The Third Coming of Mitt Romney

The Third Coming of Mitt Romney

In a hotly contested election year, the most boring US Senate race might prove to have the most impact after the election. Barring something unheard of Mitt Romney is going to become the junior US Senator from Utah. But the former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate would not be your typical freshman senator.

NY Times:

While his wife looms largest in his life and decision-making, former aides and advisers say, Mr. Romney’s aspiration to live the lessons of George Romney cannot be overstated. When he debated Barack Obama in 2012, Mr. Romney scribbled a single word atop his notes to anchor himself: “Dad.”

“His dad’s legacy weighs into every decision he makes,” Josh Romney said.

After George Romney left office in Michigan, his son recalled in 2014, he grew “quite frustrated” at his diminished relevance, saying that Washington was “the fastest place to go from ‘who’s who’ to ‘who’s that’?”

Mr. Romney plans to avoid a similar coda. He has already spoken in private about serving two terms. He hopes to join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, among other assignments. And he has told supporters he wants to become a leading voice on fiscal discipline and immigration policy — about which he has said he is “more of a hawk” than the president.

“He’s hesitant to even bring up his name,” Josh Romney said. “He doesn’t want it to be about Donald Trump.”

Nor do the voters, in a state Mr. Trump lost decisively in the 2016 Republican caucus, seem especially inclined to make Mr. Romney talk about him. At the festival, Mr. Romney fell into conversation with firefighters, a sheriff, a former volunteer on his presidential race. “Wish I’d have won,” Mr. Romney told the man. “I apologize.”

And that name Romney is hesitate to speak, President Donald J. Trump, was very much on his mind two years ago in his well publicized speech during the 2016 campaign:

AP:

He once called Donald Trump “a con man,” but Mitt Romney is now predicting that Trump will “easily” win his party’s presidential nomination in 2020 and “solidly” win a second term. The president, in turn, called Romney “a straight shooter.”

Romney, the GOP’s failed 2012 presidential nominee from Massachusetts, now a Republican Senate candidate in Utah, made the prediction Thursday as he welcomed dozens of high-profile business and political leaders to a mountainside retreat in Utah. As he has every year since 2012, Romney played host to an invitation-only summit focused on the future of American leadership at home and abroad.

The future, he predicted, would feature Trump as America’s leader at least for another six years.

“I think that not just because of the strong economy and the fact that people are going to see increasingly rising wages,” Romney said, “but I think it’s also true because I think our Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought and will make it easier for a president who’s presiding over a growing economy.”

Asked about Romney’s comments as he left the White House on Friday, Trump said he appreciated his formal rival’s assessment.
“Mitt’s a straight shooter — whether people love him or don’t love him,” Trump said.

The remarks from Romney marked a sharp reversal, in tone if not substance, from his original characterization of Trump. Romney briefly served as the face of the so-called “Never Trump” movement before the 2016 election. He delivered a scathing speech in Utah before the 2016 election, calling Trump “a con man” and “a fake.”

Yet Romney’s criticism has softened since then. And now, in the midst of a Republican Senate primary campaign, the former Massachusetts governor appears to be embracing Trump and his leadership role in the modern-day Republican Party.

Which version of Mitt will be serving in the US Senate remains to be seen. But unless something unforeseen happens, we will find out come January.

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70 thoughts on “The Third Coming of Mitt Romney

  1. This whole thing is literally the most useless thing Romney could possibly do with what is, actuarially, his 2 decades more or less left on this here earth.

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    • I dunno… hard to say what a good use of time for the independently wealthy might be… but US Senator from a safe pocket borough is about the best possible golden years hobby I can imagine.

      Romney seems a decent chap and all… but until I see what his 3rd incarnation represents I’m skeptical he’s in step with American politics outside of Utah. It seems he’s talking Fiscal Conservatism, Foreign Policy Hawk, and now adding Immigration Hawk to the tripod? One, I don’t believe he’s an immigration hawk and, two… meh… Fiscal conservative foreign policy hawk is why he’s not president already.

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      • Indpendently wealthy old dude should be using his executive experience to run a non profit that makes the world better, or do what everyone else is and work on getting us to Mars.

