Republican Retreat From Romney Grows As Democrats In Tight Races Surge
It started with Republican pundits. But now it appears there's a gowing list of Republican officeholders and candidates who are distancing themselves from Romney—as if the election were days away—and a handful of Democrat candidates in tight races who are surging ahead.
Usually, congressional candidates stick with their party’s presidential nominee until the last possible minute, when it appears their political fortunes are threatened. But not so with continuing fallout from Mitt Romney’s degrading comments that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes and are overly dependant on federal subsidies.
As Wendesday dawned, GOP commentators led by former Reagan speechwriter-turned-Wall Street Journal commentator Peggy Noonan were throwing up their hands, saying the Romney campaign needed “an intervention.” But then the reverberations jumped orbit, when nationally known Republicans and candidates abandoned ship.
New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez told reporters that New Mexico has a lot of people living at the poverty level. “They count just as much as anybody else," she said, adding her state’s anti-poverty programs provide a “safety net [that] is a good thing.”
Then Connecticut’s GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon said, “I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be.”
And then came North Carolina Republicam House candidate Mark Meadows, who told the press, “Mitt Romney didn’t call me before he made those comments.”
But by late afternoon the Romney retreat was still growing. In Nevada’s Senate race, Republican incumbert Sen. Dean Heller told reporters in Washington, “Keep in mind, I have five brothers and sisters. My father was an auto mechanic. My mother was a school cook. I have a very different view of the world. And as United States senator, I think I represent everyone, and every vote’s important... I don’t write off anybody.”
Heller wasn’t the only Senate Republican to back away from Romney. The Senate’s GOP leaders refused to answer any questions at their weekly press conference. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell left in the middle of the event. Majority Whip John Kyl dodged a reporter’s question afterwards and downplayed grousing that reportedly occurred in the Senate lunchroom earlier in the day.
But the most striking development might be that just as some vulnerable Republicans and party leaders are retreating from their nominee, Democrats in tight races are surging ahead in the polls—and these are candidates known for liberal viewpoints.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin has been in a tough contest with former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. According to new polls, she has pulled ahead by more than the margin of error—reversing where she stood just a month ago. And in Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren is also pulling ahead of incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, who on Wednesday stood by the nominee through an aide’s comments but ducked direct questions about Romney’s remarks. Like the Wisconsin Senate race, several polls found Warren pulling ahead by several percentage points.
While some commentators are saying there’s still enough time for Romney to turn around the race and win, it’s clear that the odds of that are getting longer. The most optimistic scenario is that Romney will have to emerge victorious in the first presidential debate. But if his latest response is an indication—an op-ed under his name published Wednesday in USA Today—then that also seems unlikely, because it was the same vague language that has been typical of his stump speeches, not anything that could be seen as a game-changer. Romney wrote:
“My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom. Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty.
“My five-point plan will deliver the economic recovery we've all been waiting for and the jobs millions of Americans still need. This can be more than our hope; it can be our future. And it can start this November with your vote.”