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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
Is There Only One True Progressive?

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

With Friends Like These…


You're Mitt Romney, and after six arduous — sometimes embarrassing — years of campaigning, the Republican presidential nomination, while still beyond your reach, may be finally in view.

Just 16 months ago, before the formal campaign began, according to the trusted Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, Americans rated their feelings toward you more positively than negatively by 28 percent to 20 percent. Now that same survey finds your positive remains at 28 percent, while your negative personal number has nearly doubled to 39 percent. By way of comparison, at the same point in the 2008 campaign, the eventual Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, then embroiled in a fierce contest with Hillary Clinton, received a positive personal rating from 49 percent and a negative from 34 percent.

You're Mitt Romney, and you know that no presidential nominee has ever won the White House with the kind of negative personal ratings you're now getting, but you can take some comfort from the fact that no U.S. president, except the sainted Franklin Roosevelt, has ever won re-election with the unemployment numbers of the Obama administration.

When asked in last month's CNN/ORC survey whether Romney or Obama favors the rich, the middle class or the poor, the results were distressing for the GOP. Some 65 percent of voters believe Romney favors the rich to just 28 percent who see him favoring the middle class (a spacey 4 percent detect a previously unnoticed Romney tilt to the poor.) The president was seen to be favoring the rich by 28 percent, the middle class by 40 percent and the poor by 32 percent.

The March CBS-New York Times poll asked, "Do you think (Mitt Romney/Barack Obama) understands the needs and problems of people like you?" By a solid 55 percent to 42 percent score, voters believe the president understands their lives.

Obama, it could be said, "feels their pain," but not Mitt. Just 31 percent of those polled think Romney understands what they are going through daily, while 59 percent, nearly twice as many, see the Massachusetts Republican as failing to understand their needs and problems.

Add to this lopsided majority of voters (77 percent) who find that "there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the U.S." and (the 61 percent) who believe that "the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy" over the 36 percent who think the system is "generally fair to most Americans."

So you're Mitt Romney, and along comes the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, the man who the Wall Street Journal editorial page praises relentlessly as bold, courageous and intelligent. His name is Paul Ryan, and he has written a budget that while historically cutting healthcare and other special spending in its quest for fiscal solvency, would also cut the income tax rate of the richest Americans by at least 28.5 percent and extend the about-to-expire George W. Bush 2001 and 2003 tax-cuts at a cost to the Treasury of $5.4 trillion over the next decade.

The average individual tax-cut for struggling American millionaires, the same guys with whom Romney and the Republicans are judged to be too chummy and/or subservient towards, would be a measly $150,000 a year. At the same time, the Ryan budget (which Romney has embraced) would cut in the next 10 years $770 billion in Medicaid spending and other programs for less affluent Americans.

You're Mitt Romney, and too many voters think you care too much about the rich and the powerful, and care and understand too little about their own struggles. You're Mitt Romney and with friends like the bold Paul Ryan, your task just got a little tougher.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




6 Comments | Post Comment
Can you believe it? I really wanted to like him. I really, really wanted to. Obama made so many missteps, and I wanted to find someone to expose the lack of sober economic thinking the Dems were engaging in.

So sad. But Romney has failed over and over and over again to define himself in a truthful fashion. I really can't figure out who he is, other than a pathological liar. Maybe that's a consequence of his feeling he had to compensate for being an out-of-the-mainstream Mormon. I can't help feeling that's part of the psychological equation, at least. But ultimately, who cares? I need a president I know, or feel I know, and who I can depend on for policy positions I care about. I haven't a clue about where Romney stands on anything.

We've suffered almost 4 hard years of tolerating Obama's training on the job, and it's time for us to reap the benefits of that investment. He is very smart, if not so experienced, but there will be a lot of crucial experience under his belt when we vote next, and we need to have the opportunity to profit from that, finally. Isn't that a sound business decision to make, Mr. Romney?

Romney is jello, we know nothing about what he will really do, and he would have to go through some years himself of on-the-job training too, make no mistake about it. Running business takeovers bears little resemblance to serving as the chief executive and Commander in Chief of the country. There is a lot of new stuff to learn.