        Taking up space in the Senate is a waste of his executive talents, and blocks the opportunity for someone else to gain experience in this hard to obtain job. (Which in turn blocks up and comers further downstream).

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        • Does he have Mars money? I just thought he had Space Tourist money.

          But sure, if you look at it from a non-Romney perspective those are good points; but, from a Romney perspective, the family legacy doesn’t just burnish itself.

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        • The press loved Obama. They minimized every criticism of him by attacking every critic. Romney had dogs on his roof and women in binders and didn’t care if you got cancer. Reverend Wright was just a right-wing talking point according to the mainstream press, but Parker and Stone created a musical just to smear Romney’s religion. Most importantly, Romney was a man of great character (aside from his occasional flip-flopping}. Obama was an politically-inexperienced former cokehead who hung around with the worst people in Chicago politics.

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          • For reference: this is what “satire” against Obama looked like in mid-2009. IMHO the peak of this nonsense was his nobel prize in October of 2009.

            Granted, the halo had slipped a little bit by 2012… but yeah.

            Ideally we’d give the Presidency to people with a multi-decade history of success and competence. Romney was an expert in management, leadership, politics, reaching across to the Dems, and company creation. Whatever bar we want to establish for who should be President, Romney easily passes it.

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            • Given the common result of being taken over by private equity, ITYM company destruction.

              But I’ll agree that Romney the private citizen has a lot of accomplishments. That when he enters public life he becomes a shameless panderer who will say anything to anyone to get their support (seriously, had he ever had a position on immigration before this year, much less an extreme one?) is a good reason for him to stay out of it.

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          • “but Parker and Stone created a musical just to smear Romney’s religion”

            Now, now, that’s not true. Parker and Stone, like many Coloradans, grew up cheek by jowl with proselytizing members of Romney’s religion, and they (understandably IMHO) have been fairly obsessed with mocking and analysing and in their weird way celebrating it ever since. They may have been *greenlit* for the production because Romney’s religion was deemed newsworthy, a point of attack, etc., but that’s not why they created the show. They created it because Mormons, like Canadians, have been an obsession for them for decades.

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            • To the point, Parker and Stone made the movie Orgazmo back in the mid-90’s, featuring the lead being a Mormon missionary that becomes a porn star of all things. The production of the musical took many years, and the timing was more coincidence than just the election cycles. Romney took plenty of unfair shots for his faith, but Book of Mormon was more happenstance than planned attack.

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              • This might be a surprise to those that haven’t seen the musical, but, at the end, The Book of Mormon is fairly complimentary of Mormonism as a religion, even if its mocks some of its most peculiar quirks.

                Complimentary enough that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints regularly buys space in the show’s Playbill.

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                • I agree and I don’t take such things too overly seriously at all. I cant speak for Mormons but as a Christian I still found Dogma to be an enjoyable movie. Mocking is something that has to be taken in stride, and it would take a lot to get me worked up over it one way or the other.

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                • Well, the complimentary of Mormonism is from the perspective of vulgar utilitarianism.

                  Does this belief system make you happier than you would have been without it?

                  Then it’s good.

                  Does your belief system make you unhappier than you would be with this one?

                  Then you should switch.

                  Is this belief system true?

                  Oh, heck no.

                  It’s that last part, the “oh, heck no”, that could be seen as the problem.

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                  • Is this belief system true?

                    Oh, heck no.

                    It’s that last part, the “oh, heck no”, that could be seen as the problem.

                    I’m not sure what you mean by the “problem”

                    But “a” problem is that there’s no way I can judge any religious belief to be true or not. Nor can you, I think.

                    So I guess the “happy” criteria is a good one.

                    Not being Mormon, I don’t really know how happy or anything Mormonism makes people. But in the play, the converts “grow” as human beings. They become a little wiser, and a little better people because (in spite) of their conversion.

                    And I found that good. It made me like the play better than if it had been just slapstick comedy, which, honestly, is all I was expecting (like others expect Elon Musk to be evil, you know)

                    And just so we are clear. This is the subthread about the play. If you want to talk about the Church, open an appropriate subthread and, if I have something useful to say, I might say it.

