We don’t often agree with the Democrats’ Southern Sage, James Carville, but we have to share his reaction to establishment Republican numbers-man Karl Rove’s latest lame explanation of how his handpicked candidate for President, Mitt Romney, lost.
Romney lost, Rove told an audience in Naples, Florida, because the media pushed him too far to the right during the Republican primaries.
According to reporting by The Naples Daily News, Rove claimed that if reporters and TV anchors had not posed questions about abortion and other social issues during umpteen Republican pre-primary debates, things might have turned out better.
“Romney unwisely went to the right on immigration,” Rove told financial industry experts attending the Global Financial Leadership Conference organized by the CME Group at a luxury hotel in the Gulf Coast resort city.
Carville’s reaction to that howler, and the Democrats’ pick-up of seats in the House and Senate this election, was to claim that the election was nothing more complex than “pine on skull. . . . You’ve just been hit upside the head.”
Establishment Republicans were “hit upside the head” all right, but it certainly wasn’t because Mitt Romney was "running" or "campaigning" as a conservative during the primaries as Rove said.
We went back and looked at our reactions to the 20 or so Republican Primary debates and our complaint about Romney’s performance then, as it was right up to Election Day, was that he failed to embrace and actually campaign on the conservative agenda.
Here’s what we said after the pre-primary debates in New Hampshire:
Aided and abetted by the media, who have no real interest in conservative policy, too much time during the two weekend debates was spent parsing the rhetorical differences between candidates who agree on fundamental conservative policies and not enough time was spent on drilling down on Romney’s routine rejection of conservative governing principles. Romney’s inevitability would fade rapidly if his conservative opponents would end the circular firing squad and focus on the fat target right in front of them – Mitt Romney’s liberal record.
Here’s what we said after the pre-primary debates in Iowa:
True to form, the Republican establishment has reverted to a content-free campaign designed to destroy the opposition, without committing its favored candidate – former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – to any ideas or platform.
Rove, like most establishment Republicans, is stuck in the aftermath of the 1964 Goldwater campaign and has internalized the notion that an unabashed conservative running on conservative principles can’t win the presidency.
Therefore, he assumes that after a primary season of pandering to grassroots conservatives’ demands for a limited constitutional government, once the nomination is secured to win the General Election, the Republican candidate must switch gears and join the Democrats in a campaign based on who will be the best at dividing-up the spoils extorted from producers by the welfare state.
This recipe for Republican defeat is what the political elite calls “pivoting toward the center.” Normal Americans call it lying.
It is also the kind of political advice that rejects the two victories of Ronald Reagan, and the results of the 2010 Congressional election, in favor of a strategy that led to the defeat of John McCain, Bob Dole, Jerry Ford, George H.W. Bush and now Mitt Romney: appealing to moderate to liberal voters, while ignoring grassroots conservative concerns.
The disgraceful Republican defeats of 2012 were “pine on skull” all right, and the rap upside the head was there to tell Republicans to run on conservative principles, draw a sharp contrast with the Democrats, and, because they inevitably lead to defeat, to stop running the kind of content-free campaigns Rove and the Republican establishment favor.