"The Romney Rule"

Priorities USA, the Democratic consulting firm backed by former Clinton staffer Paul Begala, is out with its first ad attacking former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. It’s a good one:

Like the The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, I think that this will be a potent line of attack should Romney become the Republican nominee for president. As the wealthiest GOP candidate for president, Romney is uniquely ill-suited to press against higher taxes for the richest Americans, and for an overall low tax burden on the wealthy. Indeed, given the current popularity of higher taxes on the rich – and the growing popularity of Occupy Wall Street – an election fought on these grounds is bad territory for the Romney campaign.

I should say that there is a practical policy danger in devoting so much attention to taxes for the rich. In the medium-term, middle-class taxes will have to go up. Unless we return to Clinton-era rates, there is no way – other than new taxes on consumption or carbon – to afford the mix of programs preferred by liberals, to say nothing of medium-term deficit reduction. But middle-class taxes are incredibly unpopular, and Barack Obama has spent the last four years positioning himself as the leader who won’t raise taxes on the middle, broadly defined. It’s not hard to imagine a world where Democrats win an election on higher taxes on the rich, and find themselves unable to sell the public on the necessary return to Clinton-era rates for everyone.