Romney's Campaign Failure: Blaming Anyone Except Republican Ideas
The Romney campaign is struggling, and we already know that movement conservatives are planning to blame a Romney loss, if it happens, on Romney himself, for his alleged lack of conservative purism. Now we see, from a lengthy Politico story titled "Inside the Campaign: How Romney Stumbled," that Romney's team is going to blame chief campaign strategist Stuart Stevens, while the punditocracy is going to blame Romney-the-manager, not Romney-the-candidate:
Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a "tortured artist," Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6....
To pin recent stumbles on Stevens would be to overlook Romney’s role in all this. As the man atop the enterprise -- in effect, the CEO of a $1 billion start-up --Romney ultimately bears responsibility for the decisions he personally oversaw, such as the muffling of running mate Paul Ryan's strict budget message and his own convention performance....
When you read, at the outset of the story, that the speech commissioned for Romney to deliver at the Republican was scrapped, then another speech was scrapped, then a third was written, all in the eight days leading up to Romney's day in the convention limelight -- well, it's hard not to think the campaign is poorly run, and that the organizational skills of Stevens (and Romney) may be to blame. And when you go back to earlier coverage of Stevens -- for instance, this New York Times story from last September -- you get the feeling Stevens may be a bit of a flake:
"He is not a political consultant out of central casting," said Stephen Merrill, a former governor of New Hampshire. "When you sit down with him, you never know if the first sentence is going to be, 'I'm going to sail around the world,' or 'I'm going to write a book about moon exploration' or 'I'm going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.'"
The Politico story skirts the libel laws in hinting that Stevens may have a screw loose:
A mad-professor aura, combined with post-midnight calls to sleeping senior staffers, have led some colleagues to express increasing concern about what the campaign is doing to Stevens -- and what Stevens is doing to the campaign.
Romney isn't a particularly skilled politician, and his campaign is making a lot of mistakes. But in the event of a Romney loss, I fear we'll forget that he has a lousy message. He wants to cut taxes on the wealthy. He wants to gut programs like Medicare and Social Security. On social issues, he embraces the far right. On foreign policy, he wants to be another Bush. Pundits, please: don't forget that this is an important part of why he's losing. The Obama campaign has framed him as a heartless bastard and another George W. Bush because that's an accurate summation of his own stated stands on issues.
The country may be rejecting Romney personally, and it may be rejecting his campaign, but it's also rejecting Republicanism.
A failure to acknowledge that means the Beltway will be eager to give Republicans another do-over in 2014, just the way they got one in 2010 after Bush crashed and burned, and just the way they got one in 2000 after Newt Gingrich's fall from grace. We can't let that happen again.