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Romney's Mountain of Dilemmas

By Froma Harrop

Mitt Romney is not going to be president. He's not going to even be the Republican nominee.

It all boils down to -- may we use a French word? -- finesse. Finesse is defined as "skillful, subtle handling of a situation; tactful, diplomatic maneuvering." The former Massachusetts governor does not have it.

Exhibit A was his televised cash-athon, in which he quickly scooped up $6.5 million in checks and pledges. The objective was to ripple his awesome fund-raising muscles before John McCain, Sam Brownback and any others who would dare compete.

Money is important in American politics, but the war-chest weigh-in is best held in private. Lucre's role in campaigns is a sore point with voters, who fancy that elections can't be bought. The sage politician will raise the dough in discreet settings. Romney does not get this, thinking more of the impression he's making on the political establishment than on the folk of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The last candidate to so overtly pin his campaign millions on his jacket was Phil Gramm. The former Texas senator, who raised stunning sums in anticipation of the 1996 presidential primaries, remarked out loud that "the most reliable friend you can have in American politics ... is ready money." Gramm finished a weak fifth in the Iowa caucuses and dropped out before the New Hampshire primary.

Ten years later, the regard for politicians who flash their money clips has fallen still lower. This, after all, is the age of Enron, Abramoff, DeLay and other agents of scandal tied to fund raising. Yet Romney deemed it a fine idea to line up phone banks of corporate executives, have them call their rich friends for contributions and invite the TV cameras to record the whole thing. Makes you wonder about the guy.

Given this dearth of tact, one must question Romney's ability to bridge his clashing statements on social issues. Campaigning in liberal Massachusetts and conservative Alabama require distinct sets of talking points. More nimble politicians than Romney would have trouble merging the positions he's already carved on the record.

Romney in 1994: Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is "the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military."

Romney spokesman in 2007: "Over the past four years as governor, Mitt Romney has not advocated or supported any change in the military's policies, and he has not implemented new or special rights in this arena."

Romney in 1994: "I believe that since Roe v. Wade (which made abortion a right) has been the law for 20 years, we should sustain and support it."

Romney in 2006: "Roe v. Wade does not serve the country well and is another example of judges making the law instead of interpreting the Constitution."

It does Romney limited good to play the martyred conservative forced to govern in ungodly Massachusetts. Running against the people who put you in office is not a pretty thing. Besides, how strong are his convictions if he'd sacrifice them for political office?

Romney's positioning is further complicated by his membership in the Mormon church, which many Christian conservatives consider a cult. In a recent Rasmussen poll, 51 percent of evangelicals said they would never vote for a Mormon. The sort of people who don't care whether a candidate is Mormon are the sort of people who live in Massachusetts.

See the range of Romney's dilemmas? They're Himalayan. Only a master of finesse can get over them. And anyone who starts off a presidential campaign by showcasing his ties to big money would seem ill-equipped for the climb.

fharrop@projo.com

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate


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