Posts Tagged ‘negative campaigning’

“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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“The Romney campaign’s February 5th math is simple: move all the voters from the Huckabee pile onto theirs and claim a majority of conservatives,” writes the estimable Patrick Ruffini, an “Ex-Bush aide/Giuliani aide/current Romney endorser,” as described by Marc Ambinder, in a blog burst titled Intransigent Huck Voters

Unfortunately, continues Ruffini, it’s just not that simple.

In the South — still more delegate-rich per capita than NY, CA, NJ, IL, etc. — the “conservative” vote, defined as Romney + Huckabee, is splitting down the middle. Most polls down South look like McCain 30, Huckabee 25, Romney 25. We’ve seen how this played out in South Carolina, except there it was establishment conservatives refusing to take the advice that they play ball with Huckabee to strengthen their hand in Florida. We also saw it in rural northern Florida, where in many cases it was a three man race (and often a two man race between McCain and Huck).

The problem with this analysis is that I’ve seen no evidence that Huckabee voters would go to Romney. On a county level, the Romney and Huckabee votes are negatively correlated, with Romney representing the conservative side of the Chamber of Commerce/Rotary Club vote and not really showing outsized strength with Evangelicals [...]

[...] There is a message in these returns to conservatives busy soldering together the coalition below decks: do not assume that just because they’re all pro-life, that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham speak for the social conservatives Romney needs next Tuesday. They don’t. Being pro-life and pro-marriage is not enough. To understand what Huckabee voters want, you need to actually appreciate what Mike Huckabee brings to the table, which is an emphasis on faith, undiluted. Many conservatives, particularly those around here, do not. While many of us agree on the social issues, the conservative establishment resented how he injected his religion into the campaign. Never have I seen conservatives so readily repeat the Barry Lynn/ACLU line on the “wall” between church and state.

It’s instructive to study how George W. Bush united the conservative coalition eight years ago. He did so not as a Mitt Romney Republican but as a Mike Huckabee Republican. The only thing Bush offered fiscal conservatives was tax cuts. The rest was Catholic social thought. Say what you will about him, but Bush has never gone squishy on a single social issue in eight years. But has gone wobbly on fiscal issues, leading to a revolt in the conservative establishment. As Bush knew, and as we are re-learning with the rise of John McCain and the intransigence of Mike Huckabee’s base, fiscal conservatism is where the opinion leaders are, and social conservatism is where the votes are.

Mitt Romney is trying to unify the party as a business guy from Belmont who is culturally as far removed from Suwannee County, Florida as you can get. He’s going about it very clinically: vote for me because I’m not McCain. But I’m not sure that message holds much sway with an audience that takes its cues from Christian radio not News/Talk and certainly not National Review. And notice his message: it’s all about the economy, and nothing about Life and only a little bit about marriage. Christian voters have noticed.

Romney is pinning his hopes on brining in the social “leg of the stool.” But though they’re not wild about McCain, I’d venture that a plurality of these voters would rank Romney third [...]

[...] Specifically, it seems to me that the conservative establishment’s decision to go nuclear first on Huckabee (who never had a shot but speaks for voters we need in November) before McCain (who always had a shot but speaks mostly for himself) will rank as a pretty serious strategic blunder [...]

We concur. Only it was Romney went nuclear on Gov. Huckabee, and at great cost. See:

Marc Ambinder comments on Ruffini’s analysis in a blog burst titled Republican Coalition Politics

[...] Left unasked is precisely why the establishment felt more threatened by Mike Huckabee that it did by even John McCain. And not just the pro-business, anti-tax wing of the professional conservative establishment: the faith wing, too, from the Family Research Council to various members of the Arlington Group who cast their lot with Fred Thompson, a conservative, to be sure, but someone of an undefined protestant faith who didn’t seem to go to church much.

My theory — and it remains a theory — is that Huckabee threatened these interests so much because he never depended on them in the past and would never depend on them in the future. In the sense that these interests mediated between leaders and rank-and-file conservatives, Huckabee was able to bypass the mediators and speak directly to faith voters — the hard core corps of moral conservatives who tend to compromise about 20 to 35% of any given electorate, more so in the South and Midwest [...]

Only now it begins to dawn on Republicans just how much damage Tribe Romney has done to the base.