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                    • But “a” problem is that there’s no way I can judge any religious belief to be true or not. Nor can you, I think.

                      From Wikipedia:

                      When his audience begins to get frustrated and leave, Cunningham quickly makes up stories by combining what he knows of Mormon doctrines with pieces of science fiction and fantasy. Cunningham’s conscience (personified by his father, Joseph Smith, hobbits, Lt. Uhura, Darth Vader, and Yoda) admonishes him, but he rationalizes that if it helps people, it surely cannot be wrong (“Making Things Up Again”).

                      While I cannot say that, between Religion X and Religion Y that, oh, *THIS* one is the true one… I’m pretty sure that I can say something like “Religion X and Religion Y are mutually exclusive.”

                      That is, both X and Y cannot be true. If one is true, the other is false.

                      The version of Mormonism that says “oh, these are all metaphors for truth” is not compatible with the one that says “no, Joseph Smith actually talked to Moroni.”

                      So I guess the “happy” criteria is a good one.

                      There are reasons to see “happy” as the goal.

                      There are reasons to not see “happy” as the goal and some of them involve stuff like “Truth”.

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                      • Religion suffers from the “how serious should we take this?” problem and from from making vague statements which can (and are) be used to support anything. It’s easily weaponized and can be used as a tool of repression and war. It seems more of a cultural thing rather than a Physics thing.

                        Having said that, Romney’s Flavor of Mormonism doesn’t seem especially aggressive or disruptive by Western Standards, and certainly not by World standards. I’m sure there are ugly aspects to its history but that’s history.

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          • Romney was such an awesome guy, with such a towering commitment to decency and civility, and such an aversion to partisan smears that he… er… aggressively courted Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2012.

            And received it, I might add.

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          • A man of great character says this, “In explaining his overwhelming electoral college defeat last week, Romney said Obama followed what he called the “old playbook” of seeking votes from specific interest groups, “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” the New York Times said. “In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” he added, according to the paper.”

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/romney-obamas-gift-giving-led-to-loss/2012/11/14/c8d7e744-2eb7-11e2-89d4-040c9330702a_story.html?utm_term=.c9d9245729b8

            It’s weird how to the right, when it’s convenient, your personal character is only how you treat your immediate family and maybe your employees.

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            • It’s weird how to the right, when it’s convenient, your personal character is only how you treat your immediate family and maybe your employees.

              Who is Romney mistreating here? He’s pointing out that Obama promised taxpayer money (as bribes) to various groups.

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        • That wasn’t just a poorly veiled but quite clearly deliberate personal attack on another commenter, the implied claim that I wouldn’t catch it was an insult to my intelligence as a reader. Luckily for you, I found the latter funny and it mitigated my irritation at the former.

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          • I deeply and truly doubt that, however Pinky voted, he did so because some nebulous other called Trump voters “despicable”, which is pretty much required for it to be a personal attack. It certainly wasn’t aimed at him.

            It was an attack on the sheer hypocrisy of tone policing coming from Trump supporters.

            The very people most eager to deploy the phrase “special snowflakes” about their ideological opponents claiming that mean words motivated their vote needs to be called out.

            Pot meet kettle is fair game.

            And it really is a long-standing streak of hypocrisy here. Whining about “flyover country” when sneering about “latte-sipping coastal elites” is a pretty old one, or how quickly the same people complaining about “PC Culture” are quick to complain when someone has an opinion they don’t like…

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            • I got that it was a general statement, but imho it’s not “Pot meet kettle”.

              The complaint isn’t that the Left mistreated Romney. The observation is that by lying about how bad Romney was, there was nothing worse to describe Trump.

              If everyone is a Nazi then no one is. If racist means “not a democrat” then don’t expect people to treat it seriously. If there’s a Nazi wolf behind every bush and tree then don’t be shocked if you’re not believed if you ever get serious.

              Snowflakes melt at the first sign of reality’s heat, and that’s a problem. You not being believed when you scream wolf is a different problem.

