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Friday, December 28, 2007
posted by jason | 10:29 AM | permalink
Since the beginnings of the campaign, my constant observation of McCain and his Internet surrogates is that they have always tried to write an underhanded narrative of Romney. It’s actually been the case since day one. It never has needed a basis in reality, in their minds the narrative just has to be repeated often enough for it to be true.

Today is no exception. There is a narrative coming out of the McCain Campaign against Romney. It’s the “Romney is in a tailspin” narrative. It’s really not surprising. McCain has jumped a few points in New Hampshire, by spinning a comeback story to the press before it happens, then they report it, and then it happens. I am guessing that McCain is hoping to spin the tailspin narrative to the press for Romney before it happens… hoping to make it happen.

Yesterday at Powerline we read this:

And when Romney blasted McCain's over his support for a comprehensive immigration reform measure in the Senate and for his failure to renounce that support, McCain himself responded:

I know something about tailspins, and it's pretty clear Mitt Romney is in one. It's disappointing that he would launch desperate, flailing and false attacks in an attempt to maintain relevance. As the Union Leader said today, New Hampshire voters just aren't buying his act, and these latest attacks won't help him.

Both responses by McCain have this in common -- they fail entirely to address the substance of Romney's criticism. The reason, of course, is that McCain has no good response. He did oppose tax cuts, support for which does lie at the essence of Reagan conservatism. Similarly, he did support comprehensive immigration reform and his line on that support now is a grudging acknowledgement that the American people (though not necessarily McCain) want border security first.

Mirengoff makes a great point, instead of McCain actually defending himself, he decides to try and spin a story to the voters of the condition of Romney’s campaign. This is basically an utterly useless line for the thinking voter, and frail manipulation for the non-thinking voter.

McCain knows Romney is not in tailspin. Does anyone really think Team McCain is sitting around, slapping high fives and drinking it up to Romney’s tailspin? Does anyone really think that McCain camp has written off Romney and are now focusing on other competitors?

But it doesn’t end here.

Last night on Anderson Cooper, we heard a reiteration of the “Tailspin” narrative when John McCain followed Romney on Cooper’s CNN show:

Romney first:

COOPER: Governor John McCain said today this crisis underscores why the next president must have extensive foreign policy experience. How do you respond to that? Does he have a point?

ROMNEY: Well, I think it's very important that the next president has experience making important decisions, making them on a deliberate basis, knowing how to bring together brilliant people, listening to them, gathering data, analyzing data and making good decisions based upon that kind of information.

COOPER: So foreign policy experience, per se, is not essential, just experience?

ROMNEY: Well, if -- if foreign policy experience were the measure for selecting a president, we'd just go to the State Department and pick up one of the thousands and thousands of people who've spent their whole life in foreign policy, and frankly, becoming a United States senator does not make one a foreign policy expert, either.

What you want is people who have the ability to assemble a team of capable individuals, hear them out, listen to data and make important decisions. That, after all, is what Ronald Reagan did. He was not a foreign policy expert. He just happened to lead America to the greatest foreign policy achievement of the last half of the last century.

Here was McCain’s response when asked. I should note, that prior to this response by McCain I thought he was giving a top-notch interview. He was convincing. But then he brought out the “Tailspin”:

COOPER: I talked to Governor Romney a short time ago. I asked him about his foreign policy experience. He said he thought experience is what matters, not necessarily foreign policy experience. He says, frankly, you can get anyone from the State Department. They all have foreign policy experience. They wouldn't make a good president, necessarily. And he said, frankly, becoming a U.S. senator does not make one a foreign policy expert, either.

What do you make of that?

MCCAIN: I think he's in a tailspin. I'm familiar with those. I've been involved in every major national security issue for the last 20 years. I understand the issues.

On Iraq, I rejected Rumsfeld's strategy. I strongly supported the Petraeus strategy that's succeeding. It's obvious that my credentials are very well known and very important in this very dangerous world, in which we have two wars and a constant struggle against radical Islamist extremism.

Now a few points:

  1. In fairness, Romney did throw out the first barb when asked.

  2. John McCain took all of 6 words to utter “Tailspin.”

  3. With Cooper, John McCain actually gives a substantive reply.

  4. Tailspin is a great term. It subtly reminds people of McCain war status while injecting interesting imagery. It wasn’t chosen in haste, you can be certain of that.

Let’s focus on number three. Why does John McCain see fit to offer substance on Cooper's show, but when questioned on the Bush Tax Cuts and immigration he avoids substance? The answer is obvious, on foreign policy McCain knows a lot. When it was time to answer questions on foreign policy he had awesome answers. When he had time to talk about his constant thumbing at the conservative base he had nothing to offer so he reverted to feigned indignation.

One thing to note is McCain will never attack Romney on substance. I don’t think I have ever seen him do it. I have never heard that Romney’s foreign policy is naïve or not well thought out. The last thing McCain needs is to get in argument where Romney looks head and shoulders above him on anything domestic, or heaven forbid, on a par with him on foreign policy issues. Which Romney comes petty close to doing.

So McCain keeps trying to write the narrative. “Romney’s in a tail spin.” “The sky is falling in Boston.” It’s certainly not true, and McCain certainly does not care. Romney’s numbers are amazingly stable while McCain and all the other candidates numbers have been up and down for the past year. It must leave his campaign thinking their only chance is to spin to the media in hopes of a new narrative.
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Jason, I'm actually a McCain supporter, and not a very big fan of Gov. Romney, but this is extremely trenchant analysis. Bravo.

Hey thanks a lot!

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