Published on TheHill.com on July 22, 2008
You’ve probably heard the story about the tycoon who wanted to bring out a new kind of dog food.
He spent lavishly. He hired the best marketing person, the top PR firm, the best ad agency, the No. 1 packaging expert, the most powerful distributor – but the sales were flat after six months.
He summoned his consultants to a meeting and asked why the food wasn’t selling. “The dogs won’t eat it,” was the answer that came back.
And so it is with Mitt Romney. Despite outspending his rivals by huge margins throughout the primaries, the dogs won’t eat it. He lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. The only primaries he won were in Michigan, where Dad was governor; LDS states; and a few states on Super Tuesday in which his California-obsessed rivals couldn’t spare the cash to advertise. Only John Connolly in 1968 had a worse cash-to-delegates ratio.
And John McCain rightly did not like Romney’s tactics during the primaries. Using his gigantic money advantage to dominate television, he seized early leads in virtually all of the primary states, only to lose them later on. And, when they started slipping away, he resorted to unfair, distorted, scorched-earth negative ads, betting that his opponents couldn’t afford to spend enough for the truth to catch up to his charges.
Would Romney help McCain? I don’t see how. Social conservatives and evangelicals cannot but smart over his former earnest declarations of his determination to “protect a woman’s right to choose” and his famous statement during a campaign debate that he would be a better senator for gays than Ted Kennedy. In the primaries, evangelicals all backed Huckabee rather than Romney.
Would he help McCain win fiscal conservatives? If Obama’s tax plans don’t accomplish that, one has to wonder about their sanity.
McCain should, at a minimum, choose a candidate who won’t cost him votes. And, at a maximum, he should go with a vice presidential choice that redefines his candidacy.
With the nation in the grip of a fundamental re-appraisal of its past rule by white men, both Condi Rice and Colin Powell suggest themselves as excellent alternatives. They would excite voters, turn them on and give them a way to vote against Obama without ruffling their consciences. Either candidate would make an excellent spokesman in putting down Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience or expertise and would make the statement, by his or her very presence on the ticket, that national security concerns should impel McCain’s election.
Or McCain could send a statement to Democrats and independents and become the first candidate since Abraham Lincoln to cross party lines and put a person from the opposite party on his ticket by selecting Joe Lieberman. By making his ticket a kind of coalition or fusion, he would tell moderates from both parties and those who follow neither one that McCain is the place to go. Putting Lieberman on his ticket would be a coup of immense proportions.
Any of these three choices would make a “wow” statement that would make voters see McCain in a new light.
If McCain wants a slightly less radical course, he should select Mike Huckabee. During the primaries and caucuses, Mike demonstrated an appeal to voters that went far beyond the limited logistics of his campaign. If Romney had the worst cash-delegate ratio, Huckabee had the best.
With almost nothing but his innate skill as a speaker and his warm, friendly personality, Huckabee was able to energize the evangelical base as nobody has since Pat Robertson. But, in the process, he challenged it to move on to new issues and embrace causes like global hunger as ardently as the right to life.
Powell, Rice, Lieberman, Huckabee -but not Romney!..