Dear Mitt Romney:
Back in January, I took time out of my VERY “busy” schedule to write a letter to Newt Gingrich. I must confess I was a little sarcastic as I congratulated him on his “hard-fought come-from-behind” victory in South Carolina. Truth is I don’t have much regard for the former Speaker of the House and, judging by what I’ve heard, neither, it seems, does the majority of his party. You can’t blow up that many bridges and not expect to pay a price. I’ll just bet you’re popping your cardigan over his campaign’s implosion.
Anyway, enough about Gingrich. It’s your turn to sit in the cat-bird seat and listen up as I attempt to throw some pearls of wisdom your way. So, as Jon Stewart would say, meet me over by camera three.
Look, I don’t often find myself saying this to a Republican, let alone a Republican who in all likelihood will be vying for the job of the guy I voted for in ’08 and will, unless I get struck down by lightning or run over by a bus, vote for again in 2012, but there is a lot riding on you this election year. Yes, you, the used-car salesman from hell. That’s what I’ve been calling you now for several months, and not without reason.
You may not realize this, but you and I are alike. I mean I have a soul and feel guilty when one of my customers gets taken for a ride, unlike you back in those Bain Capital days, but aside from that we’ve both made a nice living in sales. True you make as much in a day as I do all year, but what’s a couple million dollars between colleagues. It’s the thought that counts, right?
A lot of people don’t get you, but I do. I read you like a book. You’re just like every other successful, slimy salesman I’ve worked with during my years in retail. You listen to what your customer wants, nod your head in total agreement, then proceed to sell them what it is you’re peddling. I mean, if a customer told you the sky is pink, you’d say, “And what a lovely shade of pink it is.” You’re a “yes” man, plain and simple. Hey, I can relate. After all it’s our job to say yes; if we don’t say yes, if we instead say something like, “You know I think the sky is really blue,” someone else swoops in, insists that the sky truly is pink and then ends up stealing our customer away. And we can’t have that, can we? When in doubt give ‘em what they want and move on to the next victim.
Perception over reality. It’s not who you are on the inside that matters anyway; it’s the image you portray to the customer. That’s what sales is all about. In the end, it’s not about meeting a need; it’s about closing the deal. To the victor go the spoils, right?
Except there’s this little problem, Mitt. You’re not closing the deal. You’re walking way too many customers for my taste. And the more customers you walk the more desperate you look. I mean that business with the Blunt amendment was embarrassing even for you. First you were against it; then you remembered what party you belonged to and switched your position. You’ve flip-flopped on many issues over your political career, from abortion to gay rights, even to Ronald Reagan, but usually it took you a while – say a few years – to “come around” and see the light. But three hours? That’s a record, even for someone with your resume. And you did it without barely missing a beat, all the while insisting you didn’t understand the question. Amazing!
Except nobody’s buying the act. You’re too transparent and obvious. People can see right through you, especially your base. You’re really having a hard time closing them. This guy Santorum has become their hero. He’s not like Gingrich, or Cain, or Perry, or Bachmann. They all did you an enormous favor and imploded. You barely broke a sweat as you dusted them off your feet. But Santorum? He refuses to go away. Despite the fact you’ve outspent him almost ten to one, he remains at your feet pecking away. He’s gotten under your skin but good.
He’s got you so off your game you’re actually trying to run to the right of him. Let me explain something to you, Mitt. You can’t run to the right of Rick Santorum. Air can’t run to the right of Rick Santorum. If Rick Santorum went any further to the right he would be in another dimension.
So why bother trying to out flank Santorum? Yeah, I know it’s the Republican primaries and right now the crazies are running the show. And right makes might. As most pundits have concluded you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so why not be damned for doing?
Except, in the end, I think it’s going to backfire on you. The truth is – and always has been – that you’re not one of them. You aren’t nuts. You can talk the talk, but you’ve never been able to walk the walk. When you said recently that you’d bomb Iran and end Planned Parenthood, most of your intended audience didn’t for a minute buy it. You’re about as comfortable playing crazy as I am discussing advanced mathematics. For the record, I flunked algebra twice before I finally passed.
When you say you’ll repeal “Obamacare” you look about as sincere as Bill Clinton when he said, “I did not have sex with that woman.” You’re the guy who gave Obama the blueprint for his healthcare plan. Who are you kidding? You’ve got more skeletons in your closet than Vincent Price at a wax museum.
And just think how lucky you’ve been. You have more money than God, and, with the exception of Santorum, you’ve had the benefit of running against a group of misfits that looks more like the cast from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” than an actual field of presidential contenders. Imagine, as Alexander Burns of Politico did, if Jeb Bush or Chris Christie were running against you. By the way, Jeb is the smart one in the Bush family, in case you were wondering. Both or either of them would’ve cleaned your clock by now, and you know it.
So, with that in mind, let me give you some advice. Stop pretending. That’s right, Mitt. Do the unthinkable. Tell the customer the sky isn’t pink; it’s blue. Take a chance. Who knows, it might just work. God knows this certainly isn’t working. At the rate you’re going you’ll end up in Tampa saying, “What happened?” while the Tea Party gives the nomination to Santorum. Yeah, I know all about the math. You’ve got more delegates than Santorum, Gingrich and Paul combined. Here’s your dilemma, Mittens. You can’t get to 1144, not without one or more of them dropping out. Fat chance that happening. The only thing they hate worse than each other is you. They’ll stay in it just to spite you.
Remember the last time a Republican primary season went all the way to the convention without a declared winner? That’s right, 1976. That was the year the establishment gave the nod to Gerald Ford over the “true” conservative, Ronald Reagan. That turned out real well for the GOP, didn’t it? Thirty-six years later and the faithful still haven’t forgotten, or forgiven for that matter. This time, if given the chance, you can bet the ranch they won’t let history repeat itself. The ghost of Reagan will be resurrected in Tampa, come hell or high water.
Face it, you’re Gerald Ford, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush all rolled up in one. I’d include Richard Nixon, but you’re not enough of a prick. You can quote Reagan till you’re blue in the face; you’ll never be Reagan. Not to the faithful, that is.
So why bother trying? What’s the point? Stop being the guy who’s trying to sell an ice cube to an Eskimo. Go bold. Let your hair down, or at least degrease it. Make the case for sanity. Go to the few remaining moderates in your party and appeal to their better judgment. Instead of imitating Rick Santorum, draw a distinction between the two of you. Use some of that immense fortune you have to develop a narrative that can work as well in the primaries as it does in the general election. If you do win the nomination, you're going to have to move to the center anyway. Why not do it now?
Though I disagree with the basic tenants of your party’s economic philosophy – you know the supply-side fairytale of two plus two equals six that you guys have been peddling ever since David Stockman rode into town – you are the only one who can actually articulate it and have an intelligent debate with the President about it. Leaders are supposed to distance themselves from the pack, not get bogged down by it. Right about now would be a good time to become the leader of your party. If the nation is ever going to have a serious discussion about its future it will need another adult in the room in order to have it. Much as I admire Barack Obama and the job he has done in three years, no country can survive long with just one salient voice of reason at the helm.
Sooner or later the day will come when the Republican Party will have to break free of the shackles that have bound it for well over a decade. You could be the man who decides that day is sooner. My progressive friends think I’m crazy for thinking there’s any difference between you and the rest of your party. They don’t see you as I see you. There’s an old saying among thieves, “It takes one to know one.” I know there’s a moderate in there somewhere. Those four years in Massachusetts weren’t a mirage. You did it once; you can do it again.
Whaddya say? Are ya game? Or do you want to remain a used-car salesman from hell the rest of your life?