Now even Republican 'allies' turn on Mitt Romney

Senior conservatives condemn campaign as 'incompetent' and 'deeply cynical'

The limping Mitt Romney campaign was yesterday on notice from some of its own that it had better pick itself up quickly after a string of flubs and stumbles if it wants to avoid losing a presidential contest that by all normal indicators – such as the rotten economy – it should be on its way to winning.

Trying to do just that, Romney HQ launched an effort to turn around the disaster of the past two days – the leaked video of their candidate disparaging Americans who depend on government benefits (almost half the nation) – by painting Barack Obama as coddler-in-chief and first defender of redistribution of wealth by government.

But quelling the rumbles of disgruntlement in the Republican ranks, which on its own threatens to inflict further damage, may not be easy. It was being expressed variously last night by pundits normally loyal to the cause as well as by party operatives who are worrying now not just about the presidency, but also about how the cold winds from Mr Romney could chill the campaigns of Republicans running for Congress.

"It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one," Peggy Noonan, the conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote bluntly. "It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment." She went on: "An intervention is in order… Mitt, this isn't working."

The causes of the dismay are varied. They include second-guessing the Romney campaign for putting too few public rallies on his schedule and too many private fundraising events. Worse is the astonishment at the secret video released earlier this week by Mother Jones magazine, which saw Mr Romney writing off the 47 per cent of Americans who don't pay federal income tax as already in Mr Obama's camp. Addressing a donors' dinner in May he called them "victims" and said it was his job "not to worry about those people".

Mark McKinnon, a campaign strategist for John McCain in 2008, wrote on the Daily Beast website yesterday that it "was a moment that certainly revealed something about him. But not what I was hoping for. Just the opposite. It reveals a deeply cynical man, who sees the country as completely divided, as two completely different sets of people, and who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us."

Party insiders are now banking on the three presidential debates, the first in Denver on 3 October, as almost the last opportunities for Mr Romney to better distinguish himself from the incumbent and win wavering voters to his side. Also to their advantage will be the money bomb that they and outside Super-Pacs are now preparing to drop on the President, notably in the nine or 10 key battleground states.

Yesterday the Republicans distributed a video seeking to besmirch Mr Obama for defending redistribution of wealth, which for most conservatives is akin to socialism. The video includes an audio recording from an appearance by Mr Obama in 1998 when he was a state senator in Illinois. "I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot," he is heard to say. Whether independent voters can be persuaded redistribution of wealth is so terrible a thing remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the Democrats were already seizing the opportunity to use Mr Romney's words about the 47 per cent at the donors' dinner to hurt him. "One thing I've learned as president is that you represent the entire country," Mr Obama said on The Late Show with David Letterman in reference.

"Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him," wrote William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. Scott Brown, the Republican senator struggling to hold onto his seat in Massachusetts, moved to disown the top of his party's ticket. "That's not the way I view the world," he said of Mr Romney's observation. "As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in."

Not everyone is willing yet to say game over for Mr Romney. Indeed while a Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday showed him down 45 to 50 per cent against Mr Obama, an Associated Press survey published yesterday suggested the two men are still statistically tied. Both polls, however, were taken before the secret donors' tape debacle.

How Carter's grandson had a role in video

It may be remembered as the tape that fixed the result of the 2012 election. For certain, it has hijacked the narrative for these few days in mid-September. How did all this happen?

The recorder was set on a table behind some crystalware, angled to catch Mitt Romney as he answered questions at a dinner for Fat Cat donors in a private home in Florida in May.

By who, is a mystery, but we know that a grandson of Jimmy Carter, James Carter IV, found segments of the recording. He thought Mother Jones might be interested and offered to liaise between the tape's author and David Corn, chief reporter at the magazine. When the latter began releasing portions on Monday, Mr Carter saw the impact and told his granddad what he'd been up to. "James: This is extraordinary," the former President responded. "Congratulations! Papa."

David Usborne

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower