With remarkable swiftness, we have entered the slow death phase of the Romney campaign. We are seeing orgies of backstabbing among advisers trying to pin the blame on others, leaks along the lines of “a flustered adviser, describing the mood, said that the campaign was turning into a vulgar, unprintable phrase.” Romney campaign strategy sessions probably look a little like this:
The upside of being a presidential candidate behind in the polls is that you get all kinds of thoughtful and workable proposals to right the ship. The solutions range from minor pedestrian issues of campaign mechanics to grand metaphysical decisions. Beginning with the former, some Republicans are upset that Romney is spending too much time raising money and not enough time holding rallies:
“There’s not really a campaign here,” said one Republican with extensive ties to the party’s fundraising community. “He’s getting ready for the debates, and he’s out fundraising. You’ve got enough money!”
A Romney ally explains, in response, “I don’t think you can see enough people to make a difference. I think getting on television and telling the people what you’re going to do — spending your time doing that is more important than hitting 50 cities in 50 days.” Or, as Pappy O’Daniel would put it, “We ain't one-at-a-timin' here. We're MASS communicating!”
Other Republicans have more constructive advice, but only slightly more constructive. “Romney needs a big idea, then he needs to shift the debate to spending,” says GOP strategist Greg Strimple, declining to identify what the big idea would be. Peggy Noonan also has some practical advice:
What should Mitt Romney do now? He should peer deep into the abyss. He should look straight into the heart of darkness where lies a Republican defeat in a year the Republican presidential candidate almost couldn’t lose. He should imagine what it will mean for the country, for a great political philosophy, conservatism, for his party and, last, for himself. He must look down unblinkingly.
And then he needs to snap out of it, and move.
But where would he find this abyss? Is there one for sale? And what if he accidentally blinks? Does he have to start over? Would a series of shorter, more shallow peeks into the abyss possibly help, perhaps if he scheduled fund-raisers in between?
Bill Kristol advises Romney to “step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!” I suppose this might also happen if Romney tried the abyss thing and was somehow sucked into the vortex.
So, anyway, the good news for Romney is that smart Republicans are offering him all sorts of practical solutions for his dilemma.