Alex Blaze

Mitt Romney vs. Hillary Clinton

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 19, 2008 10:59 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: class benefits, Hillary Rodham Clinton, media, Mitt Romney, narrative construction

I agree with Ezra Klein - if that were John McCain making the same statements Romney did above about not having lobbyist run his campaign, no one would have cared. In fact, the Chicago Tribune says pretty much that - John McCain's campaign manager is a former lobbyist who gave up the game in late 2005, but who cares since McCain's never said anything specifically about lobbyists running his campaign. Forget the Straight Talk Express - lying about overall themes of the campaign is OK, lying about specifics isn't.

John McCain's always been the media's favorite child, no doubt about that. Steve Benen has the line-by-line on the most recent escapade in McCain sycophancy. And despite Chris Matthews well-documented crush on Romney, he isn't gaining much affection from the press corps.

So the problem with calling out the Romney's "I don't have lobbyists running my campaign" lie, while I definitely appreciate the journalist's efforts, is that the lie is part of a bigger ball of lies - "I'm not part of the country's governing power structure - I'll fight for you."

And that bigger ball of lies is ubiquitous, from McCain's Straight Talk Express to Hillary's claim that she's "your girl", from John Edwards' two Americas after working for the rich America to help them hide assets in off-shore hedge funds to multi-millionaire Freddie Thompson driving his red pickup around, from Obama's mantra of change while advocating pretty tame policy to Rudy's assumption of the title "America's Mayor," since your home-town mayor isn't a political insider. (The only serious candidate who can claim to be outside that power structure is a nut in his own right - Mike Huckabee.)

In fact, it's such a staple of American electoral politics that calling out only one candidate on it says much more about the journalist than it does about the candidate. Romney's working with lobbyists? Hell, any of them would when in office, no matter how much our chattering class fawns over McCain's straight-talk.

(For the record, the solution to this imbalance isn't to let Romney off the hook - it's to go after the others more.)

Anyway, Noam Scheiber has an interesting analysis that shows that Romney is the most likely GOP candidate. I have an analysis of my own that reaches the same conclusion.

But since I'm not a paid pundit, I can't make definite pronouncements about who's going win the election before most people have even voted and then blame pollsters when I'm wrong. I will say that Romney and Hillary, in my humble opinion, are both in the top-two most-likely in their respective parties, each has raised the most cash in her party, and both have received the most support from the corporate wings of their parties.

Posing an interesting question: what if the general election were Clinton vs. Romney?

Each has born the brunt of media criticism this election cycle for her party, being nit-picked at a level that the others haven't (Hillary much more so than Romney). Each has run a poll-based campaign, pandering to a "center" more conservative than they really need to. Each is a thorn in the side of their party's respective rank-and-file while being the favorite of their respective party's establishment. And they're both strong communicators and effective fundraisers.

There's a shocking similarity in their overall campaign theme - no fundamental changes need to be made to the government, I'd just be more competent than what we have now. Competence, experience, and responsibility are what they'll be likely to harp on and attack each other with.

But when it comes to policy, Hillary is to the left on social issues, more sane on terrorism (no "double Gitmo" rhetoric from her), more credible on foreign policy (although in a world where Bush is more credible than Kerry as a war hero, I don't know if that matters), and favors a draw-down in Iraq. Her personal life will be more closely scrutinized and is pretty much the opposite of Romney's Norman Rockwell-esque construction, considering she didn't produce another child to keep Chelsea company and never baked her daughter any cookies.

The "change" message would fall squarely on her shoulders - the media has shown a surprising lack of interest in the fact that Romney could be the first Mormon president, and his policy doesn't differ strongly from the current president's. There'll be some chatter about her lack of "executive experience" from his camp, only to be outweighed by the fact that she's a celebrity in her own right and almost no one outside of Massachusetts had heard of him before this year.

Oh, and there's the fact that he's Harvard and she's Yale. Yet both will present themselves as "middle-class Americans," "real people," and the one willing to "fight on your side."

But who's side will the media take? Well, I think they have a preference for crimson men to Yaleys.


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Alex, Romney didn't bake his kids any cookies because he had a Mormon wife to do it for him.