Last week, Mitt Romney stood uncomfortably to the side as he accepted the endorsement of reality-show blowhard and occasional birther Donald Trump in Las Vegas. It reminded me of scenes from 2010 — events in which Republican Massachusetts gubernatorial challenger Charlie Baker rushed through public appearances with doomed, controversial right-wing congressional candidates such as Jeff Perry and Bill Hudak.
HARD LESSONS Instead of learning from the mistakes of former Deval Patrick challenger Charlie Baker, Mitt Romney is making many of the poor decisions in his campaign for president that Baker made in his for governor.
For Baker, playing footsie with conservative favorites was just one misstep along the path to defeat — against an incumbent who, at the start of the election year, seemed too unpopular to win a second term.
It is no secret that Deval Patrick's impressive re-election is serving as a partial guide for Barack Obama, as the president and his team strategize for victory in tough economic times.
Like Patrick, Obama is stressing an optimistic message — arguing that signs of recovery indicate that his approach is working — and asking for more time to finish the job.
Against such a similar foe, in comparable circumstances, one would imagine that Romney would seek to learn from Baker's mistakes, rather than emulate them.
And yet, in many ways, his campaign to date has been strikingly similar to Baker's. The Trump embrace is merely the latest example.
To be sure, Romney's hand is partly being forced by a Republican nomination fight — something that Baker was able to avoid in 2010.
But ultimately, Romney will need to win over general-election swing voters, who are not all that different from the ones who decided the Massachusetts election for Patrick.
And, many of the most important of those middle-ground voters reside in swing states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio — places that have had, or will soon have, a front-row seat to the Republican nomination battle.
It may not be a coincidence that a new poll shows Obama taking a sizable lead in New Hampshire, after the primary contest there — or that Romney's national image has been taking a steady beating.
There is plenty of time for Romney to hit restart, and run a strong general-election campaign. But that will require fixing nine ways in which he is currently following Baker's road to ruin.
1_ Sucking up to the right
In a blog post just after the 2010 election, I listed 15 specific ways that Baker had helped people identify him with the national Republican brand. In addition to failing to distance himself from Perry and Hudak, Baker adopted a blankly angry "Had Enough" slogan, hedged on climate science, demonized labor unions, called for a crackdown on undocumented aliens, and claimed that tax cuts would help balance the budget.
Swing voters across the country don't disdain the national GOP quite as much as those in Massachusetts do, but these days it's a difference only of degree.
And Romney is going much further than Baker ever did — taking endorsements from Trump and other preposterous figures, calling for "self-deportation" of every undocumented resident, and leading the neoconservative charge against the START II nuclear-reduction treaty, just to name a few examples.