Mitt Romney was pretty unanimously considered the strongest candidate in the Republican field — by a large margin. He was, without much question, the most electable of the primary bunch and the toughest opponent for Barack Obama. He was disciplined, well-funded, and had a moderate background that appealed to independents. He was, in short, the very best the Republicans had to offer in the year 2012.

This was not a fantasy, either. It was an accurate assessment. Romney was the best they had. The very best.

Let that sink in for a bit.
—  Kevin Drum. Nothing to say about that but: yep.
Americans are hurting across this country, and the president’s out there campaigning. Why isn’t he governing? He doesn’t — he doesn’t have a jobs plan even now.
—  Mitt Romney, who must be referring to the fact that the GOP minority in the Senate has already filibustered said “jobs bill” to death and plans to filibuster its pieces to death as well. That pretty much means “Obama has no jobs bill,” right? After all, it’s been uniformly reported as “Democrats fail to pass…” and “Obama jobs bill fails” and never, ever the decidedly shrill “GOP blocks…” or even “Republicans outmaneuver Democrats on jobs…”
Note to Anderson Cooper: this is precisely the sort of thing you might mention next time it comes up in a debate amongst the folks vying for the Republican nomination for President of these United States. To quote some future Sam Jackson movie: “You the moderator? Then moderate, motherfucker.” Or we’ll just let Watson do it the next time. Frankly, I don’t see how Our Computational Overlord could do any worse.
You don’t want these candidates moving so right in the Republican primary that it becomes impossible for them to win the general election, because it will become a self-defeating message in the primary.

People want to win. They don’t want somebody who goes so far to the extremes of either party that they lack a chance to carry a victory off in November.
—  Karl Rove, old turd blossom hisself, opining on the GOP Presidential primary field.
Sorry to be the one to tell you this, Karl, but the “sensibility” ship has sailed, been round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames, and subsequently was no-bid auctioned into a second career as a part-time riverboat gambling operation for KBR executives.
John Huntsman even put his hand up on the “10:1 cuts/revenue is a non-starter deal” question and he’s only running for 2016 positioning. There is no one in the field even trying to be the slightly more sensible, slightly more center-far-right candidate of today’s GOP. Mittmentum, the man made to take up that role abandoned it in 2008. His strong showing then has sensibly pushed him even further to the right now. That ought to fix his issues. If the GOP can’t win the general election from a far right stance, they almost can’t win in 2012. And if the economic headwinds were a bit more predictable, we could drop the “almost” qualifier right now.
But the last thing The Democrat would want to do is start making the GOP take stands against job creation. People just don’t want to hear about that stuff right now. Shrill. Better take a “non-confrontational approach,” get into the defensive crouch, and hope for the best. And this is why they fail.

Even more reason to do nothing. The joy of gridlock will hike capital gains taxes up to 25% in the absence of any actions on the part of Congress. Barring anything actually, you know, happening in the Congress, Mitt and other Masters of the Universe will finally see something approaching a reasonable tax rate. Very Serious People will tell you otherwise, but for the next few years gridlock is decidedly Our Friend.
I Think He's Got It!

Dave Weigel points out the lesson from Iowa and, as I read it, the broader outlines of the GOP primary thus far:

Four years ago, a depressed GOP went to the precinct caucuses, very well aware that Democrats had all the energy. The total GOP vote: 119,188. This year, Republicans should be psyched about the chance to uproot Barack Obama. There will be something above 122,000 total votes. An improvement, right? Well… in 2008, 86 percent of the people who chose the GOP caucuses were Republicans. This year, 75 percent of the electorate was Republican, with the rest of the vote coming from independents and Democrats. What the hell happened?

What happened is those independent and non-GOP folks are Ron Paul voters; also, pretty much anybody under 65 in the room. So, in what should be a high voter interest year, in the “early” state with the most potential to generate that largely white, evangelical, “Obama is ruining the country” style fervor that the GOP counts on to win its national elections you get…depressed turnout, most of which has no interest in the frontrunner and a large chunk of which isn’t really even interested in your party, much less your presumptive candidate.

