Here are a few things you’re not likely to hear about presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week:
- “He’s not telling the American people the truth. I just think he ought to be honest to the American people and try to win as the real Mitt Romney, not try to invent a poll-driven, consultant-guided version that goes around with talking points.”
- “ He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama . . . .He created the blueprint for Obamacare and advocated for exactly what Obamacare is, which is a mandated health insurance program....He is uniquely disqualified."
- “Governor Romney has taken two positions on every issue – at least two – and his record as governor was far left. He told Ted Kennedy when he was in debate with him [for the Senate] that he didn’t want to go back to the Reagan years.”
The first blast was from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich back in January on CBS’s “The Early Show,” just before the Iowa caucuses. Gingrich had grown frustrated and angry after falling behind in the polls in the face of an onslaught of negative advertising by Romney forces. The second salvo was launched by former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at the Faith and Freedom Coalition rally in Waukesha, Wisc., on March 31. Santorum, too, grew bitter about the high-priced negative advertising by Romney that thwarted his bid to overtake the former governor and business executive.
The third was from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona during the 2008 Republican presidential primary, when Romney was still nipping at McCain’s heels in early February. McCain went on to lock up the nomination, but not before tarring Romney as a flip flopper, panderer and phony conservative.
Remarkably, all three have been given prime-time speaking roles this week during the three nights of GOP convention, as the Romney forces seek to unify the fractious party and focus on defeating President Obama this fall.
There is nothing unusual about political parties pulling together and joining hands after the fire works of a tough primary season. But the 2012 Republican presidential primary was an unusually ugly affair that had as much to do with personal vendettas and intentional distortions of records as it had to do with issues like jobs, the economy and foreign policy. Still, most of the also-rans managed to put their bitterness behind them.
“Well, if they were uncomfortable with inconsistency they wouldn’t have entered politics in the first place,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of politics at the Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “Politicians often make dramatic turnarounds, particularly when it comes to preserving their own viability. This is something they have to do. Otherwise, they become pariahs in the party. Santorum probably would like to run again and Gingrich wants to maintain elder statesman status.”
McCain, a Vietnam War hero and prominent GOP lawmaker, showed disdain for Romney in 2008, saying he knew “nothing about national security relatively speaking” and was pandering to the auto industry in Detroit and the ethanol industry in Iowa. The two men buried the hatchet after McCain won the nomination but then lost to Obama. This year, McCain campaigned for Romney in New Hampshire and Arizona. He is now scheduled to speak at the convention Wednesday night, just before Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio make their appearances.
Making peace with Gingrich and Santorum proved to be more difficult. Both Gingrich and Santorum blew their fuses after being repeatedly bludgeoned by political ads aired by Romney’s campaign and Super PAC. The animosity seethed for a long time, and both men openly called Romney a liar who couldn’t be trusted.
“If you've been campaigning for six years and you begin to see it slip away, you get desperate,” Gingrich said of Romney at the Mango church in Tampa on Jan. 24. “And when you get desperate, you say almost anything. This is such baloney. Now, it used to be pious baloney, but now it's just desperate baloney. So, that's the succession of this campaign. We've moved from Romney's pious baloney to Romney's desperate baloney. As president he could open a delicatessen."