How to Tank a Campaign in Two Weeks
Since I left Colorado two weeks ago having just completed a column on the DNC Convention that vaulted the president's approval ratings over 50 percent for the first time in half a year and jacked his head-to-head polling near seven percent nationally while beginning to show daylight in almost every swing state, the Mitt Romney campaign has gone off the rails. For two weeks now the Republican candidate has been shooting from the hip during impromptu press conferences commenting on events abroad that hadn't yet happened and deconstructing comments made during a private fundraiser video in which he described half the American electorate as "victims" and wishing his father was Mexican so he could sucker what he obviously considers a laughably gullible Latino vote.
It is getting harder to believe Mitt Romney actually wants to be president. Perhaps this is just another business venture for him to increase his speaking engagement fees or raise his profile among anti-EPA lobbyists before investing in land-raping ventures. There was always a sense back in the primaries that Romney simply had run out of shit to do; CEO, Governor, Senate candidate, Olympic chairman, and now; "What the hell, I'll try president." Otherwise someone has to explain to me the wisdom behind the past two weeks of general election self-immolation rarely if ever survived by serious candidates for the presidency.
Whatever half-bright measures led to rolling out a Republican candidate with non-existent foreign policy bona fides to comment on the unfolding events at the Egyptian and Libyans embassies should have been abandoned in the woodshedding phase. The standard rule is for presidential candidates to not opine on a developing foreign crisis. Period. It's on the first page of the manual. This is best exemplified by Ronald Reagan's brief and wholly presidential moral support of President Carter after the failed military attempt to free the Iranian hostages in 1980.
Whether Romney's comments held any merit or not is not at issue here. The gamble just wasn't worth the risk, unless the people who engineered it are in panic mode. That would be the only reason to grab-ass anything that moves in hopes of putting a Romney Stamp on it. By the way, that's also in the manual's first page: Don't let the other side see you sweat. Either way it's a Hail Mary heave that reeks of desperation and makes the candidate look like a piker.
Then there is the matter of the surreptitious tape of Romney answering questions at a fundraiser as if he were Mel Gibson on a bender. The crux of which is connected with who doesn't pay taxes. Once again, regardless of what poorly deconstructed Ayn Randian nonsense this crap comes from it is not optimum strategy for a serious presidential candidate, least of all one that has big problems shedding the Out of Touch Rich Guy tag and who has brashly hidden his entire tax records.
Assuming, as we all do, let's face it, that Mitt Romney has no fucking idea what he stands for or what he should say next; who exactly is directing him towards these senseless cliff-diving exercises in political suicide?
Reportedly there are now three different factions representing the Romney campaign struggling to fill the empty voids the candidate has left by failing to a establish anything close to a consistent message.
Of course, consistency has never been Romney move. He is a businessman first, and as such has been trained well to play the cards dealt on the table at which he is currently sitting. Principles, whether real or imagined, may be a boon in politics but are the death knell of the business world. You must never appear the same with Subject A as you would with Client B. Every situation calls for a differing approach in demeanor and most times even shifting personal opinion.
And so the first segment trying to fill the "principle" void over at Romney Headquarters is the TEA Party wing that supported the Paul Ryan selection for vice president. Nothing Romney has ever uttered hints in the least that he truly believes or even knows a thing about the kind of "moocher class" drivel he spouted to the fundraiser group that he has now been forced to spend yet another crucial week in a waning campaign season defending. Even his "I don't care about poor people" was merely one of several feebly phrased gaffes. But these sentiments were different, they express a libertarian view; perhaps even a libertine view of every man for himself that diametrically opposes how he governed in his only political job.
The second voice belongs to the Republican Party establishment, which handed Romney the nomination on a silver platter when he was being kicked around during the primaries. They assisted in shifting delegates, re-figuring close counties, shunting Ron Paul, and leaning heavily on his opponents to drop out of the race. This group wants a more disciplined Romney, the one they found in Massachusetts and hoped would be the alternative to the historically unpopular mess that hijacked the party in 2010. This is the guy they are currently coaching up for the debates by sending him out these past days tout national health care.
And finally there are the insider ground-gamers; those from the very beginning, before Romney was the darling of the "electable" set and was the enemy of TEA Partiers. These are the ink-stained, body-odor, crumpled shirt geeks who crunch the numbers and once boldly promised to put Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nevada in play - all of which are now long gone. They are beginning to crystallize the difficult math that has been rearing its ugly head since July; the states that don't add up for a run to 270 electoral votes that is only achievable by sweeping every swing state left.
The numbers guys have been begging the TEA Party/Establishment heads for some kind of dramatic shift in momentum that will stop the bleeding.
I know those guys. I've spoken to them about these numbers for months. They told me in April that they would have to play a tight game, take a solid lead by summer and then endure the inevitable autumn hits, as did John Kerry in '04 and McCain four years ago. They did not expect this kind of dysfunction and disintegration nor did they expect a candidate this wildly off-message to take a workable strategy against an eminently beatable incumbent and piss it away so frivolously.
But know this; not one of these bickering groups, which conservative columnist, Peggy Noonan called "a rolling calamity" this week in the Wall Street Journal, thought for one minute Mitt Romney would paint the elderly, poor, disabled, war veterans and low-income families as freeloaders. That, they were sure, didn't need to be in any manual.