The Campaign Spot

Why Can’t Any Rival Take Mitt Romney Down a Peg?

A packed-to-the-gills edition of the Morning Jolt closes out the week, looking at what angers President Obama, whether the Occupy Wall Street protests are being overhyped by the media, and finally, why so many anybody-but-Mitt Republicans have been so disappointed so far:

The Mitt, Too Legit to Quit

In the past day or so, there’s been this horrifying realization among Republicans who had an ‘Anyone But Mitt’ viewpoint that there’s a really good chance that the GOP nominee will not be any of the 300 million Americans they preferred more than Romney.

In the Corner, Michael Walsh fumes, “Thus far, he’s largely skated on what should be a career-ending issue, Romneycare, more thanks to the ineptitude of his opponents than any persuasive defense of it. If and when he makes it to the general election, the Democrats will unleash their full stable of ridiculers on him — Bill Maher’s staff is probably writing the jokes right now. Meanwhile, the GOP will be forced to defend the idea of universal health care, thus handing Obama a completely undeserved philosophical victory. Romney gets away with it in part thanks to an evasive, annoying debate trick, which goes something like this: Asked a question about X, he’ll respond, ‘I don’t know much about that, but what I do know is . . .’ and then give one of his little speeches about Y or Z, delivered as unconvincingly as possible.”

This ‘why can’t anybody land a punch on Mitt’ lament is echoed by Scott Galupo, writing a U.S. News & World Report, who asks, “Is former Gov. Mitt Romney a better campaigner than I thought — or are his closest rivals just that pathetic? As things stand now, the former Massachusetts governor will enjoy an astonishingly painless pivot into the general election. The albatross of the individual mandate; the flip-flopping; the barely-concealed technocratic centrism; the robotic persona — it’s all there. But a succession of more authentic-seeming conservatives hasn’t been able to land a significant blow.”

I would note that there’s a strange phenomenon to the oft-criticized “ineptitude of his opponents” angle. If Romney is just so easy to demolish before an audience of GOP primary voters, why hasn’t anyone done it? I don’t just mean the current crew, although you might have expected somebody out of a crowd of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, and Tim Pawlenty to do so. But how about last cycle’s crowd? Somehow Romney came through the 2008 cycle defeated yet somehow well-positioned to be a strong contender or frontrunner in this cycle. And it’s not for lack of metaphorical punches from Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, or John McCain. Walsh says that Romney’s “little speeches about Y or Z” are delivered “as unconvincingly as possible,” but the poll numbers suggest that they’re convincing somebody.

I think I’d ask the Romney skeptics to recognize that maybe Mitt’s got some game, or at least some discipline, which is a vastly underrated trait in a candidate. This has been the cycle where all the non-Mitt options took turns imploding. First Newt begins his campaign by going on a cruise and most of his staff quits. Then Michele Bachmann suggests that a vaccine causes retardation. Then Rick Perry stumbles through three debates so badly that by the fourth he’s expressing exasperating that everyone around him keeps arguing “whether or not we are going to have this policy or that policy,” and nobody even blinks that he’s bothered by the presence of policy debates at a policy debate. At this rate, next month Herman Cain will be apologizing for offering sausages made from endangered species as topping options while running Godfather’s Pizza.


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