Turmoil On Team Romney

The Romney campaign infighting is becoming public.

Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei are out today with a longish piece that’s grabbing much attention in the political world this  morning for the manner in which it lays bare the infighting that seems to be developing among Mitt Romney’s advisers and close supporters, much of it directed toward top strategist Stuart Stevens:

Inside the Romney campaign, Stevens has preached a gospel of caution and consistency: Keep the candidate tightly focused on a bad economy and a worse president. In an interview last year with Robert Draper for The New York Times Magazine, Stevens explained his theory of the case this way: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback “Michael Vick’s not a real good pocket guy … So don’t tell him he can’t roll out. Try to make him the best rollout guy that’s ever played.”

A growing number of conservatives are blaming Stevens for advocating a campaign of caution, one that puts all the emphasis not on how good Romney could be but how bad Obama is. “Credit for this fog goes to that inner circle of Romney advisers who never liked the Ryan pick and have reasserted their will over a candidate who is naturally cautious,” conservative columnist Kimberley Strassel wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. “In the la-la land where adviser Stuart Stevens presides, Mr. Romney wins by never saying a single thing, ever, that might rock a single boat, ever.”‘

Stevens was a big, early advocate of a bland vice presidential candidate, privately talking up former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and pushing the idea of an outsider, anti-Beltway ticket. But Stevens is hardly to blame for what many conservatives consider a campaign that is specifics-free and lame. That blame goes straight to the man running his own campaign: Romney himself, according to a number of people in and out of the campaign.

Some Romney loyalists think Stevens never fully appreciated what a good and unique candidate they had in Romney, and pleaded early on to showcase what they saw as a generous, wise and gifted leader. Still, for reasons not fully understood by those around Romney, the candidate not only went with Stevens but gave him tremendous authority.

More than just disagreements about strategy, though, consider the story that campaign insiders tell about the drafting of Mitt Romney’s convention speech:

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.

(…)

As the Tampa convention drew near, Wehner, now a “senior adviser” and blogger for the campaign, was laboring under an unusual constraint for the author of a high-stakes political speech. He was not invited to spend time with Romney, making it impossible to channel him fluently.

Nevertheless, Wehner came up with a draft he found pleasing, including the memorable line: “The incumbent president is trying to lower the expectations of our nation to the sorry level of his own achievement. He only wins if you settle.” It also included a reference to Afghanistan, which was jettisoned with the rest of his work.

Instead, eight days before the convention, at a time when a campaign usually would be done drafting and focused instead on practicing such a high-stakes speech, Stevens frantically contacted John McConnell and Matthew Scully, a speechwriting duo that had worked in George W. Bush’s campaign and White House. Stevens told them they would have to start from scratch on a new acceptance speech. Not only would they have only a few days to write it, but Romney would have little time to practice it.

McConnell and Scully, drawing on their experience writing for Vice President Dick Cheney, were racing to finish the convention speech for Romney’s running mate, Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman. It was the Wednesday before convention week. Ryan was to speak the following Wednesday, followed by Romney on Thursday.

The two finished Ryan’s text the next day and started crashing on Romney’s. That weekend, Stevens accompanied Romney as he went to a school auditorium in New Hampshire with his wife, Ann, to practice yet another version of the speech. Only one paragraph from the McConnell-Scully draft wound up being used, about a rose that Romney’s father had put on his mother’s bedside table each day. The speech that was actually delivered, it turned out, had been cobbled together by Stevens and Romney himself.

When asked about the various versions of the convention speech, Stevens said: “The governor writes his speeches.” Pressed on whether he does so with no help, Stevens added: “He reaches out to a lot of people. … We don’t discuss who works on what. It’s all just the Romney campaign. Everything is just the Romney campaign.”

(…)

The hasty process resulted in a colossal oversight: Romney did not include a salute to troops serving in war zones, and did not mention Al Qaeda or Afghanistan, putting him on the defensive on national security just as the Middle East was about to erupt. It was also very light on policy specifics, much to the chagrin of conservatives who were certain the addition of Ryan and inclusion of Wehner meant a real battle of ideas was about to begin.

Some on the right are pushing back on this part of the Politico article by arguing that the Convention speech accomplished what it needed to and that this is much ado about nothing. Even if you happen to be one of those people who think that Romney’s RNC speech was a smashing success, though, and there are many who do not, what this tale tells about the campaign and the candidate should be of concern to anyone who supports the Romney campaign.

In the week or so before the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney was asked about the status of his convention speech. He responded that they were still working on it, a comment that a few commentators took not of simply because it seems so surprising that the most important speech of Romney’s political career wouldn’t already be done and in “polishing” mode with so little time to go before the convention. I didn’t even bother making note of the comment myself because I simply assumed it was just an effort by the Romney campaign to keep details of the speech close to the vest. Little did I know that Romney was basically telling the truth, they didn’t have a speech yet and the basically wouldn’t for several days more. What’s more, they would end up rejecting completely two drafts written by two different speech writing teams. Now, you can tell me that none of this matters, that the candidate is the final arbiter of what’s in a speech, and you’d be right. However, the fact that the process surrounding the most important speech of the Republican National Convention was this chaotic and haphazard, and the fact that it resulted in a speech that was light on details and failed to even mention anything about the Afghan War or the troops. It says something not only about the speech, but also about the way the campaign is being run. More importantly, the fact that Romney insiders were completely comfortable going to Politico to trash one of Romney’s closest advisers is yet another sign that there’s trouble inside the campaign, most likely because people are looking at the polls and getting profoundly disturbed.

There’s more in the article that’s worth taking note of. For example, for some reason, Stevens seems to be playing three different roles on the campaign at the same time. He’s acting as chief strategist, chief ad maker and chief speechwriter, jobs that are normally held by different people. As Allen and Vandehei state, it’s as if one person had been doing the jobs of Karl Rove, Mark McKinnon and Michael Gerson in Bush’s 2000 campaign . Or if one person were doing the jobs of  David Axelrod, Jim Margolis, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau in the President’s 2008 campaign. It seems like a horrible way to organize a campaign, and it arguably leads to the mistakes of one person being amplified while also depriving the candidate of the benefit of hearing different points of view.

