Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mitt or Newt?

As more and more Republicans seem ready to anoint Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate, others are giving Newt Gingrich a new look. See my previous post here.

You do not have to think too hard to know why. Romney supporter Roger Kimball reiterates his reservations about his preferred candidate: “Mitt Romney is our Bob Dole, a company man at a moment when the problem is the company. We are living through a serious crisis–really, multiple crises — and many people look at old Mr. Business-as-usual, “is-it-my-turn yet?” Romney and wonder whether he is really up to the job. He deploys a sly, knowing smile when Rick Perry forgets how to count from 1 to 3. He certainly has competent hair — the most competent, I think, of the entire campaign. But what, besides competent hair, can be said for him? That he’s not Obama — true enough, and that fact should not be minimized. But think of the relatively small proportion of people who are Obama. That cannot be the distinguishing feature of the successful Republican candidate. What we need is vigor, leadership, and wisdom, not the path of least resistance dolled up with an attractive herbaceous border.”

Mull over that last sentence. More than a few Republicans feel uneasy about Romney. They might not be able to put a finger on why, but they do. 

They see the Romney packaging, recognize that it is perfectly crafted, but they wonder what they are going to find when they open the box.

They are far from convinced that Romney can an advance a Republican agenda with principled political leadership. After all, he never has.

Dutifully, Kimball notes the many Gingrich flaws. Newt has his faults and foibles. He is imperfect. He does not come from central casting. He would never get through an audition. Yet, most of us trust imperfect more than we trust seeming perfection. At least we know that imperfect is real.

When all was said and done, Babe Ruth was not exactly an Adonis. Still, he got the job done.

Kimball is asking the important questions, even wondering whether Romney is really a lock in the general election.

In his words: “Let’s see whether his [Newt’s] wisdom and articulateness on behalf on individual liberty and limited government are enough to garner him the nomination. From where I sit, Newt looks to be our last non-business-as-usual choice. He is beginning to round up some impressive support for a campaign in which, as he said, resembles nothing so much as the the story of the tortoise and the hare. Mitt Romney is every establishment conservative’s first choice. Why? ‘Because he can win.’ Can he? That’s the universal answer. I’m not at all sure the confidence is justified. But now that we approach the 11th hour, it seems worth pondering whether the more intelligent alternative not also be the most likely one. Newt is hardly above criticism. Nor, as he showed in 1994, is he above winning, a capacity that, at the end of the day, we’ll all want to place a premium.”

The Romney campaign has brilliantly convinced everyone that a Romney candidacy is inevitable and that a Romney victory is a sure thing.

Yet, we do not really know how well the Romney aura will hold up under hundreds of millions of dollars of negative advertising and under the attacks that the mainstream media will launch against him.

While Romney garners the most support among independent voters, he also elicits the least enthusiasm among more conservative voters. 

Will Tea Party voters turn out en masse for Mitt Romney? How excited can you be when you are being asked to vote for great packaging?


David Foster said...

I think Obama is so awful that I am mainly concerned about who can WIN in the general election. And given the extremely anti-elite turn of opinion across both ends of the political spectrum, it seems wise to nominate someone who is at least a little bit detached from the mainstream political establishment. And Newt seems to fit this specification a little better than does Romney...they are both longtime political players, of course, but Newt's quirkiness may distinguish him a bit.

Also, among those who consider themselves intellectuals I would guess that Newt comes across as more of a thinker. Not sure this matters--is there a significant population of intellectuals who are not irrevocably committed to one side or another?--but maybe.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you that another perfectly establishment candidate, one who no one really likes or trust, is not likely to do very well or to have very long coattails, or to make the case for more conservative principles.

I don't think that intellectuals will vote for Newt, but I think that they will have to shut down their constant drone about Republicans being dumb.

And that might make it all worth while.

I also think that Newt will shred Obama's pretense at intelligence in a debate... which might be worth everything.

Katielee4211 said...

Newt comes across as pragmatic, and experienced.

As an Independent, I don't support Romney. He is, as noted, too smoothly and nicely packaged. So was Obama. I would have hoped people would have learned from that experience. As the saying goes, 'Beauty is skin deep'. If Romney is looked at closer, troubling questions arise, not as glaringly as Obama (that were blithely ignored), but arise nevertheless.

He is being given a pass by the media, establishment Republicans are endorsing him (for reasons other than the actual good of America I'm guessing--probably for the status quo), giving the impression he's the shoo in. That's a lot of powerful support. I would hope those suffering from the lemming syndrome would have a little more clarity after Obama as well, and not just take it as a given that Romney will be the nominee just because he's being presented as such. These are typical spin tactics.

Personally, I still support Perry, but I could support Gingrich easily. Romney leaves distaste....probably the hair products ;).

David Foster said...

There is an article in today's NYT about people who lost their jobs as a function of staff reductions in companies acquired & restructured by Romney's private equity firm. If Romney becomes the nominee, we can expect MUCH more of this sort of thing.

Of course it IS sometimes necessary to make staff reductions, sometimes large ones, in order to save and grow a business. But it's difficult for many people to really understand this. Furthermore, a legitimate critique can be made that some executives are way too quick to fire people rather than do the hard work of process improvement and real leadership. Blogger Bill Waddell, an experienced manufacturer and now a manufacturing consultant, makes this argument about Bain Capital's performance following its acquisition of American Pad & Paper, and also about the acquisition of Simmons Mattress by another PE company, one staffed substantially with Bain alumni.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I would want to emphasize your point. Most people, when they hear about what Bain Capital did to American companies, are not going to get the subtly and the nuance. They are going to see Romney as someone who killed jobs.

You can already imagine how many of the unemployed will be in Obama campaign ads saying that their lives and careers were ruined by Mitt Romney.