Mitt Romney will lose if he doesn’t fire his ineffectual campaign manager. But he may be too loyal to do so. From Daniel Henninger:
It has been reported that Barack Obama doesn’t believe Mitt Romney is up to the responsibilities of the presidential office. This is said to be among the reasons he believes it important to defeat Mr. Romney.
So one must ask: Why does Mitt Romney want to defeat President Obama?
The answer to this question is fading daily from public view. Instead, the subject at the top of most political conversation is the quality of Mr. Romney’s campaign staff, especially since Mr. Romney has fallen behind the president in swing-state polls since the conventions. Commenting on these stories, other political professionals are saying the complaints are predictable and dismissible. That is not true.
Politico published a widely read story earlier in the week about Mr. Romney’s staff and in particular his campaign’s manager, Stuart Stevens. It described how Mr. Romney’s convention acceptance speech passed through two speechwriting teams and was written, days before its delivery, by Mr. Stevens and Mr. Romney himself. According to Gallup, it was the least admired acceptance speech the pollster has ever measured.
A great deal has been made about the speech’s failure to mention Afghanistan. More telling, I thought, was Mr. Romney’s “I have a plan to create 12 million jobs.” The five points totaled 180 words. Anyone who has written under pressure will recognize this as people simply running out of time to think or write, and losing focus.
Mitt Romney has found himself in a unique U.S. election. This is not just a win-some, lose-some election, another quadrennial excitement for political junkies. From left to right, 2012 has been recognized as a “decisive” election. Barack Obama repeatedly describes the election as a defining choice between his vision of the American future and that of his opposition. He is right; 2012 is a more historic election than 2008.
Mr. Romney has been running to be president since 2007. In the course of such a long campaign run, a candidate will be buffeted by all sorts of competing loyalties—to his family (Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush chose not to run for this reason), to whatever sense of personal possibility and ambition first impelled him to run five years ago, to contributors whose donations made the run possible, to the professional political staff and personal friends producing his campaign, and not least to the 314 million people who live in the nation’s 50 states.
Six weeks from election day and at the end of Mr. Romney’s long presidential quest, it is appropriate to ask: Where does he think his loyalties and responsibilities lie as the Republican Party’s candidate in 2012?
Mr. Romney has a deserved reputation for loyalty to friends and colleagues. But his loyalty does not lie with his family, his campaign manager or even himself. More than any other election in decades, it resides with those 314 million. In Europe, the International Labor Organization predicts a generation of joblessness and underemployment for its young. We are about there.
There was no way to know this when the Romney presidential odyssey began in 2007. He was one of the ambitious men who seek this office. We are far beyond that now. Mr. Romney in 2012 finds himself in the domestic version of a war candidacy. Instead of a campaign presented to the American people at that level, we are bogged down in a discussion of Mr. Romney’s personal loyalty and commitments to his campaign manager.
Personal loyalty and national loyalty are not the same thing. When Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill took their nations toward a crucible—and the next four years will be a political and economic crucible for this country’s political leaders—there was never a question in their minds that national purpose trumped personal or political loyalty. That is the price of great, national leadership. Nor did they assume that the mere fact of war, like the mere fact of a declining economy during the Obama presidency, could ever be sufficient reason to ask a nation to follow them. They stirred an anxious public to a great commitment.
Mr. Romney’s responsibility at this point is to make his candidacy equal to these stakes. Barack Obama is asking voters for a mandate to pursue the vision and policies he outlines in speech after speech. As of now, if Mr. Obama wins, it will be because a confused electorate gave him their default, not their mandate. That would be a poor and undeserved end to this election. Right now, the content and course of the Romney campaign does not feel equal to an historic mandate election.
Mr. Romney deserves the chance he has now. He has earned it for himself. Sometime soon, he should sit down in a quiet place and ask himself if in the weeks remaining, the American people deserve more from him.