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                • Primary votes are typically cast tactically. For example, you make decisions based on how you think your party’s nominee will fare against his likely opponent. You anticipate lines of attack. Republicans know they’re going to be characterized as heartless. So maybe you vote for the maverick of the Senate, or a good Mormon family man. It’s perfectly reasonable. For Republicans, it’s particularly important, because the mainstream press is in the opponents’ camp. That’s not to say that this last election played out according to script, but we’ve all done this enough to know that there is a script.

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                  • A lot of the complaints about how Romney were treated really seem to boil down to, “Democrats declined to be bound by commitments that the Romney campaign and its surrogates made on their behalf.”

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                      • If people voted for Romney tactically, went for Trump after the Dems were meaner to Romney than anybody had ever been in history, and the choice of Trump is somehow the responsibility of the Dems who were mean to Romney… well, how else would you describe the problem?

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                        • I wouldn’t say that the Democrats are responsible for creating Trump….I hope I didn’t say that, although I’m just sleepy enough not to check if I did. They’re responsible for their incivility, as Republicans are for theirs. I don’t think they were meaner than they were to anyone in history, although maybe I do, in that they were disproportionately mean. All that said, I just don’t understand what you meant in that comment.

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                          • OK, so there’s a line of argument here, that comes up from time to time, and most recently in what said, that because Dems/the MSM [1] were mean to Romney, people (in the GOP primary) dismissed criticism of Trump in the primary on the grounds that the DemSM [2] said the same things about Romney, and hence made him the nominee.

                            I don’t think this argument, as stated, makes a lot of sense, because why would Republican primary voters pay a great deal of attention to DemSM [3] criticisms? The only reason might be tactical, in that, “Well, if we pick this dude, this is what they’ll say about him!”

                            And I can’t say that’s crazy; I think partisans do that sort of thing with some frequency. Certainly I remember such concerns played significant roles in the 2004 [4], 2008, and 2016 primaries.

                            But that doesn’t leave much room for a narrative of betrayed trust, because the compromise involved in picking Romney in the hopes that opposing partisans and hostile media would treat him more gently is not one that those opposing partisans and hostile media ever agreed to. You can’t betray a compromise you weren’t a party to.

                            But without that, the only issue left is that people were too mean to Romney in a normative sense. Which, like, fine, that’s a position someone could hold [5], but it is awfully hard to get from, “Well, people were too mean to Romney!” to, “Because people were too mean to Romney, it made more sense to go for Trump.”

                            [1] Often conflated explicitly, which is a separate subject which is actually tricky, and pretty interesting IMO.

                            [2] Oh man I like this portmanteau and will be horribly disappointed if I actually just invented it.

                            [3] It just rolls off the fingers.

                            [4] There are a lot of parallels between the Kerry and Romney candidacies.

                            [5] I think Romney was an unremarkable losing Presidential candidate, and the way he was treated by the media and the other party was similarly unremarkable.

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                            • All right, your argument is that Republicans shouldn’t complain that Democrats weren’t won over by Romney? That they knew the rules and shouldn’t have assumed that their candidate would get Democratic support? (I’m not trying to rephrase your position to twist it. I want to make sure I got your point.)

                              I’d respond that the DemSM attacked Romney on his goodness: for being religious, charitable, polite, hard-working and successful, caring for his sick wife, being a teetotaler. They painted him as heartless, greedy, uncool. If you diminish the value of admirable qualities, you may not have created Trump, but you made him appealing.

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                              • That they knew the rules and shouldn’t have assumed that their candidate would get Democratic support?

                                That is essentially correct. And I believe there was a dynamic where they believed this in part because the GOP wasn’t totally sold on Romney themselves.

                                I’d respond that the DemSM attacked Romney on his goodness: for being religious, charitable, polite, hard-working and successful, caring for his sick wife, being a teetotaler.

                                Like I said, he was an unremarkable losing Presidential candidate, and his treatment by the press and opposition party was similarly unremarkable. It’s very similar to the way Kerry was treated, and there are plenty of echoes of how George HW Bush and Bob Dole were handled during their losing campaigns against Bill Clinton.

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                              • “Democrats declined to be bound by commitments that the Romney campaign and its surrogates made on their behalf.”

                                If the entire US is limited to Blue and Red, this makes sense. True members of team Blue wouldn’t vote for any member of team Red. Problem is there are supposed to be neutrals, undecideds, and partly decideds.

