Quotes of the day

“Some 45 percent now say they’re dissatisfied with the GOP candidates who have declared or are thought to be serious about running, up from 33 percent two months ago, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Just 41 percent are satisfied with the likely Republican field, down from 52 percent.

“Plenty are holding out for somebody else

“Four years ago at this time, there was a clearly different dynamic for the GOP. In late May 2007, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found Republicans generally content with their choices: 68 percent said they were satisfied with ‘the choice of candidates for the Republican nomination for president,’ though that was well below the 79 percent level of satisfaction among Democrats.”

“Romney has not been to Iowa at all this year. His first visit is scheduled for May 27, when he will give a speech to an economic group in Des Moines. ‘I don’t see Romney playing in Iowa,’ says a strategist in the state who supported a different candidate in 2008 but is unaffiliated this year. ‘I don’t think he’s going to spend a lot of time here. It will be way different from his 2008 strategy.’…

“During a politics-filled week in South Carolina recently, I met a number of Republicans who supported Romney the last time around but do not plan to vote for him in 2012. They haven’t fallen in love with another candidate; they’ve just fallen out of love with Romney. Their feelings were probably best expressed by long-shot presidential candidate Herman Cain, an ’08 Romney supporter, who at the GOP debate in Greenville explained why he’s no longer on the Romney team: ‘Because he did not win.’…

“‘It’s a different year, a different climate, a different field,’ says the Republican. ‘Smart politicians understand that each cycle is different, and I hope you think we’re smart enough not to do what we did last time, because you may have noticed it didn’t work out all that well. We’re going to be smarter in how we play.’ Details of the plan, the Republican said, are a secret.”

“There was something almost quaint about Mitt Romney’s speech on health care Thursday, as if we were watching early sound footage of Theodore Roosevelt…

“He tried to justify [RomneyCare] with a history lesson on federalism and state experimentation, but, in fact, he said nothing about what makes Massachusetts different from its neighbors or any other state. And why would he immediately repeal the Obama mandate if elected president? Because Mr. Obama wants a ‘government takeover of health care,’ while all he wanted was to insure the uninsured.

“That distinction makes no sense, and the disconnect undermines the foundation of Mr. Romney’s candidacy. At heart, he is still the kind of old-fashioned northeastern Republican who believes in government’s role while trying to conceal it under a thin, inauthentic coating of conservative outrage. But in its blind abhorrence of President Obama, the party has also left behind former centrists like Mr. Romney, and it is unlikely that any amount of frantic pandering about the free market will change that. He is trapped not only between the poles of his party but between eras, a candidate caught in an electoral time warp.”

“[A] candidate aligned with the Northeastern, moderate wing of the party has not won a nomination since 1960, and there is no reason to expect that to change, barring some kind of once-in-a-century realignment of the two political parties. Northeastern Republicans are now junior partners in the party coalition. They cannot deliver their own states anymore, as the Democrats dominate them all except New Hampshire and Pennsylvania; meanwhile, conservatives in the Midwest, South, and West can deliver their states, and so they now basically run the show.

“Which brings us to Mitt Romney, whose basic political problem is that he comes from the Northeastern wing of the party. Even his father, George Romney, was the presidential candidate that Nelson Rockefeller quietly backed in the early stages of the 1968 nomination battle. And Mitt, coming as he does from the liberal Bay State, was faced with a very difficult choice: either govern as a bona fide conservative and get nothing done as governor, or tack to the center as a Northeastern-style Republican and push the policy needle as far to the right as lefty Massachusetts (the only state to back McGovern in 1972!) would allow…

“Sixty years ago, he would have been an easy, obvious choice for the Republican nomination. However, time has passed and the balance of power in the GOP has shifted decisively, leaving the Northeastern wing of the party on the outside looking in. That is Mitt Romney’s big political problem.”

“Whether one likes or dislikes Obama’s health-care plan — and there are certainly parts to like — this has always been the crucial point. Keep it small; keep it simple; leave it to the states. Within that framework, what Romney did in Massachusetts is entirely defensible. It was an experiment; it was bold; it was imperfect…

“My sense of ‘poor Romney’ is that he may be too decent and earnest to be an effective politician. Which is not to impugn others, mind you, but heck-o-rama. Romney simply can’t win for winning. Even without a tie, he’s the tidiest, best-prepared boy in the class.”

“This time the guy whose turn it is is Mitt Romney. Unfortunately for him, his signature legislation in Massachusetts looks awfully like a pilot program for Obamacare. So in recent days, he’s been out yet again defending his record: If I understand him correctly, his argument is that the salient point about Romneycare and Obamacare is not that they’re both disasters, but that one’s local and the other’s national, and that Obama has a one-disaster-fits-all approach to health care whereas Romney believes in letting a thousand disasters bloom. Celebrate diversity!…

“Romneycare is not just an argument about health care. It exemplifies what’s wrong with American political structures: It suggests that our institutions are incapable of course correction; it reminds us (as does Boehner’s joke budget ‘savings’ of a couple of weeks back) that Republicans are either easily suckered or too eager to be bipartisan figleafs in embarrassing kindergarten kabuki; it confirms that ‘technocracy’ in politics is a synonym for ‘more’: more government, more spending, more laws, more bureaucrats, more regulations, more paperwork, more of what’s killing this once-great republic every hour of every day. In defense of Romney, one might argue that politics is the art of the possible. But in Massachusetts what was possible made things worse. That’s the situation the nation is in — and the message that America’s lenders are beginning to get.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Romneycare is not part of the solution; it embodies the problem. If Mitt Romney cannot recognize that, it’s unlikely that he’s the guy to pull American politics back into a passing acquaintance with reality. To put it in Obama terms, America is a moat, and it’s filled with government spendaholics. You could toss a poor alligator in there, but they’d pick him clean in seconds, and leave what was left for Nancy Pelosi’s shoes.”