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“In the wide-open Republican presidential contest, Mitt Romney boasts an influential fan who has the ear of millions of voters,” writes Michael Levenson in a Boston Globe article titled Limbaugh talking up Romney

Rush Limbaugh, the cigar-chomping conservative stalwart, has been on a tear over the last few weeks, talking up Romney and taking whacks at John McCain and Mike Huckabee. And in a race where no candidate has been able to unify the base of the Republican Party, Limbaugh’s chatter matters. With 13.5 million listeners on 600 stations, the nation’s most highly rated talk-radio host could give Romney a big boost.

“Of course it helps,” said Stuart Stevens, a media adviser for Romney. “He’s like the NPR for conservatives.”

Limbaugh, who makes a point of saying he does not officially endorse in the primaries, has nonetheless praised Romney effusively, repeated Romney’s policy talking points, defended him against attacks from fellow conservatives, and after Romney’s win in Michigan this week, declared him the front-runner.

Just as tellingly, Limbaugh has been crusading against Huckabee and McCain, whom he does not consider real conservatives or suitable heirs to the Reagan legacy.

If either wins the nomination, “it’s going to destroy the Republican Party,” he told listeners Tuesday [...]

[...] Limbaugh also derides the independents and moderates supporting McCain and Huckabee as “quivering masses of Jell-Os” and not real Republican conservatives [...]

Here is the problem for Limbaugh and the National Review. Post-Michigan the hapless candidate has shed his allegedly new-found conservatism like a reptile sloughs its hide, as anyone with any sense could have predicted—as anyone with any sense did predict.

Romney himself is paying a heavy price for his viciously negative campaigning—question: will Limbaugh pay a share of the invoice since he now carries water for the Romney family?

Cost: Romney’s furiously negative campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire may have already cost Romney the nomination by alienating Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain voters

Reston of race42008.com earlier predicted that National Review and others will pay a price:

Reston’s prediction for 2008: “Romney’s nomination results in the GOP losing six-senate seats instead of three (Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, and New Hampshire) and a push in the House where at least modest gains were expected”

Here is what is most perverse, at least for us. Romney has already walked away from his botched, misshaped, caricatured, unreconstructed “conservatism” that idiots like the editors at the National Review and media voices like Rush Limbaugh insist upon:

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P.S. Rush Limbaugh’s carrier, Clear Channel Communications, was recently acquired by Romney’s Bain Capital. Coincidence?

[...] “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.

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dr. g.d.

“Republican primary voters in New Hampshire were asked which Republican candidate practiced dirty politics the most during the campaign, with 39 percent naming Mitt Romney, according to a FOX News Election Day poll,” writes anonymous in a foxnews.com release titled FOX News Poll: New Hampshire Republican Primary Voters Say Romney Played Dirty Politics Most

The poll found that no other Republican candidate was named by 10 percent or more (32 percent did not name anyone).

Of those voters who said that Romney practiced dirty politics the most, over half (56 percent) voted for John McCain.

The poll consisted of 800 telephone interviews with Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, conducted the evening of January 7 and throughout election-day on January 8 [...]

You don’t say.

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“MANCHESTER, N.H. — Desperate to save Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, his advisers all wanted to attack Sen. John McCain but were divided about how to do it,” writes Robert D. Novak in a column entry titled Mitt’s Divided Strategy

Coming out of his disappointing performance in the Iowa Caucuses, the Romney camp was united in the need to hit McCain hard for voting against President Bush’s tax cuts. But the decision also to attack McCain’s support for the liberal Bush immigration reform was opposed by a minority of Romney’s advisers. These dissenters argued that Romney’s hard line on immigration taken in Iowa did him no good there [...]

Dear Team Romney: these are not the dissenters you need to listen to. The dissenters you need to listen to you fired.

Here is where we quoted an online.wsj article that told the story of earlier dissension in Romney’s ranks about the question of whether to go negative or remain committed to larger themes. Two good speech writers—the last two professional communicators of integrity at Team Romney—got cashiered in the imbroglio. (The paranoiacs at Team Romney experience dissent as disloyalty.)

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

From the same column:

[...] Published reports that Fred Thompson soon will withdraw from the Republican presidential contest and endorse Sen. John McCain have been traced in part to Mitt Romney’s campaign, trying to stir up strife between McCain and Thompson [...]

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dr. g.d.

