An excellent piece by Milton R. Wolf appeared Thursday in the Washington Times. In his piece, Wolf deconstructs the narrative which has been promulgated by the Republican Establishment since the 2008 election. Namely that Mitt Romney is the best choice for Republicans to nominate in 2012 because of his “electability”.
To be sure, I’ve written dozens of posts over the past two and a half years pointing out that this is nothing more than self-serving nonsense on the part of Republican consultants who anticipate a big payday from a Mitt nomination, and that Obama will easily dispatch Romney should he be the nominee regardless of the state of the economy. But for the most part, the beltway Republican punditocracy has remained undaunted and their warm fuzzies for the Mittster have not abated. Lately, though, a precious few establishment pundits have begun waking up to the obvious: Mitt can’t win. The Washington Post’s George Will and National Review’s Michael Walsh, to name two.
Wolf first makes a point I’ve made many times in the past: If Romney’s such a great candidate, why couldn’t he beat McCain in 2008 when, by all accounts, McCain was about as popular with the conservative base as Romney is today:
The Washington establishment, ever a font of wisdom, has chosen its candidate. Mitt Romney’s victory in the Republican primaries, the insiders say, is a fait accompli. They claim he’s the most electable, the safe bet. Fine; let’s play along for the moment and consider what the Democrats have in store for him in the general election.
Recall that before Barack Obama trounced John McCain in 2008, Mr. McCain trounced Mr. Romney. But that’s not the worst of it. Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts electoral record hardly inspires confidence. He was elected initially in 2002 but couldn’t crack 50 percent of the popular vote. By the end of his first and only term, he had an anemic 34 percent approval rating and a 65 percent disapproval rating. Survey USA ranked Mr. Romney’s popularity 48th out of the 50 governors. With that, the supposedly electable Mitt Romney walked away rather than face the voters.
Can someone please explain why we should believe he’s suddenly so darn electable now?
Damn good question. I would also note that Romney, despite all the money he spent, not only couldn’t beat McCain, but he couldn’t beat Huckabee either. I have to admit I was unaware of the degree of Mitt’s unpopularity in Massachusetts. A 65% disapproval rating? No wonder he didn’t run for re-election.
This got me to thinking… We keep hearing that Santorum, for example, is not viable because he lost his Senate re-election bid to Bob Casey by 18 points, making him unelectable in a general election. Fair enough. But it appears Romney would have lost re-election in his state by significantly more. Why does this same standard not apply to the Mittster? Given there’s no chance Romney could win Massachusetts in the general election, what exactly is his constituency outside the beltway?
Wolf next focuses on the folly of Team Mitt’s reliance on hypothetical polls as justification for, well, anything at all:
The juggernaut of the Romney electability myth has been centered around polls showing that he leads President Obama in a theoretical head-to-head matchup. Of course, polls taken a year before an election are dubious at best – just ask Presidents Michael Dukakis, Rudolph W. Giuliani or Fred Thompson. But even those polls are betraying the Romney myth. The latest Rasmussen head-to-head polling shows Newt Gingrich ahead of Mr. Obama by two points and Mr. Romney trailing by six.
Wolf is exactly correct, as I’ve argued many times. Hypothetical polls mean nothing. They are taken to create news, but are not themselves news. Unlike us political junkies, the vast majority of the electorate pays little or no attention to politics a year ahead of an election. One metric that does matter, however, is Romney’s consistent inability to rise above the 20-25% level of support among Republican Primary voters. For the most part, politics do matter to primary and caucus voters and Romney’s spent millions over the past six years trying to win them over. The result: No sale. John Podhoretz describes this intransigent ceiling of support as Mitt’s ”flatline”:
Romney’s solid 20 to 25 percent in the polls all year hasn’t grown, no matter what else has happened. That is, his lead is a flatline. What’s more, Romney knows it, and is entirely at a loss about what to do. How else can one explain his peculiar level of agitation with Fox News’ Bret Baier during a respectful and sober interview on Wednesday?
