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Dec 06 2012

Jennifer Rubin’s Chutzpah

When it comes to serious chutzpah, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than this column by Jennifer Rubin criticizing chief Romney strategist Stuart Stevens for writing that Washington Post op-ed defending Romney’s performance and saying he won on the ideas and won all the really important people (white men, of course).

Stevens should have written himself a letter, but instead he penned an op-ed for The Post. Granted, it is loyal to his candidate. Unlike the sleazy McCain presidential campaign (whose aides didn’t even wait for the voting to start before dumping on their ticket), Stevens has nothing but good things to say about his candidate, doling out (warranted) praise for Romney’s debate performance and recognizing he did speak up for the free market. And he does a service to Romney in pointing out that the much-maligned candidate won every income group except those making less than $50,000 and also won younger, white voters. (It is a bit galling, however, for the consultant who was allergic to an idea-driven campaign to praise Romney’s boldness on entitlement reform and effort in “making the moral case” for capitalism.)

But Stevens fails in precisely the way in which the campaign failed: a refusal to acknowledge real and material incompetence by himself and others on the campaign. The piece stubbornly refuses to express regrets or apologies for a campaign that, as evidence has come forth, makes “The Perils of Pauline” look like the Rockettes.

The closest Stevens comes to admitting any responsibility for a campaign with grossly defective polling, weirdly ineffective ad buying and a get-out-the-vote operation that will forever give Orca whales a bad name is this: “In my world, the definition of the better campaign is the one that wins.”

So let’s add up the score. Stevens says Romney is an amazing guy and a wonderful candidate who won the battle of ideas but lost because so many of those pesky non-white people liked Obama better; Rubin says Romney is an amazing guy and a wonderful candidate who lost because Stevens sucked at his job. Remember, this is coming from someone who was so deep in the tank for Romney that she was practically sharing that rooftop car box with the family dog. Funny stuff.

Why hasn’t it occurred to any of these people that Romney was a terrible candidate? I mean terrible. Stiff, awkward, robotic and about as devoid of charm as a human being could possibly be.

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  1. 1
    Brain Hertz

    …the much-maligned candidate won every income group except those making less than $50,000…

    $50,000 is approximately the median household income in the US. So “every income group except those making less than $50,000″ would be … everybody except for half of the entire country?

    Unless the figures are referring to individuals, in which case the statement is even more ridiculous.

  2. 2
    busterggi

    Hmmm…. Romney lost the Jewish vote too, I guess, by Rubin’s logic, Rubin herself doesn’t cout as important.

  3. 3
    raven

    What I most disliked about Romney/Ryan.

    1. They were unappealing people. I wouldn’t trust them to have my back. In fact, if they ever got behind me, I’d panic.

    2. No coherent economic and tax plans. They were vague. Clearly, if they described their plans, no one smart would vote for them.

    3. They were representing the economic elites. By definition, the vast majority of US people aren’t ultra-rich.

    4. Everything else.

  4. 4
    hunter

    Rubin is right on one point: Stevens was everything that was wrong with the Romney campaign — well, almost everything: there was, after all, Romney.

  5. 5
    nooneinparticular

    What I want to know is who the hell makes comparisons to “The Perils of Pauline” and the Rockettes these days? Almost everyone reading that is going “whaaaa?”

  6. 6
    gregoryhilliard

    “every income group except those making less than $50,000″ would be … everybody except for half of the entire country?

    Brian, I heard somewhere that it’s actually 47 percent …

    And Ed, Romney may have been a stiff, but remember: Like McCain in 2008, he was the best the Republicans had. That should give the GOP pause, but it won’t. Santorum 2016!

  7. 7
    bryanfeir

    And Ed, Romney may have been a stiff, but remember: Like McCain in 2008, he was the best the Republicans had.

    Not necessarily; he was the best that they could convince the crazy people in the party to vote for, sure. Romney was enough of a yes-man to fake crazy pretty well if that’s what the people holding the strings wanted. The actual relatively non-crazy people (Huntsman being the only one who immediately comes to mind, admittedly,) washed out pretty early.

  8. 8
    looseleaf

    I’m glad it was Romney out there “making the moral case for capitalism,” because he is such a great example of the immoral case for capitalism. He’s the epitome of grasping materialism and perverted individualism, and he’s more than insensitive to the idea of community and diversity, he’s allergic to it. He sees our country and indeed the world and it’s people as one great smorgasbord of mercenary opportunity for himself and his greedy cohort. That had to have been so obvious to so many people, and so distasteful and untrustworthy, that, as @raven said, it engendered more a sense of anxiety and panic than appeal. It certainly was the case with me; the guy just gives me the creeps and I’d check for my wallet if he ever got near me.

  9. 9
    screechymonkey

    I don’t think Romney was a terrible candidate. (In the sense I assume Ed means it, as pure political ability.)

    No, he isn’t warm or particularly charismatic. But he was pretty good at keeping his composure and disguising his nasty side. He had the kind of rigorous, stick-to-your-talking-points “message disciple” that, sadly, is the most important skill in today’s politics.

