Is Romney Imploding?
It's been a rough few weeks for Mitt Romney.
The GOP's predicted post-Tampa convention bounce failed to materialize in early September; the left-wing media covered for the White House on the Muslim world's Muhammad protests and the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, hammering the Republican nominee for his purportedly "irresponsible" comments on the debacle; and just this week as the Romney-Ryan ticket was launching a campaign reset for mid-September, the political world was rocked with the release of the "SECRET VIDEO" of the candidate's "controversial" comments at an exclusive Republican fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.
To call the video a setback would be putting it mildly. Responding to a question from a guest at the event, Romney suggested that, as a matter of fact, "there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what...." Romney also dismissed presumed Obama voters as "victims who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." He also slammed this group as a whole as "people who pay no income tax."
The backlash was breathtakingly swift. By Monday night Romney held a press conference in Costa Mesa, California, indicating that his remarks on the secretly-taped video were ''off the cuff" and not "elegantly stated." By Tuesday the video was making the headlines across the nation's daily newspapers. Late Tuesday morning all the major newspaper websites were blasting banner headlines on the story. The Los Angeles Times blared, "Video Knocks Romney Campaign Off-Stride," and the New York Times splashed the story, "Romney Video a Distraction as Campaign Tries to Hit ‘Restart.’" And the normally staid Wall Street Journal mocked, "Romney Video Derails Bid to Sharpen Message." At lunchtime, people crowded around to hear CNN's reporting on the small television screen at my local Japanese takeaway in Long Beach, a block from my college campus. And then by Tuesday night all three of the network evening newscasts led with the story. Diane Sawyer announced breathlessly, at ABC's World News, that we'd witnessed a "seismic day."
The Democrat-Media-Complex, recalling Andrew Breitbart's famous formulation for the hopelessy biased left-wing press, was positively orgiastic over the story. MSNBC's radical host Rachel Maddow, for example, couldn't contain her glee in reporting the video, bumbling like a drunk teenager while she attempted to spew progressive talking points for the cable network's viewers. And her interviewee, David Corn of Mother Jones, who first published the "SECRET VIDEO," was like a schoolboy himself, practically falling down in a stupor while trying to slime Romney with lurid details of his fundraising host, millionaire investor Marc Leder, who was alleged to have sponsored kinky hot-sex parties like some deranged hedge-fund pervert. And if this all seemed too perfectly choreographed for the usual pattern of breaking political scandals, all doubts were blown away when it was revealed that James Earl Carter IV, the grandson of the 39th president of the United States, was the one who tracked down the person who originally posted some questionable clips to YouTube earlier this year. It all came together perfectly to provide some video-graphic red meat evidence for the Obama campaign's long-planned strategy of portraying the former Massachusetts governor as a "nasty jerk."
Conservatives, meanwhile, were divided. For example, blogger Michael Warren at the Weekly Standard claimed that "Conservatives Agree: Romney's Wrong, and the magazine's publisher, William Kristol, harshly criticized Romney's comments in what looked like an effort to put some distance between himself and a rapidly sinking campaign. Others piled on as well, most notably faux-conservative David Frum at the Daily Beast, who sneered about the "sinister" message behind Romney's comments. (And it's noteworthy that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown also distanced himself from Romney, and according to The Hill, a number of top "GOP insiders" also had reservations about such blunt political strategy being revealed to the voting public.)
Romney did find supporters on the right, however, most prominently Erick Erickson, the ubiquitous publisher of the Red State blog. Erickson pointedly hit back against the Weekly Standard, for example, with "Conservatives Agree: Romney’s Right." And he writes:
For once, we see Mitt Romney undercover and off the record and he sounds like a real person not pulled by the gravitational forces of the DC GOP Elite who have capitulated to $16 trillion in national debt. And suddenly, those beltway Republicans are beating up Romney for saying something off the cuff, maybe not as polished as he should have, but that is agreed with by a majority of Americans.
That was my first impression as well, and it turns out that sophisticated political science analysis discounts the likelihood that Romney's so-called "gaffe" will have any long-term negative effects on the campaign.
But I'd argue the up or down political implications are a bit beside the point by now.
Frankly, we've been hearing all year that the Romney campaign was on the verge of turning things around. It's been months of folks saying that Romney was about to change the dynamics of the race, but all the supposed game-changing moments have come and gone --- the Paul Ryan veep pick, the national conventions, the so-called post-convention bounce --- and Romney's still battling to find some traction against the Democrat-Media-Complex and its extremely dirty Alinskyite politics.
