The Campaign Spot

If It Ain’t Brokered, Don’t Fix It!

If you’re one of those voters who thinks I’ve been too cheery about Mitt Romney lately, today’s Morning Jolt is for you!

If It Ain’t Brokered, Don’t Fix It!

Oh, Mitt. Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. What are we going to do with you?

I remember during the height of RatherGate, marveling that folks like Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs (it was a long time ago!) and the Powerline guys and Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds and myself (my apologies for all the Pajamahadin Vets for Truth who I’ve forgotten for their service against the Sauronic Eye) were beating the bushes on 1970s word processors and laying out the case that CBS News anchorman Dan Rather had tried to kneecap the president’s reelection bid with a laughable hoax. As exhilarating and exciting and thrilling and righteous as those days were, I remember wondering at the time . . . why were we the ones left to fight this fight? Where was the Bush-Cheney campaign? Where was the RNC? Why was it left to “a bunch of guys in pajamas” to make this argument and lay out how the Rather report was a pack of damnable lies?

I’m starting to get that same vibe from Romney. Avik Roy defends the work of Bain ten times better than the candidate himself. Romney’s entire argument against Gingrich’s work at Freddie Mac was based on the work of Tim Carney. Every day, I see better, more compelling arguments for Romney from outside the campaign from within the campaign.

Wednesday Jonah observed:

Elliot Abrams’s piece on Newt’s attacks on Reagan is an interesting read. While it does muddy Gingrich’s claims that he was sort of Reagan’s junior partner, I’m not sure everyone will see it as an all-out indictment. As Josh Treviño writes on twitter:  “I’ll take ’80s Gingrich attacking Reagan from the right over ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s Romney attacking Reagan from the left.”

But my question is, Why are we hearing this from Elliot Abrams now and not from Mitt Romney weeks ago? Seriously, Romney spends a lot of money on consultants. They couldn’t prep the boss to mention a floor speech by Gingrich excoriating Ronald Reagan?

And when Romney goes off-message, he needs a GPS to find his way back. Charlotte Hays is left slack-jawed:

Who on earth is advising Mitt Romney? Somebody should have stopped this:

“Romney blasts Gingrich over attack on debate moderators, news media”


Note to Mitt advisers: Republicans hate the news media. Got it? And that goes double for debate moderators who try to entrap conservative candidates with trick questions. Indeed, it was partly Newt’s attack on these scoundrels that catapulted him into first place in South Carolina. There’s absolutely no reason for Romney to say this.  

We’ve had almost 20 debates, and it feels like a hundred of them, not even counting Romney’s debut on the national stage four years ago. He’s had chance after chance to make his sales pitch and close the deal and he has, so far, largely failed to do so. On paper, this is the best environment for a Republican presidential candidate in decades:  “A president who many Republicans see as the breathing embodiment of liberalism sits in the Oval Office; an energetic grassroots movement to fight back spontaneously formed in the tea parties; the 2009 races in New Jersey and Virginia, the special election in Massachusetts, and the 2010 midterms all showed that Republicans can win (and win big) almost anywhere when they tap into that passion; the president’s record consists of enormously unpopular nationalized health care and a stimulus that didn’t make a dent in high unemployment. Throw in scandals such as those involving Solyndra and Fast and Furious, and Obama’s presidency represents the nightmare that every Republican would presumably be highly motivated to end.” If you can’t get people excited in an environment like that, you can’t get them excited.

Part of the problem is that it feels like Romney 2012 is trying to pull off a rerun of the Obama 2008 campaign, running as a largely blank slate, letting voters of diverse ideological stripes project their desires and preferences onto him. The problem is that you can run that when you’re a biracial young man with little or no political record (“Present!”), an exotic personal story (Indonesia! Hawaii! Harvard! The mean streets of Chicago!) and rhetorical skills that are, if overrated, effective at hitting the emotional soft spots of the media and low-information swing voters.

“I believe in America”? That’s what you’re going with this cycle, governor? I’m sorry, you don’t get to quote “The Godfather” unless you’ve killed a bunch of your enemies while attending a baptism. Sure, Romney can have his SuperPAC run some attack ads against Newt, but does anybody think of Mitt Romney as a tough guy? As a fighter? As somebody who you can disagree with, but who wouldn’t want to cross?

I’ve laid out my gripes with Newt. But Romney is making that divided convention, party-elders-look-for-a-unifying-candidate scenario look better and better each day. With Ron Paul playing the delegate game quite smartly, and neither Mitt nor Newt likely to close the deal with unimpressed Republican voters, the deadlocked convention scenario looks a lot more plausible than usual.

At least, let’s put off that final decision as long as possible. As Jordan Gehrke wrote not long ago: “It’s easy to get swept away in the feeling that this nominating process has to end early. But really, why should it? At the end of February, the Republican National Committee will have awarded only 174 RNC delegates out of the 1,143 needed to lock up the nomination. A long primary would allow Republicans to protect their nominee, grow the party, and avoid handing Obama an early target. Let’s hope history repeats itself.”


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