I’ve grown somewhat impatient with people who claim to be conservative telling me why Willard “Mitt” Romney is electable. Frankly, I think some of them are being disingenuous, or worse, have deluded themselves, but I don’t think the facts support their claims in any case. What seems to be the argument is that Romney can capture moderates and independents in the general election. It may be pointless to argue the matter, but the reasons offered for this are his business record and the fact that he governed a very blue state. Effectively, what I’m being told is that because he’s one part Dukakis and one part Rockefeller, he can defeat Barack Obama. I dispute this claim, because I know that moderates and independents are not so much ideological in their voting as they are risk-averse, and the one characteristic of a candidate against which they react with the greatest vigor is flip-flopping, or inconsistency. If they’re offered two choices that are nearly the same in ideological terms, they will tend to choose the one who has remained most consistent. It’s for this reason that Mitt Romney will not defeat Barack Obama.
Whatever else you may think about Obama, he has been ideologically consistent throughout most of his presidency. Mitt Romney, by contrast, has flipped and flopped and moved all over the place on a host of issues. He’s changed his position on so many issues that it’s now difficult to catalog, but one of his biggest problems is an issue on which he has not directly flip-flopped, but on which the inconsistency shines through most glaringly of all. The matter of Obama-care is a big issue for the electorate, since more than 60% of Americans still oppose it. The problem is, Romney can’t use it. He enacted a program that has been called “the model for Obama-care” while governor of Massachusetts. Independents and moderates may not be strictly ideological, but they know an inconsistency as glaring as that when they see it.
On the one hand, Romney promises to issue a waiver to any state that wants one, but what did he do to his own home-state of Massachusetts? Did anybody there get waivers? No, that program is now bankrupting the state, and you can imagine that this too will come back to haunt him. More, there is no known provision in Obama-care that actually permits waivers, and while Obama has been issuing some waivers, it’s clear that if he should leave office, there would be immediate legal challenges to such waivers. He has also admitted that he would effectively reshape Obama-care, but not seek to repeal it, though it depends on the day of the week how he’ll answer. The best I can gather is that if Congress sends him a repeal bill, he might sign it, but that’s a long way from a done deal.
It is for this reason that Romney will be neutered on the matter of Obama-care, and as you saw in 2010, that’s still a hot issue with voters. To surrender an issue of this type, where so much energy is on your side, and so thoroughly identified with your opponent is to yield the election if it’s anywhere near close. Independents and moderates will note that Romney’s own plan wasn’t far from Obama’s, and that will be the end of Mitt Romney in 2012.
We’ve been over most of this ground many times, and rather than further pound it into the ground, I’d like to know from conservatives how you think Romney will walk back this inconsistency. I’d like to read your responses in terms of how he can win a campaign in which he will be forced to yield one of Republicans’ strongest issues against Obama. I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I am interested to know. Remember, it’s all well and good to tell me he can capture the nomination, and he might well do so, but it’s another thing to argue that he’ll be able to draw a clear distinction between himself and Barack Obama. I don’t believe he can do so in a positive sense, and that the only distinctions voters will notice is that he is another rich guy who can’t relate to voters.
At this point, you shouldn’t be imagining how he will side-step his inconsistencies, because he can’t, but instead explain to me how he’ll overcome the campaign Obama will put up. It will consist of class envy, that works on independents and moderates, and it will be pointing out his flip-flops, all of them, that works on independents and moderates. It will be the revelations about which you do not yet know concerning Mr. Romney’s tax returns that he still refuses to release. It will be other issues dealing with Romney’s financial backing, and it will be every manner of thing I can scarcely imagine. On McLaughlin Group this week, Eleanor Clift hinted at what is coming, and you can bet it will get worse from there. I will bet you that there will be a commercial done from the point of view of a dog, being loaded into a pet carrier on roof-top, forced to endure the wind and rain and violence of a ride atop the car, with the narrator saying: “If Mitt will treat his own family dog this way, how will he treat you?” This by itself will be good for five points in the polls. I note this because my own bride said of him when this story crossed the wire: “Cold-hearted ba$$(@!#)”
So again, my question to you is simplicity itself: Can you explain to me what it is that Mitt Romney offers that recommends him to independents and moderates as better than Barack Obama? If you can’t answer me, how will you answer them? How will Romney? If you nominate him, that’s fine, but I don’t think most of you want to do so. I think most of you are like me, looking around for better options still. The problem is that if Romney is our nominee, we will have difficulty making the case even to the Republican base and Tea Party to energize and unite behind him, and many will simply stay home. He will never bring a single Ron Paul supporter along, as far as I can discern, although there are those who argue none of these can do that. What I am asking you is for an explanation as to how his supposed electability translates into victory in November 2012, and the problem is that I don’t think you can, unless Obama completely implodes, which he won’t. Make your case for Romney independent of any any assumptions about events that you think might help him. Don’t assume 8.5% unemployment, but assume 7.5% and declining. Don’t assume all of the factors you’ve been told to consider. Stack them up side-by-side and tell me how Romney differentiates himself from Obama to the degree that risk-averse independents and moderates who voted for Obama last time now cross over. Tell me how Romney motivates the GOP base better than John McCain, who would have lost by twice the margin if not for Sarah Palin. Tell me, because I can’t figure it out. I’m doing the math, and it looks pretty abysmal.