Political Animal


January 18, 2012 8:40 AM When polished meets clumsy

By Steve Benen

When compared against his Republican rivals, Mitt Romney is extremely slick. After nearly 18 years as a politician, and more than five years as a near-constant presidential candidate, the former governor is clearly smoother and better prepared than his GOP opponents.

But that only tells us that he’s clearing a low bar.

Yesterday, Romney said making over $374,000 in speaking fees is “not very much” money. It was a dumb slip-up that his critics were only too eager to promote. It followed Romney suggesting elected office is only for the rich, clumsily talking about his fondness for being able to fire people, demanding that talk of economic justice be limited to “quiet rooms,” accusing those who care about income inequality of “envy,” daring Rick Perry to accept a $10,000 bet, joking about being “unemployed,” and arguing that those who slip into poverty are still middle class.

The point is not to recount the gaffes, so much as it’s to highlight Romney’s stylistic problem: for all of the guy’s polish as a slick candidate, Romney is still clumsy and gaffe-prone when he speaks his mind. As Jon Chait put it yesterday, the Republican frontrunner “has come to be defined, through a recurring series of off-the-cuff gaffes, as a callous, out-of-touch rich man.”

He has done the work of an opposition researcher on himself…. [T]he total self-portrait Romney has helped craft is utterly devastating: the scion of a wealthy executive, who helped create, and benefited from, revolutions in both the market economy and in public policy in the last three decades that favored the rich over the middle class, and who appears blithe about the gap between his privilege and the lot of most Americans.

As I’ve said before, Romney has been positively associated with “electability” because he is more electable than most of his rivals. But he is the one-eyed man in the land of the politically blind. Romney, by normal standards, is a terrible candidate. He is nowhere near as formidable as John McCain was four years before. The latest poll from PPP has his favorability rating at a miserable 35 percent positive, 53 percent negative. He may win - he probably will win if the economy dips back into recession - but he is a weak candidate who in many ways embodies the public’s distrust of his party.

I often wonder what the race for the Republican nomination would look like this year if Romney had just one credible opponent. I have a hunch his routine rhetorical missteps would be far more damaging.

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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  • delNorte on January 18, 2012 8:51 AM:

    He may win - he probably will win if the economy dips back into recession...

    ...and if he does win it may be the last nail in the coffin of this grand experiment called American Democracy.

  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2012 8:55 AM:

    Before everyone starts making reservations for Obama's 2nd Inauguration Ball, I want to remind everyone that McCain and Palin were in THE LEAD, until the economy went into the sh*tter, and he looked a completely clue-free old stooge when talking about it, and before Sarah opened up her rather ample pie-hole and piles of stupid bullsh*t started pouring out.

    Any Republican candidate, even a Mitt "The Richy-rich Robot" Romney, will be formidable in November.

    People are angry, and when people are angry, you never know what they'll do.

    And Republicans will pull NO stops when it comes to making people angrier still, and blame everything on Obama and the Democrats.

    If you think you're hearing dog-whistles during these debates, just wait - they'll be full-blown air-raid sirens come late summer and fall.

  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2012 8:57 AM:

    As Steve M says, "The worst Republican President in our history, is the next one."

    And, as fragile as this armed madhouse is right now, he could be our last one, as well.

  • Bernard HP Gilroy on January 18, 2012 8:58 AM:

    >> I often wonder what the race for the Republican nomination would look like this year if Romney had just one credible opponent.

    We'd already forgotten Romney's name and be talking about that opponent's chances, whomever he (or she) was.

    Oh, who am I kidding? This is the Republicans. No way it'd be a "she".

  • hells littlest angel on January 18, 2012 9:01 AM:

    I'm just not cynical enough to think that Romney will manage even 40% of the vote in November. People just aren't that gullible.

    What do you say, Steve? Ten thousand bucks?

  • Ron Byers on January 18, 2012 9:02 AM:

    I have heard a lot of talking heads say things like, "Romney is lucky this happened now and not in October" or "this gaff will give Romney a chance to polish his message before he faces Obama." That is a nice positive spin, but Romney keeps making the same kinds of mistakes over and over again. There is no evidence he learns from his mistakes. There is less evidence that he has the kind of personality that connects with people, or that he even cares about people who aren't members of the elite.

    This is January, November is 10 1/2 months away. Things aren't going to get any better for Romney because his "unforced errors" are genuine reflections of his true nature. Romney has a lot of time to fully reveal his true nature. Pass the popcorn. I just hope he doesn't do it too fast.

  • stormskies on January 18, 2012 9:02 AM:

    He may win - he probably will win if the economy dips back into recession - but he is a weak candidate who in many ways embodies the public’s distrust of his party.


