The willful self-delusion of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign is on full display in the opinion piece today in The Post by Stuart Stevens. The chief strategist for the failed Republican nominee believes that Romney was the tip of “a national movement” that “out of touch” folks “in Washington and in the professional political class” failed to get. Oh, people got it, all right. And they rejected it to the tune of 65,089,940 votes.
Stevens’s “Don’t blame Mitt” excuse for Romney’s abysmal campaign is crystallized in the second paragraph.
I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians. That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters. What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement. It wasn’t our campaign, it was Romney. He bested the competition in debates, and though he was behind almost every candidate in the GOP primary at one time or the other, he won the nomination and came very close to winning the presidency.
Romney was behind almost every candidate during the GOP primaries because the party faithful were praying for someone — anyone — else to step in to thwart the inevitable. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum all led the pack. C’mon! Even Herman Cain rode the front-runner wave for months based on a flimsy economic plan that he couldn’t even explain simply because “anybody but Mitt” was the mood of the GOP primary electorate. That Romney bested such a clown car is hardly impressive.
To win the nomination, Romney had three things going for him. First, money and a stubborn persistence to convince conservatives he was one of them allowed him to run out the clock on his inferior competition. Second, he was willing to check his core at the door to win the nomination. Running to the right of Perry, as Romney did on immigration, was quite a feat. Finally, Romney had tradition on his side. The man who lost the GOP nomination in the previous presidential cycle is usually the man who snags it in the next. That’s what happened to John McCain, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.
Stevens ignored the mistrust of Romney by the GOP conservative base. He ignored Romney’s shape-shifting qualities and inability to connect that rendered him suspect with regular people. He ignored the desire of vast swaths of the American people to be treated with dignity and respect by the man who would lead them. And he ignored the demographic shifts that gave President Obama the victory that Team Romney thought for sure he would not get.
When Romney blamed his loss on Obama’s giving “gifts” to minorities, you could blame it on the hurt feelings of a failed candidate clinging to bitter notions about the electorate. But Stevens’s op-ed today shows that he reinforced Romney’s failings as a candidate.