On paper, Obama fans should be ecstatic, taking on a tin-ear, gaffe-prone, flip-flopping, bromide-driven, predatory casino capitalist who fudges, lies, and distorts the destructive downsides to his great business prowess. Here's a brash politician who shrinks from his single public office -- recoiling from his most celebrated success, the horror of state health reform. Throw in his massive financial spoils, flush with secret, offshore holdings and tax dodges, and recollections of a personal reign of terror against his pet dog and one fellow student pinned down and victimized for seeming gay. Does this ultimate, fabricated Republican nominee not already pale next to the post-primary John McCain?
This week's self-inflicted wounds reinforce a veritable emblem of the unfeeling, plutocratic, opportunistic hustler, repeatedly revealing his core belief system: the end (profit, fame, election) justifies any means. It's not pretty. For once, why not trust the quip last year from that Irascible-Ideologue, Anne Coulter: if Romney gets the nomination, he "will lose to Obama"? So, why the gloom, Democrats, why the virtual polling dead heat in battlegrounds like FL, which Romney has to win but Obama can lose? Why does a still "likeable" incumbent, with bragging rights from a half dozen arguable wins, look so vulnerable. Is there some national cognitive dissonance here, or what? Has the vast rightwing hate machine truly managed to poison the well?
Reason itself stands mute when under-employed, or prospect-less jobless milliona, however socially conservative, embrace a quarter billionaire who can't keep his stories, positions, staff comments or past on the same page. Will more sound-and-fury-driven politics (as in 2010) drive the fear-baited, rightwing masses to betray core job interests? Will enough voters violate logic and conclude recessions end sooner without government stimulus or with shrunken safety nets, exacerbated by even greater budget-busting tax breaks? And yet to be factored in: Mitt's cultish Mormonism, his zero federal experience, and the personal charm of a glum bean-counter.
Weaker than McCain?
Though he's likely to win more electoral votes than McCain, Romney is rapidly losing leverage to keep focus on the mediocre Obama presidency rather than his own mean-spirited career as venture (or is it, vulture) capitalist (thanks, Gov. Perry). Were Obama forces able to align this chief Bainster with the worst Wall Street banksters, Romney stays on perpetual defense -- lacking the prestige of an old war-horse, reputed maverick or campaign reformer like McCain. If Romney doesn't come up with some signature programs to break his own policy log jam, namely, his primary void, soon tested is a trusted truism, "you can't beat someone with nothing," whatever your war chest.
Compare the shadow Romney with pitchable true believers, whether W., or Dick Cheney, even Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, and he comes up short -- a devotee to decadent, bloodless expediency, also known as winning at any cost, casualties and truth be damned. Week by week, Romney morphs into the perfectly plaint, Karl Rove Republican candidate -- all sizzle and no steak -- and now that sizzle burns with hypocrisy. Take Mitt's latest laugher, following his NAACP shout-down: "That's O.K, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that's just fine."
And, pray tell, what Delphic oracle confirms what "he stands for," other than Etch-a-Sketch reflexes? Joe Biden's summary of Romney, "Bush on steroids" separates this empty shell from the great hustlers of our time, like Sarah Palin, beloved by followers for peerless "sincerity" plus delivering entertainment with the con job. Romney isn't just not loveable, per Speaker Beohner, he's worse: boring, not fun. I note that Palin never stopped being fun yet still dragged down McCain.
Lesser of Two Weasels
In that sense, Romney is the ultimate modern Republican candidate, not simply for his suspect faux radicalism. He's no threat to the non-thinking because he doesn't appear to believe in anything, only fantasizes success, without explanation, over a "failed" presidency. Will this election come down to this --staying with the Republican-Democrat incumbent, a known commodity whose half-assed solutions are blocked by partisan blockheads in the House -- or leap to the unknowably, impossibly vague Mitt, less any of the "compassionate conservative" blarney that W. discredited.
Curiously, especially this early, a posse of unhappy rightwingers openly grumble -- from governors Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker, GOP policy adviser Yuval Levin, the WSJ's editorial board, to featherweight loyalist Peggy Noonan -- that Romney campaign isn't about anything (except Obama stinks), void of defensible proposals. Remember Jerry Seinfeld's quip his show succeeded by "not being about anything." Why complain now? Did they all miss Romney's primary hustle had no more substance? Likewise, malcontents, like the Weekly Standard 's Bill Kristol, National Review 's Ramesh Ponnuru or The New York Times ' David Brooks, decry Romney for "squandering" his big moment in the sun. Only miracle workers can make something out of nothing.
Throw into the swirling Romney Vacuum more mortifying Bain revelations this week, and I predict second thought-itis afflicts GOP power brokers. A thoroughly miserable Mitt showing impedes retaking the Senate, even jeopardizes GOP House control. Recall, Obama and McCain even until the last month when the far better campaigner won going away. Whether the ever-wary Obama, commander-of-diminishing-returns, will squander HIS latest political blessings isn't settled. We could have two second-rate candidates fighting for who's the lesser of two weasels. Obama's recent, hard-hitting ad helps, in his attempt to put Romney away before the nomination, like Clinton did Bob Dole in '96.
Overall, Obama must leverage how completely Romney's conversion to extremism establishes the Republican Party as a rightwing fortress. This time there'll be no W. nonsense about uniting over dividing -- or improving the tone in Washington. Romney is a master of nasty divisions, offering nothing but fantasy superiority against three alleged years of failure. Because Romney verifies the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Nixon is kaput, Obama has an historic opportunity to affect a generation, aside from exceptional Romney vulnerabilities. And because Obama is a better campaigner than an effective president, he stand in still as the favorite. Perhaps another term and greater job experience will improve Obama's performance, though a shrewd friend opines no president truly learns any in-depth skill he didn't have walking through the door.