Ross Douthat explores why it’s so hard to find a good presidential candidate these days. Like most rational people, he dreads the likely Obama-Romney contest to come this fall:
But the presidency, unexpectedly, has exposed [Obama's] limits as a communicator. Now when Obama demonizes, it seems clumsy; when he tries to persuade, it falls on deaf ears. Unlike Reagan and Clinton, the two masters, he seems unable to either bully or inspire.
What Obama has left, though, is the same capable, even ruthless organization that helped him over the top last time around. Maybe he’ll rediscover the old 2008 magic as well. But if not, the 2012 election is shaping up to be the most wearying sort of American presidential campaign: a clash of two managers, slogging their way toward a prize that a stronger candidate might have taken in a walk.
You know what I think? Romney is the same kind of guy — neither loved nor feared. The difference is we know this now, not after three years of a Romney presidency. Reader PJ wrote on the “Romneyness” thread:
I cannot stomach either Romney or Gingrich, but my assumption long has been that Romney was possibly electable and Gingrich less so depending on how the economy goes from here. But I find myself questioning that after this week and I don’t understand the view that electability is still slam dunk in Romney’s corner. For all of Gingrich’s baggage, he can at least defend or deflect attacks successfully. Romney has been running for president for 6 years now and cannot deflect an attack on his Bain work with a GOP electorate that is largely sympathetic to capitalism? How in the world does anyone think he will be able to do so when it comes to swing voters if he can’t do it now?
That’s a great point. I keep bringing up John Podhoretz’s tweet from last week, in which he expressed bafflement that Romney has been running for president for five or six years, and he still doesn’t know how to handle questions about his wealth. I don’t care one bit for Romney, I can’t stand Gingrich, and I believe that there are legitimate structural questions that need asking about wealth and taxation in this country — and yet, it would have taken me maybe 10 minutes to have come up with Romney responses to Gingrich’s attacks that were far more potent than anything Romney offered.
I wonder who will be the first TV journalist to ask Romney the Roger-Mudd-to-Ted-Kennedy question: “Why do you want to be president?” True, Romney will not likely give a deer-in-headlights response, as did Kennedy, but I bet his answer will be so canned that it will tell us something about him. But maybe nothing that we don’t already know. After South Carolina, I think of Romney as the Canned Cranberry Sauce candidate: the appearance of substance, but made of jelly, and so recently glopped from the can I can still see the rings.