Romney names Ryan the VP nominee in campaign concession speech
(Note: This post is NOT part of our current Democracy Symposium. If you want to follow the Symposium – and you should! – you can find it here.)
This morning, the Romney camp made two fairly stunning announcements, one trumpeted and one subliminal.
The trumpeted announcement was, of course, his pick for Vice President: conservative wunderkind Paul Ryan. Last night every news network and political pundit on the planet was “predicting” that Ryan would get the nod, so I assume the just-before-we-announce leaking was a well-orchestrated effort that must have been a thing of beauty to watch in real time.
The incredibly early announcement was still stunning, despite the obvious preparation, precisely because it was so early. Traditionally, the VP announcement is made a few days before a party’s convention as a way to fire up the troops and make what is essentially a three day advertisement somewhat news worthy. The GOP’s convention isn’t scheduled until September, and because of this the Ryan nod feels rushed. And this was what signaled the Romney camp’s far more shocking subliminal announcement, which is this:
They know they’re not going to win.
Over the past several weeks, Romney’s attempts to craft a narrative that he is the presumptive leader of the free world have been backfiring. Literally every attempt to make the national conversation turn toward his bona fides has turned into people questioning just how bad a person was this Mitt fellow, anyway?
Here is a brief review of what the Romney campaign has wrought over the summer thus far:
- A rehashing of Romney’s experience “shutting down companies and sending jobs overseas at Bain.” That this tactic, regardless of its accuracy, was used so successfully against Romney in his previous campaigns made it all the more head-scratching that he seemed so unprepared to answer these charges this summer. The bizarre and panicked fumbling when the Boston Globe dug up records that seemed to contradict Romney’s stated Bain time-line led to an unfortunate set of bifurcated stories: stories that suggested that he was lying, and – from those more inclined to support the GOP nominee – stories wondering why his campaign didn’t have the skills to better handle a story they should have know was coming when they decided to throw Mitt’s hat in the ring.
- The overly cheerful campaign-driven “Mitt really is a person, just like you!” stories. One of the saddest things to watch over the campaign has been Romney’s people trying to
find a way to make Mitt seem more “human.” Back in April, they began shuffling out wife Ann to make the case on behalf of her husband that you really did like him, you just thought you didn’t. This inability of Mitt’s to connect with voters hit its most embarrassing note in July, when in an attempt to win over the masses for the cause, Speaker John Boehner conceded that “the American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”
- Dressage, dressage, dressage. Nothing wrong with dressage, of course. And in fact, the dressage was probably the Romney’s high point of the summer, after driving the “You didn’t build that” gaffe into the ground. But as high points go, dressage does not a movement make, especially for a party that once claimed that being so “elite” that you ate arugula was a presidential disqualifier.
- The “Mitt doesn’t pay taxes” story. Which, like the Bain story, is probably more damning for what it says about his campaign’s so being caught off guard by a subject they must have know was coming before they announced his candidacy. Despite calls from many in his own party to just release his taxes and take his lumps, Romney has refused to do so – which of course has only led to additional news cycles speculating about how bad they must be.
- Putting your best foot forward in doo-doo overseas. You’re running for president of the USA and you take a trip to Great Britain. The only reason you take this trip is to paint a picture for American voters that you are better with the diplomacy thing than your opponent. You pick countries that you believe will give you preferential treatment to look good. Your whole message to the leaders and people of Great Britain is that, for a number of reasons, you are a much better match than the other guy, and they should like you more. After the first day there, you put your foot in it to the extent that the Prime Minister not only acknowledges that you’ve crossed a line, but he basically calls you out in a news conference. Ouch.
But perhaps the straw that broke the Romney camp’s back came this week, when it bungled what should have been a home run and turned it into a death nail. A superpac for Obama ran an ad that blamed Mitt Romney for killing a nice old lady with cancer. It was an obviously sleazy bit of work at first glance, and that was before it turned out that the way the poor couple’s fortunes played out in reality was worlds apart from how they were portrayed in the commercial. Everyone seemed to agree that it was terrible, and the Obama camp was implicated by association. For the first time in what seemed like forever, the media was talking about Romney and saying positive things.
There are two problems with all of this, however, from the perspective of the Romney camp. The first is that, even if the news cycles are committed to running the story that you didn’t actually give a woman cancer, you still have news cycles running with the story that you didn’t actually give a woman cancer. When you’re rounding into the home stretch of a presidential campaign and the most positive thing people are saying about you is that you don’t give people cancer, it’s a bit of a problem.
But it was the second problem that was the killer:
Yes, you heard that right. In what was an obviously prepared quip for a softball FOX interview, a Romney spokesperson said that if the nice old lady who died of cancer had moved to Massachusetts in order to get socialized medicine, she’d probably be alive today. For months prior to this, the Right’s punditry had dutifully been trying to choke down the Romney candidacy, telling itself (and its audience) that you should ignore that pro-choice, socialized medicining, gun control advocate in the corner – he was a figment of your imagination! But this was too much even for them. It seems like just about everybody on the Right came down on Mitt, and when you listen their statements and read their comments, you get the feeling that it just felt good to say it out loud.
And so with almost a month to go before the convention, the Romney camp announced Ryan as the VP nominee. My assumption is that both here and elsewhere in the blogosphere, pixel ink will be devoted to an onslaught of “will he help or hurt?” predictions. They will all try to pick apart the words and deeds of Ryan, and attempt to find the tea leaves needed to declare the pick a success or failure. But all of this muttering will be beside the point. The fact of the matter is, it’s three months before the general election and Mitt Romney’s people have already started chucking up the kind of Hail Marys normally reserved for late October by the Dukakises of the world. Paul Ryan might be a great GOP VP candidate, and he might be a bust. Two years from now he might be announcing his 2016 exploratory committee, or he might be inking a five-year multi-million dollar deal with FOX. Or he might be a wash up. (Though I doubt this last one. He seems too smart for that.) He may indeed be many things, but the one thing he won’t be is the Vice President of the United States of America. If he had a shot at being so in the real world, and not just the “we’re-just-making-these-next-few-months-interesting” bizarro world that is horse-race election coverage, he’d be making the speech he’s making this morning weeks from now. But instead he’s making that speech today, because this race is over.
What’s more, the Romney camp knows it.