Remember Mitt Romney? That national candidate who saw 47% of the country as lazy parasites? The one who assumed all the polls were “skewed” and that he was poised for victory? Apparently, he misses you.
More than half a year after his election loss, Mitt Romney is putting a tentative foot back onto the public stage.
Restless, a little wistful and sharply critical of President Barack Obama’s second term, Mr. Romney said in an interview that he plans to re-emerge in ways that will “help shape national priorities.” As a first step, the former Republican presidential nominee plans to welcome 200 friends and supporters to a three-day summit next week that he will host at a Utah mountain resort.
He is considering writing a book and a series of opinion pieces, and has plans to campaign for 2014 candidates.
Traditionally, failed presidential candidates, unless they hold office and/or plan to run again, quietly fade from public view, content with the knowledge that they had their say, made their pitch, and came up short.
But Mitt Romney is apparently feeling restless. “By and large,” he told the Wall Street Journal, losing candidates “aren’t very much in the public view.” Romney then added, “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
In fairness, I should note that he’s not completely oblivious to the circumstances. He also told the WSJ, “In our country, the guy who loses the presidential election isn’t expected to jump on the airwaves and try and promote himself. We will speak out from time to time, but I’m not going to be bothering the airwaves with a constant series of speeches.”
Romney won’t stay on the sidelines, either. There won’t be a “constant series” of speeches, but there will be some speeches. And op-eds. And campaign appearances. And a closed-door summit. And maybe a book.
What’s less clear is whether anyone will care what the former one-term governor has to say.
It’s easy to forget, but in the immediate wake of Election Day 2012, Romney wasn’t an especially popular figure with, well, much of anyone. When he spoke to donors about American voters being effectively bought off with “big gifts” such as affordable health care and public education, Romney’s standing managed to deteriorate further.
Mitt Romney, who just two weeks ago was the Republican Party’s standard-bearer, seen by many as the all-but-elected president of the United States, has turned into a punching bag for fellow Republicans looking to distance themselves from his controversial “gifts” remark. [...]
Whether it’s an instance of politicians smelling blood in the water as the party, following Romney’s defeat, finds itself without a figurehead, or genuine outrage, a number of Republicans have eagerly castigated their former nominee.
Josh Marshall said at the time the GOP pushback amounted to “Lord of the Flies” treatment, which seemed like an apt comparison.
And now Romney wants to “help shape national priorities” and “campaign for 2014 candidates”? I’m trying to imagine a list of Republicans who would welcome him and choose to campaign alongside him. I can’t think of any.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2013
Mitt Romney’s financial and organization advantages in the 2012 Republican primaries were commanding, but conservatives who opposed him had faint cause for hope: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich combined for more support than Romney for most of the primary season. If one of them conceded, then the other could consolidate Romney’s conservative opposition.
These hopes were far-fetched. Polls showed that Romney would have maintained his lead if either Santorum or Gingrich departed the race, since Romney was actually the second choice of many of their voters. Still, the theory was nearly put to the test. On Friday, Business Week reported that Santorum and Gingrich apparently discussed an unprecedented “unity ticket” to block Romney from winning the nomination. A Santorum-Gingrich ticket could have won critical primaries and led the national polls, but it still probably wouldn’t have won the nomination—a fact that should alarm conservatives heading into 2016.
The plan failed, not surprisingly, because Gingrich and Santorum couldn’t agree which one of them should be on top of the ticket. But let’s assume that they had. A unity ticket would have presumably done better than either candidate would have on his own, since a Gingrich voter who preferred Romney to Santorum might still support the combination of Santorum and Gingrich. But even if the unity ticket didn’t immediately consolidate the Gingrich-Santorum vote, the formation of an unprecedented primary alliance would have received tremendous media attention, potentially generating momentum. Indeed, polls can’t really predict how candidate dropouts will affect a race: In 2008, polls said that Hillary Clinton would maintain a clear lead over Barack Obama if John Edwards dropped out. Yet Obama surged in late January, after his win in the South Carolina primary, Edwards’ departure, and a wave of high profile endorsements.
The combination of a unity ticket and a few big primary wins could have given Santorum-Gingrich the lead in national polls. According to the article, Gingrich and Santorum mulled a unity ticket before three critical primaries in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. Realistically, a Gingrich-Santorum ticket would have struggled to win Florida, since Romney’s 46 percent of the vote actually exceeded Santorum and Gingrich’s combined 45 percent. But a unity ticket would have done better in Michigan or Ohio.
