The Corner

NY-23 & 2012

Toby Harnden writes

Sarah Palin roared and had a considerable impact in New York’s 23rd District, which the Democrat narrowly won. Trouble is for her that the result showed the limits of her appeal. There was no exit polling and so there is much supposition but it seems that her intervention energised conservatives but alienated centrists. Perhaps the national Republican who came out best was Mitt Romney, who decided not to get involved.

Romney actually did offer to help and maxed out to Hoffman once Scozzafava dropped out, though that’s certainly no politically heroic exercise. But there’s something refreshing about him not jumping in the mix — he’s being himself and Palin’s being herself. 

What I wrote on Tuesday — which I think stands — about Romney was: 

From the looks of Romney and those around him, he’s comfortable with how he handled the 2009 election. He campaigned for McDonnell in Virginia (and also for a handful of down-ticket Republicans, incuding Ken Cuccinelli for attorney general and former aide Barbara Comstock for delegate) and for Chris Christie in New Jersey. And in New York’s 23rd, he didn’t support the Republican who would drop out and endorse the Democrat, thereby throwing a political pie in the face of every Republican who had endorsed her. Romney stands out without pie on his face. And he knows there are plenty of tests to come, far beyond upstate New York. He has already been campaigning for Senate candidates Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), among others; his Free and Strong America PAC has contributed $190,000 to federal and state candidates in 2009. He’ll move in and out of such races as he deems constructive. 

Romney’s main challenge if he is to run in 2012 may be to rise above the consistent snipes (and anyone who has ever said a positive word about him knows it’s a snipe-rich environment) and make a compelling case that he has the ideas and ability to do what Rush Limbaugh, on Fox News Sundaythis weekend, said is essential for Republican candidates: If they can let all Americans know that they intend to lead in such a way as to “strengthen them, give them the tools, get out of their way and let them make this country work, the Republican party can attract a majority like they haven’t seen since the ’80s.” If nothing else, NY-23 may have been Mitt Romney giving this signal: Gone is the electoral cycle where conservatives say “Jump!” and I ask “How high?” I agree with you on a lot. A lifetime of experience in the corporate, government, and political worlds have brought me here, and this is why we should work together toward similar goals.

If he runs again, it’s going to be on his own terms. It’s the Let Romney Be Romney cycle. Which meant skirting the who’s-more-conservative? tug-of-war this time around.