Political Animal


July 06, 2012 11:26 AM Romney’s Ceiling

By Ed Kilgore

Tying together several strands of analysis I’ve been pursuing recently, here is the dialectic that will place a ceiling on Mitt Romney’s level of support during the general election:

The more Republicans become convinced that economic conditions make a Romney victory likely, the more party conservatives will focus on completing the “vetting” of his candidacy that was never quite consummated during the primary season. That means renewed demands for policy commitments on a broad range of issues remote from his monomaniacal campaign message of trusting his business experience to produce better economic results than Barack Obama. And that will make staying “on message,” and avoiding the comparative election Obama and other Democrats are trying to create, a constant struggle for Team Mitt.

To put it another way: every time Mitt Romney looks to be succeeding in his general election campaign, the dominant conservative activist core of his “base” will drag him right back into the permanent primary by which the Right is forever testing its “establishment” politicians.

Perhaps Team Mitt is tough enough to ignore the pressure and get out of this bind. But they will be dealing from now until November with a two-pronged effort by the Obama campaign and conservative Republicans to produce an election day environment that is all about comparisons between the candidates, the parties, and the specific policy options facing the country.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2012 11:50 AM:

    So, poor Mitt has to keep wasting time throwing hunks of raw meat to his base, when he'd be better off spending that time tossing bon-bons to the independents.

    It couldn't happen to a "nicer" whatever-the-feck it is Mitt is!

    Oh, I can hardly wait for the debates!
    Between Mitt's inevitable gaffs, and his attempt to straddle the world of the sane and the sociopathically insane, he's bound to piss-off BOTH sides!

    This should be good for some sh*ts and giggles!

  • Fr33d0m on July 06, 2012 11:56 AM:

    This seems a little backwards to me, but then I've not done substantial research.

    I think the repugnicon belief in the conservative nature of the electorate means that if Mitt isn't doing well, its because he isn't reflecting conservative "values" as much as he should. We've only seen substantial calls for him to speak out about his plans in recent days--after it became clear that the Obama team did better than they expected over the last month.

  • square1 on July 06, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Every presidential election that includes an incumbent is primarily a referendum on the incumbent's handling of the economy. I.e "it's the economy, stupid."

    In the event that the incumbent is vulnerable, the next question is whether the challenger is perceived as a viable alternative. Romney's identity as a job-killing, tax-cheating vulture capitalist makes him significantly less capable of taking advantage of economic weakness.

    For that reason, barring a major collapse of U.S. or European banks, Romney is almost certain to lose.

    Having said all that, Kilgore's suggestion that the GOP base is going to be harder on Romney now, when the only alternative is Obama, than they were during the primaries is pure fantastical wishful thinking. Kilgore presents zero evidence for his hypothesis. Further, simple common sense would tell us that the GOP base would not start placing onerous demands in Romney to prove his bona fides unless Romney had such a commanding lead that there was no danger in attacking Romney as a conservative.

  • bleh on July 06, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Agree with square1 on most points.

    On one, however, I differ. I think the base will indeed continue to squeal about culture-war issues and other distractions. But I think Romney will handle them the same way he handled his primary opponents: he'll bury them under a ton of money. The wingnuts may shout, but Romney's megaphone will drown them out.

    And the funders will be on Romney's side. The SuperPACs, the Koch suckers, won't amplify the squeals. The base will find itself without a microphone and without a forum.

    The base will get a little of what it wants, but only in very carefully controlled venues out of public view, and only enough to keep them riled up and volunteering. And if they want more, tough.

    And it'll be enough. Remember what Clinton said: Republicans always come home.

  • cwolf on July 06, 2012 12:53 PM:

    "It's the Economy Stupid"

    ...And Romney's Economy is in his
    Swiss Bank Account,
    Cayman Island Bank Account,
    Bahama Bank Account &
    Bags of Getaway Cash stashed in the trunks of his wife's 2 Cadillacs.

  • Anonymous on July 06, 2012 12:54 PM:

    To @bleh. Yes, Romney will bury everyone (the right fringe and Obama) under a ton of money.

    But has Romney been able to offer ONE SINGLE REASON TO ELECT HIM? A clear, no-nonsense, most people with agree with reason?

    I cannot think of a single one.

    That's because he hasn't either.

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 06, 2012 1:52 PM:

    The only clear strategy for Romney has been money, money and more money. There will never be specifics as he owes all those huge donors who have differing interests. He is not capable of delivering to all of them so he just stays with the money angle. He has no passion to lead a country, he merely wants the status. The title of Presidency is the goal, he has no thoughts beyond the title. Romney is the quintessential empty $5K suit with zero social skills or appeal.
    The relationship between him and his wife is becoming more and more visible. I predict it will not be helpful. Perhaps he will blame her for all the offshore money. Feelings about Ann Romney will surpass the negatives heaped on Hilary Clinton. Dressage? Never held a paying job? The women who will still “relate” to her by November are likely those who just can’t stomach a smart Black First Lady.

  • gdb on July 06, 2012 7:30 PM:

    Square 1 is right. It is the economy that will or will not elect Mittens.. what he (or BHO) does with it is someything else again as the projected economic picture without Keynesian intervention is like an uncontrolable semi headed downhill. The Repubs are wise to keep their focus on the economy-- it really is their best chance of winning in 2012. But if they do win, they are like the dog that chased and caught the semi-- now what does the Repub dog do with it to avoid being crushed. Good luck with that. Most on this site want the Dem dog to catch the semi. Good luck with that, too.