It’s a bit rich for Rupert Murdoch, of News Corp. and Fox News fame, to give advice to Mitt Romney and his staff. After all, Murdoch did not handle his very own public relations hot potato all that well last summer. But when Jack Welch of General Electric fame weighs in, it makes for big headlines and it actually may be indicative of more “beneath the surface” grumbling.
Earlier this week, a Romney political aide commented on the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. He disputed Chief Justice John Roberts’ rationale that the individual mandate was constitutional because it was within the power of Congress to tax. The aide makes the point that Romney in his Massachusetts health care law never saw the mandate as a tax, and those who failed to fulfill their obligations under the law suffered a penalty. The remark went against the Republicans post-SCOTUS talking points that the president’s health care reform, albeit constitutional, amounts to a tax. Obama could not be happier.
In unrelated but equally damaging news, this week’s July 4 festivities showed a vacationing Mitt Romney on a luxurious powerboat, reminiscent of John Kerry’s windsurfing off Nantucket in 2004. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair comes out with a devastating story on Romney’s bank accounts in the Cayman’s Islands and beyond. Overall, not a good week for Romney.
When you add it all up, it’s no wonder Welch and the sanctimonious Murdoch are getting a lot of notice.
But, wait a minute. A lot of the problems causing the grumblings are self-inflicted, not staff-inflicted. Who passed Romney care and the individual mandate? Who called non-compliance a penalty, not a tax? Whose investments are overseas? Which politician raised the stakes after the SCOTUS decision? Who said he would repeal it and replace it, shifting the debate to the “replacement” side of the debate, and pushing the economy aside? None other than Romney.
I am sympathetic to a staff that has helped bring Romney to where he is. What about the man himself? This is not a candidate who grew in the primary season. He has continually showed to be gaffe prone. He has failed to put forward a compelling narrative about who he is, and what his vision for America really portends to be. Romney runs away from his signature achievement, health care, and touts his success as head of Bain Capital, whose primary business is not creating jobs.
Murdoch and Welch may be right about the top-notch quality of the president’s campaign team. Obama’s people are battle-tested and they are tough. But they also have one key asset that forgives much of the errors any staff can make–it’s the candidate. And here, Romney’s camp is underperforming.
Happy 4th of July.