Advice for Romney from National Review's Editors
On Thursday morning, National Review's editors offered a surefire way of putting Mitt Romney over the top with "swing" voters. Call it a circular firing squad. Or just mush.
The NR editors' advice: ladle out a share of blame to George W. Bush for the nation's economic mess. No. Wait. Don't blame the former president. Instead, indict Republican governance before Barack Obama assumed the presidency.
But no, come to think of it, don't do that.
Of course, you know swing voters -- that 5% to 8% of the electorate that Romney and the Republicans are handling gingerly like porcelain figurines. Establishment Republicans and their conservative cohorts have tied themselves into pretzels to convince everyone and his brother that Romney needs to run a non-campaign campaign lest the former governor turn off undecideds. So the Romney campaign serves out heaping-helping spoonfuls of Gerry Ford tapioca, George H. Bush cream puffs, and Bob Dole pabulum. Not always, but alarmingly, all too routinely.
Here are the NR editors in their own words (italics added):
The Romney campaign acknowledges that the crisis began before Obama took office, but it has next to nothing to say about what Bush-era Republicans got wrong. The result is that Romney appears to be saying that everything was going swimmingly until Obama came along. That impression lends credence to Obama's attempt to portray Romney as running for Bush's third term. Romney's silence about the errors of the Bush years is, on the other hand, understandable, since many Republicans continue to hold Bush in high esteem as a good man who tried to do a lot of good things. Since most Americans consider Bush a failure, Romney cannot embrace him either. So Bush has been an awkward non-presence in the campaign: the man who was not there.
Hmm. Really? Romney saying that the economic crisis began before Mr. Obama assumed office means that it began under...George W. Bush? Or did we miss something? Why should Mr. Romney be pointing fingers at his fellow Republicans?
The NR editors say that Romney's silence on the Bush years is "understandable"? But, you know, maybe if Romney could take a few shots at Bush, well, that might not be so bad. But the NR editors appreciate why Romney isn't going to pull the trigger on that one.
How many Democrats subsequent to Jimmy Carter ran against Mr. Carter, who was one failed president in the eyes of most Americans? In fact, Democrats don't typically even muse about the possibility of running against another Democrat in a general election. They know better than to eat their own. Democrats train their fire on Republicans -- yes, in their mixed-up minds, Republicans, whom they distinguish as the real opposition. You see, Democrats genuinely hunger to win and play hard to do so. Losing "honorably" isn't part of the Democrats' code.
NR editors offered this marginalia to Romney for consideration:
What Romney should say is that our country has problems that have been building since long before Obama took office, and that what's wrong with Obama is that he has either left them unaddressed or made them worse.
How much difference is there between the Romney campaign acknowledging that the economic crisis began before Obama took office and the editors' suggestion that economic problems were building "since long before" Mr. Obama started swinging his leftist wrecking ball? NR editors sound like lawyers more than politicos. Or Manhattan and D.C. insiders.
And if Romney nudges his messaging to say that problems existed "since long before" Mr. Obama's term, what critique should he then offer? Surely Republican Congresses aren't primarily culpable for bad laws and runaway spending! Wouldn't Romney have to lay the housing bust squarely at the feet of Bill Clinton and Democrats, who tirelessly pushed laws and policies to permit the unqualified to obtain credit to buy houses? How about Dodd-Frank?
Oh, but Romney can't do that -- indict past Democrats for the mess the nation is in. Those swing voters whom Romney and GOP insiders have made a totem of would get bent out of shape and vote for Mr. Obama out of spite.
This is the central problem of the Romney campaign and its establishment enablers. Rather than enunciating broad conservative principles and remedies with confidence and advancing smart critiques of President Obama and his woeful performance confidently, Romney and the GOP establishment are reduced to playing on the margins. Trying to tweak messaging to slice off a few votes here and there.
Most voters, who are living their lives for much more than politics and elections, aren't likely to tune in to nuances.
Romney may win this critical election -- let's pray he does -- but it will be due more to a bad economy, mounting troubles overseas, and the grace of God than to a good strategy, which should be based on rock-solid conservative principles and ideas, and not neutered arguments and finding fault with one's own.