The National Journal’s Ron Fournier uses unsuccessful Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s bitter claim to donors that he lost because President Barack Obama offered a slew of tempting “gifts” to key constituencies to look at the five “gifts” Romney gave America. It’s worth looking at them here:
1) The race card. It arrived by air, not mail, but it was nonetheless a campaign hallmark when Romney’s team falsely accused Obama of gutting welfare-to-work legislation signed by President Clinton. The Romney campaign knowingly exploited the anxieties of some white, working-class voters who see welfare as a handout to minorities (despite the fact that more whites than blacks get government assistance).
Indeed, it was defined as the race card by many Americans including many African-Americans but in the end if probably helped Obama. So much for all the about how Obama couldn’t get a large part of the African-American vote out. The outage over the Romney campaign’s playing of this card was real and intense and made Democrat GOTV easier.
2) Class war. Another gift that wouldn’t stop giving, Romney declared that his campaign wouldn’t worry about the 47 percent of the electorate that was unlikely to vote for him because they paid no income taxes and were dependent on the government. Yes, there is an element of racial politics in this cynical construct, but we won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Fittingly, Romney finished with about 47 percent of the vote.
And his comments about Obama winning to due “gifts” was a slightly revised version of his 47% comments.
3) Civil war. Losing to an incumbent yoked to a weak economy leads to introspection, which is a fancy word for retribution. Republicans are at war over the question of whether to fight or bow to demographic change. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, knows that citing “gifts” to blacks and Hispanics is no way to broaden the party’s appeal. Asked about Romney’s comments, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association became visibly agitated, according to Politico. “No, I think that’s absolutely wrong,” he said at a press conference that opened the RGA’s postelection meeting. “We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent.”
Who among the Baby Boomers who admired George Romney ever would have thought that his son would come down on the side of not just the far right but part of the GOP which sees unable to realize that growing groups that are now Democratic-leaning should not be dissed or insulted by attracted to the Republican Party by the power of thoughtful arguments and affirmative ideas?
4) Flip-flops flop. For those who believe authenticity is a crucial attribute for a candidate, Romney’s defeat is a gift. He paid for “evolving” on so many issues. A lesson for candidates: Obama’s victory suggests that voters don’t have to agree with every one of your policies or even fully approve of your job performance to support you–if they believe that you’re comfortable in your own skin, with a consistent hold on some values.
Romney just didn’t produce enough flip flops to fill up a Walmart. He produced enough flip flops to send to China go fill its entire quota of flip flops exported to the world.
5) Open fundraisers. Romney made the 47 percent comment at a fundraiser that he thought was private. He spoke of “gifts” on a conference call to donors, not realizing that reporters were listening. If future presidents and presidential candidates open their fundraisers to the media–or at least learn that they can’t say one thing to all voters and another to high-dollar friends–that would be a gift.
It was more than that. Listening to the 48% tape or reading about his latest reaffirmation of what he originally said on the 47% tape, this wasn’t a case like the Wizard of Oz revealing a little man hidden behind the curtain. It was case of revealing a limit-perspective, little man who had taken off his mask he wore to the world and media behind the curtain. Republicans may be hurting now but — just like America — they may have dodged a long term political bullet in being spared a Romney Presidency.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall takes a look at how some past losing Presidential candidates left the stage and what happened to them and their clout. Then he writes:
But I think we may be in even new territory with Mitt Romney’s shuffle off the national stage. It’s not too much to say that Romney is now uniting the country across party lines that he’s someone who should leave as soon as possible and not say anything publicly again. Actually scratch that. Democrats are starting to think that having Romney around and continuing to dump on a broad range of Americans might be pretty awesome.
More seriously, it goes without saying that Romney was never more than a tolerated transplant among professional conservatives. His bonafides were doubted. We know all this. So it’s ironic that Republicans are uniting in calls to get off the national stage once and for all precisely because he’s continuing to make the kind of makers-and-takers type statements you might hear on a particularly feral and untethered rightwing blog.
It’s an amazing denouement. It puts the whole race in a new, if not surprising, perspective.
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