                                Romney has an absurdly impressive resume. He’s been absurdly successful in multiple fields. He’s a many times proven expert in leadership, management, bureaucracy, and turning around failing companies (and yes, taking them apart). If he’d stayed in business he’d be as rich as Trump claims without the shaky accounting. He was a Red govenor of a Blue state, got things done, even including Romney-care. Romney has also avoided the various fiscal/sexual ethical problems that crop up with politicians.

                                So he is to relevant-to-being-the-President hyper-competence and ethics what Trump is to Narcism. There are very few people who could come close to matching that kind of record, Obama isn’t close to being one of them.

                                I get why team Blue would feel threatened by Romney and would pull out the shit cannon and claim various *isms. I don’t see why anyone who isn’t a strong member of team Blue would go for that. Birtherism is an absurd argument and it’s proponents should be (and are) treated like they’re in tin hat territory; Romney sets so high a bar that all arguments against him are effectively birtherism.

                                Various “non-partisan” organizations behave as though they’re members of Team Blue. Every public comparison between Obama and Romney didn’t point out that the later is much more qualified and experienced than the former, instead Obama was compared favorably to the Justice League and handed a Peace Prize for existing while Romney was pilloried for letting his dog enjoy the wind in a car trip.

                                Romney’s hyper-competence, accomplishments, and “goodness” wasn’t useful for becoming President, but Trump’s narcissism and moral flaws were.

                                I don’t expect hard core members of team blue to be nice to team red, but the supposedly non-partisan crew aren’t supposed to behave like hard core members of team blue. And yes, this kind of thing absolutely led to Trump.

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                                • So, in your view, , if a rich man runs for President, was a good manager, didn’t cheat on his wife, the non-partisan press isn’t supposed to point out the actual results of his chosen policy aims and doing so is equivalent to a conspiracy that the 1st Black President wasn’t born here?

                                  Really?

                                  Like, hey, if Mitt Romney ran as 2004 Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, it would’ve been hard to run against him. I fully agree with that.

                                  But, he didn’t. He ran on a very unpopular economic plan, being very socially conservative, very anti-immgrant, etc.

                                  It’s not non-partisan to accurately state a candidates’ actual views on things, not just talk about how good a CEO he is.

                                  EDIT – My apologies to for thinking he wrote the above

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                                  • if a rich man runs for President, was a good manager, didn’t cheat on his wife, the non-partisan press isn’t supposed to point out the actual results of his chosen policy aims and doing so is equivalent to a conspiracy that the 1st Black President wasn’t born here?

                                    Bluntly, Yes. Both of those descriptions diminish the accomplishments and stature of the people in question.

                                    Calling Romney “a rich man” and “a good manager” is like calling Michael Jackson “a guy who sometimes sings”, Mike Tyson “a guy who uses his fists”, or Michael Jordan “a guy who played Basketball”. Romney is to multiple important Presidential skills what each of those Mikes is to their respective fields, and like them he proved exhaustively that he was at the peak of his profession.

                                    Claiming Obama wasn’t born here is an effort to claim he’s not qualified to be President. His resume and work experience were already so shockingly thin that to go lower than the reality they needed to attack his Constitutional qualifications.

                                    He ran on a very unpopular economic plan, being very socially conservative, very anti-immigrant, etc.

                                    We’re not talking about character, experience, and accomplishments, not policy. If you’re against the Moats! wing of the GOP strongly enough to decide your vote, then that’s an informed choice, and you probably don’t care how competent either guy is. This is where we get statements like “better a 3rd rate fireman than a first class arsonist”.

                                    However if you’re voting for Obama because he’s the smartest and most accomplished guy on the stage, then that’s not an informed choice, just the opposite.

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                                • But I do agree, people who want low tax rates, a smaller welfare state, and a far more socially conservative country being upset that Democrats actually ran an effective political campaign is how we got Trump.

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                                • Every public comparison between Obama and Romney didn’t point out that the later is much more qualified and experienced than the former,

                                  I’m not going to address the rest, because it’s largely subjective (and I don’t even disagree with it all [1]), but this is, I think, a really dubious comparison on grounds where there’s some hope of objective agreement.