This article comes as conservatives outside the campaign are starting to evidence frustration with the way things are being run out of Boston. Jennifer Rubin, normally someone who is reflexively pro-Romney, was out with a post yesterday detailing what she sees as the problems with the Romney campaign and how to fix them. This morning, Erick Erickson came out with a similar piece on Red State:

Contra Dick Morris, Mitt Romney is not winning this election. At least Mitt Romney is not winning the election right now. Conservatives are obsessing over every poll, the turn out models used, and the media bias that is on ful display. Yes, some of the polling models seem screwy, though we all forget the pollsters apply a secret sauce known only to them on top. Yes, reporters are fully beclowning themselves to get their god-king re-elected. But while we may be focused there, the fact is the Romney campaign isn’t functioning well. Lucky for you and me the election is not today. But something needs to happen in Boston and I am less and less hopeful anything will happen.

It would be easy to dismiss me by saying I never cared for Romney or I’m somehow actually rooting against him. So let me put it to you this way: Jenn Rubin and I are on the same page.That’s either a sign of the apocalypse or there is something really dysfunctional happening within the Romney campaign.

Having refused to get on the “campaign shake up” bandwagon when Rupert Mourdoch and Jack Welch were claiming a shake up needed to happen, count me in now. Like it or not, spin it or not, put your head in the sand or not, attack me as the messenger or not, the very simple truth is that Mitt Romney has failed to close any deal with the voters and his message is so muddled no voter really knows what they are getting.

In the end, though, this isn’t just about the campaign itself. The Politico article makes clear that this campaign is running the way Mitt Romney wants it to be run. If mistakes are being made and the campaign disorganized, that says something about the guy who set it up to begin with. Based on everything we know about Romney, it seems unlikely that he will listen to these calls for a campaign personnel reboot, but even if he did I’m not sure that it would make any difference. Campaigns are a reflection of the candidate, and the disorganization we’re seeing from Team Romney does not speak well of the candidate.  Besides, there are only 50 days to go in the campaign and there are three debates to prepare for, it’s a bit late to start over again from scratch.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, 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. michael reynolds says:

    A happy, happy article. You don’t get articles like this from winning teams.

    And shhh, don’t tell anyone but Mitt Romney is a lousy candidate, and simply lacks the skills to turn this around.

  2. Latino_in_Boston says:

    “The Politico article makes clear that this campaign is running the way Mitt Romney wants it to be run.” Exactly.

    Make no mistake. This is both a reflection of what a poor campaigner Romney is and Obama’s skills. People have been underestimating the President for a long time and more often than not they self-destruct.

  3. The most astonishing thing to me was that Peter Wehner was not given access to Romney before he wrote the speech. Compare that to Peggy Noonan,s stories of spending much time with Reagan and coming to know his voice. Etc. Pretty unbelievable. The most important speech of the campaign was written remotely. Of course it had to be reworked, but the error was easily avoidable. How obvious was it that Wehner and Romney should talk?

    Between the lines, I think this reinforces my view that Romney is micro-managing and mismanaging his own campaign. Stevens is falling on his sword (or being pushed) to cover that.

    Similar to your closing paragraph, the focus on Stevens buries the lede.

  4. Mr. Replica says:

    Ryan seems to be unhappy with the way the campaign was running things, too.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/romney-camp-decides-the-economy-isnt-enough

    “No one in Boston thinks this can only be about the economy anymore,” one top aide said last week. “The economy narrows the gap and puts us in contention, but we have to bring more to the table.”
    The core factor in the search for a new message, aides say privately, was the August jobs report. The anemic job growth was widely viewed as bad news for Obama even as the unemployment rate dropped due to people leaving the workforce. But the national shrug confirmed Romney campaign concerns that the most visible economic indicator would remain muddled through Election Day.
    Ryan himself has emerged as a central player in this calculation, making the case internally for a clearer conservative policy message. One high level Republican with ties to the campaign told BuzzFeed that Ryan was chaffing at Boston constraining him from talking about and defending his policy ideas from Democratic attacks. Ryan wanted to be “unleashed,” the Republican said.
    And Ryan’s latest campaign swing offers the clearest indication that he’s gotten his wish. On Friday at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., Ryan offered a new gambit on offense, attacking Obama on social issues and income inequality in one fell swoop.“’We’re all in this together’ – it has a nice ring,” Ryan said, quoting a frequent Obama line. “For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious,” he said. “Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.”On Saturday at a rally at R.E. Olds Park Amphitheatre here, Ryan laid into the Federal Reserve for “undermining the credibility of our money” and “debasing our currency,” with the latest round of stimulative monetary policy.

    At least this time when the VP candidate wants to do their own thing, the campaign was smart enough to allow it. Rather than trying to constrain them. Something that was learned the hard way in 2008.

  5. Latino_in_Boston says:

    BTW, Doug, the intro line for this story is “pubic infighting.” I don’t know what crazy things people in the Romney campaign might be resorting to, but I’m pretty sure you mean public.

  6. Ye gods, if the campaign kept Wehner away from Romney because they thought they had to … it’s even worse than I thought.

  7. mattb says:

    Two things immediately spring out from this post:

    [From Politico:] A growing number of conservatives are blaming Stevens for advocating a campaign of caution, one that puts all the emphasis not on how good Romney could be but how bad Obama is.

    This is why, if Romney loses, populist conservatives will go back into full Tea Party mode circa 2010. Not that this was again the exact same critique of McCain. For the populist right It’s not an issue of whether Romney is good enough or conservative enough — it’s that no one is willing to attack the Obama that only they can see.

    [Erik Erikson:]Contra Dick Morris, Mitt Romney is not winning this election.

    Second, even populist conservatives are openly admitting that Dick Morris is the worst pundit ever and has absolutely no handle on reality.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why do I have visions of rats and sinking ships just now?

