Are you a casual sports fan? A die-hard South Eastern Conference football fan? Maybe just someone who follows the Super Bowl once a year? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then maybe I can help you understand the GOP primary in layman’s terms. Most of us (football fans of all intensities), have witnessed a game where there is one team that seems to be clearly better than all of the rest, but for some unknown reason seems to be doing all that it can to lose in spite of its superiority, whether it be by repeatedly handing over the ball to the other team inadvertently or just letting the other team score at will. In the case of the GOP primary, in my opinion, the better (best) team is Mitt Romney. Given his huge advantage in campaign financing, not to mention his vast personal fortune, Romney is poised to dominate the advertising war among the hopefuls for the GOP nomination. He also possesses a private sector and economic background that matches up well with the Democratic candidate, President Barack Obama. Additionally, he cannot (accurately) be labeled a “Washington, DC insider.” Furthermore, Romney has past experience running in a presidential primary; has been anointed by many as being the “most electable” competitor when pitted against Obama; and he has arguably the best campaign structure of all the candidates. Finally, he has been billed as the front-runner for the majority of the GOP primary contest. I would therefore declare team Romney to have the advantage of possessing more talent, better coaching, and home field advantage.
Yet, regardless of what I consider to be his immense advantages, Romney seems to have decided to offer his opponents countless opportunities to win by fumbling away the ball. I have chosen to characterize team Romney’s mistakes as fumbles instead of interceptions because fumbles do not always benefit the defense. In some cases the offense recovers the ball or the ball squirts out of bounds and the offense retains possession. I will follow with a series of examples where he has done this:
Team Romney began mishandling the proverbial ball last year. It began as a joke about being unemployed during a coffee discussion with some unemployed Florida voters. While Romney may have been technically correct—he is unemployed—most unemployed Americans are skipping their morning Starbucks as they and their families tighten their belts to endure the current economic and unemployment crisis. Then, Romney told a crowd in Iowa that he believes “corporations are people.” This is a debatable issue, but such a remark was ill-advised in a climate where the poor and the unemployed are becoming increasingly hostile toward large corporations and the wealthy elite. One of the major knocks on Romney is that he is “out of touch” with the common man, and this comment is perfect evidence for such critics. Since this exchange, the Occupy movement grew to global proportions, some might say class-warfare erupted, and the 99% has declared, “enough is enough” to the 1% and thus this remark looks even worse than it did at the time.
Speaking of being out of touch, my favorite misstep from team Romney
occurred during the December 20, 2011 GOP debate in Iowa. During an exchange with Rick Perry, Romney tried to bet Perry $10,000 over Romney’s position on the individual mandate in the nation’s new health insurance law. Yes, you read that correctly–$10,000. It’s nice to know that such a sum is pocket change to Romney, but for some Americans, that amount is close to their annual salary. Not only did he highlight his distance from the average American, he showcased his own wealth. This mistake would probably have remained in the media and in people’s minds if not for subsequent gaffes made by Romney and other GOP presidential hopefuls.
It took less than a month for Romney to again find himself on the wrong end of an exchange with Perry. Romney claimed to have feared being fired, which is a reasonable way to connect with the common man. However, overseeing company takeovers and the subsequent firings/layoffs that come with the territory, he gave his competition an opportunity. Perry capitalized, “Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips – whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out.” This mistake was not an unforced error. In fact, this was just a good play by team Perry, which makes Romney’s attempt to connect with the average American seem feeble and an unworthy effort. In this instance, a team known for making plenty of its own errors outfoxed team Romney. This may not be the most egregious error by team Romney, but it may be the most embarrassing.
Romney was also quoted as being someone who likes “being able to fire people.” Whether or not this was ripped out of context (it was), is less important than it was a few years ago. We live in a world of 24/7 news coverage, where social media and short attention-grabbing headlines are more powerful than ever. As such, this comment serves to compound criticisms that Romney is part of the wealthy elite that is out of touch with the average unemployed/underemployed American. Those words, even in context, make him seem mean-spirited. I assure you that if Romney wins the GOP nomination, this will be a focus of a few different attack ads from the Democrats during the general election.
As if betting $10,000 like it was $10 was not enough to reinforce fears that he is out of touch with mainstream America, team Romney compounded both factors when he explained that he makes most of his income from his investments. He added that he gets “speakers’ fees from time to time, but not very much.” This sounds reasonable, until one discovers that Romney considers last year’s haul of $374,000 to be “not very much.”
Just a couple of weeks later, in February, Romney remarked, “I’m not concerned about the every poor. We have a safety net there.” Of course the media and social media pounced on the first half of that statement, which made waves. In a previous posting, I commented on this gaffe and characterized it as a media overreaction, which it was, but when compounded with all of his other blunders it is significant and illustrates a pattern.
If it hasn’t become clear to you by now, Mitt Romney was successful in the private sector. Therefore, he probably owns a few nice things. What he should not do is flaunt them, intentionally or unintentionally. While in Michigan, home to America’s auto industry, he touted his family’s commitment to buying American-made vehicles. He could have stopped after mentioning that he drives a Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet pickup truck, but he chose to add that his wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs.” This comment was again seized by critics and news outlets alike to highlight his wealth and disconnectedness with the American public, and consequently overshadowed what might have been a more productive campaign outing.
Perhaps Romney’s NASCAR misstep is among the more egregious ones. When asked if he followed NASCAR (there aren’t many things more American than NASCAR), Romney replied that he was not much of a fan, but that he did “have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.” Way to go Mitt. Not only did you not identify with average Americans, you even managed to point out that you are friends with multi-millionaires. In my opinion, this is the quintessential Romney gaffe.
Finally, and most recently, Romney picked up two key wins in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday, again reminding us of why he is the superior team, but he turned around and erred immediately upon setting foot in the all-important state of Ohio. When asked if he supported the Bill proposed by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) to allow employers to ban proving female contraception, Romney stated he was not in support of the bill. This is a key piece of Republican legislation and the unforced error will provide fodder to his critics and attention grabbing headlines for the media. The Romney coaching staff immediately came out and defended their star player, but the damage was already done. While not a complete meltdown, this is just the latest unforced error by team Romney and when compounded with all his other gaffes this makes the GOP front-runner seem quite vulnerable.
After examining the rate at which team Romney seems to commit self-inflicted errors, it is a wonder to me that he is still the front-runner for the GOP nomination. However, there is one lesson that we can learn from team Romney’s “attempts” at losing: even if your team commits (at least) ten turnovers and sets up the competition on a regular basis, you can still win, so long as your competition is of sufficiently inferior quality. He has been fortunate that, for the most part, his opponents have not recovered his fumbles. So while this is a critique of team Romney, it might serve better as an indictment of his opponents.
I believe that team Romney will eventually earn a victory and the GOP nomination. However, all of team Romney’s past mistakes, and those still to come, could prove far more costly in the next contest. Team Romney definitely does not possess the same advantages over team Obama as it does over the current competition. I suggest that Romney and his coaching staff construct a far better game plan if they advance to face team Obama, because the current strategy will just not fare well against a more able opponent that will more than likely recover future Romney fumbles, and could potentially return them for touchdowns.
– Max Rava
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