Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romney, by Default

The Gingrich campaign is imploding. Santorum is fading fast. Perry is not rising from the political dead. And Ron Paul is a wild card, a potential troublemaker, who is not going to be the nominee.

As of today, it looks like Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, by default.

Of course, South Carolina is still to come. Gingrich and Perry have bought millions of dollars of negative ads attacking Romney. Some will call it an expression of anger; others will see it as returning the favor.

The conventional wisdom says that the ads will make Gingrich and Perry look bad, but will not touch Romney.

A while back some of us thought that the attack ads directed by Romney and Paul against Gingrich would not be effective.

How wrong we were.

Today, Republican pundits are out in force proclaiming the inevitability of Romney. He is their candidate, the one they wanted, and they are so confident about their victory that they have shifted into uniting-the-party-behind-Mitt mode.

They want the nominating process to be over so that they have enough time to heal the wounds that were inflicted, first, by the Romney campaign.

As an interesting sidelight to the Romney euphoria, Quinnipiac just released a poll from Florida where Romney and Santorum were matched against Barack Obama.

True enough, Romney polled better than Santorum. Romney is up by three percentage points over Obama while Santorum trails Obama by two. Both are within the margin of error.

How electable is Mitt Romney when a far weaker and less known candidate like Rick Santorum does nearly as well against Barack Obama?

In the meantime, some Republican pundits have tried to offer a more thoughtful analysis of the Republican race.

While everyone is thrilling to Romney’s victory in New Hampshire, John Podhoretz casts a colder eye on the results.

In his words: “…Romney has been the only serious candidate in the race.

“But nobody loves him. No one is inspired by him. He cuts an impressive figure and is clearly very intelligent, but he is a man without an ideological core.

“Claiming he should be president because he knows how to run a business may be the least stirring message any candidate has seized upon since Michael Dukakis foundered in 1988 by claiming he could bring “competence” to the White House.

“And his liabilities are undeniable. Even though Gingrich’s assault on Romney’s record of laying off workers when he was running Bain Capital is breathtaking in its disingenuousness, that record does happen to be one of a dozen glaring weaknesses in Romney’s biography, political history and approach that President Obama and his team will be able to use to their advantage.

“So he will win the nomination in a walk. But he will be beaten and battered by the time he crosses the finish line in November — though he may well do so in first place.”

Jonah Goldberg sounds an alarm that we have heard before: “[Romney’s] authentic inauthenticity problem isn’t going away. And it’s sapping enthusiasm from the rank and file. The turnout in Iowa was disastrously low, barely higher than the turnout in 2008 — and if Ron Paul hadn’t brought thousands of non-Republicans to the caucus sites, it would have been decidedly lower than in 2008. That’s an ominous sign given how much enthusiasm there should be for making Obama a one-term president. It’s almost as if Romney’s banality is infectious.”

Yesterday, William Kristol made an important point that Thomas Sowell and your humble blogger have also noted. I find Kristol's analysis especially cogent.

In Kristol’s words: “… Mitt Romney’s claim throughout his campaign that his private sector experience almost uniquely qualifies him to be president is also silly. Does he really think that having done well in private equity, venture capital, and business consulting—or even in the private sector more broadly—is a self-evident qualification for public office? One assumes Mitt Romney would agree that Chris Christie is a better chief executive of New Jersey than Jon Corzine, and that Rudy Giuliani was a better mayor of New York than Mike Bloomberg. But Romney’s biography looks a lot more like Bloomberg's or Corzine's (leaving aside Corzine's recent misadventures) than like that of Giuliani (pre-mayoralty) or Christie. Past business success does not guarantee performance in public office. Indeed, Romney sometimes seems to go so far as to suggest that succeeding in the private sector is intrinsically more admirable than, e.g., serving as a teacher or a soldier or even in Congress. This is not a sensible proposition, or a defensible one.”

Pundits like to shape public opinion. They want to be players in the game of politics. Today they are doing their best to generate a wave of positive emotion for Romney. More power to them.

And yet, I reserve my greatest admiration for the writers I just quoted, who are not caught up in the euphoria, but are offering level-headed analysis.

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