  9. Ernieyeball says:

    @Latino_in_Boston: Are you Doug’s new copy editor? I wanted that job!

  10. @Latino_in_Boston:

    Yea that should be fixed…..

  11. Markey says:

    “the disorganization we’re seeing from Team Romney does not speak well of the candidate.”
    ————————————–

    But the Democrats and the Obama campaign staff sure see it, you betcha. 🙂

  12. sam says:

    The Politico article makes clear that this campaign is running the way Mitt Romney wants it to be run. If mistakes are being made and the campaign disorganized, that says something about the guy who set it up to begin with.

    Wait. What? I have it on real good authority (Drew and Jan, for instance) that Gov. Romney is a first-rate, crackerjack executive, whose real-world, hands-on bidness experience puts him lightyears ahead of that Kenyan community organizer when it comes to running companies and governments and countries and stuff. Now you’re telling us that the Romney campaign fish is rotting from the head? But what about the Harvard Business School and all that?

  13. I don’t know, Doug, if you are going to do a separate piece on E.J. Dionne’s observations about America as a center-left country.

    Many conservative commentators attribute Obama’s bounce to Romney’s failure to be specific enough. They don’t want to acknowledge that on core issues, the electorate is far closer to Obama’s moderate progressivism than to Romney and Ryan’s conservatism.

    While I haven’t really liked the “America is a center-right country” pop-psychology, to the extend that it was true, we can ask what happened as the GOP became more extreme and the Dems became more moderate.

    Perhaps yesterday’s center-right is closer to “moderate progressivism” than any other current electoral option.

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    You basically lost me at “Politico’s…” I mean, come on, the Obama campaign (Politico) is publishing a story to be picked up by the mass media (also a de facto component of the Obama campaign) about the Romney campaign (their opponent) being in disarray. Yeah, and the sun today rose in the east.

    That aside, like every stopped clock or broken watch Politico and their ilk technically will be correct from time to time. Of course there are and will be various problems within the thick walls of Team Romney. It’s a Republican campaign. It’s inept. Like pretty much every other Republican campaign in history. It’s run by a cadre of country clubbers. They don’t get it. If Romney wins to a substantial extent it’ll be in spite of himself and his team. But we already knew that. It’s the nature of the beast.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @sam: That’s one reason for having long political campaigns; you get to see exactly how a would-be president deals with the slings and arrows of fortune.

    Given that Mitt’s idea of strategy is to throw money at it, is it surprising that this is turning out to be such a schrecklichkeit? Is this how he would govern as POTUS? Either bribe or bomb the problem into submission?

    How did Mitt get such a reputation as a fantastic businessman anyway? From what I’m seeing he couldn’t organize a piss-up in a beer factory.

  16. @Tsar Nicholas:

    Romney’s campaign fails because its real positions are not acceptable to the mainstream. The GOP has two choices. They can find a more moderate platform, or they can pretend it was all the media, and try the same plan again.

    See also 2012 or Never

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A growing number of conservatives are blaming Stevens for advocating a campaign of caution, one that puts all the emphasis not on how good Romney could be but how bad Obama is.

    In order to tell us how good Romney could be, they first have to sell us on how good he has been. Something they have utterly failed at every step of the way. The Obama team’s oppo research and campaign messaging has fairly negated any perceived advantage Romney ever had there.

    Bain? Outsourcing.
    Olympics? Federal bail out.
    Taxes? Hiding something.

    and so it goes.

  18. rudderpedals says:

    igrumpy realist: How did Mitt get such a reputation as a fantastic businessman anyway?

    Legacy candidate? We endow with him his dad’s talent and ethics? Chances are he’s the gladhander, the schmoozer and the guy who knows people. The brains are elsewhere.

  19. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Shorter Tsar Nick: The Politico piece is bullshit, but now let me explain to you why it’s true.

  20. Me Me Me says:

    We know now this is deadly accurate because all Tsar can do is complain that it is from Politico…

    Simple question: if the Romney campaign team is a happy, well-oiled machine, how did they manage to produce the only convention in living memory to repel more voters than it attracted? Had you ever heard the phrase “negative bounce” before? Not to mention applied to a campaign that was talking about a double-digit positive bounce before the event started.

    Romney’s been running for president since 2007, and this is the best he can do. He’s incompetent, and his party is wedded to ideas that are proven failures.

    Game over.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    mistermix has a take I think accurate:

    the Romney campaign is what you get when your incubator is Fox News.

    Romney and his advisors are all used to a media environment of puffball questions and solemn nods over the stupidest of talking points. His opposition in the primaries was almost entirely people who were auditioning for a contract with Roger Ailes. When you marinate in an environment where reactionary rhetoric has no consequences, you’re going to think that the right thing to do when an Ambassador may have been killed is to make up lies in an effort to blame Obama hours before the bodies have even been identified.

  22. Not to disagree with people who fault Romney or his campaign as tacticians, but it does give them a bit of a break. The reason the right is willing to talk about mechanics of the campaign is that they don’t want to talk about it as a values mismatch.

    Per Dionne, if main reason Romney can’t talk details is that Americans won’t like them, he and the Republicans have much deeper problems than who scheduled Clint and the empty chair.

  23. PJ says:

    And remember, Romney was the GOP candidate who would be the best in the general election, the only one who could beat Obama.

    At least that’s what Romney made Republican primary voters believe.

  24. Curtis says:

    There are always stories like this about campaigns that are behind in the closing stages. Hillary’s team was a mess, too. And McCain’s. And Gore’s.

    And if Obama were behind by four points instead of ahead by four points, I have no doubt they would be true stories like this about his campaign.

    I find this whole story to be mostly bogus hokum that is just based on the state of the race. Pete Wehner is, whether you agree with his politics or not, one of the most competent and seasoned speech-writers on the planet. Romney has been running for president basically non-stop for six years. Are they seriously arguing that they had to have personal face to face time for him to construct a speech? I just don’t buy it.

