One of the things that hurt Mitt Romney in the 2008 election was that he managed to be the most disliked candidate among his rivals, who were agitated not only that he reversed himself on a number of positions, but that he then attacked them for being insufficiently conservative on those very issues on which he just reversed himself. As the primaries wore on, Mike Huckabee and John McCain formed an unspoken alliance to deliver a one-two punch against Romney, defeating him in Iowa and New Hampshire. As I reported at the time from a Huckabee event in Iowa just days before the Iowa caucuses:
In another example of the emerging everybody vs. Romney dynamic of the race, Huckabee came to the defense of John McCain, who has been trading barbs with Romney in New Hampshire over an attack ad. “John McCain is a true, honest to god, American hero,” Huckabee said.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, whose campaign was generally trigger shy about attacking his rivals, reserved his harshest criticism for Romney, who he accused of running a “sanctuary mansion” by hiring illegal immigrants to mow his lawn. “Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he’s had by far the worst record,” Giuliani remarked in that debate. When Giuliani dropped out of the race after losing Florida, he quickly endorsed McCain, providing him a boost heading into Super Tuesday the following week, which ended Romney’s candidacy.
With all of this as prologue, it’s been interesting to see Romney work to repair relationships with his rivals. He not only campaigned for McCain during the general election in 2008, but he has endorsed him in the Arizona Senate primary.
Yesterday, in a USA Today op-ed criticizing Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill, Romney slipped in the following two paragraphs:
We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001. Then as now, black billows seemed to come from the center of the earth. Lives had been lost. The environmental impact was immeasurable. The looming economic impact from lost tourism was incalculable. Into the crisis walked Rudy Giuliani. While that was an incomparable human tragedy, how the mayor led New York City to recover is a useful model for the president.
Rudy camped out at Ground Zero – he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence. His presence not only reassured the people of New York that someone was in charge, it also enabled the mayor to assess the situation firsthand, to take the measure of the people he had on the ground, and to understand the scope of the crisis.
Later in the same piece, Romney writes that, “The president can learn a good deal from the crisis leadership of men and women in government and in business. Giuliani is a notable example, but so too are Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Kennedy.”