    On exactly what basis ? By recreating the exact same policies of the Repiglicans, Bush, that lead to our almost total economic collapse ? Obama has tried to do as much as he can to fix all the fucking damage of those policies, and the Repiglicans have tried to block him in every way, and then try to blame him for the affects of their blocking. And now Romney wants to undo all of what Obama has managed to do to stabilize our economy, and recreate the very policies that created the crisis is the first place.

    And this is what Americans will vote for ? That he will 'probably' win if the economy goes back into recession due to the Repiglicans ongoing effort to destroy our economy/ Obama at all costs ?

    If that is the case then our country has much deeper and more severe problems that most of us here want to acknowledge. And those problems start with the very nature of our fellow citizens.

  • MattF on January 18, 2012 9:03 AM:

    And a habitual liar. Ought to be his Homeric Epithet... Habitual Liar Mitt Romney...

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 9:12 AM:

    Romney will not win in 2012. People are already angry about what the Republicans are doing in their states - cutting social programs, restricting voters, cutting and laying of public workers, busting unions, and wanting to eliminate social security and medicare.

    It doesn't matter how bad the economy gets, they will not vote for a Republican in the white house for 2012. Especially when they also see the events happening in Michigan where they have emergency measures to take over minority neighborhoods. We are looking at voters from the South and Northeast where most of the population is either super rich or falling into the economic class of the of the poor.

    what I don't understand about the voter I.D. laws, there are people who have never left the city, or don't have a car. And with Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, she was reported to have received $42,500 from the company Wilbur Smith Associates (a company based in South Carolina) for Lobbying in 2010 (some say she failed to report this) - see the article "Indian Roads Endanger Ways of Life" 1-18-2011 http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15643 according to this, she helped the firm get contracts in India that will displace the poor that live near the water. Some are fishing villagers, and some says this will hurt the turtle nesting. All of this in order to build highways - some in India say gentrification.

  • Oh my on January 18, 2012 9:16 AM:

    Willard Mitt Romney (b.1947)

    1. Harvard educated - ✓
    2. East coast slick - ✓
    3. Wall Street elite - ✓
    4. Serial Flip Flopper - ✓
    5. Needs teleprompter - ✓

    Sounds like the Republicans have found their man.

  • SadOldVet on January 18, 2012 9:23 AM:

    Of Willard and the non-Willards...

    In the land of midgets, the lone dwarf appears to be a very tall person.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 18, 2012 9:29 AM:

    Mr gulag is about right when he says that Mitt Romney could be the last president of the United States.

    President Romney will have the role of leader of our country until January 21, 2020. On that date, we shall official declare this nation as being The United Corporations of ameriKKKa. After that, our Board of Directors will select the CEO and we will have no further need for presidents.

    President Romney will be the perfect front person during this transition as he is already an integrated member of the 1/10 of 1%.

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 9:30 AM:

    My thoughts exactly! People don't realize that this guy is not who they think he is. There are reports that when his family fled to Mexico, they were a family with 5 kids and 5 slaves. This information supposedly came from a neighbor.

    Their family have a long history in this country. Romney-Pratt family. Here are some of the names, Oliver Pratt, Robert L. Pratt, Earl Romney, Frankie Pratt, Michael G. Pratt, Orson Pratt Brown, Martha "Mattie" diana Romney Brown, Mary Louis Pratt, Caroline Romney, Philip Pratt-he supposed to be the one to first develope the electric automobile in 1888, C.B. Pratt, John Pratt of London England, Pres. Lord Romney, the Pratt and Streatfield families - it is noted, it was his family that named Ontario Canada -Camden after Charles Pratt in 1714-94 of Romney Township. John E. Pratt - Tyler Co.

    I think this is why it seems he gets ticked off when people ask him questions. He feels he is entitled. That is why I call him "King Romney."

  • j on January 18, 2012 9:52 AM:

    I am intrigued with the story of the book that the McCain election team - last time compiled with all they needed to do to beat Romney, Steve, if you are there, or gulag - please please read it and pass along your thoughts.

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Most of us are already aware of the Mormons plan to turn the U.S. into an 'American Kingdon of Zion,' as they report it. We are already aware of their history in this country, for example, the cities and towns named after them, such as Pratt Kansas, Romney WV...and we know of Walt Whitman...

    But, I don't understand how most people given the history of the treatment in this country would go forward with a vote for him. For example, King James II and Olier Cromwell sold Irish into slavery - mainly women and children to work on plantation here and in the caribbean, before getting slaves from Africa in which the Arabs owned. But then James II owned Royal Co. an African slave trading co.

