Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Romney Victory Postmortem

Recent events in the Republican primary make this everyone's last opportunity in a while for Santorum jokes. But I feel that those comic possibilities have already been exhausted, so I'll move on to other things.

Congratulations are due to Mitt Romney on having won the Republican nomination. It's impressive that someone with his background as a moderate governor of Massachusetts could win the nomination in a Republican Party that was defeating its moderates, even at the cost of several Senate seats, in 2010. He was helped by a weak field (the result of Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008), and the deciding factor was his gigantic fundraising advantage which allowed him to bury competitors in important states with an avalanche of advertising, but winning the race still showed a great deal of political talent.

It'll take even more political talent to bounce back from two years of pandering to the GOP base to hit the right notes for the general election, and I don't know if Mitt has that in him. For example, his campaign didn't know whether he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. I think his numbers will move up in the next few days -- that's usually what happens when a primary ends and the party coalesces around the winner. But he's got a lot of work to do, and a candidate who spent the last two years trying to win the GOP nomination really isn't going to be in the mindset where he says the right things to win over moderate female voters.

Congratulations are also overdue to Jonathan Bernstein, who was optimistic about Romney when I and a lot of people weren't.


Stentor said...

I think Mitt will have a fairly easy time bouncing back. Everyone who paid attention to the primary was a high-information voter whose vote would never have been in doubt come November. The hardest-core Santorum supporter will still turn out for Mitt when the only alternative is Obama. It will be months before the real swing voters -- the ones who could actually be swayed to change their votes -- give any thought to the election. To the extent that they have absorbed anything from the primary, it's that Romney was more moderate than Santorum. That gives him a great starting point to shake that Etch-a-Sketch.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I'm actually talking more about Mitt himself here. For two years, when he's been asked a question, he's been looking for the answer that best increases his chances of winning the GOP primary. Now suddenly he's got to find the answer that best increases his appeal among swing voters. I wouldn't be surprised if it took a little while for Mitt (and his campaign) to get into perfect swing-voter-stroking form.

low-tech cyclist said...

The good news for Mitt is that it's only April, and he's got a lot of time to make screw-ups before people start noticing.

OTOH, my recollection is that in recent years, a lot of narratives about the candidates start really getting entrenched during this part of the campaign. And those narratives, once they get entrenched, have a way of sinking into the minds of even those voters that aren't paying attention yet.

One of the advantages of running as an incumbent President is that the incumbent has been in the public eye for years, and most people have a pretty settled idea of what they think about him, so it's hard for anyone else to redefine him.

Romney, of course, is doing an impressive job of defining himself, but in all the wrong ways - that clip where he talks about dressage horses, Austrian Warmbloods, and Missouri Fox Trotters is pure gold. I didn't think it would be possible to top the Etch-A-Sketch bit, but damn: the headline should read "Drowning Man Throws Self An Anvil."

And while I realize Mitt never expected that clip to see daylight (why do they even have the cameras running then?) it's such a perfect window into the soul of a man defined by stratospheric wealth.