I don't remember much about him. I think he was the neighbor of some relatives I was visiting as a small child. I recall his snobbish derision at pool, "a low class game of hall janitors." Billiards, by contrast, was a game of gentlemen. He showed several of us kids a billiards technique called "lagging."
The idea of lagging was to hit a cue ball to the opposite cushion of the table. It had to hit, then bounce back. The player who managed to hit the cushion, and have the ball bounce back the least would win the right to determine who started the billiards game itself. Hit the ball too hard, and you bounce back too much. Hit it too softly, and you don't even make it to the cushion.
That memory reminds me of the main argument in favor of Mitt Romney, and why pretty much everyone has him all wrong.
You kind of expect to hear the criticism from Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. They have a vested interest in watching Mitt Romney stumble and fall. It's similar to why Republican politicians want the American economy to behave like the Hindenburg. Except if other candidates get their wish and Romney tumbles, fewer people get hurt.
The base doesn't support Romney, and that makes him a weak candidate. Newt says Romney is the weakest Republican leading candidate in over 90 years.
The fact is, Romney is probably weakest Republican front runner since Leonard Wood in 1920, and Wood lost on the 10th ballot.
I confess to a little bias here. I've never like Leonard Wood. He was an indisputably brave individual. He deserved the battle medals he won. He was endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt, and who doesn't like Teddy Roosevelt? But he advocated exterminating all Muslims in the Philippines on the theory that they were irretrievable fanatics. In that, he was a precursor to Pamela Geller. And he led by example. He ordered and oversaw the murder of all inhabitants, 600 of them, mostly unarmed and many of them children, of the small village of Moro. Other than those little flaws, he was a nice guy.
Newt's historical analogy is imperfect, of course. Mitt Romney is not a combat hero, but does possess the virtue of never having ordered villagers killed because of their religion.
Rick Santorum made the same case as did Newt in his presentation during the CPAC convention in February.
Why would an undecided voter vote for a candidate that the party's not excited about?
Mainstream media has picked up the message. Mitt Romney will win the GOP nomination by dividing the votes of his opponents, then will lose in November. Weak candidate. Just look at his primary numbers.
It is true that Mitt is a gaffeball. It has become a part of his strange narrative. His trees are the right height. He relates to NASCAR enthusiasts as a friend to wealthy NASCAR owners. His wife should compete because she can drive two Cadillacs at the same time. He knows what it is to live in existential fear of losing a job, because he had to perform well as an analyst deciding what factories to shut down. He likes to fire people who don't perform to expectations, so people should share his joy by firing insurance companies who are about to cancel health coverage just when folks need it. Corporations are people too, my friend.
The gaffes dominate the headlines, contributing to the stories of his weakness as a candidate. The real story is reported, just not stressed. His actual problem with the Republican base is that he is not seen as sufficiently fanatical in his conservatism. But, if he completely overcomes conservative skepticism, he will be seem as extreme beyond what many extremists regard as extreme.
It has been axiomatic since Nixon that the best strategy for Republicans is to tack right to win the nomination, then to the center to win the general election. Ronald Reagan is one arguable exception, although he would not have opened his general election campaign as he did the fight for the nomination. Before the nomination, he journeyed to Philadelphia, Mississippi, famed because that was where civil rights workers had once been kidnapped and murdered with the cooperation of local law enforcement. There, he spoke of the need for less federal intervention in local matters. States rights should be the key. He never tried anything like that during the general election campaign.
The tacking tactic is less viable in an instant news, cable and internet, age. A candidate today has to find a way to become a nominee while still remaining viable for a general election. Increasingly, both must be done at the same time.
For Mitt Romney, that means less really is more.
Mitt will be the strongest nominee in the general election by winning the Republican nomination by the smallest possible margin. The needle he is threading is becoming extraordinarily small. He may not be able to do it, particularly if the economy continues to recover from the Bush crash.
If Mitt Romney has any chance to become President Romney, he will win as the Republican 40% candidate. Politics is still a universe of comparisons. After it becomes apparent he is the only alternative to President Obama, Mitt Romney's popularity with the base will go up. Until then, 40% is the winning number. Less enthusiasm will bring him down at the Tampa Bay convention. More will ensure a landslide for President Obama.
Mitt can win only by playing the political version of a starting billiards game. He has to win as the lagging candidate.
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With that said, he will win the nomination and hopefully the general election regardless. I have no plans to vote for him in the primary though, due to his lack of conservative credentials.
Regardless,the nation absolutely will not survive economically or perhaps otherwise should President Obama win again, thus having no reason for restraint in a second term. We simply cannot afford any more of his governance. Literally!
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