This column, by Romney campaign strategist Stuart Stevens, is a tissue of look-on-the-bright-side half-truths and elisions.
Like: “He trounced Barack Obama in debate.” Not “a debate,” you will notice, or “the debates.” Just “in debate.” Nice.
When much of what passes for a political intelligentsia these days predicted that the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan meant certain death on the third rail of Medicare and Social Security, Romney brought the fight to the Democrats and made the rational, persuasive case for entitlement reform that conservatives have so desperately needed. The nation listened, thought about it — and on Election Day, Romney carried seniors by a wide margin.
Again, not so much. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised not to touch seniors’ benefits for 10 years, and noisily promised to restore $716 billion in ObamaCare cuts to Medicare providers. If that’s bringing the fight to Democrats and braving the third rail, it’s no wonder we still have a third rail.
And: “On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters.” True, as far as it goes — but Stevens neglects to mention two things: 1) Households making less than $50,000 comprise more than half of all American households; and 2) Romney did not merely lose that demographic; he got trounced, 60-38 percent.
All that aside, it’s this bit from Stevens that had me in stitches:
I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians. That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters.
Savor that line: “Nobody liked Romney except voters.” Which ones? Republican primary voters, who searched high and low for an alternative to Romney for several desperate months? Or the general electorate? It’s true that Romney was “never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd” — by which I take Stevens to mean Beltway conservatives like Bill Kristol and George F. Will. And he obviously was not the first choice of a majority of the Republican rank-and-file. In short, Romney lacked roots in both Washington and at the grassroots level; he essentially foisted himself onto the party. In 2008, Sen. John McCain accomplished the same dubious feat — a weakness that Romney, during the primary, tried and failed to exploit. (The GOP establishment favored both men in some sense, but they were not products of that establishment in the same way that Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush were. Romney never worked in it, while McCain made a living tweaking it.)
There is a lesson here for Republicans: Go with the base candidate. Or go with the establishment candidate. But it’s pure folly to nominate a guy who is neither.