“This morning our servers are overheating with a barrage of negative McCain posts, and we are receiving many mails about it, some claiming that we are favoring Romney,” writes WonkoSteve in a wonkoblog warning to the political blog community titled McCain Taking Heavy Fire–Don’t Blame Us

McCain supporters out there, please keep in mind the following:

1. Wonkosphere doesn’t favor any candidate.
2. All our posts are selected automatically, based on the same algorithms we’ve been running since August. We do not select any posts by hand. [...]

[...] 6. Heavy negative traffic on McCain, especially also involving Romney, is not surprising given current reports that Romney is going heavily negative on McCain.
7. The solution to this is for McCain bloggers to return fire en masse.

The legitimate candidates showed us the way at the debate tonight. Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain have shown us the way. Against a common threat to the integrity of our troubled party and its primary process—one Willard Milton Romney—they set aside their differences and concerted their efforts.

Every political blogger—without respect to who you support, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Independent or other—needs to return fire on Romney now, en masse.

Spread the word.

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[...] In fact, even when Mike Huckabee began his ascendance in Iowa, one that culminated in his convincing victory in Thursday’s caucuses, New Hampshire was still viewed as a firewall for the Romney campaign,” writes CBSNews.com political reporter David Miller in an article titled Mitt Romney’s Rebound Plan; Stung By Iowa Loss, Republican Takes Up Banner Of Change While Going After McCain

Polls there showed him with a solid lead – but that collapsed in the two weeks preceding the caucuses, when John McCain, once beleagured, quickly caught up to Romney, and in some surveys, even passed him.

Winning in Iowa would have been the best way to reverse that situation – and since that did not come to pass, the Romney campaign is now shifting gears by borrowing a page from the book of an unlikely candidate: Barack Obama, whose message of change helped him win Iowa’s Democratic contest.

At an event in Manchester on Friday, Romney seemed to work the “c-word” in at every possible opportunity.

“If you really want to have change, you don’t just want to have a gadfly or somebody fighting for this or fighting for that,” Romney said. “You want to have somebody who will bring change, who will sell the company America has – it’s going to have to be somebody from outside Washington, not a Washington insider [...]

We’re sorry, but what?—what does Romney mean by “sell the company America has?”

Romney has spent a year insisting he was Ronald Reagan. Now he wants to be Barack Obama. Has this man ever tried being Willard Milton Romney?

[...] But for all the talk of change, some aspects of Romney’s campaign haven’t. Take his advertising. In New Hampshire, the target is different – it’s McCain instead of Huckabee – but in terms of look and structure, his spots in the two states are identical. In both cases, there’s an initial nicety, describing Romney and, most recently, McCain as “two good men.”

After that comes harsh criticism of McCain’s views on immigration and tax cuts – a method McCain has said didn’t work in Iowa and wouldn’t work in New Hampshire.

But the Romney campaign believes the ads weren’t why Romney lost in Iowa, and the results there should not be seen as proof of their ineffectiveness.

“I don’t agree that we lost to Huckabee because we ran ads,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. “I think Huckabee won because he identified with a lot of the core voters out there, such as evangelicals, on a lot of social conservative issues. He had a lot of voters he identified with, with what is a traditional, conservative part of that base out there. He did a good job doing that. We competed with Mike Huckabee on those votes, and we met our vote goals pretty much.” [...]

We met our goals? Did we? We met our goals and lost Iowa decisively? Boy, we must be geniuses! Perhaps—and this is just a suggestion, Mr. Madden—we need to review our current goals and performance standards before we get our heads handed to us on a platter in New Hampshire too.

This is more evidence of Romney’s predict-and-control operational method.

About Romney’s ugly “contrast” ads and their effectiveness, opinions differ:

Luntz: “Romney made a ‘big mistake’ by going negative against Huckabee”—how a Faustian Romney rages against the laws of physics

Opinions differed at the posh waterfront headquarters of a besieged Team Romney too.

[...] Internally, the Romney campaign began to debate and disagree, a sharp contrast to the campaign’s usual organized and by-the-books culture,” writes Monica Langley in an Online.wsj article titled owa Touches Off a Free-for-All; Romney’s Best-Laid Plans Mugged by Political Realities

Two speechwriters were let go. Although the master plan had anticipated that negative ads might be necessary, the campaign was hit with internal dissension about whether to continue the “branding” plan or “go negative” in campaign commercials and direct mail.

