Political Animal


October 26, 2011 8:05 AM Romney’s ‘huge freaking deal’

By Steve Benen

At this point in the morning yesterday, it looked like the biggest political screw-up of the day would be Rick Perry’s latest Birther flirtations. As it turns out, though as ridiculous as this was, it was eclipsed rather easily.

Mitt Romney visited a Republican campaign headquarters in Ohio, fighting tooth and nail to protect a Republican measure to undermine collective-bargaining right. The GOP presidential frontrunner, however, aware of the polls showing public opposition to the law, refused to endorse the law his party is trying to save.

This one incident reinforced the worst of the perceptions surrounding Romney. After all, what’s the knock on the former governor? He’s an unprincipled flip-flopper, who cares more about polls than convictions, and will say literally anything to advance his political ambitions. And in one swing through Ohio, Romney confirmed that his critics were right.

It wasn’t long before conservatives — some sympathetic to Romney, some not — were expressing their disgust. Here was the Club for Growth’s take, for example:

“The big problem many conservatives have with Mitt Romney is that he’s taken both sides of nearly every issue important to us. He’s against a flat tax, now he’s for it. He says he’s against ObamaCare, but was for the individual mandate and susbidies that are central to ObamaCare. He thinks that collective bargaining issues should be left for states to decide if he’s Ohio, but he took the opposite position when he was in New Hampshire. This is just another statement in a long line of statements that will raise more doubts about what kind of President Mitt Romney would be in the minds of many Republican primary voters.”

Soon after, other prominent far-right voices were equally incensed.

“Certainly if one of the Presidential candidates were to go to the state, show up, and were asked about it, we’d expect them to be supportive of both efforts,” said Brendan Steinhauser, the Federal and State Campaigns Director at FreedomWorks in an interview with TPM. “This is a no brainer for any of the Presidential candidate to get behind. We’re disappointed but not surprised in Romney’s lack of support.” […]

“This is a huge freaking deal,” wrote Red State founder Erick Erickson. “Playing it too safe is finally biting Romney in the rear end. He’s refused to call social security a Ponzi scheme. He’s refused to offer bold economic reform plans. He’s refused to address significant changes in entitlement reforms. His whole campaign has centered around tapioca.”

There were plenty of others offering similar condemnations.

Making matters slightly worse, Politico discovered that Romney actually endorsed the Ohio law in June, only to back off yesterday after seeing the polls. In other words, Romney is now refusing to express support for a key Republican policy that he’s already endorsed.

And as a strategic matter, if Romney reversed course again yesterday in response to the uproar, and re-endorsed the anti-collective-bargaining measure, he’d look even weaker.

I don’t know whose bright idea is was to send Romney to Ohio, have him rally the troops at a call center, and then refuse to support the policy they’re fighting for, but one thing appears certain: this unforced error is going to leave a mark.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • bleh on October 26, 2011 8:09 AM:

    ... one thing appears certain: this unforced error is going to leave a mark.

    In the short run, perhaps. After all, the real race among the Republicans is to be the alternative to Mitt Romney, so anything he does is bound to affect both that and his standing against whoever emerges the winner.

    But in the long run, I doubt it. As Bill Clinton said, "Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line."

  • FRP on October 26, 2011 8:19 AM:

    It may be as difficult a line to fall for , into , as far as the eye can see , ear can hear , or memory sneaking up can bite .
    Uncle mittens has given the term unctuous an unpleasant cast .

  • c u n d gulag on October 26, 2011 8:21 AM:

    I'm sure Mitt's always glad to hear from Erick Erickson - and man who couldn't have been elected to any office in history, except maybe as a Gauleiter of a particularly brutal regions in Bavaria.

    When Pat Robertson tells you that you're making these candidates unelectable in the general because of how reich-wing they have to be in primaries, pay no attention Erick, son of another schmuch named Erick.

    When you get Obama reelected, you might want to go even further right in 2016.
    I'd start looking for the right person in Bavaria. Maybe have Austria as a backup.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 26, 2011 8:21 AM:

    I look forward to Republican heads exploding when the voting starts and they are faced (via tpers) the possibility of 2 black men running for president.

  • RusSiNmaSS on October 26, 2011 8:25 AM:

    Worth noting:

    “This is a huge freaking deal,” wrote Red State founder Erick Erickson. “Playing it too safe is finally biting Romney in the rear end. He’s refused to call social security a Ponzi scheme..."

    Eric the idiot can't even keep his criticisms straight. In Ohio, we see Romney _ducking_ the issue. However, jumping on Perry for calling SS a Ponzi scheme is an example of Romney actually taking a position on an issue. He did _not_ duck the question.

    CNN - not a think tank.

  • MattF on October 26, 2011 8:27 AM:

    At this point, 'empty suit' is unearned flattery. Romney's strategy for distinguishing himself from the other Republican candidates is "I'm the one who doesn't have a personality disorder-- because I don't have a personality."

