Mitt Romney Not Crazy Enough For The Base?

Mitt Romney's Presidential rhetoric probably won't appeal to the GOP base.

Mitt Romney sat down with Larry Kudlow for a quick interview while out on the Ohio campaign trail and appeared to openly criticize his two chief rivals for the nomination, and perhaps send a message to the GOP base that they don’t really want to hear right now:

KUDLOW: All right. And… I’m not going to light my hair on fire.’ That’s you. I don’t have it up here. But you say, `I’m not going to light my hair on fire.’ Was that your way of saying that the economic issues have to be preeminent relative to the social issues? Was that your message?

Gov. ROMNEY: Well, my message is I’m not going to say outrageous things about the president or about my opponents. It gets headlines and a lot of excitement, and it gets you, by the way, a number of days in the polls to get a nice little bump. But I’m going to talk about the real issues Americans face and talk with respect about people who have differing views. I’m not going to attack them personally. I mean, I know that’s fun, but it’s just not productive. And we need, as a nation, to come together to recognize that even though we have differing views about the country and about where we should go, we all love the country. And I recognize that among Democrats and among Republicans. I want to lead the country. I don’t want to castigate half of Americans. I want to bring us together and finally get the job done of having a stronger economy with a–with a government that’s been kept in the—in the–into the box it ought to be kept into..

There are two observations that one can make here.

The first is that Romney sounds in this interview, or at least this excerpt, like a General Election candidate. Not only putting behind the strong rhetoric about the President that we’ve heard from candidates like Santorum and Gingrich, but also hitting only that good old political standby, unity. It’s right there in the lines “I don’t want to castigate half of Americans. I want to bring us together……” Once you start hearing a Presidential candidate talk like this, it usually means that their campaign has made the determination that it’s time to shift focus to November, tone down the partisanship just a bit, and talk about how you want unite the country. Every eventual nominee does it at some point, and the fact that Romney is doing it now should be taken as an indication of the confidence inside his campaign.

The second observation is one made by Jazz Shaw:

I hope the eventual candidate can dance circles around Obama at the debate lecterns, drawing clear comparisons between current policy and what they have to offer. But I also understand that such an approach isn’t always enough to get supporters out in the streets and pounding the pavement for a victory in November. The implication here is that some of the other charges leveled against Obama by the rest of the field are not just in the high tension category, but “outrageous.”

This isn’t gong to do much to bring the base home to roost on Super Tuesday evening.

One of the reasons that we’ve seen candidates like Gingrich and Santorum continue to be able to challenge Romney, I think, is because they do something he doesn’t, they use rhetoric that plays well with a Republican base that obviously wants to see a candidate that aggressively goes after the President not just on policy but on what might be called “culture” issues Santorum has done it by saying such things as the President is a snob for encouraging kids to go to college. Gingrich just does it as a matter of course, it’s part of his DNA and there’s really not much difference between what he used to say about Jim Wright or Bill Clinton and what he says about Barack Obama. And the base just eats it up.

Mitt Romney isn’t like either of these guys. Yes, he repeats several idiotic myths about the President such as the idea that he’s spent the last three years going around the world “apologizing for America.” On the whole, though, Romney has limited his criticisms of the President to policy rather than culture and, as his comment to Kudlow indicates, he doesn’t intend to change that when the campaign switches to General Election. The base knows this and that, I think, is why there’s still so much reluctance to jump on the Romney bandwagon. He’s not going to run a campaign that mirrors the daily agenda of Rush Limbaugh’s show, or whatever it is that’s being published at Andrew Breitbart’s websites. Frankly, that’s a smart thing, because there’s no way the GOP is going to win in November by engaging in that kind of rhetoric. The question is whether the base will get so upset by the fact that Romney won’t play their crazy games that they’ll stay home in November.

Here’s the full Kudlow interview, by the way:

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ultimately Romney is McCain redux.

    He’s a sane guy, who has a lot of rational and moderate impulses, but he is forced to skirt insanity to gain the nomination. Whatever wins, it is a shell of his former self.

    We moderates know that a Mitt who could stand up and say of the mandate “heck yeah, that was a Republican idea” would be both honest and strong … but they won’t let him. They make their candidates into shrunken heads or something, and then try to sell them to the tourists.

  2. (Shorter: the crazy train has left the station.)

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    I know he’s your boy Doug but there’s one little problem with this scenario….he’s said just as many outrageous things about Obama and the Democrats as Santorum, Gingrich and co….and all they are all on tape. Obviously he’s going to try to tack back to the middle for the general so trots out stooges like Kudlow (whose haberdashery I admire but nothing else) to lob softball questions at him. Romney’s problem isn’t the base, they’d vote for monkey on a stick if it had R on its forehead (although they’re enthusiasm is going to be affected) it’s everyone else.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    “…Obama is the most feckless President since Carter…”

    “…I’m not going to attack them personally…”

    I think that about sums Romeny up.