    We just tend to assume that everything the winning team did was political genius, and everything the losing team has done is brain-dead. And the truth of the matter is closer to the fact that two competent campaigns basically cancel each other out, so that the election turns on the fundamentals of the economy and the incumbent’s job approval.

  25. @Curtis:

    Are they seriously arguing that they had to have personal face to face time for him to construct a speech? I just don’t buy it.

    For what it’s worth, that was my criticism, based on my read of Noonan’s book. And it makes sense to me. A speech writer is a ghost writer. He can’t just go off and say what he’d do as president. He has to understand the vision of the candidate, and if he want it to sell on the dais, he needs to understand the candidate’s voice.

  26. (Basically Noonan’s claim is that she spent enough time with Reagan that she could channel Reagan in her writing.)

  27. DRS says:

    There will be a lot of articles and posts written after the election about Romney’s so-called “inevitable-ness” and his front-runner status, which was the strongest thing he had going for him in the primary. You have to think that Huckabee, Palin and a few others are kicking themselves right now that they didn’t jump in.

  28. Me Me Me says:

    @Curtis: “I find this whole story to be mostly bogus hokum”

    Really? How do you square your idea that Romney is running a competent campaign with evidence your own eyes provided regarding the entire London fiasco; the failure to salute the troops at the RNC; and allowing Eastwood up to mic with no script?

  29. Related:

    Romney isn’t a particularly skilled politician, and his campaign is making a lot of mistakes. But in the event of a Romney loss, I fear we’ll forget that he has a lousy message. He wants to cut taxes on the wealthy. He wants to gut programs like Medicare and Social Security. On social issues, he embraces the far right. On foreign policy, he wants to be another Bush. Pundits, please: don’t forget that this is an important part of why he’s losing. The Obama campaign has framed him as a heartless bastard and another George W. Bush because that’s an accurate summation of his own stated stands on issues.

    The country may be rejecting Romney personally, and it may be rejecting his campaign, but it’s also rejecting Republicanism.

    It pains me to see that last line, even though I am an ex-Republican. Maybe I still harbor some hope (like OTB hosts) for change from within.

    But this is the exact moment where change is chosen or not, as NMMNB says, this is where Republicans choose to see it as a bad campaign or a bad platform.

  30. Rick Almeida says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    Yeah, doubling down on abortion is a sure-fire way to resuscitate the Romney campaign.

    From your lips to God’s ears, my friend.

  31. Anderson says:

    Tsar: the Obama campaign (Politico) is publishing a story to be picked up by the mass media

    So on your theory, several Romney staffers gave interviews to the Obama campaign?

    Personna:

    The most astonishing thing to me was that Peter Wehner was not given access to Romney before he wrote the speech.

    Yeay, that’s mind-bogglingly stupid. Tho maybe access to Stevens was even more necessary.

  32. legion says:

    Well, the Republican Party has spent the last couple of decades being the place to be for businessmen who want to get into politics. that’s why they’ve spent the last couple of decades telling us we have to run government “like a business”. And as this article clearly demonstrates, one of the major pieces of corporate culture that’s carrying over is that “the boss is never wrong”.

    Even this article, close as it gets, doesn’t quite say out loud that all of these “incompetents” being used as scapegoats were all picked by Romney himself. He’ll never take the blame for any screwup, but all these so-called idiots that _are_ ruining his campaign are all his own choices – what does that say about Romney’s leadership and abilities?

  33. @Rick Almeida:

    The attack on Ben Bernanke is pretty bizarre and far right sounding as well. Greg Mankiw, right-wing but sane economist asks:

    What’s With All the Bernanke Bashing?

    Being a solid right winger he does pretend “both side do it.” Overlooking that, it does show the kind of crazy Ryan is bringing to the campaign.

  34. Me Me Me says:

    @john personna: Isn’t Mankiw Romney’s top, or one of his top, economic advisers? I believe he got the job because Romney was so impressed with his analysis of how the Bush tax cuts were going to fuel massive job growth.

  35. Jr says:

    Only surprise is that it is happening in September not October.

  36. Argon says:

    Retroactively, I’m sure things will all work out OK.

  37. @Me Me Me:

    I’m not a particular Mankiw fan, but I do think it funny that he can’t go fully Romney.

    From a year ago:

    Romney and Adviser Mankiw: They Don’t Always See Eye-to-Eye

    As evidence of that, Mankiw on QE2:

    My view is that QE2 is a modestly good idea. I say it is a “good idea” because, like Ben Bernanke, I am more worried at the moment about Japanese-style deflation and stagnation than I am about excessive inflation. By lowering long-term real interest rates below where they otherwise would be, QE2 should help expand aggregate demand. I include the modifier “modestly” because I don’t expect these actions to have a very large effect.

    I think Mankiw is quieter on QE3, but it doesn’t sound like it would set his hair on fire.

  38. KariQ says:

    One of the most important lessons I ever learned about how to judge a candidate is that the way they run their campaign is the way they will govern if they should win. This does not say good things about a possible Romney presidency.

  39. Jr says:

    @mattb: Exactly, this is 2008 all over again. Conservatives don’t seem to realize that their policies is just as much responsible for this poor campaign then Mitt Romney himself.

    The GOP brand is shot, people remember the Bush era and this is the main reason Romney has to be vague, because he can’t run on actually GOP policies.

    Scarborough on Morning Joe had the never to say a true conservative would be winning this race……no they would be down 8-10 points.

  40. Liberal Capitalist says:

    so…

    One thing that I have learned from the investment community: “Don’t fight the trend”

    While it may be true that there are some fortunes built by being contrarian, for the most part nearly all the smart money follows the trend.

    At some point, fundamentals don’t matter at all if the market is dropping and expecting to continue to do so.

    And here we now have our Mr. Romney.

    His trend has taken a downward swing, at a most inopportune time.

    While there may be some solid fundamentals as an individual, the message that the GOP has wrapped him in is ill-fitting.

    Continuous statements from the candidate are “corrected” by the campaign. Positions change daily, the vision changes weekly.

