Saturday, February 09, 2008
Mitt Romney dropped out of the race this week after a disappointing Super Tuesday in which he was completely outflanked by McCain and Huckabee. Various post-mortem explanations may be offered, but I think the most significant one is that inauthenticity wasn't playing with the voters this year. And given the way Romney ran, I'm actually glad to see him fail, so that maybe future candidates will not emulate his example. A year ago, I would have given Romney serious consideration -- a guy with a blue-chip business background and impressive executive experience, reasonable and non-wingnutty enough to get himself elected in Massachusetts. But as soon as he started running for president, he basically tried to completely reinvent himself, and run away from his own gubernatorial record. He was desperately trying to claim the mantle of the "true conservative" in the race, and while some may have doubted his conservatism, even more people doubted the "true" part. Mitt Romney the presidential candidate wasn't "true" anything, and the voters could smell it. He started off with his eleventh-hour conversion to pro-life, with lame explanations as to how he suddenly got religion on that issue. That was but the first of a long trail of campaign claims that were constantly being contradicted by those pesky facts from his past. It was as if he had drunk some Jekyll-and-Hyde potion that suddenly transformed a William Weld into a Rush Limbaugh. The truth became so elastic for the "new Mitt Romney" that he even got caught up in silly details, like pandering to the NRA by claiming he was a hunter (when it turned out he was a hunter in the same way my husband is, uh, he had once shot a beebee gun at a skunk that was digging up our lawn), or claiming that he had seen his father march with MLK (the backpedaling on that one involved parsing the word "saw" in ways reminiscent of Bill Clinton testifying about Monica Lewinsky). Some will say he lost votes due to anti-Mormon prejudice, which is true and a shame, but it was his inauthenticity that sunk him. In fact, given his apparent shamelessness in trying to run away from all the rest of his past, I'm surprised he didn't disavow the Mormon church and convert to Baptism. I'm pleased to see that at least for this year, integrity seems to be in fashion. Even though a great deal of Republicans are unhappy with the remaining candidates, both McCain and Huckabee are men of integrity. We know who they are, and they are not hiding who they are. Too bad Mitt didn't take the path of integrity, he may have had a better run.