I would just chime in that I agree with Robin that Romney is in very serious trouble. Think of the pattern that’s accumulating: the obfuscation over the Bain record on jobs, outsourcing, and all that, the mysterious offshore accounts (and the magical $100 million IRA), the stonewalling on past tax records, and now his insistence that he was no longer working at a company that continued to list him as CEO and pay him lots of money.
Republicans have long thrived on the “not like you” strategy — portraying Democrats as somehow alien and un-American (remember how John Kerry supposedly “looked French”). But they’ve been throwing that stuff at Obama for four years; if they haven’t managed to turn him into a Kenyan Muslim Marxist yet, they never will. Meanwhile, they themselves have a candidate who is definitely not like the rest of us, heavily engaged in tax-avoiding financial deals that may have been legal but which voters will rightly see as the kind of thing only the very rich can pull off.
What’s more, I suspect that the honesty thing will finally gain traction. For months some of us have been groaning over Romney’s almost surreal dishonesty over policy issues, but have largely given up hope that reporters would get best “shape of the earth: views differ”. But saying you were no longer at a company that listed you as CEO gets this down to the personal level.
I wonder about this last point. Romney is a prodigious liar, this much is true, and I don’t even think anyone disagrees with that. Surely nobody did during the GOP primaries: the moderate Republicans who dominated his coalition thought he was lying about his severe conservatism, and so did the conservatives. Both sides were wrong, I think, but still. He managed to massage enough truths (and build enough support among moneymen to destroy a number of weak candidates) that he got the nomination. But he never really convinced anyone of his sincerity, which explains the item I posted the other day: way more Republicans were voting for Romney by default than because they actually liked the guy. They just hate Obama more.
Thing is, though, I don’t think Romney was faking his conservatism. My longtime stance is that Romney can talk himself into mostly anything. (He’s not been able to appear sincere about it, admittedly, which is an interesting thing to ponder that I won’t right now.) For most of the cycle it’s worked for him, he’s been able to launch utterly ridiculous attacks on Barack Obama without any scrutiny. But the danger is, what if he convinces himself of something that is false because it’s politically useful? What if, at some point, he got himself to truly believe that he left Bain in 1999, and that he didn’t do outsourcing/offshoring, that all his finances are in pristine order and there are absolutely no red flags to be found there? It’s hard to believe–even someone as cynical about the Mittster as myself has a hard time believing it. But it is plausible, especially if you’ve read Saletan’s article on his abortion stance, on how he can argue that he’s always been pro-life when that’s a ridiculous thing to believe, it would explain the past few months easily. Why has Romney failed to respond to potentially damaging attacks? Because Romney himself now believes there’s nothing to them, so there’s no point in responding when you can still talk about economic indicators.
Yeah, it’s a little nuts perhaps, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a better explanation. He’s too focused on the economy? Then why is he launching nonsense foreign policy attacks that will win him zero votes? Even if he doesn’t want to engage on the issue, there’s no excuse for getting caught so flat-footed, for not having some line to trot out when it inevitably came up. Maybe he thought Obama would be too much of a wimp to bring it up after Cory Booker complained? Possible, but if true, that would be some serious underestimation going on there. Maybe he somehow sees engaging in such a debate demeaning and prefers to take the high road? If so, the John Kerry comparisons are more apt than anyone realized, and will become even more so before long.