So far, Mitt is right where he was in 2008. That’s your story. If there was a true frontrunner here he would have, again, finished well back and would (again) be poised to under-perform in his “firewall” of New Hampshire. Instead, he’ll under-perform and but also win there. That will soften the inevitable South Carolina blow, keep things just interesting enough for the media circus to stay engaged, and only serve to delay the inevitable “well, I guess we have to nominate him now” triumphant GOP convention moment down the road in Tampa. Mitt Romney, reporting for duty! I can already smell the rising tide of national excitement.

Why They Fail

Mitt Romney:

“What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying? It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” Romney, a GOP presidential candidate, said. “My last 10 years, I’ve — my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past rather than ordinary income or rather than earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.”

According to his most recent financial disclosure statement, he earned nearly $375,000 for nine speaking engagements in 2010 and early 2011.

Well, now, this would seem to be a rather rich potential political line of attack. In one simple, straightforward stroke you have a narrative that both weakens Romney and advances important information in the broader sense relative to what’s really been going wrong in America these past ~40 years. Not only does Mitt (unsurprisingly) pay the preposterously low 15% rate on his largely-investment-based income, a rate dramatically lower than most Americans pay on far less income and but also Mitt reveals that this is aside from the entirely trivial, “not very much” money he made doing speaking engagements, itself a value fully 10 times the median income in these United States.

Naturally, The Democrat thinks it’s high time to leave Mitt alone on such issues:

At least one top Obama surrogate is pushing for the party to shift the balance of its attacks on Mitt Romney away from his days in private equity and on to his time in the public sector. […] “Bain is a little complicated for people to follow.”

Of course, of course. Who among us can possibly understand that Mitt pays a fraction of the taxes you do on wealth so fucking inexhaustibly vast that he considers income in excess of 10 times what you probably make in a year to be “not very much.” There’s just no way to play that information such that people can follow it.

Birther Boogaloo: You Tell Me
  • Reality Check: Okay, now, what are the specific requirements in the [TN Ballot Access] bill?
  • TN State Senator Mae Beavers: That they have to have the long-form birth certificate.
  • RC: What is the long-form birth certificate?
  • Beavers: Now, you’re asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven’t really looked into yet.
  • RC: [...] Are you aware that a lot of states now only give the short-form birth certificate?
  • Beavers: No, I only know about Tennessee, and I was born in Alabama. So I only know what I have seen.
  • RC: What if someone was not born in a hospital? It wouldn’t have an attending physician signature, so they wouldn’t be eligible to run in Tennessee if this bill passes. Is that correct?
  • Beavers: But they would have a birth certificate.
  • RC: Sure, but your bill doesn’t say birth certificate. It says “an original long-form birth certificate that includes date and place of birth, name of the hospital, the attending physician, and signatures of the witnesses.”
  • Beavers: And that’s normally what’s on a long-form birth certificate.
  • RC: It used to be, but as a matter of fact, the state of Hawaii, where President Obama was born, for people born since, I believe, around 2001, only gives the time of birth, the name of the parents, and the place of birth. Are you aware of the section of the Constitution called the full faith and credit clause? It’s in Article 4, Section 1.
  • Beavers: Yes.
  • RC: Well, do you know what it says about state documents?
  • Beavers: You tell me.
  • RC: It says that any state is required to accept the documents from another state. So that basically means that Tennessee has to accept a valid birth certificate from Hawaii or any other state.
  • Beavers: I have no knowledge of short-form birth certificates in Hawaii.
  • RC: [...] Mitt Romney may not be eligible under this bill. Are you aware of that?
  • Beavers: No, I wasn’t.
  • RC: Well, George Romney, his father, was born in Mexico. Mexico confers citizenship by jus soli, which is place of birth. So he was born with dual citizenship, and it also passes down. Unless George Romney somehow gave up his Mexican citizenship, Mitt Romney has dual citizenship.
  • Beavers: Obviously you’ve studied this whole thing.