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
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
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: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

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

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
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?