Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Open Mic Night: Romney Shoots His Mouth Off

The nomination hasn’t been etched, but already he’s sketching

Defeating Barack Obama is a priority.
So is keeping the presumptive nominee from etch-a-sketching and erasing the conservative movement. ...  isn’t this just a little too soon?
What's He Talking About?
 He's talking about this:
At a closed-to-the-press Florida fundraiser Sunday night at which his remarks were overheard by some reporters standing outside, Mitt Romney was asked about his media strategy for the general election campaign. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC, Romney said his campaign has been treated well by Fox News but that he needs to expand his audience beyond the leading cable news channel.
"Fox is watched by the true believers," Romney told donors, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We need to get the independents and the women."
He didn't just stop there. He wants:
  1. A GOP version of The DREAM Act. He has to do something to get Latino votes.
  2. He will not eliminate the Department of Education (too politically dangerous)
  3. According to the above article:
  4. He would look to eliminate the second home mortgage deduction and deductions for state and local taxes in order to keep his promise to cut tax rates across-the-board without lowering the overall share of the tax burden that wealthy Americans shoulder.
Having his comments overheard by reporters outside the private home where he was speaking is reminiscent of Obama's open-mic incident with the Russians. This comes after Ann Romney called Hilary Rosen's "She's never worked a day in her life" comment an early birthday gift.

What Does It Mean?
This incident tells us two things. The first is that Romney’s campaign staffers are going out of their way to ensure that their candidate is viewed as blank slate. Because the Republican party lacks a coherent, widely agreed upon set of policy commitments, they are pitching Romney as a sort of generic GOP EveryPresident: pro-business, pro-America, anti-Obama, but for the most part devoid of coherent, fully formed policy commitments.

The second is that Romney is still attempting to present himself differently to different audiences—giving top-level donors the impression that he has revealed policy specifics, but hedging his language as he does, and later denying through his campaign that they were meaningful details at all. Romney, the former private equity deal maker and management consultant, has always altered his persona to fit his audience: When he ran for Senate in Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy in 2002, he described his views as “progressive.” A decade later in the GOP primary, he describes himself as “severely conservative.” In between, he descibed himself as whatever was most convenient for the audience and the moment.

I think this is largely true with a couple of notable exceptions.

What Do I Think?
I think there's a "real Romney" down there and, in fact, I think we kinda know what it is: he's a moderate Republican with specific beliefs but no strong passion (he is probably pro-life--but is probably not het up about it enough to want to deal with the fall out from, for example, trans-vaginal ultrasounds). I suspect Romney wants everyone to have health care in a general 'I-am-a-Mormon-pastor" type of way--and is proud that he more or less did that--but sees himself as being in a corner with the base and probably thinks it's quite unfair that his heath care plan was an asset 4 years or so ago.

I think he's vaguely concerned about illegal immigration--after all, he'd never knowingly hire an illegal to cut his grass--He's running for president, c'mon man!? But would he go and, you know, check? No. Not really. Can't be arsed. And if he had a nanny? I bet he did check--because, hey!? HE'S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT (and I bet even when he wasn't, for decades he knew he might--but maybe not from kindergarden like Barack Obama, amirite!?).

And then he's smart--so he knows he can't say that "I don't really give a crap--I'd like to try to salvage the economy guys" because while that would be a potentially block-buster winning message: Who could disagree with it? (People who think Obama is better at salvaging the economy than Romney--while the polls may disagree a little, ask any conservative who they think ought to win that conversation.) saying that is political suicide.

Every time Romney tries to have that conversation some not-Romney surges above him in the polls and he has to tack-back right and say the absolute minimum to keep the base voting for him. His hair has to smoke without catching fire. So it's no wonder Romney has come through the process looking beat up.

Not that the pantry is bare of Not-Romneys he is going to keep looking for a center-right crash-pad where he can set up camp. Will he get it? 

My gut says "I doubt it"--there are too many people invested in social conservatism and extreme fiscal conservatism to happily allow Romney that position--however, if he continues to suffer in the polls (he's ahead in a few now--and way down in a few others--and in some bad demographics, like Latinos) I think Beat Obama is going to start overcoming Ideological Purity.

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