Perennial Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney reportedly said the following, in advance of Michigan GOP primary:
“It’s very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments… We’ve seen throughout the campaign that if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama that you’re going to jump up in the polls. You know, I’m not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support.”
[This quote and a few others taken from the linked-to Washington Post article by Philip Rucker, Nia-Malika Henderson & David A. Fahrenthold.]
This may seem like a common-sense, even long-over-due statement from another Republican Candidate for President (let’s not forget Jon Huntsman), I’m inclined to be more skeptical. This is because his doing just that – pandering to every canard of the conservative base – has utterly failed to either give him a jump in the polls or maintain his front-runner lead and “inevitable” status. Now, to be fair, Romney’s managed to keep from spouting really crazy stuff – which suggests that the reason he’s against being incendiary is that he’s just not that good at it – but I feel he’s protesting a little too much, here.
This is yet more evidence that Candidate Romney is unable to grasp the fact that the internet allows everyone to search and re-live his pandering to the conservative base, of which there is quite a lot. I would say it’s amazing how he’s attempting to re-brand himself again… except it’s not. It’s entirely within his character to attempt to re-brand when something doesn’t appear to be working.
The man who could be called Candidate Weathervane has decided that he wants to be more like mild-mannered, sane former Governor and Ambassador John Huntsman, who bowed out of the race not so long ago. Jon Huntsman who Candidate Romney (and everyone else in the GOP) mocked for refusing to ‘set his hair on fire’, and got blasted by many people who make up the Republican base when he wrote in a tweet that suggested that the conservative opposition to science was ridiculous:
While on the subject of Candidate Romney and the Michigan primary, there appears to be something else interesting going on, and that’s with regards to Democrats voting in the GOP primary (it’s an open one). Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, apparently, has been robo-calling Democratic voters in the state, encouraging them to vote for him (or, at least, against Romney), in order to swing the vote for the former Senator.
According to the WaPo article mentioned above, Romney accused Santorum of “doing the work” of Obama’s re-election team and the United Auto Workers union. He argues that GOP voters need to “recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process,”, and that the only way the Republican Party could elect a winning candidate would be to “say no to the dirty tricks” – which, to me, suggests he’s not too familiar with historical Republican electoral tactics…
However, Candidate Romney has a problem with criticising open primaries because he has himself benefited from conservative Democrats voting for him (such as those who helped him with in New Hampshire). According to an ABC article by Russell Goldman, in New Hampshire, Romney got 39% of the votes cast in the primary: 51% of the voters who took part were either Democrats (4%) or Independents (47%). While he didn’t win either group (Huntsman won Democrats, Paul won independents), Romney did nevertheless get votes from these two groups (he won 14% of Democrats), which helped put him in the lead and ultimately win the primary with 49% of the total votes cast.
Adding yet another problem for Romney, is the fact that he voted in the Democratic primary in 1992 in order to meddle with that electoral race. Romney’s claim that the 1992 situation was “very different” to the 2012 situation, because he was not “a candidate for president buying ads and telling the Democrats to go mess into a Republican primary” [sic], is as weak as Light beer served in a dive bar with a high water bill. His explanation, from 2007, argues that (in Benjy Sarlin’s words) it is “fair game for partisans to participate in the primary with their own team’s best interests in mind”. Then-(as always-)Candidate Romney’s actual words were:
“When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.”
Rick Santorum’s defence of courting Democratic vote (or “Reagan Democrats” as he insists on calling them), actually had a modicum of political validity, claiming that he was “seeking to attract the kind of blue-collar voters who had crossed party lines to vote for GOP candidates before”. I personally don’t believe him – he’s doing just what he needs to win the primary, nothing more – but his line is far easier to accept because he’s not condemning an act he has benefited from and committed himself.