Politico tells us there are legions of cowardly political consultants. (What else is new?) More specifically, its reporters relate:
Away from the cameras, and with all the usual assurances that people aren’t being quoted by name, there is an unmistakable consensus among Republican operatives in Washington: Romney has taken a risk with Ryan that has only a modest chance of going right — and a huge chance of going horribly wrong.
In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.
I have no doubt that this is the case. The Republican professional operative class is infamous in conservative circles for its timidity. These were the people who backed Charlie Crist for Senate over Marco Rubio. This is the crew that cowers in fear of a substantive argument, preferring glossy, contentless ads. In short, it is exceptionally good news for the Romney team that this group is quaking in the shadows. It affirms that Mitt Romney is anything but the finger-in-the-wind pol who doesn’t care about ideas.
Not all GOP consultants are curling up in the fetal position. Tony Fratto, who served in the George W. Bush administration and is now a consultant with Hamilton Place Strategies tells me, “I don’t know who they spoke to, but I’m not at all nervous — I’m excited.” He calls the anonymous snipers “weak-kneed people.”
The irony in this campaign is that Romney has put forth the most specific and conservative policy proposals in recent memory. Even Ronald Reagan kept it rather generic in 1980. To date, Romney has put out a comprehensive tax reform plan, a Medicare plan, a Social Security plan, a Medicaid plan, an energy plan, a detailed foreign policy white paper, a trade policy (e.g. tough on China, open markets elsewhere), a plethora of ideas for reducing debt (including going back to 2008 discretionary spending levels, shrinking the federal workforce and doing away with Big Labor give-away’s like the Davis-Bacon law, which forces government contractors to pay union wages).He has gotten very little credit for all that from either conservative pundits or liberal critics, who have fanned the idea that Romney is a man of no substance and few ideas.
What we’ve seen in Romney’s refusal to listen to the squeaking of policy operatives and the perpetually in-a-funk critics on the right is a determination to run the sort of campaign he wants. He wants to run a race on capitalism, defense of free markets and conservative reform. It is hardly surprising that he chose the VP most capable of articulating that message.
In a humorous encounter with a liberal political operative on public radio yesterday, I observed that the dig on Romney as being lacking in policy was untrue. But, but, the liberal sputtered, you disagree with conservative pundits on that! I had to laugh. Yes, right and left have continually misunderstood and mischaracterized Romney, and the political operative class shrieks when he insists on a man of substance as his running mate. Welcome to the world of political insiders.