After sweeping Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado, Santorum actually led the national polls until he lost the Michigan primary by a narrow 3 point margin. But Santorum held a lead in Michigan polls until just 5 days before the primary and Gingrich won 6.5 percent of the vote—the combination of Gingrich voters and momentum from a unity ticket announcement could have easily given Santorum a narrow win. Regardless of whether Santorum carried Michigan, a unity ticket probably would have won Ohio, where Romney won by just 1 point and Gingrich, who won nearly 15 percent of the vote, probably played the spoiler—especially since Gingrich excelled in the socially conservative southwestern part of the state. Either way, Santorum-Gingrich would have exited Super Tuesday with plenty of momentum and a lead in the national polls heading into a wave of favorable primaries and caucuses in Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Whether momentum would have allowed Santorum-Gingrich to breakthrough a Romney firewall like Illinois is hard to say. And it would have still struggled to actually win the nomination, even in the best case scenarios: The delegate math was stacked in favor of Romney. Romney would still have been favored to win a disproportionate share of the winner-take-all states, like Florida, Arizona, and New Jersey. The same was true for the big states using modified or conditional winner-take-all systems, like California and New York. In contrast, Santorum-Gingrich’s biggest wins would have been diluted by various methods of proportional delegate allocation in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee (footnote: Tennessee is actually a conditional winner-take-all, but it’s condition is far more difficult than the other conditional winner-take-all states, since a candidate would need 66 percent of the popular vote). Neither Gingrich nor Santorum made the ballot in Virginia, giving all but 3 of Virginia’s 46 delegates to Romney. Unless Romney’s national support completely collapsed, Santorum-Gingrich would have been hard pressed to overcome the GOP primary system’s bias toward Romney’s coalition.
Conservatives should take note. The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project report’s proposal to end conservative caucuses for the purpose of allocating convention delegates has been panned as an attempt to help establishment candidates win the GOP nomination. But the RNC explicitly took “no position” on whether contests should be winner-take-all or proportionate, since “both methods can delay or speed up the likelihood of a nominee being chosen [depending] on who is winning and by what margins.” That’s technically true: A uniformly winner-take-all or proportionate system wouldn’t necessarily favor any type of candidate. But 2012’s mix of winner-take-all and proportionate states favored an establishment candidate. The same delegate allocation rules that would have doomed a hypothetical Santorum-Gingrich unity ticket could again doom a competitive conservative candidate.
By: Nate Cohn, The New Republic, March 25, 2013
On Thursday, the top Democrat in the House made what amounted to a major concession, pronouncing herself open to the idea of reducing Social Security benefits. This moved Nancy Pelosi closer to the position that President Barack Obama, who has already put out a plan that includes chained-CPI, has staked out in pursuit of a deficit reduction “grand bargain” with Republicans. This could make it easier for Obama to convince Senate Republicans, whom he’s begun courting in recent weeks, that he can deliver on a deal that includes real sacrifices on Democratic priorities.
And how does the top Republican in the House fit into this mix? Well, he doesn’t.
In a Thursday interview with the New York Times, Speaker John Boehner said he’s not currently engaged in budget conversations with the White House and suggested the onus is on Obama to move closer to the blueprint that Paul Ryan staked out this week — a 10-year balanced budget plan that the GOP-controlled House will probably adopt in the next week. That Ryan budget offers absolutely nothing in the way of concessions. But for a few cynical accounting tricks, it’s the same plan Ryan presented in 2012 and 2011, one that would turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash taxes on corporations and the wealthy, gut the Affordable Care Act and turn federal programs targeted for the poor into block grants for states to manage. It was this radical rethinking of the size and scope of the federal safety net that played a major role in last year’s election, with Democrats warning voters that the Ryan plan would be implemented if Republicans gained control of the executive and legislative branches.
In other words, House Republicans — and their leader — haven’t budged at all on fiscal issues since the election, even though the results were humbling for their party. Sure, they provided a scattering of votes for the New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff deal that raised income tax rates on high-end earners, but a) that was because they were up against a Jan. 1 deadline that would have triggered across-the-board tax hikes for all earners if no deal was reached; and b) the majority of House Republicans still voted against that package. And since that deal was enacted, the determination of House Republicans to stop any further revenue increases — even those involving loopholes and deductions, not income tax rates — has only intensified. The president already got his tax hikes, the GOP talking point goes, and now he wants more?
The reason Obama wants more, of course, is that he and most of his party (and, truth be told, a number of Republicans) would like to turn off the sequester, which went into effect on March 1 when the two parties failed to reach agreement on a replacement plan. The stumbling block was simple: Republicans were adamant in opposing a “balanced” deal with a revenue component. Many of them also claimed that Obama wasn’t serious about cutting entitlement spending, even though the president produced the above-referenced plan, which included Social Security benefits cuts. It’s clear that, for the time being anyway, House Republicans are completely uninterested in striking a fiscal deal with Obama, unless the deal is that he goes along with everything they want.
