The Clueless Beltway Romney Bubble Pops

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 4 2013 3:36 PM

The Clueless Beltway Romney Bubble Pops

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An abandoned home in Detroit, Michigan in 2011

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The most recent Romney bubble had been the idea—kicked around by me, Charles Lane, and some wags on Twitter—that the former governor of Massachusetts should be made Emergency Manager of Detroit. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has burst the bubble. Henry Payne stomps on its glistening residue in the pages of the Detroit News, with one of the better barbs pointed at me recently: "half-baked half-wittery," proof that the "D.C. Beltway deserves its reputation as a bubble divorced from the rest of America."

Sure, we're divorced from the rest of America. Lots of Americans who don't live here manage to have opinions about Washington. You don't see us going into Beast Mode about it. But I see Payne's point, and wish he had more of an argument than this:

Romney’s native Bloomfield Hills is a long way from Detroit, though it may not look that way from the beltway.
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Yeah, it's in the suburbs. I defer to Payne, of course, but is it so strange to hear people who live on the outskirts of a city, who root for its sports teams and fly out of its airport, to identify with the city? You won't find many people in Skokie, Illinois or Downey, California distancing themselves from Chicago and Los Angeles. Eminem has been the star of Chrysler ads, asking Americans to stand up for Detroit, but the guy lives in Rochester now, not far from Bloomfield Hills. Anyway, that wasn't my point—emergency managers and top bureaucrats often arrive in struggling cities from somewhere else entirely. Stephen Goldsmith's eventual reward for a successful career in Indianapolis was a job in Mike Bloomberg's city hall, though this ended poorly for reasons orthogonal to policy.

And anyone following the EM tale knows that Governor Snyder has been careful to build bridges to Detroit leadership. His appointment as EM of Detroit Public Schools, for example, was Roy Roberts – a high-ranking black executive with GM. His Detroit EM is likely to be a similarly nuanced choice. Why would Snyder roil Detroit’s Democratic political waters with an unpopular Republican who tried to unseat Barack Obama?

That's fair, and I don't doubt that Gov. Snyder can find a less-famous bureaucrat or operator who can take this job and do it, day to day, better than Romney. That wasn't really my suggestion. I was saying that Romney had proven his worth as a turnaround guru—a job that leaves people hating the guru, but unable to stop him when it counts—and that Romney had a larger national network of financial supporters than anyone else likely to step in. But the dream is over.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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