I have to confess that I find Mitt Romney pretty boring. He's a pleasant enough fellow to meet, certainly on the surface, but he doesn't have much of interest to say, except when he puts his foot in his mouth. But the real reason he bores me is that he is so much like his former Bain protege, Meg Whitman, whom I grew thoroughly tired of during the 2010 California gubernatorial race.
That they should be alike is hardly a surprise, since her candidacy was his idea, as they eagerly acknowledged and I reported here in "The Mitt & Meg Show: 'Taking Care of Business'" on the Huffington Post back in March 2010, when Romney appeared with Whitman on his birthday.
Whitman, of course, ran the biggest-spending non-presidential campaign in American history, spending some $180 million, mostly hers, in a campaign that wowed most of the media with its money, endless tactical gambits and techniques, and panoply of big name, big money consultants. Only to be blown away, 54% to 41%, in a Jerry Brown landslide even as Republicans were taking the U.S. House of Representatives.
Romney and Whitman are basically two peas from the same pod: Bland, entitled, attacking, possessed of no clear beliefs other than enrichment through financialized capitalism. No wonder they have so much in common as political figures.
Let's count the ways.
* Sheer Opaqueness
Whitman wouldn't reveal much about her finances. Her Republican primary opponent, then California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, himself a super-rich former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, challenged her to match him releasing tax records. She wouldn't do it, with her spinners arguing privately that she was the frontrunner and didn't have to. She wouldn't do it in the general election, either, where I never felt she was the favorite, though quite a few others did, and where she never had a real lead.
Romney, as is glaringly obvious every day, also won't reveal much about his finances.
The problem for candidates like this is that this is their calling card. Without it, they aren't contenders.
It's not like they have compelling ideas or intriguing personalities.
* The Same Program
Whitman ran on Romneynomics, a program of big tax cuts for the rich and corporations. She claimed that eliminating the capital gains tax and instituting another round of tax cuts for corporations -- the state just granted big corporate tax cuts last year as part of its barely cobbled together budget deal -- would create millions of new jobs and actually decrease the state budget deficit. What those cuts would actually have done is cost the state billions in revenue, adding to an already yawning budget gap.
And, like Romney, she filled out her big business wish list of an agenda with attacks on regulations. In her case, she called for an end to all new regulations.
* The Problem With the Positive and the Accent on the Negative
Each has evidenced a problem with the positive in campaigning. Whitman struggled trying to launch her campaign advertising. In fact, her campaign tried 22 introductory TV spots on focus groups and none of them worked.
Little surprise then that her campaign came to rely so heavily on negative ads.
So too with Romney, who only fended off his flawed but very persistent primary rivals with tons of negative ads.
* It's All About the Money (Campaign)
Without the money to fund all those negative ads, there would never have been either this Romney campaign, nor the campaign of protege Whitman that preceded it.
Whitman massively outspent her primary and general election opponents, even factoring in help that Jerry Brown received from organized labor.
Romney won his nomination this year on the backs of massive spending by his own formal campaign and a closely aligned super PAC run by his 2008 presidential campaign aides. Without that advantage, he would have lost to Newt Gingrich or to Rick Santorum. As it was, he suffered huge primary defeats, even though Gingrich, Santorum, and the rest were all deeply flawed political figures.
Now Romney's allies, taking advantage of the terrible Citizens United Supreme Court decision making unlimited spending legal, are aggregating massive super PAC funds to go after Obama.
It's like it's 1896 all over again, with Mark Hanna organizing the robber barons for William McKinley's campaign to stave off the populist surge of William Jennings Bryan.
But Barack Obama, who tip-toed around Wall Street reform for most of his first term, is no sane person's idea of a wild-eyed populist. Yet the super PAC money is flowing anyway.
Because it can.
* It's All About the Money (Life)
It's no surprise that Mitt Whitman and Meg Romney's campaigns would be, in the most fundamental sense, all about money. For that's what their lives seem to be about.
Whitman mouthed a lot of platitudes about caring deeply about education, jobs, the environment, fiscal responsibility, i.e., things that poll well, but there was no depth or passion to it. And she'd never bothered to do so much as spin up an op-ed piece before running.
Her signature move as she began her campaign for governor was to pose, complete with riding gear, on the cover of Fortune magazine with a horse (which was rented for the occasion).
So too with Romney, who only ever gets passionate talking about the untrammeled freedom to make money, intones that "Corporations are people" and thinks little of betting $10,000 during a presidential debate.
These are empty, uninteresting people. At least Newt Gingrich, for all his wackiness, had some flavor.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.
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