Mitt Goes into the Fog

I just want to elaborate on a point I made in passing in my column today about Mitt Romney's complex ideological dance. When it became clear that Romney would indeed be the Republican nominee, people began speculating about how he would execute the "move to the center" that every nominee must undertake, since in the primaries you're appealing to your party's base, while in the general election you have to appeal to independents. It's particularly tricky for Romney, since every time he switches positions on something people are reminded that he switches positions on things a lot, and that gives Democrats the opportunity to remind everyone of his flip-flopping past.

So has Mitt managed to find a way out of this dilemma? I think he has. The answer to how one should go about moving to the center is: don't. Romney hasn't taken a single position at odds with the hard-right stances he took during the primaries or said anything that would antagonize conservatives, or repudiated any of the extremists he's been courting for years. But hold on—doesn't that mean he'll alienate voters in the middle? Not if you adopt an entirely different strategy. Mitt hasn't moved to the center, but he hasn't stayed on the right, either. Instead, he's just moved into the fog. You see, you can't call Romney a flip-flopper if you can't tell what he thinks about anything.

Not that this won't frustrate some people. Here's Republican Congressman David Rivera complaining that Romney can't win the votes of Latinos if he won't tell them what he actually wants to do about immigration. And what about the most anticipated Supreme Court decision in years, deciding the constitutionality of the most important piece of social legislation in decades? Romney's response is, let's talk about something else:

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court health care ruling, the early conventional wisdom was that an unfavorable health care ruling at the court would be good for Republicans politically, even as it was a serious policy setback for conservatives. But that's not shaping up to be the case. Mitt Romney, after giving a brief statement decrying the decision, has been virtually silent on criticizing the health care law. He's been on vacation and his campaign has been giving off clear signals that it doesn't want to make health care a major part of the election.

Bold leadership! It certainly appears that four months from the election, Mitt Romney is becoming very risk-averse. If the economy continues to sputter, he might be able to win without saying much of anything about the country's critical issues. But that in itself is a pretty risky chance to take.

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