Michael concludes his recent post with a prediction:
Failure is an orphan, and if Romney loses (I’m not convinced he will lose), his failure will not be pinned on any other faction.
If Romney loses, Michael is right that everyone will be running away from the failed campaign as quickly as they can, but that is why the failure can then be pinned on virtually any and every faction inside the party by each faction’s traditional foes. No one will want the blame, and everyone will be more than happy to assign it. That’s the way it always works, but it is more intense when the political defeat is unexpected or difficult for the losing side to understand. One way that each faction in the GOP will try to make sense of something that intuitively doesn’t make sense to its members will be to find a scapegoat that suits the interest of that faction. Ryanmaniacs will complain that Ryan has been misused and neglected, political consultants and Ryan skeptics will blame the Ryan selection, moderates will find fault with Romney’s position on immigration or social issues or whatever they find most distressing, and movement conservatives will hold a nebulous “establishment” responsible.
Frum has already staked out his argument that Romney was “saddled with” the Ryan plan, and holds that Romney made one of the worst possible VP choice possible, Ryan fans are starting to defend their hero and argue that he isn’t to blame for Romney’s shortcomings, and today Gerson returned to one of his favorite hobbyhorses to pretend that Romney’s political woes wouldn’t be so great if only he were more like George W. Bush on immigration. This is just a foretaste of what will follow a Romney loss. Making things more difficult for all involved is the fact that the Romney campaign has been startlingly substance-free even by the standards of a presidential campaign, which allows each faction to pin the campaign’s failure on whatever it wants. Because Romney has tried to be so many different things as a candidate, it will not be hard for each one to identify him with one of his positions and define his entire candidacy with it to the exclusion of everything else.
The truth is that most of the party’s factions contributed to the weaknesses of the Romney campaign in different ways, and many of the errors he has made have been the result of catering to each faction. If he weren’t so eager to please Republican hawks, Romney probably wouldn’t have made quite so many absurd and ill-advised attacks on foreign policy. Romney is willing to say whatever his audiences want to hear, so it reflects poorly on his supporters when he has to say ridiculous and untrue things to satisfy them, just as it reflects poorly on him that he says those things. Romney isn’t a very good politician in comparison to past Republican nominees, but anyone working with many of the arguments Romney’s party has been making over the last few years would be hard-pressed not to fail.