Social conservatives are wary of him. Libertarians consider him no to be just as much a Big Government Statist as Obama. The Tea Party despises him. He can’t close the deal with any of them.
What exactly makes Romney so “electable,” again?
I see, first, a candidate who “fails to inspire.” This is hugely important. It’s the old Dole/McCain/Bush 41 thing again: Without energizing one’s base, it doesn’t matter if you can get a few extra percentage points from “swing” voters (even assuming it’s true that those extra few points are achievable — which is probably not true anyway, because if you aren’t inspirational, you aren’t inspirational, period, meaning you don’t inspire the middle either). It’s also true that millions of voters really can decide to stay home; remember that Karl Rove estimated that up to 4 million expected Evangelical Bush backers stayed home in 2000 after being disgusted by last-weekend news that Bush had had a drunk driving arrest way back when. The result, of course, was a race that took six extra weeks to decide.
Next is a candidate’s history, which was the basis of my original post on this front. Aside from winning the governorship against extremely weak opposition in a three-way race where he failed to get an actual majority of the vote, in a state that despite its liberalism had become accustomed to electing Republican governors (for 12 straight years), Romney still has never won an electorally significant victory that wasn’t in his native state (Michigan) or in a state that is his backyard and site of his vacation home (New Hampshire). Even in Iowa, his mere eight-vote win after five years of work there amounted to six (yes, count them, exactly six) fewervotes than he earned four years earlier in the same caucus system.
Then there’s the attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital. The attacks are over-the-top and unfair. But coming from the left in a general election campaign, they will work. That’s how a weakened Ted Kennedy in a Republican year blew open a tight race against Romney and won by a landslide — by attacking Bain (and by some subtle but effective exploitation of anti-Mormon bigotry, which unfortunately and unfairly and sickeningly will probably cost Romney a point and a half from otherwise GOP voters this year as well). What’s particularly devastating here is when a candidate’s big vulnerability is in the very area he tried to, and expected to, make his biggest political strength. Romney’s main selling point has been that he is a good businessman who proved himself in the private sector; if that gets taken away, he’s toast, because his record as governor was nothing to write home about, with his only significant “achievement” being the execrable one of Romneycare. This is very much akin to what happened to John Kerry, who tried to make his major selling point his supposed military “heroism,” when the highly on-target Swift Boat attacks made that same military service into a slight net liability. You can’t win when your biggest selling point is actually a vulnerability.
Romney, indeed, is the perfect foil for the Obama campaign, first because he is the very epitome of a Republican born rich who got richer by moving money around — a millionaire plutocrat who just can’t relate to “ordinary” Americans, and second because he is yet another Republican political/dynastic legatee. Think about it: We’ve gone from one Bush trying to outdo his Senate father by becoming president, to another Bush trying to outdo his president father by winning two terms as president, to a McCain trying to outdo his admiral father and admiral grandfather by becoming president… and now to a Romney trying to outdo his Michigan governor father and failed presidential front-runner by this time succeeding as a presidential front-runner. In the hands of the $800 million Obama campaign, this can easily by portrayed as a rather creepy and anti-American reliance on dynasticism.
Combine that with what appears to be a plastic insincerity (again, the “flip-flopping” charge was devastating against Al Gore and can be so again), with a “how dare you question me” attitude that increasingly has shown itself in debates, and with an utter failure to “connect” emotionally with what once were known as “Reagan Democrats” (old-ethnic. i.e. Italian-American/Polish-American, etc., blue collar workers, culturally conservative and on economics distrustful of Wall Street), and you have a recipe for an extraordinarily weak general election candidate.