2/01/2008

Romney Antipathy and Republican Hypocrisy

Mitt Romney has emerged as John McCain's final rival for the Republican nomination. However, despite all of Romney's advantages, McCain is well positioned to demolish him on Super Tuesday and become the de facto Republican presidential nominee. This is all the more striking given how strong Romney appears to be on paper and how much dissatisfaction the conservative punditry has for McCain. Even those who might be sympathetic towards Romney are writing him off, as this article by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard suggests.

So in this post I'll address why Romney has struggled so much and why so many people simply don't care much for him or his campaign. And I'll also address how these reasons for knocking Romney make his Republican detractors look like, well, Democrats.

For starters, Romney is personally wealthy. Of all the candidates remaining, Romney has the highest net worth. (He's worth over $200 million.) Republicans loved to criticize John Edwards for his large house and expensive haircuts. But Romney is almost four times richer than Edwards is. So why is Romney's wealth a source of scorn among the other Republican candidates? The answer, in a word, is fundraising. While almost all of the Republican presidential candidates have had to press the flesh and hold one fundraiser after another, Romney's personal fortune allows him to simply write a check so he can finance his own campaign. This would suggest a mixture of envy and frustration because his less well off rivals have to work much harder to infuse their campaigns with as much cash as Romney can lend himself with just a few strokes of his pen.

Why does this make these Republicans sound like Democrats? Well, Democrats are the ones commonly accused of engaging in "class warfare." Republicans often talk about the importance of self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. Mitt Romney entered the private sector and made a boatload of money. One cannot begrudge his financial success there because this success epitomizes the Republican success story. Given Romney's hard work and shrewd investments, he has earned the financial independence he is taking advantage of in this campaign. So why resent him the way they accuse Democrats of resenting "the wealthy?" If they think Romney's cash gives him an unfair advantage in this campaign, then why don't they think the wealthy have an unfair advantage in life? And if these millionaire candidates resent Romney so much, how do they think average people making $70,000 a year feel about tax policies that are perceived to benefit these same millionaires?

A second reason reason behind the ill will towards Romney concerns his family and overall appearance. Romney is a handsome man with good hair, an attractive wife, and five handsome sons. They seem to be the "perfect" family with a "perfect" marriage and "perfect" values. And he's rich too. Mitt and Ann Romney seem very much like Ward and June Cleaver from 50 years ago. Conservative Christians, a major part of the Republican base, should love this, especially since the Romney family seems to be a perfect fit for their values. John McCain is on his second wife. Fred Thompson is too. Rudy Giuliani one-upped them by getting married for a third time. And yet, they all had more support than Romney at one time or another.

Nobody wants to say it publicly, but the "perfection" of Romney's family is a source of resentment. Half of all American families are divorced. It is now more common for children to grow up with one parent, step-parents, godparents, estranged parents, abusive parents, or grandparents than it is for them to grow up with a mother and father living in harmony. Romney's "perfect family" makes it seem like he is incapable of understanding the struggles that commonly tear families apart. It creates the sense that he is not connected to average people. But if Republicans are supposed to be the party that supports "family values," why do they treat Romney with such disdain and elevate those whose families seem more like those you would see among Democrats? Are Republicans really practicing what they preach in this regard? Would a twice-married McCain really be the most credible person to stand for the "family values" platform?

A third reason behind knocking Romney involves his conversions on several conservative issues. One doesn't have to dig deeply to see that Romney has changed his rhetoric on gay rights, abortion rights, gun rights, and illegal immigration. The Mitt Romney from the 1990s and early 2000s was far more moderate than the Mitt Romney of the 2008 campaign. However, while Romney may have changed his positions on these issues, the fact remains that he is now the most conservative candidate remaining. He is saying the right things on social issues, immigration, and economic policy.

So if Republicans want to nominate a conservative, then why don't they throw their weight behind a conservative? So many Republicans, talking heads, pundits, and even voters complain that McCain is not really a conservative, yet he continues to rack up victories and build on his momentum. Romney is a potentially attractive general election candidate who could put Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida in play. But are Republicans really about to nominate someone who has criticized Justice Sam Alito for "wearing his conservatism on his sleeve," is moderate on illegal immigration, and was responsible for the most recent changes to campaign finance laws (that Republicans often criticize because they restrict free speech)? If McCain wins the nomination, the answer would be "I guess so!"

If these issues were really that important to Republicans, then why wouldn't they nominate Romney? Or is rhetoric more important than results? If so, then why wouldn't Romney's rhetoric about curbing abortion and restricting gay rights, for example, be better received even though his "results" are as suspect as McCain's?

This brings up the issues of character and consistency. Ill-fated nominees Al Gore and John Kerry were often lampooned by conservatives for being stiff and for flip-flopping. The windsurfing ad against John Kerry was absolutely devastating. Republicans have even tried to accuse Hillary Clinton of flip-flopping on Iraq. In light of all this, why has the charismatically-challenged, flip-flopping Romney been able to outlive so many of his rivals? Why is Romney better positioned to win the nomination than Mike Huckabee, who has been more consistent in his positions, even if not all of them toe the conservative line? In the improbable event that McCain stumbles and cedes the nomination to Romney, it would be impossible for him to attack Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for flip-flopping on anything because the evidence showing Romney to be a hypocrite is simply too abundant.

