Former executive editor, now New York Times columnist Bill Keller theorized on Monday on “How Romney Could Win.” For one, he is “certifiably sane,” unlike some in the GOP field. Keller dismissed Herman Cain as “not-so-serious” and hoped Newt Gingrich would “pass like a tantrum.” But he misses Bill Clinton most of all.
Election Day is nearly a year off and the first primaries aren’t until January, but I’m ready to skip ahead to the main event. The last serious hope of the Tea Partiers, Rick Perry, and their last not-so-serious hope, Herman Cain, are in campaign death spirals. Unless God has a cruel sense of humor, Newt Gingrich will pass like a tantrum. That leaves us with a general election between two serious and certifiably sane candidates. Phew!!
Just as a series of Republican improbables competed for the role of Not-Mitt, Romney is now Not-Obama, an alternative vessel not only for those who have loathed Obama all along but for the disenchanted Obama voters of 2008. I’ve argued elsewhere that the disappointments of Obama’s first term are exaggerated and only in part his fault. But the sense of frustration is real. To be sure, Romney is not going to get voters who are upset that Obama failed to be Dennis Kucinich, but he will surely pursue those less ideological voters who invested hope in Obama, who still want him to succeed, but who are starting to believe what will be Romney’s main message: Obama is a nice guy, but in over his head.
Indeed, in a September 19 column, written two-thirds into Obama’s term, Keller was still blaming Bush. Monday's column continued:
But Romney’s role in the private sector was as a ruthless efficiency machine, a downsizer and outsourcer -- in short, his critics say, a job-killer. When Romney challenged Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, the Democratic campaign guru Robert Shrum prepared ads featuring the misery of workers streamlined out of jobs by Bain Capital. Watch for the sequel in 2012.
Romney can counter, with justification, that making companies more efficient assures their survival and long-term growth. But as an empathetic message, it’s just a notch more winning than “Let them eat cake.”
The Democrats will retort that the Republican Party is hostage to its dogmatically antigovernment Tea Party minority, and Romney is, too. Remember that chillingly defining moment when the Republican candidates were asked if they would reject a deal that included $10 of spending cuts for just $1 in tax hikes? Romney’s hand was raised with the rest of them. Swing voters would have taken the 10-to-1 deal in a heartbeat.
Would Keller be equally "chilled" by Democrats who would doubtless refuse $9 in spending cuts for $0 in tax hikes? Isn't it the same principle? He concluded by pining for the good old Clinton years.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself hungering for the days when politics had heart, buy Bill Clinton’s new book. You may find, as I did, that you kind of miss him.