Political Animal


February 07, 2012 8:53 AM Romney’s Unforced Error

By Ed Kilgore

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, suggested Mitt Romney is “getting really bad campaign advice.” I’d say so, too.

Vargas was reacting to the news that Mitt had named former California Gov. Pete Wilson “honorary chairman” of his campaign in the Golden State, and said all sorts of nice things about him.

Wilson last made political news for his prominent role (he was campaign chairman) in the disastrous, wildly expensive 2010 gubernatorial bid of Meg Whitman. Indeed, eMeg’s association with Wilson was widely understood to have doomed her with Latino voters. It is no exaggeration to say that the former governor, who identified the California GOP with anti-immigrant resentments back in the 1990s, is The Boogeyman to Latinos in the state.

So why would Mitt Romney go out of his way to snuggle up to Wilson? Beats me, unless it’s all about fundraising. It’s true that Romney isn’t going to carry California in a general election anyway, and it’s also true that Wilson’s notoriety is largely limited to that state. But in a year when the Latino vote nationally could well be the ballgame, it’s just bizarre that a candidate who already has problems with this segment of the electorate would make this gratuitous gesture of contempt. It’s not as though Wilson is some conservative celebrity who will help him nail down the nomination, either; hard-core California conservatives consider him a squish on issues other than immigration.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if Mitt is really the remorselessly efficient robo-pol he’s cracked up to be. Embracing Wilson is the kind of thing a novice candidate desperate for any kind of support might do. For Mitt Romney, it’s simply an unforced error.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 07, 2012 9:06 AM:

    It is damn well time that we, the funding wing of the republican party, have one of our own as candidate and who is not afraid to express the scorn and contempt that we have for the peon classes!

  • c u n d gulag on February 07, 2012 9:09 AM:

    Follow the money!

    That's all that the puppet-masters care about.

    "Citizens United" is an open and festering wound on the body politic - and they intend to keep sticking money into that wound.

    Money is all that they care about.
    And if it pisses-off some Hispanics, well then, so be it.
    That's what changing voter registration requirements is there for.

  • Hedda Peraz on February 07, 2012 9:11 AM:

    We also support David Duke as "honorary chairman" in Louisiana.

  • MattF on February 07, 2012 9:15 AM:

    Romney's apparent lack of empathy isn't just a pose-- he really doesn't get the concept that treating people with contempt is going to leave a negative impression.

  • Danp on February 07, 2012 9:27 AM:

    Apparently, Kris Kobach, author of the ridiculous Arizona and Alabama immigration laws, hasn't hurt Romney by association. I suspect it will come back to bite him, though. And the tagline will end, "for Pete's sake."

  • 2Manchu on February 07, 2012 9:40 AM:

    When I think Pete Wilson, this always pops into my head:


  • boatboy_srq on February 07, 2012 9:42 AM:

    PETE WILSON?!? MISTER PROPOSITION 187?!? Oh My Even Effing Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Apparently Romney et al on the GOP side are just too desperate to keep their base to be acceptable to the general public.

  • T2 on February 07, 2012 9:42 AM:

    lots of Californians hate Pete Wilson. But hey, Mitt won't win California anyway.

  • SadOldVet on February 07, 2012 9:54 AM:

    re MattF...

    Anyone who believes that Mitt Romney does not have empathy for the middle class, the lower class, and the poor, just does not understand the Mitten Scale.

    The Mitten Scale:

    The Very Rich = Billionaires
    The Middle Class = Quarter-Billionaires
    The Lower Class = Millionaires
    The Poor = Incomes between $250-$999K
    The Very Poor = The parasites & peons making less

  • Keith on February 07, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Ed, I have looked through all your comments since the weekend and seen nothing about Obama's Unforced Error, a mountain which turns every Romney gaff into a molehill. That is, of course, the HHS ruling that requires Catholic health institutions to offer free contraception to their employees. This ruling, based on a complex balancing of various legitimate concerns, lends itself to distortion and mischaracterization, as we have seen in places like Peggy Noonan's WSJ column or on Morning Joe. Obama has compounded the problem, however, by remaining silent. As Drew Westen has repeatedly argued, silence about difficult issues just lets the Republicans frame those issues as they like. The ostrich maneuver is really not wise! What I say doesn't matter, but you have a bully pulpit. So please, PLEASE, P L E A S E write about this!!!

