By RB Scott
Boston, MA.
January 13, 2007

A respected national newspaper recently reported that Presidential candidate W. Mitt Romney, “reeling from defeats in New Hampshire and Iowa,” decided to suspend advertising in South Carolina and Florida, a decision that “laid bare the dire condition of his run for the White House…”

Leads of newspaper stories are supposed to be dramatic and arresting, which explains why they sometimes become a little over-wrought too.

How could Romney be “reeling” from a defeat he anticipated as poll after poll charted John McCain’s resurgence and Mike Huckabee’s sudden rise?  Given where Mitt was the weekend before the New Hampshire voting – as many as 10 points behind in some polls –   narrowing the gap to five points had to have injected some caffeine into his Postum.

There are plenty of strategic reasons why it made sense to suspend the ad buy:

  • Hardened religious prejudice: Romney has spent more in South Carolina, more than any other candidate.  Another half million wasn’t going to persuade still balky Christian conservatives that a vote for him was not tantamount to holding hands with Satan.  Team Romney would not put it so bluntly, even if it is dope-slappingly obvious to everyone else.


  • Negative Ads:  Team Romney has been criticized recently for going negative against Huckabee, in particular.  It’s possible the team concluded the ad aimed for both states just too hard on the former Southern Baptist preacher.


  • Cash-flow management: He needs the cash now to take Michigan, where he was born and raised and his dad was governor.  A win would yield plenty of opportunities to play catch-up in Florida and South Carolina. Plus, the “free advertising” and winning momentum would more than make up the difference.


  • Forced To Disclose: Romney surely preferred to make the ad suspension decision in private so as not to tip his hand to the competition. But the notoriously leaky advertising departments at newspapers and television stations eliminated that choice.


  • Opportunistic Move: Pouring money into Michigan raises the ante, puts the screws to cash-strapped McCain and Huckabee.  Rudy Giuliani bailed out of Michigan a few days ago. McCain’s win in New Hampshire is inspiring, but it has not triggered a cash landslide. Huckabee’s resources seem limited because smart Republican money knows he’s unelectable.


  • Shift in campaign strategy:  Does the new plan minimize expenditures in states where he will likely do poorly because of his religion?  It makes sense to spend more in states where neither religion nor simplistic doctrinaire conservative solutions rule the roost.


So instead of “reeling,” how about “pained, annoyed and frustrated?”  “Pained,” that religion has played such a crucial role so far. “Annoyed,” that while playing footsie with Christian evangelicals who don’t like Mormons to begin with, Romney ceded the middle ground to the likes of John McCain.  “Frustrated,” that he is no longer recognized as the fiscally responsible, social progressive he once was and may still be.

Romney convincingly says he has “the staying power to go the distance in all 50 states.” Wouldn’t it be good for America if, for a change,  everyone was involved in picking the finalists for President of  The United States? 

Now Romney needs to boot some enthusiasm into his own kind.   The fighting words reported by the Salt Lake Tribune from the normally gregarious Mormon moneyman, Kem Gardner – “As long as he’s soldiering on, we’re with him”— were uncharacteristically downcast.  

They were upstaged only by the mangled observation of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a national co-chair of the Romney campaign.  He told the Greenville News: “If he [Romney] doesn’t win Michigan, it’s going to be hard for him to have a chance in South Carolina. And if he doesn’t win South Carolina, I don’t think he’s going to win.”


Why prolong the agony? Cite a little W.H. Auden–  Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead/Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead—and get it over with.


Or, right now, Romney should share the heroic poetry of Walt Whitman with his people.  They desperately need it!


Post Scripts

Swift Boating Barack :  As Barack Obama rises, the attacks on his background intensify. One nasty e-mail makes something of his middle name –“Hussein”—and his connections to Islam through his late father and former step-father.  

Another  rather scurrilous “Swift Boat”-like post notes that Obama’s parish in Washington touts itself  as “unabashedly black,” with a  “non-negotiable” commitment to Africa, implying there’s something inherently un-American in offering sustenance to poor people on a far off continent.  My own Mormon congregation in suburban Boston has supported poor people in Haiti, Jamaica and The Dominican Republic and it’s about as pro-American as they come.  
Another spam scum questions Obama’s youthful use of recreational drugs, gripes that the news media has given him a free pass. The complainer forgets that the media discovered, reported then let slide George W. Bush’s drunken and coked-out indiscretions at Yale. Reporters winked at Bill Clinton’s disingenuous confession that he once smoked dope but didn’t inhale.  By contrast, Obama wrote candidly about his experimentation in his riveting autobiography: Dreams From My Father, which has to be the most unapologetic autobiography ever written by a Presidential candidate, not to mention the most literate too.

Pillory Hillary:  Hillary is constantly being bashed about for same old, same old. The nastiest are electronic pieces that trade on her alleged bitchiness. Last week brought a PhotoShopped full frontal nude of her as hermaphrodite: shapely breasts, slender waist, taut hips and a rather distinctive male sex organ.   

In Search of The Inner Jew:  Romney and Mormons, Barack and Hillary too, need to discover their inner Jew; learn to laugh at themselves, their cultures and peculiarities, and the bigots who attack them.  

If the world is talking more about Mormons, Romney, Barack and Hillary, it means the world is taking them seriously. P.T.Barnum’s wisdom applies:    

  • “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you say something”
  • “I don’t care what you say about, just spell my name correctly”   
  • “All publicity is good publicity.”


Mo Udall, the last Mormon to make a serious run (1976) for the White House discovered his “Inner Jew early on:” “I’m an one-eyed  Mormon Democrat from conservative Arizona.  You can’t get a higher handicap than that.” No surprise, Mormonism was not the issue for him that it has been for Mitt Romney. 

Like Obama, Udall wrote most of his own material.  He didn’t need a marketing guru  to package him like a newly concocted premium Vodka — good straight up or with any mixer — and a proctor to keep him on message.

Misty-eyed Senator Clinton learned in New Hampshire that letting the “real you” shine through makes all the difference, even if your enemies make you out to be an hermaphrodite.

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