Thursday, January 05, 2012

Something to Believe In

Daniel Henninger on the Romney campaign's cynical combination of electability and inevitability:

There's a less inspiring side to the Iowa results. Analysis of the caucus voters makes clear that Mitt Romney holds the Republican vote that most values electability, defeating Barack Obama with whatever works. Nothing wrong with that. Winning matters. There's much to like in the Romney candidacy. But no one doubts that Mr. Romney's strategy is counting on two things: electability and inevitability.

The problem is that any campaign running on a mixture of electability and inevitability this year is by definition filling the atmosphere with a lot of cynicism. Electability is self-limiting, though, if Mr. Romney never closes the deal with the angry Republicans who gave their votes to Messrs. Santorum, Paul and the others. It's a lot of votes.

Political cynicism and political anger are not cut from the same cloth. If Mr. Romney doesn't find a way to make his candidacy bridge this divide in the Republican Party, Barack Obama—the one real cynic in this campaign—will exploit the GOP's division and weaken him.

Mr. Romney still lacks the consistency of political belief that drove voters to Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. An example:

Yesterday, Barack Obama was in Shaker Heights, Ohio, to deliver his awful class-war speech again. On page 39 of Mr. Romney's 160-page economic plan, he attacks the president's "inflammatory" rhetoric against "so-called millionaires and billionaires." Mr. Romney adds: "He actually includes every household earning more than $250,000 in that category." But turn to the next page, and you read that Mr. Romney will eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest "for any taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of under $200,000."

This transparently insulates the wealthy Mr. Romney from attack, but the ploy discomfits and annoys his natural base. He's trying to force Republicans to cast a cynical vote in a year when many don't want to do that. Some will, but not all. It's the "not all" that could cost him the election.

I never appreciated this cynical angle to the campaign before before, but it explains a lot. The Nihilist in Golf Pants' recent endorsement of Romney for example. I don't know a more cynical man than he and obviously his deep-seated cynicism lead to his decision to throw his support to Romney. Such resignation and eventual accommodation to political realities are easy for members of the Cynical Set. But, as Henninger notes, what about the rest of the Republican voters who are looking for a cause and a candidate that they can believe in?