Conservatives want Romney to lead the way in convincing the rest of America that President Obama is genuinely a malevolent force. They want Obamacare to be cited as Exhibit A of that evil plot. But Romney can't do that, because he established Romneycare in Massachusetts. But conservatives are not yet ready to accept that their candidate is not a torch-bearer for their principles. And so, from time to time they tend to explode. But not all of these explosions are the same. We've noticed that they tend to fall along the five stages of grief in realizing they're stuck with the presidential candidate they'd got.
Ann Coulter was so mad at Mitt Romney's campaign during a Fox News appearance on Wednesday night that she was almost doing Z-snaps. Her left index finger zipped across the TV screen as she yelled at Sean Hannity for even questioning her demand that Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul must be fired. What was Saul's unforgivable sin? In responding to a pro-Obama super PAC ad that linked Romney's work at Bain to a woman's death from cancer, Saul pointed out that if the woman had lived in Massachusetts, she would have had health insurance, because Romney had passed Romneycare. Coulter claimed to be furious that Saul didn't just say the ad was despicable. But she did! Saul literally said the word "despicable!"
What Coulter and other conservatives are really mad about is that Saul mentioned the existence of Romneycare, the model for Obamacare, and that their candidate is not quite the natural politician that previous Republican nominees have been. Here are the stages.
Denial. In this stage, there is an attempt to distinguish Obamacare, which is a federal program that seeks to provide universal health insurance by requiring insurers to sell insurance to everyone while also mandating that all individuals carry health insurance, from Romneycare, which is a state program that seeks to provide universal health insurance by requiring insurers to sell insurance to everyone while also mandating that all individuals carry health insurance. Because, after all, Romney likes Romneycare. "Saul was saying precisely what her superiors in the Romney campaign believe, not least of them Mitt Romney," The New Republic's Noam Schieber writes. You know who else liked Romneycare? Ann Coulter! In A February column titled, "Three Cheers for Romneycare!" [Exclamation point hers.] "The hyperventilating over government-mandated health insurance confuses a legal argument with a policy objection," Coulter wrote. "What went wrong with Romneycare wasn't a problem in the bill, but a problem in Massachusetts: Democrats." That's a distinction.
Anger. There has been a lot of anger at the media -- why won't reporters be as mean to Obama as they are to Romney? But the rage turned toward the Romney campaign when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare's mandate as constitutional under the taxing authority. Obama couldn't say he didn't raise taxes and say the law was constitutional. "It seemed obvious that these two things were in direct contradiction with one another given the decision, and assaulting the Democrats on this point was going to be easy," RedState's Ben Howe wrote. "Then comes word today that there are no such plans from the Romney camp." Instead of calling Obama a tax-raiser, Romney initially said it wasn't a tax -- because that would have made Romney a tax-raiser as well.
Bargaining. You might think Coulter's rant would qualify as the previous stage, Anger. But it's better to classify this as bargaining, because the idea is that there's something that can be fixed. There's an enemy within the Romney campaign -- and maybe that enemy isn't Saul herself, but her alleged incompetence -- and if that enemy can just be extracted, everything will be okay. Coulter demanded, "Anyone who donates to Mitt Romney -- and I mean the big donors -- ought to call Mitt Romney and say, 'If Andrea Saul isn't fired and off the campaign tomorrow, they're not giving another dime. Because it's not worth fighting for this man if this is the kind of spokesman he has.'" They just have to teach the Romney campaign what's okay, RedState's Erick Erickson says. He didn't call for Saul's firing, but said the outrage would be productive, as it would work as a "housebreaking." He pointed favorably to a tweet by Dan McLaughlin: "What conservatives are doing re Andrea Saul’s comment is the same as how you housebreak your dog. Romney needs to know not to go there."
Depression. Erickson stepped close to this stage Wednesday when he said Saul's comment was "The Moment All the Doubts About Romney Resurfaced on the Right." But he seemed to move backwards later in the day, writing his post comparing Romney to a puppy: "Housebreaking Romney: The Importance of Being Vocal."
Acceptance. Few have reached this stage. One is the National Review's Potemra, who writes that not firing Saul would be a "Sister Souljah" moment. He writes, "He attacks the Obamacare policy because he believes it is different in significant ways from his own Massachusetts health-care plan... If he sticks with Andrea Saul, publicly and vocally, it would send a message to the American people that he is not under the thumb of the punditocracy, and reassure Americans that he is his own man, and might just have the strength of character it takes to be a good president."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.