the national interest

Whose Idea Was It to Nominate Romney, Anyway?

Photo: Thomas Nast

In what you might regard as an unhealthy sign for Mitt Romney’s campaign prospects, conservatives have turned to debating the question of who is to blame for nominating this man in the first place. Arch-conservatives Erick Erickson and Ben Domenech blame the moderate establishment for foisting Romney upon the base; relative moderates Ross Douthat and Daniel Larison blame the conservatives. Oddly, nobody seems interested in claiming credit for Romney’s nomination.

The case for Romney, such as it is, falls to his anonymous advisers, who tell Politico that he is a brilliant and wonderful man but sadly bad at politics:

Lousy candidate; highly qualified to be president,” said a top Romney official. “The candidate suit fits him unnaturally. He is naturally an executive.”

“He’s a great leader, but he’s not a great politician,” said a top member of Romney’s organization. “As much as we complain about politicians, we like a good politician. He doesn’t have the hand-on-the-shoulder thing. He’s not quick-witted. He’s an analytical, data-driven businessperson.”

“You have to know the room, and he doesn’t know the room,” said a top Republican in D.C. who has donated to Romney and wants him to win. “He’s missing the normal-guy gene.”

Being terrible at running for office sounds like a pretty serious drawback for a presidential nominee!

So, anyway, whose idea was it to nominate Romney? The basic answer is: nobody’s. It’s true that Romney managed to persuade many conservative activists to support him during, and in the immediate aftermath of, his 2008 campaign. But by 2010, conservatives had moved farther right and left Romney behind. It’s not as if the Establishment were pining away for him, either. Most mainstream Republicans spent the cycle pining away for another candidate to jump into the race.

The real split during the primary occurred between conservatives who reluctantly fell behind Romney because they had no alternative (which is to say, the alternatives were such characters as Michele Bachmann, comatose Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum) and those who were willing to support one or all of those characters rather than Romney. Nobody, except Jennifer Rubin and Matt Drudge, actually displayed any real enthusiasm for the man. He won by default. And yes, he is turning out to be a below-average candidate, but almost surely superior to any of the alternatives who actually ran against him, and perhaps Republicans should recognize that the fundamentals made Obama at least a moderate favorite to win all along.

Meanwhile, in perhaps the cruelest dagger yet, Fox News has joined the left-wing media conspiracy by releasing a poll showing Obama leading Romney by five points among likely voters. The good folks at, who have applied their unique interpretive methodology to public polling to find Romney leading in a route, work their magic to remove the pro-Obama bias from the Fox News poll and find that as a result … Obama leads by two points. Either Romney is really, truly, behind even in the unskewed polls, or the liberal polling conspiracy has penetrated not only Fox News but itself. It’s not clear which explanation is more grim.

Whose Idea Was It to Nominate Romney, Anyway?