that the result would be equally disastrous for Romney. This is because whenever Romney lurches to the right, he alienates the very moderates and independents that comprise Sen. McCain’s coalition of voters. Yet Romney will need those very voters—voters Romney has ridiculed for not being real Republicans—in the general election. See:

Romney outflanks himself yet again!–poll indicates Romney’s pull to the right alienates independents, centrists, and moderates

In other words Romney’s fight is not with Sen. McCain. Romney’s fight is with the GOP itself.

[...] While McCain has racked up endorsements from governors and other high-profile Republicans on a wholesale basis since his Florida victory, the conservative commentariat of radio and TV have rallied to Romney. Long-time fan Rush Limbaugh was joined this week by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and right-leaning radio talkers Laura Ingraham and Lars Larson. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter went so far this week to say that if McCain, who has angered conservatives with his stands on immigration, taxes and other issues, were the GOP nominee, she would vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

” I don’t think you can buy as much advertising” as radio talk show hosts have provided for free, he said [...]

Not entirely for free. Romney’s Bain Capital acquired Clear Channel—the carrier of conservative “voices” like Rush Limbaugh—over a year ago.

The price tag was more like US$26.7 billion.

And the effectiveness of the sale is, at least to date, still in doubt. See:

Here is yet another take on Romney’s sudden bout of Tourette’s syndrome

[...] “ROMNEY ON TW. Mitt Romney came out with guns blazing, accusing John McCain of trying to characterize his positions while he characterized McCain’s,” writes Mark Kilmer in a http://www.redstate.com blog burst titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows—The Review

Romney said he was winning the “battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” the “house Reagan built.” (He’s still invoking Reagan.) Romney boasted of the conservative commentators “coming out for me in record numbers.” Which begs the question, what is the old record which he claims to be breaking? Also, how many of these commentators are supporting him and how many are trying to flex their muscles concerning McCain?

Romney pointed out that McCain’s positions on ANWR, BCRA, immigration, and global warming “cause many conservatives to rally to my camp.” Is this a big Romney rally or a STOP MCCAIN fest?

Romney did allow that he and McCain agree on Iraq. (But he moved to McCain’s position, not v/v.)

Wallace asked Romney about his support for a cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions, and Romney accused McCain of twisting his position around. Yes, though, he said that he did support cap and trade.

Romney launched waves of attacks into McCain and McCain’s positions as characterized by Romney.

This was Romney knowing that the numbers do not look good for him right now trying to draw sharp distinctions between his rival and himself. It would have worked better, I think, if he could have focused on a few areas at a time, rather than a general broadside, but time is short. We’ll see how this plays on Tuesday [...]

[...] ROMNEY ON CNN. Mitt Romney was Wolf Blitzer’s first guest on CNN’s Late Edition this morning; Romney was in Minnesota. Blitzer pointed out that McCain blames Romney for the nastiness in this campaign. Romney said that he attacks only on issues, while McCain got personal in Florida. He said that he was not going to talk about that. (Romney’s stance vis-à-vis the surge is oriented toward an issue. Romney promised that he would keep mentioning that John McCain had repeated reports that Romney had talked of a timetable for withdrawal.)

Romney said that McCain’s “lack of understanding of the economy” was bad for the country, adding that we have to have someone who has had a real job in the private sector in the Oval Office. (That is a personal attack on the former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.)

Romney belittled “reaching across the aisle” and “making political deals.” He said that he is a man of action, of getting things done.

Comment: Say what!? How does one “get things done” if one sorely lacks the political skill necessary to build coalitions? For more on this melancholy theme see:

Why do only 3 out 22 Republican governors support Romney?—yet more evidence of Romney’s incompetence and lack of political skill

Back to Kilmer:

Romney said that McCain-Feingold hurt the Republican Party (it didn’t) and McCain-Kennedy granted amnesty to oodles of illegals (it didn’t even pass). He said that the Florida primary was close, “only a few points.” (Five points is a big win.) He said that conservatives were rallying behind him as a way to stop John McCain, which is why he won the uncontested caucuses in Maine at which no delegates were awarded. (Maine is a bastion of conservatism, electing Senators Collins and Snowe, both of whom endorsed John McCain after co-chairing his exploratory committee last year.)

Blitzer pointed out that polls show McCain beating Hillary and Obama with Romney losing. Romney claimed that the polls swing wildly.

Romney repeated that with our economy “struggling,” we need to elect someone who has held a “real job.” He compared himself again to Ronald Reagan [...]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[...] “So, what is Romney’s angle on the nomination?”—asks the estimable Jay Cost in a RealClearPolitics article titled Can Mitt Catch On?

