Mitt Romney’s campaign would love nothing better than for the Republican base to follow the direction of many of the talk show hosts and conservative opinion makers who despise McCain. But not really. The trap he is in is this: the McCain haters (like Ann Coulter) say that McCain is so bad Republicans should not support him if he is the nominee. Romney can’t and won’t say that. So he winds up having to disavow his new best friends.
It happened again today. The Romney team sent around a clip of James Dobson, the leader of Focus on the Family, being interviewed by Laura Ingraham (she also has been tearing into McCain for, among other things, changing his position on embryonic stem cell research). Dobson ripped into McCain on stem cell research, the Gang of 14, and the like and concluded : “Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.” (He clarifies that he would simply not vote, rather than vote for the Democratic nominee.)
I asked Romney spokesman Kevin Madden if by sending the email around he was encouraging others to follow Dobson’s lead. Apparently not. He responded: “Gov. Romney has said he will support the Republican nominee.” So what really is the point? It is fairly plain: to scare conservatives and to ingratiate himself with his base, the angry talk show set.
And on the other Romney gaffe of the day, he apparently did try to call Bob Dole. I assume it was to apologize and not to say ” And I really meant you’re the last guy I’d want supporting me!”