  • ShadeTail on February 07, 2012 10:36 AM:

    Keith, first of all, if you really think Obama has been staying silent, then you haven't been paying attention to anything other than the beltway villagers who can't be counted on anyway.

    Second, it's really time for you and others like you to understand that Obama using the bully pulpit does not stop the lies and distortion. It's like you think he has a magic wand that can prevent this stuff. He doesn't.

  • Mimikatz on February 07, 2012 10:45 AM:

    Not only did Wilson sponsor an anti-immigrant message that infuriated Latinos and other immigrants, out of the fear engendered by that measure a great many immigrants, especially from Mexico and Central America, made the decision to apply for US citizenship so as to protect against deportation. And few registered as GOPers. That, combined with a history of far-right crackpots and tone-deaf business people as candidates, and their retrograde stand on climate change has doomed the GOP for the foreseeable future. Schwarzenegger is the exception who proves the rule, as he could never have won a GOP primary, and was an immigrant himself who still had a bit of an accent. The rest of them are irrelevant except as childish spoilers.

  • jjm on February 07, 2012 11:05 AM:

    He also built up California's prison population. He was one of those banality of evil types; a real monster in a Casper Milquetoast disguise.

  • buddhabop on February 07, 2012 11:23 AM:

    "...the kind of thing a novice candidate desperate for any kind of support might do."

    the key here is "desperate for any kind of support." though romney is no novice at running for office, he is so desperately trying to make himself the "inevitable" candidate that he grabs at anything that he thinks might help him - any republican who supports him is a plus - it doesn't matter who it is.

  • Ronald on February 07, 2012 11:32 AM:

    It's all about the money. Simply put.

    And why should Obama 'take the bully pulpit'? He is, right now, above the dog fight, not in it.

    And the positive economic numbers speak far louder than he could anyway.

  • dweb on February 07, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Let's see....Mitt racing to MN in vain hopes of getting Michele Bachmann's endorsement, Mitt racing to NV to get a toxic backing from the Donald, Mitt racing to CA to name Wilson as his campaign chair. Makes you wonder just who he has in mind for a cabinet...but then I don't think that opportunity is likely to arise.

    Meanwhile,the Newtster continues to fantasize about all of the powerful impressive things he is going to do on his first day in the Oval Office. Don't think that is going to happen either.

  • cmdicely on February 07, 2012 1:05 PM:

    So why would Mitt Romney go out of his way to snuggle up to Wilson?

    Unlike Whitman, Romney doesn't need to win a general election in California. He does, on the other hand, want to win a primary there, and to get the big money conservatives in California to provide money for his general election campaign.

    In that context, association with Wilson may not be problematic.

  • Tom Dibble on February 07, 2012 1:07 PM:

    Mitt has written off California. But, a look at California electorally is important. There are two radically opposed California states. The coastal state is, by and large, highly progressive. He'll never get their support. The central state, though, is highly conservative, with a toxicity that makes Arkansas and Alabama seem reasonable. Here he has a base of support among one key constituency (the Mormon vote), but not the whole populace.

    Pet Wilson is about strengthening the central-valley vote. He's never going to win the Latino vote in California, but since California is written off electorally that doesn't matter. California's ultra-conservative base is good only for money and organizational support. By a large margin, the ultra-conservative portion of California's moneyed elite despise anyone with vaguely hispanic roots. They are Wilson's base.

    I don't see this as a mistake for Romney. I see it as telling. He has given up on California as a source of votes, and is focusing on California solely as a source for funding.

    Personally, I think he shouldn't be giving up on California as a source of votes. It is actually much more "purple" than people outside the state understand, and Romney's rock-solid LDS vote support would go quite far here. If any modern Republican were to capture California's votes, it would be Romney. The fact that he isn't even trying (and is permanently writing that possibility off) is telling.

