Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Romney to Criticize "Career Politicians" in Shot at Perry [UPDATED]

That's Mitt Romney ... the ultimate political outsider and down-to-earth populist.

It's not like he's the privileged son of a former Michigan governor who later served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. It's not as if his mother was herself a candidate for the U.S. Senate. And it's not like Mitt was Governor of Massachusetts and has spent practically the last 20 years running for one office or another. Right?

Allow me to reiterate: Mitt has been running for office for the last 20 years, although his efforts have only resulted in one stint as Governor of Massachusetts. Does spending 20 years running for office, regardless of electoral success, at least sort of qualify one as a "career politician"?

In effect, Romney's criticism amounts to little more than "Perry has been more successful at getting elected than I have been", which doesn't strike me as an altogether compelling case in an electoral climate in which "electability" and "experience" (or lack thereof) are constant buzzwords.

And, besides, Perry hasn't spent his entire career in politics:

  • Perry did a stint as an Air Force pilot (a military record that is conspicuously absent from Romney's resume - as well as the resumes of every male member of the Romney family, although Romney's sons apparently "served their country", according to their dad, by working on Romney's last presidential campaign); and

  • Perry was a farmer and a rancher before running for his first political office.

  • UPDATE #2
    Jonathan Last makes a familiar-sounding observation:
    Ross Douthat [ED.: Gosh, I'm really starting to hate that guy!] seems in danger of jumping on the Romney meat-wagon. He writes that despite Rick Perry’s position, Romney should not panic because “Romney doesn’t have to worry about any of the rival candidates making a play for his core supporters.”

    We’re going to hear this argument a lot in the coming months from Romney partisans as they try to argue that something they would like to happen is, in fact, likely to happen. It’s worth taking this pundit fallacy apart now because it gets to the nub of why I’ve been insisting for four years that Romney is a non-starter as a political commodity—it’s precisely because he has no core supporters. Which is why he is not very good at winning elections.

    Let’s revisit Romney’s campaigns:


    1) Romney made his political career out of his “close” 17-point loss to Ted Kennedy. But keep in mind that to only lose by 17, he spent $7M of his own money. But more importantly, this was the 1994 midterm election—so he got blown out during the biggest Republican wave in half a century.

    (2) The high-point of his electoral career was the 2002 MA governor’s race, where he took 49.77%. Even in the biggest win of his life, he couldn’t capture more than 50% of the vote.

    (3) It’s funny that Romney’s line of attack on Perry seems to be that Perry is a “career politician” because he’s been in elective office since 1984. Well, Mitt Romney would have been a career politician too, if only voters would have let him. He’s been running since 1994. His real gripe about Perry is actually, “Hey, that guy wins all the time! No fair!”


    Douthat says that “The greatest danger to Romney’s candidacy — the thing that could destroy him long before the voting even started — has always been that a more appealing establishment candidate would enter the race.” But that’s not right at all. The greatest danger to Romney’s candidacy is that he has no constituency because he’s not very good at campaigning and, as the electoral results of the last 17 years have shown, voters don’t like him very much. The danger to the Romney candidacy is the candidate...

    (emphasis and editorial commentary added]

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