December 26, 2007

Union Leader Channels The Monitor

Mitt Romney has taken some body shots in New Hampshire as the primary gets within a fortnight. First the Concord Monitor, not exactly a conservative bastion, issued an anti-endorsement calling on Granite State voters to keep Romney from winning the nomination. While that hardly carries much weight with Republican voters, the center-right Union Leader has also added to its endorsement of John McCain by explaining why Mitt doesn't fit:

Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth. John McCain has done that day in and day out, never wavering, never faltering, never pandering.

Mitt Romney has not. He has spoken his lines well, but the people can sense that the words are memorized, not heartfelt.

Last week Romney was reduced to debating what the meaning of "saw" is. It was only the latest in a string of demonstrably false claims -- he'd been a hunter "pretty much" all his life, he'd had the NRA's endorsement, he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that call into question the veracity of his justifications for switching sides on immigration, abortion, taxes and his affection for Ronald Reagan.

In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes. That is why Granite Staters who have listened attentively are now returning to John McCain. They might not agree with McCain on everything, as we don't, but like us, they judge him to be a man of integrity and conviction, a man who won't sell them out, who won't break his promises, and who won't lie to get elected.

I don't see the Romney gaffes as rising to the level of alarm as the U-L does. However, as I warned last week, once people start stringing together some of these questionable assertions, candidates run the risk of becoming Al Gore and the Internet, or John Kerry with a Cambodia mission seared, seared into his memory. It goes to trust, and when candidates start explaining that they meant something figuratively and begin dissecting the meaning of a plainly understood verb like saw or is, that trust tends to dissipate.

Romney probably only needs to win one of the first two states to maintain momentum. He'd prefer it to be New Hampshire, but if he can pull out a last-minute win in Iowa over Mike Huckabee, he will remain on track. John McCain can complicate the race with a third-place finish in Iowa, but he absolutely has to win something early to remain viable, and New Hampshire is his best bet. The Union-Leader broadside at Romney could provide McCain an edge.

Where can McCain go after that? He doesn't have great numbers elsewhere at the moment -- but if he can steal Romney's thunder in New Hampshire, that could change. It could also help get Rudy Giuliani back on his feet if Romney, McCain, and Huckabee keep fighting amongst themselves while Rudy shores up his firewall in Florida. (via CapQ reader Crossdotcurve)

UPDATE: Team Romney has a response:

“Governor Romney is running for President as the ‘full-spectrum conservative’ in this race, as described by the editors of National Review, a widely respected conservative publication, in their published endorsement of him.

“Governor Romney has built a coalition of grassroots conservative support in. New Hampshire and across the country as a result of his advocacy for economic, social and national security policies that champion conservative Republican ideals.

“We, of course, respect the Union-Leader's right to voice their opinion, but the differences between Governor Romney and Senator McCain are clear. We disagree with Senator McCain's joining Democrats to vote against Republican plans for tax relief, his pro-amnesty immigration proposal with Senator Kennedy and his McCain-Feingold legislation which hurt conservative advocacy efforts.”

-Kevin Madden, Romney for President campaign spokesman


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