Mitt Romney annoyed a couple conservatives Tuesday by saying, "It's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments" at a press conference in Michigan. "In other words, he thinks they're stupid. Any other way to interpret?" The Weekly Standard's John McCormack tweets. "Wow, I wonder how the base will regard those comments," his colleague Stephen Hayes says. Guys, relax. Maybe it's not the base that's the object of Romney's scorn and condescension, but his opponent. "I'm not willing to light my hair on fire in order to get support," Romney said. He doesn't have to! Are you really going to vote for the hair-on-fire, incendiary-commenting Rick Santorum? Romney doesn't think so.
Romney held the press conference to address his recent verbal slips, tersely admitting they'd hurt him, The Washington Post's Philip Rucker reports. Still, he said, "In the final analysis, I anticipate becoming the nominee." That confidence seems to come not just from his confidence in his strengths, but in his opponents' weaknesses. One of Romney's little tics is saying that if people don't like him, they can vote for someone else. What's implied is that the other options aren't so great. "If people think there is something wrong with being successful in America then they better vote for the other guy," Romney told Fox News Sunday. "If you don't like my answer, you can vote for someone else," Romney, talking about taxes, said in Iowa in August. "Vote for either one of us and you’ll be happy," Romney said of Herman Cain in October. He took it pretty far in a September debate, before he'd lost any state primaries, saying, "There are a lot of reasons not to elect for me." Then he added the part that's usually left unspoken: "There are a lot of reasons not to elect other people on the stage." He really meant "a lot more reasons."
What people focus on is that in those moments is that Romney seems to be admitting the flaws in his own candidacy. But they also show that he's sure that no matter how flawed he is, he's better than the other Republican candidates. “It’s always been a two-person race. First, it was me against Donald Trump, then it was me against Michele Bachmann, me against Newt Gingrich and now it’s me against Rick Santorum," Romney said this month. Funny, it reads almost as if he thinks his more recent opponents, all multi-term members of Congress, are just as outlandish as fake-candidate Donald Trump and wildcard Herman Cain. It's not very humble coming from the candidate himself, but it reflects what's been the conventional wisdom for months and months: that voters will eventually toss aside the sexier, angrier, more incendiary Republican bad boys and settle for Romney. Reporters appear to be shocked that Romney buys political analysis offered by all the political analysts. Hey, take it as a compliment, guys.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.