Campaign operatives fought over when and how to “draw contrasts” between Mr. Romney and his chief rivals. Mr. Castellanos, Mr. Romney’s chief media adviser, pushed to shift message as needed to focus on changing rivals and issues. Others argued the merits of keeping the focus on a single overarching message. [...]

History has proven those two lowly speech writers right. Kevin Madden—the maddeningly inarticulate Kevin Madden, Romney’s least effective helper-monkey—should immediately telephone those two speechwriters, apologize profusely, and offer them their jobs back at twice what they were paid before.

Everyone else should go to the wall, starting with Madden.

Back to Miller:

[...]“You’ve only got one guy running for president who’s signed the front of an employment check,” Romney said Friday.

Compare that with a line delivered by Huckabee only hours earlier: “One of the reasons I did well in Iowa, and I’ll do well here, is that people realized that they want a president who reminds them of the guy they worked with, not the guy who laid them off.”

The disparate messages may be emblematic of a growing divide in the Republican Party, which is seeing the coalition built by Ronald Reagan – between blue-collar workers, the business community and Christian conservatives – put under severe distress, said GOP consultant Mike Collins.

“I think it’s more of a universal problem than a Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson solution. We’re battling for the soul of the Republican Party,” he said. “You have very discrete elements of this party that are coming apart at the seams.”

Yet Romney’s campaign maintains that they, alone among the GOP field, have support that is deep and broad enough to keep Republicans unified – an essential for winning in November. [...]

Here is the problem: Romney insists that he has “support broad and deep enough to keep Republicans unified.” But he has yet to demonstrate that support in any way or form. Precisely the opposite is the case: Romney has thus far unified no one constituency behind him; he has only managed to unify the other candidates against him. In fact, Team Romney has failed at every task it has set for itself, Iowa was only the latest. Besides: Who is Romney’s base? Who is his natural constituency? Who has he even convinced that he is a conservative?—oh, wait, now he wants to be the agent of change candidate.

How can this primped, powdered, and pampered non-entity pretend to unify our party when he has yet to unify himself?

[...] “A lot of the other candidates seem to be working on a slingshot effect – do well in one state and hope it builds momentum for other states,” Madden said. “We have a greater ability to motivate our organization as well as deploy the resources across several states in order to compete.”

But ironically, Romney may now be reliant on the same slingshot effect, even as they maintain they could survive a second-place finish – one that most observers agree would be a devastating loss, given the high expectations driven by campaign’s large organization and vast financial resources [...]

Madden is projecting. To “slingshot” early victories into performance gains in other states was always the organizing principle of Romney’s now inoperative early-states von Schlieffen plan. Now Romney has now been beaten back to a regional stronghold strategy. Only Romney keeps withdrawing from his strongholds. Team Romney’s stronghold used to New Hampshire until Sen. McCain deprived them of their lead there. Now they say it’s Michigan.

We predict that their last redoubt will be the floor of a brokered convention. This would be where targeted donations may actually produce an effective return. To try to buy off an angry and fragmented coalition—undoable. To try to buy off the elites of a corrupt party organzation—easily achievable; in fact, the groundwork is already laid in.

To simply stay in the game now becomes the object of the Romney Tribe.

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[...] “Romney outspent Huckabee 20-1 in the state, according to some estimates, yet the advertisements, ground structure and piles of mailers couldn’t help him at the caucuses, the first test of the presidential primary election process,” writes Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune in an article titled Romney’s big investment in Iowa turns bitter; Evangelicals distrust of Mormons likely factored in Huckabee victory

On Fox News, pollster/commentator Frank Luntz said Romney made a “big mistake” by going negative against Huckabee. Focus groups used by Luntz indicated that Iowa Republicans were turned off by the blizzard of attack ads from the Romney campaign and found Huckabee the “most human of all the candidates” [...]

Well, duh.

We have harped on this string for weeks and weeks. You cannot go negative against a rival with lower negatives than yours without doing more damange to yourself than to your opponent. Calling your attack ads “contrast ads” and beginning your personal attacks with “x is an honorable man” fools precisely no one. See:

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

Conclusion: Romney’s high negatives, credibility issues, and icy-cold humanoid demeanor, will not support a negative message. But has Romney learned his lesson yet? No. Romney promises to continue his negative and personal attacks on his rivals.

