It’s been a marketing campaign more than a political campaign. Republican politicians and pundits, working hand-in-glove with the Romney campaign have sold the Republican Party on a politically inexperienced moderate, on the grounds that he is a sure winner.
On paper Romney is the perfect candidate; he seems to have come out of central casting. He can’t be beaten; he can’t lose to Obama.
Now, it turns out that the best-on-paper candidacy was really written on an Etch-a-Sketch.
The Republican Party is running this year against a very weak incumbent. It should relish the chance to defeat Barack Obama.
And yet, the Romney campaign, that model of marketing genius, has also been intensely negative, constantly harping on the flaws of fellow Republicans. It has enveloped the Republican Party in a miasma of gloom.
Apparently, the Romney consultants believe that the party will naturally unite behind the candidate. Time will tell.
Unfortunately, the masterful Romney campaign has become adept at raining on its own parade. Immediately after Romney’s decisive victory in the Illinois primary one of his top campaign advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, announced that the candidate’s policy positions were not graven in stone, they were not even written in blood: they had been inscribed in an Etch-a-Sketch.
Addressing the Etch-a-Sketch controversy this morning Peggy Noonan noted that the statement resonated because everyone knows that Mitt Romney has no real principles and no real agenda.
She explains that an unprincipled politician is ripe for manipulation by factions. Once he takes office he will become the target for every special interest in town. Everyone will know his weakness and will see him as ripe for manipulation.
In Noonan’s words:
Actually, the vibration he's lately giving off is worse than that. He acts like a guy who can be captured. The world is full of mischief, full of groups, tongs clubs and cabals, and this one says you have to back a certain fiscal plan, that one an environmental approach, and this one says you've got to go to war. And they are almost never thinking of America Overall, they are always thinking of their issue, their thing, and telling themselves—and you—that doing it their way will be better for America, overall. And if they think you have a soft, chewy center, every day of your presidency will be a bloody struggle to capture the Mitt.
Presidents have to have a sophisticated sense of others' agendas, and know the implications of those agendas. They have to be able to imagine overall impact.
It will be worse for a candidate who has no experience in federal government. An unprincipled politician with limited political experience is ripe for the capture. He is more likely to be influenced by the prevailing mood. He is less likely to stand firm on principle.
Everyone knows this. It’s not a secret. Yet, the Republican Party has bought the product, without really knowing what it's bought.
One can only wonder when Republicans will start saying: Yes, but he was great on paper.
Continuing her analysis, Noonan points to Romney’s fundamental failing—what she calls his lack of inflection. Inflection is the emotional tone that tells us a speaker’s feelings. With Romney it is lacking.
You may not have thought of it in terms of inflection but when someone is in love or in hate you can gauge the sincerity of his words by the emotional tone, the coloration of his language. You can hear the affection or the anger in his tone of voice. If you don't hear it you are not going to take his protestations seriously.
Noonan is pointing out that Romney’s language never shows emotion; it lacks color; it is always monochromatically gray.
Many of us have known that there is something wrong with the Romney way of delivering a speech. As befits one of our great speechwriters Noonan describes the flaw perfectly:
Another way of asking is to note a small but telling aspect of his public speaking style. There is something strangely uninflected there. He says very different things in the same tone. "Pass the mustard!" "This means war!" "Flowers are pretty!" "Don't tread on me!" It's all the same tone, the same level of import and engagement. Which it would be if you're sort of . . . well, if you see issues as entities to deploy as opposed to think about and weigh.
And then there is the latest, and last, of the conservative alternatives, Rick Santorum.
Conservatives who thrilled to the moral purity of Rick Santorum failed to think about the fact that a senator who was wiped out in his last campaign is probably a bad politician.
It didn’t take any advanced reasoning to figure this out.
Until yesterday Rick Santorum distinguished himself by allowing the Democratic Party to turn the debate about Obamacare into a debated about contraception.
Good job, Rick!
Yesterday, Santorum, the great conservative hope, made a colossal blunder. He declared that if he had to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney he would vote for Obama.
You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who's just going to be a little different than the person in there. If you're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch-A-Sketch candidate of the future.
As everyone has been saying, it’s time for Santorum to go home. And it’s time for the conservative voters who flocked to Rick Santorum to recognize that they dutifully played their part in guaranteeing Mitt Romney the nomination.