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The GOP’s Summer of Discontent

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Posted on Aug 17, 2011
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Mitt Romney looks less than thrilled, which is a funny coincidence: That’s how a lot of Republicans feel about him.

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is a cross between the Little Engine That Could and the big chain store fending off attacks from upstart rivals.

Romney gets little love from his fellow Republicans. He’s always confronting rumors spread by people who ought to support him that the existence of such a “weak field” will soon encourage new and better candidates to get in. The “weak field” line means they think Romney just doesn’t have it.

Yet Romney hangs on, methodically chipping away, avoiding mistakes and using his financial and organizational advantages to muscle his way through one month after another.

Romney has been lucky, too. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty might have become his main rival but lacked the killer instinct. The rise of another Minnesotan, Rep. Michele Bachmann, was a twofer for Romney: She would either split up the right-wing vote, making it easier for Romney to get by, or emerge as an unelectable alternative, sending reluctant but realistic Republicans his way.

Enter Rick Perry, who is supposed to be able to put Romney away. Who better than a big, brash Texan to make the Republican former Massachusetts governor look like Michael Dukakis, the Democratic former Massachusetts governor who is hardly a GOP role model.


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Republicans denounce class warfare but engage in it all the time, and Perry slipped in a subtle dig at the starchy, upscale Romney when he declared in his announcement, “As Americans we’re not defined by class, and we will never be told our place.” Perry wants a fight involving Texas A&M versus Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, the son of a rancher and local politician against the son of an automobile executive and governor.

Not a bad start. But in only a few days, the Texan’s swagger has made a lot Republicans long for the excitement of a little buttoned-down restraint. Perry used the term “treasonous” to try to bully the head of the Federal Reserve. He called President Obama “the greatest threat to our country,” which makes you wonder where he puts the terrorists. Soon, he was drawing down the scorn of Republican big feet, including Karl Rove, who doesn’t much like Perry anyway.

You can tell how unhappy Republicans are by reading The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the one-stop shop for conservative orthodoxy. It fretted on Monday that Republicans and independents are “desperate” for a unifying candidate, and that if “the current field isn’t up to that, perhaps someone still off the field will step in and run.”

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, having The Journal’s editorial page criticize the Republican presidential crop is like having Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, fret over the quality of the cardinals who want to be the next pope.

There was also the conservative Weekly Standard, another GOP bellwether, floating one more time the idea that Rep. Paul Ryan really and truly is thinking of running for president, the wish clearly being the father to this thought. 

So it’s not easy being Mitt Romney, the man who is right there in front of them but whom so many Republicans keep looking past. Romney hasn’t even gotten to be called the front-runner very often without some diminishing adjective (“putative,” “apparent,” “seeming”) thrown in. Now, he threatens to be displaced in that role by Perry.

But it doesn’t seem to bother Romney. Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant who worked for Romney four years ago, says he has “a reserve” about him, “a part of him that’s not given over to the campaign or to his audience.” By contrast, says Castellanos, now a CNN contributor, Perry is either “a freight train” who will run Romney right over or “a talking time bomb” who will verbally immolate himself.

The Romney camp is ready with all sorts of arguments against Perry, not the least being that a candidate who says he wants to make government “inconsequential” has been on a government payroll for a quarter-century. It’s a nice counterpoint to Romney, the business guy. And it might not play well in Abraham Lincoln’s Midwest that Perry once talked warmly about secession and then announced his candidacy in South Carolina—in the 150th anniversary year of the onset of the Civil War.

My guess is that if Perry’s freight train doesn’t flatten Romney’s little engine pretty quickly, Romney will keep chugging on. His faith is that of the good business consultant: a shrewd long-term game plan matters more than either swagger or love.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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By ardee, August 21, 2011 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Paul_GA, August 18 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Tops, he’s the ONLY antiwar candidate; that’s good enough for me. And if he doesn’t make the cut, I’ll take my vote elsewhere; Libertarians, Greens, whatever, as long as they’re antiwar.

So you join a list of single issue voters. Are you so comfortable with that as to forgo any serious thought of the rest of Paul’s politics and how harmful it would be to this nation?

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By Reader, August 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It will be interesting to see how this turns out (besides revolting).  Romney appears the only one with a chance against Obama (maybe Ron Paul, but the Republicans wouldn’t use him because he would ruin the statement they want to make about themselves).

