Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Is Mitt Romney past the point of redemption?

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is not good for the GOP. The message, according to MSNBC's First Read, ought to be clear to any Republican paying attention, which is that their presidential nomination process needs to come to an end as soon as possible if they have any hope of competing in the fall.

Last week, while live-blogging the Michigan and Arizona primaries, I said that Romney's slim victory in Michigan would force members of the Republican establishment who might have been sitting on their hands to finally get behind Romney because he is the only credible game in town. Not that I find him that credible, but, considering the alternatives, he's credible.

So, with the headline "Before Super Tuesday, Big Names Rally to Romney," the New York Times recently reported on just this phenomenon. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator Tom Coburn, and John Ashcroft, former Missouri governor and senator who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush are all on board now with the Romney Express. Others will follow.

Watching Romney almost lose to Rick Santorum, which he could have done if Santorum had avoided stupid comments in support of his social conservatism, was enough, I argued, to make the powers-that-be in the party understand how close they truly came to disaster. Maybe they would end up with Romney anyway, but they understood that a prolonged battle with Santorum wasn't good for the brand, that having the race in doubt any longer would be a major problem, that having these four remaining idiots tearing at each other for potentially months to come was a fate from which they could not recover. Pretty obvious, actually.

But is it now too late anyway?

Let them say that the heat of battle would make the final choice, presumably Romney, that much stronger, but the polls don't really support that claim.

Here's the MSNBC analysis of the NBC/WSJ poll:

According to the survey, the combative and highly scrutinized primary season has taken a toll on the party and its presidential candidates, especially Romney. Four in 10 of all adults say the Republican nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the GOP, versus just 12% with a more favorable opinion. Additionally, asked to describe the nominating battle in a word or phrase, 69% of respondents (including 63% of independents and even 56% of Republicans) answered with a negative comment. Some of the examples from Republicans: "Unenthusiastic," "discouraged," "lesser of two evils," "painful," and "disappointed." And 55% of respondents (including 35% of Republicans) believe the Democratic Party does a better job than the GOP of appealing to those who aren’t hard-core supporters.

As for Romney's popularity:

The primary season has taken a toll on Romney, too. In January’s NBC/WSJ poll, Romney's fav/unfav score stood at 31%/36% (and 22%/42% among indies), which as we noted then wasn't good. But in this latest survey, it’s even worse, 28%/39% (and 22%/38% among indies). In fact, Romney’s image right now is worse than almost all other recent candidates who went on to win their party’s presidential nomination: Obama was 51%/28% and McCain was 47%/27%, per the March 2008 NBC/WSJ poll; Kerry was 42%/30% at this point in ’04; George W. Bush was 43%/32% in 2000; and Bob Dole was 35%/39%. The one exception: Bill Clinton, in April 1992, was 32%/43%. That means that if Romney becomes the GOP nominee, he has a LONG WAY to go to rehabilitate his image.

My sense is that the GOP establishment is ready to close ranks fully around Romney. He'll be the guy. No one not yet in the race will get in the race. Romney will win the Ohio primary, get enough of the delegates today to declare victory, more or less, and then slowly, perhaps painfully, go on to secure the nomination.

But, to my mind, there is nothing to suggest that he has gotten stronger as a part of this process. If anything, he seems smaller, weaker, whinier with each passing day. Through his pandering he has became, or at least appears to be, a soulless creature not so much a positive force but as the only alternative for those who would not vote for Barack Obama under any circumstances.

Depending on what kind of shape the economy is in this fall, I suppose we have to say that anything could happen, but I don't see Romney able to rehabilitate himself to the degree necessary to win.

The damage is done.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home