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.