THE BLOG
09/13/2012 10:35 pm ET | Updated Nov 13, 2012

Romney Stumbles

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." By his definition, were he alive today, Groucho Marx could point to Mitt Romney as a perfect example! But, no doubt many Republicans wish they could Etch A Sketch away the past six weeks of the Romney campaign.

Today many political observers characterize Romney's campaign as desperate, disoriented, erratic and lacking a budget plan. Yet, it was supposed to be so easy. Having won a bitterly contested Republican primary, Romney would be able to position himself as a successful "Mr. Fixit" businessman who could save the U.S. economy. His approach was to make the 2012 presidential race a referendum on President Barack Obama's handling of the economy. But before Romney could get out of the starting gate, the Obama campaign went after Mr. Fixit.

Romney was co-founder and once head of Bain Capital, one of the world's leading private asset management firms. It turns out that they succeeded in saving some businesses. But Bain also closed several companies down, took out millions of dollars and left thousands of people without jobs, all facts that the Obama campaign relentlessly pointed out. Of course, Bain Capital's main goal is to make big profits for its investors, not to create jobs. At the Democratic Convention, Vice President Joe Biden put it this way, "Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits. But it's not the way to lead your country from its highest office."

Romney said he was a successful governor of Massachusetts. But his single biggest achievement was "Romneycare," the state's near universal health care law that was the blueprint for "Obamacare," which Romney has vowed to repeal on his first day if he is elected president. But last week Romney said, on NBC's Meet the Press, "Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage." This set off a firestorm among conservative Republicans. Later that day, Romney's campaign again reconfirmed he was against covering people with pre-existing conditions who have not had continuous health coverage.

At the Republican Convention, Romney was upstaged by an embarrassing endorsement from actor Clint Eastwood, who crudely spoke to an empty chair that represented President Obama. In his tepid acceptance speech, Romney focused on biography and talking points, but offered no specifics on how he would save the economy. And, in an inexplicable omission, Romney failed to mention the American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and around the world.

The Republican candidate, looking to further mobilize his conservative base and add some spice to the ticket, brought Representative Paul Ryan on as his running mate. Ryan is a favorite of the right, and author of the Ryan Budget Plan. But that plan, which was has widespread support among Congressional Republicans, calls for deep cuts in entitlements. Under Ryan's plan, Medicare would be voucherized and Medicaid would be converted to block grants to states. As a result, recipients would be left to personally pay for some of the quickly increasing medical costs they will face in the future.

If he embraced Ryan's plan, Romney would risk alienating many seniors, a critical demographic in many swing states. So Romney has been distancing himself from the Ryan plan. In an interview with CBS News, he was asked, "Are you running on [Ryan's] budget or on your budget?" Romney responded, "My budget, of course, I'm the one running for president." Yet, Romney has failed to offer specifics for about his budget.

Romney has also failed to explain why he has parked so many of his investments in off shore accounts. He found himself on the defensive on his personal taxes. He has adamantly said he will release only two years of federal returns. In his 2010 return he paid an effective rate of 13.8 percent in taxes on an income of $21.7 million. He has not yet released his final 2011 returns, but he has estimated he will pay an effective rate of 15.4 percent on income of $20.9 million. His taxes are certain to remain an issue heading into the election.

Romney and Ryan have little foreign policy experience, and it shows. Candidate Romney has blustered about the Russians and the Chinese as if, to use the president's description, he is "stuck in some cold-war tie warp." So it is no wonder he was poised to seize an opportunity to criticize the president on foreign policy. While terrorists were attacking the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, Romney was attacking the White House for a statement released by a middle level consulate official.

Romney's statement read, in part, "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." Very few facts were known at this point. In response to Romney's attack, the White House put out a statement, "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack."

While many Republicans were questioning Romney's judgment, the candidate was doubling down at a news conference the next day. Republican columnist Peggy Noonan said, "Romney looked weak today I feel, I'm still kind of absorbing it myself, at one point, he had a certain slight grimace on his face when he was taking tough questions from the reporters, and I thought, 'He looks like Richard Nixon.'"

President Obama, in an interview with 60 Minutes, said that Romney tends to "shoot first and aim later." He continued, "And as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that, that, you know, it's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you've thought through the ramifications before you make 'em."

The past few weeks have been very difficult for candidate Romney. A just-released Fox News national presidential poll shows President Obama with a 48 percent to 43 percent lead over Mitt Romney. Perhaps Romney's actions have had an adverse impact on his campaign. After all, you learn a lot about a person in a time of crisis.