He heads to Nevada and wins that state’s uncontested caucus. This keeps him viable until Florida, regardless of what happens in South Carolina. He then gives Florida everything he’s got.

Will it work? I don’t know. He has another potential problem.

Why is it that most primary candidates refuse to run sustained, intense negative campaigns? The answer is that everybody is basically on the same side. An attacking candidate has to be careful about his opponent’s core supporters. He runs the risk of alienating them – and they might ultimately refuse to support him after their guy drops out of the race. Romney might find himself in that situation. His attacks on McCain and Huckabee have been as sustained and intense as any this cycle. And there is evidence that this has damaged him with the Mac and Huck factions.

The Pew poll found that Romney’s net favorable rating among these voters is not very strong: just +7% among McCain voters, and a whopping -9% among Huckabee voters. Of course, the sample sizes informing these statistics are small – but they are large enough to validate this modest conclusion: Romney is relatively weak among Huckabee and McCain supporters. For comparative purposes: McCain is +30% among Huckabee supporters; Huckabee is +15% among McCain supporters; Giuliani is an eye-popping +69% among McCain supporters, and +33% among Huckabee supporters. [A problem Romney will confront if he wins the GOP nomination: he has a net -12% favorable rating among the general electorate. I'd wager this is also a consequence of the negative tenor of his campaign in recent months.]

This could create problems for Romney in Florida, depending on how things turn out in South Carolina. Following Pew, it does not seem that Romney is the second choice of a plurality of Huckabee voters or McCain voters. The situation in Florida might be different than what Pew finds on the national level, but I doubt it is significantly so. My sense is that if Floridians bolt Huckabee after he loses South Carolina – a plurality will go to McCain, not Romney. Similarly, if they bolt McCain – a plurality will go to Giuliani, not Romney. Generally, Pew and other pollsters have found Romney in third or fourth place when it comes to second choices. Pew also finds that 20% of Republicans will never vote for Romney, making him more “unacceptable” than McCain or Giuliani.

In light of this, I think that what Romney needs is a nominal Huckabee (or Thompson) victory in South Carolina. It would keep the field as open as possible. If the Florida electorate is split four or five ways, Romney might be able to pull out a victory based on his current coalition – thus giving him an opportunity to expand it in advance of Super Tuesday [...]

We have harped on the finely-tuned string of Romney’s negativity and negative attacks for months. We had assumed—incorrectly, if Cost is correct—that the costs for Romney would be disastrous but short term in character.

Cost has persuaded us otherwise.

Cost’s conclusions assume that the GOP remains coherent and effective as an organization. We assume the opposite: the GOP base and institutions will collapse and what remains of the GOP will decide for Romney—this is our prediction. And: evidence suggests that Team Romney assumes the same outcome. Otherwise they would even now be reaching out to Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee constituencies—only they aren’t—precisely the opposite is the case—the Romneys and their flaks and flatterers are as hostile and condescending as they ever were toward their rivals and their followers. Instead, as Cost describes, the political primitives of the Romney tribe—still smarting from the beatings they took in Iowa and New Hampshire—now attempt to bypass the detached McCain-Huckabee constituencies altogether wherever they discover them in sufficient concentrations to merit concern, as in South Carolina. The Romney Tribe predict that the detached rebels will be powerless in a dispersed and disorganized GOP, which is probably true. This may also explain Romney’s sudden rhetorical turn toward a naive and intuitive “third way” bipartisanship—he now reaches out to moderates and independents and build his own coalition—see:

That didn’t take long!—Romney drops all pretense of any commitment to conservative values or principles—now argues that “it‘s time for Washington — Republican and Democrat — to have a leader who will fight to make sure we resolve the issues rather than continuously look for partisan opportunity for score-settling” etc.

Here is the problem for Romney: he is not a coalition builder. Coalitions organize themselves around movement politicians. If Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Michigan have taught us anything at all it is that Romney is not a movement politician.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“This is what people like to call ‘industrial policy,’ and what Jonah Goldberg [of the National Review, which endorsed Romney for president] likes to call liberal fascism – big business and big government working hand-in-glove for the purposes of economic nationalism,” writes Ross Douthat in a theatlantic.com blog burst titled Where’s the Outrage

Douthat’s claim is a rejoinder to this quote from Romney’s infamous address to some insignificant group of nobodies whose name we refuse to recall:

[...] “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership” [...]

