Was it Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor?
I'm not abandoning Mitt Romney
By Leon H Wolf Posted in 2008 | mass hypnosis | Michigan | Mitt Romney — Comments (55) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
So I had pretty much decided that if McCain beat Romney in New Hampshire tonight, I'd hop aboard the Straight Talk Express since I don't particularly care for Huckabee, I don't think Fred has a shot at winning, and Rudy - well, we all know how I feel about Rudy. Over the course of the last six months or so, I've gradually come around to the idea that I'd be fine with McCain as a nominee - my old boss endorsed him, then Curt Schilling declared for him, and he's generally impressed me in the debates. Still, I felt that Romney would be a more trustworthy President on the issues that mattered the most, and that he'd overall make a better President due to a better temperament and more experience running complex organizations. Still, I was ready to happily embrace McCain as second choice.
Then a funny thing happened.
I was talking with a committed McCain supporter (who shall remain nameless) about this very phenomenon tonight as the primary results were rolling in, and this supporter was giving me a hard time about waiting to see what happened in New Hampshire before supporting McCain. This individual seemed to think that McCain deserved my support on the merits. As I started defending the decision not to make McCain my first choice, it occurred to me: I'm still not ready to make McCain my first choice, not even after tonight. Frankly, I'm unsure how he got to be my second choice at this point, after remembering all the ways in which I learned - through constant reinforcement - that when McCain is not begging for my vote, he is not a man who can be trusted to govern from a conservative perspective. And I remembered all the times that, once in office, McCain's first instinct was not to mollify conservatives, but rather to mollify our old adversaries in the mainstream media.
By now the litany is familiar: BCRA, Bush Tax Cuts, Gang of 14, IMP-PAC, and (for some) immigration. The problem in each of these instances (and others) that I have always had with McCain is not that he takes bad positions on important issues (he does) but that he does it in such a manner that is calculated to get the most media attention possible. I have often wondered over the years if there was anything he would not do to get on a Sunday talk show. And that level of narcissism signifies a pretty significant problem when it comes to choosing a potential commander-in-chief, especially if you'd like that commander-in-chief to more often than not do things that the media does not like. I frankly don't know how in the world many of us in the party have collectively forgotten this, except that the primary season has led to the demonization of all the other candidates in turn to the extent that McCain has flown under the radar the longest.
Folks, earlier this year, McCain was left for dead by the side of the road by virtually everyone. Since that time, he's been desperate for any votes he could get. He's saying all the right things and pushing all the right buttons - with the exception of Saturday night's debate, he's been the sunny adult in all the debates. And somehow that's allowed us to forget that the man has a long and distinguished history - the longest and most distinguished of any candidate in the race - of stabbing us in the back at the worst possible moment.
I should be clear: I'm still willing to support McCain in the general. McCain is easily better than any of the Democrats, and the intent of this post is not to make McCain sound like the worst Republican presidential candidate in United States history (as many posts about Huckabee, et al have done). My only point is that I don't understand how it seems to be that a consensus is forming that McCain is the "consensus" candidate for us; unless we are agreeing that there is a consensus that we can all remember at some point swearing that we'd never vote for the man under any circumstances. I mean, for goodness' sake, whatever grievances various factions of the party have with Huckabee (and I do not discount that they exist), Huckabee has never treated any faction of the party with the disdain McCain has shown for all of them at one point or another during his long Senate career.
Another reason to not jump ship for McCain yet is that Romney is not dead. Before this race became absolutely crazy in the last month, I would have absolutely said that losses in IA and NH would have crushed his campaign. He is, at this point, still on life support, but he's not dead yet. He does, however, need to reverse the trend of second-place finishes and beat McCain decisively in Michigan. If he can do that, he's got a puncher's chance in South Carolina and then... who knows? Anyone who thinks they can predict what is going to happen even a day in advance this primary season is kidding themselves. Just go back in time to yesterday and ask everyone - everyone - whether Hillary Clinton was going to beat Obama today.
But the Romney campaign has made some critical mistakes and absolutely has to turn some things around. It is critical that Romney's people realize that Iowa was not about Evangelicals, it was about the kind of campaign that they have run. Please hear this, someone in the Romney campaign: people start from a position of being skeptical of position changes. It makes them really angry when they perceive that someone who has changed positions recently is attacking someone else for the position that they used to hold. In other words, for God's sake, your man has a resume on which to run, please stop unloading on every other candidate for every deviation from doctrinaire conservatism, when you yourself previously suffered from the same flaws. This is just a harsh fact of life: Huckabee is in a position to throw stones on life issues, you aren't. Tom Tancredo was in a position to throw stones on immigration, you aren't. People feel like you're insulting their intelligence when you do this sort of stuff, and in so doing, you've made so many Republicans angry with you that I take constant crap from various quarters just for supporting you. Stop in the hopes that it's not too late. Run a positive campaign, one that involves less scripts, and every once in a while, let people know that there's a real person under the hair who actually cares about something - anything.
The clock is ticking. One week until Michigan, and then it might be curtains for Romney. After that time, I may have to reassess where I stand, and McCain will be part of that reassessment. But now that I've had my memory jogged, he won't be my automatic second choice anymore.