Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mitt 3.0

Mitt Romney’s announcement last week that he is considering a third run for the White House has generated an enormous amount of coverage in the media and DC’s chattering class. Pundits are feverishly offering tic-tocks of behind the scenes phone calls to donors, the assembling of a campaign-in-waiting and even dusting off some of Mitt’s prior protestations that he was done with politics after his landslide defeat in 2012.

But the bigger question is why anyone takes this guy seriously. Romney spent a single term as Governor of Massachusetts, declined to run for re-election, and left office in 2006 to begin running for President - something he has now done for twice as long as he was Governor. His one major policy achievement, the passage of “Romneycare,” is anathema to large swaths of his party and he has shifted his position on every major foreign and domestic policy so many times, you need a chart to keep track of where he currently stands. He barely eked out a win in the 2012 Republican primary against what was universally recognized as the weakest field in decades and then proceeded to get his clock cleaned in the general election by a President who had an avalanche of negative press dropped on him from the day he put his hand on the Bible and an economy that was still finding its footing. And oh yeah, he produced the single most embarrassing piece of campaign video since Mike Dukakis was caught in that tank in 1988.

There is no clear rationale for a Romney candidacy, much less a Romney presidency. His purported managerial genius was exposed by the Obama team as a farce. The Romney campaign famously had more than twenty people review tweets before they were posted and major news organizations constantly griped about not just the candidate’s inaccessibility, but the inability to get the simplest parts of campaign logistics right – billing, wifi in press areas, etc – so how is it that we would entrust Mitt Romney with the levers of government? The other legs of his platform like lower unemployment and reduced deficits have happened without his stewardship and sops to corporations are as unpopular now as they were in 2012. Obama skewered Romney in their one foreign policy debate and Mitt’s after-the-fact gloating about Russia’s threat to the West has been mitigated substantially by the free fall in the ruble and financial crunch Russia is currently experiencing because of the plunge in the price of oil.

The rose colored glasses of those associated with Romney suggesting that he came close to winning is as delusional now as their ignoring polls leading up to Election Day 2012 that all strongly indicated a big Obama win. Indeed, Romney did not do much better than John McCain – winning two states, Indiana and North Carolina (the latter by a razor thin margin) – that McCain lost, but the former voted for a Democrat in 2008 for the first time since 1964 and the latter, for the first time since 1976. Romney did not come within spitting distance of Obama in critical states like Florida, Pennsylvania, or Ohio and lost “purple” states like Colorado and Virginia that Republicans once carried easily. Romney was outclassed in two of the three debates and was rightly pilloried as an out-of-touch rich guy who had very little sense or appreciation of the needs and struggles of everyday Americans unless you owned a NASCAR team or were attempting to bully the local planning board into allowing you to construct a car elevator in your beachfront mansion.

Perhaps this Romney boomlet is simply a product of the past falling down the memory hole, but on everything from his gaffe-filled foreign trip to England, Israel, and Poland when he offended the hosts in all of the countries he visited, to his bald lies in the waning days of the 2012 campaign about auto companies moving jobs to China, he was a disaster as a candidate who had one good night (the first Presidential debate) in an otherwise moribund, uncreative, and disorganized run for the most important job in the world. That he is even looked at as a plausible candidate for that position may say more about the latitude offered by the media because the American people have clearly made up their mind about him.

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