What’s so striking — and, some might say, galling — about this is that Republicans lost pretty badly in the most recent election. No, it wasn’t en epic LBJ ’64-style wipeout, but the party spent 2011 and 2012 convinced that the rotten economy would compel voters to fire Obama, restore Republican control of the Senate and boost the GOP’s House majority. But none of that happened. As I wrote last week, it can sometimes feel like Republicans actually won the election. The problem is mainly centered in the House, although the Senate has more than its share of problems, and can be explained by two main factors:
The average House Republican represents a district that is older, whiter and more Republican-friendly than the country as a whole. Gerrymandering is typically cited as the reason for this, but it’s a red herring. The real problem is that the core Democratic vote — a rising majority of nonwhites, millennials, single women and college-educated professionals — is tightly bunched in metropolitan areas. They account for massive majorities in a relatively small number of congressional districts. Suburban, exurban and rural areas, by contrast, tend to be populated by more Republican-friendly voters, who are more widely dispersed. Thus, it’s not uncommon in big states for Democrats to enjoy clear majorities in statewide elections even as Republicans gobble up the majority of House seats. Barring the kind of anti-Republican wave elections we saw in 2006 and 2008, this dynamic should persist through the next decade, ensuring Republican control of the House. The Republicans in these districts are mostly immune to the cultural and demographic changes that hurt their party at the national level in 2012; thus, the same reflexively anti-tax/anti-government/anti-Obama hysteria that sold in these areas before November 2012 still sells today — making it likely that these districts will send to Washington either a) true believer Tea Party-type congressmen and -women, who win their seats simply by running far to the right in the GOP primary; or b) secretly pragmatic Republicans who adopt the rhetoric and voting habits of the Tea Party crowd for the sake of their own political survival.
2. The powerless speaker
A case can be made that Boehner’s skills as a House leader are underappreciated. There’s something to this, but it’s an argument that amounts to a backhanded compliment — that Boehner, by routinely looking the other way as his party worsens its public image and subjecting himself to the occasional high-profile indignity, is able to build just enough clout to steer the House GOP away from complete catastrophe when he absolutely has to. There’s an art to this, all right, and I guess you could say Boehner is good at it. But that’s really the limit of his power as speaker. The problem is that the conservative movement has never trusted him and has been looking for the moment he sells them out from the second he claimed the speaker’s gavel in 2011. This has imposed some humiliating limits on him — forcing Boehner, for instance, to walk away at the 11th hour from grand bargain negotiations with Obama in the summer of ’11 and compelling him to promise Republicans a few months ago that he wouldn’t attempt any more one-on-one negotiations with the president.
So when it comes to Obama’s current quest for a grand bargain, there’s really nothing for Boehner to do but repeat the right’s familiar attacks on Obama for always wanting to raise taxes and never wanting to cut spending. Never mind, of course, that Obama has already signed off on $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction and is seeking $1.2 trillion more with his grand bargain crusade, and that most of that money is from spending cuts. Acknowledging that would destroy whatever credibility Boehner now has with the conservative base, and make it impossible for him to push any kind of deal through the House without being dethroned. So he bashes away, pretends the problem is Obama’s inflexible liberalism and waits. What the endgame is is unclear. It may just be that Boehner is hoping to keep the GOP conference from pursuing a debt ceiling showdown in May. Or maybe he’s hoping that after a few more months of bashing Obama, he just might have clearance to put a Senate-passed grand bargain on the House floor and to allow it to pass mainly with Democratic votes. Or he may think none of this is possible — and may mainly be interested in patching up the damage the fiscal cliff deal did to his standing with the right.
The key here is that Boehner oversees a Republican conference whose members do not, generally speaking, feel any personal pressure to respond to the Democrats’ big national victory last November. In the America where they leave, Obama and the national Democratic Party are as reviled now as they were before Election Day.
By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, March 15, 2013
So I kept thinking as I watched Ed Schultz’s interview last night with Scott Prouty—as we now know, the man who made and leaked the 47 percent video—I kept trying to check my impulses by asking myself: Now, suppose this were Fox, and suppose Scott Prouty had secretly taped Barack Obama saying that corporate leaders were heartless mercenaries who cared nothing about their employees or America, and suppose that that had helped cost Obama the election. What would I be thinking about him?
I admit easily and breezily that I would have disliked him and would have spent the hour probing for weaknesses and points of possible attack. That’s how it goes in this business.
However, I also say this: I don’t think I would have found many. Prouty was intelligent, judicious, and thoughtful. He seemed completely sincere (I say seemed since I don’t know the man). He knew exactly what he was doing. Weaknesses were few to nonexistent.