Anyway, getting back to Romney being perceived as dishonest: could happen, but my guess is that Romney isn’t going to be shaken if he’s convinced himself. He’ll just keep saying he left in 1999, and after a while the press will move onto something else, and will go on portraying him as a technocrat. Not like that hasn’t happened a few times already…
I don’t actually think Tim Pawlenty is a terrible VP candidate for Romney. Not great, but not terrible. Pawlenty has a narrative, for what that’s worth, but he does have a few other things: reasonable credentials for the job, friendship with the Mittster, and (most importantly) no national power base. The latter having a base is problematic in a VP because it gives him (or her) leverage over the top of the ticket, especially if the VP is more liked by the party than the presidential candidate. Palin was an obvious example of this, in that she effectively hijacked the campaign and turned it into what she wanted it to be–some twisted form of demented Andy Kaufman-esque performance art–entirely because she captured Republicans’ imaginations in a way that McCain couldn’t. Biden is the opposite, someone who has some fans but not much of a power base on his own, and who thus has no choice but to be a team player. Both of Romney’s announced choices hew far more to a Biden-like model. Pols like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio have their followings but Pawlenty doesn’t, which is perhaps why Christie and Rubio have not yet been mentioned as top Romney choices. Sure, Pawlenty’s as much a stuffed shirt as can be, but so have most vice presidents over the past half century, and only one has had to take office after a president’s death in that time. And Pawlenty will certainly not deliver many votes, though he probably wouldn’t take away many either. It should play out like an even more boring version of John Edwards’s 2004 VP berth, I suppose.
What’s interesting about the news that Pawlenty and Rob Portman are being actively considered is that it crystallizes a theme in Romney’s campaign, that theme being a Midwest obsession. I hardly expect a candidate to start just throwing states out of consideration (at least, not one who still has some of his marbles), but the man has been boasting about winning Wisconsin and Michigan a lot more than about winning New Mexico and Colorado, at least so far as I can tell. Pawlenty and Portman are, of course, Midwesterners. The attention being paid to this region is interesting and likely smart–Romney’s Mormonism may or may not cause some evangelical Christians to stay home or vote third party rather than vote for a heretic, but that effect is going to be mitigated in the South because of overwhelming Republican dominance, and in the Northeast and West because of fewer evangelicals in these regions. The Midwest, though, could be troublesome for Mitt. Going for a VP candidate with Midwestern appeal is smart, though Portman and Pawlenty are basically empty vessels who engender no loyalty and provoke no excitement. The only person who probably could move votes for Romney in the Midwest would, ironically, be a Southerner: Mike Huckabee, who combines far-right religiosity with a pleasant personality. This is the scenario Democrats should be afraid of, because it fills in so many of Romney’s gaps. But the free market fundies basically hate him because he raised taxes a few times, so this selection would require Romney to stand up just a little bit to his base for the relatively heterodox Arkansan. You know I don’t see that as being very likely.
The Times has a “both sides do it” article on Obama and Romney. A taste:
Is it reasonable to start counting [job numbers] in January 2009? The economy was already shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month by then and none of Mr. Obama’s policies would take effect for some time. Starting the count just one month later would show a small net increase in jobs for the president’s tenure in office. Yet if he cannot be blamed for job losses in the early months of his term, can Mr. Obama be held responsible for not replacing the lost jobs more quickly?
No doubt Romney holds him responsible for that too, but that’s not the question. The question is whether to start counting job numbers for Obama starting in 2009 or 2010. The argument seems to be, 2010 makes sense, but let’s just thrown in another Romney talking point for balance.
Journalism in 2012.
To be honest, the entire article isn’t atrocious, but as with most of these kinds of articles, you read it and wonder, why does this exist? What point is it trying to make? That both sides tend to exaggerate their claims? That’s normally true, but that’s not exactly a great message to put out there when Romney’s camp has compiled a record of flagrant lies greater than any candidate in living memory. I doubt even Dick Nixon could compare to this machine. Of course, Nixon had to deal with editors like Ben Bradlee that were willing to stand up to that kind of deception when it mattered. Now, we have Bill “enhanced interrogation techniques” Keller, who with this article has finally reached self-parody, in nitpicking slight Obama exaggerations while ignoring mountains of Romney distortions like the Benen links show. God forbid they lose their access in a hypothetical Romney Administration, and be forced to actually, you know, do some investigative reporting instead of stenography.
