Even for the flintiest of liberals, it was hard to watch the sad spectacle of Mitt Romney yesterday, after touching down for a rally in Dayton, Ohio, and not feel a little sad for the guy. Here was a beaten-up (and self-harmed) candidate coming off two catastrophic weeks, his poll numbers tanking in key battleground states, now forced to team up with his number two, Paul Ryan, because the campaign reportedly felt the ticket-topper wasn’t generating enough “excitement” on his own.
Around this time in 2004, liberals were panicking. The Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, was lagging behind George W. Bush, who appeared to be on his way to a second term. This was baffling, and not in a Pauline Kael kind of way. It wasn’t so much that liberals couldn’t imagine the person who would vote Bush—at the time, it wasn’t hard to find a Bush voter—but that conditions were terrible, and it was a stretch to believe that America would re-elect a president who brought the country into two messy wars and the most sluggish economy since WWII.
Yesterday, surveying the Romney ruins in the aftermath of the Libya fiasco and the 47 percent flap, Nick Gillespie at Reason led his post by declaring, “President Barack Obama is one lucky bastard.” In a very narrow sense, he’s right: Obama has certainly been fortunate to draw two general-election opponents whose political savvy is no match for his. He was lucky in 2004, too, to end up running for U.S. Senate against the unhinged Alan Keyes. But these are the strokes of happy fortune—and propitious timing—that any politician needs to ascend to White House heights.
The world has rarely seen a more fiercely determined smile than the one that stayed fixed on Mitt Romney’s face throughout his Tuesday-afternoon interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto. Scrambling furiously to rescue his already-floundering campaign after Mother Jones’s release of the mother of all secret campaign tapes, the beleaguered candidate must have figured that ten minutes on Fox, his more-or-less official propaganda network, was the safest (or only) option.