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Rope-A-Dope: It ain’t going to work for Mitt
One of my favorite memories of the 2008 primary season was a video of Mitt Romney trying to get down with a small group of black youth.
Looking about as comfortable as Pope Benedict at a gay rights mixer, Mitt shuffled from foot to foot, phony smile fixed in place, and – in the worst impersonation of a rapper since Karl "Gangsta" Rove at the 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner --- blinked at the camera and intoned, “Who let the dogs out -- huh, huh?" with his skin crawling rendition of the song punctuated by a trademark hollow Romney laugh.
Hard to tell exactly which dogs he was referring to, but it was difficult to avoid the impression it was the unfamiliarly dark-skinned young people he found himself surrounded by in some Jacksonville, FL parking lot.
But enough about gag and gag-me moments from the past. Here’s a fearless prediction for which, even if I am grotesquely wrong and my wrongness were to lead to the deaths of thousands of American troops and foreign civilians, I will in the now-great tradition of U.S. punditry be held completely unaccountable.
The GOP is going to deny Mitt the nomination he has pursued body and soulless since – well, I think since Jesus, during his three days in the tomb, made an astral visit to the Lost Tribes of Israel somewhere near Joseph Smith’s home outside Elmira, New York. What’s more, I came to this conclusion even before Harry Reid revealed that a Bain insider had told him that the reason Mitt is a tad reluctant to release his tax returns is because for about 10 of the past 12 years, he’s paid no federal taxes at all.
What is curious about the punishment fated to befall him is that the modern-day Republican Party’s principle economic plan is that rich people like Mitt should not have to pay any federal taxes. At all. Zero. Zippo. The true Rovean vision is to overthrow not just the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Progressive Movement and the labor movement but to return us to the good old days of pre-Revolutionary France when one of the better perks of being a member of the ancien régime’s nobility was that you didn’t have to pay any taxes. Or abide by any laws. Or even pretend you gave a rat’s ass about the peasantry.
But, alas for Mitt, even in the USA, circa 2012, you can’t actually come out and say that’s your goal, either in word or deed. And the failure of a million-dollar man like Mitt to pay federal taxes, or to pay so little as to be laughable, is still – at least for the moment – political death.
Now, if Mitt were the darling of the ideological right, it would be one thing; these folks have been known to overlook almost anything (see, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum) in pursuit of their overriding goal, which is to get the uppity boy in the White House back out on the streets where he can idle away his life on parole for selling a few rocks of crack cocaine as befits the GOP’s grand vision of Being Black in America.
But Mitt is not, never has been, never will be, that kind of ideologue's darling. For very good reasons hardliners suspect his bone fides as a far right candidate, plus, you know, and perhaps most damning of all in the eyes of the “Christian” right that constitutes the party’s most energetic cohort, he’s a (psst!) M-o-r-m-o-n!
Willard – would you be a darling and fetch the smelling salts?
Mathematically, Mitt’s hold on the nomination is far from overwhelming. At the moment, he has a hard count of 1462 delegates -- 318 more than needed to win the nomination. But, to begin with, this figure includes 73 Super-Delegates pledged to him but not bound to vote for him, even on the first round.
In the coming weeks, then, I think we are going to see one of three scenarios play themselves out.
First, and most likely, Romney continues to stonewall the release of his and his wife's tax returns (it's known that he has transferred an unknown number of assets to her). The GOP leadership and base -- neither of which can stomach the guy anyway -- will revolt, knowing that this refusal will become the focus of a campaign they want zeroed in on the economy and social issues.
Second, Romney finally releases more -- but never all -- of his returns on the eve of the convention and they do, in fact, contain enough smoking guns or suspected smoking guns to make it clear that his financial dealings will be the focus of the campaign.
Third, between now and the convention, he releases all of his returns for the past several years, they are vetted and found to contain nothing fatal to his chances in the election.
Of these three scenarios, the last is least likely. Romney, who may be rich but doesn’t seem to be particularly astute politically, has been adopting a rope-a-dope strategy of late, apparently hoping that those demanding full disclosure will punch themselves out before bursting one of his kidneys or shattering one of his ribs and puncturing a lung.
That may have worked for Ali against Foreman but, let’s face it, Romney is no Ali. He’s not even a Frazier, and I don’t mean the dogged boxer of that name but the fey lead character of the eponymous TV show starring Kelsey Grammar. In the event of scenarios 1 and 2, we can expect Romney's 73 Super-Delegates to slip-slide away. This may not happen all at once; more likely it will begin with a couple of high profile defections, then end with a land rush by the time the gavel rings open the convention on August 27.
In that event, we can count on at least a handful -- remember, it won't take many, just 250 or so -- of elected GOP delegates to decide to go with their hearts and not their heads and withhold their votes.
Many of these committed delegates have no stomach for Romney and would prefer a real conservative over Romney’s debased species of coin. One of those real conservatives is Ron Paul, who already has about 150 delegates going to the convention and has recently been denied a slot at the podium for the narrowly legalistic reason that he does not have enough votes to give him an automatic right to speak. In fact, he is being denied a slot due to his penchant for saying things the party does not wish voiced before a national audience. You can be certain, however, that his exclusion from a public place at the convention rankles the hearts of those delegates who left their hearts in Texas for Paul -- or Rick Perry, for that matter -- or who originally supported one of the other social conservatives.
But the simple fact is that, under scenarios 1 or 2, things will never get to that point. Long before such an impasse is reached, there will be a deal brokered by the GOP leadership and their corporate paymasters and the party will end up with a Daniels-Rubio or Christie-Pawlenty or some such ticket.
Given the convention's locale -- Florida -- I'd put my money on a ticket that includes Rubio. He's hard-right enough to satisfy even the GOP's freikorps rank-and-file, and, though he still has some 'splainin' to do over the lies he's peddled about his life story, he's young and doesn't sound like a complete idiot every time he opens his mouth.
Most important of all, Rubio’s presence on the ticket would guarantee that the party carries the critical electoral vote in his home state while giving the GOP at least a shot at winning over a higher percentage of the Hispanic electorate it has worked so hard and sedulously to alienate.
Normally, I don’t go in for this kind of election year horse-race stuff. But in the case of the Mittster, who can resist? The truth is, if the GOP had fielded even one other mildly credible candidate in the primaries (and Ron Paul, incidentally, I exclude from this category not so much because of his nuttier ideas but because of the way he openly reminds the party that the Founders were not imperialists or even in favor of a standing army) Romney would never have been able to stumble his way to the “presumptive nominee” status he currently enjoys, if that is the right word for his current situation.
That he finds himself in this position at all is testimony to the fact that, in its transition to a suicidal/homicidal cult of millenarian wackos, the Republican Party has not quite managed to turn the corner yet. And it was this small vestige of sanity that, ironically, let out the dogs and put Mutt Romney at the head of the pack. At least for now.