Slate’s Dave Weigel puts himself through the paces of a self-audit: What did he get right and wrong in a year seemingly full of twists and turns (but not really, when you think about it)? Since I think it should a best practice for pundits, I thought I’d undergo the process myself.
My first two posts of the year argued that 1) Mitt Romney was “unbeatable” as a primary candidate—being not-well-liked was actually a strength, as he couldn’t be knocked off of a pedestal he wasn’t standing on. And 2) the Iowa Caucus returns spelled trouble for the GOP. Romney didn’t outperform his tally in the 2008 caucuses, and overall turnout was underwhelming.
Romney, for his part, does well among wealthy, older voters. Tonight’s results are mildly troubling for Romney—but more than mildly troubling for the GOP long-term. The party appeals mostly to a segment of the country that’s literally dying.
Later I argued that Republicans were crazy to feel relieved that Bain Capital had become an issue in the primary—the better to clear the decks for the general-election battle:
I don’t believe the Bain Stuff is nearly as explosive as the [Jeremiah ]Wright Stuff, but it has the potential nonetheless of doing real damage to Romney at the all-important margins: among independents and working-class Republicans in economically depressed states. …
For a solid week, Romney pitched himself as the very embodiment of free enterprise. The doyens of market fundamentalism, from Rush Limbaugh to the Club for Growth, cursed Gingrich for his apostasy. And yet, if Rasmussen’s data is right, Republicans are still signaling that they’re unmoved.
And if they’re unmoved, imagine how the rest of the electorate will react to Obama’s tweaking of Romney’s master-of-the-universe status.
“Capitalism. Shut up” did indeed prove to be a terrible strategy for mitigating the Bain pain. Another score, if I say so myself.
At the risk of sounding like a one-note billy, I believe Republican strategists have wildly overestimated Romney’s “electability.” Not only is it true that his background in high finance is easily caricatured; it’s that he seems, with alarming regularity, to confirm the worst aspects of this caricature with his own ill-chosen words.
His efforts to vicariously “feel pain,” Clinton-style, have been chronically inept. (See “I’m also unemployed,” for example.) He is not naturally gifted at politicking, and so he overcompensates in ways that are downright painful to watch. (See his rendition of “America the Beautiful,” for example.)
I tried to sound an alarm over 1) Romney’s across-the-board tax-cut proposal, predicting it would be an “electoral dead-ender and a fiscal train wreck waiting to happen”; and 2) the Romney campaign’s astonishing boast that it was doing well in urban Ohio.
On the negative side of the ledger:
I foolishly bought into the hype that Romney was “shoring up the base.” I should have stuck with my earlier hunch that Romney’s “floor” of support wouldn’t look that much different from his “ceiling”—which more or less turned out to be the case.
Finally, to close out 2012, I was waaaay too optimistic about the prospects for a quick resolution of the “fiscal cliff.”
In toto, I think my soothsaying was more accurate than not in this, my first year at TAC. I hope, readers, that you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have.
Happy New Year!