Silverstein on Romney: “there is no presidential campaign this year whose success or failure so will depend on media managers, marketing strategists, and political gurus as that of Mitt Romney”

For at least two decades, our political landscape has been dominated by consultants, writes the estimable, insightful, and precise Ken Silverstein in a Harper’s release titled Mitt Romney: How to Fabricate a Conservative

but there is no presidential campaign this year whose success or failure so will depend on media managers, marketing strategists, and political gurus as that of Mitt Romney. Unlike his chief competitors for the Republican nomination, he started out with a fairly low national profile and hence has needed to be introduced and marketed to a national audience. And the task of reformulating and repackaging the Romney brand—from the moderate Republican governor of the most liberal state in the Union to a red-meat social conservative and heir to Reagan—has been entrusted to an army of consultants far larger than that of any of his challengers. Campaign disclosure records are convoluted and poorly categorized, so it’s difficult to make a precise inventory. But based on filings with the Federal Election Commission, as of this summer, Romney’s campaign has employed more than a hundred different consultants, making combined payments to them of at least $11 million—roughly three times the amount spent by John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Much of that money paid for the creation and placement of TV ads through Romney’s media consultant and chief strategist, Alex Castellanos, but the campaign also spent heavily on polling, political strategy, and voter mobilization …

… It’s not just Romney’s flexibility on the issues that troubles people. A related problem is the sense that whatever his political convictions may be, he’s not passionate about them. As with the charge of political opportunism, there appears to be some truth to that perception. “Religion, family, and business were his focus,” a person who worked for Romney in a previous campaign told me. “He didn’t have strong opinions on the major issues of the day.” This person, who admires Romney but is not supporting him in his presidential bid, found it frustrating to see him now veer so sharply to the right, particularly on immigration. “He knows better, because he understands business and the economy and trade,” he said. “It’s an easy political position for him to take and a hard one for McCain and the president, who was governor of Texas. My guess is that he thought about the pros and cons, made a calculation, and picked a spot further out on the political spectrum” …

… The problems holding him back were all identified in the campaign’s PowerPoint presentation: the Massachusetts background, the image of slickness, the fears about his religion, and, above all, mistrust of his ideological transformation. Romney and his handlers portray him as having undergone a political conversion, but they can’t point to any convincing catalyst. There was no religious epiphany (as, for example, with George W. Bush) or political awakening (as with Ronald Reagan, a New Deal Democrat who joined the Republican Party in 1962 and backed Barry Goldwater for president two years later, which at the time was hardly a politically savvy move). With Romney, there’s merely been the recent espousal of positions diametrically opposed to his earlier ones, feeding the suspicion that his political shifts are more reflective of his ambition than of his convictions

The emphases are ours. We heartily concur. We have harped on these same strings for months now.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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