  5. Joe,

    Boy are you mistaken. Mitt Romney is not, and never has been, my “boy.”

    Also if Kudlow (whose been writing and talking about business an economics for years) is a stooge what does that make Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (aka Maddow Jr)?

  6. legion says:

    Well, if the GOP actually nominates Santorum, it means they have officially given up on being a legitimate Major Political Party for at least the next generation. People supporting him simply don’t have any interest in someone who is willing or able to be _America’s_ President – they only want someone who will be _their_ President, and that proverbial dog just won’t hunt any more.

    Romney, OTOH, has two problems – first, he has to convince his own party not to give in to their own ranting demons. Like it or not, Mitt’s the only candidate that has even a shadow of a chance in a general election. Second, he has to do it in such a way that he doesn’t tie his own hands when that general election finally comes around. The longer Santorum (and Newt, and Paul, and Rush, and the social cons, and all the other splinter interests within the GOP) stays in the spotlight, the farther Mitt will be pushed to extreme positions. Now, it’s not like Mitt never changed horses mid-stream (or even mid-sentence!), but at what point does he become a joke even to Republicans?

  7. DGH says:

    “Well, my message is I’m not going to say outrageous things about the president …”

    Too late, Mitt. We’ve been on to you for some time. And Sully is, too:

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/03/the-big-lies.html

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    is a stooge what does that make Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (aka Maddow Jr)?

    1. Are you really suggesting Matthews is such a relentless partisan as Kudlow? Apart from that Kudlow claims economic expertise and if you’d listened to him for the last five years you’d have lost your shirt

    2. Maddow is a partisan but is unlkely to cost anyone any money.

    3. Hayes…I’ve never heard of.

    Boy are you mistaken. Mitt Romney is not, and never has been, my “boy.”

    Yeah right Doug.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Chief, I’d say the more pressing issue for Romney is the Mormon problem.

    Granted, Romney might not be crazy enough for the frothing-at-the-mouth brigades, but truth be told there really are not that many of those wingnuts out there. There are, however, millions of evangelical Christians out there for whom Mormonism nearly is as popular as Satanism. That’s the elephant in the room.

    Evangelicals vote or don’t vote based upon religion. Hell, they wouldn’t know the differences between the national debt and the budget deficit if you explained it to them using a puppet show, and you’d have a better chance teaching them Sanskrit than explaining to them the details of tax, spending and healthcare policies.

    In November Romney might spot Obama five million uncast ballots referable to evangelicals. It’ll be very difficult to overcome.

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Just because Doug criticizes Obama doesn’t mean he supports Romney.

  11. @Doug Mataconis:

    Also if Kudlow (whose been writing and talking about business an economics for years) is a stooge what does that make Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (aka Maddow Jr)?

    Those all have vastly different personalities and motivations. Why don’t you add Conan and Oprah to the list?

  12. (Doug knows that we all see through his “they all do it” BS, and yet he keeps on pitching it. Simple laziness?)

  13. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Also if Kudlow (whose been writing and talking about business an economics for years) is a stooge what does that make Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (aka Maddow Jr)? ”

    Someday you might try actually watching Maddow or Hayes, and then you’d discover that they are both quite brilliant political analysts, even if they fundamentally disagree with your core beliefs. The fact that Kudlow is a stooge has no bearing on their own talent and intelligence. “Both sides do it” may be a mantra, but sometimes the world is actually a little more nuanced than that.

    Chris Matthews, now, he is a stooge, although I find his sheer love for politics makes him kind of lovable, even when I’m cringing…

  14. Rick Almeida says:

    I think Romney’s pandered about “enough” to the base, and they’re about willing to support Romney “enough” and they can all declare victory and go home, the latter already fantasizing about Cain / Rubio ’16.

  15. MBunge says:

    @Ben Wolf: “Just because Doug criticizes Obama doesn’t mean he supports Romney.”

    No, he supports Romney because he goes out of his way to trash every other GOP alternative, even when Romney is guilty of much the same sins.

    Mike

  16. Hey Norm says:

    Screw the economy…screw Israel…screw the environment…Peyton is going to be a free-agent. This is now the most important issue facing this country!!!!

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    but truth be told there really are not that many of those wingnuts out there. There are, however, millions of evangelical Christians out there

    They are the same but you wouldn’t know that being largely oblivious of what’s happening in the world by your own admission.

  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Just because Doug criticizes Obama doesn’t mean he supports Romney.

