Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 2:11 am | Overcast 48º


Susan Estrich: Romney Didn’t Lose, But He’s Far from Winning

The problems aren't even close to being over for the apparent GOP presidential nominee

Who’da thunk it? Mitt Romney, who walked away with Michigan even as he was losing the nomination four years ago, barely surviving the Michigan primary this time? Much less doing so against a guy who thinks it’s snobbish to want to go to college and that a speech by President John F. Kennedy makes him want to “throw up.”

No wonder the markets are preparing for victory by President Barack Obama.

And here’s a prediction: While Romney is still the nominee apparent, his problems aren’t even close to being over. If it ever looks like he’s cinched this thing, he’ll start losing again. My guess is that if Michigan voters hadn’t been told (countless times) that they needed to save him, he wouldn’t have eked out that three-point “triumph.”

Republican talking heads may be trying to put a positive spin on this, claiming that Romney is becoming a better candidate and that, like Obama, he’ll emerge stronger from the process. But with all due respect (meaning, as one of my favorite judges puts it, with none at all), that dog don’t hunt.

Obama emerged stronger because he beat a worthy opponent in a race that required him to be his best. Romney is getting weaker because he’s struggling to beat a series of can’t-win opponents, and it is his struggle because he is constantly tripping over himself. He’s looking, well, for want of a better word, terrible.

His wife drives two Cadillacs. Two? Cadillacs?

He’s friends with the guys who own NASCAR teams.

Can this man possibly understand the problems of people like us? That is the most important question in political polls.

And the process. There could not have been a worse year for Republicans to put into effect rules that make it harder for the winner to win, which was the criticism of the old Democratic rules that we spent years trying to fix fairly.

Romney’s triumph in Arizona is subject to a credentials challenge because those delegates, under the new rules, were supposed to be divided proportionately. The calendar has been retooled to mean that in a multi-candidate race, it takes longer for the frontrunner (which Romney still is because there is no one else who can seriously be anointed with that title) to amass the necessary delegates. His money and organization aren’t giving him the leg up they normally would, because he’s running against candidates who are succeeding in scoring points by not having the kind of money and organization he does.

And Romney’s defensiveness? He’s not going to light his hair on fire to win conservative votes. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but if I were a conservative voter, it wouldn’t sound very appealing. So you don’t want us, huh? Maybe we don’t want you, either.

One of my smartest friends says opposites are alike. I can’t put myself in the shoes of a conservative ideologue, but I certainly can imagine how a Romney-like Democrat who was being shoved down my throat would look to a liberal ideologue. Like bad-tasting medicine.

I remember the feeling I had back in 1980, when we were being told that we feminists “had” to support Jimmy Carter even though he had done nothing to support the Equal Rights Amendment and responded to a U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively denying poor women the right to choose by saying that “life’s not fair.”

Yes, the Democrats ended up nominating Carter, but not before they rejected him in primary after primary, particularly in those taking place after he “officially” clinched the nomination. Swallowing a poison pill is never pleasant. And for many Republicans, that is what Romney has become.

Pretty soon you’ll start hearing the conversations about why better people don’t run for president. And it won’t be Democrats doing the talking.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

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