Usually, they are better at pulling together, even when they hate a candidate, for the purpose of their higher cause.


If they push Bachman forward, that means they’ve fallen apart completely as a party.  Or the election is even more of a charade than we thought previously.

If they push Perry, it means they are trying to get the radical right through, looking like George Bush;  i.e. they are banking on the American public’s susceptibility to media conditioning only.  And they are hoping no one notices the naked Emperor.

If they push Romney through, there’s still a working unit.  (It will make them sick but they’ll do it.)

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By morongobill, August 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

The Romney campaign’s problem is all they know how to do is run a general election campaign.

For example, his “bump in the road” ad used against the president was devastating in its’ effectiveness.

Unfortunately, he has to get through the primaries.

In my opinion, he probably could beat the incumbent, but will never make it past the right wing base of the Republican Party.

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By Jimnp72, August 18, 2011 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

the f—ing scum repugs, thru their vile hatred and total obstruction of wimpy Obama, have once again wiped out our 401ks.

“it’s what the people want”

Mitch McConnell

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By Paul_GA, August 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Tops, he’s the ONLY antiwar candidate; that’s good enough for me. And if he doesn’t make the cut, I’ll take my vote elsewhere; Libertarians, Greens, whatever, as long as they’re antiwar. The Empire must end; interventionism must cease as this country’s foreign policy; the military-industrial complex must be abolished. Simple as that. If it can’t be done in a controlled manner, it’ll eventually occur in an uncontrolled manner (all empires come to an end, without exception). And if that happens, I fear we can kiss the USA goodbye.

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By tops, August 18, 2011 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

Oops… I meant to say “I’m NOT a Ron Paul supporter and would never vote for him.”

Shows how one word can make a big difference!!

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By tops, August 18, 2011 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

Amazing!! In this article discussing the woes and frustrations of Mitt Romney’s campaign Ron Paul is not mentioned once. Every republican candidate that is running, thinking about running, or is currently on life support and preparing to drop out of the race is mentioned in this article, except Ron Paul. It is as if he doesn’t exist.

And we are suppose to feel sorry for Romney, like he is the candidate that deserves more attention and isn’t getting it?? Ron Paul won second in the Iowa Straw poll and beat Romney, yet he isn’t mentioned by Dionne. If any one is experiencing a “summer of discontent”, or just keeps “chugging along” despite not being taken seriously it is Ron Paul.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Ron Paul supporter and would never vote for him. But this shows how the political establishment and media ignore any candidate who seriously takes on, or threatens military spending, foreign wars, and/ or the Federal Reserve. If they do this they will be locked out of mainstream political discussion.

By the way I have been reading Dionne’s lame articles for a couple of years here at Truth Dig. Up till now I have always just bit my tongue and not commented, but I can’t take it anymore I had to say something this time.

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By A Bird in the Hand, August 18, 2011 at 7:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s Ron Paul All The Way!

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By Shenonymous, August 18, 2011 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

For the man who wants to keep women from owning their own
bodies, I certainly hope he does.

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By Paul_GA, August 18, 2011 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

I note that, like most main-stream commentators, Dionne doesn’t even mention the existence of Ron Paul. I’m sure most of the Establishment wishes the good doctor would just dry up and blow away; but don’t bet he will.

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By ardee, August 18, 2011 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

In all the talk of the battle for the GOP nomination some sad facts continues to be overlooked.

The nation becomes more polarized with each passing day.

The views of the extremist are made to look far more popular than they are in reality I believe.

The election the candidate from either party means a continuation of a poor political course.

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By Shenonymous, August 18, 2011 at 2:16 am Link to this comment

In his ten years as governor of Texas, this jerk Perry didn’t do squat
for the state’s infrastructure.  He did squat to lay the power ground
work for the wind-power that could harness the state’s prairie winds
for cheap energy, because the oil companies has him in their pocket. 
I read where in June 2002, the governor of Texas appointed
Mr. Yzaguirre, the former president of Enron de Mexico, to head the
Texas Public Utility Commission.  The next day Enron’s Kenneth Lay
sent Gov. Rick Perry a $25,000 “donation”.

See some Molly Ivins choice words about da guvnr

Excuse me but what does pandering mean?

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