the circus

Frank Rich on the National Circus: Romney Reclaims ‘Inevitable’ Mantle

NOVI, MI - FEBRUARY 28: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a primary night gathering at the Suburban Collections Showplace on February 28, 2012 in Novi, Michigan. Romney celebrated primary victories in Arizona and Michigan. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photo: Justin Sullivan/2012 Getty Images

After Michigan, is Romney back to being “inevitable” again?
Yes, if only because the GOP really has no alternative. It says all you need to know about the depressed state of that party that its elders are rejoicing when Romney barely wins his native state against a poorly funded, self-immolating adversary who opposes public schools and said that JFK makes him want to “throw up.” Even in this victory, enthusiasm for Mitt among actual voters seemed close to nil. Turnout was low. Exit polls found that 44 of his own voters had “reservations” about him. He lost to Santorum in every income bracket except those making $100K+ a year.

 But in Arizona, Romney won by a spread of twenty points.
Some 14 percent of that state’s Republican primary electorate is Mormon, as opposed to 2 percent of the nation as a whole.

 What was the biggest surprise during the returns?
That Fox News ran a commercial for The Book of Mormon just before cutting to Bret Baier declaring “Mitt Romney, the big winner in Arizona!” Someone in the Ailes camp has a sense of humor.

Why does Romney keep making these verbal slips?
It is clearly psychological, and just as clearly too late to seek treatment by Election Day. And it seems to be a family pathology. Ann Romney’s victory address in Michigan included the strange boast that she had been campaigning from “the tip of the Mitt.” Trying to explicate her locution to CNN viewers, the Republican consultant Alex Castellanos joked:  “That explains all the children.”

David Brooks’s Tuesday column on the craven Republican establishment: courageous, or too-little-too-late?
After months of denial, it’s now too little, too late for moderate conservatives to protest what has happened to the GOP. The tea-party inmates long ago took over the asylum, and the damage has already been done. That’s why the Maine Republican Olympia Snowe announced yesterday she was getting out of the Senate. That’s why Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour — and most other Establishment “dream” candidates — got out of the presidential race at the get-go. They, like Snowe, all recognized that they would be pilloried as heretical moderates by the party’s radical base. The GOP base’s idea of a “centrist” candidate today is not Snowe but someone like the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell has not yet been in office two years, but in that time he (1) issued a proclamation celebrating Confederate History Month that omitted any mention of slavery, and (2) endorsed a bill mandating that rape victims seeking an abortion be raped a second time by state officials wielding vaginal ultrasound wands.

Obama was riled up on Tuesday in Michigan. Given the last 24 hours, it seems almost impossible for him to lose that state in November. But can the national press suffer a Presidential race as boring as an Obama blowout?
We may well have to suffer. If Romney has sewn up the nomination, this race is about to get a lot more boring. That doesn’t mean it will be an Obama blowout in November. One never knows. But the president finally has a strong populist message, and in the cluelessly patrician Romney he has the perfect foil.

But won’t Romney eventually come up with a strong message of his own?
He already has: hatred of Obama, whose record he lies about at every turn. That’s been the only message unifying the GOP since crowds started calling Obama a traitor at Sarah Palin rallies back in 2008.

Frank Rich: Romney Reclaims ‘Inevitable’ Mantle