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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

McConnell Puts Romney on the Spot

There's really not much going on out there, so it's immigration again. Don't worry, this will be a fairly short one. In this one, we look at Sen. Mitch McConnell -- Republican Senate minority leader -- and his curious lack of a position on the issue.

Washington Post:

[O]n Tuesday, McConnell said he wouldn’t take a firm position on President Obama’s decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

McConnell said he would wait — until presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had taken a position first.

“I think we’re going to wait and see what governor Romney has to say, and we’re going to be discussing his views on this,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday. “I think many of us may have similar views. Others may not.”

McConnell said he was deferring to Romney because the former Massachusetts governor is “the leader of our party from now until November — and, we hope, beyond.”


Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman go on to hold this up as an example of how Obama's move has thrown the GOP into disarray, writing that McConnell's non-answer "reflects broader confusion and division within the GOP over how to react to Obama’s move." But there's actually more going on here.

Steve Benen:

Three times McConnell was asked for his position, and three times he said he would wait for guidance from Romney.

At the surface, it's rather amusing to see Mitch McConnell refuse to take a position on a controversial issue, waiting for his party's inexperienced, flip-flopping nominee to tell McConnell what to think.

But just below the surface, there's another problem that Romney needs to acknowledge and address: as McConnell made clear, without saying so explicitly, leading the Republican Party at the national level comes with responsibilities. In GOP politics, members tend to get in line, and take specific cues from the man out front. Romney may not hold office right now, but there's an expectation that he'll giving marching orders and... lead.

In other words, McConnell is not inclined to come up with a position for Romney to agree with and provide him the (arguably minimal) cover of the "party line." The ever-vacillating candidate is going to have to make a goddam decision for once in his life -- and defend it if it turns out to be an unpopular one.

"As McConnell's comments yesterday helped remind us, Romney may prefer to stick to vague positions, while ducking controversial positions on controversial issues, but there are limits to this strategy," Benen explains. "Namely, Romney's party wants to reflect his beliefs, and if he displays 'a great allergy to specifics and details,' as Rich Lowry put it, Republican officials are paralyzed."

The Republican Party seems to have an obstructionist to their goals in Mitt Romney. When a decision is to be made, the man is as paralyzed as a character from Joyce's Dubliners. Mitt leads by following, his finger in the wind and his eyes on the polls, and that's beginning to have his party marching around in ineffectual circles.


(image credit: from a photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

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