(This is a long blog because Romney is such a mess. Be patient: his "butt" fixation comes eventually.)
Why in the world did Mitt Romney ever think he should run for president?
In my 75 years, I've never seen any major contender as inept at politics as this strange man. It isn't just that he's a compulsive foot-in-mouth guy. He is without any political sense at all. He's ignoring every basic rule of elective politics.
RULE ONE: Voters have to like you in order to vote for you.
If you're unlikable, like Gingrich, you have to be a fire-breather. Or if you're unlikable as Nixon was, you have to represent a cause. Nixon was anti-communism in his earlier career and then (in code) anti-desegregation as the "New Nixon". Romney is more unlikable than Gingrich and Nixon put together, and he is absolutely not a fire-breather. Nor does he have a cause. He's got nothing. He's creepy. He's the guy everybody edges away from at a party. And he knows it! So he tries even harder. And that makes it worse.
RULE TWO: You have to like people.
Just as with everybody else, voters will like you if you like them. Bill Clinton LOVES people. Obama LOVES that crowd and the folks on the rope line. Romney only pretends. People can tell.
RULE THREE: You have to fit your district.
So why did Romney think that a political party with its heart and soul in Old Dixie would cotton to a Yankee from the most liberal state in New England? Yeah, the GOP may nominate him ever so reluctantly, faced as they are with really no one else to chose from, but how enthusiastic can those Southerners be about him when they still are resentful about the Civil War? I kid you not about this. Many Southerners still hate "those damn Yankees", and they ain't talking baseball! Added to this sectional resentment are the Massachusetts Romneycare and his prior pro-choice stand. He looks like the worst fit imaginable for the Southern/ evangelical/Tea Party-dominated GOP. Romney's win in Florida meant nothing because he lost the part of the state that is Southern in culture. The voters he won are transplants and snowbirds from the North. Florida is not the South. And while the South is reliably GOP, the segment of voters in such swing states as Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio who share the South's sensibilities are probably not going to break their backs to get Romney elected. They were George W's ticket to ride, but they likely won't be there for Romney in the fall to get out the vote. They may not even vote themselves.
RULE FOUR: You have to have a program, a reason voters should take you seriously. A message.
What's Romney's message? He seems to have no steady grasp on any sort of political agenda or convictions. In his disavowal last week of any concern for "the very poor", he managed to offend even his own party's conservatives (and who else is there in the GOP?) by saying he would "fix any holes in the safety net for the poor". This runs smack against the GOP vow to REDUCE such programs! It even runs against his own budget plan that would cut help to the poor even more than Paul Ryan's budget would. And it outraged his party: "No, Mitt, no! We're AGAINST these government programs!" Doesn't he even know what his own party stands for, what his own budget plan is? The guy is not just weird; he seems to have some marbles missing!
( A moment here please for the legendary Dick Tuck, the prankster of the Democratic party, who made a career out of harmless stunts to annoy Dick Nixon, like a line of obviously pregnant women to greet Nixon, each wearing a sign saying "Nixon's the One". As a lark, Tuck once ran for a state assembly seat in California with the slogan "The Job Needs Dick Tuck and Dick Tuck Needs the Job". He did not win. Of course, he was just kidding around, but real candidates have to have a message.)
RULE FIVE: You can't buy an election.
Yes, you need some money to run a campaign. Yes, you can destroy a Newt Gingrich with $16 million in Florida. But Gingrich was so destroyable that it was massive, ugly overkill on Romney's part. And the public noticed. They noticed the harshness and they noticed all that money being spent. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina tried to buy seats for themselves in the 2010 election in California and flopped. People resent the wealthy buying themselves offices like new toys. New York's Mayor Bloomberg pulled it off last time out, but he already had a track record with voters. While Romney's superpac buried Gingrich in slime in Florida (deserved as it may have been), Romney's numbers sank in the national polls.
RULE SIX: You can't lie.
Well, you can, but you'll get caught. There are no secrets in this world. That was true long before the Internet. If you are a candidate you are stuck with who you are and what you have been and what you have previously said. Romney apparently hoped to keep anybody from knowing that he is more than just a businessman but is, in fact, a very wealthy man. And one who knows which tax accountants know all the legal loopholes. He also apparently thought no one would notice what his record was as a governor of Massachusetts or what his political positions have been in the past. Such assumptions are idiocy. There are no secrets.
RULE SEVEN: Timing is everything.
If Romney had some political savvy, he'd have sat out this election like the more savvy GOP figures did. Why did he think that he, who did so poorly in the 2008 primaries against McCain, would do supremely better this year against super-candidate Obama? Yes, Obama has had serious problems with the economy, but economies can change, and it looks like this one is getting perkier. Meantime, Obama's "likeability"numbers have stayed strong. Being a businessman may have blinded Romney into seeing the economy, and only the economy, as the compelling reason a businessman should run. After all, didn't' James "I-know-everything" Carville famously say in 1992, "It's the economy, stupid!" But in 1992 George Bush, Sr. didn't have what Obama has: a goodly majority of voters who LIKE Obama, even a number who have been critical of his performance. American voters want - MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE - to like their president. People didn't like Bush, Sr. He was a weak-seeming president, a terrible campaigner, and a rather embarrassing and pathetic head of state. He threw up on the shoes of the Japanese Prime Minster. Bill Clinton probably could have beaten him even if the economy had been a whole lot better. (It actually wasn't all that bad by 1992.) And Ross Perot was in the race, taking votes from Bush, Sr. So this is definitely NOT 1992, and Obama is definitely NOT George, Senior. Obama is a hell of a campaigner, and people like him as a person. And that's why Chris Christie and Jeb Bush and the other GOP dream-candidates aren't running. The time to run, they concluded at the outset, is 2016.
RULE EIGHT: Have some dignity. No "butts" about it.
The waitress-pinched-his-butt routine that Romney pulled last year was pathetic. And what is this fixation with butts? When his wife fell in Dubuque last year, he joked that "she fell on her butt in Dubuque". People don't want a president talking about butts. Most of all, they don't want a guy who pretends to be funny or pretends that his butt got pinched. It's a whole lot worse than Obama pretending he could roll a bowling ball.
RULE NINE: Don't fire the campaign staffer who put you on top.
Romney says he likes to fire people. He must really mean it because last week he fired the guy who coached him so that he could beat out Gingrich in the Florida debates. Reputedly Romney was unhappy with some of the credit for his performance going to the staffer instead of to him. So he fired the guy who had saved his ass. Oops! I mean saved his butt.
RULE TEN: Just don't be Mitt Romney. Not if you want to run for president.