    There are couple of stories about this, one Irish lady Kate McCafferty wrote, "Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl." B.W. Higman wrote, "Slave Population of the British Caribbean." And "Island Paradise Reveals Irish Slavery." These books and stories reveal more than 100,000 children under the age of 14 sold to slave plantations.

    And George Romney did not march with MLK, he told the Free Press this, but, that he marched around the housing areas of Michigan to protest living and housing conditions. But, he also called in the National Guard to quell the riots '12th Street Riot' in Detroit, one of the worst riots in Detroit's history. So, if Romney was smart, he'd look back at history of the riots to see that people were fed up with unemployment, substandard housing, police brutality/profiling, and other social ills - instead of saying 'they are jealous and envious.'

  • OKDem on January 18, 2012 10:00 AM:

    As Jon Chait put it yesterday, the Republican frontrunner “has come to be defined, through a recurring series of off-the-cuff gaffes, as a callous, out-of-touch rich man.”

    Because he is a callous, out of touch rich man.

    Someone once said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

    But, heh, camels, must be some communist terrorist.

    Captcha: aim stwoule Yeah, lot of Reich wing stwoules.

  • ronval912 on January 18, 2012 10:22 AM:

    In the land of the politically blind the blind guy with the stick is king. At least blind Romney has a stick.

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 10:27 AM:

    My point here, is, Romney may be good with finances from a business perspective, but, he does not have people skills - he doesn't have it on the level of coming from a Public Administrative perspective. Meaning people who work in non-profits, community-based organizations in Urban areas. It's not like he was on the Board of Supervisors, City Council, Mayor...in areas of low-income, or even a police officer, public school teacher k-12.

    As yes, we do know why they passed the new laws on detention. We know that the economy is going to get worse which is why they probably did that. Point is, they don't have to worry about us in the urban 'hood type (areas) people, they are going to need to be more concerned with the people living in the small towns like in Idaho, Montana type places that have groups similar to sovereign or militia type citizens, and that is going to probably be the test or new type riots.

    No matter how much you try to get us to like Romney, it is not going to work. No matter how much you try to get us to vote for him, that's not going to work either.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 18, 2012 10:38 AM:

    re SKM...

    Methinks thou confusist meself with someone of a different ilk!

    My comments as RPOV are intended as a snarky amalgamation and interpretation of what is conveyed to me by many of my friends who are from the funding wing of the republican party.

    I give you 100% assurance that it not and will never be my intent to convince anyone to vote for Mittens; unless he runs for office as mayor of some New Hampshire toxic waste dump.

  • June on January 18, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Will we ever get past the point at which the American electorate lashes out in ignorant anger - with zero attempt to understand the dynamics of what's occurring beyond what they hear on their local stations and Fox News? Even if the economy did slip back into a recession - which the current economic consensus seems to be forecasting it will *not* -- why put into office a guy whose "ideas" would make that recession 1000 times worse? But oh, if that happened, Romney would simply blame Obama - so, I guess it's all good.

    The sheer scale of what this president has accomplished on all fronts is amazing, but here we are still talking about him "squeaking out" a win. Unbelievable.

  • SadOldVet on January 18, 2012 11:18 AM:

    re June...

    Obama better do better than "squeaking out a win". The whole point of the repuknican voter suppression efforts is to not have a repeat of 2008 when Obama won by too much to steal the election from him. The repukes only need to have the voting close enough that when they steal the election, the corporately owned media will not call them on it.

    For example...

    2000 - Florida was the difference in the election. Gore actually received more votes in Florida than George the Lesser. The Brooks Brothers Riot by republican staffers sent down from D.C. stopped the recounts long enough for the supremes to select Bush.

    2004 - Ohio was the difference in the election. Ohio voting results were reported very late, were inconsistent with exit polling (which was very accurate in every other state), and the voting totals were tabulated at a site in Tennessee affiliated with the Repuknican National Party. The vote was close enough that the repuke Secretary of State Blackwell could declare Bush the winner. The corporately owned media came up with lots of reasons why their exit polling must have been wrong in Ohio.

    Of course, in both cases, dumbocrap politicians being dimocrap politicians decided that they would not contest either of George The Lessers non-election to the presidency.

    Obama better do one hell of a lot better than 'squeaking out a win' if he is going to retake the oath of office next year.

  • sparrow on January 18, 2012 11:31 AM:

    I wonder if Mitt can actually carry a tune. He's obviously quite tone deaf. Telling the average Joe worker that $379,000 in speaking fees isn't all that much money is but one example of how out of touch the man is.