  • brent on October 26, 2011 8:28 AM:

    I'm sure Mitt's always glad to hear from Erick Erickson - and man who couldn't have been elected to any office in history

    Au contraire. I don't have time to look it up at the moment but I am sure I remember that Erickson was some sort of elected official in Georgia for awhile. He held that job while simultaneously being a pundit and eventually had to give up one for another (obviously giving up the elected official gig). I am sure the details are easy enough to track down.

  • tom on October 26, 2011 8:32 AM:

    Indeed. Erik Erickson was a city counselor in whatever town he lives in in Georgia. I've always thought Mitt would be the last man standing, but man, I've got to question that. I don't think Perry is smart enough to dig himself out of his whole. Is it really going to be Cain? I mean, really??

  • Danp on October 26, 2011 8:36 AM:

    Why do you think they call Ohio a "swing state"?

  • Josef K on October 26, 2011 8:40 AM:

    This one incident reinforced the worst of the perceptions surrounding Romney.

    You mean "the most accurate perceptions", correct?

    Wonder how sunk he'd be if the President ever goes to the press and says "I thank Governor Romney for endorsing my policies." He doesn't have to specify anything, given Romney's flip-flopped so much you can find him endorsing anything.

  • jdb on October 26, 2011 8:48 AM:

    Perry's a birther, Mitt flip-flops, Cain puts out a creepy, smoker-ad, and the first caucus/primary is more than 2 months away. I'm not sure if this is going to be fun or disgusting.

  • Bill on October 26, 2011 8:49 AM:

  • Bobbo on October 26, 2011 9:02 AM:

    "He's refused to call Social Security a ponzi scheme." OMG, what's next? Will he refuse to call the earth flat?

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 26, 2011 9:18 AM:

    "He's refused to call Social Security a ponzi scheme." OMG, what's next? Will he refuse to call the earth flat?

    No, but he would refuse to call the Earth billions of years old.

  • Scott on October 26, 2011 10:04 AM:

    I understand why the conservatives are freaking out. But I think Romney is smart not to jump on a losing cause or back a loser like Kasich. He wants to win Ohio in 2012, not piss off potential voters. However, he was incredibly clumsy and shouldn't have gone to the call center.

  • Basilisc on October 26, 2011 10:10 AM:

    This is an example of how whether someone is good at campaigning can actually be a good signal as to whether they'll be good at governing. Presidents often find themselves in situations where the issues are obscure but getting the details right is vitally important. You need high-quality briefers, and you need to have the main talking points at your fingertips.

    In Ohio, either Romney forgot his briefing, or the briefers screwed up. Either way, it reflects badly on him - I may have to revise my view that, while he may be a soulless plutocrat pander-machine, at least he's halfway competent.

    Republicans' options are really dwindling fast. Schadenfreude all around.

  • DRF on October 26, 2011 10:14 AM:

    "Unforced error" is on the mark. Here's an alternative theory as to what happened: Terrible staff work. Romney's campaign staff brings him to a Republican phone bank operation for two state ballot initiatives without (1) properly prepping him on the substance and politics of the initiatives,(2) reminding him that he had previously endorsed at least the first of the initiatives, and (3) realizing that, of course, he would be pushed to take a position on the initiatives. Under this theory, Romney was simply avoiding taking a position on something he wasn't familiar with and that, in any event, is a matter of state law, not directly relevant to the Presidency; after all, why take a position if you don't need to?

    By the way, since when is agreeing that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme a litmus test of Republican orthodoxy? There must be at least 25 of these tests now.

  • DAY on October 26, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Elections are won- and lost-by getting votes from the Moderate Middle.
    If enough of them are disappointed/angered by Obama they will vote for Mister Bland, NOT a foaming at the mouth baying at the moon Tea Party pandering incompetent!

  • Oscar on October 26, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Ron Paul is looking better every day.

  • FRP on October 26, 2011 11:33 AM:

    Yuh Right o .

  • Barbara on October 26, 2011 11:38 AM:

    Elections may be won on votes from the moderate middle, but the voters vote because the crazed and frenzied supporters of the candidate spend the last few weeks before E-Day begging them to show up.

    It might have been smart of Romney not to take a position given the polling trends on the issue, but it would have been a WHOLE LOT smarter not to inject himself into a situation in which it was absolutely expected that he would have a position. To show up at a call center staffed by people who are prime recruits to get out your own voters next year in the GE and then be lukewarm to downright equivocal on whether you support their pet project in this election cycle -- it beggars the political imagination. Sorry, stupid is too kind a word.

  • j on October 26, 2011 12:15 PM:

    I heard a snippet of a man discussing an article in New Yorker magazine, apparently Romney was one of those who started the transition to a 99 versus a 1% economy.

  • June on October 26, 2011 12:19 PM:

    When I read stuff like this, it strikes me over and over again that what conservatives demand from their pols and candidates at every level is that the candidates/pols be mean-spirited, bigoted, small-minded, virulently ignorant, willfully incompetent, habitual liars, and completely delusional. Only after a GOP pol satisfies all of the above are they deemed to be sufficiently conservative.

    Romney seeks to wade in and dominate this cesspool, but doesn't want to get dirty. Good luck with that.