I’m a hopeless contrarian and I know it. When people are shrugging, I go nuclear, and vice versa. So, since apparently elite progressives are panicking because of some poll showing Obama losing black voters and because James “Cajun-style” Carville wrote a memo, I feel the need to point out a few basic facts:
- Barack Obama is currently leading Mitt Romney in the aggregate national poll by about two points. Without the right-leaning Rasmussen polls, it’s about three. No real change there over the past few weeks.
He also does better than average in many of the key swing states.
- Mitt Romney has invariably worn poorly on every electorate he’s ever faced. Just a fact. And he’s never faced an electorate this big before, or had the focus on him for so long! Sure, fundamentals matter most in a presidential campaign, but the man has no real personality and no evident ability to connect with normal people. This matters because a vague sense of weirdness really can be a disqualifying factor for a lot of voters with respect to presidential candidates. At least it’s happened before (see: Gore, Al).
- Romney has lost two of the three elections he previously competed in, and almost got his apparently easy bid hijacked by Santorum this year. Again, not exactly a great candidate.
- While Obama will likely be outspent, he also has the advantage of being president, which means that he has a lot more control over events and a greater megaphone just by virtue of the job. This is why so few presidents lose re-election unless they really, really screw something up (Ford, with the Nixon pardon and draft dodger amnesty, or LBJ with Vietnam) or just piss too many people off (Carter). Carter continually infuriated his own base of liberals and the conservatives who would soon switch to Reagan. While Obama has done his share of triangulating, the overall mood of the base seems to be some form support, if resigned support among many. Not exactly great news, but better than the alternatives.
- Given that Obama has mostly retained the advantage in spite of everything that’s happened, I suspect Romney will need some sort of wild card to beat him, which could happen (esp. in the form of an Israel-Iran conflict or Eurocrash), but it’s awfully hard to predict that stuff. And if you’re depending on that, you’re losing.
..goes to Daniel Larison:
Many observers look at this apparent contradiction and readily assume that Romney wouldn’t actually conduct foreign policy as disastrously and recklessly as his campaign statements suggest he would. One way to make this unpersuasive argument is by appealing to campaign rhetoric: Romney can’t possibly believe the ridiculous things he says, and he’s just saying them during the campaign to mobilize his supporters, so no one needs to worry about what he’s saying. The candidate makes this a little easier to believe because of his willingness to say almost anything to win political support. At the same time, Romney is thoroughly untrustworthy for the same reason. Another way to resolve the contradiction is to say that Romney’s absurd hawkishness is shaped by his risk-averse personality. In other words, he grossly overestimates foreign threats, overreacts to them, and emphasizes the need for overwhelming military power and global hegemony because he is risk-averse, which does not mean that he is averse to conflict. Suppose that Romney’s risk-aversion doesn’t encourage prudence and restraint in the conduct of foreign policy, but instead promotes exaggerated fears of the capabilities of other governments that have to be countered and “preempted.” If that’s right, Romney might not seem reckless, but his foreign policy still would be.
Dead on, I think. And needless to say, putting another person who thinks that we can only survive by being preemptively aggressive toward other countries is not a good idea.
It’s immensely satisfying to see Newt Gingrich’s business empire go down in flames. If you recall, the Republican field this year was divided into “serious” and “business plan” candidates, the former of which included Romney, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, etc., and the latter included Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, people who had no interest in being president, but rather just wanted to say some crazy things to get exposure and sell more conservative books. Which category was Newt in? I’m not sure even he knew. In the beginning it seemed as though he was a “business plan” kind of guy, taking weeks off in the middle of the campaign and such. But at some point the poor sap started to think he really could win the nomination, and he went from a silly pretend run to an even sillier real run. More like a crawl, really.
But the irony is that Newt’s businesses–which mostly peddle bad policy advice to gullible people–have fallen apart, whether due to his own neglect or Republicans tiring of him. And business was why he got in all those months ago. Perhaps everyone finally realized he’s a complete poseur? In any event, it’s good to see Dr. Gingrich, the premier flim-flam artist of our time, finally getting out of the public what he put into it for all those years: nothing.
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