Baier asked a series of fair and judicious questions relating to his health-care plan in Massachusetts and his shifting stance on immigration. Romney acted as though Baier were Dan Rather calling him a wimp.
Wolf then makes the obvious point that Obama can easily neutralize one of his biggest vulnerabilities, ObamaCare, should the man who designed the plan on which ObamaCare is based be his opponent:
Consider how the Democrats will campaign against Mr. Romney. At the core of Mr. Obama’s failed presidency are the two intertwined, evil strands of DNA, Obamacare and Obamanomics, and with them the era of failed bailouts, high unemployment, government takeovers, crony payoffs and a downgraded America. Luckily for Mr. Obama, his two chief vulnerabilities – Obamacare and jobs – are the very ones most easily neutralized should he face Mr. Romney.
Obamneycare: Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts Romneycare is the forebear of Obamacare. Both are premised on the notion that the governing class may force its subjects into government-knows-best health-insurance servitude. Mr. Romney will continue in vain to deny the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare, but there isn’t enough hair gel in the world to straighten that hairdo. Every minute spent trying is a lost minute.
As to Romney’s claim of knowing how to create jobs? Wolf describes how Obama will easily turn that back on the Mittster:
Jobs: Mr. Romney, founding partner of Bain Capital, acknowledges laying off workers but has claimed that his business ventures have, on net, created jobs. I believe him. I also appreciate the economic benefit of “creative destruction.” But this matters little in campaigns. Perception becomes political reality. Mr. Obama’s counter for his own abysmal jobs record – 2 million lost – will be to showcase every person who was ever laid off by Mr. Romney. Recall the dagger in the heart of Mr. Romney’s 2008 campaign, Mike Huckabee’s simple statement, “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.”
That’s an excellent point by the Huckster (even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while) and Obama will have a billion dollars with which to “define” Mitt as the guy who laid you off. As Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker predicts, expect to see a lot of the following picture in 2012 if Mitt’s the nominee:
The ads Obama can produce with this picture practically write themselves, wouldn’t you say? Another point I’ve made multiple times is that Obama and his allies in the mainstream media want Obama to face Romney, just as they wanted McCain to be the GOP nominee in 2008. Thus far the media has been quite deferential, even supportive to Romney. This won’t last, of course, and Mr. Wolf describes when and how this will change.
Consider how the selectively quiet mainstream media waged war on the conservative challengers, one by one, just as they began to pose threats to Mr. Romney, yet they have found little time for exposes on Romneycare or Bain Capital or – brace yourself – racism in the Mormon Church. Don’t worry, they will. Meanwhile, conservatives should ask themselves why they’re holding back now.
The media will turn on Mr. Romney faster and with greater vengeance than they did Mr. McCain in 2008, and when they do, his poll numbers – unlike those of his GOP rivals who already have faced their firestorms – will crater like Mr. McCain’s did. I would guess they’re already hunting down every family with a grievance against Bain Capital for breathless “How Mitt Romney destroyed our family” news stories. Unfair? Absolutely. Damaging? You decide.
There’s no doubt Team Obama is queuing up for exactly that. I imagine they’ll also approach the Huntsman campaign with a request to purchase the great anti-Romney ads he’s been running. Who knows, Huntsman may well oblige. After all, he was Obama’s Ambassador to China. But it really doesn’t matter, I suppose. Obama will have plenty of money to produce his own ads. Keep in mind that Obama’s entire campaign will be about defining the opposition. It’s not like he can run on his record. Wolf ends his piece thusly:
The Washington establishment expects conservatives to fall in line and accept the unproven, if not mythical, dogma that Mitt Romney is the most electable Republican candidate. Why? Because it says so. However, the establishment’s track record of picking winners in the GOP primary is abysmal. Instead, Mr. Romney’s candidacy should be evaluated on its own merits, not on some insider, illusory promise of electability, particularly when Mr. Obama’s supporters are hopeful we take the bait.
On that last point I’m not optimistic. Republicans took the bait in 1996 and 2008 with Dole and McCain, respectively. Are there any concrete reasons to believe 2012 will be any different?