A funny thing happened on the way to the Romney coronation.
Last night Republicans in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado repudiated the presumptive Republican frontrunner. In each state Romney lost decisively to Rick Santorum.
Perhaps the Republican electorate has finally tired of Romney’s relentlessly negative attacks on his opponents. Or, perhaps Romney is being punished for his recent Mittsteps.
Between not caring about the very poor and wanting to index the minimum wage to inflation Romney showed himself to be an amateur, not a seasoned pro.
For the most part amateurs do not win national elections.
Republican pundits and politicos had already proclaimed Romney the candidate and the president. Last night Republican voters said: not so fast.
Romney’s campaign had always been based on a conceptual sleight of hand. Romney declared he understood business and understood the private sector. Thus, in a breathtaking non sequitur, he implied that he would know how to run the government.
I, among others, have long questioned whether a business executive is especially suited to run the American government.
Today in the Wall Street Journal Robert Reilly presents the case against Romney with special cogency.
When Mr. Romney was running for president four years ago, he said in an interview that the first thing he would do in the White House would be to bring in some business consultants. In other words, Washington is a management problem.
This is a profoundly mistaken Republican notion that goes back at least to Herbert Hoover, a successful mining engineer, businessman and progressive politician who was an advocate of the "Efficiency Movement," an attempt to manage government better.
Managers, Reilly says, do not know how to articulate the moral dimension of policy. They cannot provide political leadership. If you cannot provide leadership, you are going to have serious problems governing.
Having worked for Ronald Reagan, Reilly speaks with authority about the Reagan approach.
The Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, who spoke mostly in moral terms, was the magnificent exception. He understood that Washington is not a management problem; it is a political problem. Everything the government does is necessarily political, because governments decide not only who gets what, but why. These choices define a candidate's politics, but they must be conceived and expressed in terms of moral priorities.
Political language is inherently moral, not managerial. It must convey visions, not just plans. It must explain why some things are good and others bad.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Private equity investment does not require advanced skills in moral rhetoric. It does not require an in-depth study of moral philosophy.
I have seen businessmen in Washington with superb instincts who soon became frustrated. That is because people who have no background in either moral philosophy or rhetoric—i.e., lacking the "vision thing"—are most often left speechless when they discover that they cannot rebut attacks with management techniques.
If you cannot articulate the cause for which you are fighting in moral terms, you will lose. Because they cannot do this, businessmen suffer from a sense of illegitimacy when they come to Washington. When your opponents scent this vulnerability, they go in for the kill.
Unable to deal with your opponents, you will begin to see as your enemies not those who are opposing you, but the subordinate members of your own administration who insist that you publicly carry the banner of a cause that you do not fully comprehend.
This might explain more than Romney’s recent stumbles. It might tell us why Republicans last night voted for the most moralistic candidate.
Rick Santorum can articulate a moral vision and can defend policy. He can talk about the why as well as the what.
Unfortunately, Santorum has some decidedly moralistic tendencies. Basing too much of your governing style on morality can make you a self-righteous scold. In his home state of Pennsylvania Santorum did not wear well.
For now the problem has not surfaced because no one has taken his campaign very seriously.
From now on people will start taking a closer look at the moral views of Rick Santorum.
Also, until now few people have paid much attention to Santorum’s stature gap. Like him or not, he lacks the gravitas that a presidential candidate should be exuding. Wearing sweaters that don't like they fit does not give you stature.
Santorum is not quite the anti-Romney. He is what Mitt Romney is missing.
Will that be enough to propel Santorum to the White House? I still don’t think so.
Today’s InTrade odds of Obama’s reelection have reached 61%. For Republicans this is not a good sign.