Back to Douthat:

It’s “sustained and detailed,” all right, just as Frum says – a sustained and detailed infringement on free-market principle, and one that appeals to voters in places like Michigan precisely because it goes much further to the left than Mike Huckabee’s substance-free talk about how the current period of economic growth isn’t doing all that well by the working class, or John McCain’s straight talk about how Michiganders can’t expect the federal government to bring back the glory days of Chrysler and GM. But because conservatives spend way, way more time worrying about the spectre of “class warfare” than they do about than the nexus between big business and the Republican Party, Romney gets off with a mild slap on the wrist, while McCain and Huckabee get tarred as liberals.

I’m overstating the case a bit, obviously; there a variety of good reasons, besides their response to Michigan’s economic pain, why McCain and Huckabee have come by their crypto-liberal reputations. But the extent to which Romney is getting a free pass for his back-to-the-’70s, “D.C. will save the auto industry” promises , while conservatives are still obsessing over how John McCain’s 2000-2001 preference for a more progressive tax code makes him a “class warrior,” seems more than a little ridiculous [...]

Yuh-huh. We concur. See:

equity sector multi-millionaire Romney now champions the dignity of human labor, completely abandons arch-conservative line for latest version of Romney, Romney the progressive-populist

Meanwhile, Romney attacks Gov. Huckabee through the Club for Growth on grounds of Gov. Huckabee’s allegedly non-free market policies. See:

“The Club for Growth has an affiliated 527 group, Club for Growth.net, running anti-Mike Huckabee ads in early primary states,” writes Team Huckabee in a Mike Huckabee for President post titled What Does $585,000 buy you

- At least $585,000 in contributions from Mitt Romney financial backers.

- Club for Growth has spent $750,000 against Governor Huckabee in Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan [...]

Operating under cover of 527s is part of Romney’s overall strategy—the following is from a left-of-center blog titled Think Progress:

[...] To hit McCain, Romney has relied on an anti-environment front group, the American Environmental Coalition (AEC) to do the work for him. Last week, George Landrith, the co-Chairman of the group, likened McCain to Al Gore and compared the senator to a wolf in sheep’s clothing [...]

Romney attacks his opponents on the right through surrogates and 527s even as he veers hard to the left. Where is the real Romney in all this angry noise? What does the man really believe?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“I’m told the exit polls indicate voters didn’t like Mitt Romney’s ads, thought he went too negative,” writes Jim Geraghty in a Campaign Spot blog burst titled It’s called for McCain, which must have been terribly painful for Geraghty what with his fawning and obsequious devotion to Romney

New Hampshire didn’t have the “play nice” attitude that Iowa had, but I wonder if Romney stood out a little too much with his contrast ads, compared to everyone else [...]

Um, that may be part of it, but it’s a little more complicated than that:

Rasmussen Reports: Romney has the least core support, and the most core opposition of all the leading candidates, Republican or Democrat—these findings predict the sudden and fierce backlash against Romney’s negative attacks on other candidates

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dr. g.d.

[ ...] “[Romney]’s got a big checkbook so he can survive any kind of showing and stay in the game,” writes Dick Morris in a dickmorris.com post titled EYES ON IOWA: WHAT THEY NEED

But a defeat in Iowa might make him vulnerable to McCain in New Hampshire. A loss in the first two states would cost him Michigan, and he would limp into Super Tuesday with only a checkbook to protect him. Only. [...]

Hence: Romney needs nothing; Romney needs no one. Campaigns organized on a more rational basis—campaigns more tightly coupled to far broader bases of funding, support, and the pursuit of mutual goals—are constrained in what they can say or do. Their complicated relationship to their own emerging coalitions demands constant learning, experiment, evaluation, and review. Romney, on the other hand, is a solitary and apolitical apparition that rises or falls of its own resources: Romney is beholden to none, Romney is responsible to none.

So what price does Romney pay for relentlessly sliming his rivals?

“DES MOINES, IOWA–Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would ‘absolutely’ continue running negative advertisements against his adversaries as the election continues,” writes Amanda C-C-C-C-Carpenter (it’s cold in Iowa) in a Townhall.com blog burst titled Romney Promises More Negative Ads

Romney said this at a campaign rally at Principle Financial building in downtown Des Moines when a questioner asked if he planned to keep going negative on opponents … etc.

Credit for this find goes to Adam of The Palmetto Scoop, who issues this conclusion:

[...] This means that, unless Romney is out of the race after the New Hampshire or Michigan primaries, we can expect to see millions of dollars worth of negative campaigning in South Carolina. And the worse Romney does tonight and next week, the dirtier it will be.

Oh joy [...]

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dr. g.d.

