Mitt Romney might be more electable than his Republican competitors, but that has more to do with their complete unpopularity than it does with his overall standing in the public. Indeed, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center, Romney remains unpopular with a large plurality of voters.
Among all voters, however, Romney’s image is negative. In fact, slightly fewer voters have a favorable opinion of Romney than did so in November (33 percent now, 38 percent then); nearly half of voters (47 percent) say they have an unfavorable impression of the former Massachusetts governor.
At a rally this morning at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Mitt Romney deployed an unusual line in his stump speech. “I feel under attack” by Obama’s policies, said Romney, referencing the administration's policies on business.
Judging from the polls, Mitt Romney should feel comfortable about his position in the South Carolina Republican primary. According to the latest survey from Rasmussen, for example, the former Massachusetts governor leads with 35 percent of the vote. His closest competitor, Newt Gingrich, takes 21 percent support from the state’s voters.
Watching the Republican presidential primaries leaves me feeling kind of sorry for the candidates. In their attempts to appeal to minority voters, they’re like a group of Dungeons and Dragons buddies decorating their basement in hopes that the cheerleaders will show up. I’ve got news for you guys: You may get cheered on for telling poor people to shape up and calling Barack Obama the "food-stamp president" at GOP debates, but you’re sorely out of touch with the rest of us.
It was the most annoying and insulting refrain of the 1988 Democratic primaries: “What does Jesse want?” What the Reverend Jackson wanted, of course, was the nomination—which he came closer to winning than anybody seems to remember. And now it’s back, Ron Paul-style. “His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition—within the Republican Party,” writes Charles Krauthammer.
Up until now, Mitt Romney has refused to release his tax returns, something that he surely knew would eventually become an issue. And it isn't too hard to figure out why. When you're struggling to get past your image as an out-of-touch rich guy, having front-page stories about the millions you're pulling in isn't something you'd look forward to. And in Mitt's case, there are really two problems.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA—In talking to Republican voters across the state, one thing I’ve found interesting—and alarming—is the degree to which apocalyptic rhetoric is par for the course. “We will not recognize the United States after four more years after Obama,” said John Leach, an avid supporter of Newt Gingrich who attended the candidate's Sunday rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “We are surely moving toward socialism.” he said.
Barring the emergence of, in the immortal words of Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, a dead girl or a live boy, it's all but certain that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president. It's safe to say that there aren't too many Republicans deliriously happy about this outcome. Some may be satisfied, some may be pleased, many are disappointed, the majority are resigned, but if there are any Republicans jumping out of their chairs with excitement at the prospect of a Romney nomination, they haven't been located. And what's most amazing about it is that Mitt Romney really is the best they've got.
Even the most disciplined candidate can't get through an entire presidential campaign without uttering at least one or two gaffes, those emblematic statements journalists will mention again and again to provide vivid illustration of his or her character defects. Few candidates are more disciplined than Mitt Romney, but the likely Republican nominee has already built up a small library of such verbal misfires, which could become the signposts of a most enlightening and overdue discussion on which we will now embark.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA—After 15 debates and months of campaigning, one thing is still true of the Republican presidential field: No one wants to take on Mitt Romney.
At first, during last night's South Carolina GOP debate, there were signs that Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry would remove the gloves and challenge the former Massachusetts governor. Gingrich opened his bid with a defense of his statements on Bain Capital—“I don’t think raising questions is a prerogative only of Barack Obama. … I raise questions that I think are legitimate questions.”
¡Somos Republicans!—the country's self-proclaimed largest Latino Republican group—endorsed New Gingrich today, saying that the candidate "has been working hard for many years to include American Hispanics in the overall conversation for a better America." The group also lamented Jon Huntsman's departure from the race and criticized Mitt Romney's "non-humanitarian approach" to immigration reform.
When he first got into the presidential race, I assumed Jon Huntsman was playing a long game. In the 2012, Tea Party-dominated Republican Party, a guy who had worked for the Obama administration and who, though ideologically conservative, was not inclined to treat anyone who disagreed with him as a despicable socialist demon worthy only of spittle-flecked contempt, had no chance of winning, a fact he surely must have understood. So one reasonable path was to run a respectable campaign, watch Mitt Romney lose in the general, and prepare for a strong race in 2016, when conditions would be more favorable. After all, Republicans typically have to run multiple times before they get their party's nomination.