Those who are supporting Romney because Newt went negative and unfairly attacked Bain ought to be more than a little disturbed that Romney is deliberately distorting Newt’s Congressional ethics record.
Add (see my post yesterday) that someone on Romney’s team selectively pulled obscure quotations, deliberately out of context, and handed them to Elliot Abrams (one assumes he has not himself been pouring over age old special orders for quotations one could miscast), to smear Newt as being insufficiently conservative and Reagan-supporting, when Newt’s determined support for Reagan was one of the things we ought to all be grateful for, makes this a pattern. It ought to give the “Romney’s more ethical” choir pause.
Newt had many faults for which he can be criticized, but these myriad charges were slung at the wall by desperate Democrats in Congress, who were furious at their defeat, and trying to balance out the sins of Bill Clinton. The charges DID NOT HOLD UP; indeed, it was a political mugging, and on review the IRS said there were no violations at all. Romney knows that.
That Romney nonetheless would use these despicable, known-to-be-false arguments (and there are no shortages of others he could legitimately use) unfortunately indicate that he’s just one more ambitious guy who’ll say whatever he needs to say, and spend what he needs to spend, to get what he wants. Apparently he’s just been successful and powerful enough all his career that we haven’t seen what happens when someone gets in his way (who would want to?), and how well that virtue holds up.
It would be MUCH better for the party, and for Romney, if he doesn’t walk away with Florida despite his bottomless financial capacity to saturate the state with breathakingly negative ads. (Will he be that hard on Obama? If so, where has he been these last years? Where was he in the ObamaCare fight when he actually could have helped the country, not just himself?)
Already we have seen that he — who didn’t have answers for his tax returns, or better defenses of Bain, and didn’t prepare any despite seeing that they were coming, has been improved by not being able to presume his own coronation.
Moreover, Romney remains deeply vulnerable, something his supporters seem to have trouble seeing, not just to Occupy Wall Street this summer, and the entire fairness 1% meme – whose premise Romney has already accepted in his incremental tax plans – but to Axelrod & Co’s predictable distorting but vicious attacks.
Those attacks will come, on things like Bain’s connection to the Guinness Scandal and Romney’s adult participation in a church that until 1978 singled out blacks as not having full rights and privileges. Will the attacks be fair? No. Will they come? Yes. Is Romney prepared for them? Given past performance on what should have been layups, one can safely say: absolutely not.
And that leaves aside Romney’s real problem with the conservative base: his own understanding of what happened in MA. He ignored every accurate prediction the Wall Street Journal made in imploring him not to impose Romneycare, and even now somehow thinks that a mandate which imposes increased costs and fewer choices on everyone only applies to 8% of the MA population.
His capacity to argue powerfully and persuasively on ObamaCare is deeply compromised by this — there is a difference between a state being allowed to do something, per 10th Amendment, and whether that something is good policy — and if he doesn’t understand the larger principle the Republican base won’t trust him, because so far his redefinition of the idea of “individual responsibility” apparently is “the (state) government tells you you will be responsible, and the (state) government will decide what that entails, and what your menu of choices are” — basically, Obama’s position. And we will not win, nor likely see full repeal and a genuinely better approach, with Obama v. Obama Lite.
So please, hope that Romney has to work at least a little longer and harder in the primary sparring room, lest like John Kerry he gets to the Main Event, and is unprepared for what hits him.