“LONDONDERRY, NH — One day after his first appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Romney faced an onslaught of questions from reporters about his answers on the show, as well as from a voter who chastised him for not answering all the questions he was asked,” writes the estimable Erin McPike for msnbc’s FirstRead in a post titled Romney’s Tough Day On The Trail

Asked about why he was mistaken on the show about his non-endorsement from the NRA during his gubernatorial race, Romney explained, “We checked with them again and said, ‘OK, what are the signals here?’ And they said, ‘Well, we didn’t give you the official endorsement,’ but they phone-banked members here around Massachusetts, or in Massachusetts… So it was, a if you will, a support phone bank, not an official endorsement.”

He was also asked about getting emotional at yesterday’s Meet taping — and perhaps a little bit at the event today, too — and he responded, “I’m a normal person. I have emotions.” He went on to explain that he attended more than 40 funerals of those in service while he was governor and said that it was usually quite emotional for him. “I have emotion just like anyone else, but I’m not ashamed of that all.”

As for McCain’s endorsements — from the Des Moines Register, the Boston Globe, and Joe Lieberman — Romney replied, “You know we each get good endorsements. I can’t get them all.”

With New Hampshire senior Sen. Judd Gregg (R) standing right next to him, as he campaigned with Romney all day, the former governor said, “I’m real proud to have Sen. Judd Gregg and his endorsement.” He added, “If I get first choice, I get him.”

Asked if he was surprised by the Register’s choice, he gave an emphatic, “No.” “Look,” he said, annoyed. “You’re going to get lots of endorsements. I was very proud of one I worked hard to get,” naming National Review’s backing of him last week.

The event Romney was hosting at Insight Technology was supposed to be a military-focused event. Romney tends to group his events for a day — or sometimes for a week — around a certain issue area, which usually amounts to just a slightly bigger than usual focus on the area in his stump speech. Despite today’s focus the military, other than a voter who pressed him on Iraq, there was very little on the topic.

Late into the Q&A session, a man in the audience stood up and waved a questionnaire at him, explaining that a woman distributing them was escorted out of the room and had been told she wasn’t welcome at his event. He then asked if Romney supported that sort of thing, and if he would answer all questions.

Romney kept stating that he believed he answered the man by saying he answers questions. “I was on Meet the Press yesterday, for Pete’s sake.” Finally, he took the paper and indulged the man by speed-reading three questions and answering them, but he was visibly irritated.

The first question was about the cost of the war, and Romney fired back an answer he’s given before about his bigger concern with the war is the cost in lives, not dollars. “I don’t want to get out of Iraq to save money; I want to get out of Iraq to save lives,” he concluded.

There was another question about nuclear weapons, and he said he had spoken with Henry Kissinger yesterday, and he stressed that now is not the time for the United States to rid itself of nuclear arms, pointing out his lack of confidence in Kim Jong-Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinehad to completely denounce nuclear weapons in their own countries … etc.

Yes, OK., but Romney has never connected well with his audiences. See:

Rubin: Romney “doesn’t seem to like his audience much, and they don’t like him”

Get it together, Boy Romney. You need to convince these people that you do not loath and despise them—and fast.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“For some time, Rudy Giuliani has justifably been considered the Republican frontrunner, though not a terribly convincing one,” writes Paul of the Power Line blog in a despairing missive titled A New Republican Frontrunner?

As Giuliani continues to slip slowly in the polls, I’m beginning to think that Mitt Romney can now claim this (perhaps dubious) distinction.

That’s because Romney is looking more and more like the choice of mainstream conservatives. The best evidence is the National Review endorsement. As John noted, while endorsements generally aren’t worth much, this one has value. More importantly, National Review’s analysis may well exemplify (rather than influence) the thinking of a critical mass of conservatives. In the past month or two, a number of my most conservative friends have come around to supporting Romney for basically the same reasons National Review cited. Today, we learn that the estimable Michael Novak has, as well.

Romney would have sealed the deal with mainstream conservatives much earlier, but for the moderate to liberal positions he took on key social issues as a Massachusetts politician. When those positions came to light, many conservatives backed off, waiting for an alternative. Some evangelicals eventually found that alternative in Mike Huckabee. I’m thinking that a majority of conservatives as a whole are going to bite the bullet and go with Romney (personally, I’m still undecided) … etc.

Note Paul’s tenor of dark despair. Yet even shrieking-Romney-partisans like Jimmy Bopp issue the same ambivalent, compromising, hold-your-nose-and-vote-Romney line of argument:

Bopp’s argument according to Cillizza: “You might like Huckabee best but he can’t win. So, vote for the guy—Romney—you like second best”

We concur with Paul. There is movement—halting, half-stepping, grudging and reluctant movement—toward the equivocal figure of Romney. But this movement registers mostly among party elites and the center-right commentariat, many of whom have been bought and paid for, and many of whom will soon be bought and paid for.

