Thursday, March 22, 2012


I thought things would go a lot better for Mitt Romney after an adviser promised an Etch-A-Sketch-ing of previous campaign positions. I expected this because Romney seems, at least on paper, to be the kind of guy mainstream journalists would let get away with this: he's a Republican but, at least for his time in office, he wasn't excessive about it, plus he constantly yammers about the deficit. That's a pretty good formula for the sort of GOP Daddy the mainstream press usually likes, no?

But he's not getting that kind of coverage. I assume it's because he's not running an enjoyable, press-friendly campaign like McCain or Bush in 2000. (A couple of weeks ago, Politico told us that Romney's campaign has "the worst relationship of all with the press," in a story about "what passes for a media charm offensive" in the Romney operation.)

You know which Republicans could have gotten away with this, if they'd run? Haley Barbour and, God help us, Paul Ryan. The press loves those guys. I've been blogging for years about the media's love affair with Barbour; maybe that pardon scandal tarnished him a bit, but the press certainly would have gone for him if the he'd run and gotten traction in the GOP voter base. And Ryan ... well, there's a bit of skepticism now that even members of his own party are shying away from his budget, but the mainstream press has regularly showered him with adulation.

You can lose this charmed status with the press under certain circumstances, though I'm not quite sure what those circumstances are -- for instance, I don't know why John McCain wasn't the press's Golden Boy in 2008. I guess there was just too much revulsion at the disaster of the Bush presidency, and McCain didn't try to distance himself from Bush. But I also think it's because Barack Obama out-charmed McCain.

Which makes me wonder whether the 2008 outcome could have been very different with a few small adjustments: either no Obama run or a quick, decisive victory in the primaries by Hillary Clinton, accompanied by a little bit of deviation from Bush-era orthodoxy on McCain's part, especially concerning the war. (As I recall, the press kept assuming in '08 that surely someone other than Ron Paul on the GOP side would do the politically prudent thing and express skepticism about the war. Of course the war was a sacrament to GOP voters, so nothing of the sort ever happened.)

A Hillary Clinton who won the nomination but never had to build up an inspiring narrative of breaking glass ceilings? Versus a master schmoozer who'd gone somewhat maverick-y on the war? McCain could've gotten away with anything.

... And I should add that I'm not trying to cast aspersions on Hillary -- I just think a disturbingly large portion of the press was primed to portray her as a castrating shrew going into 2008.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)


proverbialleadballoon said...

the etch-a-sketch thing is an easy quick soundbite that everyone can understand. the obama campaign will be able to exploit it. rmoney keeps shooting himself in the foot, probably cuz hes such an inept born-on-third base ass.

BH said...

I think your alternate history of the '08 campaign is very plausible. Moreover (as I've opined before): even after the actual campaign, had the $$ meltdown occurred 6 weeks later, I think McCain (Palin or no Palin) would have prevailed over Obama - very likely after quite a few "think" pieces from the usual sycophants about the "gutsy maverick coming from behind a la Harry Truman", or some such tripe.

Steve M. said...

We can only speculate, but I think Obama would have prevailed even without the meltdown -- but only because Palin became a laughingstock once SNL and Tina Fey had some material to work with. I think McCain was on his way to losing, then Palin gave him a shot with the speech -- but then she turned out to be an empty suit (to put it mildly). If she had given any sign of having the brain she seemed to have while uttering other people's lines, she could have dragged McCain over the finish line. But I think Obama would have won under most other circumstances.

Then again, you could be right. We'll never know.

M. Bouffant said...

I'm w/ leadballoon. If the guy just said "We'll push the reset button in the fall" there wouldn't have been so memorable an image to exploit.

Still, it's tantamount to admitting that Romney is a flip-flopper, knows it, & is cynical enough not to care.

Laney said...

Wherever Romney appears during the fall campaign, crowds of Democrats should be on hand waving Etch-A-Sketches over their heads. Simple, cheap prop. Looks good on television. Easily understood metaphor for Romney's great character flaw.