"By all accounts, Mitt Romney won what may be the last Republican presidential debate. Little good it will do him if in the process he suffers the loss of the general election".
The increasingly worthless GOP nomination
Mitt Romney is pandering so desperately to the far-right fringe that he's become all but unelectable in NovemberFebruary 23, 2012
By Robert Shrum
Robert Shrum was a senior adviser on Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign and chief strategist for John Kerry's 2004 campaign. He has advised 30 winning U.S. Senate campaigns and eight winning campaigns for governor.
The increasingly worthless GOP nomination
Some excerpts :
Mitt Romney won the Arizona Debate :
It will be a negative victory for a mediocre politician. Halperin accorded Romney a middling B- for his debate performance. He was artificial as usual, stiff even while sitting in a chair instead of mechanically gesturing from a podium. He was a snarky know-it-all talking down to his opponents and CNN's John King. At any moment, he looked as if he was about to turn to Santorum and say, "You're fired." It was as if the office of the presidency was a codicil in his trust fund.
Romney's campaign, with superior resources and organization, packed the room with a claque that applauded on cue. But on television, the candidate continued his long march toward an image as unlikable as it is inauthentic. As the longtime political strategist and LGBT leader David Mixner observed to me, Romney came across as "everyone's boss." A months-long series of verbal missteps into indifference and callousness toward ordinary Americans, combined with the pressure in the primaries to move hard right, have already scarred Romney's favorability ratings with independents and general election voters. Among women, for example, the new Quinnipiac survey shows him with a net unfavorable of -15 percent.
Therein lies the potentially fatal weakness that goes beyond the well-coiffed candidate's starched persona. As he demonstrated in this debate, he's so desperate to pander his way to the nomination that he's making it increasingly worthless.
This may do for the primary — it may be essential — but it's a disaster in the making for the fall campaign. Romney's cynical hope has to be that his shape-shifting will convince voters he doesn't really mean this stuff. He can pray that his character weakness is his saving grace — that his reputation for lying about his beliefs will pull him back from the edge of a gender gap that will otherwise pose an unbridgeable barrier to the White House. The longer the primaries drag on, and the more he has to profess his hostility to women's rights, the less likely it is that he can ever convince the majority who are women to take a chance on him.
But let's not stop there — because Romney's panderathon didn't. He praised Arizona's ethnic-profiling immigration law as a "model" for the nation. By November, this appeal to the Tea Party will ferment into political hemlock. As Karl Rove correctly calculated, a Republican nominee can't prevail without claiming about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. George W. Bush got just enough — 44 percent — in his close re-election battle with John Kerry. Afterwards, Bush joined with Ted Kennedy and John McCain in an effort to enact immigration reform. The congressional GOP and the grassroots rebelled; McCain, facing the same xenophobia that suffuses this year's primary electorate, recanted. Republicans sounded like throwbacks to the Know-Nothings who spewed venom and violence against Catholic immigrants in the 19th century.
On his way to losing the presidency, McCain won just 31 percent of Hispanics. In an ABC News/Latino Decisions for Univision News poll, only 25 percent now favor Romney over Obama. In the Arizona debate, Romney surely eroded even that.
This is not the GOP that has won in the past — where a grace note has modulated the mobilization of the base. The allegedly war-mongering Ronald Reagan, in his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, pledged to reduce and not use nuclear weapons — and it turned out that he meant it, to the consternation of the neocons. The first George Bush called for "a kinder, gentler" conservatism; the second for "compassionate conservatism" — even if it turned out he didn't mean it. In contrast, Romney boasts of a "severely" conservative ideology; as he kowtows to the right wing on social issues and immigration, he signals that he would tear us apart. And if the economy continues to improve, he's painting himself into a narrow electoral corner. The party of "no" may be about to select a nominee with "no exit" into the mainstream.