The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Team Mitt: Let Them Do Their Jobs

Posted on | May 7, 2012 | 21 Comments

Romney campaign senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom talks to reporters
after CNN Republican debate, Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 26, 2012

One of the dangerous temptations of political journalism is to begin thinking that it’s your job to tell politicians what to do. Like any other citizen, you have the right to express your opinion, but your job is to report and explain what’s happening, not to decide what happens.

When I was a sports writer, I didn’t tell football coaches which play to call on third-and-nine. Whether the quarterback scored a touchdown or threw an interception, the outcome was not my responsibility. Of course, the analogy between covering sports and covering politics isn’t perfect: Football coaches can’t raise your taxes or start wars, and the fans in the bleachers don’t get to vote on the score of the game.

Yet I still try to resist the arrogant delusion that what I write about politics has any decisive influence. If I were running the show, things would be different, but nobody’s offered to pay me to run the show, so I try not to get wrapped up in that “make a difference” mentality for which Rush Limbaugh so often excoriates crusading liberal journalists.

All of this is a necessary preamble to linking my American Spectator column today about the Mitt Romney campaign:

Ruthless efficiency is the hallmark of a professional campaign operation. Watching Team Mitt in action during the primary season left no reason to doubt that, if sharp work by an experienced staff can make a difference, Romney’s operation will deliver a solid performance for Republicans. The question now, as the general election campaign gets fully under way, is whether Team Mitt will be good enough to beat the equally professional Obama operation. Among the skeptics is Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner, who last week criticized the Romney campaign for having “taken the bait, reacting to whatever Team Obama has decided to make an issue.” Klein cited three examples: Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s attack on Ann Romney, a report that Obama had once admitted eating dog meat, and the administration’s “spike the football” celebration of the anniversary of the Navy SEAL raid that took out Osama bin Laden.
Republican reactions, Klein said, enabled those stories to “dominate the political headlines,” distracting from a steady drumbeat of negative economic news: “If the campaign is about bin Laden, identity politics and silly controversies about dogs, an Obama victory is a lot more likely. To seize control of the campaign, instead of merely being reactive, Romney has to put Obama on the defensive about his own record.”
Certainly this is good advice, although the pessimistic appraisal by Klein — an excellent journalist who spent many years as an American Spectator reporter — may overstate the extent to which the Romney campaign departed from its accustomed discipline. . . .

Please read the whole thing, and everybody try to calm down. We’ve still got six months to go before Election Day. There will be plenty enough time for Fear and Loathing between now and Nov. 6. The big headline on Memeorandum today is this:

Battleground Poll: Obama, Romney in dead heat

Whatever Team Mitt may have done wrong so far, it hasn’t been enough to damage their chances to beat Obama. Everybody knows Romney wasn’t my choice for the GOP nomination. Therefore, I can neither be blamed nor claim credit for whatever happens in this election. Most of our readers are in the same position: You resisted Romney as hard as you could, and now he’s the nominee anyway. So what do you do now?

Look: I’ve known the guys on Team Mitt pretty well for a couple of years now. When I went up to Massachusetts to cover the Scott Brown campaign in January 2010, one of the first campaign staffers I met was Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney’s top advisers. If Fehrnstrom and the rest of the Romney guys were good enough to beat a Democrat for Ted Kennedy’s seat, they deserve a certain amount of confidence now that it’s their job to beat Obama. Let ’em do their job.

If Team Mitt screws it up, that’s not our fault, but whatever they need from us, it’s probably not a lot of bitching and complaining. And my sense of the strategic situation is that Team Obama could be a lot weaker than they look. While it’s not my habit to invoke inspirational quotes from damned Yankees, I think this battle might pretty swiftly reach the crucial point where Da Tech Guy likes to quote Phil Sheridan: “Ride right through ’em, they’re demoralized as hell!”



21 Responses to “Team Mitt: Let Them Do Their Jobs”

  1. Lisa Graas
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

    I like to complain.

  2. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » Demoralized as Hell: Pay no attention to the empty seats » Datechguy's Blog
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    […] Update 3: Stacy Links again and points out something important: […]

  3. Zilla of the Resistance
    May 7th, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    Well when you’re good at something…

  4. Finrod Felagund
    May 7th, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

    I agree completely.  Romney campaigned on competence and the ability to defeat Barack Obama, and now it’s time for his campaign to step forward and do exactly that.  Of course he’s not going to do it the same way we would, but we need to judge this campaign on end result, not necessarily method.

  5. Mitt Romney Showcases Olympics Success on Campaign Trail | The Lonely Conservative
    May 7th, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

    […] Stacy McCain, who wrote the AmSpec piece quoted above, has more on the Romney campaign here. Oh, and Arthur Brooks has some advice for them on making the moral case for free markets […]

  6. richard mcenroe
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

    Unfortunately, all the acknowedgment of Romney’s crack team of attack-ad producers doesn’t do much to cover the fact that Romney still hasn’t put forth anything concrete to demonstrate how he’s going to fix what Obama broke except put a GOP label on the wreckage.  Call me when he gets around to that.

