(a lovely portrayal of Mitt from Hugh Hewitt's webbie)
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Smarter than the Average Bear
Posted by Dean Barnett | 11:09 AM
Most people think that the first primary in the nation happens in New Hampshire. That’s not quite true. Two important primaries happen before then – the money primary and the media primary.
On the Republican side, the runaway favorite for the media primary was John McCain and his “Straight Talk Express.” Oh, how the reporters have come to adore the maverick Senator. But a new reality has crept up on McCain. As the President fades into political irrelevance, McCain’s habit of sticking his thumb into the administration’s eye will also fade into irrelevance. The Senator will have to learn a new trick to keep the media enamored. And if there’s ever been an old dog, it’s John McCain.
The big surprise is that as far as the right wing portion of the media primary is concerned, Mitt Romney has already won. I know a lot of people wonder how this has happened. How did an obscure blue-state governor so strike the fancy of conservative pundits?
I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: Mitt Romney is an exceptionally impressive man. It is very difficult to spend any time with him and not come away charmed. It is even more difficult to spend time with him and come away unimpressed. In addition to being almost preternaturally affable and engaging, Romney also has what lawyers like to call electric intelligence. For reasons that don’t require much elaboration, this is a characteristic that the Republican electorate currently hungers for. Desperately.
In short, Romney is smarter than the average bear. Admittedly in politics this isn’t much of a feat. While politicians as a class are articulate and charming, they tend to lack intellectual curiosity and intellectual rigor. It’s not that they seek simple solutions to complex problems. Were that only the case.
In truth, they seek to attack complex problems by delivering mindless but effective sound bytes. Think of an example, any example: Religion of Peace, Two Americas, Culture of Corruption, Support the Troops, Don’t Escalate – all of these are examples of labeling a problem with the hope that the labeling substitutes for actually engaging the problem. On the political level, it usually works. In terms of getting anything productive done, it’s reliably an abysmal failure.
Romney’s different. He spent a business career mastering difficult fact patterns and figuring out what to do. Simple sloganeering was never an alternative to effective action. As proof of his acumen in this regard, there are numerous businesses that he helped build (Staples, Domino’s) and a vast personal fortune.
THE QUESTION WAS, Would the Romney way be effective in politics? As a politician, would he be just another guy, or would he continue to be the innovator that he was in the private sphere. Yesterday, his political competitors got some bad news on the front.
In a unique fundraising event that combined lots of modern-day viral marketing with a smidgeon of old fashioned phone-banking, the Romney campaign raised over $6.5 million. There has never been anything comparable to it in American politics. Although the money primary is just beginning, Mitt Romney looks like he’s going win that one as handily as he won the right-wing media primary.
But it’s not just about the money. Under no circumstances would Mitt Romney’s campaign lack for funds. If he wanted to, he could probably self-finance a presidential run with the loose change in between his sofa cushions.
What yesterday shows is that the Romney campaign, like his business career, will be marked by innovation. The Romney campaign won’t be relying on techniques that were moldy back when David Letterman was actually funny. Nor will it just trod the road that Joe Trippi and the Howard Dean campaign paved in 2004.
As he has done throughout his career, Mitt Romney will build a better mousetrap. While John Edwards delivers speeches that sound like they were ripped from Huey Long’s playbook, Barack Obama ponders his future and John McCain defends McCain/Feingold, Mitt Romney will run a 21st century campaign that will leave his rivals looking like the antiquated relics of yesterday’s politics that they are.