By Roger Simon
The wheels are not coming off the Mitt Romney campaign. They came off some time ago. The press is just beginning to notice.
The Romney campaign is skidding along on its axles and scraping its muffler. Soon, it will be down to the dog on the roof.
I hate to say I told you so. No, scratch that. I love to say I told you so. I just don’t get to do it very often.
But as I have been saying for a while now, Mitt Romney is a deeply flawed candidate who got the Republican nomination by beating a ludicrously weak field. Don’t believe me?
You know who came in second? Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich was third, and Ron Paul was fourth. That’s not a field; that’s a therapy group.
Romney’s defects as a nominee, which I will get to in a moment, were obvious, but considered unimportant because he really did not have to attract voters. Instead, voters would flock to him.
They would be driven to him by a bad economy and a lack of jobs, jobs, jobs. The latter was the Romney campaign’s magical incantation that would make up for any of its own faults and deficiencies.
Did Team Romney face a well-funded incumbent, an inspirational orator who had assembled an experienced, battle-hardened campaign staff that understood the electoral map as well as any in history?
And did Team Romney understand that as much as the media dismissed conventions as meaningless, the Democrats would use their convention to rebrand the party as one that was strong on defense, big on determination and deeply concerned about our fighting forces?
Jobs, jobs, jobs, the Romney team chanted. That would solve everything. That would make voters desert President Obama in droves. And it did not matter that the evidence suggested otherwise. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for every month of the Obama campaign, and he has beaten Romney in the polls in every month of his campaign.
With its tunnel vision, the Romney campaign assumed an economic downturn would mean Americans would want to elect a businessman to the presidency.
Yet the economic downturn was caused in part by shady business practices, runaway greed and outright dishonesty at the highest reaches of America’s corporate community. Did Americans really want to elect the guy on the top of the Monopoly box or throw him in jail?
So how does a wheeler-dealer financier like Romney gain the public trust? By refusing to release a meaningful number of his back tax returns! Just trust him, he says. Because we know the Masters of the Financial Universe are always trustworthy, don’t we?
But wait. Does Romney trust his own vice presidential nominee? No, he does not. Romney demanded 10 years of Paul Ryan’s back tax returns before he selected him. So why should we show Romney the trust he would not show his own running mate?
Ronald Reagan had a simple formula: “Trust, but verify.”
We are told to trust Romney about his tax records and his Swiss bank accounts and all the rest. But how do we verify? We can’t.
And there is another thing that troubles me, even though some dismiss it as trivial. I am still bothered by Romney attacking that gay kid and cutting off his hair with a pair of scissors when they were in prep school.
A ghetto kid does that, and he gets booked for assault with a deadly weapon. But what does the son of a governor get? A law degree from Harvard.
Republicans accuse Obama of wanting to wage class warfare, but who is more class conscious than Romney? I can summarize what Romney said to a bunch of wealthy donors at a May fundraiser: America is divided between the deserving rich and bums who want a handout. Vote for me, and I’ll keep you rich. Thank you very much. Enjoy the chicken.
And when David Corn of Mother Jones obtained the video of those remarks and Romney was forced to hold a news conference, how did he explain them? “That’s something which fundraising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in,” Romney said.
No kidding. But no matter.
We still have the debates in October, and the debates can save Romney. Not that he is a masterful debater. At a debate last December, he decided to attack the hapless Rick Perry by betting him that he was wrong. “Rick, I’ll tell you what,” Romney said, sticking out hand. “Ten thousand bucks? Ten thousand dollar bet?”
As I wrote at the time: That’s right, Mitt. Remind the American people that $10,000 is chump change to you.
Romney won most of his primary debates, however, by staying above the fray and looking presidential. But that won’t work against Obama, who is, after all, an actual president.
Since Romney can salvage his campaign only by a stunning victory in these debates, he is going to have to attack Obama relentlessly. But you can bet on two things: Romney will be intensely uncomfortable in that role, and Obama will be well prepared for it.
I do not want to give the impression that Romney and Obama are polar opposites. They are not. Both are politicians. Both want power.
But after Nov. 6, only one of them is going to have any.
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