    The market is falling for Mr. Romney. And no one wants to catch a falling knife.

  41. @Jr:

    Scarborough on Morning Joe had the never to say a true conservative would be winning this race……no they would be down 8-10 points.

    Saw that. I think Joe is going through a smaller scale Mitt-loss-freak-out but a freak-out nonetheless.

  42. michael reynolds says:

    At risk of repeating myself, I think people now see the problem of hate vs. love. 45% of the American people hate Mr. Obama. That’s great for Mr. Romney. The problem is that 0% of the people love Mitt Romney. And that’s what matters when the sh!t hits the fan.

    When he imploded on the Egypt/Libya issue, no one in politics defended him. Not McConnell, not Boehner, not McCain, not even his ridiculous mini-me Paul Ryan. The only defender Romney had was Krauthammer. When Krauthammer is what you got? You got nothing.

    When things start going wrong you need those people who love you, who would take a bullet for you. Obama doesn’t have as many of those as, say, Bill Clinton does. But he has some. And Romney has none. Zero.

    Politics is not business. In business you can apparently be a soulless, spineless empty suit who enjoys firing people. In politics, no. Politics is emotion, not policy papers. Romney not only doesn’t connect emotionally with the voters, he doesn’t connect emotionally with his own campaign.

  43. mattb says:

    @DRS:

    You have to think that Huckabee, Palin and a few others are kicking themselves right now that they didn’t jump in.

    Actually, I really don’t think this is the case.

    Remember the meme going into this, among populist conservatives, is that Obama was doomed. However, smart commenators and analysts all felt that Obama was actually in a relatively strong position given the bigger picture.

    I can’t speak for Palin, but I don’t think Huckabee (or a number of other serious candidates) liked the odds from the beginning — especially as it would mean giving up his lucrative and fulfilling current career.

    So while I think a lot of presumptive challengers probably think they could be doing a better job than Romney, most of the serious ones also realize that they would probably be in a similar position right now.

  44. Me Me Me says:

    @mattb:

    I don’t think Huckabee (or a number of other serious candidates) liked the odds from the beginning — especially as it would mean giving up his lucrative and fulfilling current career.

    Personally I think Huck couldn’t be bothered to quite digging his grave with his knife and fork again.

    If he ever runs for office again, there is one question he simply has to answer: when he was a young man he said Jesus called him to minister to his flock. I want to know when and where Jesus got back in touch and said it was OK for him to quit all that and move to Manhattan and rake in the big bucks.

  45. Mr. Replica says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I am willing to wager that if the republican party took the chair from the Eastwood bit and polled it against Romney on favorability, the chair would win.

  46. BottiS says:

    What assails and pursues R&R and their America is the truth.

    Wehner can’t help; his speech would have featured “true compassionate conservatism,” the Bush Doctrine as it should have materialized if not for the SNAFUS resulting from the should-have known knowns, to wit: “where is their Jefferson, where is their Adams?”

    As if our revolution to gain independence and liberty could be compared to one in which a hegemon demands revolution precede evolution. Intentions are good, wisdom is much better.

    Republicans are like the addict who truly has to hit bottom and finally admit that he’s a drunk and the work to recapture the potential he had before he became a drunk must begin immediately.

    Epic estrangement.

  47. michael reynolds says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    I thought the chair was perfectly pleasant and I did not understand why Grandpa Simpson was berating it.

  48. Scott says:

    How did Mitt get such a reputation as a fantastic businessman anyway?

    This is a really good question. Other than financial manipulation what has Romney actually managed? How much time has he spent on a factory floor? How many people has he managed? Has he ever been an employee himself? You know, there is an old saying: “Before you can lead, you have to learn to follow”.

    I think some more peeling of the businessman onion needs to be done.

  49. bk says:

    He could be running the greatest campaign in the history of Presidential politics, and still be losing. No amount of bells or whistles or campaign savvy can turn the chicken s— that is today’s Republican party and platform into chicken salad.

  50. ptfe says:

    @michael reynolds: “Politics is emotion, not policy papers.”

    To be fair, he’s doing equally poorly on policy papers.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:

    Look at the famous photo of Mr. Romney and his Bain brothers. Clones in identical suits. Rich boys with charmed lives. As the old saw goes, he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

    Now he’s in a real fight and he’s coming apart at the seams. Welcome to the real world, Richie Rich.

  52. Anderson says:

    How much time has he spent on a factory floor?

    You mean, besides observing Chinese slave labor in a factory he’d invested in?

    And, and, and around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers. And, and, we said gosh! I can’t believe that you, you know, keep these girls in! They said, no, no, no. This is to keep other people from coming in.
    Because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out.

  53. john personna says:

    @ptfe:

    Neither hearts nor minds.

  54. Herb says:

    Doug, you got a mention in Frank Rich’s new piece in NYmag (last page):

    We’ll learn as well whether the Republican Party is on a path to revive the Reagan revolution or, as the blogger Doug Mataconis has it at Outside the Beltway, in a self-destructive tailspin mirroring that of “the Democratic Party in the wake of the Vietnam War.”

  55. JKB says:

    Man, you’ve got to get off that Journolist. It’s going to rot your brain.

    Especially since, today’s theme has been more a feces and fan methodology with varying memes derived from the same supposed source put out by different members.

    Granted, Doug, you may not be a direct recipient of the plan of the day but you need to take what the MSM write with big dose of agenda skepticism, especially, when the theme of the day just happens to be all on the same page.

  56. @Herb:

    Thanks for the heads up. I”ve got that bookmarked to read later.

  57. Me Me Me says:

    Journolist? Really?? Thanks for the laugh.

    Lots of stories about how bad the Romney campaign because the Romney campaign is demonstrably bad.

    If you want to argue otherwise, explain how they managed to forget to thank the troops during their convention, and how it produced the hitherto-fore unknown phenomenon of the the “negative bounce”.

  58. C. Clavin says:

    Clearly Romney is the business/management executive we need to turn this country around. From moving forward to moving backward!!!

