Just imagine Mitt Romney’s inner monologue on the day he signed RomneyCare. There’s his old nemesis Ted Kennedy standing next to him, smiling that Kennedy smile. Finally the Heritage Foundation’s conservative alternative to single payer health care will get a chance in the nation’s most liberal state. This is how you become president, Ol’ Mitty, he must have thought. Just play it down the middle.
We know Mitt is a malleable guy, to say the least. For years, he pretended to be sincerely pro-choice. Now he pretends to be severely anti-abortion rights. But he’s always been, as Kennedy quipped, “multiple choice. What Mitt never expected back then was that a Democratic president would appropriate his signature achievement – and that it would then become the most hated thing in Fox Nation since Jimmy Carter.
So Mitt’s campaign has devolved into a charade where he is trying to become the lovechild of Limbaugh and Reagan — even more conservative than the nation’s foremost fundamentalist, Rick Santorum. He wanted to project strength, but somehow his contrail stank of weakness.
As former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum explains:
For the past year, we have watched him be pushed around by the radical GOP fringe. He’s been forced to abjure his most important achievement as governor, his healthcare plan. In December, he was compelled to sign onto the Ryan budget plan after months of squirming to avoid it. Last fall he released an elaborate economic plan. On the eve of the Michigan primary, he ripped it up and instead accepted a huge new tax cut – to a top rate of 28 per cent – that has never been costed (and that he now tries to avoid mentioning whenever he can). Romney has acknowledged in interviews that he understands that big rapid cuts in government spending could push the US economy back into recession. Yet he campaigns anyway on the Tea Party’s false promise that it’s the deficit that causes the depression, rather than (as he well knows) the other way around.
Mitt’s business and financial record, shrouded in secrecy, has been turned into a battering ram by the Obama campaign. No longer does the press corps swallow the idea that Mitt and Bain Capital created jobs. Instead, more and more, Bain is associated with a malignant force in our economy: gamblers who play with other people’s money, raking in big gains while socializing their losses.
Thus Mitt’s true weakness is revealed: He can’t get a grip his on his own narrative.
Mitt says he wants to to drive the debate back to the economy. According to the conventional wisdom, if Mitt talks about the economy, he will win. What goes unsaid, however, is that 68 percent of Americans blame George W. Bush for the troubles we face today. You can’t mention the economy without conjuring Bush’s mess or asking, “What would Romney do differently?” As Bill Clinton says, Mitt is “Bush on steroids.”
So the Romney team has now been busily trying to change the discussion from demanding apologies to Condoleezza Rice to favors for campaign donors to “Fast and Furious” to inventing things the President supposedly said about the economy.
None of that is working, which provoked Romney surrogate John Sununu into calling the President “un-American” and snarking about the president’s admitted use of drugs as a student. When the immediate backlash hit, Sununu went on TV with an “apology” nearly as vile as his original insults.
Now Mitt’s campaign is spouting crazed right-wing conspiracy and invective that only make sense to people who would much rather vote for Sarah Palin. Mitt has forgotten what he learned in Massachusetts: Elections tend to be won in the middle.
Suburban moms in Philadelphia and Cincinnati will choose our next president. They may find the secrecy of a big businessman willing to pander to the far right by taking extreme stands on women’s health rather upsetting. Images of the extreme right battering a president over invented conspiracies will, I predict, work against Mitt among independents, as his campaign literally threatens to descend deeper and deeper into Breitbartism, which is like Clinton Derangement Syndrome on steroids.
Because all the far right does — and all they want to do — is to make the middle, where elections are won, uninhabitable for politicians