I guess I have to ask what happened to the vaunted Republican campaign machine. From 1968 to 2004, they were almost always in the game. I don’t think the losses in 1976 and 1996 were due to campaign errors—in the aftermath of Watergate, and opposing the greatest campaigner in modern Democratic history, Bill Clinton.
But some of the things that John McCain did in 2008—the unforced errors of picking Sarah Palin and suspending his campaign due to the financial crisis—in an election that was within his grasp were amateur hour. The Bush people never would have made so many mistakes.
So, 2008 could have been dismissed as an anomaly, right? But now they’ve ceded ground to Mitt Romney, apparently someone who won’t even let himself be vetted in the classical sense, who just keeps messing up. Sure, it’s possible he’ll still win. But, the unforced errors are making that harder and harder. The slip-up of responding to an Obama attack ad with a reference to RomneyCare was a kick in the nuts to the Tea Party base, and only stokes their deep suspicions of Romney.
First picking Paul Ryan, someone who only political insiders have heard of, who has no statute of his own, who is only known by his plan to privatize Medicare, was a mistake looking at the electoral map. This probably cedes Florida to Obama, may put Arizona in play, and does not guarantee the Republicans Wisconsin.
But then on the first day to back away from Ryan’s plan—in a sense to not completely back the only “achievement” of the guy you’ve picked, and whom you’ve picked apparently under orders from the braindead-trust of Bill Kristol and the WSJ editorial page—itself a sign of weakness—is cowardly and self-destructive.
Paul Ryan is an acolyte of Ayn Rand, according to a New Yorker profile of him recently. He is an adherent to the anti-social religion of survival of the fittest, yet has lived most of his adult life on a government salary. Somehow, to him, his plan of privatizing medicare is less socialist because the government subsidizes private insurance companies instead of he elderly.
You can criticize or love Ryan, but from a purely political level this is folly.