IN THE LAND OF THE CLOWNS, THE ONE WEARING THE LEAST MAKEUP LOOKS DIGNIFIED
Today's New York Times has a subtly snarky editorial called "Don't Stop the Debates," which urges the Republicans to prattle on:
...Since the debates began, the popularity gap has grown between the leading Republican candidates and President Obama.
But that's not simply because the candidates have increased the intensity of their attacks on each other, nor is it curable by cutting back the mud-fighting.... It's also because voters have been exposed to the broken windows of the Republican idea factory....
The long series of debates are an open window onto the failed policies and dubious values of the Republican Party. No wonder some people want to close it.
The editorial lists some of the candidates' ideas, some of them crazy and presumably considered laughable by the general public (Gingrich's moon colony), others crazy and -- the Times doesn't say this -- potentially quite popular, given how much the public has internalized right-wing government-bashing memes (repealing Dodd-Frank and replacing it with nothing).
Ah, but doesn't the general air of lunacy hurt all the Republicans, including the front-runner? I don't think so. I'm starting to think that it's making Mitt Romney look more and more presidential, God help us -- especially the ranting of Gingrich. Standing next to Newt, Mitt must look to at least some voters like Abraham freaking Lincoln.
At the very least it's a wash, as William Galston argues:
This morning, Gallup released the latest in its series of polls focused on twelve swing states.... Obama and Romney are statistically tied: it's Romney 48, Obama 47 in the swing states and 48-48 nationally.... despite changes in the political environment, a more aggressive stance by the president, and the emergence of less than flattering information about Mitt Romney, the Obama-Romney contest hasn't moved much in many months. Last October, for example, Romney led Obama 47-46 in the swing states. Since last August, Obama's national support has moved in a narrow range between 46 and 48 percent; Romney's, between 46 and 49 percent. This evidence supports the thesis that the 2012 presidential election will be hard-fought and close....
And check this out, from a new Gallup poll (click to enlarge):
Fairly solid majorities think Romney "has the personality and leadership qualities presidents should have" and "can manage the government effectively"? Half the country thinks he "is sincere and authentic"? Authentic? Half the country?
The impression of Republican clownishness is not rubbing off on Romney. If anything, it's setting him off in relief, making him seem like the one guy with at least an adequate level of gravitas in a gravitas-deprived party. The clown car is just making him seem the least clownish.