Let me put it this way. In my post yesterday, I fretted about the onslaught he was about to experience from the right. But as I Google his name this morning, I see nothing from the right-wing media. If you’ve ever done such a search on a topic that the right-wing press has jumped on, you know that the first page and sometimes the first two pages return you nothing but conservative media. So they aren’t piling on the guy, so far at least. Long experience teaches me: When they go dark is when they know they can’t win.
So here’s how it happened. Prouty had worked for a while for this high-end caterer. He brought his camera to the event because he thought there might be opportunity afterwards for picture-taking sessions with the candidate (which never materialized, and which made him think Romney was sort of a jerk). He started recording the speech just to capture it. Obviously, he had no idea Romney was going to say the things he said. And then Prouty started listening.
Interestingly, the thing that bothered Prouty wasn’t so much the 47 percent remarks, although he had enough news sense in him to know they were dynamite. What bothered him were Romney’s remarks about a factory in China Bain had bought, a factory whose grounds were surrounded by fencing and barbed wire to keep the young female workers in. Romney spoke about it in a way that struck Prouty as disingenuous and unfeeling, and he got mad.
He went home and did some Googling. He learned that Romney had profited from outsourcing. He saw an article on the factory by David Corn. He spent two weeks pondering whether to take it public, thinking through the moral and legal consequences, whatever they were. He finally looked himself in the mirror and said fuck it. Here we go. He got in touch with Corn.
He said last night he’s a registered independent, but he’s clearly a liberal-minded person. He said he was proud Obama is the president. He decided to give the interview to Schultz because Schultz is uniquely devoted in the TV universe to class issues. So whatever his registration, he’s on a side. Fine. He decided to help that side—or more accurately, to stop the other side.
It was Romney’s appearance on Fox on March 3 that made him go public now. Romney’s self-serving interview clearly infuriated him. The greatest thing he said during the whole hour went something like (I can’t find a transcript yet): You know, Romney could still be making positive contributions. He could go to one of those communities where Bain closed a factory, that town in Illinois say, and say he’s sorry about what happened, start a fund or a foundation to help people there. Yes, he is right. But yeah, sure. Can anyone picture Romney doing that? It would be an admission that his life’s work was something less than wholly admirable, which is an admission he shows no signs of being able to make.
I kept thinking while I was watching the left’s accidental hero of 2012 of the right’s accidental hero of 2008, Joe the Plumber. The Republicans and the right used Samuel Wurzelbacher, who was neither named Joe nor was a (licensed) plumber, as a convenient cudgel against Obama, and Wurzelbacher was delighted to play along, reveling in the fame that came his way as a result of his frequent Fox appearances during the 2008 campaign.
Prouty, by contrast, never sought notoriety during the campaign, and even now, well, he’s being hailed today, and properly so, but I’d be very disappointed and frankly quite surprised if he becomes some kind of slatternly MSNBC fixture who shows up to mouth half-coherent DNC talking points as Wurzelbacher has on Fox, and run a crappy and stupid race for Congress. Prouty sounded last night as if he wants to seize on this opportunity to do the kind of work he cares about and help working people or union people in some way. Wurzelbacher was a show horse and a blowhard, playing to a movement that loves show horses and blowhards provided they’re blowing the approved notes. He changed nothing.
Prouty is a serious and earnest person who is actually trying to help working people and who did make an enormous difference. Their notoriety and how they gained it and the purpose to which they used it tells us not only something about them, but about the two sides as well.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 14, 2013
If Mitt Romney had taken a moment to thank the wait staff at a Boca Raton fundraiser last year, he may now be president, or at least could have removed one of his biggest obstacles to the White House: the so-called 47 percent tape that clouded the last two months of the race.
The anonymous person who filmed the tape turns out to be a bartender with a local catering company who is coming forward now that the election is over. He’ll reveal his identity tomorrow in an hour-long interview on “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, but in an interview with the Huffington Post Tuesday night, he suggested that he was disappointed that Romney never thanked the wait staff, as Bill Clinton had years before at a different event the same bartender happened to staff. Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis report:
Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there.
One of them had brought along a Canon camera. He set it on the bar and hit the record button. The bartender said he never planned to distribute the video. But after Romney spoke, the man said he felt he had no choice.
The tape came to define Romney and was the fodder for several ads, giving the candidate a noticeable dip in the polls. Even when he recovered after Obama’s disastrous debate performance in Denver, the tape remained a weight around his neck.
Romney probably still would have lost without the tape, and maybe the bartender would still have revealed the video if Romney came back and shook his hand, but there’s some poetic justice in the idea of an hourly worker bringing down a presidential candidate for dismissing the importance of his vote.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 13, 2013