Morris: “[Romney] doesn’t have to win, place or show”—but: Romney himself has promised to “absolutely” continue airing viciously negative personal attacks on his rivals—so whatever happens in Iowa, the GOP is the loser

Romney is not just at war with the GOP base and its divided and dispersed coalition. Faustian Romney is at war with the laws of physics. He deludes himself that e.g. gravity or entropy does not apply to him, or that he can declare white to be black, or hot to be cold, or negative ads to be contrastive ads, and it will be so. Romney is like a satyric version of a Romantic (anti)hero, raging at the universe like Shelley’s Frankenstein or Melville’s Ahab. Here is the problem for us: Romney may well destroy our party before he’s finished working through his personal issues at our expense.

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“What a nice guy!” writes Joe Klein in a Time.com expository burst titled A Tale of Two Romney’s

Mitt Romney is all humble and reasonable, a human goose-down comforter lulling the Iowans who have come to hear him at a classic heartland café in downtown Newton on a Saturday morning. “I don’t think anybody votes for yesterday,” he says, streaming balm …

Streaming balm?

… On second thought, nope. This guy is, literally, unbelievable and completely at odds with the Romney festering on television screens and in mailings throughout Iowa and New Hampshire. That Romney is nonstop negative, and jingo-crazed about the perils of illegal immigration. He offers exclamations, not balm: John McCain wants to make ‘em citizens! Mike Huckabee gave them college scholarships! And McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts! And Huckabee pardoned all these criminals when he was Governor of Arkansas, while Romney pardoned not a single one of his Massachusetts felons!

Klien develops a new take on the TWO ROMNEYS trope that gets retailed every fortnight or so. Here would be another:

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

Here would be another:

Brooks of the NYT: “But [Romney’s] biggest problem is a failure of imagination—Market research is a snapshot of the past—With his data-set mentality, Romney has chosen to model himself on [And the painfully literal rubes of the National Review have chosen to endorse] a version of Republicanism that is receding into memory—As Walter Mondale was the last gasp of the fading New Deal coalition, Romney has turned himself into the last gasp of the Reagan coalition”

Back to Klein:

All these claims are accurate, or nearly so, and well within the smarmy bounds of political advertising. The problem is schizophrenia: negative Romney on television, positive Romney on the stump. Moderate Massachusetts Mitt vs. Raging Romney of the primaries. “Pay attention to both,” New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor wrote in an extraordinary editorial, “and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core.”

There are limits in politics. You can get away with changing a position—perhaps Romney really did see the light on abortion, not just the results of an Iowa focus group—but you can’t just reinvent yourself out of whole cloth. You can go negative on your opponents, but it’s a stretch to attack them for taking the same positions—on immigration, most notably—that you used to take, especially when you keep getting caught having illegals tend your garden. The sheer cynicism is driving Romney’s Republican opponents nuts. He is wildly unpopular among his peers. “I just hate the guy,” says a rival campaign manager. “If we can’t win, I want to be sure he loses” … etc.

We sure do too. The emphases, by the way, are ours, all ours.

Here is the problem for us: Romney is an apparition—he doesn’t really exist as a political entity. He has no natural constituency (who does he represent, what community does he claim as his own, super-rich leveraged buy-out specialists?), and no territorial base (he cannot deliver his home state!—he could not run in his home state in his current incarnation and survive; imagine how this troubled man will fare in the south after he savaged Gov. Huckabee). Romney is not simply running from his record of policy and governance, he is running against his record, passionately against it!

Our conclusion: The man has nothing, nothing that would recommend him to our highest office.

Yet the goofballs at the National Review endorsed this human work of farcical high fiction to be our president. Dr. Dobson praises him, Rush Limbaugh extolls his questionable virtues, and ideological courtesan Hugh Hewitt writes book-length love-peans to the non-entity candidate from nowhere.

Suddenly—overnight, perhaps while we were sleeping peacefully—the conservative worldview came to mean its precise opposite—it suddenly came to mean a naive faith in human and political agency to not only improve and perfect, but to recreate the human condition, starting with the person and character of Willard Milton Romney. In him consists the solution to our most pressing social problems: it is accept that truth is a socially negotiated artifact, and that we may construct our own realities if we would just believe—that is, believe in Romney.

Also: Why is everyone only now waking up to the grim fact that Romney is an ugly, vicious, hateful cipher of a man, despite his primped and proper exterior? We have harped on this finely-tuned string for months now …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





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