As soon as I saw that title of this op ed this morning, my mind went back to Roger Mudd asking Ted Kennedy why he wanted to be President, and the late Senator badly fumbling the answer. While acknowledging the apparent success of Romney's "shock and awe" campaign intended to destroy Gingrich in Florida, Gingrich says of the former Massachusetts Governor that he is
a candidate whose core message, as far as I can tell, seems to be: “Yes, I made a ton of money. You got a problem with that?”Not exactly a compelling reason for someone to argue that s/he should be president. On that rationale, he pales in comparison to Ross Perot, whose several billions of net worth in 1992 dwarf Romney's wealth. Perhaps by Romney's rationale we should be asking Bill Gates or Warren Buffett to be running, or if the Republicans want to be honest about wealthy people driving their agenda, one of the Koch brothers.
Robinson has a gift for expression. The column is well worth reading, which I why I am taking the time for this post - to encourage you to read it.
Robinson notes the argument offered by the likes of Bob Dole that Romney is the best chance the Republicans have of avoiding a wipeout, perhaps even beating Obama. And yet, as he writes
Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all laid out bold visions — more properly, hallucinations — of where they would take the country. But where is Romney’s shining city on a hill? What’s his “compassionate conservatism,” his “hope and change”? What is it that Mitt Romney, deep in his heart or down in his gut, really believes in?
My answer to that question is that he believes he should be President because he believes he should be President - which is why nothing else matters, including changing positions on topic after topic, including most recently about releasing any tax returns. He will say or do whatever he thinks he must to win the nomination, and that is but a foreshadowing of what we can expect in the general election.
I have a bit more to offer below the squiggle.
I think Romney is ultimately a weak candidate. And yet, because he had to rise to the attacks offered against him primarily by Gingrich in South Carolina, he has learned to be aggressive, including in debates. His performance in the last two debates was far superior to what he offered in Iowa, NH and especially South Carolina. Just as Obama honed his debating skills in an extended context with Clinton, Romney has become more skilled and thus more dangerous as an opponent. And there is no doubt that he is prepared through his SuperPac to start carpet-bombing Obama as soon as the Republican nomination contest appears wrapped up. We should be prepared for that.
Over time, perhaps he can develop a coherent reason why he wants to be President. So far we have not seen it. That - along with how malleable his "ideology" seems to be depending upon whose support he is seeking at the moment - remains a major weakness in his candidacy.
Robinson reminds us that the Obama administration (and by implication his campaign) have yet to do a really good job of messaging some of the decisions made, for example on Keystone XL.
And yet, Robinson's final two brief paragraphs cut to the heart of the issue:
Romney has become a very good debater, and his attack lines about Obama are honed and barbed. The only reason he still has a fight on his hands for the nomination, really, is that he let his opponents reduce his argument for the presidency to a defense of how he earned and manages his great wealth.
No matter how much he claims otherwise, the fact is that few people are envious of Romney’s business success. We just want to know if that’s all he has to offer.
Actually, for those of us here, we don't want to know if that is all he has to offer. He has already made clear that it - and his ego - are the reasons he thinks he should be President. Our only concern is that between now and the full-scale denouement of the general election campaign, he might finally come up with a message that is somewhat more coherent.
Which is one good reason for the Obama campaign and the DNC to be piling on to the attacks by Romney's primary opponents in painting an honest portrayal of the man from Massachusetts/New Hampshire/Malibu/Utah/Michigan.
I think the words of Gertrude Stein about Oakland California are applicable to Mitt Romney - there's no there there.
Go read the Robinson. You will enjoy it.