  • gaardvark on February 07, 2012 1:55 PM:

    I'd like to nominate for Romney state chairman:
    Arizona: Russell Pearce
    Nevada: Sharon Angle
    Colorado: Tom Tancredo

    @Keith: I'm trying not to be dismissive here as Ed has written a post specifically about us supporters of the ACA preventive care policy not to be dismissive of those who are concerned about enforcing the contraception component.

    But, and I write this as someone raised Catholic and who still contributes to Catholic charities, it's time for Catholics to evaluate whether strict adherence to an anti-contraceptive edict serves the greater mission of the Church. I'm talking about caring for the poor and infirmed, and seeking social justice.

    Beyond that turning your back on Obama over this actually causing harm to the greater mission of the church, support of effective family planning is good anti-abortion policy. People with access to effective family planning have fewer unwanted pregnancies that force them to make decisions that most of us don't want to make.

    If Catholics and other liberals of faith turn there back on Obama over this issue it only hurt what should, and what I believe is, their overall objectives, a more just and caring society.

  • stinger on February 07, 2012 1:58 PM:

    I certainly don't consider the HHS ruling an "unforced error". For one thing, the Mercy Hospitals and St. Luke's Hospitals will find it less costly to provide contraception for their doctors and nurses (and other staff) than constant maternity leave. Besides, the doctors, nurses, and other staff aren't necessarily Catholic themselves. Your basic health coverage shouldn't depend on the whims of your employer - that's half the point of the PPACA.

    And then there's the whole "women are human beings" thing. The bishops aren't trying to deny coverage to any of the MEN they employ.

  • Doctor Biobrain on February 07, 2012 2:15 PM:

    Mitt's been getting bad advice the whole time. Not only have they not understood the power of the internet in exposing lies, which is an Obama-era game changer; he's not even up to the level of Clinton-style war room tactics that were required with the advent of 24-7 cable news. He's essentially running a Reagan-era campaign, where you get to say whatever you want and chortle with glee when the news mentions you at all.

    In the age of instant news and lack of true gatekeepers, not all news is good news; yet the Romney people have yet to get that memo.

  • SKM on February 07, 2012 4:05 PM:

    Gaarvark & Stinger,
    Agree with you both. I've gotten rid of religion for a long time now. What I don't understand with the 'priest' getting on television running his mouth, the churches (not just Catholic) get so much money from their members, in addition to other properties like houses, yachts, land...but, they're not helping the poor with this. It is OWS that is out there trying to help homeowners. It is Toys-for-Tots type groups that bring toys for the kids...So, when there are accusations about child-sex-abuse - oh, they don't want to talk and avoid all cameras.

    I think women should have the right to choose. Besides, we are dealing with people that wants and abuses their power. I say this because, if you look back at, let's say 'Kate & Jon + 8' or Nadia, the lady they named 'Octomom,' these women are showered with both attention and disdain - but, in the end, everyone forgets about them. When the kids get a little older, people look down on her and say, 'why did she have so many kids!' Then you have the men, on the other hand, most do not or will not support the kids which really places a heavy burden on the mothers, especially if she tries to get 'ENTITLEMENTS - FOODSTAMPS.' This really puts a woman in damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

    What I can say for sure is, this is one country that divides the family. For instance, the parents that have been deported. The parents that are put in jail for non-violent crimes. The kids that are put in foster homes instead of going to another family member. Kids that were placed in juvenile hall in the 'scandal' of the private prisons. Babies that are taken away from the mother in the hospital that tested positive for drugs...

  • SKM on February 07, 2012 4:24 PM:

    Ah! Petey did more than just prop 187. He, with Ward Connerly (I think that's the spelling of his last name) removed Affirmative Action in state and Universities here in California. Petey issued the first I.O.U.'s to government workers - which costs the state more in the end, as these are short-term loans that have to be paid with interest to the banks. And people said that Petey took money from the employees pension plans to pay for something unrelated - maybe to pay down debt - I don't know. But, this is what the GOP has been doing to Social Security is taking money for other things.