Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stuart Stevens' bizarre apologia

By Frank Moraes

Stuart Stevens was Romney's chief campaign strategist. And I have a certain fondness for him, which I've discussed before. But he just wrote a bizarre OpEd over at the Washington Post, The GOP Revival Must Go Beyond Joining Twitter. He does give some lip service to this question. But really: is this what anyone is saying? Republicans lost the last election because they didn't have good enough social networking? What is bizarre, however, is that he quickly drops discussion of this issue at all.

For the rest of the OpEd, he just rambles on about this and that. At the beginning, he seems to be defending himself against the argument that Romney lost because his campaign was bad. I will admit that there are some who are making that argument, but I'm not one of them. Romney's campaign was fine. And it wasn't the 47% remark either. So I'm open to a Stevens defense on this issue. But his defense was just pathetic.

Stevens claims that young people voted for Obama because he was offering them the gift of free contraception. And old people voted for Romney because they "are more concerned with the economy than with same-sex marriage." Yeah, those retired people on fixed incomes are really concerned about the job market, unlike those free wheeling young people! This is quite clearly the same line of argument that Romney usedwhen he said that Obama gave "extraordinary financial gifts" to Latinos and others.


The big problem with this is not that Obama didn't give political gifts to voters. The problem is that this is what all politicians do. More to the point: this is what Romney did in a much more obvious way. All that talk about putting back the $700 billion that Obama took out of Medicare? Does Romney really what us to believe that he was doing that because it was good policy rather than just politics? But even more concerning: does Stuart Stevens believe this same claptrap?

After that shameful display, Stevens finally says something smart, "A Republican renaissance will inevitably be driven by policy." But that's the extent of his intelligence. He then goes on to argue that the Republican Party will be just fine. They are just one election cycle away from being relevant again. There is an ounce of truth here. Given the right circumstances, the Republicans could win the White House in 2016 or 2020. But that hardly means that the party is back. It still faces big challenges that a demographics defying presidential race win will only make harder to solve.

To top it off, he dismisses the Democratic Party in 2016 as being either of the old candidates Clinton or Biden. He contrasts them to the usual list of supposedly great young Republicans (e.g. Rubio). He's making a couple of mistakes here. One is that someone like Nikki Haley stands out because she's good rather than because the Republican field doesn't have much to offer. Most of the people he names would be back benchers if they were in the Democratic Party. But the biggest mistake is that he seems to think that with the same policies these candidates can gain the White House with their charm. And like I said: with the right environment (Economic crash in September 2016?) any one of them can win. But it won't mean the Republican Party is back.

So Stevens tells us that technology will not save his party. But anyway, it isn't surprising that Romney lost with all the gifts Obama was handing out. But what really matters are the party's policies. But they don't need to change them. Because they have these great young Republicans who are going to beat the Democrats who only have old people to run in 2016.

See what I mean: bizarre.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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