Dean Barnett: The Mitt Romney I know

posted at 11:45 am on January 15, 2008 by Allahpundit

It reads like an obituary, in which case it’s premature: According to Politico, Team Romney’s feeling confident enough about Michigan that they’re going back on the air in South Carolina. So much for the Fredhead hope of a dropout before the primary. Some of the commenters at MM’s site are dismissing Barnett’s piece as spin but he’s been telling me all of this privately for months — Mitt’s a wonderful guy, razor sharp, but he’s run an essentially dishonest campaign insofar as he made “values” the centerpiece when his top priority lies elsewhere. All of which is comforting yet devastating in how it undermines the legend of Romney as a manager par excellence. If that’s so, how’d he end up stuck with the wrong message and hanging by a thread?

Early in the presidential race, Mr. Romney perceived a tactical advantage in becoming the campaign’s social conservative. Religious conservatives and other Republicans with socially conservative views found the two early front-runners, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, unacceptable. As someone who shares the beliefs of social conservatives, Mr. Romney saw an opportunity that he could exploit. He made social issues the heart of his candidacy.

This tack rang false with the public because it was false. The problem wasn’t so much the perception of widespread “flip-flopping” on issues like abortion. The public allows its politicians a measure of flexibility. But the public correctly sensed something disingenuous about Mr. Romney’s campaign.

Voters perceived the cynicism of a campaign that tried to exploit wedge issues rather than focus on the issues that in truth most interested the candidate. They sensed phoniness. As a consequence, many have grown to feel that Mitt Romney can’t be trusted. This lack of trust is now the dominant and perhaps insurmountable obstacle that the Romney campaign faces.

I think Barnett’s right to the extent that Mitt committed the sin of flip-flopping on his key issue. That’s the difference between him and, say, Giuliani and McCain on immigration. Rudy and Maverick can get away with that because they’re not selling themselves as the immigration candidate; if you vote for them, you’re voting for the war. If you vote for Mitt, you’re voting for the guy who believes in life and values — except that he didn’t believe in those things not so long ago. If he had run on competence and economic acumen, the flip-flops on “family issues” wouldn’t be a big deal. By making “family issues” his core plank, he’s near-fatally compromised.

It’s more complicated than that, needless to say. There are some big names and a lot of personality in the GOP field this year, which makes it hard for an unknown whose strong suit isn’t his charisma to break through. But he’s still plugging. Here’s the new ad going up in South Carolina, well timed to coincide with voters’ worries about the economy. Is this the first move towards remaking Mitt’s image in the Iacocca-esque technocrat mold Barnett hopes for? Pay attention to his speech tonight.

Update: Here’s what McCain’s running in SC. Core message mania!


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which makes it hard for an unknown whose strong suit isn’t his charisma to break through. But he’s still plugging.

If only Fred would be plugging this hard.

If only…

If only Mitt Romney spent time as an actor.. he might be charming as hell.

If only…

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 11:52 AM

Let’s see how Mitt does in Mich. then we can talk.

omnipotent on January 15, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Ok, all of this Mitt bashing makes me suspect some of this MAY be true, but I’d have to see it or read it for myself before I decide.

Can someone please show me evidence of an actual flip flop: a then b then back to a.

Also, either video or an exact quote IN CONTEXT, NOT just spinning to make it sound like something other than what it is, NOT someone’s opinion, and NOT two statments on the same subject but in different contexts that might sound like different positions when really they are different aspects which are congruous.

I want to see evidence.

I’ve seen practically everything previously posted here at HA on Mitt, so none of that. Something concrete.

Thanks!

JustTruth101 on January 15, 2008 at 11:58 AM

Nothing is decided in the Republican race yet. Nothing.

Except for Ron Paul, he’s not going anywhere.

Dudley Smith on January 15, 2008 at 11:59 AM

That an interesting article by Barnett. I think there a lot of merit to what he says. By the way, who cares what MM’s commenters are saying? ;)

I don’t think he can change his message completely. After Iowa he started talking about change, so another ‘new’ direction after Michigan would seem unstable. If he can reframe his change message to incorporate what Barnett is talking about, then I think he may gain some traction. Especially as I would tender a guess that the economy is going to be more of a topic as the campaign season progresses.

Spirit of 1776 on January 15, 2008 at 11:59 AM

I like Barnett but I’m not sold.

First off, what makes Mittens so completely special that he and only he has the set of “managerial skills” that is so unique that he and only he has the duty to be President?

Second, it isn’t even a manager we need. It’s a leader.

Which is, of course, why there’s no sale. If Mittens were a leader who felt it was the time and the place for his leadership, he’d have stepped up and said so and why.

But he didn’t. He figured he’d pull a fast one because, well, you need me, you unwashed fools…I’ll tell you what you want to hear, then I’ll get in and make your lives better.

Grab some bench, Mittens.

Um…right after you win today.

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM

Mitt will get through to people who want an intelligent leader to lead the country at a potentially difficult time. The problem is the static from the religious bigots and the life-time politicians who honestly think serving in the senate for 100 years with all their perks and such is “serving the country”. If it was “serving the country” why do so many people campaign for the job….must not be that much of a sacrifice.