    I suggest you compare how many neutral or positive pieces he’s run on Romney with the number he’s run on Santorum or Gingrich.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @john personna:

    (Doug knows that we all see through his “they all do it” BS, and yet he keeps on pitching it. Simple laziness?)

    The thing about blogging is that it doesn’t take long to figure out people’s verbal shtick. You probably know mine and I know yours. Doug’s, whenever he’s in a corner is to issue some trite drive by comment that means nothing. The Kudlow comment was a classic example. It’s pretty feeble.

  20. anjin-san says:

    Boy are you mistaken. Mitt Romney is not, and never has been, my “boy.”

    Of course not. You spend your life sitting on the fence, dishing out contempt for everyone, standing for nothing.

    A lot of us think that ultimately, you will have more to contribute, and that when you realize it, you will climb down off the fence and be ready to get your hands a little dirty in an attempt to actually make things better.

  21. Jr says:

    No, Mitt’s problem is he is a complete phony……not the craziness of the GOP…..even though they are crazy.

    Chris Christie is to the left of Romney on a lot of issues……yet I bet he wouldn’t have the problems Mitt does with the base.

  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Cue the “a pox on both their houses” meme in 5…4…3…

  23. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san: Climbing down off the fence and making a real contribution seems a lot to ask of bloggers in general, IMO, but is especially a lot to ask of Doug. I really don’t think he has that in him.

  24. c.red says:

    Mitt Romney is either a rabbid right winger that will happily lead the nation into endless wars and the next dark age OR he is a dishonest, hypocritical moderate that has misrepresented his every position for the last three or four years… choose one.

    To me both are disqualifiers for public office.

  25. SJ Reidhead says:

    I do find your caption terribly insulting. I am a life-long Republican who is nominally conservative. I will NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER vote for Romney. He is far too liberal, can’t tell the difference between the factual accuracy and a prevarication. He’s a Dem in wolf’s clothing.

    Sorry, but I am the “base”. I am NOT wacky, unstable, or given to flights of political fancy. I have standards. Mitt Romney does not meet them.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  26. PogueMahone says:

    @SJ Reidhead:
    So who in this race does meet your standards? Honest question.

  27. @SJ Reidhead:

    He’s a dem in a faux crazy garb.

    You don’t get the nature of the 2012 GOP rock and hard place. Anyone sane and conservative is a RINO and need not apply.

  28. (Santorum’s questionable appeal is that he’s authentically crazy and not a faker.)

  29. Patrick says:

    @SJ Reidhead:
    Thank you for making Steven’s point. In today’s GOP Reagan would be called a RINO and Nixon and Bush Sr would be Communists.

    Romney is to the right of all three. (So is Obama actually.).

  30. anjin-san says:

    I am thinking that if they ran the Joker he might not be crazy enough for the base…

  31. bains says:

    Doug, just curious, would you absolutely vote for Romney over Obama in the General Election? Or irrespective of your desire for, as you imply, a more respectful GOP candidate, would you still opt for Obama?

  32. @anjin-san:

    The fact that I refuse limit my choices to the Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber of our two major political parties doesn’t mean I’m sitting on the fence. Guys like you and Joe are just frustrated because I won’t join you in the big Obama Kumbaya chant.

  33. @bains:

    Right now I see myself voting third-party for President

  34. bains says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And what good will that do, other than for moral preening? FWIW, I wrote in Dick Lamb in 1996, and voted for Harry Brown in 2000. Great mileage out of those votes…

  35. Bains,

    Which is better, voting for a third party candidate or voting for a major party candidate who is only slightly worse than his opponent? I’ve been voting since 1986 and played the “lesser of two evils” game for a long time. It gets boring after awhile

  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Guys like you and Joe are just frustrated because I won’t join you in the big Obama Kumbaya chant.

    See what I mean…

    The thing about blogging is that it doesn’t take long to figure out people’s verbal shtick…….. Doug’s, whenever he’s in a corner is to issue some trite drive by comment that means nothing.

  37. bains says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Which is better, voting for a third party candidate or voting for a major party candidate who is only slightly worse than his opponent?

    Doug, you are being either politically naive, or partisanly coy. We live in a two party system – we vote for or against one of these; voting third party is an exercise in petulance. And believe you me, after voting for Anderson (1980), Perot (1992), Lamb (1996) and Brown (2000), I know this intimately.

    Our current President had engaged in everything he said he was against while GW Bush was President; signing statements, use of military force, rendidtion, unitary authority… Yet most those that blasted Bush for these actions (the legacy media primarily) are now silent when Obama does the same things. They are merely shills and hypocrites and still, so many think their views and opinions worthy. And they are found worthy not because of intrinsic value, rather partisan value.

