09.19.12

Mark McKinnon on Why Time Is Running Out for Mitt Romney

Ex-Bush aide Mark McKinnon keeps waiting for Romney to turn his campaign around and show the right stuff. After the 47 percent tape, he’s not sure that moment will ever come.

Mitt Romney is running out of time, and voters like me are running out of patience. I’ve been giving Romney the benefit of the doubt, assuming that at some point during this campaign he would reveal some things about himself that would give me some insight into who he really is and what drives him. And that I would be compelled to support him. 

I took a lot of heat from Republicans when I stepped out of John McCain’s campaign after the 2008 primaries. I still supported McCain, and voted for him, but I just didn’t want to be the tip of the spear attacking Obama. I thought he was a decent and honorable man—as I still do—and that his campaign would be good for the country. And I didn’t think it would be good for McCain’s campaign to have a soft trigger man in the slot.

But, I’m still a Republican. Trying to be, anyway. The progressive caucus is a lonely one these days. Nevertheless, we soldier on in hopes of regaining a voice in the party.

Well, the release of the Romney tape was a moment that certainly revealed something about him. But not what I was hoping for. Just the opposite. It reveals a deeply cynical man, who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people, and who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us. 

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In Romney’s view, 47 percent of Americans will vote for Obama because they are the 47 percent who do not pay income taxes. If you are part of that group, then you are a “victim…dependent on government” who believes you are “entitled to health care.” And there is no way you’d vote for him anyway. (Well, that last part may be true now.)

This is a deeply cynical view of America. Not to mention wrong. And it’s a long way from the compassionate conservatism that welcomed more Americans into the Republican Party under President George W. Bush.

What about seniors on limited incomes who do not pay taxes? What about veterans? What about even middle-income families with young children and the deductions that go with them? They are not victims, although they might now view themselves that way under a Romney administration. 

Now I honestly don’t know what Romney can do to win support from the voters he needs to gain a majority. I thought the debates would be an opportunity, but he has dug his hole so deeply now, I don’t know if he can pull himself out.

How can anyone support a candidate with this kind of a vision of the country? Isn’t a divided America under Obama what folks on the right rail against?

I’ve been asked how Romney turns things around at this point. I’ve been a consistent voice warning against writing off his campaign in September. Because I’ve been there before when people wrote off the Bush campaign in 2000.

But, now I honestly don’t know what Romney can do to win support from the voters he needs to gain a majority. I thought the debates would be an opportunity, but he has dug his hole so deeply now, I don’t know if he can pull himself out. Does he get up and say, “I was just kidding. I don’t see half of America as victims. I just needed to raise some money, and I got a little carried away talking to the 1 percent.”

I loved Michelle Obama’s line in her speech: “A presidency reveals who you are.”

So do campaigns.

And mark me down as one Republican not happy with what is being revealed about Mitt Romney.