Mitt V Mitt: Why Romney is his own worst enemy
“Experts are predicting kind of a tough fight between Romney and his biggest ideological opponent: Mitt Romney from four years ago. Those guys don’t agree on anything.” A stinging critique, made worse by the fact that it comes from a comedian, rather than one of Romney’s many political opponents.
In recent days political ads have dominated the American political arena. Two attack ads from Rick Perry and, most significantly, Mitt Romney, have drawn wide-ranging criticism for their rather neoliberal approach to accurate quotation. Indeed, one Fox commentator was even drawn to label Romney’s “an out and out lie”. The Obama administration were said to be furious, and their response is significant.
The ad released by the DNC, keen to stress Obama was not involved in engaging with a potential opponent so early in the election cycle, employs video clips of Romney and his detractors in an attempt to portray him as a ‘flip-flopper’. The video appears on the website cunningly titled mittvmitt.com, just below the line ‘the story of two men trapped in one body’. On issue after issue; from Reagan’s legacy to Obamacare and from abortion to gun control, Romney is seen and heard to argue one side of the argument and then, in the very next clip, the other.
This early warning shot is so significant because it is likely to be indicative of Obama’s strategy if Romney is his opponent next year. More immediately than that, though, the timing can be seen as not simply a retaliatory strike, but a not so subtle hint to grassroots Republicans that naming Romney as their candidate may not be in their best interests. Of course, the fact that the Democrats would see fit to run such an ad indicates Romney would pose a serious threat. The truth is, though, that Republicans seem to require no prompting whatsoever in their distrust of the long-time favourite for the nomination, with the latest national poll indicating he has fallen significantly behind the latest controversial frontrunner Newt Gingrich. Like the DNC, Gingrich seems to have smelt blood. On the radio today he vowed he “wouldn’t lie to the American people…wouldn’t switch my positions for political reasons.”
Herein lies Romney’s problem. He is magnificently well-funded, has been planning this campaign since the failure of his last run at the nomination in 2008, and bears all the well-polished hallmarks of an American Presidential candidate. Yet, despite a Republican field that has reached historic levels of ineptitude, Romney has not once appeared a certainty.
All too conscious of the problems caused by his unconventional Republican credentials, particularly in an atmosphere so tilted rightwards by the influence of the Tea Party, Romney has renounced swathes of his liberal background to assert his staunch Conservatism. It does not seem to have worked. To mainstream voters awaiting next year’s presidential race he will remain vulnerable to this very attack; that he stands for nothing except that which will get him elected. To Conservatives he appears a phony, so flaky he is liable to change his position whenever it suits his, rather than their, interests.
Romney’s issues were beautifully captured in one telling moment. Answering a question at a Republican debate last month, he explained his dismay at learning that he had employed illegal immigrants to work for him with the simple “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake”. The cat was out of the bag, if it was not already. His concern was neither with the narrower moral issue of employing illegal immigrants nor with the wider issue of how to deal with illegal immigration as a whole. He cared not for the welfare of the workers he would now fire. No, his immediate concern was the effect of this minor scandal on his bid for the presidency.
With the American political discourse so torn between extremes, there is no room for a figure unable even to unite his own sound bites under the same ideological umbrella. So desperate have his reversals of policy been that Romney has gone beyond attempting to be all things to all people. There was no need to misquote or to distort context, Romney’s contradictions speak for themselves. Obama’s first term has left him a relatively unpopular incumbent. His critics are strong and widespread. In Romney, though, he has a potential opponent who is his own worst enemy.
Now, the sole political conviction to which Romney remains loyal, his desire to be President, may well be taken from him before he can change his mind on that as well.