The mythical Curse of the Bambino fell upon the Boston Red Sox when in
the 1919-1920 season they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox went nearly a century after that without winning another World Series. The curse was lifted in 2004, but could it then have moved on to haunt another team? A political team?
Maybe Mitt Romney and his campaign are now under the curse. In many ways they have become snake-bit. Let’s ponder some circumstances that have transpired over the last few years.
Republicans had an excellent election year in 2004. President Bush won a second term, and the Republican party was winning legislative seats throughout the country. Romney, then in his first term as governor of Massachusetts, was building a successful record capped by signing the first fundamental health care reform in the country. As 2004 faded, it seemed he would win reelection as governor and become a star on the national scene.
At the end of 2005 and into 2006, the landscape fundamentally changed, and Democrats were on the rise. Romney’s poll numbers dropped and a successful reelection bid now looked dim. He chose instead to begin running for president in an open race, and an attractive former business executive with a solid record as governor seemed to be the right recipe for success.
What did he and his campaign do? They chose to try and run as a social conservative even though the election would have been ripe for an economic message combined with his health care success. This social conservative message was not only out of step with the moment back then, but it raised questions about Romney’s authenticity – a liability that has been hard for him to shake. He ended up losing the nomination to John McCain, who didn’t seem like the party’s strongest candidate.
In 2011-2012, Romney retooled his message to emphasize his economic strengths. Instead of focusing on social issues, he went back to his more authentic bread-and-butter — his business experience, economic know-how and record as governor.
In another sign of the curse following Romney, the health care reform he accomplished as governor now turned into a liability among Republicans because it was too similar to President Obama’s reform.
Romney, through discipline, money, smarts and a weak field of GOP rivals, looks like he is going to be able to break the curse and win the nomination, but then bad luck strikes again. Just as he is about to secure the nomination for all intents and purposes, and focus full-bore on a president he and his campaign considered incredibly vulnerable, the economy begins to improve — and with it Obama’s poll numbers. Romney’s continuing attacks on Obama’s economic record in a time when indicators are improving seem, once again, out of step.
It is a long way to Election Day, and many things can happen in the next 10 months, but it seems to me that Romney is snake-bit, and the curse that held sway over the Red Sox now is casting a dark shadow over another Massachusetts team.