Columnist Peggy Noonan launched a damning critique of Mitt Romney’s campaign Wednesday in a no-holds-barred piece on her Wall Street Journal blog
that called for major changes.
“It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent,” the former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan wrote. “It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues.”
Romney, she said, has to get ruthless and start firing the people around him if he is to have a chance of avoiding defeat against President Barack Obama on Nov. 6 — “a Republican defeat in a year the Republican presidential candidate almost couldn’t lose.”
Noonan, who was both the primary speech writer and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, said two recent events — Romney slamming Obama’s response to the attacks on Middle East embassies before all the facts were known and his recorded comments from a private dinner in which he called 47 percent of the country “victims” — were emblematic of the problem.
“On the Mideast he seemed like a political opportunist, not big and wise but small and tinny. It mattered because the crisis was one of those moments when people look at you and imagine you as president,” she wrote.
And he needs to learn from the video recording, she said.
“There’s no such thing as private when you’re a candidate with a mic. There’s someone who doesn’t like you in that audience. There’s someone with a cellphone.”
She said of those newly released May 17 comments,
“This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything.”
“You know what Romney sounded like? Like a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works from some operative. But those old operatives, they never know how it works. They knew how it worked for one cycle back in the day.
“They’re jockeys who rode Seabiscuit and thought they won a race.”
Noonan was particularly dismissive of Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens, who has come under increasing flak in recent weeks. She said Stevens has sold himself “as a kind of mad genius,” adding, “I get the mad part.”
She criticized the campaign for seeming to be more interested in fundraising than big rallies, wondering what Romney is going to do with all the cash at hand, and said it is time for fresh thinking about campaign events.
“Wake this election up,” Noonan wrote. “Wade into the crowd, wade into the fray, hold a hell of a rally in an American city — don’t they count anymore? A big, dense city with skyscrapers like canyons, crowds and placards, and yelling. All of our campaigning now is in bland suburbs and tired hustings.
“How about: New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice? You say the state’s not in play? It’s New York. Our media lives here, they’ll make it big. How about downtown Brooklyn, full of new Americans? Guys—make it look like there’s an election going on. Because there is.
“Be serious and fight.”
Noonan also called on Republican leaders to step in now, in what she described as “an intervention” to help their candidate.
“Romney always seems alone out there, a guy with a mic pacing an empty stage. All by himself, removed from the other humans. It’s sad-looking. It’s not working.
“Time for the party to step up,” she added. “Romney should go out there every day surrounded with the most persuasive, interesting and articulate members of his party, the old ones, and I say this with pain as they’re my age, like Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, and the young ones, like Susana Martinez and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio—and even Paul Ryan.
“Their presence will say, “This isn’t about one man, this is about a whole world of meaning, this is about a conservative political philosophy that can turn things around and make our country better.”
But she warned that some of them might not want to hitch their wagon to someone they see as a potential loser. “Too bad. They should be embarrassed if they don’t go, and try, and work, and show support for the conservative candidate at a crucial moment. Do they stand for something or not? Is it bigger than them or not?”
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