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“It’s Not Him, Republicans, It’s You”: Mitt Romney Isn’t Running, But His Specter Still Haunts The GOP

I’ll have to admit that I’m a bit surprised Mitt Romney decided not to run for president, given the man’s almost superhuman optimism and persistence. But according to various reports, the torrent of criticism Romney received when he made it clear he was considering a run had a real impact on his final decision, even though in his statement he talked about his faith in “one of our next generation of Republican leaders” (take that, Jeb!) to win back the White House.

The Republican consensus was obviously that Romney represented failure, and they need something different if they are to win in 2016. But maybe Mitt Romney isn’t the problem. It’s not him, Republicans. It’s you.

Nobody would ever claim Romney was anything like a perfect candidate. His background as a private equity titan was particularly fertile ground for Democratic attacks painting him as the representative of the economic elite, and he had a colorful way of reinforcing that impression again and again, particularly with the “47 percent” remark.

But I actually think that if he had decided to run, he would have had a better chance than anyone of getting the Republican nomination. Every GOP primary campaign for the last half-century has begun with an obvious front-runner, and every one of those early front-runners got the nomination. Romney would have been that front-runner, as reluctant as many in the party were about his candidacy. In recent GOP races, the winner hasn’t been the one who defeated his opponents, just the one who outlasted them, as one chucklehead after another became the flavor of the month and then self-immolated (remember when Herman Cain led the primary polls in 2012?). Romney could certainly have stuck around until the end.

But now the 2016 race is truly a free-for-all, with no obvious leader. And if the only lesson Republicans take from 2012 is not to nominate a CEO (sorry, Carly Fiorina), they’ll make the same mistakes all over again.

Consider that “47 percent” remark. It made for a vivid illustration of arguments Democrats were already making, but Mitt Romney was hardly the first Republican to say it. The basic idea underlying it had been repeated endlessly on conservative talk radio and by other Republican politicians for years. If it hadn’t been caught on tape, the attacks from Democrats would have been the same, and the outcome would have been the same. Another example: when Republicans exploded with joy after Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark, Romney didn’t have to convince them to make it a huge issue; they all thought it would be a silver bullet that would take the president down, and they were all flummoxed when it didn’t. They couldn’t imagine that voters wouldn’t punish Obama for an (alleged) criticism of business owners, because they forgot that most Americans work for somebody else.

The prevailing attitude in GOP circles is that Romney failed because he was the wrong messenger. Yet almost every contender is preparing to offer voters the same policy agenda that Romney did. They may be saying now that they’ll talk about wage stagnation and inequality, but when you ask them what they’re going to do about it, their answer is the same as it has always been: cut taxes and cut regulation. It’s going to be awfully hard to convince voters that they’ve had a real change of heart. And anyone who deviates from Republican orthodoxy is already finding themselves on the defensive (as Jeb Bush is for his less-than-total enthusiasm for deportations).

It isn’t surprising that the party’s diagnosis of what went wrong in the last couple of elections won’t extend to the policies they’re offering the public; those positions are rooted in sincere ideological beliefs, and changing them would be hard. But even without Mitt Romney in the race, it looks like Republicans are going to offer a program of Romneyism. They could find themselves facing voters at a time when the economy is doing well overall, and they’re particularly ill-suited to address the structural problems that keep people anxious — two strikes against them. A fresh face is unlikely to solve that problem.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 30, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Thinks The 47 Percent Aren’t Trying Hard Enough”: News Flash, Middle-Class Rowboats Are Taking On Water

Remember the “47 percent”?

During his 2012 campaign for the presidency, Mitt Romney was caught on tape describing nearly half the country in disparaging terms, labeling them moochers who want handouts. They are voters “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” he said.

Romney’s remarks — and he stood by them immediately after his election defeat — didn’t just damage him; they also sullied the entire Republican Party, reinforcing its image as the lapdog of the very rich. Even now, as some of its strategists push hard for the GOP to reach out to ordinary working folks, its congressional leaders continue to protect the 1 percent.

If President Obama has no hope for passage of his ambitious program of “middle-class economics,” as he called it during last week’s State of the Union speech, at least he has a plan. His proposals for free community college, increasing the minimum wage and providing tax cuts to families in the middle of the economic spectrum have the advantage of recognizing the reality of income inequality.

