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March 02, 2012 5:26 PM The Nasty-As-He-Wants-To-Be Factor

By Ed Kilgore

In all the endless discussion of Mitt Romney’s courtship of the conservative movement, it’s never much occurred to me that his “electability” appeal to GOP voters depends on conveying the general sense that he’ll do anything to win. But that’s the interesting point buried in a long Michael Barbaro/Jeremy Peters article on Mitt’s abiding nastiness as a candidate. Check this out:

The Romney campaign’s shortcomings have been on vivid display in recent weeks, from verbal stumbles to a failure to stir the passions of the Republican base.
But even his battered rivals acknowledge that Mr. Romney is proving unusually adept at defining, diminishing and disqualifying a serial cast of challengers through relentless attacks.
His campaign has deployed every tactic in the negative-campaign playbook. It has issued Twitter messages poking fun at Mr. Gingrich’s penchant for rhetorical excess (with the hashtag #grandiosenewt). It created digital slogans and a letterhead disparaging Mr. Santorum’s long career in government (“Rick Went to Washington,” they read, “and he never came back”). It created dozens of Web videos denigrating President Obama’s economic leadership (“Obama isn’t working”). And it benefited from the advertising onslaught unleashed against Mr. Romney’s rivals by a “super PAC” backing him.
As successful as the strategy has been, though, it has raised questions about Mr. Romney’s role in turning the primary process into something akin to a civil war, even as it has demonstrated a ferocious, whatever-it-takes style that could hearten Republicans if Mr. Romney ends up in a general election matchup against Mr. Obama (emphasis added)
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If that’s true, then Romney’s efforts to pretend he’s the “true conservative” in the campaign have been something of a waste of time. All he really needs to do is to prove he has absolutely no conscience or inhibitions about negative campaigning. Because that’s what “base” activists want more than anything else, even more than victory: a holy war against Barack Obama to articulate their visceral hatred of the incumbent, with which they hope to infect persuadable voters. Mitt’s well on his way to passing that most crucial test.

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.

Comments

  • MattF on March 02, 2012 5:35 PM:

    Maybe... However, in the past, Republican Presidential candidates would take the high road-- while the back-room crowd, plumbers, ratf*ckers, Karl Rove, and such like, did the dirty work. It's not obvious that Romney can manage to take both the high road and the low road.

  • Left Reach on March 02, 2012 5:53 PM:

    Romney has been desperately and passionately mean-spirited--and it is too late to re-craft his image. It has been going on for months--it's chronic: he is false, he panders, then is caught in outright lies and distortions of "he never said that and that isn't what he meant" verbiage. In total, it puts to mind that he lacks the disposition for the office of the president. So many contradictions, flipflops, off-setting remarks, not to mention routinely presenting as in denial/disconnect of his actual beliefs. As if he is a creation, an invention, a concoction. Can you imagine this falseness in a president--along with the abusiveness of the current congressional republicans? I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

  • TCinLA on March 02, 2012 5:57 PM:

    a holy war against Barack Obama to articulate their visceral hatred of the Ni**er in Whitey's House

    That's what the Redneck southern loser's war (the accurate name of the "GOP base") against Obama is all about.

  • zandru on March 02, 2012 6:02 PM:

    "Nastiness"? "Ferocious, whatever it takes"?

    Are you serious? After the vicious hate-blasts coming out of Limbaugh this week, the Mittster's "Rick went to Washington and never came back" barely reach the "mild criticism" level.

  • Patango on March 02, 2012 6:14 PM:

    Ed

    ". Because that’s what “base” activists want more than anything else, even more than victory: a holy war against Barack Obama to articulate their visceral hatred of the incumbent, with which they hope to infect persuadable voters. Mitt’s well on his way to passing that most crucial test."

    Exactly , but when the GOP are polled , they say they do not approve of NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING , but you have to use your conservapidia dictionary for a translation as usual , the gop are fine with rabid negative campaigning against democrats , yet the msm will complain all day voters do not approve of it , without acknowledging that the linda blair head spinning is coming from The Right 80% of the time

    Then add on the fact that msm will give romney and co a complete pass on all their made up lies , and you get voters , who work all day and have little time for details , in a fog of confusion...GOP contard 101

  • Cha on March 02, 2012 6:37 PM:

    zandru, are you kidding? willard's every bit as vicious and pathological sociopathic as the slutbucket.

  • Jose Padilla on March 02, 2012 6:46 PM:

    The only reason Romney's been effective is because he has maybe twenty times as much money as any of his opponents. If they could fight back, Romney's attacks could easily be neutralized. For example, Santorum could point out that the reasaon Romney's never served in Washington is because he got his ass kicked by Teddy Kennedy.

  • John Henry on March 02, 2012 7:05 PM:

    But even his battered rivals acknowledge that Mr. Romney is proving unusually adept at defining, diminishing and disqualifying a serial cast of challengers through relentless attacks.

    That's not really setting the bar high for a politically astute definition of your opponent. For Bachmann, Cane, Gingrich, and Santorum, the attack ads write themselves.

    Fox News, with a Republican political consultant at the helm, has been trying to caricature Obama for the last four years and has failed. That does not mean they will stop trying.

    Mitt will also fail. His own lack of character will neutralize his attacks against Obama. Plus, people already know Obama.

  • Kathryn on March 02, 2012 8:09 PM:

    @ John Henry....really hope you are right, torn between your view and Pantago's less optimistic one. Without a doubt, Mitt is a nasty piece of work and the base racists through and through. It"s actually heartbreaking to realize how much our past of slavery still haunts and defines this nation.

  • Patango on March 02, 2012 9:04 PM:

    Kathryn

    While I will admit too being blinded by my democrat membership , I feel Obama is going stomp mitt as bad as he did mccain , knowing we all must still have fight all the way there ..I have been rather shocked at how the press is actually getting closer to the truth the last 2 months ..

    On a side note, congrats to all of you there on helping get the word out about the Virginia "anti women" legislation they tried to pass , it seems you all made a difference ...