  59. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I thought the part where e got into your whole satan-worshipping background was unnecessary but still a good plug for OTB.

  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    One thing that I have learned from the investment community: “Don’t fight the trend”

    While it may be true that there are some fortunes built by being contrarian, for the most part nearly all the smart money follows the trend.

    At some point, fundamentals don’t matter at all if the market is dropping and expecting to continue to do so.

    Smart.

  61. legion says:

    @mattb:

    I can’t speak for Palin, but I don’t think Huckabee (or a number of other serious candidates) liked the odds from the beginning — especially as it would mean giving up his lucrative and fulfilling current career.

    That’s a really important point. Wingnut Welfare – giving people who say the right things, no matter how baldly untrue or insane – is such a lucrative career path on its own nowadays that the only people who actually _want_ to get into the running-for-office side of politics are the ones who are either incompetent at appearing human & non-sociopathic enough for a talking-head gig (Romney) or too dumb to notice the details of their own con (most of the other GOP Primary also-rans; Perry, Santorum, etc.).

    _That’s_ why the Republican Party is at a dead end…

  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Unsure if I should congratulate you for a mention in the NYmag or send you my condolences…

    Maybe it’s kind of like trying to impress a woman…. Doesn’t matter whether it is a good or bad impression, just so long as she remembers you.

  63. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Just read it. I think the one line summation of the article and the old OTB piece is:

    You can’t make a majority party with minority ideas.

    There are just too many issues that fail national polling that party Republicans nonetheless think are “winning!” (yes, Charlie Sheen voice).

  64. Hoot Gibson says:

    For the curious who are interested in how memes are created take a look at what is topping Memeoranda at the moment:

    Politico: Inside the Campaign: How Mitt Romney stumnled

    Buzzfeed (former Politico guy): Romney’s New Strategy Turns Right

    Politico (again!): Mitt Romney abruptly Shifts Strategy

    Red State (rightwing fearmongering): If The Election Were Held Today Obama Would Win (except the election isn’t today—but so what, it’s the meme/narrative that counts!)

    Politico (again—a one organization meme machine!): Inside the Campaign: How Mitt Romney Stumbled (didn’t we already see this? I guess you can’t repeat a meme too often)

    NYTimes: Amid Discord Romney Seeks to Sharpen Message.
    Don’t ya love these trite stories in the press about X in crisis? The press FEEDS on crisis, and if there ain’t none, by golly the press will create one!

    I certainly understand why all this is happening. It diverts attention away from the inane performance of Susan Rice on the Sunday shows the the emerging facts that indicate that Obama is a lying incompetent andis inpotent and feckless in dealing with the problems in the Middle East.Can’t let THAT meme take hold!

    I can’t wait for our brilliant VPOTUS to start shrieking OBAMA KILLED OSAMA11!!!!1111

    That ought to calm down the Arab street, pronto. lol

  65. Me Me Me says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    and if there ain’t none, by golly the press will create one!

    Hoot, not only did Romney invent the negative convention bounce, but he is also now trailing Obama in voter confidence on the topics of job creation and handling the economy.

    If that is not the very picture of a campaign in crisis, what is?

  66. Console says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    If you think the biggest foreign policy issue america has to deal with is quelling some damn protests, then you’re already a lost cause.

  67. michael reynolds says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    I’m relieved to see that you’ve moved away from the last-consonant-droppin’ wise-ole-country-boy act. (On my advice? I like to think so.)

    And I’m excited that you have discovered that articles get referenced and repeated in other locations. I believe you are on your way to understanding the internet. Or as guys named “Hoot” call it, the electrofangled hollerin’ box.

  68. john personna says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    Actually I see a different game (already appearing on the wire), a set-up for a Romney re-launch.

    (Comedy word of the day: “specifics”)

  69. BottiS says:

    They can’t really attach themselves to any good the New Deal produced for millions of people. IOW, they can’t acknowledge that part of American life as legitimate. MItt Romney himself replied to Rick Perry’s assertion that no one was better off because of Social Security by saying “just ask the millions it has helped!”

    It may be that an inorganic middle class was formed that has become problematic and as a matter of fact, with or without tax increases, insupportable. But, if you believe that to be true, you have to argue honestly and propose policy and means by which to turn that around.

    Can they be honest about what they believe, assuming they believe in a vigorous States’ Rights rollback? No.

    President Obama will likely win re-election but no matter the demographic advantage that Democrats possess, without closing their own gap, a governing coalition will elude them and a continued unraveling is the likely result.

  70. Hoot Gibson says:

    Left out these two from CNN:

    **Will Rift Report Distract Romney From New Economic Message.
    Honey, Politico’s “report” was designed to do just that—even low level bloggers like Doug are jumping on the distraction bandwagon.

    **Romney Campaign Re-Tools Message For Final Stretch
    Look for a revival of the inane “etch-a-sketch” meme among The Faithful.

    All this is so predictable. Jon Stewart didn’t go far enough when he complained that Crossfire was hurting our country; Jake Tapper had it right—the press is hurting our country by focusing on the silly and inane rather than the serious.

  71. Hoot Gibson says:

    Gee, what a shock; the comments on a leftwing meme machine are parroting—leftwing memes!

  72. michael reynolds says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    It’s all a meme, man. We’re a meme inside of a meme that’s just a meme imagining a meme. You know what I meme?

    Wow. Mind. . . blown.

  73. Me Me Me says:

    @michael reynolds: Stop being so meme.

  74. grumpy realist says:

    @john personna: This makes it…5…6…8 relaunches so far?

    Why am I reminded of one of those old cartoons with a WWI wind-up plane sputtering and jerking its way along a runway, finally getting the engines to work, and then the next shot is of the plane crashing into a stone wall?

  75. mattb says:

    Thanks to @hoot and @jkb for demonstrating what happens when the facts completely diverge from a partisan’s view of reality…

    What their collective posts also do is lay out the dilemma facing all of the “water carrying” Conservative Inc pundits — how to deal with the unfolding implosion of Romney’s campaign.