So far, his GOP critics continue to resist that reality, sticking to the old Reagan-era bromide that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Perhaps that’s true, but those middle-class rowboats are taking on water even as the rich float along comfortably in their yachts.

The growing gap between the haves and the have-nots is one of the most critical issues of our time, a dispiriting trend that has struck most Western economies. Because of complex forces, especially globalization and technology, the incomes of ordinary workers are falling further and further behind, even as the rich get, well, richer.

That’s not the fault of Democrats or Republicans, Libertarians or Socialists. Nor did this growing inequality start with the Great Recession. It started way back in the 1970s, as the factories that had powered the middle class started to shut down. American steel mills closed; textile mills went away; automotive plants moved out. The trends have simply accelerated since then, as robots power assembly lines and low-wage workers in places like Bangladesh sew garments once made in Maine and North Carolina.

Even now, in a resurgent economy, many families haven’t regained their footing. Their savings accounts have evaporated. They can’t replace the house they lost to foreclosure. They work two or three part-time jobs without benefits. And even those with full-time jobs aren’t living it up. According to The New York Times, the median weekly wage for full-time workers at the end of 2014 was $796, below the levels in 2009, when the expansion began.

Those workers are hardly moochers. They are struggling to find their way in a world where their skills have less value. They need help from a government that knows its role is to lend a hand, to steady the ladder, to help them find a toehold.

Even Romney, who is making noises about running again, has finally gotten the message. He has at least called for an increase in the minimum wage.

But most Republicans can’t get over the notion that those who haven’t made it simply aren’t trying hard enough, that if you’re stuck on the economic margins, it’s your own fault. Their allegiance to the very rich — people like the billionaire Koch brothers — overrides any concern for the vast middle.

Take their insistence on resisting tax increases for the 1 percent — a plan proposed by Obama to pay for tax cuts for the middle and working classes. Republicans claim any tax hikes would kill the recovery. But that’s not so. George W. Bush’s tax cuts led to no new job growth, while Bill Clinton, who raised taxes, presided over a period of widespread prosperity.

So what do Republicans propose? So far, they’ve pushed building the Keystone pipeline, which would create about 42,000 jobs over a period of two years, but only about 35 permanent jobs. And, of course, the GOP still wants to kill Obamacare, a strategy that would create zero jobs.

That’s not much better than dismissing the 47 percent.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, January 24, 2015

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, GOP, Middle Class | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt Flips On The Very Poor”: Is Romney The Guy Republicans Want Talking About Poverty?

Nearly three years after he famously said he was “not concerned about the very poor,” former presidential nominee Mitt Romney told Republicans in a speech Friday night the party must focus on helping “lift people out of poverty.”

Welcome to Mitt 3.0: The Mitt who cares.

His comments on the very poor—not to mention the 47 percent—may have played a major role in his 2012 loss, but don’t tell that to Romney. The issue is now among the hottest debates in politics—and he seems determined to be part of that conversation.

Of the three topics the Romney stressed in his brief address to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting—during which he also confirmed he was thinking about a third campaign for president—two had to do with the less fortunate.

“First, we have to make the world safer,” Romney said. “Second, we have to make sure and provide opportunity for all Americans regardless of the neighborhood they live in. And finally, we have to lift people out of poverty. If we communicate those three things effectively, the American people are going to be with us—be with our nominee and with our candidates across the country.”

But why the change of tone?

Over the past three years, the issue has changed in ways that favor a more progressive approach. The poverty rate has actually gone down since Mitt 2.0—the economy fixer—lost the race in 2012.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the official poverty rate went from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013. The last time the poverty rate dipped was in 2006. That’s not to say things have gotten markedly better, the number of people in poverty—45.3 million—has remained statistically the same.

This problem is hardly a new issue. The poverty rate was on the rise in 2007, when Romney first ran for president as Mitt 1.0—the Conservative. But even though it spiked from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008, only then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) chose to make the issue a centerpiece of his campaign.

But one thing that has changed is public opinion on the issue. Recent polling shows a more compassionate country when it comes to the poor. A June 2014 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed fewer people blamed the poor for their financial situation. When asked “which is the bigger cause of poverty today?”, 46 percent of those polled attributed poverty to “circumstances beyond people’s control” as opposed to 44 percent who blamed “people not doing enough.” In 1995, 60 percent blamed “people not doing enough” for their poverty, while 30 percent blamed “circumstances beyond people’s control.”

