I’ve been meaning to comment for a while on this fine Atlantic article in which various Republican campaign consultants opine about the awfulness of Mitt Romney’s campaign, but Peter Suderman has said most of the things I would say.
But given Romney’s political record-an incredibly complex flip flop on abortion, business fee hikes used as a cover for tax hikes, embracing the word “progressive,” and supporting a state-level model for ObamaCare-conservative policy elites were always likely to be wary of Romney. A little more outreach might have softened the skepticism, but it also might have illustrated how little Romney likes to be challenged on questions about his policy decisions, and how slippery he can be when anyone tries to pin him down. Romney isn’t struggling because of his campaign. The campaign is struggling because of Romney….
As far as I can tell, the only big vision Romney’s ever had is of himself, sitting in the Oval Office. Which seems to be more or less what his campaign is running on.
I would add only one thing: In the run-up to the 2008 campaign, starting as early as 2004 or 2005, Romney did actively try to win over conservative elites. He enjoyed a certain amount of success doing so, judging from the endorsements he received from leading national conservatives who were much more familiar with the flaws in John McCain’s record than Romney’s. But he — and they — had much less success winning over rank-and-file conservative voters, who continued to divide their votes between Romney, Mike Huckabee, and for a time Fred Thompson.
Four years later, Romney isn’t running against McCain anymore. His record is much more familiar to conservatives nationally. Obamacare makes his Massachusetts health care plan matter a whole lot more. Conservative leaders now know he was a tough sell against McCain and aren’t as eager to defend his conservative bona fides against perennial movement favorites Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. And there’s the “Won’t Get Fooled Again” angle.
Sure, I’ve been puzzled as to why the Romney campaign hasn’t anticipated obvious lines of criticism or why they seem intent on irritating conservatives by boasting of the likelihood they will win a nomination they should have already had in the bag by now. But the candidate is a bigger problem than the campaign. Campaigns matter, sometimes a lot. But they matter less than political consultants think they do.