    You post that Romney may be the likely GOP candidate in spite of not being “Crazy enough for the Base?” Yet you ignore just how crazy the left is, amply evidenced by your own comment section here.

    So what do you want? More David Brooks and Frum’s that would usher us into a far more autocratic federal bureaucracy, just more slowlyh that Obama? Or risk that a constitutionally adherent Tea Party might direct the federal government to be more accountable.

    Voting third party just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Where do you stand Doug?

  38. Joe,

    It is eminently clear that unless I admit that the Democrats the greatest thing since sliced bread, it won’t be good enough for you. Well, don’t wait.

  39. Rob in CT says:

    Well, my message is I’m not going to say outrageous things about the president or about my opponents

    …once I’ve got the nomination sewn up. I mean, I’m running for office here!

    Of course, he’s said all manner of outrageous things about Obama (and his GOPer opponents too, IIRC), and will continue to do so. He’ll soften things a bit, sure. Pivoting toward the center, as per normal practice.

    And some low-info voters will be fooled.

  40. J-Dub says:

    Mitt Romney rolled out an inspiring new campaign slogan this morning: “Ugh, I guess so”.

  41. J-Dub says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m all for protest votes. I even voted for Ralph Nader in 1996 when the GOP was pushing Bob Dole. But it has its downside too. I voted for George HW Bush in ’92 and Perot cost him that election.

  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is eminently clear that unless I admit that the Democrats the greatest thing since sliced bread, it won’t be good enough for you. Well, don’t wait.

    I’m not waiting… you’ve said many times that under no circumstances would you ever vote for a Democrat. This by some weird leap of logic makes you an independant and not a Republican. By your own admission you see the Democratic platform as worse than that of the Republicans (or why would you never vote for them?) says it all. Viz.

    Which is better, voting for a third party candidate or voting for a major party candidate who is only slightly worse than his opponent? I’ve been voting since 1986 and played the “lesser of two evils” game for a long time.

  43. Moosebreath says:

    “Which is better, voting for a third party candidate or voting for a major party candidate who is only slightly worse than his opponent? I’ve been voting since 1986 and played the “lesser of two evils” game for a long time.”

    It depends. Would you rather throw admit that any candidate who you find acceptable will never be more than a rounding error on the national scene, or would you rather choose between candidates you view as one poor and and one egregious. Given the amount of damage which can be done by someone egregious (as we saw in the past decade), this should be an easy choice.

  44. If you can abide the looming winner, you can throw a protest vote to a 3rd party. It’s a weak signal, but parties must look at Green, Libertarian, and such to see how they are trending. They might position slightly toward them in the future. Certainly it gives that signal more than a vote for a candidate and values you do not support.

  45. (Staying home is the other protest vote.)

  46. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    Which is what I get to do, living in CT which is safe Obama (and, further, if Obama was in danger of losing CT, he’s lost already).

  47. J-Dub says:

    @john personna: As they did in VA yesterday, although it might have had something to do with the fact that Santorum and Gingrich weren’t even on the ticket. Either way, I heard there was a 5% turnout of registered voters. The problem with just staying home is that there’s no way of differentiating yourself from the lazy masses that wouldn’t have voted anyway.

    I think Perot was a legitimate candidate in ’92 until he whigged out near the end and started making bizarre accusations of ninjas in his yard, or something to that effect.

  48. Rob in CT says:

    Flying Spaghetti Monster help me, but I *liked* Ross Perot.

    Of course, I was 15.

  49. @J-Dub:

    I think Perot was a legitimate candidate in ’92 until he whigged out near the end and started making bizarre accusations of ninjas in his yard, or something to that effect.

    I always worried that somebody psi-op’d him, and found his vulnerability.

  50. anjin-san says:

    The fact that I refuse limit my choices to the Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber of our two major political parties doesn’t mean I’m sitting on the fence. Guys like you and Joe are just frustrated because I won’t join you in the big Obama Kumbaya chant.

    I see. obviously, you are an extra special guy who needs more options that those average folks out there. And “Obama Kumbaya chant.” Really? That stuff sounds weak coming from Jay Tea types. You write for a pretty solid blog here, people expect a little more of you.

    Grow up Doug. When November comes, you will have two choices. Bring your inner 20 year old to heel.

  51. Moosebreath says:

    anjin-san,

    “Bring your inner 20 year old to heel.”

    Being a libertarian means never having to reach a maturity level above 20.

  52. An Interested Party says:

    Grow up Doug. When November comes, you will have two choices. Bring your inner 20 year old to heel.

    That may be difficult…after all, he is a libertarian…

  53. An Interested Party says:

    Oops…same thought, same time…