Mitt Romney had over two weeks before he had to reveal his choice for Vice President and it would have been advantageous for him to wait. Keeping the Vice President choice a secret would have built up anticipation and the pundits would not have been able to resist continued speculation on the selection. All this would have climaxed with the announcement of the choice on August 29, in prime time on center stage of the Republican National Convention.
Instead the announcement was handled with all the grace of an engagement announcement of a pregnant daughter. The news leaked on a Friday night during the final week of the Olympics and announced before most of the country was awake on Saturday morning. A Vice President choice should reflect the wisdom of the campaign, so why was this one handled as badly or worse than the McCain/Palin fiasco?
Simple. It was desperation.
In 2008, John McCain was desperate to shake up the campaign and re-energize it. Unfortunately, Romney has the same type of desperation, but for different reasons. Romney certainly needs to re-energize his campaign, but what is more critical is the need to shift the focus off the charges that he hasn’t paid taxes for ten years. Romney has his back up against the wall on this issue. If it turns out to be true his campaign is over.
Romney selected Paul Ryan, who seeks to control, not serve Americans, and is a no-compromise, anti-government, right-wing extremist similar to McCain’s Palin choice. Ryan will deliver the voters who are sworn to hate Obama and liberals under the idea that the ticket can be elected by 25% of voters. It didn’t work for McCain in 2008, and it will not work in 2012. It is not a smart choice, but at this point Romney needed something, anything to change the subject of the campaign.
Romney is operating like Richard Nixon in the belief that he can keep his worst secrets hidden through denial, lying, and non-cooperation. Instead he’s put a spotlight on the issue. His tactic of challenging people to ‘prove’ he didn’t pay taxes when he holds all the proof only makes him to looking guilty. It’s obvious he is hiding something in his financial past and if it is not about paying any taxes for ten years, then it must be something as damning.
Romney’s campaign is within hours, days, or weeks of imploding. If he fails to make his tax returns public then it will dominate the conversation about whether he is fit to be President. If he releases them then the truth must be bad enough to destroy his campaign. The only question is how Romney’s right-wing shift followed by complete collapse will carry over to other politicians who have embraced the extreme right.