Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can’t Buy Me Love

Charlie Pierce on how Mitt Romney won the Florida primary:

Romney won because he had the most money. And because he had the most money, enough of the Tea Party “base,” which was supposed to hate him like gum disease, decided thusly: What the hell? The important thing is to get the Muslim Kenyan Usurper Negro out of the White House, so this is the horse we have to ride. There were something like 13,000 commercials aired in Florida over the past couple of weeks. Ninety-two percent of them were negative, the overwhelming number of which said negative things about N. Leroy Gingrich, Definer of Civilization’s Rules and Leader (Perhaps) of the Civilizing Forces, on behalf of the man who told us on Tuesday night that we should follow him into the old America of hope and joy and not bumper stickers. That is how you win the Inevitability Primary. You buy Inevitability. It doesn’t come cheaply.

Besides a lot of money, the other thing that Mitt Romney has going for him is that he is running against thoroughly unlikeable opponents. Mr. Romney is no Mr. Personality, but the striking thing is how lucky he was to run against people like Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, all of whom generated a hateful vibe, even for Republicans. It’s hard to imagine carrying on a pleasant conversation with any of them, but at least with Mitt Romney, you know he’s going to be able to pull off the cocktail party chatter until you’re hammered enough not to care. I think one of the big factors in his win last night was that Florida Republicans saw Newt Gingrich bombasting on TV and thought Wow, do I want to watch that asshole for the next four years? Mitt Romney didn’t need to outspend Newt Gingrich five to one: all he had to do was pay for his TV time and let him talk.

Elections shouldn’t be based on likability or the wanna-have-a-beer-with factor. That doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re dealing with the Taliban or trying to keep the European debt crisis from tanking the American economy. (Besides, we had a recent president that everybody thought would be a riot at a kegger and look what happened. He trashed the place, puked on our shoes, and stuck us with the bill.) But if that is what it takes, Mr. Romney has a lot of work to do. He still has to convince the rest of the base of the GOP that he’s their guy, and they already have made it clear that’s a tough hill to climb. And in the general election, he’s going to have to face off against a president that most people in the country find to be much more likable than he is, regardless of the policies, and that’s after three years of non-stop demonizing and sewage from the very powerful instruments of the right wing and Fox News.

Elections have been getting more expensive with each passing year, and this one has already raised the level of funding to giddy heights. So far it has been the ones with the money who have won, but at some point it is going to get to where it doesn’t matter: no amount of money is going to make people actually like Mitt Romney any more than they already do — or don’t.