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 11:45 AM:

    then here is my sincere apology. I was confused, LOL!

    No. I don't think Romney will become president. At least he won't become president in 2012/13. With this election, the voters would more or less prefer a Catholic, if they can't have their choice of an evangelical type Christian.

    You also have the minority groups against him. He (Romney) made it clear he would vote against the Dream Act, institute the National I.D. - which they already have started this in India, using biometrics (eyes), and a couple other countries.

    In 2007, he said that Muslims are not welcome in his cabinet.

    The church he's from already have a long history of teaching that 'blacks have no soul,' meaning souless creatures, and that they are naturally cursed - so I think that is why he has no problem lashing out at Obama (even though Rudy Guiliani said that his governorship was a failed governor). And the fact that his family was slaveholders. Also, they don't really have a good history with Native Americans, at least most. At BYU and some of their other venues have said some incendiary things about the Natives.

    If you know any Mormons, like I do, they don't really socialize with people unless they have to, meaning at work or on missions (missionary). In fact, when Meghan McCain was on MSNBC about a week ago rooting for Romney. She said on television that the boys were NOT allowed to play with her and other neighbors when they were growing up - and then said now that the boys are all grown they are 'so cute.' Also, when the kids are on missions, they usually are sent away hundreds if not, thousands of miles away from home - saying they want them to focus on their mission. I think differently for the reason they are sent a long way from home.

  • majun on January 18, 2012 11:49 AM:

    There are only two logical explanations for the piss poor GOP field of candidates for POTUS.

    The first, and the one I favor, is that the GOP is colluding with the Democrats to guarantee Obama's re-election. Why they would do that - I don't know. But it sure looks that way.

    The second is, Romney has paid all the credible candidates (Christie, Pawlenty, etc. etc.) to stay out of the race. That theory is self-explanatory. But, it isn't likely because the sums of money that would have to be involved are too large to keep hidden. If nothing else, there would be evidence of a huge drop in Romney's net worth. But Romney isn't releasing any of his financial records you say? !!!!????

  • SKM on January 18, 2012 11:54 AM:

    LGBT community has something to worry about too. It was his church in Utah that denied ERA, and they funded Prop 8 in California.

    He also said on television that he supports 'Personhood.'

    I'm glad he is screwing up, because he keep blaming Obama for jobs - while it's the republicans that are laying off teachers, closing post offices, laying off police, releasing dangerous convicted felons into the neighborhoods...Romney did it himself with Daniel Tavares Jr. in Massachussetts - who murdered newlywed couple Beverly 28, and Brian 30 Mauck in Graham Washington. Then the judge he appointed, Kathe Tuttman, when she was prosecutor botched a case that released a child rapist.

  • Bill Huddleston on January 18, 2012 12:04 PM:

    the Republican frontrunner “has come to be defined, through a recurring series of off-the-cuff gaffes, as a callous, out-of-touch rich man.”

    Because he is.

    The reason he looks like the person who fired your parents from their factory job is that he is the person who fired them. I think a series of ads featuring men and women who lost their jobs due to Bain Capital's "constructive destruction" would be compelling viewing and devastating to the GOP campaign.

  • June on January 18, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Hey SadOldVet, I'm aware of all that, and agree with you. If Benen has one flaw, it's repeating worse-case scenarios at the end of his posts ad nauseam - that's essentially what I was referring to - the MSM and left-leaning blogs "conventional wisdom" that's floating around now.

  • Bj Smith on January 18, 2012 1:09 PM:

    It might come down to actual inequality. If enough moderates & possibly some repubs feel they are not getting a fair deal they may actually wake up finally & realize just how harmful things have become with republicans. Many became disenchanted with Bush, if they believe He left this mess they would never want them back in power. The harm has been so great& reasonable people knew it would take time. Obama is not perfect but under circumstances he was left,& obscene obstruction he has done surprisingly well.If we ever needed to remain cool & calm it is now. Obama vs Romney? No contest. May common sense & sanity prevail over stupidity & racism.

  • emjayay on January 18, 2012 6:29 PM:

    Re SKM: "National I.D. - which they already have started this in India, using biometrics (eyes), and a couple other countries."

    That national ID thing in India was invented by a rich tech guy because India is mostly completely disorganized and many (most?) people have no ID's of any kind which leads to a lot of duplication and waste of government services and a lot of people not getting government services they deserve among other problems. It's a high tech modern way of introducing a little efficiency. I don't think does not have anything to do with tracking dissidents or anything like that. It's not Big Brother, it's the opposite. Your credit card company knows a lot more about what you are up to than the Indian government will ever know about anyone.