Here is the critical question: Will Republicans—real Republicans, Republicans with lives, families, and jobs—surrender the dignity of principle and drink the kool-aid offered by the GOP elites? There is precedent for hope. Those on the ground have broken with their elites and bolted before when confronted by Romney:

out-of-touch Evangelical “leaders” stunned by Huckabee upset at the value voters summit—prepared to sigh, shrug, and coronate Romney as their Lord, G_d, and King—oh, the irony!

So: We shall see.

Whatever comes, we do not expect that Romney will accept the will of the party as expressed in its primary contests with grace and equanimity—and neither does Glen Johnson of the Associated Press who issues his warning in the form of a story titled Analysis: Romney Won’t Go Quietly

BOSTON (AP) – Mitt Romney has worked relentlessly to win the Republican presidential nomination for the past three years, and if he’s going down, it won’t be without a fight.

Branded by some as an elite Northeasterner, he plunged deep into the heart of Texas – with handshakes and hugs from the first President Bush and wife Barbara – to address questions about his Mormon faith.

After rival Mike Huckabee suggested Romney’s religion says Jesus and the devil are brothers, Romney went on national television to try a rhetorical haymaker: “Attacking someone’s religion is really going too far.”

And the candidate whose matinee looks and ramrod posture exude a civilized charm showed he isn’t afraid to get down and dirty: He said if the former Arkansas governor wants to carry the front-runner mantle Romney bore for so long in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’d better be ready for the scrutiny that comes with it.

Romney was happy to help that scrutiny along by airing the first negative ad of the GOP campaign in Iowa, a spot this week highlighting Huckabee’s record on illegal immigration. The former Massachusetts governor would not rule out focusing on prison commutations Huckabee issued while in office.

“I frankly think that the more people come to know about Mike Huckabee, the more they realize they don’t know about Mike Huckabee,” Romney said Thursday in Muscatine, Iowa. “I’m going to make it very clear in every way I can to contrast my views on key issues with those of Governor Huckabee. He’s the front-runner and so I want to describe how we’re different on those issues that people care about.”

All this looks very familiar to Shannon O’Brien, the last person to go one-on-one with Romney in an election.

O’Brien was the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Massachusetts. Romney faced her after elbowing aside the acting governor of his own party, Republican Jane Swift, to grab the GOP nomination.

“I think that he learned his lesson running against Ted Kennedy,” O’Brien said. “He ran negative ads against me before I was even the nominee.”

She recalled the 1994 battle in which Romney, then a political upstart, posed the strongest re-election challenge of Kennedy’s career before the senator unloaded with TV ads and surrogates who questioned Romney’s business record and fitness to serve.

O’Brien says now, “Mitt Romney has demonstrated, given the radical flip-flops he has taken from the time he ran for governor to this presidential race now, he will do what it takes to win” … etc.

Whatever it takes.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“DES MOINES, Iowa — Romney got aggressive with reporters after a military-focused event early this afternoon,” writes NBC/NJ’s Erin McPike in a FirstRead post titled Testy Romney Press Conference

Several times Romney tried to move on from reporters trying to ask follow-ups or not take certain questions in one of the largest and testiest gaggles he’s had on the trail. He was deluged with questions about his speech, and specifically about the line, “freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.”

“It was a speech on faith in America, first of all,” Romney said. He said he was paraphrasing what John Adams and George Washington have said and added that “For a nation like ours to be great and to thrive, that our constitution was written for people of faith, and religion is a very extraordinary element and very necessary foundation for our nation. I believe that’s the case.”
 
Near the end of press conference here after an Ask Mitt Anything town hall, he was asked if he thought a non-spiritual person could be a free person, and he returned with: “Of course not, that’s not what I said.” Pressed again about the freedom requiring religion line, he said, “I was talking about the nation.”
 
He was also pressed about the politics of his speech and reiterated, “You know, that’s not what the speech was about,” and then again said it was about the role of faith in America …

Marc Ambinder describes Romney’s meltdown a little differently:

DES MOINES — Maybe it was a way of saying, “Welcome to the Big Time.” Mitt Romney held his first media avail — we like to shorten words like “availability,” which itself is a fancy word for “press conference” shortly after a stop at Ft. Des Moines, where Ronald Reagan became a 2nd lieutenant. The questions came fast and none were softballs.

Matt Stuart of ABC News wanted to know why Romney excluded people of no faith from his “freedom requires religion” formulation. Romney was a little testy, explaining that he meant that religion seeded the value of freedom for the country.

Jonathan Martin asked Romney whether he thought his speech would help calm evangelical concerns in Iowa. Romney wouldn’t bite …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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