Roger Waters on January 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM

On a sidenote, I was wondering why Dean Barnett quit co-blogging at Hugh “All Pundits Who Matter Approve of Romney” Hewitt’s place. I guess this is why.

Niko on January 15, 2008 at 12:02 PM

Full disclosure required:

(1) Dean Barnett, former contributor on Hugh Hewitt-Romney blog

(2) Romney, chameleon party candidate for president

Captain America on January 15, 2008 at 12:04 PM

Which is, of course, why there’s no sale. If Mittens were a leader who felt it was the time and the place for his leadership, he’d have stepped up and said so and why.

That’s no true necessarily. Fred hasn’t done that either.

Spirit of 1776 on January 15, 2008 at 12:06 PM

I’m with Mitt!

madmonkphotog on January 15, 2008 at 12:10 PM

Mitt’s not a frontrunner and it has nothing to do with Mitt. It has to do with large chunks of Republican voters siding with particular candidates. It’s not that they don’t like Mitt– they just like someone else better.

I’ve got the whole thing over at The Autopsy.

Nethicus on January 15, 2008 at 12:15 PM

First off, what makes Mittens Fredheads so completely special that he and only he has the set of “managerial skills” “babe catching skills” that is so unique that he and only he has the duty to be President?

You’re making the job too easy, buddy.

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 12:18 PM

If you vote for Mitt, you’re voting for the guy who believes in life and values — except that he didn’t believe in those things not so long ago.

That is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. First, Mitt never personally supported abortion. Secondly, to say that he didn’t believe in values is absurd.

Look at his how he leads his life. Is it the biography of someone who doesn’t care about “values”?!

I am not suggesting that he has not had difficulty overcoming his former “pro-choice” position, but in light of statements like from AP it’s easy to see why it’s been a struggle.

Buy Danish on January 15, 2008 at 12:20 PM

Vote Romney!

davenp35 on January 15, 2008 at 12:22 PM

Nethicus on January 15, 2008 at 12:15 PM,

According to your analysis then, there is no front runner at this time. And as such, one could emerge at any time.

Right?

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Laughing…

Well, you’re assuming I’m a Fredhead, which I’m not.

However, let’s review: First, this isn’t a response to an article about Fred and why Fred’s running. The response was to a specific comment by the author of the article in question about the candidate in question.

There’s a reason Mittens hasn’t caught on, and has such high negatives, and I do think this is the heart of it.

There are certainly ample reasons why Fred’s fallen short too. If he’d been what his supporters envisioned him being, he’d be very close to “Presumptive Republican Nominee” Fred Thompson.

But that’s another story for another time.

Oh, and here’s a tip…buddy: next time your knee jerks, try a little harder not to kick yourself in the ass.

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Second, it isn’t even a manager we need. It’s a leader.

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM

Last I checked, to be a good manager, you have to be a good leader.

Managers are in charge of an organization. Leaders are the ones people go to becuase they are in charge.

manager = position of leadership

Pcoop on January 15, 2008 at 12:31 PM

Speaking of values, look at this response to Neal Cavuto when Neal asks why Romney doesn’t do more to use his long marriage as a comparison tool to exploit for political gain in order to win over values voters.

It’s at the end, but the whole thing is worth watching for its focus is on economic issues…

Buy Danish on January 15, 2008 at 12:32 PM

Well, you’re assuming I’m a Fredhead, which I’m not.

You misinterpret.

I refer to Fred, not because I am attempting to denegrate him or project that you support him. I’m looking at the macro. Rudy and McCain have both made a case revolving either around jihad or Iraq. That’s why I didn’t include them. You will note that has nothing to do with you or my knee. I could have said the same thing about Hillary, but I decided not to cross party lines – that wouldn’t have meant I thought you supported Hillary either.

My point is that because the time and place argument isn’t emphasized in a campaign doesn’t itself mean Mitt or Fred or Hillary would make poor leaders. I referenced someone else merely to show it is not an exclusive tactic.

Oh, and here’s a tip…buddy:

You’re new. Spare me.

Spirit of 1776 on January 15, 2008 at 12:36 PM

Rudy and McCain have both made a case revolving either around jihad or Iraq.

ie time-sensitive arguments.

Spirit of 1776 on January 15, 2008 at 12:37 PM

On the McCain ad, who had the bright idea to leave have of his face unlite and half lite?

georgealbert on January 15, 2008 at 12:38 PM

Spirit of 1776 on January 15, 2008 at 12:36 PM

Yeah, well…

I see that ny shortcoming is that I have so little use for the here-let-me-correct-that-because-there’s-this-neato-strike-feature style of debate that I didn’t catch all the careful nuance of your splendid reply.

My bad. As a noob, all I can do is try to learn.

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:40 PM

try a little harder not to kick yourself in the ass.

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:26 PM

It’s hard not to do that when you’re kicking ass on a regular basis.

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 12:41 PM

According to your analysis then, there is no front runner at this time. And as such, one could emerge at any time.

