Mitt Romney Is Not a Weak Candidate

Former Bush official and conservative pundit David Frum has a harsh and critical take on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign:

The hope for many of us was that a Republican president could do a better job constraining them than Barack Obama has been able to do - especially if (as I personally also hoped) the very act of electing such a president would deflate the radicalism of the congressional GOP and revive a more constructive spirit.

But at every point, Romney has surrendered to the fringe of his party. Weak. And now in his first tough encounter with Barack Obama, Romney is being shoved around again. This is not what a president looks like - anyway, not a successful president.

With the revelations over Bain Capital, this is an increasingly popular position—especially if my Twitter feed is any indication—but I think it’s an over-reaction. As far as candidate quality is concerned, Romney is a generic Republican, and little more than an avatar for discontent with President Obama. Indeed, given the extent to which candidate quality is somewhat less important when up against an incumbent president, Romney is actually well-situated—he’s widely perceived as a competent moderate.

More importantly, if you believe that election fundamentals run against President Obama, then you have no reason to think that Romney is in a worse position to win the White House. Nothing has changed in the political or economic landscape since Bain reentered the conversation. If you were bullish on Romney at the beginning of the month, you should continue to hold your stock.

For my part, I think the fundamentals still favor President Obama, if only slightly, and that this has been lost in the day-to-day of the campaign. If recent events have had a short-term effect, it’s there; because of the controversy, more observers now (correctly) see that Obama is a slight favorite in this election, and Romney—as the challenger in a year where the economy is sluggish but forward-moving—has an uphill battle ahead of him.