If you’re like me, you enjoyed this morning’s debate when Newt Gingrich, then Rick Santorum, dismantled Mitt’s argument that he isn’t a career politician. Byron York quoted Rick Santorum’s exchange with Mitt in this Examiner article:
Early in the debate, after Newt Gingrich attacked Romney as virtually unelectable, given his record as a “Massachusetts moderate,” Romney responded that he governed as a “solid conservative” in Massachusetts. “I’m very proud of the conservative record I have,” Romney said.
That was too much for Santorum. “If his record was so great as governor of Massachusetts, why didn’t you run for re-election?” he asked Romney. “I mean, if you didn’t want to even stand before the people of Massachusetts and run on your record, if it was that great, why did you bail out?“
“I was in a 71 percent Democratic district,” Santorum continued. “I had a 90 percent conservative voting record. It was a hard thing to do. My district was more Democrat than the state of Massachusetts, and I stood up and fought for the conservative principles. I didn’t do what Gov. Romney did in 1994 [when Romney ran for Senate against Sen. Edward Kennedy]. I was running the same year he ran, in 1994. I ran in the tough state of Pennsylvania against an incumbent. Gov. Romney lost by almost 20 points. Why?
Because at the end of that campaign, he wouldn’t stand up for conservative principles, he ran from Ronald Reagan, and he said he was going to be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights, on abortion and a whole host of other issues. We want someone when the time gets tough, and it will in this election, we want someone who’s going to stand up and fight for the conservative principles, not bail out and not run to the left of Ted Kennedy.”
That’s what’s called drilling the frontrunner right between the eyes. Mitt didn’t have a defense against such accurate specific accusations. That’s why Rich Lowry, part of the NRO editorial board that’s twice endorsed Mitt Romney, wrote a post about Romney taking on water in this morning’s debate:
Romney had a tough start. Santorum had a very pointed question on his decision not to run for re-election in 2006, “Why did you bail out?” Romney responded with what Newt rightly called “pious baloney.” On this question, Romney simply can’t admit the truth—he didn’t run for re-election because he might have lost and, more importantly, he wanted to run for president. Romney absurdly characterized leaving office to run for another office as returning to the private sector. I’m not sure how much voters will be outraged by any of this. They probably assume every politician wants to run for office. But the exchange got to a certain falsity in Romney’s self-presentation that plays into more important doubts about his sincerity.
The other notable exchange came at the end between Romney and Newt on the Superpac ads. Here again, Romney was less than forthcoming. He said on the one hand that he hadn’t seen the ads and then immediately related some of the most damaging charges in them (carefully leaving out one of the most dubious ones, I believe).
What do these exchanges have to do with this post’s title? They have to do with Mitt’s need to run away from substantive, verifiable, accusations. Mitt wants the public to think that his reason for not running for re-election had to do with his desire to rejoin the private sector.
Sen. Santorum phrased things so exquisitely that Mitt was trapped. He left for exactly the opposite reason. He left to run for president rather than getting defeated for re-election.
Since 1994, Mitt Romney has run for the U.S. Senate, to be Massachusetts governor and twice ran to be POTUS. He’s run for election 4 times in 17 years. Does that sound like the resume of a man who cherishes his time in the private sector?
Here’s a little background on Mitt’s parents, George and Lenore Romney:
George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907–July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and Republican Party politician. He was chairman and CEO of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973. He is the father of former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and the husband of former Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Lenore Romney.
Mitt Romney comes from a low-profile political dynasty. While the Romney family isn’t as high profile as the Bush or Kennedy families, they’re certainly a political dynasty, albeit not a terribly successful one.
Should we belief that a man who’s wanted to be a U.S. senator, Massachusetts governor and POTUS really loves being a private citizen and a captain of industry? I think not.