Sunday, March 25, 2007

Romney finds peril in checklist for '2008

Romney finds peril in checklist for '08
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 10 minutes ago
BOSTON - As Mitt Romney transitions from one-term governor to presidential candidate, he has been ticking through a presidential checklist, sometimes with perilous results.

Where he lacked foreign policy experience, his staff arranged one-day visits to
Iraq' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Iraq,
Afghanistan' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Check, check, check.

Where there were questions about Second Amendment issues, he enrolled as a "lifetime" member of the National Rifle Association.
Check again.

But this month, Romney scratched when he tried to wade through the cauldron of Cuban-American politics during a speech to South Florida Republicans.
"Hugo Chavez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase — 'Patria o muerte, venceremos.'" Romney said, referring to the Venezuelan president and persistent U.S. critic. "It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba."
In truth, the phrase does not belong to free Cubans. It has been the trademark speechmaking sign-off of their most despised opponent,
Fidel Castro' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Fidel Castro. And unlike Romney, Castro would switch to English to declare, "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome."
The mistake pointed up Romney's newness to the scene and the freshness of some of his positions.

"No human being can ever know every nuance to every issue. And the steeper the learning curve, the more likely you are to see inadvertent errors," said Dan Schnur, a Republican communications consultant in California. He worked for Pete Wilson's 1996 presidential campaign and Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record)'s 2000 presidential campaign, but is not involved in the 2008 race.
"I've never seen one of these things take down a campaign, but it's critical for the candidate to show these type of things are an aberration, not a rule," Schnur said.

Unlike some of his better-known Democratic and Republican rivals, Romney, 60, lacks extensive national and international political experience. Romney has made a series of foreign and domestic policy pronouncements as he rushes to close gaps in his campaign's portfolio.
On the plus side, Romney's mostly nonpolitical background — primarily as a venture capitalist, as well as head of the 2002
Winter Olympics' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Winter Olympics — means he does not have a long history on many contentious issues. That gives him great leeway as he adopts his policy positions.
At the same time, it puts him at a disadvantage with more experienced rivals, for whom many contemporary issues are second nature.
That lack of depth and familiarity increases the chance of missteps, as well as outright contradictions with past policy views.
In Romney's case, critics have lambasted him for reversals on abortion rights, gay rights and tax policy.

His Chavez comment to a March 9 Lincoln Day dinner in Miami-Dade County, as well as his mispronunciation of the names of several prominent Cuban-Americans, set off a murmur within the crowd.

Kevin Madden, Romney's spokesman, said the speech was overwhelmingly well-received despite any mistakes.

"I think what's new is there is a higher level of scrutiny now because he's a presidential candidate," Madden said. "But as far as the governor's ideas, the substance of his proposals and his blueprint for America, this is the first time everybody is hearing it, and we are confident that the substance of his policies is what's going to bring more and more people to his campaign."
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Mark Towner, Spyglass

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