I was pretty confident we’d won yesterday afternoon PST when I saw that early exit polls showed that 52% of voters believed Mitt’s policies favor the rich. At that point, I knew it didn’t matter if we were looking at an electorate like 2004 or 2008 or 2010 (which was causing dispute about the accuracy of the polls), all that mattered was that more than half of them felt this way. I believed that single finding was disastrous, and I didn’t see how Mitt could survive.
By the end of the campaign, Mitt reminded me more and more of Sarah Palin. I know the contrast between a guy with two advanced Harvard degrees and a complete ignoramus is stark, but when I listened to him, he spoke in the same “word salad” we got in 2008 and still get from her. Palin’s word salad comes from not knowing anything about policy, while Mitt’s comes from not wanting to be specific about policy. The cause is different, but the effect from both is a complete lack of confidence in their ability to lead.
Even when we thought Mitt was taking a stand on something — like supporting an abortion exception for the health of the woman or promising to keep Obamacare’s coverage for pre-existing conditions — his campaign walked it back almost immediately. The only time he spoke from the heart was when he thought we couldn’t hear him, when he railed against the 47% percent.
Palin’s lack of a “there there” comes from lack of knowledge, Mitt’s from a lack of courage.
When someone comes across as fearful and nervous while talking about the most basic of domestic issues, as Mitt does, you inevitably wonder how this guy could be commander in chief, how he could deal with Putin if he can’t deal with cuddly Bret Baier.
So he seemed tough as nails in a bad way — when it came to killing jobs at Bain — but then also wimpy, when you’d want him to be tough.
We kept hearing that Mitt was a terrible candidate for the GOP, which was true. It’s galling to hear someone who pays 14% in taxes talk about cutting Medicaid to poor kids and the elderly in nursing homes. A “soak the poor” message is never appealing, especially to women, but never more so than when presented by a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars who doesn’t pay his fair share and wants to cut taxes on the rich even more.
But more than a terrible candidate for one party, Mitt is a terrible politician. He is stiff and awkward, and can’t convey warmth or empathy. He’s cursed with that nervous laugh and obnoxious smirk. That’s a bi-partisan problem, one we saw with Al Gore and John Kerry. He went into politics to finish what George Romney started, but, like many men who follow in their father’s footsteps out of a sense of obligation, he lacked his dad’s innate talent for the profession.
When we fail, we tend to make excuses and to blame others. I hope that, as Mitt licks his wounds, he doesn’t think he lost because he’s a Mormon. I really don’t think voters cared. I also hope he doesn’t think we rejected him out of jealousy and resentment because he’s rich. That’s not how or who we are. It was the cluelessness and out-of-touchness he displayed as a result of that wealth, an inability to put himself in our shoes. You can be rich (many, many politicians are) and still have charisma and connect with people. Forty-four years after his assassination, it is easy for me to picture Bobby Kennedy radiating compassion as he campaigned, I see that toothy grin, those rolled-up shirtsleeves as his arms reached back in the crowd. Was it real or fake? I have no idea. All that mattered was his ability to do it.
Speaking of failure and making excuses, the GOP should not blame their defeat just on Mitt. I picture Mitt and his party as two drowning men, desperately clinging to each other and dragging each other down to their deaths. If Mitt was a terrible candidate, he was also leading a terrible party. Mitt oozed slickness and smarminess, but his party oozed craziness and extremism. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped take Mitt down with them.
The GOP should blame Mitt, and he should blame them. There is plenty of blame to go around.
There is also plenty of hypocrisy that needs to be replaced with humility. Last night on Fox News, Karl Rove shamelessly accused the President of being the one refusing to compromise and of calling his opponents unAmerican. It is to laugh. Sure you can get away with that on Fox, but you can’t win an election just with the Fox faithful. The rest of us know our rubber from our glue.