The Gaffe Worth A Thousand Ads, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 23 2012 @ 12:31pm

A reader quotes me:

"But what does it say about Obama's strength that he's still polling only four or five points over this gaffe-prone robot?" Doesn't it say "it's only March and most non-Republicans aren't paying much attention"?  Look at turnout at the primaries from independents – it's even more "meh" than from Republicans. I think most people don't dislike Romney only because they don't care about the election yet.

Another is on the same page:

Keep in mind, Obama's not really campaigning against Romney yet.

I can't remember the last time Obama has even mentioned Romney by name. I could be wrong but, surely when Team Obama goes into full campaign mode and turns it's sights squarely on Romney, it will be worth a few more points? Romney has had to spend a ton of money to beat back the likes of Santorum and Gingrich. In some states he's barely beat them back by a point or two. He loses the money advantage in a general campaign and surely Obama is more well liked and a better campaigner then the has-beens Rick and Newt. I don't think the Obamaites should be over confident, but their guy is just getting started.

Another writes:

A "disqualifying comment"?!  Oh come ON. I know you despise Romney, but he wasn't even the one who said the Etch-A-Sketch comment. And of course a general election campaign approach is different than the primaries.  That is obvious to anyone not quite so biased again Romney and obviously what the advisor meant.

Quite frankly, I've been surprised by your complete rejection of Romney for Santorum. Rick Santorum, really?  I know you believe that his nomination would push the "Christianist" faction to the forefront and finally cause the rejection of the more extremist part of the party due to his inevitable loss. But that is complete foolish recklessness. Due to unexpected economic, international or domestic events, you know that even a Rick Santorum could win the presidency. Yes, he could, and completely validate all you oppose in the Republican party.  Surely that fills you with more dread than the idea of a Romney presidency.

Another makes a broader point about the candidate:

Romney makes much of his experience as a CEO.  But for most of his career, he was a consultant.  If you haven't dealt with consultants much, here is the difference:

A CEO has to have some kind of vision for where he wants to take his company,  even if it is just a steady-as-she-goes vision.  It defines what he does for his tenure, and only gets changed if major outside events impact the company.

A consultant is different.  What he has is an idea he can sell to the current customer.  It matters not at all whether it is the same, or diametrically opposite, as the idea that he sold to the last customer.  All that matters is selling the idea, getting paid, and moving on (before there is any way to know if it actually worked).

And that is Romney's candidacy in a nutshell: sell the current idea to the audience of the moment and move on.  But there's a problem.  Consultants are not generally subject to videos of what they told the last client becoming public.  And prospective clients are not likely to spend time comparing notes with past clients.  In politics, however, everybody has a record of what you said at the last campaign stop, or in the last electoral cycle, or any other time in your career.

And regarding the above video, it's difficult to see robotic Romney react like this:

Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later. So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. "I am proud of you," Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back. "Thank you," Obama replied. This is one of those moments that humanize the office of the presidency.