Romney ’12 in Two Paragraphs

Buried near the end of a soft-focus Mark Liebovitch piece on a visit with Ann and Mitt Romney, mainly preoccupied with determining whether the Mittster is serious about running again, is this fascinating snippet:

“I was talking to one of my political advisers,” Romney continued, “and I said: ‘If I had to do this again, I’d insist that you literally had a camera on me at all times” — essentially employing his own tracker, as opposition researchers call them. “I want to be reminded that this is not off the cuff.” This, as he saw it, was what got him in trouble at that Boca Raton fund-raiser, when Romney told the crowd he was writing off the 47 percent of the electorate that supported Obama (a.k.a. “those people”; “victims” who take no “personal responsibility”). Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.

“My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,” Romney said. “If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.” I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the “47 percent” line by a ranting supporter. It was also impossible to ignore the phrase “If I had to do this again.”

Liebovitch was interested in the “on-the-record-all-the-time” idea as a reflection of Romney’s “limitations as a candidate.” But I’d say it captures the central nature of Romney’s entire 2012 campaign. Throughout the primaries he was always in effect talking to some angry if not entirely coherent Republican voter or donor or media opinion-leader, and trying to “reflect back” to their POV, which Mitt did not entirely share but had to take very, very seriously. It’s an almost impossible habit to break, and at a crucial moment, he couldn’t.

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.