John Hinderaker encapsulates an assumption which has started to take hold among many of Mitt Romney’s backers: that the fault for what appears to be an increasingly likely 2012 election loss lies with conservatives for making this a real primary. Speaking of the see-saw of not-Romney candidates, he writes:
The same pattern has been repeated more than once during the current, discouraging presidential nominating process. If the GOP loses this year’s presidential contest, the party will have no one to blame but its own activists.I'm hearing this meme repeated by many increasingly dejected Romney supporters around Washington, D.C. See, if people had just gotten in line when we told them to, the theory goes, things would be looking up. But this is revisionist history, and this is a meme that deserves to die.
It is ludicrous to claim that the fault lies among conservatives for Romney's precipitous drop among independents, which he’s endured over the past month (in some polls, it's been a negative swing of 20 points), the primary reason he now lags Obama in most measures. Consider: since Romney ground Newt Gingrich into pulp in Florida with his 65-1 ad ratio three weeks ago, there has been not one debate, not one major piece of scandal or breaking news, not even one major round of negative ads against Romney. There has only been a series of gaffes on Romney's part (most notably his line about not caring about the very poor) and a series of numbers which show mild economic improvement.
In reality, it’s those who demanded conservatives get in line ages in advance who made a fundamental mistake in how they approached this election. By demanding an ideological shift from a more populist, more fiscally conservative base they no longer direct or control, Romney’s most prominent backers failed to learn any of the right lessons from what led to the 2009-2010 cycles. They failed to realize that the base expected more from a candidate, from a leader, than the politics and policy of the past.As (an embarrassed) Romney supporter, I think this is simpler than that:
- Romney embarked upon a strategy that bet that the establishment and libertarian wings of the Republican Party would let him ignore the social conservatives, saying as little as possible until he was nominated, at which time he could run as rightish centrist and capture the independents.
- He lost. The right wing nailed him down and forced him to go on the record.
- He's genuinely embarrassed when he has to lie to pander for votes, and the embarrassment makes him look like a lying weasel.
As for Romney, I hope he hoists the Jolly Roger. I think he'd be impressive as hell if he ever told us all what he really thinks.