The Mitt Romney Charm Offensive

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 16 2010 10:18 AM

The Mitt Romney Charm Offensive

The day after the midterms, a postage stamp-sized ad popped up on Facebook. It featured the headshots of Mitt Romney and Jim DeMint, and it congratulated DeMint for... well, for everything he did. No grousing about lost opportunities in Senate races from Mitt Romney. He was firmly on the side of the Tea Party's, and the media's, favorite radical.

Yesterday, as DeMint campaigned for a successful earmark moratorium vote in the GOP's Senate conference, Romney's Free and Strong America PAC promoted a petition of support for DeMint .

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Senator DeMint is courageously standing on conviction with his much-needed proposal to ban earmarks, which will curb wasteful spending and restore accountability to the way Congress spends taxpayer dollars.  We all need to recognize that Washington can’t responsibly begin to address out-of-control debt and deficits until the practice of cramming earmarks into spending bills is stopped. While earmarks are not the only cause of our budget proplems (sic), they have come to symbolize what’s wrong with Washington. What was once accepted as the normal way of doing business has to be re-examined in light of our $13 trillion national debt. I encourage all Republicans to embrace Senator DeMint’s earmark ban and send a powerful message that we will no longer tolerate business as usual on Capitol Hill.

What's going on here? Mitt Romney is probably running for president in 2012. He is weakened, badly, among Republican primary voters, because of two issues. As governor of Massachusetts he signed a health care mandate into law, and during the 2008 campagin he did not oppose TARP. But Romney made good investments in the 2008 campaign. He won the endorsements of the then-obscure Jim DeMint and Nikki Haley, although he only got to fourth place in the South Carolina presidential primary (for a number of complicated reasons).

So Romney was putting down stakes among the future leaders of the Tea Party's Republican wing back when Sarah Palin was scrounging up the cash for bridges to nowhere. How does he remind Republican voters of this? Blatant pandering to the leaders they do take seriously.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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