You know things are really going bad for a campaign when weeks before the election top media figures start writing about it as if it were already lost or is destined to lose unless it radically changes. This week featured several pre-obituaries about the Romney campaign. Below are just a few of the most prominent:
Politico Roger Simons:
The Romney campaign is skidding along on its axles and scraping its muffler. Soon it will be down to the dog on the roof.
I hate to say I told you so. No, scratch that. I love to say I told you so. I just don’t get to do it very often.
But as I have been saying for a while now, Mitt Romney is a deeply flawed candidate who got the Republican nomination by beating a ludicrously weak field. Don’t believe me?
You know who came in second? Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich was third, and Ron Paul was fourth. That’s not a field; that’s a therapy group.
New York Times David Brooks:
This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? [...]
Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?
Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan:
Republicans are going to have to right this thing. They have to stabilize it.
It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.” [...]
Romney needs to get serious here.Or, he can keep typing out his stray thoughts with Stuart Stevens, who’s sold himself as a kind of mad genius. I get the mad part.
The constant refrain that a campaign is “incompetent” and “inept” starts eating away at it. Donors don’t want to give money to an incompetent campaign. Volunteers don’t want to give up their free time to help an inept operation. Base voters aren’t going to be enthusiastic about voting for a likely loser.
You even have the campaign co-chairs not wanting to stick around. With just weeks until the election, Tim Pawlenty left the campaign for a lucrative lobbying job. That’s a strong indication he is convinced he won’t be appointed to a good administration job next year, probably because losers can’t appoint anyone.
It is still possible that the Romney campaign could turn this around, but every day the likelihood of that grows more remote. The campaign has already entered a negative feedback loop. The more it is seen as an incompetent loser, the less people want to help it, which in turn causes it to do even worse.