Home/Daniel Larison/The Tin-Eared Candidate and the Oblivious Campaign

The Tin-Eared Candidate and the Oblivious Campaign

Jonathan Tobin comments on Ann Romney’s rebuke to movement conservative critics of the campaign:

Beset as the Romney campaign is by a hostile mainstream media and a ruthless and nasty Democratic attack machine, the last thing she or anyone else associated with her husband’s candidacy needs is a shot from what is presumably their own side.

Calling for critics to be quiet and close ranks may be an understandable reaction, but it’s one that tells us several unflattering things about the Romney campaign. The campaign doesn’t seem to be able to take constructive criticism from those that appear to be genuinely interested in helping them improve and recover from their mistakes. They believe that their own “side” shouldn’t criticize them even when they blunder, which makes it easier for them to pretend that their blunders are just the product of hostile media coverage rather than a real error. They are more interested in responding to their critics than they seem to be in taking their advice seriously, which makes it more likely that they blunder badly later on. Of course, even the constructive criticism may include bad advice. No one will be faulted for ignoring Noonan’s recommendation to hold a rally in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, complaining about critics is hardly going to assuage the critics’ doubts, and it isn’t going to end the criticism. It certainly isn’t going to help the campaign avoid making more of the same kinds of mistakes in the future.

Noonan’s column identifies a major problem with the candidate:

A veteran of a previous Romney campaign who supports the governor and admires him—”This is a good man”—said the candidate’s problem isn’t overconfidence, it’s a tin ear. That’s hard to change, the veteran said, because tin-earness keeps you from detecting and remedying tin-earness.

It’s easy to see how having a tin-ear would lead Romney to make some of the bigger blunders he has made this year. If he doesn’t understand what most people will hear when he says something, he’s more likely to make nonsensical, offensive, or ill-advised statements. After he makes those statements, he will then be less likely to make sense of why they went over so badly. This is the sort of candidate who desperately needs people outside the campaign to tell him when he has erred, but evidently he and his campaign don’t handle it very well when their political allies tell them they have done something wrong. That suggests that the campaign isn’t able to learn anything useful from its mistakes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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