Inevitable Blahs

Now that Mitt Romney is finally wrapping up the GOP nomination, you can expect some serious buyer’s remorse, or at least disenchantment, to ensue in elite Republican circles. I mean, yes, they think, it’s great the party didn’t go down the rabbit hole of nominating any of those hopeless losers that he eventually dispatched, but in the end, he’s still Mitt Romney, and it’s hard to get excited about that.

Even before last night, you could hear it, as in this report from Illinois by Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican, who has been studiously neutral in the GOP contest:

Mitt Romney provided the 200 or so people who showed up to see him at an American Legion hall in Moline on Sunday a little sustenance. Event attendees were treated to pancakes and their choice of coffee or orange juice at Romney’s Sunday morning event in Illinois in advance of Tuesday’s primary. Those who were looking for a little red meat found none on the menu or in Romney’s speech….

Besides the handful of very broad issues and some patriotic words about America and its founding, Romney offered only one sentence on the issues of healthcare. Romney said, “President Obama believes that bureaucrats in Washington should make your health care decision, I’ll repeal Obamacare on my first day in office.”

Romney also lumped his Republican opponent, Rick Santorum, in with the President. He said that both share a common characteristic, both have never worked in the public sector, and thus only know about the economy by reading about it books. He went on to say that there is nothing wrong with that, but now is the time to have someone in the White House with real world experience.

Despite his aggressiveness towards Santorum and Obama on the economy, Romney never even alluded to his own tax proposal. For a candidate who is running to fix the economy and get America working again, he didn’t feel compelled to share his plans with the people who turned out to see him on Sunday morning. Once again, Romney is good at identifying problems, this time with his opponents’ backgrounds, but to capitalize on the issue, he needs to show his economic prowess. In many respects, Romney is about as deep in terms of issues on the stump as Herman Cain was. Actually, that might be an insult to Cain.

That comment is particularly acidic given Robinson’s history of scathing hostility to Cain.

Then there’s this post-primary assessment from William Kristol:

Watching Mitt Romney’s victory speech in Illinois didn’t reassure me about his chances against President Obama. (Watch it yourself to see if I’m being unfair.) Romney’s remarks consisted basically of the claim that the business of America is business, that he’s a businessman who understands business, and that we need “economic freedom” not for the sake of freedom but to allow business to fuel the economy. It’s true that Romney will have plenty of time to improve for the general election, if, as seems likely (but still not inevitable!), he wins the nomination. But if he sticks with this core message, we’d better hope Republicans and independents are really determined to get rid of Barack Obama.

I’ve always felt “enthusiasm” is overrated as a factor in politics. But you do need to inspire people enough to make them want to get up in the morning and help you, and at this point, outside LDS members and maybe management consultants, the only reason anyone would lift a finger for Mitt would be out of hatred of Obama. As Kristol fears, that may not be enough.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.