Some of my colleagues are declaring Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes dead and buried; some are enthusiastically dancing on his political grave. This is premature. True, the latest video of Romney denouncing nearly half the country as self-pitying mooches seems to confirm the caricature of a heartless plutocrat that Democrats have spent millions of dollars selling to Americans over the last six months.
But the election is still weeks away, the debates are yet to come, and the distance separating the two candidates in the polls just isn’t that big. Saying Obama has the edge and that Romney is in trouble seems credible; declaring the race over does not.
(MORE: How Mitt Romney’s Luck Ran Out)
Take the second-day story out of the fundraising video where Romney purports to denounce a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Romney did join every recent president in support of the two-state peace plan in an interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz last July, so the flip in his position is news. And Romney seems to say in the video that he believes “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace,” a news-worthy and historically inaccurate generalization that resonates with his unfortunate statement last summer about Palestinian “culture.” So it’s understandable that this section of the video is being described as “more trouble” for Romney.
But a closer look at the video shows Romney is being less radical than he sounds. After he declares peace “almost unthinkable,” for example, he goes through a credible analysis of some of the problems that have beset talks aimed at a two-state solution for the better part of two decades, including control of a Palestinian state’s eastern border and the dangers of Iranian influence. “These are very hard to solve,” he says, and indeed every president from Clinton forward has stumbled over these problems to one degree or another.
More important, Romney says from the start of his comments that he is “torn by two perspectives” on the two state solution. He ends by saying he recently had a conversation with a former Secretary of State who believes the Palestinians would be ready to make peace after Palestinian elections. Romney says he didn’t “delve into it” but taking his statement at face value, he claims to be giving the former diplomat’s position equal credence with the peace-is-hopeless one.
Will the Palestinian comments hurt Romney? To win the election, Romney must reverse Democratic attempts to convince elderly voters in Florida he wants to destroy Medicare, Midwestern voters he would have let Detroit go under and Latinos and women he doesn’t care about them. Offending the Arab world seems a relatively minor problem by comparison.
If Romney loses the election, it will be because of those other challenges, not because of the fundraising video.