Authenticity also ties neatly into this criticism. Republicans have riduculed Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, of pandering to various interest groups for the sake of votes. Much was made over Hillary Clinton's "Southern accent" when she was addressing a Black congregation at a church in Alabama a few months ago. And John Kerry was doomed by the photo of him donning hunting gear in an attempt to win over gun owners and sportsmen, who lean Republican. One could argue that Romney's conversions on social issues are akin to the very same run-of-the-mill pandering that they love to hate. However, one only need look at this YouTube video to realize that John Kerry and Hillary Clinton do not have a monopoly on such political absurdity. Has Romney been maligned by Republicans as severely for using the words "bling bling" as Kerry was for awkwardly toting a hunting rifle?

Political observers may have also picked up on the fact that Romney has adopted a lot of his opponents' rhetoric and even a few of their slogans. For example, Romney is now trying to present himself as a "change" candidate because "Washington is broken." (Never mind the fact that Republicans have controlled Congress for most of Bush's presidency and that he himself has talked about "doubling Guantanamo" and supports most of Bush's policies.) The Romney campaign now has signs saying "change begins with us." However, these signs look like ripoffs from Obama's "change we can believe in" and "stand for change" signs that he has been using for months. Even the font is similar! Compare this Romney sign photo with this Obama sign photo. It would seem that Romney is devoid of any ideas of his own, thus reinforcing the caricature of him that he has no core.

Romney probably won't be the GOP's presidential nominee, but his campaign perfectly illustrates the main problems Republicans have heading into the general election this fall:

1. The strength of the leading candidate (McCain) is out of step with the party base and suggests that nobody knows what a Republican is anymore. This is especially true given how more credible conservative candidates (Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, etc.) failed.

2. Defending the ideas and policies of the current administration while claiming "Washington is broken" and advocating "change" and "reform" suggests that Republicans seem to have run out of ideas. Both McCain and Romney regularly criticize Washington and want to "reform" it. But who broke it to begin with?

3. The dislike Republicans have for Romney and the support they have shown for candidates such as Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani in the past reflect the same type of thinking they commonly ridicule Democrats for. Resenting one's wealth sounds more like a Democratic talking point than a Republican one. And how can you claim to be the party of "family values" when you put forth nominees whose lives contradict your party platform?

4. The remaining candidate who best seems to represent the modern Republican Party (Romney) would require Republicans to accept or overlook the very same things they criticize Democrats for. In other words, Romney proves that Democrats don't have a monopoly on pandering, flip-flopping, and being unlikable. This would neutralize some of Hillary Clinton's weaknesses, in particular.

The fighting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is threatening to turn a very winnable election into a potential nailbiter. But given the Republicans' disarray and identity confusion, it seems that even the Democrats couldn't lose this election even if they tried.

10 comment(s):

Nikki said...

Great Post Anthony........I agree with all of it. I just wanted to mention the John Edwards and his riches and disdain by conservatives. To me it makes him hypocritical to rip on corporations and rich people and he is one. That is my problem with him. I don't care that he is rich, I don't think rich people who sit in castles should slam other rich people.
I do think most conservatives are afraid Romney couldn't beat Obama or hillary and so support goes to the most likely candidate that can attract independants and moderates who still have national sevurity as a top concern. Romney may be too contraversial to go up against the dems. Perhaps the next focus is running mates.....McCain /Lieberman or Romney vice may work.....The way Obama and Hillary were making nice at the last debate who knows that may be the ticket Obama/Hillary or Hillary/Obama..:)Nikki

Anonymous said...

Politico said the "control group" thought Huckabee won the Republican Debate -- what's so astonishing is that the control group consisted wholly of CALIFORNIA WOMEN -- that's right those independent-minded strong California Women thought Huckbee won -- now this flies in the face of the Media's Conventional notion that Huckabee only appeals to the Evangelicals -- so why isn't the Main-Stream Media covering this?????????? You can see the women's pre- & post-debate comments on Politico. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0108/8235.html

More importantly, today Politico did a story on Women being a key factor in the election -- so, this makes Huckabee's win even more ASTOUNDING & NEWS WORTHY. So, again, why isn't the MSM covering this?

Oh, and by the way -- Huckabee's press secretary has been trying to get him on Hannity's show tonight -- any success with that??????? Hmmmmm [Just in- they've now said Yes for tonight, Feb 1]

How about a debate between Hannity & Huckabee -- since Huckabee's not only running against the Republican Candidates -- but the Media as well? Perhaps this could be held on another "Fair & Balanced" network -- any suggestions??

Also, Mike is only 1% behind Romney in New National Poll!! So HOW DARE the media ignore and suppress him? For Poll Results see: http://race42008.com/2008/02/01/poll-watch-fox-news-gop-national/

oso diablo said...