                                  By the time Romney was running against Obama, Obama’s resume was no longer relevant. Obama has already been President, and everybody had more than enough information about his performance in office to judge for themselves what kind of President he would be.

                                  Similarly, GWB’s relatively limited experience in government prior to his election to the Presidency didn’t really matter in 2004. He’d been doing the job, for good or ill, for four years. Nobody needed to guess at his performance.

                                  On the other hand, in 2008, during both the primary and the general, Obama’s relative lack of experience was a repeated issue. And he really was less experienced than Hillary and much, much less experienced than McCain.

                                  [1] I think there’s a decent case that Romney was treated unfairly as an individual or candidate by the press, but I think the nature of that treatment is absolutely typical for losing candidates of either party.

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                                  • I think there’s a decent case that Romney was treated unfairly as an individual or candidate by the press, but I think the nature of that treatment is absolutely typical for losing candidates of either party.

                                    Gore comes to mind as well.

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                                    • It’s almost as if building a favourable media narrative is a crucial part of running an effective national campaign in modern American politics.

                                      Like it or not, that’s part of the job description. If a national election was a resume and personal accomplishments competition, none if these folks would be the top contenders.

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                                      • If a national election was a resume and personal accomplishments competition, none if these folks would be the top contenders.

                                        It may be me looking at the past through rose glasses, but I thought the previous elections mostly had people who did have solid accomplishments, and those who lacked them were soundly ridiculed. Dan Quayle was thought to be unqualified with 2 full terms served in the House and 2 terms won in the Senate.

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                                  • On the other hand, in 2008, during both the primary and the general, Obama’s relative lack of experience was a repeated issue. And he really was less experienced than Hillary and much, much less experienced than McCain.

                                    Obama was less experienced than Palin. And calling it “a repeated issue” ignores that before, during, and after the election the so called non-partisan media (and other entities) treated him like a combination of Superman and Jesus Christ. Superman doesn’t need experience.

                                    It’s the “afterwards” that’s the real problem in terms of Romney. The Presidency was Obama’s first experience with management, leadership and so forth. Giving a hard job to a rank newbie who had avoided these types of responsibilities should lead to serious issues, and with the media worshiping him we simply wouldn’t hear about it. If only positive news is reported then we didn’t “have more than enough information about his performance in office to judge for ourselves”.

                                    Similarly, GWB’s relatively limited experience in government prior to his election to the Presidency didn’t really matter in 2004. He’d been doing the job, for good or ill, for four years. Nobody needed to guess at his performance.

                                    The big actors distorting that election were 911 and the wars. That’s a problem but it’s not a team blue/red problem.

                                    However my central point is the media really does largely behave as though they’re members of team blue, ergo manipulating them is such an important job skill that Trump’s skill there is vastly more important than Romney’s skill/experience/success.

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    • Personally, I don’t think that you necessarily needed to have supported Romney.

      I do think that “the media” not making a whole lot of distinctions between how Trump was covered and how Romney was covered resulted in a lot of low-information voters not understanding that, this time, we really did have to worry about a bad person being nominated.

      I suppose all of the articles talking about how Cruz and Rubio were scarier than Trump were kind of poor setups for how terrible Trump is as well…

      But I suppose that the assumption that the media has any impact on elections is optimistic as heck anymore.

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  2. Dark Matter: He’s waiting for 2024 and intends to be Senator until then… that’s not bad.

    His presidential ambitions are making me somewhat ambivalent about his tenure as senator. Without those ambitions I could see him as a clear moral voice, not beholden to Trump, Utah republicans aren’t Trump biggest supporters.

    But with his eye on the White House, he can’t afford to alienate the large swaths of republican voters that are fanatical Trump cultists.

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    • But with his eye on the White House, he can’t afford to alienate the large swaths of republican voters that are fanatical Trump cultists.

      If memory serves, one of the big things which separated HRC from Obama early on was how soon they turned against the war. She waited until it was safe to oppose because it was unpopular, he opposed it earlier than that.

      If you assume Trump will burn down and become unpopular at some point, then being a “clear moral voice” now, while it’s unpopular right now, might be the thing to do.

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