Every electoral cycle, we the people are treated to a variety of cliches regarding running for high office. One of these bedrock cliches is playing to the base in the primary, playing to independents in the general. To win either of these respective constituencies, a candidate must at a minimum be defined, so the electorate can judge for themselves a candidate’s viability. Many a deft candidate have successfully navigated the ground between securing the base for the nomination and appealing to the general electorate when the time came. Then there’s Mitt Romney.
It has been an almost ingrained narrative from the press that Romney has a base problem. Even as he has won major contests on Super Tuesday and more recently Illinois, it might be expected for a guy who has had all sorts of identity problems in the past as a flip-flopper to at a minimum, claim that he has, in fact started to close the deal with his own party. One might also expect a semi-competent campaign to highlight this as a strength and demonstrate further that Romney also understands the general electorate without alienating his own base.
Answering a question on CNN, Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom stated the field in a general election was solid for his man. Of course, it didn’t come out that way. “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch – you can shake it all up and start over again.” While in context, Fehrnstrom wasn’t wrong about having to run toward a new goal, he without a doubt stated it in the worst, most self-immolating way. The campaign was almost immediately forced to do damage control on their own statement. It’s bad when your opponents say your principles are malleable, or even shapeless. It’s worse when your own staff inadvertently proves it.
If Mitt Romney truly wants this nomination, he can inform his staff that his alleged principles (and for the record I believe he does have some) are not subject to a childhood blackboard. He has come this far and the conventional wisdom has been that Romney is the only one with a real campaign with advisers worth their respective salt. Perhaps they could start being an asset rather than a liability.