Will the long primaries hurt Mitt Romney? Ha! By fall, Americans won’t remember — because we don’t remember anything
- Last Updated: 4:43 AM, March 18, 2012
- Posted: 10:21 PM, March 17, 2012
What will it mean for Republican chances in the fall if the primary goes on forever, with Mitt Romney getting bloodied by his rivals — and his own standing tarnished by his campaign’s harsh negative advertising designed to stave off those rivals? And what of his gaffes?
Won’t the public be put off by Romney’s saying “I don’t care about the poor” in February, talking about the height of the trees in Michigan and eating cheesy grits in March and who knows what else in April?
If you think Romney will suffer from these incidents in November, let me ask you this: Who is Nancy Killefer?
In 2009, Killefer was part of group of people who commentators said was undermining Obama’s first term. Does it ring a bell now? Likely not. She was the nominee for chief performance officer, forced to withdraw because she hadn’t paid a tax lien. At the time, the number of Obama appointees who failed to pay taxes bordered on the comedic. But who even remembers that scandal now?
This is a country with an insanely short attention span, and getting shorter every day. News stories explode like Molotov cocktails over print media, television and the Internet — and burn themselves out with startling rapidity. We go from Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Amanda Knox to Casey Anthony, from the debt-ceiling showdown to “pass this bill now” to Occupy Wall Street to WikiLeaks, and only a few months later the details begin to blur and fade as other Molotov cocktails ignite (Jeremy Lin! Sandra Fluke!).
In this media-saturated era, people can become famous overnight (Capri Anderson, anyone?) only to sink into obscurity two weeks later (she was the porn actress terrorized by Charlie Sheen at the Plaza hotel two years ago).
Our time horizons would seem hilariously out of kilter to any previous generation in human history. Consider that the most hotly anticipated Hollywood release this summer is “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a remake of the most hotly anticipated Hollywood release of the year . . . 2002!
When the not-very-successful “Superman Returns” came out in 2006, it had been nearly 30 years since Christopher Reeve had donned the cape. Now a mere decade separates Tobey Maguire from Andrew Garfield.
Imagine David O. Selznick remaking 1939’s “Gone With the Wind” in 1949 with a different cast. Unthinkable. The memory of the original was vivid to everyone who had seen it even a decade later. Now we are so assaulted by cultural product and endless novelties that we have to sift through mountains of mental detritus when we think back to the past.
Doesn’t it seem as though the 2002 Oscar winner — “Chicago” — was made 25 years ago? It does to me.
What does this all have to do with Mitt Romney? It may mean that, despite the general sense he is being injured politically by his inability to bring the GOP primary season to an end, he may be helping himself culturally.
The Romney story did not flare up and die out; that is what happened to the candidacies of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain, all of whom dominated the news at one point or another last year when they suddenly soared to the top of the polling charts.
He has, rather, been the one consistent figure in the political news (aside from Barack Obama) since last spring — consistently called “the Republican front-runner,” his name mentioned first in news stories. Even though many of those stories have concerned Romney’s failure to secure an early victory, the substance of those stories may be less meaningful than the fact the political news has revolved around him.
He is certainly, in the public consciousness, the most important American political figure at the present moment aside from the president he wishes to unseat.
As other candidates have risen like helium balloons only to pop suddenly, Romney has become a fixed point in the national discussion. And therein lies a surprising opportunity for him in the summer and fall.
It is possible, given the sped-up news atmosphere, that the early 2012 Romney gaffes about money and trees and grits will seem as if they happened years ago by the time the general-election campaign begins in earnest in September. If they’re even remembered at all.
What’s more, the impermanence of his many rivals (remember that Rick Santorum only became a serious competitor two months ago) may serve to solidify the sense of his permanence on the political scene and thereby elevate his stature in the eyes of the electorate.
If Romney could magically end this GOP contest tomorrow, he would benefit from having a lot more money on hand, a lot more energy to fight Obama with, and a lot more time to bring his party together.
But there might be something to be gained from a longer fight, something hard to measure.
The persistent and indefatigable Romney, plodding onward toward his goal, will seem to voters like a formidable contender against Barack Obama simply by virtue of the fact that he will have made it through hundreds of 24-hour news cycles without . . . disappearing.Follow @NYPostOpinion