The Corner

‘Not that optimistic…’

That, apparently, is the view of Mitt’s men – not about the debate, but about the whole campaign.

I have this from the lips of Sam Coates, the deputy political editor of The Times, who was on BBC Radio 4′s Broadcasting House last Sunday doing one of those panels of pundits-looks-at-the-press-the-way-models-look-at-mirrors. Everyone agreed that according to the press, the U.S. election was finally over and that Obama would be back for four more years. All the newspapers all said so. “It feels,” said Coates, “that the incumbent is pulling away.”

Coates said the assumption of a Romney defeat jibed with his own view of the Republicans surrounding Mitt, a pessimism he saw back when Romney was in London talking about the Olympics. “His aides were there,” he said, “and they were telling some of our political advisers that, really, they weren’t that optimistic about their guy’s chances. They’re pretty resigned to it not going well, and it’s interesting to see that people are already moving away from his campaign.”

Does this seem plausible? Coates is a normally careful reporter. So does it seem that the coterie of mostly cautious Republicans surrounding Mitt are just going through the motions – they way they did for Dole and McCain? Does it seem, as it does from this side of the Atlantic, that Mitt’s Republicans are embarrassed by their base and even by their VP nominee?

Why yes, it does. Coates said the turning point for Obama’s campaign was when Clinton gave his “extraordinary and brilliant” speech defending Obama’s political vision at the Democratic convention. He might have added that the turning point for Republicans came much earlier, in 1987, when George H.W. Bush ridiculed “the vision thing.” The last thing Mitt’s Republicans want to talk about is ideology, belief, vision. Maybe all those goofy polls are right: asked to choose between a candidate with a clear, if unpopular, vision and one who seems like a very capable manager,

Republicans who have experience running campaigns based on a vision or two must be feeling now the way Romney’s dour aides have apparently felt all along. According to The Independent, Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Republican who defeated a union-run recall effort in a Democratic state, seemed to speak for many of his ilk:

“I want to see fire in the belly,” Walker declared, demanding evidence that the nominee is “lit up and ready to go”. He added: “I think you got to get off the heels and get out and charge forward.”

If “fire in the belly” means “I just swallowed a Glo-Stick,” Mitt’s your man.

Denis Boyles — Dennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...

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