The Murdoch Primary, Back On Again?


In an editorial released late Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal OpEd page lowers the boom on Mitt Romney and his campaign over its admittedly comical handling of the mandate/tax business. Just to rehearse: Romney has called it both over the years. Republicans came out of the gate hard after the Court ruling calling it a tax. Then Romney’s top advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, said it wasn’t a tax but rather a penalty. And then today Romney sorta kinda said it was a tax after all — or he kind of wishes or thinks it’s not a tax or did but now the Court has spoken and since the Court has original jurisdiction over campaign terminology, so it’s a tax. And yet somehow his own identical mandate in Massachusetts wasn’t a tax.The Journal just up and craps all over the whole sorry spectacle, even suggesting that it might be a campaign turning point. Who knows whether there’s any truth to that. But the point to focus on is the suggestion that it’s part of a basic problem with the campaign itself — that it’s not up to snuff. The latest pratfall, says the Journal, “is of a piece with the campaign’s insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity.”

Remember, Journal boss Rupert Murdoch pushed the same line earlier this week via twitter: “Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful”.

Now, who knows if this is true? As I said last month, pundits and editorialists have a really difficult time knowing what’s happening in a campaign in real time. Mostly they infer back from what they see in the polls. And if candidate A is having a hard time, it’s because the campaign is made up of morons. I figure this is mainly that. (An alternative explanation might be the inherent difficulty of building a campaign around attacking an opponent for supporting a policy you created.)

But press chatter is a world unto itself and a powerful one and one that campaigns often end up reacting to. So for now, let’s just take notice that this seems to be the new conventional wisdom: that the Romney campaign just isn’t ready for prime time. And the Murdoch world seems particularly invested in it.

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