Mitt Romney Super Tuesday glum 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder )
It feels like spring, but there’s little love in the air for Mitt Romney. The
GOP frontrunner expected to have his party’s nomination sewn up by now so he
could focus on sending Barack Obama back to Chicago. But too many Republicans
just can’t find it in their hearts to embrace the former Massachusetts governor
and are still hoping someone will come along who can make them fall in love. The
enthusiasm deficit has haunted him throughout the long and winding primary
season. It’s been said he has the charisma of Bob Dole, the GOP’s losing 1996
candidate and the aura of a loser.
But there’s a stronger emotion than
love in this election; it’s loathing, and that is what Romney is counting on to
lock up the nomination – and what the GOP is counting on to get out the vote
Spreading fear and loathing has been the hallmark of the
Romney campaign, and nearly all has been aimed at his Republican rivals. The
super PAC run by his friends and former aides has spent more than 90 percent of
its money on ads trashing his rivals.
Romney’s rivals have responded with
a few shots of their own, and you can bet the Obama campaign’s opposition
research team in Chicago is collecting them for use this fall.
primaries are expected to cost Romney about $75 million, but he has been raising
more money than all his rivals and that will only improve after he locks up the
Newt Gingrich’s – and Binyamin Netanyahu’s – most generous
benefactors ($11m. plus), casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, are
expected to shift their spending to Romney as soon as the former Speaker drops
out of the race. Most big Jewish GOP givers are backing Romney, according to a
report in the Forward. More than 10% of the $36m. raised by his super PAC came
from Jewish donors, primarily ordinary people like Romney: mega-wealthy private
equity investors, hedge fund managers and real estate developers.
money may not be able to buy love, but it can buy a lot of votes in what is
expected to be a billion-dollar presidential election. Each campaign has its
stable of billionaires, but Obama has what Romney lacks: a large network of
small contributors, a sign of grass roots support.
The tough primary
season has made Romney a better debater and campaigner, but it also has exposed
two big weaknesses. He has failed to connect with people on a personal level
(and judging by the allocation of spending he hasn’t tried very hard) and he has
demonstrated what one Republican operative and former advisor called a “generous
flexibility” on the issues, a desire to do what’s popular rather than what’s
right. That explains his failure to criticize Rush Limbaugh’s recent display of
Romney faces a big problem in following the Nixon dictum: run
to the right for the nomination and the center for the general election. Most
candidates can do it with guiltless ease, but Romney has moved so far from his
roots as a Massachusetts moderate to being a self-defined “severe conservative”
that making a Uturn could damage him on both ends.
ultra-conservative/tea party wing has had trouble accepting him despite his
efforts to convince them of his ideological purity, and they may feel betrayed
when he turns his attention to the middleof- the-road swing voters both parties
need to win this election. If they see him moving too far to their left they may
try to teach the GOP a lesson and stay home, not unlike what the anti-Vietnam
movement did to the Democrats in 1968.
Many in the GOP’s evangelical base
are troubled by Romney’s Mormon faith, but there’s no evidence it will be an
issue for Jewish voters, and no one is blaming him for his church’s posthumous
conversions of people like Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl and Holocaust
His rhetoric on Israel has been a transparent attempt to make
Obama look weak, but close examination shows their positions aren’t that much
Romney just sounds more strident. The Washington Post Fact
Checker, Glenn Frankel, said Romney’s charge that Iran would get the bomb if
Obama is reelected is just “silly-hyperbolic campaign
Republicans don’t need to love Romney to vote for him. They
just need to hate Barack Obama enough, and that is what we’ve been hearing from
Romney when he hasn’t been smearing his fellow Republicans.
pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC has already spent over $30m. on negative
advertising compared to less than $1m. defining the candidate and his vision of
America, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Street Journal poll this month showed voters’ greatest concerns about Romney
were “he waffles on the issues” and he’s “too wealthy and does not relate to the
average person.” Romney may have the charisma of Bob Dole but he’s generating a
kind of pragmatic enthusiasm in the corporate boardrooms, big banks, business
schools and penthouses. The resulting flood of money may not buy love but will
help fuel a highly negative campaign that will do little to change the
perception that Mitt Romney is the champion of the 1