Thursday, March 22, 2012

Romney and the Etch-A-Sketch Moment

Mitt Romney handily won the Illinois primary Saturday. As predicted, the concession speeches of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were full of hateful musings about lack of money and so forth. Romney's speech, however, may have been the best one yet from him after the results of a primary are in. He was relaxed, smiling and completely on message. No mentions of his opponents in the primary, just taking the fight to Barack Obama.

That is what they are all supposed to be doing. That is why Mitt Romney is now the GOP nominee. Santorum will have a good night in Louisiana when that state's primary results are in on Saturday but there is not a path forward for him after that. He can't catch up to Romney at this point. The math is the math.

Sometime someone should point out to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich that they sound silly complaining about the money in the Romney campaign. They would do about anything for it themselves and what, exactly, would they do after the primary when they faced the Obama campaign money? That race will make the primary look like a cake walk.

As pointed out HERE Santorum is not expanding his voting base:

Romney was able to stretch a bit into central Illinois, but his growth stopped around Springfield. But Santorum didn’t grow out at all beyond his base of evangelicals, rural voters and “very conservative” Republicans. And exit polling showed them basically tied with a group Romney has struggled with — those who earn less than $50,000 a year.

For all the heat Romney gets for not expanding his base — and he did make some inroads last night — the same has been true of Santorum, who has posed the strongest threat to the front-runner since Rick Perry faded last year. Romney wins states whose demographics favor him — Michigan, Ohio, Illinois. Santorum, meanwhile, wins those dominated by evangelicals and social conservatives — Mississippi, Alabama.

Gingrich as gone back to his early days in the race - he appears to be on a grand adventure around the country instead of working a political campaign. He and Callista are reported to be having a swell time visiting museums and zoos. Sounds like the old book tour mentality. Or maybe the Greek Islands cruise time. If he doesn't take it all seriously, no one else will either. At this point it is simply blocking Romney with whatever votes he can muster and that is not helpful to the party he proclaims to support.

There are plenty of distractions, to be sure. On Wednesday, a Romney staffer made a gaffe and spoke in terms of a childhood toy - an Etch-A-Sketch, when describing differences that would be dealt with when campaigning in the general election after the primary election season. Instead of basking in the glory of a 12 point win over Santorum in Illinois or in the endorsement of Jeb Bush, Romney faced the tauts from the media and his GOP opponents over an Etch-A-Sketch remark.

The news of the day, as ordained by the media, Romney's Republican rivals and the Obama camapaign was a remark by Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, about the Etch A Sketch, that drawing toy that, like Romney's persona, is reminiscent of the 1950s.

Asked on CNN if he was concerned that the hard-fought GOP primary "might force the governor to tack so far to the right" that he would alienate moderates in the general election, Fehrnstrom responded: "Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

This is where we are. Romney's GOP opponents made hay by saying, see, we told you Romney will say anything to win. They will too, of course, but never mind. Santorum, the nastiest personality in the race, distributed mini Etch-A-Sketches to his audiences. Class act, that Santorum. (sarcasm, folks).

A simple Political Science 101 class will teach the student that the number one rule in politics is to win. Period. It's that simple. Unless this is the first election that a voter has paid attention to, that person knows that a primary election and a general election are usually two separate events requiring tweaking of the campaign and its message. It's not diabolical or any indication of the sincerity, or insincerity, of the candidate. The primary is for the base of the party and the most strident ideologists. The general election requires broadening the support and winning those who are Independents and those from the other party who are responsive to the candidate's message. Think "Reagan Democrats" or "Obama Republicans".

It's not rocket science.

So, what was an unfortunate analogy made by a staffer turned into an opportunity for those who were looking for an excuse to criticize Romney, the front runner and the person who will be the GOP candidate against Barack Obama. Maybe that fact doesn't sit well with conservative voters, and I understand that. But, the time has come to rally behind the person who will have the best shot at defeating Barack Obama in November.

That's keeping our eyes on the prize. Allowing silly distractions to take over the news cycle only helps Team Obama and hurts the GOP candidate.

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