Romney’s Biggest Problem

Oct 12, 2011

You don’t have to be a cranky old man like me to think that presidential campaigns start far too early these days.

The next election is still more than a year away, but the campaign already has been going on for months and months.

Some candidates, like Minnesota’s Tom Pawlenty, have already dropped out of the race. Former Massachusetts governor and Michigan native Mitt Romney said recently that he thinks it is too late for someone new to get in, and he is probably right.

It takes too much money to run a winning campaign today, and much to the cash available has already been sewn up.

Compare this to the way things were in nineteen sixty eight, when Robert Kennedy didn’t even get into the race until the middle of March and might well have been nominated, if he hadn’t been killed.

But if it is too late for someone new to start a campaign, it is also too early for anyone to have any idea who is going to win.

Any polls today showing President Obama beating any Republican, or vice-versa, are utterly unreliable. Twenty years ago today, President George Bush the First looked so unbeatable that the highest-ranking Democrat who wanted to run against him was an obscure young governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton.

Nobody at this point in the nineteen-eighty cycle thought President Carter had to worry about an aged movie actor named Ronald Reagan, either. But here’s something we do know.

As this election gets closer, it is going to become clear that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, he is going to have an extremely hard, maybe impossible time winning his native Michigan.

That’s because he opposed the government’s saving General Motors and Chrysler two years ago. He himself brought this up during a debate among the GOP candidates last night.

Worse, he began by defending the use of government funds to stabilize Wall Street - something far more unpopular nationally, especially with so-called Tea Party voters. But then he specifically added that using TARP - Troubled Asset Relief Program - money to save the auto industry was “the wrong source for that funding.”

That statement, and many others he has made over the last few months, ought to be the kiss of death in this state. Had Chrysler and General Motors been allowed to go out of business, the impact on the suppliers would have destroyed Ford as well. Automotive economists have told me this, and so has a certain famous free-market politician: Governor Rick Snyder.

“I don’t believe in bailing out companies,” he told me, “but this was an entire industry - because what a lot of people still don’t understand is that if GM and Chrysler went under, Ford would have gone under.”

That would have meant the loss of three million jobs, according to the experts at the Center for Automotive Research, and plunged this state into something like the Great Depression.

You can bet your set of wheels that if Romney is the nominee, the Democrats will have an ad campaign capitalizing on this.

You never know how any election will turn out. But it is hard to see how, in Michigan at any rate, Mitt Romney will live this down.