Right?

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 12:24 PM

Yep. Unfortunately I think we’ll see people running out of money, and the one with the biggest pile of cash at the end will eventually be the winner. I hope I’m wrong. But I see Super Tuesday as a Super Mess of split states and delegates.

Nethicus on January 15, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Oh, wait…

I get it now, you thought I was referring to you.

I wasn’t. I was referring to the guy who called me “buddy.”

There, now do you feel better?

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 12:41 PM

Yeah! You! You’re the guy!

Tell me, do you have any witty ripostes that aren’t just repackaging others’ posts, or is that about your entire repertoire?

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:47 PM

“Mitt Romney wants to be president out of a sense of duty.”

Maybe a duty to his dad.

bnelson44 on January 15, 2008 at 12:50 PM

Can someone please show me evidence of an actual flip flop: a then b then back to a.

JustTruth101 on January 15, 2008 at 11:58 AM

In common usage a “flip flop” doesn’t require going from A to B to A, simply from A to B- especially when it’s timed to correspond to an election campaign.

It’s not just that Mitt flip-flopped on abortion and other issues, it’s the way he did it. It was opportunistic and extreme in that he tried to completely re-invent himself as a social con when he ran as a social moderate just a few years earlier.

Had he run a more intellectually honest campaign as an economic conservative and social moderate who convincingly used the federalist argument to distance himself from his positions in MA, a lot of people (myself included) would’ve considered him at least an acceptable alternative. Instead he comes off as an empty, focus group and advisor programmed robot with a federal solution to every problem.

Hollowpoint on January 15, 2008 at 1:06 PM

Typhoon on January 15, 2008 at 12:47 PM

How many original blogs do you have?

How many do I have?

Mcguyver on January 15, 2008 at 1:53 PM

If the GOP is too fractured or intellectually shallow to call up, as Jay Nordlinger says, one of the best and brightest from our A Team, then the party needs a lot of introspection. Perhaps some sessions with Dr. Phil are in order!

Mitt Romney simply goes back to this life on a more full time basis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-W6SUM__ZU&eurl=http://www.myromney.tv/

So the GOP ends up with either Huckabee or McCain, loses it’s soul and Mitt gets family time at Lake Winnepaskee….the GOP definitely loses in this situation.

Jay Nordlinger article here:
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTU0YTg5M2M1MmJmMTcxNDQ0YjM0YWJmNDc1NjhkZGU=

sheryl on January 15, 2008 at 1:54 PM

I am still confused, if someone as Reagan did change his mind on the matter of life for the positive he is a flip flopper

KBird on January 15, 2008 at 1:57 PM

Question – Do we want yet another “manager”, only one that bends down to the ground in a breeze and doesn’t stand up for what he professed to be his core beliefs?

steveegg on January 15, 2008 at 2:12 PM

After reading Barnett’s piece, I’m actually less enthusiastic about Romney. If Romney was too nice a guy to go for the knockout on Ted Kennedy, we don’t want Mitt opposing the Clintons in November.

Golden Boy on January 15, 2008 at 2:25 PM

That Romney ad has been on in SC for a few weeks, minimum…

therightwinger on January 15, 2008 at 3:25 PM

I want to see evidence.

I’ve seen practically everything previously posted here at HA on Mitt, so none of that. Something concrete.

Thanks!

JustTruth101 on January 15, 2008 at 11:58 AM

THIS is where ALOT of the flip flop video comes from.

Ex-tex on January 15, 2008 at 3:36 PM

That’s the difference between him and, say, Giuliani and McCain on immigration. Rudy and Maverick can get away with that because they’re not selling themselves as the immigration candidate; if you vote for them, you’re voting for the war. If you vote for Mitt, you’re voting for the guy who believes in life and values

What? Not really. I’m a hawk and don’t care at all about social issues, but support Romney. I don’t think most of his supporters are social cons, and I also think most of his support would move to Giuliani if Romney ever got out (I know I would).

Patriot33 on January 15, 2008 at 4:25 PM

sheryl on January 15, 2008 at 1:54 PM

Thank you sheryl for the links. Jay is absolutely correct and the youtube makes me want that man and his family in the White House even more!

Brat on January 15, 2008 at 5:14 PM

Values voting sucks.

Tzetzes on January 15, 2008 at 8:02 PM

If you vote for Mitt, you’re voting for the guy who believes in life and values — except that he didn’t believe in those things not so long ago.

this is total BS

Mitt is a family guy…it’s kind of obvious, see his nice family? sons and daughters? did he abort any? Try sticking to reality instead of campaign speak

sheeesh

windansea on January 15, 2008 at 8:13 PM

It was opportunistic and extreme in that he tried to completely re-invent himself as a social con when he ran as a social moderate just a few years earlier

.

gee what state was that race for again? get a clue about politics please

windansea on January 15, 2008 at 8:25 PM

I’m going serial on Mitt bashers from now on, I am sick of “conservative” prima donnas here

try running as a real conservative in today’s MSM morons

I promise you 72 virgins if you win

windansea on January 15, 2008 at 8:37 PM