Friday, December 08, 2006

Mitt Romney Goes "Seoul Searching" While The Gang of 500 Gets Caught Off Base

Stop me if you have heard this joke about Mitt Romney and abortion - "When it comes to the subject of abortion, Governor Romney is not only pro-choice, he is multiple choice."

I've heard senior staff from two other potential presidential campaigns tell that joke, and both times the joke got big laughs. I even took the joke out for a test drive myself, at a Vermont dinner party, and the guests looked at me like I was crazy. Vermonters have better things to do than handicap presidential elections two years out.

We laugh at the joke because it is true. Mitt Romney's stance on the issue of abortion is all over the place. Even Mitt's strongest supporters will admit this.

We laugh also because the joke is relevant. Mitt Romney is a presidential contender and sits right behind John McCain in the polls. If Mitt weren’t a potential front-runner you wouldn't hear any jokes about him. You don't hear anyone making jokes about John Cox do you?

Who is John Cox? Exactly my point.

What I don't get is why Mitt is still considered a "top-tier" candidate? Or, as I like to say around these parts to other political operatives, "When is Mitt going to hit the panic button on his campaign?"

Don't get me wrong; there is a lot of Mitt to like. He is young, good looking, rich, comes from good stock, saved the Olympics, and was a Republican Governor who passed universal health care legislation. All in all Mitt is the kind of guy that you would want your daughter to date (so long as he agreed that she would be the ONLY daughter he was dating at the time).

But is he ready for primetime presidential smash mouth politics? No, in my humble opinion and flying in face of the consensus opinion of the Gang of 500, Mitt is not.

Forget for a minute about the never, NEVER ending "Big Dig" mess that occurred while he was the Governor of Massachusetts (although I will grant you that the family of that Boston commuter crushed by a three ton chunk of falling tunnel while on her way to work will not forget and neither will John Weaver).

Forget the fact that Kerry Healey's campaign to replace Mitt as Governor fell apart because Mitt was out campaigning for President and that the Massachusetts Republican Party is so angry about it that they will not return Romney's calls.

Forget that fact that last week the Boston Globe, the paper that Mitt decided to pick a fight with a month ago and has been paying for it ever since with terrible press, ran 4 columns of print about how illegal immigrants hired to work in Mitt's backyard were greeted every morning with, "Buenos Dias!" from the Governor. Accompanying the article was a picture the men, stripped to the waste, toiling in some garden (never, ever pick a fight with an organization that buys ink by the barrel). I suppose it will be tough for Romney to attack McCain's stance on illegal immigration after that article.

Forget the fact that Mitt recently told a reporter that "Jerry Falwell supports me in the primary," which isn't true. The exaggeration forced Falwell's camp to put out an immediate press release saying that Falwell told Mitt no such thing.

Forget the fact that Mitt, whose only previous foreign policy credentials included "summers in New Hampshire and winters in Utah" has been trying to "burnish" his foreign policy experience with trips abroad and is currently Seoul searching in South Korea.

Of course, his current trip overseas would have nothing to do with the Iraq Study Group report, which Mitt has yet to comment on. When Mitt doesn't want to take on the President but he also doesn't want to take on public opinion he takes off. Nice.

You can forget about all these little things (I will stress again that John Weaver and his team of op-research guys aren't going to forget, but we can) but even after all that you still have two huge problems, and they both begin with the letter M - Mormonism and Massachusetts. Neither one of those two words is popular with Republican primary voters and Mitt is the walking, talking embodiment of both.

Mitt has done almost nothing to calm primary voters about the fact he is a Massachusetts Mormon and the clock is ticking (its about to speed up when Warren Jeffs, a Mormon cult leader accused of raping 11 year olds, goes on trial next year. Think 24-hour Court TV news cycles for 6 months about how Mormons marry and rape multiple child brides against their will. Should wrap up right before the New Hampshire Primary. YIKES!).

All in all the gang of 500 has it wrong. It is not the first time and it will not be the last time. Mitt just is not a first tier candidate. It remains to be seen if he is even a second tier candidate.