When Mitt Romney (R-MA) spoke at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last year ("a smug demeanor and a smirk that set The Stiletto's teeth on edge"), The Stiletto immediately pegged him as a phony. Her gut instincts proved out during the year that followed.
Romney's inauthenticity (some would call it a "candor gap") is the Number One reason his candidacy failed – his claim of being a "lifelong hunter" just one of many examples. Here are the other reasons:
2. McCain wanted it more. As a candidate, John McCain (R-AZ) had bottomed out on every resource that is the lifeblood of a campaign – momentum in the polls, staffers and money – when he was down to his last $1 million in late 2007 he had to take out a $3 million bank loan (and a life insurance policy) to keep going. He sucked it up, changed his campaign strategy and embarked on a grueling schedule of town hall meetings and stump speeches in the early primary states, taking cheap flights and staying in budget hotels. Clearly, surrender is not in this man's vocabulary.
3. He never articulated a rationale for his candidacy. McCain is the straight-talking war-hero, who wants to win the war in Iraq and will pay for our continued engagement by eliminating earmarks and pork-barrel spending. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is the anti-Romney – the IRS-bashing populist, who wants to protect our jobs by eliminating incentives for businesses to outsource them abroad and imposing penalties on employers hiring low-wage forged documented aliens. Voters could never get a fix on the shape-shifting Romney: He is the champion of values voters – no wait! – make that a hardnosed businessman – no wait! – make that a dispenser of government largesse – no wait! – make that the candidate who will "change" everything. The one-time venture capitalist even became a populist. Consequently, Romney did not develop a coherent message and kept reinforcing his image as a flip-flopper and a panderer on every issue that matters – especially to "true" conservatives.
4. He didn't do that hot a job as the governor of MA. The economic turnaround Romney achieved in MA is less than impressive when one considers that the state has lagged nearly every other in job creation – 24,400 of new jobs were added during his four-year - and critics say the state is still struggling to recover from the 200,000 jobs lost during the 2001 recession. And even as the economy improved nationwide, unemployment remained stubbornly high in MA – 5.6 percent when Romney took office in 2002 and 5.2 percent when he left office in 2006 (at which point the national unemployment rate had fallen to 4.5 percent). And it's also worth noting that other GOP governors have not supported his candidacy.
5. He badly underestimated – and mishandled - voters' resistance to his belief system. That Huckabee is still in the race and Romney is not, is a testament to the deep discomfort that evangelicals - and other devout Christians – have with Mormonism. Leaving aside religious and irreligious folk alike who believe Mormonism is a bizarre cult ("magic underwear"), churchgoers were offended by certain precepts (Jesus and Satan are brothers) and practices (posthumous baptisms). Romney's tactic was to label questions about his faith as "bigotry" (and some of it could be regarded as such) and to obfuscate on doctrinal matters, leaving it to Christopher Hitchens, of all people, to explain Mormonism to the electorate.
6. His patrician demeanor and aloofness left voters cold. Romney never seemed empathetic to the concerns of workaday voters. Huckabee, in particular, savaged Romney (second item) as the rich guy who buys a troubled company, sells off the assets and fires the employees. Romney's business credentials - former chairman of a management-consulting firm and founder of a leveraged buyout firm – served less to inspire confidence that he could turn the faltering economy around than fear that he would protect Wall Street's interests over Main Street's.