Romney’s negative attacks on others and his negatives in the polls–what is the link?
In an NRO Campaign Spot web log post titled How Negative is Too Negative in a Primary, shameless Romney sycophant Jim Geraghty, now cross-dressing as a Romney critic in a vain effort to recover a sense of independence from the troubled candidate, opines:
… But there are signs that the latest jabs by Mitt Romney might be stirring up bad blood among opposing campaigns – or more than usual in these races.
At this point in the race, all the staffers for the leading candidates like their guy and don’t like the other guys. Of course they’re going to bad-mouth the opposition. Of course they’re going to see their man as Charles De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic being asked, ‘Don’t you want to rush in and join the pygmies?’, to use a metaphor that just rolls off the tongue.
But when the staffers of Romney’s rivals talk about the Massachusetts governor, their disdain feels a bit more personal. The grating of their teeth goes up a few decibels. Some say they’ll be able to support him in the general election – even though they’re absolutely certain their man is going to be the nominee, and so the question is completely hypothetical — but others hint that they won’t … more
Geraghty’s anecdotal findings are consonant with the latest Rasmussen numbers. See:
… As for Fred Thompson and Sam Brownback, they’ve established pretty conservative records in the Senate going back a ways, and Fred’s been to a slew of party dinners lately. Romney, by comparison, is a relative newcomer to the scene, winning his first office in 2002, and just doesn’t have that national profile among Republicans, as reflected in his name ID poll numbers. He’s contributed heavily to conservative causes (including buying a table at an NRO dinner, if I recall correctly) but he’s not a “movement conservative” in the traditional sense. And when his opponents point to his Romney 1994 Senate debate comment — “I was an independent during Reagan-Bush, I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush” — it reinforces the sense that Romney just isn’t a guy who’s been with the conservative base through thick and thin, and who doesn’t have the standing to criticize other candidates’ deviations from conservative orthodoxy. [emphasis ours]
One conservative communications guy for one candidate says he was amenable to supporting Romney for President for much of last year, arguing, “even though he was a panderer, he was at least pandering to us.” But now the “there came a point where the entire Romney campaign just became an insult to my intelligence” … more
Regard how shameless Romney sycophant Geraghty still manages to close on an optimistic note for Romney’s troubled campaign.
“And at least one staffer for a Romney rival I spoke to predicted it would all blow over if Romney got the nomination. ‘Every race I’ve done, you get people saying they’ll never vote for the other guy, they’ll vote for the Democrat. And it never happens. They see the Democrats attacking the Republican candidate unfairly and they rush to the defense of their nominee'” … more
Or is it so optimistic? Stop for a moment. Pause. Now, reflect on the dejection, the desperation, and the despair of this argument. Faced with no choice but Romney, Republicans will choose Romney! This explains Romney’s baffling negativity, his angry and often nit-picking attacks on other candidates, because to slime the other candidates beyond viability is the Romney campaign’s only real hope of getting their candidate nominated. They know that many Republicans will never vote for Romney. Republicans may, however, vote against a Democrat out of fear, anger, bitterness, despair, or for sheer partisan spite.
This is Romney’s Prayer (or so we call it), a frequent argument offered by Mittwits and Romney sympathizers, and a theme we have developed elsewhere.
Our response: No. Not this time. There is a limit to how much dishonesty we can tolerate. If Romney wins the GOP nomination we will vote Libertarian or Constitution Party. See:
The grim irony of Romney’s Prayer is that it dooms in advance the GOP’s chances in the national contest.
- Say Romney prevails; he becomes the GOP nominee. To have gotten there he will have had to alienate huge tracts of a GOP political base already in disarray, and already inclined against Romney.
- Say Romney fails in his bid for the nomination but sticks it out to the bitter end funded by his “vast personal fortune.” (Remember: Romney is not subject to the same market discipline—for want of a better term—that moderates the behaviors and positions, whether for good or for ill, of the other candidates, those who must raise most of their own campaign cash). Will the GOP’s national candidate be in a position to prevail after having barely survived the superbly well-funded Romney slime-machine? Answer: Probably not.
Conclusion: whatever the outcome, Romney’s Prayer is in effect a mutual suicide pact for the GOP.
Allow us to articulate our argument in more familiar terms. It is common wisdom that a candidate whose negatives are high should not go negative. The negative campaigner may bring down her rival or rivals, but not without bringing herself down as well. Does any remember Dick Gephardt’s bitter attacks on Howard Dean and how they backfired on him? Neither do we. But the same was once said about Gephardt as is now said about Romney by Geraghty and others. Gephardt, however, was at least limited by the poverty of his campaign and Gephardt’s own loyalty to the interests of his party.
Romney has high negatives and has clearly gone negative. He has a far smaller-narrower base of support but far, far more resources than Gephardt ever had. And: Romney has far less of a commitment to the success of the GOP than Gephardt, a loyal soldier to the end, had to the DNC.
So: Imagine a Republican Dick Gephardt, on steroids, angry, alienated, estranged, adrift, and with no larger sense of party loyalty to restrain him, a man surrounded by hirelings, contractors, and highly-paid specialists, as opposed to the usual politicos, interest group players, and party insiders that surround other candidates, i.e. people with larger and longer term interests at stake. Now imagine that this hypothetical Republican Gephardt with nothing to lose but everything to gain has both the will and the resources necessary to slime and vilify whatever candidate or candidates he chooses.
This is Willard Milton Romney.
And this is where we are at this historical moment.
These are interesting times for the GOP.
P.S. Also see:
- Willard Milton Romney purchases influence at National Review
- National Review challenged by Movement Conservatives; the issue: Romney
- The equity sector candidate, Romney, discovers that the political right is largely for sale