Perhaps the Mother Jones video is indeed a turning point. This is the game-changer of the fall campaign. Sure, conservatives continuously rail against pessimistic commentary that "demoralizes" the troops. That's "caving" to the left's media machine. Okay, perhaps. And indeed, I've personally worked aggressively to tamp down leftist spin that the Obama campaign's got the election in the bag. You know the script: When things go sour, that's just a blip. The polls are biased. The media's in the tank. The party line even claimed Team Romney's phenomenally stupid own-goals would stop. When top Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom botched the political spin on the Supreme Court's ObamaCare ruling in June -- saying that the individual mandate was not a tax -- the conservative blogosphere and punditocracy exploded. How stupid can you be, blowing the key argument against Obama's signature legislative achievement going into the fall? Oh no worries though. That was a one-off, right? But then it was campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who claimed in August that Romney's Massachusetts health law would have covered people like Joe Soptic, the Obama campaign's pawn in the left's epic propaganda campaign over healthcare coverage. The right again exploded at the massive stupidity. RomneyCare? That's the response to Democrats' "health scare" lies? Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin implored Team Romney to "get a hang of yourselves." But again, no worries. Romney's selection of Congressman Ryan as running mate soon energized the base. All was right as rain in conservative-land. But wait! By the eve of conventions the pundits had slammed the GOP campaign as stuck in a rut once more, failing to take advantage of the stark choices provided by the Ryan pick. And now here we are, in the third week of September, and Team Romney had plans to roll out a big campaign "reset." Too bad that "SECRET VIDEO" spoiled the plan, to the mustache-twirling delight of the progressive media hacks.
By Tuesday night the New York Times was reporting what was the obvious conclusion after almost two days of wild left-wing political ecstasy: "A Mood of Gloom Afflicts the Romney Campaign":
SALT LAKE CITY – Mitt Romney’s traveling press secretary walked to the back of the candidate’s plane midflight on Tuesday and teasingly asked a pair of journalists in an exit row if they were “willing and able to assist in case of an emergency.”
Under the circumstances, it was hard to tell whether it was a question or a request.
A palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood has begun to creep into Mr. Romney’s campaign for president. Well practiced in the art of lurching from public relations crisis to public relations crisis, his team seemed to reach its limit as it digested a ubiquitous set of video clips that showed their boss candidly describing nearly half of the country’s population as government-dependent “victims,” and saying that he would “kick the ball down the road” on the biggest foreign policy challenge of the past few decades, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Grim-faced aides acknowledged that it was an unusually dark moment, made worse by the self-inflicted, seemingly avoidable nature of the wound. In low-volume, out-of-the-way conversations, a few of them are now wondering whether victory is still possible and whether they are entering McCain-Palin ticket territory.
Now, folks might want to discount such reporting, coming as it is from the belly of beast of the Democrat-Media-Complex. But it makes sense. The polls have shown for months a basically deadlocked election. But Romney's much-hoped-for convention bounce was dead on arrival. And while in contrast the Obama-Democrats' post-convention bounce was real but ephemeral, the fact is Team Romney's been trailing all year and that oft-cited impending turnaround remains eternally elusive.
I'm not one to put much stock in the presidential election forecasters, although I do pay attention to a few keen analysts, especially Charlie Cook at National Journal. Here's his latest report, published Tuesday, "Pollsters Agree: Romney Needs Something To Happen":
Obviously there are dozens of permutations in the calculus for a Romney path to victory, but as long as Michigan and Pennsylvania are noncompetitive and Ohio continues to look tough for Romney, he would have to come pretty close to running the table to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Obama winning Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada would put 276 electoral votes in the Democratic column—six more than necessary for a win—even if Romney carried North Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Florida. At this point Romney is only ahead in one, tied in another, and trailing in the other three.
This election is still quite close and could go either way, but Romney badly needs something to happen to change the trajectory of this race. If things remain as they are today, he loses. Presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 3, 16, and 22. A vice presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 11, and unemployment numbers are released on Oct. 5 and Nov. 2. These are six events that could prove consequential. Though debates arguably have changed campaign trajectories in 1976 and 1980, in the last seven presidential elections they didn’t materially affect the outcome of the races. Obviously, candidate gaffes or campaign miscues outside the debates can matter as well as external events, domestic or foreign. Anything involving an attack by Israel and/or the United States against Iranian nuclear facilities would certainly create an “all bets are off” situation. Major incidents elsewhere in the Middle East or around the globe—for example, North Korea—could be consequential as well.
I've highlight the key bit. There are no certainties in politics, and the voters themselves could ultimately confound the pollsters and expert commentators and finally throw the Marxist interloper out on his behind in November. And to be sure, I'll be working my tail off toward that end myself. But campaigns matter. And they matter especially so when the challenger is facing an entrenched machine-politician incumbent who deploys classic Alinsky tactics and is aided by a corrupt media establishment that's totally in the tank.
Unfortunately, Team Romney's been lacking. They've made a lot of mistakes. And while the "SECRET VIDEO" is --- with the exception of a few demographic inaccuracies with the 47 percent statement --- not all that controversial, in the end it's just more fodder for the maw of the left's Orwellian disinformation program of deceit and double-standards. Honestly, at this point I'll be surprised if Romney's able to smash the Obama machine in its totality. It's a Herculean task. One can only keep pushing back twice as hard, meanwhile hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.