So I offer a business case for the reelection of Obama. We have invested heavily in his training. He has learned a lot. We should keep him and start to reap some of the benefits of that painful investment.

If we elect Romney, we have no idea what we have purchased. I'm not ready to make a gamble like that.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:45 PM
There is another potentially fatal flaw in Romney that the mainstream media has not yet touched- his casual regard for the truth. Steve Benen of the Maddow blog puts out a summary of the top weekly lies. But will the media want to touch the idea that a nominee for the Presidency is a common liar?
Comment: #2
Posted by: bob hall
Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:17 AM
The great thing about Romney is that except on tax cuts for the rich (an area where he is hardly neutral) and invading Iran, he either supports your position now or has supported your position in the past. This ability to change positions constantly could well be a positive with undecided voters. By the time of the election who knows what his position on most important issues might be? Of course he would benefit from not changing his position every 24 hours (as he did recently on the birth control debate)!
Comment: #3
Posted by: sound byte
Sat Mar 24, 2012 5:45 AM
Re: sound byte
Romney is an independent moderate, he is now running on positions based upon focus groups, the teaparty, and what will play in small down Evangelical America. He never believed what his campaign advisors are telling him to promote, marketing tests are telling him what to say and where to say it. Do you think the same positions will play in West Hollywood that will play in Jesus Christ, South Carolina, pop 1200? That's why his own advisor called him etch a sketch, unfortunately our media and political system tells candidates what to promote using sound bites and focus groups. That and the fact that the average American is uncurious and dumb as a rock. The candidates play to the audience, dumb and dumber. Shame on us....Shame, shame on us. As long as Joe Bob has a six pack, a bag of Doritos and his cable works he's a happy camper. That's who votes in America. 62% of New Yorkers questioned on the street in Manhatten 8 weeks ago couldn't name the two countries that border the U.S. I'll bet 90% could tell you who Kim Kardahian was married to for 72 days. Reading material? The National Enquirer at Wal Mart. Watch out America, Asia will soon be outsourcing their unattractive to you.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:00 PM
Re: Bloom Hilda

Sorry, that was meant to say,
Watch out America, Asia will soon be outsourcing their unattractive JOBS to you.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:44 PM
Re: sound byte; Dear Sound Byte... What strikes me as unusual in the republicans is their moral tone, not just of majority, but of superiority... What is this besides a cover for their essential immorality???... Certainly, the idea that God will punish a community for all the sins it commits is as old as our earliest dramas, but if we look at the nearness of the word Ethics to Ethnic we can see the relationship clearly of the individual to his community... When we can worry about whether our neighbor is using birth control, and do not care if he is unemployed or has food for his children we are demonstrating the best possible morality, one of choice, and one that makes another feel small -and ourselves large... The finger of blame can point both ways; but clearly, the republicans have lost all sense of the word morality... They cannot treat people at once as a drag on the state, unequal to the laws and rights granted to them by God, and then deserving of their fate by their own sinful behavior... Ask the question: Are they a herd unworthy of consideration, or are they free citizens of a democratic state??? I think the rich are not rich because they are devout and nearer my God to thee, but are that because they are rich, and their religion and morality justify them, and make little demands upon them or upon their wealth... Ethics, on the other hand, morality conceived of as obligation -makes the rich responsible for the poor they make by way of becoming rich... If they think they can better guard the commonwealth by privatizing it, they may well be correct, for no wealth is less certain than wealth with many guards... The commonwealth in few hands must support the same population that it would if in all hands... The commonwealth in private hands is still a trust just as is great authority a trust... We presume a benefit to all of the common property being in the hands of the rich, and we presume so ideologically... If we are not free to challenge this ideology as false, as one leading to the destruction of community, and destruction of polite intercourse with people of all ranks, and eventually the destruction of this nation -and its loss to strangers, then we are not free at all...The difference between the rich and the poor is not money...As long as we have enough money is no object...The difference between us and them, is that the poor think we are one people, and the rich know THEY are one people, and the rest of us are simply hanging onto the rights they have not managed to pry loose from our collective grips...We will be one people when the rich feel they are with us, in the same boat, sinking or swiming with the rest of us, and no better than; and not too good to pay something in taxes for the good they get... Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:04 AM
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