Back in 2012, it wasn’t as if the Romney campaign completely ignored the poor—poverty was a key issue for his then-running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Romney, himself, routinely talked of the rising number of people on food stamps and other government programs as evidence President Obama’s economic policies weren’t working.

But it was what he said behind closed-doors that caused any poverty message he tried to ring hollow. His campaign was never able to shake his comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax made during a Florida fundraiser.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” Romney told a group of donors during a closed door meeting. “These are people who pay no income tax. … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When a recording of his remarks leaked, it became a public relations disaster for Romney, solidifying the image of him as an out of touch millionaire in the minds of voters. Even after he lost the 2012 race, Romney doubled down during a call with donors, blaming the Obama administration for giving special interest groups—like African Americans, Hispanics and young people—“gifts” to get their vote, according to the New York Times.

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Romney said, according to the Times.

He blamed the so-called gifts for overshadowing his campaign about “big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

With wages stuck in neutral for many, poverty and income inequality will likely be a major issue of the 2016 campaign. But Republicans have to think—is Mitt the guy they want talking about it?

 

By: Jackie Kucinich, The Daily Beast, January 19, 2015

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Mitt Romney, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Even Now, Romney Just Can’t Help Himself”: Romney’s Not Responsible For What Romney Said

Romney, who seems to spend a little too much time thinking about ways to condemn the president who defeated him, has run into trouble once more, this time in an interview with Mark Leibovich. The twice-defeated candidate is apparently still thinking about the “47 percent” video that helped drag down his candidacy.

“I was talking to one of my political advisers,” Romney continued, “and I said: ‘If I had to do this again, I’d insist that you literally had a camera on me at all times” – essentially employing his own tracker, as opposition researchers call them. “I want to be reminded that this is not off the cuff.” This, as he saw it, was what got him in trouble at that Boca Raton fund-raiser, when Romney told the crowd he was writing off the 47 percent of the electorate that supported Obama (a.k.a. “those people”; “victims” who take no “personal responsibility”). Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.

“My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,” Romney said. “If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.” I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the “47 percent” line by a ranting supporter.

No, that’s a new one. It’s also patently false.

Since David Corn first helped shine a light on the infamous “47 percent” video, in which Romney told a group of wealthy donors that nearly half of Americans are lazy parasites, the Republican has struggled to come up with a coherent response. Initially, Romney actually endorsed the sentiments on the video and said they reflected his core beliefs.

He later changed his mind, saying his remarks were “completely wrong” and the result of misspeaking. Later still, Romney switched gears again and said the comments were taken out of context. Now he’s come up with an entirely new explanation: Romney’s not responsible for what Romney said; some guy in the audience deserves the blame.

Ironically, in the video itself, Romney says of struggling Americans, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility.” Funny, he doesn’t seem to be a big fan of personal responsibility, either.

The facts here are obvious and easily checked.

Romney now believes a rambling supporter caused the trouble, but David Corn checked the video itself and found that’s simply not what happened. The question was actually quite succinct.

To recap: Romney has gone from side-stepping the remark, to owning the thrust of this comment (though noting it was not well articulated), to saying he was wrong, to denying he said what he said (and contending his words were distorted), to claiming he was only mirroring the rambling remarks of a big-money backer. This last explanation is certainly not fair to the 1-percenter who merely expressed his very 1-percentish opinion. Does this mean that Romney was thrown off his game by a simple question – or that he was trying to suck up to a donor?

In the two years since Romney was caught on tape, he just cannot come up with a clear explanation of an easy-to-understand short series of sentences that were responsive to the question presented. But there is one possible explanation he hasn’t yet put forward: He said what he believed.

Of course he did. Romney was speaking in a relaxed setting, free to say whatever he pleased. He shared his contempt for nearly half the country, which went a long way towards explaining the Romney campaign’s policy platform. Indeed, it’s why the failed Republican candidate immediately responded to the video by saying he agreed with the sentiments it captured.

Lying about it now doesn’t help Romney’s case.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 30, 2014

October 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making A Difference”: Scott Prouty Is No Samuel Wurzelbacher

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

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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