    It’s pretty clear that Romney has begun to lose the Conservative Intelligentsia. And there have been signs from the beginning that the populist base has their doubts about him. His support has always been higher among mainstream republicans (i.e. those who don’t listen to talk radio). And now even Erik Erikson (who we should remember, like Limbaugh and others was never all that hot on Romney this cycle) is starting to fire off warning signs.

    What are the talkers to do — the people who served as the focal point between the base and th party/movement leaders? What happens when your audience begins to abandon the candidate?

    Do you continue to carry water for the campaign a la Dick Morris or Limbaugh in 2006? In that cases they have to double down like @JKD and @Hoot that there’s nothing to see here and talk about the ineveitable Romney landslide victory in the fall?

    Or do they break like Erikson and risk losing the “win at all costs” people in their audience?

  76. Rick Almeida says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s memes all the way down.

  77. michael reynolds says:

    @Me Me Me:

    For a while I adopted the moniker, “The Mean Man.” I was a restaurant reviewer and happened to run into a stunning and very drunk red-head who worked at a restaurant I’d trashed. “You’re the mean man,” she slurred, sounding and looking like the young Lauren Bacall. If only she’d thrown her drink in my face the scene would have perfect. Then again, it was a margarita, and they’re sticky.

  78. Andre Kenji says:

    It´s not a matter of “center-right” or “center-left”. It´s a matter that people all over the world wants practical results, not ideology. Here in Brazil Lula lost three straight elections speaking as a leftist ideologue. He only began to win elections when he began to speak more softly, aiming at people that you find on the streets and by proposing practical solutions. Note that Juan Manuel dos Santos in Colombia does the same thing, but coming from the opposite side of the political spectrum. I´m using two Latin American countries as example, but that´s happens all over the world.

    The problem for Republicans is that the party is dominated by ideologues, and they don´t have answers for most people problems, besides tax cuts. Note that Romney chose Ryan as his running mate. Even rick Perry could not be nominated because he had a reasonable plataform on immigration.

  79. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Well arguably the center-whatevers are the pragmatists.

    The now missing center-right politicians are the missing right pragmatists.

  80. jan says:

    @Hoot Gibson:

    I hear what you are saying, although it will fall on deaf ears around here.

    There is a solidarity among social progressives and the MSM that Obama will win, and that Romney is a loser and will lose. Nothing will change that mind set. And, the liberal-oriented press is doing everything it can to emboss this irrefutable notion into everyone’s head. In a way it’s akin to brainwashing the public that they should hang up any thought (or hope) that this election is not already decided. And, while much is made of the ‘bubble’ on the right, some poor souls thinking Romney is still in the game, nothing is even alluded to, in the bravado exhibited on the left, other than that it’s a done deal for the dems.

    Personally I think, if the election were held today, that Obama would probably skinny by with the slimmest of margins, and win. However, with some 50 days to go, a ME in greater turmoil and increasing info coming out that this was far from spontaneous combustion due to an irrelevant film circulating on youtube, there will be more damage control for the Obama administration than realized. For instance, Obama’s gadfly trip to Vegas may hit more nerves like it did Niall Ferguson’s in his Daily Beast piece Obama fiddles as mideast burns. Nero and Obama —> a fitting comparison, IMO. Romney’s ME statement may prove to be more prescient and salient than originally conveyed by the MSM, as well.

    Also with many looking at the new QE3 with a jaundiced eye, meant to give a short term lift to the economy (at the expense of probable higher gas and food prices), coupled with the long term economy continuing to show it’s struggling, a sequestration deadline that has yet to be addressed, there are many gaps and holes in Obama’s leadership that have been circumvented or papered over by his allies on the left. Jay Cost points out how fastidiously the media has misrepresented the race. So, maybe such deliberate camouflage will work and people will mindlessly vote for the incompetent incumbent. Or, maybe, just maybe, there will be a national wake-up call, and people will fool the experts, reject the contrived political scenario being generated by Obama’s political muses, and vote for the other guy.

    Nothing is impossible in such an impossible polarized, political climate.

  81. Alanmt says:

    If I ever run for election and Dick Morris pronounces I am winning, campaign staff heads are going to roll!

  82. jukeboxgrad says:

    me me me:

    Stop being so meme.

    I suggest that any questions about memes be referred to commenter Me Me Me.

  83. jukeboxgrad says:

    scott:

    How many people has [Mitt] managed?

    Good question. Here are two things that should be part of any truly impressive business career: a) start a new company pretty much on your own; and b) run a big company.

    Probably the best example of a politician who has done both is Bloomberg. Mitt has done neither. Bain Capital wasn’t really launched by Mitt, it was launched by Bill Bain. That’s why it’s not called Romney Capital. And Bill was standing right behind Mitt the whole time.

    And Bain Capital never got very big, in terms of employees. The current employee count is about 400-500. That number was probably a lot smaller when Mitt was there. Compare with Bloomberg, which currently has 13,000 employees. At Bain Capital, Mitt did deals that involved a lot of money, but he never managed a lot of people.

    Another comparison is Meg Whitman: “During her ten years with the company [eBay], she oversaw expansion from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue.” So she doesn’t get credit for launching it, but 15,000 is a big number.

    Mitt has no experience like that, so we shouldn’t be surprised that his campaign reflects his poor management skills.

  84. stonetools says:

    You should understand that political journalism loves these “Rift in Campaign ” stories. A month ago the big POLITICO story was “Rift in the Obama Campaign!!!!”, with Cutter in conflict with Axelrod who was in conflict with Plouffe, and Obama furious at them all. That’s forgotten now.

    Romney’s campaign is that the REPUBLICAN message sucks, not that the WRAPPER on the Republican message sucks.

  85. jukeboxgrad says:

    jan:

    There is a solidarity among social progressives and the MSM that Obama will win

    Then I guess most Americans are “social progressives,” because even a bunch of people who plan to vote for Mitt are saying “Obama will win:”

    Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) registered voters in a Post-ABC poll in late August said they thought Obama would win while just 34 percent chose Romney, even as the head-to-head vote in that poll stood at 47 percent for Romney and 46 percent for Obama among registered voters.

