Thursday, August 9, 2012

Catch of the Day

I don't know how many times I've said that Mitt Romney is a generic Republican candidate, and so the election will come down to, basically, whether most of the people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 still want him in the White House.

But there are plenty of people who argue that he's really not very good at being a politician and that it'll hurt him eventually, and today he provided some new evidence for at least the first part of that theory. As Greg Sargent notes, Romney managed to tell Politico that candidates should pull ads if factcheckers disapprove of them -- a standard which, as Greg notes, Romney repeatedly fails to meet. Indeed, Greg links to not one, not two, not three, but seven different Romney ads that factcheckers have dinged. That includes his current main ad, the welfare one that Politifact gave their Pants on Fire rating on Tuesday of this week.

The thing's a stupid thing for a campaign to ever say. Even campaign that try to stay on truth side of the line are going to manipulate things to suit their campaign themes, and factcheckers are random enough that running afoul of them is something that even the most scrupulous candidate will do -- so why give the opposition a perfect quote to play back when that happens? And yet Romney is hardly the most scrupulous of candidates, as Greg documents. Not even close. So why do it? 

It's almost as if Romney is a third-rate candidate who has no business playing politics at this level.

At any rate: Nice catch!


  1. Minor quibble: The Romney quote came from a radio interview with Bill Bennett, which Politico reported.

    And this campaign just gets more and more bizarre. I really hope Romney gets crushed if for no other reason than to prevent this sort of total dislocation from the truth from becoming normalized in future campaigns.

  2. What candidates since 1972 would qualify as 'weaker than generic'?

    1. Reagan!

      Carter in '76, probably.

      I think that's it, and those two are certainly debatable.

      I'm open to arguments that Clinton was stronger than generic; certainly he had terrific political skills and excellent moderate credentials (just in electoral terms, moderate beats strongly liberal for Dems or strongly conservative for GOP). Against that you have all the personal stuff.

      One might argue that Obama was a bit weaker than generic, I suppose, although I don't really think so.

  3. The debates are going to be a bloodbath.

    1. I wouldn't be so sure. Romney did okay in the GOP debates, although they mostly did set up well for him. He doesn't have the difficulty with basic policy stuff that George W. Bush or Reagan had. He may not be a gifted politician in that sense, and I'd make Obama the chalk in the debates, but not by all that much.

  4. It may be a stupid thing to say, but it doesn't seem any stupider than running ads with bare-faced, easily provable (or is it "disprovable"?) lies, which Romney has already done with abandon. Romney acts as if he is unafraid of being held accountable for anything he says - he knows the conservative media won't call him on it, and he thinks that no one else who matters will care (or even know). This really is a post-truth campaign, and a post-decency campaign too.

    That said, it does seem that Mitt is bad at politics. While I can understand the need to whitewash his record (something all candidates have to do to some extent), and recognize that whatever standards of truthiness prevailed in the good old days of 2008 were pretty damn lax, none of his lies about Obama seem the least bit necessary. Fox doesn't need cues from Mitt to attack Obama, and Romney has plenty of surrogates to do his dirty work so he can keep his hands relatively clean. The only reason I can think of is that he's going out of his way to display the bad-ass attitude de rigeur in the tea party age.

  5. Jonathan - you're finally catching on!

  6. At times the Romney campaign does seem to be staggeringly dense, Admiral-Stockdale-shrieking-"gridlock"-at-a-debate incompetent. Incompetent enough perhaps to bend the sacred laws of political science. The Believe in Our Future ad is just one classic example.

    Put yourself in the Romney war room. Someone notes: 'we need to warm up Mitt for the persuadable moderates who all really like Obama personally'. Excellent idea! Not a bad execution, for the first 95% of the ad. Then someone in the war room adds "We should put a really nasty attack line at the end, best of both worlds! I've been reading and NRO and Instapundit and the rest, and everyone there is talking about how offensive Obama's 'you didn't build that' jibe is! Let's take a shot at that in our 'warm' ad - the election is ours!"

    No doubt all the readers of Redstate and NRO and Instapundit love the ad, in its entire execution. No doubt none of them matter at all to the outcome of the election. No doubt that the people who will decide the election, the low-engagement moderates who were being courted by the first 95% of the ad, will also miss the dog whistle in the close.

    So...if you miss the dog whistle, how does "Believe in the America you built. Believe we can build it again" sound? Does it sound troublingly similar to "This is a really hard job of fixing America, its going to take more than one Mitt Romney, so get ready to roll up your sleeves Joe Palookaville"?

    If you're running against a personally likeable incumbent who has presided over bad results, do you want to do anything more than convince people that likeability be damned, you'll do a better job? How totally batshit insane do you then have to be to run an ad that makes you likeable and finishes with a message that, to the voters who decide the election, sounds like "Joe Anonymous, you're gonna have to do a bunch of stuff too in order to fix this country."

    Complete and utter morons. If morons like yours truly can easily detect the moronicity emitting from the Romney campaign, that's pretty bad.


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