THE WILLARD CAMPAIGN: RIP
Don't feel too sorry for him-- he still has hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars
If you watched the debating pygmies last night, it would have been hard to not notice that Willard has all but given up. He seemed afraid to take on McCain or to go for an exposed jugular offered up several times by the doddering and clearly senile and delusional crackpot. According to Commentary's Daniel Casse, last night "was Mitt Romney’s last stand. He blew it. The conservative antipathy towards McCain involves real issues: his indefensible support of campaign finance reform, his opposition to Bush tax cuts, his throwaway lines attacking corporations, and so on. Romney should have been on attack mode from the first moment, stirring up every conservative trepidation about McCain, stressing his unreliability as a consistent voice for the cause. “We don’t need a maverick, Senator, we need a steadfast, principled and predictable conservative leader,” was the line I was waiting for." It never came. Willard just looked more pathetic, hapless, frustrated and defeated than ever. Conservatives who thought he would be their champion must be climbing the walls and rending their clothes!
Romney was handed one fine opportunity: A question about whether John McCain lied in Florida this week when he charged Romney with supporting a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq early last year. But Romney's response was a stammering, largely incoherent mess. His resulting back-and-forth with McCain seemed petty, and offered little clarity on what he'd actually said. Nor did it effectively spotlight McCain's cynical opportunism-- and, say people who followed the details more closely than I did, dishonesty-- in raising the charge. Romney clearly feels that McCain is lying, and that his candidacy is on the line. So why he couldn't muster a powerful, indignant, jut-jawed, "Senator, you are lying to win votes," is beyond me. (Or better yet, why not say that McCain "twists the truth like Clinton"?)
His campaign strategy has now come down to one thing: prayer. Yesterday Time reported that he's cutting his financial losses and pulling all expensive TV ad buys in the Super-Tuesday states. Today, flying in the face of Schwarzenegger's endorsement of McCain, the Romney campaign says it will do some TV ads in California after all.
Republican voters, notorious top-down conformists to begin with, are convinced that McCain-- love him or hate him-- is inevitable. And conservative leaders are still making lame noises as though there was still some chance to stop McCain from getting the nomination of the party they once thought they controlled. Far right propagandist Hugh Hewitt was raving and fuming after the debate last night.
John McCain won over few if any conservatives tonight, and his display of bad temper and his rambling filibuster of his wrongful "timetables" attack on Romney from last weekend may even have lost him some moderates. In the spin room heads were shaking. McCain was at his worst in the second half of the debate, and those who watched had to ask themselves how this sort of performance would play against a youthful, upbeat Obama with a MSM ready not to protect McCain but tear into him as aging and confused-- even obviously deceptive-- about his facts.
...If they are Republicans, they also will almost certainly walk away disquieted by the prospect of a McCain nomination, both because of his ideas and even more so because he just didn't look electable tonight. Romney did. In fact McCain's best part of the day was when Rudy was talking about him, and it went down hill from there. McCain will get another assist from Arnold tomorrow or Friday, but it is hard to hide the fact that this would be a second Bob Dole campaign, with less energy and fewer conservative principles. Many, many Republicans have to be worried not just about losing the White House, but about a dispirited party and a down-ticket wipe-out.
And Hewitt isn't the only far right extremist unable to accept that it's all over. Today Bob Novak is not just a genuine movement-conservative but also dishonest and suffering from severe memory problems. And Limbaugh is still trying to score points among extremists by attacking McCain.
"Here is the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen," Limbaugh said. "I think this is it. There was a lot of anxiety among a lot of conservatives about Senator McCain. It's simply indisputable. But there was no figure in our roster of candidates who rose up to challenge him or galvanize conservative support. All the candidates on our side, for various reasons, are uninspiring or worse."