Fri Nov 16, 2012, 10:25 AM
DonViejo (20,089 posts)
Mitt Romney, punching bag
Republican excoriations of their defeated nominee suggest the terms of debate within the party may be broadening
BY STEVE KORNACKI
Sometimes electoral defeats radicalize political parties. This was the case with the Republican Party after the 2008 election, when the right convinced itself that Barack Obama had been elected only because George W. Bush had violated conservative principles, given the ideology a bad name, and left voters susceptible to the deceptive charms of the Democratic nominee and his Trojan horse agenda. The solution: Enforce a strict code of ideological purity within the party and fight the new president’s radical policies relentlessly.
This reading of the ’08 results was reinforced by the first few years of Obama’s presidency, when his approval rating fell to under 50 percent and Republicans won a massive midterm victory. That Obama was the second coming of Jimmy Carter became an article of faith on the right, and a GOP White House restoration in 2012 was taken as a given. Which is why their resounding defeat last week has been so traumatic for Republicans. And this loss seems to be having a different effect on the party: This time, it’s shifting the party away from the purity obsession and absolutist rejectionism that defined its conduct in Obama’s first term.
This is evident in the reaction of prominent Republicans to Mitt Romney’s post-election comments blaming his defeat on “gifts” that Obama supposedly showered on women, blacks, Latinos and young people. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who was a featured speaker at the Republican convention in Tampa, called it a “ridiculous statement” on Thursday. “That unfortunately is what sets us back as a party – our comments that are not thought through carefully,” she said.
This came as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican with obvious national ambition, continued to lash out at Romney’s comment, calling it “absolutely wrong” and saying that “I absolutely reject that notion, that description.” In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Jindal added, “If you want voters to like you, the first thing you need to do is like them yourself.” Kelly Ayotte, who was one of Romney’s top surrogates and was included on his V.P. short list, also joined the pile-on.
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