Sarah Palin is just one of many Republicans and conservatives worried about what they see as a presidential campaign slipping toward defeat for Mitt Romney. But as usual, the former half-term Alaska governor is the most direct and colorful. In a statement to the Weekly Standard on Saturday, she put it this way:
"With so much at stake in this election, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should 'go rogue' and not hold back from telling the American people the true state of our economy and national security. They need to continue to find ways to break through the filter of the liberal media to communicate their message of reform.
"America desperately needs to have a 'come to Jesus' moment in discussing our big dysfunctional, disconnected, and debt-ridden federal government," the 2008 vice presidential candidate told the conservative magazine.
To some Republicans, “going rogue” means unleashing Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate and a relative youngster who seemed to bring some pizzazz to an otherwise staid ticket.
“They not only need to use [Ryan] out on the trail more effectively, they need to have more of him rub off on Mitt because I think Mitt thinks that way, but he’s gotta be able to articulate that…. I think too many people are restraining him from telling (his vision),” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a radio interviewer Friday.
Where’s the evidence of Romney’s so-called “bold choice” in picking Ryan? others ask.
“Even in Wisconsin, I think he’s being underused,” Charlie Sykes, the radio host who interviewed Gov. Walker, told Politico. “I guess what’s frustrating is especially now that we’re embroiled in this conversation about the makers versus the takers, where is Paul Ryan? He is eloquent, he knows the numbers, he can frame this in a very compelling way. The fact that he is not front and center on some of this is, I think, a lost opportunity.”
Even in Wisconsin – Ryan’s home state – an NBC poll shows Obama leading Romney by 5 percentage points, and that’s just part of the recent polling news that the Romney campaign finds troubling.
As Mark Trumbull of the Christian Science Monitor reported this week, Obama leads Romney in eight out of nine swing states where the two are in tight contests: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. North Carolina is the only one of the nine where Romney has an edge.
Unleashing Ryan may not be the answer, of course. As House Budget Committee chairman, he authored a plan that was controversial – particularly for what it portended for Medicare, the health-care program for seniors. He tried explaining it at an AARP meeting this week, but was booed by many in the audience.
Apparently, that wasn’t just a one-time disappointment in a room full of retirees. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week shows Obama leading Romney by 10 points (47-37) in dealing with Medicare.
It’s a law of all organizations – including (maybe especially) political campaigns – that when things get tough, infighting and finger-pointing ensue. Politico’s must-read scoop last Sunday – “Inside the campaign: How Mitt Romney stumbled” – set off something similar among conservative pundits.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol called Romney’s comments about “the 47 percent” who presumably would never vote for him because they pay no federal income taxes “stupid and arrogant.” Rush Limbaugh complained that “every Democrat under the sun's retweeting that all over the place,” that too many conservative fellow travelers who once supported Romney “have bailed on him.”
Over at the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, columnist and former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote, “It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one.”
Then she revised her estimation: “This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite,” she wrote. “I really meant ‘rolling calamity.’" That left Chris Wallace at Fox News questioning Noonan’s “conservative bona fides.”
“Sometimes they’re New York City’s idea of conservatives,” Wallace said of Noonan and others similarly critical of the Romney campaign. Ouch. And here we thought such intramural squabbles were principally the province of Democrats.