Mitt Romney was asked at a press conference in Michigan this morning about his inability to excite "the base" of the Republican party, and he replied:
You know, it's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments. We've seen throughout the campaign if you're willing to say really outrageous things that are accusative, attacking of President Obama, that you're going to jump up in the polls. I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am.
I'm a person with extensive experience in the private sector, in the economy. I understand job creation from a personal standpoint and from a theoretical standpoint. I want to use those skills to help the country. And if I get selected, great, and if I don't, I can live with that too. I'm putting myself out there because I think I can do a better job getting America back on track. I think this president has taken us in a very dangerous direction, and that we've got to get him out of the White House. But I'm not willing to say anything to get that nod.
Romney's remark that "it's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments" seems to reveal that he doesn't have a very high opinion of "the base" of the Republican party. Does he really think the majority of Republican voters are motivated by angry rhetoric? Even if that were true, that's not a smart thing for a Republican presidential candidate to say.
But is it true? The presidential candidates known (to varying degrees) for their incendiary rhetoric--Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry--have all fallen by the wayside. Now Romney is left facing Rick Santorum, who did indeed recently call Obama "a snob" and has a history of making some imprudent or impolitic comments that he's now being forced to explain. But Santorum hasn't risen because he's made incendiary comments--and he's hardly a rhetorical bombthrower compared to Gingrich. Romney's problems with Republican voters go beyond mere rhetoric, and his remarks today aren't going to help him overcome those problems.