The Audacity of Choke

Mitt Romney

With incessant unemployment, ongoing deficits, mounting gas prices, and an increasingly combustible Middle East, one would be hard pressed to generate a more difficult environment for a sitting president to run a successful reelection campaign.

Yet, in spite of all the gloom-and-doom, it hasn’t been sitting Democratic president Barack Obama on the defensive, but rather Republican contender, Mitt Romney. Indeed, an unanticipated upshot that, with less than 100 days to go before Election Day, has political analysts scratching their heads and beginning to wonder: Is Romney choking?

The same disquieting question would have been inconceivable during the Republican presidential primaries. Then primary candidate Romney came out of the corner swinging, plundering his opponents with a barrage of aggressive ads and methodically excavating delegates at every bend and curve.

Since establishing himself as the GOP’s de facto nominee, however, Romney has appeared unprepared,lethargic and, at times, even politically amateurish. To add to matters, a recent USA Today-Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans still find Obama likable, compared with only 30 percent who find Romney likeable.

Romney’s recent trip abroad hasn’t helped. In an NBC interview, Romney needlessly called London’s Olympic security “disconcerting,” instantly rubbing a number of America’s strongest allies the wrong way, driving some to even publically issue rebuttals.

And though Romney’s statement may have stemmed from a sincere logistical observation, the political timing couldn’t have been poorer, particularly when pre-election trips are historically designed to serve as alliance builders not destroyers.

Charles Krauthammer

The gaff was so un-presidential and substandard that even respected conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer temporarily let loose:

“What Romney answered in that question was unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding. It’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives. All the man has to do is say nothing. Nothing… It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”

But the melee didn’t end there. Romney haplessly left London for Israel only to trigger more havoc, nonchalantly referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And while again the statement may have been “technically” correct. It, nonetheless, illustrated a profound lapse in rhetorical and geopolitical consideration.

Neither instance is the first time Romney has strangely, albeit masochistically, shot himself in the foot, though. In early July, one of Romney’s top aides appeared on MSNBC and actually defended Obama’s argument that the healthcare mandate wasn’t a tax. The curious statement tossed a stick into the wheel of what otherwise should have been a politically advantageous moment for Republicans.

And then there is Bain Capital. Romney not only broke politics’ oldest edict by allowing the Obama campaign to define his tenure at Bain first. But he inanely painted himself into a corner by unequivocally vowing not to release any more tax returns, a move likely to become more problematic as time presses on.

In fact, according to one recent Rasmussen survey, 46 percent of Americans now think Romney should release more tax returns. Additionally, a number of Romney’s own surrogates have begun to push for the release of more tax returns, namely to assure Romney remains a viable contender.

Moreover, by not releasing more tax returns Romney has gratuitously opened himself up to a slew of otherwise preventable attacks. The Democratic National Committee has already released one ad taking a swipe at the Romney tax kerfuffle, asking, “Do we really want a president who dances around the issues?”

Democratic National Committee Ad

According to Romney, however, by only releasing two years’ worth of tax returns he’s merely following “precedent” set by John McCain. However, what he declines to mention is that McCain actually “bucked the trend of other recent presidential candidates.”

According to, “In more than three decades, no other nominees for either party [with the lone exception of John McCain] have released fewer than five years’ worth of returns. Romney’s own father released a dozen years’ worth when he ran for the GOP nomination in 1968.”

All of this, of course, is piled on top of the fact that Romney continues to struggle with the perception he’s detached from everyday working-class Americans. Not because he’s wealthy, but because he comes across to many as — well, for lack of a better term — lackluster. Then again, the fact that his wife, in part, owns a half-million dollar horse named Rafalca that competes in dressage doesn’t exactly help.

Perhaps, in the end, Romney’s calamitous presidential run thus far shouldn’t come as such a stunner. He did, after all, lose both his first run for governor and president. It’s quite probable he’s simply not cutout for the Darwinian science of politics.

On the other hand, a business man doesn’t last in the business world as long as he did by not cutting a few throats. So if in the event he is merely playing coy. Now is probably the time to start getting serious. That is, if he is realistic about recapturing the White House for Republicans come November.

Brandon Loran Maxwell is a contributing opinion writer/analyst at PoliticIt; and a contributing political editor at Street Motivation Magazine. You can read more of him at

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