Romney is not a bad candidate

So, I listened to the 60 Minutes interview with Romney via podcast yesterday.  The man comported himself well.  A reasonably intelligent, reasonably politically-informed person listenting to the interview would have been impressed with Romney and should have come away thinking the man has the skills and policies to be a good president.  There’s times when he can most definitely talk a good game.  Now, to your typical liberal policy wonk, one can point out all sorts of flaws and misleading statements about his policies, but your average voter is not a liberal policy wonk.  So again, is Mitt the perfect candidate?  Far from it, but he his head and shoulders above the Rick Perry’s, Sarah Palin’s, Herman Cain’s, Newt Gingrich’s, etc., of the Republican world.

Had this post queued up and then came across this amazing rant from Charles Pierce, which I think further hits the theme: the problem is the GOP, not Mitt:

The overall point here is to rise, however briefly, to the defense of Willard Romney as the Republican nominee. As it happens, I think his wife was right on the money when she took to the radio in Iowa to offer each of the mewling conservatives who have been sniping at her husband a large, steaming flagon of STFU. Seriously, why are Peggy Noonan, or Bill Kristol, or Joe Scarborough — why are these people whose opinions should matter to someone running for president? Because they’re on TV a lot? Noonan’s demonstrably soft as a grape and Kristol’s been wrong about everything for going on two decades now. The Squint’s just trying to stay afloat. More to the point — and this is something that Ann Romney would not say, but I will: Every one of the people who are now so horrified at the campaign Mitt Romney is running spent three decades making the campaign Mitt Romney’s running absolutely inevitable.

The biggest problem with Romney’s campaign is its utter incoherence, which stems from the fact that he had to romance a Republican primary electorate that is clearly demented. [emphasis mine] The root of the campaign’s fundamental dishonesty, which is what has led to its incoherence in the first place, is the fact that the Republican primary electorate forced Romney to renounce the only real achievement he has as an elected politician — the Massachusetts health-care reform. Once you find you have to lie about all the good you did, what does the rest of it really matter?

Where were people like Noonan and Kristol when this dementia was building? Where were they when the Republican Party married itself to crackpot economics and fringe religion solely for the purpose of winning elections? Where was Joe Scarborough? …

Sooner or later, there was going to be a Republican presidential field that consisted of the purely insane and One Other Candidate. (It almost happened in 2008, except that you had John McCain and a relatively non-panderish Romney to hold off the propeller-beanie crowd.) It turns out that Willard Romney is now the One Other Candidate, and people are now professing surprise that he couldn’t placate the mouthbreathers and then “pivot” to Genuine Conservatism, which, I believe, can be defined today as mouthbreathing with sweeter breath. The greatest politician in the world couldn’t do that, and Willard Romney is not the greatest politician in the world. He is, however, the candidate of a political party that has lost its mind at the grassroots. The people who are now so sour on him had their chance to arrest that development over the past 30 years, and they declined. It’s a little late to pin their pandering on him.

Maybe a little harsh, but damn that felt good.  Of course, Mitt is not blameless.  He could have chosen not to pander 100% to the lowest common denominator of the Republican Party, but alas, that is the “leadership” he has shown.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Romney is not a bad candidate

  1. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    I agree with you and with the editorial. I have told folks around here (poor wife and neighbors) that Romney is to be blamed for his pandering, but really, the problem is structural. As long as religious zealots (the anti-science and social conservatives), libertarians, neo-cons, and Tea Party no-tax-ever crowd rule the nomination process then the GOP will not be able to put together an internally consistent or practical (i.e., empirically based) policies. For instance, you’ve got libertarians who want minimal government interference in personal and economic space VS the religious right that wants to impose their brand of Christian morality on everyone else; you’ve got neo-cons and other hawks who want to US to use its military might to make the world safe for capitalism and democracy, but no one in the party want to pay for it; some partion of teh Tea Party anger was directed at banks that were bailed out after acting badly, but libertarians reject regulations. You could probably find other clear of the schizophrenic nature of today’s Republican party.

    I like Romney when I first read about his accomplishments and tenure of a Republican governor of a very liberal state. Plus the Olympics! He sounded like a fiscal moderate to conservative, a social liberal (but not too liberal), a pragmatic smart guy who appreciated data and analysis. It’s a damn shame there is no place for this in the GOP.

  2. Mark says:

    I agree with you and with Mike. But more generally, the issue isn’t that Romney is a good/bad candidate or that the Republican party is hurting him. It’s that he’s behind in the polls, and the fundamentals point to an Obama victory (to be fair, the campaign/general craziness of the GOP is probably doing a little to add to that lead). The fact that he’s losing is why he seems like he’s a bad candidate and is getting slammed from all sides. This is what happens with a media and conventional wisdom that think the campaigns make all the difference. They see the results and try to fit what’s happening into that narrative. It’s not that the campaigns don’t matter (at the margins!), but it seems like the media dynamics and campaign behavior feed on themselves and the current state of the race to exacerbate the overall trends and thus make the campaign seem vitally important.

  3. Mike from Canada says:

    Regardless of who Romney is, or what he has said, the central question is “What would Romney do once elected?”

    His greatest failure is he panders to extremists. From what I can see of history, people who pander to extremists to get elected tend to continue to pander to extremists. Pandering to extremism fosters more extremism.

    Mitt isn’t running to be a one term president. That means four years of pandering. We have seen what happens to incumbent Republicans who aren’t crazy enough for the tea party. Does Mitt Romney seem like the type to develop a backbone and do whats right, or to continue to pander so he can get that second term? I’m betting on his already proven history. Pander, pander, pander. When caught, he doubles down on his pandering. So what are we to believe? That Mitt is a stand up kind of guy who will do what is right for the entire country, or that he will pander to his base and ignore the “47 percent”?

    If his policies of austerity make the economy worse, and many economists believe that will happen, would that not foster more extremism in the US? Other countries have tried austerity while reducing their deficit and have gotten deeper recessions. Any rational person who can do arithmetic can see his budget will cause austerity but without the benefit of a lower deficit and debt. Without benefit of lower taxes for the majority. The worst of both worlds. Higher debt, higher taxes for the poor and middle class. Fewer jobs as government workers hit the unemployment line in mass. The social safety net gone. Almost certainly another recession. What is the US going to look like after four or eight more years of back breaking recession/depression? Very likely more extremism.

    “Romney is not a bad candidate”
    What else would you call a person who panders to the extremists in his party?

    I know, chicken and the egg. Without pandering he couldn’t have gotten the nomination. But I don’t think he’s clearly thought this out. He’s been too busy pandering to realize he is going to have to continue to pander. Clearly he thought he could change course after being nominated, etch a sketch his way clear. But then he found he couldn’t. And he is going to find this out again if he gets elected.

    His theme song should be “The Pander Man” (Sung to The Candy Man – Sammy Davis Jr.)

    (Pander man)
    (Hey, Pander man)
    Alright everybody gather ’round
    The Pander Man is here
    What kind of Pander do you want
    Sweet tax cuts
    Getting rid of Obamacare
    ‘Cept for some parts
    Anything you want
    You’ve come to the right man
    ‘Cause I’m the Pander Man

    Who can take a budget (who can take a Budget)
    Sprinkle it with dew (sprinkle it with dew)
    Cover it with tax cuts and a miracle or two
    The Pander Man (the Pander Man)
    Oh, the Pander Man can (the Pander Man can)
    The Pander Man can
    ‘Cause he mixes it with love
    And makes extremism taste good
    (Makes extremism good)

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