    Remember, he survived umpteen Republican debates in which almost every other candidate (except, strangely, Ron Paul) was gunning for him. And while that wasn’t exactly a Murderer’s Row of forensic talent (maybe murderers of logic, reason, and decency), it’s not easy to survive multiple attacks even from that crowd, and especially when the Republican base was always skeptical of Romney’s “true conservative” credentials and desperate to find an alternative.

    Maybe the way to answer the question is this: where does Romney rank compared to the other major party Presidential nominees? I’d say he’s still a more skilled candidate than Dukakis, Kerry, or McCain. And if you think this is damning with faint praise, then maybe the interesting question is why both parties are producing so many “terrible” nominees.

  10. 10
    jnorris

    Looking back over the Romney/Ryan campaign, it was as if they weren’t even trying. the lessons of 2012 are slowly seeping into the Republican Tea Party heads and the first lesson is lose the Tea Party and American Taliban.

  11. 11
    Ichthyic

    He had the kind of rigorous, stick-to-your-talking-points “message disciple” that, sadly, is the most important skill in today’s politics.

    what??? tell me that’s sarcasm.

    the man changed his “talking points” on a near daily basis, the only predictor to be able to guess what he was going to say being who he was going to be saying it to!

    man, time makes some people remember things with a gauzy haze, I guess?

    In fact, Romney was the WORST at exactly this very thing I can ever recall for a single candidate in my lifetime.

  12. 12
    Ichthyic

    Remember, he survived umpteen Republican debates in which almost every other candidate (except, strangely, Ron Paul) was gunning for him.

    the clown that survived the 3 ring circus.

    I fail to be impressed.

  13. 13
    screechymonkey

    Ichthyic, what I meant by “message discipline” was the art of diverting any question in a debate or an interview back to the kind of generic, focus-group-approved talking points that keep you out of trouble. You avoid saying anything that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted or anything that would require you to think on your feet.

    Like how Romney tried to turn every question in the foreign policy debate into a question about the domestic economy, or how a question in the town hall debate about crime got turned into a “let’s bash single mothers” routine.

    I agree that there were plenty of inconsistencies coming out of Romney’s mouth during the course of the campaign, but if they’re only the kinds of things that appear on liberal blogs or on fact-checker sites, that counts as a win for the campaign.

  14. 14
    screechymonkey

    Adding to my last comment: sort of like how different Republicans handle abortion questions. Akin and Murdoch couldn’t resist rambling about their religious and “medical” beliefs. Paul Ryan has the same “no exceptions” position on the issue, but he won’t discuss it in depth on the record, he just mouths some platitudes about the sacredness of life and then pivots to telling the same story about his wife’s sonogram that he’s used a thousand times.

    As a result, even though Ryan’s position is just as cruel and oppressive, he “gets away” with it among many voters.

  15. 15
    Dr X

    Romney won the war of bigot ideas, capturing overwhelming majorities in every bigot group in America.

  16. 16
    Ichthyic

    You avoid saying anything that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted or anything that would require you to think on your feet.

    47%

  17. 17
    screechymonkey

    47%

    I’m not sure if you’re agreeing with me or disagreeing on this point. The 47% speech was made behind closed doors, in a meeting Romney didn’t know was being recorded. It’s exactly the kind of thing that he had been avoiding saying publicly.

    Once it was out there, Republicans in general seemed to struggle with whether to embrace the sentiment openly or try to walk it back, but I think the campaign itself was fairly consistent in trying to walk it back. (With middling success, thanks in part to all the brave Galtian heroes who wanted him to own the comments.)

    So sure, Romney slipped up in a (presumed) private meeting with donors. But I’m not sure we can expect any politician to stay on message even in those settings. Obama made the same mistake in 2008 with the “bitter people clinging to their guns and religion” stuff. Which, don’t get me wrong, is more defensible than the 47% stuff, because among other things Obama was talking about the need to reach out and persuade those voters rather than just writing them off like Romney was.

  18. 18
    acroyear

    “Stiff, awkward, robotic and about as devoid of charm as a human being could possibly be.” – which was exactly the same criticism in the end leveled on Kerry and Gore, especially Kerry. Go fig.

  19. 19
    Ichthyic

    It’s exactly the kind of thing that he had been avoiding saying publicly.

    do you really think that?

    Once it was out there, Republicans in general seemed to struggle with whether to embrace the sentiment openly or try to walk it back

    that’s not what I saw.

    I saw firm embrace of it.

    the campaign itself was fairly consistent in trying to walk it back

    depended on the day, and which member of the campaign you spoke to.

    you seem to have a much rosier memory of this that is actually warranted.

    curious.

  20. 20
    valhar2000

    Ichthyic:

    I saw firm embrace of it.

    I agree with Screechymonkey: there was some effort made to explain away or bury that comment, but it was largely hampered by people outside the campaign who were eager for Romney to make that a central part of his message.

  21. 21
    skinnercitycyclist

    @gregoryhilliard:

    Santorum 2016!

    Yes, that is the winning solution.

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