The Republican establishment is starting to give voice to serious concerns about the viability of the presidential campaign of former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, displaying pessimism about his chances to beat President Barack Obama in November.
An editorial in the conservative†Wall Street Journal, a column by influential neoconservative Bill Kristol and a series of tweets from News Corp mogul Rupert Murdoch all voice similar fears of a campaign that is playing it too safe, being too vague and giving voters no reason to vote for Romney in November.
“Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running?” Kristol asked, comparing Romney to former Mass. Governor Michael Dukakis and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both of whom unsuccessfully sought the presidency. “It’s†possible to lose a winnable presidential election to a vulnerable incumbent in the White House.”
Kristol compared the Romney strategy to a “prevent defense” in football, where the team with the lead plays a soft defense that, in principle, allows the other team to move the ball but not score.
“Adopting a prevent defense when it’s only the second quarter and you’re not even ahead is dubious enough as a strategy,” Kristol said. “But his campaign’s monomaniacal belief that it’s about the economy and only the economy, and that they need to keep telling us stupid voters that it’s only about the economy, has gone from being an annoying tick to a dangerous self-delusion.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial agreed:
The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it’s Mr. Obama’s fault…Thanks, guys, but Americans already know that. What they want to hear from the challenger is some understanding of why the President’s policies aren’t working and how Mr. Romney’s policies will do better.
Whether Obama’s policies are the problem is, of course, a matter of debate. What’s striking, however, is how the complaints by Kristol and the Wall Street Journal both say that Romney needs to do more than simply argue that Obama is bad. Instead, they ask Romney to actually put his cards on the table and say what he would do as president.
Romney has been loath to be specific so far in the campaign, in no small part because his past record has often been at odds with his current rhetoric. As governor in Massachusetts, Romney signed a health care reform law that was similar in many respects to the Affordable Care Act, which Romney claims to now vehemently oppose. Romney also supported abortion rights prior to his election as governor of Massachusetts, and he once claimed to be more pro-gay rights than the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Republicans have started to sense that their opportunity to defeat Obama, a victory they’ve been planning for since the night Obama was inaugurated, could be slipping away. Obama has built a small but stable lead in the polls and is given a 68 percent chance of winning in November according to New York Times statistician Nate Silver.†Moreover, Obama has begun to hit Romney on his record with Bain Capital and his overseas holdings, attacks that the Romney campaign has been slow to react to.
“Team Obama is now opening up a new assault on Mr. Romney as a job outsourcer with foreign bank accounts, and if the Boston boys let that one go unanswered, they ought to be fired for malpractice,” said the Wall Street Journal.
Murdoch, whose News Corp owns the Journal, agrees.
“Tough [Obama] Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless [Romney] drops old friends from team and hires some real pros,” Murdoch tweeted. “Doubtful.”
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