Nobody likes being told to relax, but it’s good advice for many Republican Party politicians and insiders who are telling political news outlets they doubt Mitt Romney’s general election chances. Today’s Politico article is along those same lines–that “under the table, there is pervasive pessimism among Republicans about Romney’s prospects this fall. It’s apparent in rampant discussions about which Republicans will run in 2016 — talk that obviously presupposes a loss in November — and it’s downright glaring in private conversations with GOP officials on Capitol Hill and in consulting shops across Washington.”
Alana tried yesterday to offer Republicans a political chill pill by noting that Romney’s favorability ratings aren’t in doomsday territory yet–indeed aren’t far off from Bill Clinton’s at this point in his election campaign. But the polling also doesn’t back up the sandwich-board wearing wielders of the GOP’s own Mayan calendar. Gallup’s daily tracking poll has Romney in the lead (and improving). And as Ed Morrissey wrote yesterday, not only did the latest CBS/New York Times poll put the race in a dead heat, but Romney also has more room to improve, as a lesser-known challenger, than President Obama.
This is not to ignore the other polls that show Obama ahead–the Wall Street Journal poll, for example, or Public Policy Polling’s. And it’s certainly not to ignore Romney’s weaknesses or Obama’s strengths, not least of which is the power of the incumbency for a Democratic president practically worshiped by much of the press.
But it’s early. In that Politico story, William Kristol and Grover Norquist provide some perspective for the nervous right. “You go through two cycles when incumbents win and people will talk themselves into thinking it’s historically inevitable,” Kristol said.
“We’re electing a coach of a team that knows the plays,” Norquist added, trying to remind his fellow grassroots conservatives that that they have much more influence in the direction of the national conservative movement today than in the past.
I think both comments get at an important aspect of the gloomy GOPers. This is the first time in the modern age of social media, alternative media, and a wide array of 24-hour cable news networks that Republicans have challenged a sitting president. So it’s not all that puzzling that Bob Dole’s name has come up so often this election season. But it’s a very different political and media landscape, and it is not one that would support a sense of helplessness among conservatives.