This from the NY Sun struck me in the coverage of the debate:

Mayor Giuliani hit his stride early and performed well overall. His succinct and unequivocal response on a question about whether — given what we know now — invading Iraq was a mistake damaged Governor Romney, who gave a glib and intellectually consistent yet unsatisfying answer.

Recall that earlier, Mitt Romney had offered a plan for withdrawal and a very mealy-mouthed statement about the troop surge.

I think that there are two different things going on here, both involving the Romney campaigns concern about how the war will play in the general. First, he wants to run away from the war but can’t. And second, he wants to avoid any quotable statements that can be used against him later.

First, publicly, the Romney campaign has to maintain a position that appears to support the President because this issue is so important to the base. Every time they try to back away from the war, they get beaten up by the base and donors. But privately, they want to back away from the war. They want to run as the outsider, as a sort of anti-Bush, with a positive message about health care. And Bush is defined as Iraq amongst the general electorate. So Romney is trying mightily to have very lukewarm statements about the war while maintaining the appearance of supporting the war. But it is clear — and people inside the campaign have confirmed this to me — that Romney wants to be as far away from this war as he can get.

Second, they want nothing quotable. Romney’s truly bizarre statements about the "null set" were totally uninterpretable to a normal person. That statement could never be put in an ad linking him to the war. And that’s the point. In a general, the Democrats want to tie Romney to the war and to Bush. And statements like this make that very, very hard.

Clever. Wrong, but clever.

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2 Comments

CKMacLeod · June 6, 2007 at 11:45 AM

Nicely observed – I’ve been watching this for months. Romney supporters (some of whom style themselves as security-first voters) counter that their candidate’s understanding of the larger context is superior to everyone else’s, and certainly to the Democrats’ – cuz Romney’s read more books (and not just sciento-fi). In short, Romney seems to be attempting to preserve his strategic flexibility, and it’s hard to fault him for embracing that option when he’ll never get to the right on the war past McCain and Giuliani, or make a more convincing presentation as a “wartime leader.” It’s also possible, after all, that the Republicans will be better served by a candidate who can run on something other than the war on terror.

eyeon08.com » Romney continues to back away from Iraq · June 8, 2007 at 10:57 AM

[…] As I indicated earlier in the week, this is a political strategy with an eye on the general. […]

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