Nov 5 2012

 

 

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The Daily Beast Columnist Robert Shrum says that Mitt Romney lost this election four years ago and has never recovered since then. The commentator says his campaign has been a series of one mistake after another. As a result, Mitt Romney might have defeated himself in tomorrow's election.

Here are some excerpts:

"What matters more is what happened months or even years ago, when Mitt Romney inflicted serial damage on himself that can’t be wiped away by a last-minute ad barrage or a barnstorming tour through the final hours.

Go all the way back to Nov. 18, 2008, when Romney wrote that op-ed in The New York Times headlined: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Few pieces have had as long or relevant a political life. Michigan, Mitt’s original home state, and Ohio, home to 850,000 auto industry-related jobs, have proved stubbornly resistant to a Republican nominee who seems so conspicuously hostile to their livelihoods. If the President carries both states, Romney’s prospects next Tuesday look about as promising as the Edsel’s in the 1950s. For those too young to remember it, the car was a landmark flop. Wikipedia offers a commonly accepted explanation: it was “a supreme example of the corporate culture’s failure to understand American consumers.”

Romney’s op-ed was a supreme example of a corporate guy’s failure to understand American voters. He can quibble that he favored “a managed bankruptcy”—without the use of federal funds. The Obama campaign—and most experts—respond that in the depth of the financial crisis, there was no private capital available to keep the auto companies in business while they were reorganized. That’s true, but almost beside the point. What’s indelible, immediately apprehensible, persistently top-of-mind is the headline itself. Romney could have claimed he didn’t write it; he didn’t. He could have argued it wasn’t what he meant. Instead, he doubled down, telling an interviewer: “That’s exactly what I said—the headline you read—‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’”

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"The struggle intensified when he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate instead of the safer, Ohio-friendly Senator Rob Portman—the choice of most of Romney’s advisers. Ryan, who has proposed to replace Medicare with Vouchercare, instantly threatened the nominee’s margin with seniors, who are essential to assembling a barely sufficient GOP coalition. Some Republicans rejoice that their vulnerability here has been blunted by charging—falsely by the way—that Obamacare cut more than $700 billion from Medicare (the cuts were in excessive payments to entities like insurance companies.) But the GOP campaign has had to spend time and millions of dollars on this—and the hard evidence suggests that for them the battle is being lost. The latest Democracy Corps survey reports: “[On] Medicare … Obama [is] trusted by 14 points over Romney in the states where the issue has been contested in advertising from both sides.”

If the Republicans lose Florida—and when Obama holds on to senior-rich Pennsylvania, Mitt’s last, least hope—put it down to the Ryan mistake. The choice didn’t even achieve one effect its champions insistently predicted— that it would energize the sanforized Romney. Instead of Romney being Ryanized, Ryan has been Romneyized. He’s become a bland non-presence—which, given the sharp edge of his views, may be the better part of rightwing valour. "

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"The convention, which was supposed to introduce and humanize the Republican nominee on its last night, morphed into a Saturday Night Live skit. It was an elementary failure of event planning to let an unscripted Clint Eastwood conduct a farcical debate with an empty chair- and then to push real-people testimonials to Romney’s character out of prime time so Florida Sen. Marco Rubio could talk more about himself than Mitt. There was no bounce—and a marked decline for the Republican nominee after a bravura Democratic Convention a week later in Charlotte.

If the Obama of the second debate had showed up to the first, the election would have been over then and there. But he didn’t; it was his mistake and Romney’s singular moment. But the Republican seemed to have no coherent plan for his second and third encounters with the President other than insisting that the race was simply a referendum: If you’re kind of dissatisfied with the economy, give me a try; after all, I am in the midst of a moderate makeover. This typifies the pervasive error of the Romney strategy. The Obama forces cast the election as a choice: who’s on your side—on tax fairness, on fighting for the middle class, on equality for women and all Americans, on decency towards immigrants? The President vigorously prosecuted his case in the last two debates- and Romney ended up on the wrong side on choice after choice. "

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Finally, Romney made some unavoidable mistakes embedded in the DNA of today’s GOP. He assumed, correctly, that in the primaries he had to pander on social issues to the religious right— and on immigration to a party that has become the modern incarnation of nativism. He can plead in mitigation that he had no choice—and if that is so, look for another Republican defeat in 2016. On Nov. 7, Romney may be asking himself: What does it profit a Mitt to gain a nomination and lose his chance to make history in the White House?

Still, the fault is not just in his party but in himself. The Romney campaign has been a trail of missteps—and the Obama managers masterfully took advantage of this and took control of the race. So let’s thank Mitt for making his own mistakes. As we may have noticed, he’s very good at it. Romney—R.I.P