What is Romney's credible scenario for securing the nomination? He's been spotted a 3 touchdown lead (media and money advantages) and hasn't been able to best McCain. It's time for the conservative establishment and media to try something else. That something else is Governor Huckabee, an authentic conservative, an authentic American.

Thomas said...

I agree with this post wholeheartedly, Anthony. I would add that Romney just did not seem comfortable out on the campaign. He had a stiff quality. I remember in the MLK video where he talked about the "bling bling," his hand was tapping his leg for at least part of the video. I just never seemed to be able to talk to normal people.

I knew certain people in law school who you could tell from class participation were really knowledgeable about the subject we were studying that day. When you talked to them later, they couldn't have a regular conversation about movies or music or weekend plans.

Mitt Romney reminds me of those guys.

Itamazesus said...

Hey, Huckabee folks - get over it! And I got credibility, because I want Huck to win - just for the jokes. But the reality is his uber-Christian rhetoric, flip-flop on illegals,non-grasp of foreign policy - are all non-starters for the GOP.

As to McCain's win, perhaps the Iraq debacle and obscene deficits has made some free-thinking neo-cons think twice about their values. Let's hope so.

Go Ron.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

but such is true with both party;s. chk this out. now this is a real woman. chk this out he has a Coretta.

Anonymous said...

lol @ authentic American. You are an authentic idiot.

Anthony Palmer said...

Nikki,

Romney is not going to be anybody's VP this cycle. McCain and Huckabee sincerely don't like him. And I think Romney would be more of a liability on the ticket because of his inconsistencies. I don't think he could even deliver Massachussetts in a general election.

As for Edwards, he's not doing anything any other politician isn't already doing/has already done. Almost every politician who runs for federal office or the presidency is wealthy. And railing against big business is at the core of populism. It's not about railing against rich people. It's about railing against the policies that seem to advantage the well off more than average people, especially when it comes to tax breaks.

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Anonymous 1,

The problem for Huckabee is perception. If McCain is Obama, then Huckabee is Edwards. Huckabee is a strong candidate, and probably stronger than Romney. But while he may end up beating Romney on Super Tuesday, McCain is the rival standing between him and the nomination. I think Huckabee is a stronger candidate than Romney, but the problem is that McCain is much stronger and Huckabee seems reticent about attacking McCain. Much like Obama stood in Edwards' path, McCain does the same for Huckabee, IMO.

Regarding Fox News, it's always interesting to see how Republicans are complaining that the network is not "fair and balanced" when it comes to seemingly prompoting one GOP candidate over another. Democrats have been complaining about FNC for years.

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Oso,

You ask a very good question. I think for Romney to win, he would need McCain to stumble badly. Maybe a "senior moment" or something else that reminds voters about his age and capacity to lead could provide enough doubts in enough minds for Republicans to take a pass on him. If it comes down to Romney vs. Huckabee, I'm not really sure who would win that because both candidates have some major weaknesses. But Romney's immediate problem isn't Huckabee; it's McCain.

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Thomas,

I think there's a new threat opening up for Romney. Since Obama's line about "not getting a good return on his investment," I've been hearing more in the media about Romney's millions and how much of his own money he's spending on ads. A new storyline of him "trying to buy the nomination" could emerge and sink his candidacy. I don't think Romney has much of a political future personally because he's damaged goods. He would have been in the catbird seat had he run as the moderate he was when he governed Massachussetts. Pandering to conservatives has given him the stigma of being phony and inconsistent. And now his money, which used to be an advantage, is now a potential disadvantage.

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Itamazesus,

Unfortunately, it looks like Ron Paul's ship has sailed. Because Republicans can only choose between the untrusted McCain, the phony Romney, and the foreign policy lightweight Huckabee, I'm sure there's a yearning for an alternative. However, I'm not so sure Ron Paul is that alternative. Paul has performed better than Thompson and Giuliani in several contests so far, but they all dropped out. Paul is now the new asterisk guy, so to speak. I think voters know who he is, and they have decided that they aren't interested.

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Torrance,

You are right in that most politicians are guilty of hypocrisy and pandering. It just seems particularly more obvious in Romney's case. Seeing this sorry lot of candidates run for office really opens up the possibility for an independent candidacy in the general election. Bloomberg would like to run, but I doubt he would, especially if Obama and McCain are the nominees. A pragmatic moderate would probably clean up this fall if such a candidate existed.

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Anonymous 2,

If you mean that Huckabee is no more an "authentic American" than Joe Schmoe, your point is well taken. Your reference to Oso, however, is not. Keep your focus on the candidate, not the commenter.

Thomas said...

Anthony, I wrote my own post about Romney. Here is is: http://punditssmundits.blogspot.com/2008/02/superconservatize-me.html

Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductable crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductable contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. WAKE UP PEOPLE. ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Vioxx. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of which concentrate the world’s wealth and resources and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘ good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTABLE PR CRAP. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.