During the 2012 campaign, I, like every liberal writer whose job it is to comment on politics every day, wrote many unkind things about Mitt Romney. Much of the time I found him more sad than despicable; politicians who nearly reach the pinnacle of their profession while being manifestly awful at politics are a rare and curious breed. Like Al Gore before him, Romney's discomfort with the requirements of campaigning was so close to the surface that he couldn't help but inspire a kind of pity. That isn't to say that I didn't find plenty of his statements and policy positions contemptible, because I certainly did, and said so without hesitation. But in the end, Romney wasn't as easy to hate as some other politicians might be.
So a year after he joined that small, melancholy club of presidential losers, it's time that even those of us who thought it would be a terrible thing if he became president can see Romney as a human being. In January, Netflix will be releasing a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Mitt," and the preview is surprisingly endearing:
On an episode of The Office from a few years ago, the desperately insecure character of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) hits upon a strategy to ingratiate himself with people, called "personality mirroring." He begins not only repeating what people say to him, but adopting the precise manner and mood of whoever he's talking to. This is pretty much how Mitt Romney went about running for president. A man deeply unsuited to the gladhanding required of a politician made himself into one, through a titanic act of will. And just like when Andy Bernard did it, it was incredibly awkward and off-putting. As the old saying has it, sincerity is the most important thing—if you can fake that, you've got it made. Trouble was, Mitt just couldn't, hard though he might have tried.
And it turns out, Mitt didn't even want to run for president a second time. Veteran reporter Dan Balz is coming out with a book about the 2012 campaign, and he learned of the internal Romney family deliberations. They took a vote, and 10 out of 12 Romneys, including Mitt himself, said he shouldn't run. Here's an excerpt:
Do you remember Mitt Romney’s election-year promise to create 12 million jobs during his first term? It came in for a fair amount of criticism, not because it was too ambitious—and thus unattainable—but because it was banal. Twelve million was the baseline for job creation over the next four years. Absent a major economic shock, the U.S. economy would have created that many jobs regardless of who was president.
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.
I wrote yesterday that President Obama is building a solid margin over Governor Romney in the state. The picture is similar in Ohio—where Obama has led in every poll since the Democratic National Convention—and Nevada, where he's led in almost every survey since the beginning of the year. Tuesday's polls reinforced both trends, and highlighted the extent to which Romney is on something of a downwards trajectory.
Conservatives who cheered Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, as his running mate in the hope this indicated a more aggressive, more conservative stance for Romney have been sorely disappointed. They had expected Ryan's bold style to rub off on Romney. Instead, it is the other way: Ryan has become muted and vague, like Romney. The problem is certainly not Ryan. All vice-presidential candidates know who is the boss and Ryan is surely doing precisely what his boss wants: looking sharp but be vague about all the details.
In the six weeks since he was tapped, Ryan hasn't given a single national press conference, although he has done interviews for local media outlets—which typically don't push the interviewee very hard. His stump speech rarely mentions his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Instead, he attacks President Obama and plays up his bow hunting abilities and working-class background. None of this is the red meat conservatives had expected, but one see's Team Romney's fingerprints all over it. The one time he did talk about Medicare, at the annual AARP convention, he was roundly booed. To make things even worse, he was supposed to put Wisconsin in play, but our current average of six recent polls gives Obama a lead there of 51 pecent to 45 percent.
A new survey and report from the Public Religion and Research Institute—entitled “Beyond God and Guns”—is a valuable corrective to so many stereotypes of the white working class. Particularly noteworthy in this report are the large and important differences within the white working class—by age, region, gender, and party, to name a few. For example, consider this:
The bounce President Obama got from the Democratic convention shows no sign of fading and both sides are worried. One reason the polls are not moving is that people have made up their minds and there are hardly any voters left to swing. A large fraction are not really strongly for either candidate but are strongly against one of them. One voter said he'd vote for Saddam Hussein before he'd vote for Barack Hussein but another called Romney the devil. Not much motion is likely there.
Romney's team can read the handwriting on the wall and the pixels on the monitor and is trying to put on a brave face, saying: "We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president [of] the United States." The team knows that in the national polls, it is fairly close, but in this graph of the electoral college Romney has been behind all year and is now down 122 electoral votes. They feel that some fundamentals (such as the poor jobs situation) put them in a strong position, while at the same time ignoring other economic indicators (such as a booming stock market) that favor Obama. They say they have a plan to right their ship and will roll it out this week.
Former governor Mitt Romney’s serial gaffes seem to be doing cumulative damage not just to his own campaign, but to Senate and even House races.
In the days since Romney’s clumsy attempt to make political gain from the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Politico’spiece revealing ineptitude and finger-pointing at the Republican National Convention, and the leak of the infamous “47-Percent” video, Democratic Senate candidates in most contested seats have opened up leads, according to usually trustworthy polls.
A new Wapo/ABC poll shows that 59% of the voters think President Obama will be reelected vs. 34% who think Mitt Romney will win. Note that this is a completely different question than who the voter supports. The polling data on who people will vote for gave Obama a mere 3% lead, 49% to 46%. In other words, there are millions of voters who want Romney to win but don't expect him to do so.
"I would point out that we have one president at a time and one administration at a time," President Obama said in June, responding to a critical op-ed by a Romney adviser in a German newspaper. "And I think traditionally, the notion has been that America’s political differences end at the water’s edge.” The president was merely restating one of the nation's oldest remaining traditions of bipartisan comity. The op-ed kerfuffle was, of course, absolutely nothing compared to the Romney campaign's latest break from that tradition.
Last night, an armed mob—angry over an American-made video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad—attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with three of his staff members. This came after a similar uprising in Egypt, where protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag. Initial reports on the situation—which revealed the death of a U.S. official—were followed by this statement from the Romney campaign:
CHARLOTTE—Since 1980, three Massachusettians have run for president—Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Michael Dukakis. Romney is not at the Democratic National Convention, obviously, and Kerry is somewhere away from the main floor. But Dukakis was mulling around the downstairs press area, talking to reporters and prepping for a radio show.
Charlotte, North Carolina—So far, the most devastating moment of the first day of the Democratic National Convention has been the Ted Kennedy tribute video, which highlighted his commitment to health care reform and drew Barack Obama into a broader narrative of liberal progress. The devastating part, however, had almost nothing to do with Kennedy, and everything to do with Mitt Romney. In a brilliant move, the tribute included key parts from Kennedy’s 1994 Senate race against the then-candidate, and in particular, this now-famous line—“I’m pro-choice, my opponent is multiple choice.” Here’s the full video: