Losing by Winning: Mitt’s Not-So- Super Tuesday


Not since King Pyrrhus “defeated” the Romans at Heraclea has there been such an empty triumph as Mitt Romney’s Super Tuesday limp-to-the-finish victory over Rick Santorum in Ohio. As Calbuzz Hellenic Affairs Correspondent Plutarch noted in his coverage of that contest:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him.

As a practical matter, Romney’s win in Ohio, as messy as it was, adds to his significant lead in the crucial race for convention delegates (some chrome domes who spend waaay too much on this stuff say it’s now all but impossible for anyone but him to hit the magic number of 1144) and re-establishes the inevitability of his capture of the Republican presidential nomination.

As a political matter, however, the GOP political trophy, after which Mittens has lusted since 2007, increasingly looks like a super-size booby prize.

Put aside the fact that neither Santorum, with his three Super Tuesday state wins and just-miss second place in Ohio, nor Newt Gingrich, with his home state Georgia win, Southern Strategy and Sheldon Adelson money, are going away anytime soon (nor, of course, is Ron Paul, whose singular political motives were somewhat clarified by Kelefah Sanneh’s recent fine profile).

After last night, minus a major blunder by Romney, the incessant, he’s-up-no-he’s-down noise generated by these two political giants will be as the buzzing of flies for Team Mitt, as more and more Republicans get with the program and the MSM grows increasingly weary of having to take Santo and Johnny Newt too seriously.

No, the three truly serious problems for Mitt are: a) a primary campaign that’s borne more resemblance to snake handling night at Rev. Bubba Joe’s revival tent than to a serious political debate, forcing him to take increasingly far-right positions; b) his primary victories have come about almost exclusively through carpet bombing his rivals with money and TV ads, not by giving anyone a positive reason to be for him; and c) his own Nixonian discomfort in his own skin and penchant for stuffing both Guccis in his pie hole at once.

Caution: factoids ahead. Consider what we like to call some Actual Facts from Leading Experts:

The Republican nominating process has had a “corrosive” effect on perceptions of the GOP and its nominees, according to Republican pollster Bill McInturff of the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the gold standard of bipartisan media surveys.

For example: 40% of all adults (and even 23% of Republicans) say the contest has given them a less favorable impression of the GOP; Romney’s favorable/unfavorable rating is now 28/39% overall (22/38% among independents); Santorum’s fav/unfav is 24/39% overall and President Obama’s fav/unfav has climbed to 50/45% — a huge leap from August when it was a negative 44/51%.

As Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor, wrote the other day about the putative front-runner:

Romney’s image right now is worse than almost all other recent candidates who went on to win their party’s presidential nomination: Obama’s favorable/unfavorable ratio was 51/28 percent and John McCain’s was 47/27, in the March 2008 NBC/WSJ poll; John Kerry was at 42/30 at this point in 2004; George W. Bush was 43/32 in 2000; and Bob Dole was 35/39 in March 1996.

The one exception: Bill Clinton, in April 1992, was at 32/43 percent.

And this is before Obama has launched a serious nationwide and state-by-state media campaign for himself and against his GOP opponents, whoever that turns out to be. Read the full poll here (.pdf)

“The primaries have not raised the stature of the party, nor enhanced the appeal of the candidates,” pollster Peter Hart, the Democratic partner in the NBC-WSJ survey, with evident understatement.

While the Republicans have scratched and clawed at one another – and bloviators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have poured gas on the flames – the Democratic Party has improved its image among the population.

Asked “Which political party do you think currently does a better job of appealing to people who are not among its hard-core supporters?” the Democrats beat the Republicans better than 2-to-1: 55-26%. Even 35% of Republicans say the Democrats do a better job of appealing beyond their hard-core base.

Meanwhile back at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave: While the Romper Rooms Reeps were still rolling around the carpet, Obama once again played the Adult in the Room Tuesday in a rare-for-him White House press conference

The president’s ostensible purpose was to unveil a new program to help foreclosed homeowners, a nice substantive if arid issue that none of the Fab Four seems inclined to address, but he injected himself squarely into Super Tuesday coverage with some more decidedly newsworthy comments.

He hit it out of the park when asked about Limbaugh’s despicable and degenerate comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, which suddenly has put a human face to the GOP’s war on women, presenting a, you know, common decency perspective on the matter. With a combined total of 42 or 43 daughters of our own, your Calbuzzards found Obama’s classy performance more than a little praiseworthy:

Carefully measuring his words at a White House news conference, Obama would not take on Limbaugh directly or comment on his apology. But he said “all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.” He said he thought about his daughters, Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, when he called Fluke last week.

 “I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on,” Obama said.

“I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way, and I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they are being good citizens,” he added.

More significantly, Obama also pushed back hard on all the warmongering rhetoric that Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have been flinging for weeks every time they mention the word “Iran.”

“If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so…And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.”

“This is not a game,” he added. “And there’s nothing casual about it.”

Oh, BTW: With no opponent on the ballot in Ohio, Obama scooped up more than 666,000 votes in the Democratic “primary” — more than any of the Republicans drew in their contested race.

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There are 8 comments for this post

  1. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    My Republican sister says, “You guys (Democrats) must be laughing your asses off at our presidential candidates. I can’t believe they’re debating contraception in the 21st century.” I pointed out that, when I opined on Facebook that Rick Santorum wanted to take the country back to the 19th century, a friend corrected me and said 15th century. And admitted that, yes, I am indeed laughing my ass off as the GOP clown show. Another Republican friend says she won’t vote for any of them, and my sister admitted she’d probably stay home too.

    Finally, Joe the Plumber winning the GOP primary in Ohio last night indicates what real trouble the party is in. The Daily Show must be desperate as they watch the Republican Party steal their job. It’s a joke. Right?

  2. avatar Eric Christensen says:

    Mitt Romney won a crushing victory Tuesday, winning twice as many states as Rick Santorum and more that two and half times as many delegates, but his triumph is being portrayed in headlines across the nation as sign of weakness and failure.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Romney picked up 211 delegates while taking six states, bringing his total delegate count to 415. Santorum won in three states and added only 84 delegates to bring his total to 176.

    And yet, despite all the evidence Romney largely vanquished his rivals Tuesday night, here are some of the headlines this morning:

    Wall Street Journal: Romney Ekes Past Santorum in Ohio

    New York Times: With No Knockout Punch, a Bruising Battle Plods On

    Los Angeles Times: Battle in Ohio Reinforces GOP Divide; Romney’s Slim Victory Leaves Race Uncertain

    USA Today: Romney, Santorum See Momentum

    CNN: No Knockout Blow for Romney

    Reuters: Romney Narrowly Wins Ohio, Fails to Knock Out Santorum

    You get the idea.

    This is from an article at WhiteHouseDossier.

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Perhaps you should consider that Mitt Romney has both the big money behindhim and the best organization that sort of money can buy — and yet, he routinely has trouble breaking 40% of the primary vote. Why is that?

      Romney outspent Rick Santorum in Michigan — as he liked to say, his home state — by over a 2-to-1 margin, and yet he only won by less than one percentage point. He has spent $38 million thus far in the campaign; the next closest canddiate, speding-wise, is Newt Gingrich at $9 million.

      I’d offer that while it’s probably still Romney’s nomination to lose, he’s hardly vanquished anybody, and really can’t afford any more major missteps and gaffes, because a lot of GOP voters are looking for a reason not to support him. He exudes a clear lack of empathy with the average voter’s concerns, and rank-and-file Republicans simply just don’t care for him. In that regard, he has more in common with Gov. Thomas Dewey than he has with Ronald Reagan.

  3. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    CalBuzz is writing White House inspired nonsense about Romney’s victories. Even junior politicos know that when Romney wins 6 of 10 states and doubles the delegates that hopeless Santorum got, he won the damned elections on Super Tuesday.

    Realistically, the only nomination danger I see for Romney is a quick drop-out of Gingrich followed by one or more cultural warrior billionares inserting tens of millions into the Santorum campaign. Not likely but that could make a one on one primary fight…Paul isn’t going anywhere…tough for Romney.

  4. avatar tegrat says:

    Even my dittohead friend said he would vote for Obama if he wasn’t a Democrat. That kind of says it all right there. What a sorry lot of pandering losers.

  5. avatar Hank Plante says:

    Once again, the real story is low GOP turnout. Ohio turnout yesterday was 25%. Four years ago it was 44.5%. As we said in Calbuzz Saturday, this low turnout bodes ill for Republicans in the Fall.

  6. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Eric, the headlines were accurate. Despite a huge advantage in money and organization, Romney has failed to make the sale to the Republican Party, and by now he should have. He’s a leader in delegates, and he did win six states, but if you study the opinions of Republican voters, and Hank’s report on the Republican turnout, it’s apparent that Romney is not winning “crushing” victories. He did “eke” out a victory over Santorum; the Republican primary candidates will continue their “bruising battle.” Romney will probably win the nomination, but not with the groundswell of swooning support that he so ardently desires. He’s a guy who wakes up in the morning and asks his campaign aides “What’s selling today?”

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