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Mitt Romney Is Dazed and Confused


You never want to let them see how much it hurts.

You get hit by a pitch, you don't rub the spot. You get rocked by a punch, you try to throw a counter-punch. You lose three races in one night as a political candidate, and, well, you don't do what Mitt Romney did.

Romney is known as an even-keel kind of guy. Doesn't get too high; doesn't get too low. But Tuesday he lost three states to Rick Santorum, and it threw him and his campaign into disarray and confusion.

But before we get to that, we ought to answer your chief question: Which one is Rick Santorum?

You can be forgiven for forgetting. Santorum was the guy who back in January came in second in Iowa to Mitt Romney by eight votes. Santorum had spent the most time in Iowa, and Romney had spent the least time in Iowa, and so Santorum seemed finished.

A few weeks later after a recount, however, GOP officials announced that Santorum had actually won Iowa by 34 votes, with the proviso that they didn't actually know who the hell had won Iowa. The votes of eight precincts had gone permanently "missing." Maybe a hog ate them, maybe they were converted into ethanol, maybe they were deep-fat fried and put on a stick for the next Iowa state fair. Nobody knows.

Which is why Santorum got no boost from his sudden turnaround victory in Iowa. He was just another candidate on the right of his party, and the media had others to concentrate on, like Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is colorful, quotable, unpredictable and utterly vicious. So vicious that even after he won the South Carolina primary, he began using rhetoric directed at his fellow Republicans that was so reckless, he effectively disqualified himself as the alternative to Romney.

If you were a Republican who really could not bring yourself to vote for Romney — and as one wag put it, the Republicans seem torn over which of their candidates they despise the least — then your choices were limited to Santorum and Ron Paul.

Faced with that choice, anti-Romney Republicans found it easy to coalesce around Santorum on Tuesday, giving him victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.

None of these contests awarded any delegates to the Republican National Convention — if you think presidential candidates are bizarre, you ought to take a look at the rules by which they are selected — but neither did the Iowa caucuses.

By my way of thinking, if the media are going to go nuts over Iowa, they ought to go at least semi-nuts over Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.

But the Romney campaign decided not to shrug off its losses — it has tons of money and is well positioned to win future contests — but instead concentrate on how Santorum's victories were meaningless because they landed him no delegates.

On Wednesday, Politico's Mike Allen began his highly influential Playbook with this quote from a Romney campaign official: "It's about delegates. We could have made the decision to spend money, resources. ... We could have run television, run radio or spent more time.

You can't do everything. You gotta run your race."

Brilliant. You got to save that money in big sacks and not spend it, because you "gotta run your race" and, oh, by the way, LOSE THREE STATES IN ONE NIGHT.

At this stage of the game, Romney should be making sure the race is not about delegates, but momentum. As long as he has the momentum, the other candidates can pick up a few delegates here and a few there, and it will not matter at all, because Romney will eventually run away with the contest.

But when you decide in early February that you can let an opponent walk off with three victories and huge media attention, then you have made a critical error. You have let the momentum shift, and when that happens, anything can happen.

And Romney seemed to realize this Tuesday night even if his staff did not. He looked understandably down and read his concession speech from two teleprompters as if he were seeing it for the first time — which he may have been.

He began with a long riff on his father, with Romney portraying himself as the son of a humble carpenter. (Wasn't there another humble carpenter who was the earthly father of somebody famous?)

"My father never graduated from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. And he (was) pretty good at it," Romney said. "He actually could take a handful of nails, stick them in his mouth, and then, you know, spit them out, pointy end forward. On his honeymoon, he put aluminum paint in the trunk of the car and sold it along the way to pay for the gas and the hotels."

Which makes me admire Mitt's father, George Romney. My grandfather was a carpenter, and I don't remember him sticking nails in his mouth, but he could pound nails straight and true with just a few powerful whacks from his hammer. (Go try it if you think it's so easy.)

But let's get real: Mitt Romney did not grow up in the days when his father was a humble carpenter. By the time Mitt was 7, his father was already chairman and CEO of American Motors.

Then Mitt used a line in his speech that was even more questionable. "I am the only person in this race — Republican or Democrat — who has never served a day in Washington!" he proudly said.

It's true. But it's disingenuous. Mitt tried very hard to spend a day serving in Washington. He tried very hard to spend at least 2,191 days, the term of a U.S. senator, in Washington. The only thing that stopped him was his 17 percentage point loss to Ted Kennedy in 1994.

There is nothing shameful about losing a Senate race to Ted Kennedy. But the fact that Romney even tried shows you how badly he wanted to get to Washington.

So it was left to Rick Santorum — who was enormously aided in his victories by the lack of a Donald Trump endorsement — to have the line of the evening. "I don't stand here as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney," Santorum said. "I stand here as the conservative alternative to Barack Obama."

