Mighty Morphin Mitt

The oddest thing happened after Mitt Romney finally, emphatically, Etch A Sketched himself from flinty-hearted Ayn Randian into the spitting image of "compassionate conservative" George W. Bush in Wednesday’s debate: The right wing didn’t squeal one bit. Au contraire! The same folks who celebrated Romney’s vicious "47 percent" rant, the ones who’ve been policing his every syllable to check for apostasies, the ones who’ve spent years howling at Bush for betraying conservative principles—these same people reacted to the reemergence of “moderate Mitt” like Baby Boomers at a Springsteen show. None other than Pat Buchanan hailed “the finest debate performance of any candidate of either party in the 52 years.” It was, gushed National Review’s Rich Lowry, “the Mitt Romney we’ve been waiting for.” 

What could possibly explain this sudden cessation of demands that Romney pledge allegiance to right-wing extremism? Surely it’s not a sign that the 'wingers have decided that they’re happy to embrace less-purist candidates in order to win; if that were the case, Mitt could have run like his old floppy self all along. Maybe the explanation lies in pure, raw emotion: By giving President Obama a whipping—by whatever means—Romney tapped into the deepest psychological desires of the right, which detests the president with such irrational fervor that it doesn’t really care who or what puts that socialist, mixed-race foreigner in his rightful place.

But the more important reason the right can embrace the latest version of Romney—call it Dubya II—is that they really don’t give a hoot in hell what the man says. They don’t care what he plans to do as president, either. All along, as Jamelle Bouie has written forcefully in the Prospect, Grover Norquist and Co. have argued that all they need in the White House is a passive front man for the radical agenda of Republicans in Congress. “We just need a president who can sign the legislation that the Republican House and Senate pass,” Norquist said in February. “We don’t need someone to think. We need someone with enough digits on one hand to hold a pen.”

If Romney decides that he really means to save parts of Obamacare, Norquist and the Tea Partiers will simply ignore him and get rid of the whole shebang. If he actually doesn’t want to lower rich people’s taxes, they’ll pay no heed and go ahead with wildly destructive cuts. The right-wingers are firmly convinced that a President Romney will be their Oval Office puppet. And they can’t wait to start pulling the strings.

So They Say

“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent. And that has been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”

Mitt Romney, walking back his "47 percent" remarks on Hannity

Daily Meme: Attack of the Job Truthers

  • The White House got a much-needed shot of good news this morning when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the new jobs numbers, showing that the unemployment rate had dropped to 7.8 percent. 
  • Conservatives, buoyant after their point guard's debate performance on Wednesday, weren't quite as enthused. Jack Welch sent the tweet that got the conspiracy theory rolling: "Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers."
  • Congressman Allen West agreed—and managed to bring bogeyman Saul Alinsky into it: "Chicago style politics is at work here. Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the Presidential election. This is Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals’—a must read for all who want to know how the left strategize."
  • Many … many… many more conservatives followed suit. BLS magical realism is the new birtherism.
  • Conn Carroll, however, doesn't think this scandalous manipulation is coming from the top dogs. Instead, Democrats must be lying and saying they have jobs in order to throw the election!
  • Or, you know, we could just blame the media.
  • Ezra Klein tells everyone to take deep breaths and think about what they're saying: "Jobs reports are about the economy, not about the election. Confusing the two leads to very bad analysis." 
  • Fat chance of that reality taking hold before the polls close a month from now. Get ready for an even louder cry of conspiracy if the quietly optimistic jobs report becomes a trend next month.

What We're Writing

  • Abby Rapoport: The right-wing media are strangely silent about the GOP’s voter-registration fraud. 
  • Nathanial Frank: We are all values voters. 

What We're Reading

Poll (News) of the Day

Exit polls are essential tools in political junkies' Election Day toolkits, but this year there will be far fewer to peruse, thanks to increasing costs and a shift of resources toward battleground and early-voting state coverage. The National Election Pool, a consortium created in 1990 to sponsor the exit polls—which offer a look at otherwise hard-to-find demographic information about voters—will only conduct these surveys in 31 states, eliminating the polls in Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

 For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.

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