To use a favorite quote from my colleague Ed Rogers, "Bad gets worse" in politics. Mitt Romney is having a "mensis horribilis," starting at his convention and counting. On Friday, he released last year's tax returns, Friday being the traditional day for dropping bad news in Washington. (Even that strategy is a little dated in the era of 24/7 news cycles.) The reaction from Alex Castellanos, Republican media rock star and Mitt expert, "I thought this was an April Fool's joke.… Only it's not April." He argues that Romney has simply resurrected a loser issue for himself that Democrats will feast on.
The taxes come with at least on asterisk. Romney took less of a charitable deduction so he could comply with his statement that he has never paid less than a 15 percent rate. The media immediately dug up a quote where Romney said he would be disqualified from being president if he ever paid more in taxes than he owed. Well, bingo.
Romney is still reeling. To regain his footing, he is trying what desperate candidates do: He flails. He tries to win news cycles instead of sticking with a strategy. This is what happens when the pressure builds. If you want to see what the inside of a presidential campaign looks, smells and feels like, rent “Das Boot,” a great movie about U-boats in World War II. The movies portrays the cramped, sweaty and pressured atmosphere of the small subs that seemed destined to rule the seas until the Allies discovered convoys. The pressure of the U-boats is a perfect analogue to the pressure of a presidential campaign: It comes from without, the pressure of the press (the water) and from within, the staff (the seamen) fear that they are about to be blown up. In “Das Boot,” at several moments in the film, the captain comes down to the engine room to assure the troops and to urge them to forgo panic and stay focused. It's not clear, of course, whether Romney's sub has a commander.
To go back to Ed's quote, "Bad gets worse" in politics. Then, what happens?