  7. Adjoran
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    “Ruthless efficiency” – no one expects the Romney Campaign!

    Klein has his head up his ass, which is probably because he isn’t able to get over Romney beating Newt yet.  The three examples he claims show Mitt being “sidetracked” – dog meat, Rosen vs Ann/”war on women,” and Obama spiking the bin Laden ball again – were all handled very well.  It seems to me we won the women’s war, and even leftists have criticized Obama on his bin Laden gloating.  IMHO we earned at least a push with the dog meat vs dog carrier story, but also set a marker that Obama can be relentlessly mocked this time around.

    So what is Klein’s complaint, exactly?  Does he suppose a Republican challenger can control every news cycle against a sitting President and his fawning sycophants in the national media?  If he does believe that is possible, or even that great effort should have been put into trying (instead of meeting the diversions head-on, as was done), he’s a complete idiot.

  8. robertstacymccain
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    Exactly. We knew from Day One of the primary campaign that Mitt was the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. As we were told over and over, he won because he was the pick of those GOP primary voters who thought he was the most “electable” candidate. OK, now we’ll see.

    My own populist notion was that we needed some kind of underdog conservative who could rally the conservative grassroots, win a shocking upset, and carry forward the Tea Party momentum from 2010. Didn’t quite work out that way. Maybe I was wrong, but again: We’ll see.

    At any rate, I’d met Mitt’s team, and respected them for their “ruthless efficiency,” long before it got down to brass knuckles and switchblades. Despite all the evil things I’ve said about Romney, they’ve never treated me badly in return. They’ve got thick skin, and understand how the game is played. I can respect that, and so I’m not going to bitch, bitch, bitch for the next six months, because that would not be fitting and proper, considering tyhe circumstances.

  9. Finrod Felagund
    May 7th, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    Agreed completely.  This is in the hands of Mitt’s team now, and they need to put up, but they need the time to get this done.  We should hold off until November; if Mitt’s team fails then we need to make sure we kill off forever the myth of the ‘electable moderate’, and if they succeed then we need to make sure that President Romney works for us and reflects our values.  Trust but verify.

  10. HarlemGhost
    May 7th, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

    The Romney camp can stay focused on the “big” issues as long and the rightsphere fights all of the “meme” battles (war on woman, contraceptions, dogs, etc) …  we should never give up one inch of column space to an unchallenged meme the dems try to create …  fight them in every nook and cranny …  look at what happens on Twitter every time the Obama camp tries another catchphrase out … @readytogo for example … 

  11. HarlemGhost
    May 7th, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

    what we call “distractions” the left uses as supporting evidence when they want to discuss the bigger issues …
    The War on Women meme is already being used to attack the House GOP over the funding of the school loan rate cut extension …  if the Fluke nonsense had been allowed to stand then the MSM would be citing it as a previous example of the GOP WOW, now the War on Women accusation is falling flat …  wouldn’t have happened if not for Rush and his “mistake” …

  12. Tennwriter
    May 7th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

    It will still be the conservatives’s fault.  You don’t get much clearer than recent history, and still there were those who could not take a hint if it smacked into their head at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

  13. Tennwriter
    May 7th, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

    But its important that GOP consultants become lobbyists to a successful GOP congress/administration….how else would they afford the Moet?  Priorities man…

  14. richard mcenroe
    May 7th, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

    Let’s also not forget that whatever concerns we have with Mitt are not our only problem, but the continuing corruption, incompetence and/or corrupt incompetence as well as their continuing doormattery in Congress of the RNC and the DC GOP who seem as concerned with slapping their base down before they slap a Democrat…

  15. richard mcenroe
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

     They’ll afford the Moet the way they always do, hustling Republicans for donations with promises to stand up for us like they haven’t before and won’t again.

  16. CPAguy
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    Wow!  That Spectator article didn’t seem like RSM at all.

    I guess this blog is now at the “acceptance” stage.

    I am at the “burn the house down” stage.  I do not mind…and would generally prefer a Romney defeat.  I think that is in the best long term interest of the country.

    Of course, then in 2016 we could see another dull, hypocritical RINO in the Dole/McCain/Romney mold….and then we would be really screwed.

  17. Charles
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:14 am

    One must also not forget the second front. Don’t think the Romney people weren’t behind the Elizabeth Warren hypocrisy expose. The Democrats are up against it in the Senate races.

  18. Adjoran
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:48 am

     You think four more years of Obama, unrestrained by having to face voters again, appointing up to three new Supreme Court Justices and 300 lower federal judges to lifetime tenure, is in the best interest of the country?

    Get help.

  19. Bob Belvedere
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    Taking issue only with the first sentence…

    In his TAS reports, Stacy has always written like this.  One should not confuse his opinion pieces here and at the TAS blog with his straight news reporting.

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