There is actually no reason for anyone to count Romney out at this point. In the weeks ahead, we are going to learn if he can take a punch or if he has a crystal jaw.

Not all are downcast. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, "Mitt Romney has the organization and the resources to go the distance in this election, and I believe he'll ultimately win our party's nomination."

All Romney has to do is pick himself up off the canvas and get his head straight first.

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



1 Comments | Post Comment
While it is fashionable these days to engage in vitriol and vilification of the political “other side,” I am having a hard time thinking of Willard Mitt Romney as truly evil. Really.

Sure, I cringe when I think about having a private equity guy in the White House. I know enough about that business to realize that it can be creative and helpful or deeply cold-blooded and destructive. Romney's work at Bain Capital apparently included plenty of both kinds of deals. That makes me uncomfortable. But it's a big jump from knowing that to believing that one can divine what's in a man's soul. People are complicated, Romney more so than most.

Along with his shortcomings, Romney has some very good qualities – as a candidate and as a person – that make him by far the best Republican in the presidential field. None of those qualities make me want to vote for him in the fall, for reasons I will explain shortly. But even so, it's worth noting some of them:

-- Romney is no ideologue: Like Ronald Reagan, Romney has a strong pragmatic streak. As governor of Massachusetts, he was willing to pair spending cuts with revenue increases by raising fees and closing loopholes in the state tax code. That does not endear him to Tea Party activists. But a “cuts only” approach to fixing the Massachusetts budget would have been a nonstarter. Mitt chose to get things done.
-- He made health care a priority: “Romneycare,” seen as Romney's biggest vulnerability in the primaries, was actually a ground-breaking achievement. It is not the approach I would have chosen to provide near-universal health care in Massachusetts. But, for the most part, it worked and provided a template for the national Affordable Care Act.
-- He's boring – in a good way: It's commendable that Romney has been married to the same woman for 40-plus years, raised a family and lived a scandal-free personal life. I try my best to be a good family man and it's a trait I admire in others.
-- He's sane: That might seem like a “damning with faint praise” comment, but it's not. In a Republican field that once included Michele Bachmann and still includes Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it's good to have a remaining candidate whom I would easily trust with nuclear launch codes. Now that Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman are out of the race, Mitt is the only GOP contender who, as president, would not make me want to sleep in a bunker.

I could go on here, but I think you get the point. There are many good reasons to think Mitt is not the presidential candidate equivalent of Lex Luthor. In his own out-of-touch sort of way, Mitt really does seem to mean well. I see little indication, however, that Romney understands my interests or would do much to advance them. More importantly, I think a continuation of President Barack Obama's policies would be better for me. So, I won't be voting for Mitt.

The handling of the “managed bankruptcies” and federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler is probably the best example of what troubles me about Romney. In November 2008, he famously called on the government to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” and for the government to stand back and let it happen. In a stunning failure of imagination, Romney was unable to see that a “bailout” (I prefer to say “rescue”) was perfectly compatible with the bold restructuring of both car makers that he called for.

Given Romney's background, I doubt it would have occurred to him to match Chrysler with Fiat. Nor does it seem likely that he would have worked with the United Auto Workers union to preserve U.S. jobs. And that makes perfect sense. From a traditional business perspective, the path of least resistance would have been to let GM and Chrysler go down in flames and take the UAW with them. Afterward, investors could have picked the meat from the carcass of the domestic auto industry and moved ahead into a radically outsourced, union-free, low-wage future. Or, maybe, everything could have just been sold for scrap – whichever was most profitable in the short run.

I am glad the Obama Administration pursued a riskier, bolder path. That is the kind of unorthodox resourcefulness that the United States needs right now. I see similar fresh thinking in Obama's vision of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, investing in education, boosting exports and encouraging the development of new energy sources.

By contrast, Romney's main ideas come down to cutting taxes for corporations (again), a variation on “drill, baby, drill,” attacks on unions and more vague promises of “deregulation.” The only Romney idea that appeals to me very much is his proposal to stamp China as a currency manipulator. But, frankly, I wonder of Mitt really has the guts to do it. That assessment makes Romney's evilness – or lack thereof –irrelevant.

So, sure, I think Romney owes the American people a full accounting about his offshore bank accounts, and his involvement in legal-but-distasteful business practices like dividend recapitalizations while at Bain. I also really look forward to seeing what is in his tax returns. But I honestly doubt that any of those things will prove that Mitt is secretly in league with Lord Voldemort, so I won't bother to try.

The less-glamorous reality is that, instead of being evil, Romney is a guy who has very different values than me and who looks at business ethics through very different prism. His policy proposals reflect that. There certainly is room in my America for people like Mitt and I wish him the best. But I don't want him to be my president – even if he is a first-rate husband and a really good dad.
Comment: #1
Posted by: James Melton
Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:11 PM
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