  86. BottiS says:

    From Joshua Green at Bloomberg :

    The glaring weaknesses in Romney’s campaign – the fuzzy details, the inability to convincingly articulate plan for growth, and above all the weird tics and gaffes – are not ones that a businessman’s skills can rectify.

    It’s the tics probably more than the gaffes that prevent Romney from maintaining any ground gained against an (probably any) Obama fumble. It’s like forcing a person to make love to someone who is found to be “out of the question.”

    It’s an odd turn of events that continues to place Romney in that “other” place intended for Obama.

    Maybe poetic justice or maybe just the natural result of the claim to dare to speak hard truths combined with a transparent tactic to move to Obama’s Left when thought profitable.

  87. jan says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    People who were involved in thinking Obama would win, are not the same grouping as those who brag that he will win because they are so in the tank for him, and can literally see no other outcome. Apples to oranges comparison by you.

    There is a popular undercurrent of thought that a liberal psych-opts is under way to undermine the electorate by kind of a demoralization process aimed at the right. The perception being groomed has been that the Obama machine and money sources are unstoppable, and his election is simply inevitable. Network news, the majority of print mediums are mostly left of center and emphasize stories, when at all possible, that are more optimal in reporting the state of the Obama administration, which weaves this perception further into the psyche of the populace.

    Even this Libyan crisis was initially reported in a subdued manner by the press. According to one NYTs reporter, it was relegated to an A-4 page story placement. The sustained consensus, by most news outlets, is that this uprising had little to do with Obama’s ME policies, and were mainly sparked by a hardly seen film. This meme, though, is slowly being debunked as more details emerge. However, the MSM continues to couch their remarks about any complicity tying the Obama administration into this event. So, who knows how this will be interpreted by the viewing public.

    In the meantime, eyes will be on the 1st debate, October 3rd, where both candidates will be subjected to questions from (ironically) the MSM – nary a conservative panelist on board, which would elicit howls from the left if this lopsidedness was reversed. Nevertheless, the mushy middle will have another shot to see these men, judging them for their words and ideas, and gauging them to how similar they are with their own concerns and aspirations.

  88. David M says:

    @jan:

    The media is in the tank for Obama…will the conservative victimization complex never end?

  89. sam says:

    @David M:

    You understood that grammarian’s nightmare?

  90. I think we should just vote for favorite sentences from Jan’s comment. This is mine:

    There is a popular undercurrent of thought that a liberal psych-opts is under way to undermine the electorate by kind of a demoralization process aimed at the right.

    I did not know that!

  91. Rick Almeida says:

    @jan:

    This is at least a plausible argument, free of vitriol, and I’m glad you took the time to make it.

  92. michael reynolds says:

    @jan:

    Apparently the liberal psy-ops are now controlling the Romney Campaign, causing them to throw each other under the bus.

    You know what it is? Brainwashing.

    Same problem Mr. Romney’s father had.

  93. Fiona says:

    @jan:

    There is a popular undercurrent of thought that a liberal psych-opts is under way to undermine the electorate by kind of a demoralization process aimed at the right. The perception being groomed has been that the Obama machine and money sources are unstoppable, and his election is simply inevitable. Network news, the majority of print mediums are mostly left of center and emphasize stories, when at all possible, that are more optimal in reporting the state of the Obama administration, which weaves this perception further into the psyche of the populace.

    I’m guessing that this popular undercurrent of thought, laughable as it is, is making the round of right wing websites, talk shows, and Faux News because it’s easier to blame the media than to look at the weaknesses of the Romney campaign and Romney as a candidate. So, even though Romney has raised more money than Obama and has the support and money of several right wing super-PACs, the Obama machine (forgot to mention Chicago) is somehow unstoppable.

    I read The Weekly Standard piece you cited and most of the things he mentioned have been covered by mainstream media sources. Heck, I’ve even seen them discussed on MSNBC, which is clearly in the bag for Obama, as Fox is for Romney. Conservatives relish blaming the media when it’s their own message that’s impalatable. If Romney were likeable and had used his convention to tell voters what he’d do differently to improve the economy, he’d have a lead in the polls by now. Everyone knows the economy sucks and most also realize there are no quick fixes. But if all Romney is going to offer is warmed over Bush II policies, it’s not going to sell.

    I don’t think Obama has things wrapped up by any means, but if the right thinks it’s the media that’s demoralizing voters rather than their candidate and his inability to provide a rationale for his campaign that extends beyond “trust me,” they’re sadly mistaken.

  94. mattb says:

    @john personna: Mine too, btw. Nothing like dressing up a “vast left wing conspiracy.”

    @michael reynolds: Glad I wasn’t the only one who thought of that moment.

  95. jukeboxgrad says:

    I think we should just vote for favorite sentences from Jan’s comment.

    I figure Jan writes sentences for Mitt. Like maybe this one:

    Well, the specifics are these which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy.

  96. Ernieyeball says:

    @jan: And, the liberal-oriented press is doing everything it can to emboss this irrefutable notion into everyone’s head. In a way it’s akin to brainwashing the public that they should hang up any thought (or hope) that this election is not already decided.

    I knew you’d say that…

    Ernieyeball says: Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 15:43
    And losing candidates of all stripes will blame the Lamestream, Mainstream, Leftist Dominated, Rightwing Controlled, evil, spineless MEDIA for their own failure!
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/romney-reagan-and-republican-fairy-tales-redux/

  97. An Interested Party says:

    Nothing is impossible in such an impossible polarized, political climate.

    Actually, what it totally and completely impossible is for you and your fellow travelers to stop playing the victims…the media, Hollywood, the universities, the unions, the big cities, etc. etc. etc. are all engaged in some massive conspiracy to stick it to plucky conservatives like you…I bet you don’t even realize the contradiction of conservatives trying to act like they are so tough and independent while constantly whining about the various bogeyman that are haunting them…