What Happened, Mitt?

Practice makes perfect" is usually quite a dependable adage, but Mitt Romney seems to have made proving it false his political life's mission. The map of his second presidential campaign can be plotted from one amateurish move to the next. Flip-flops, flubbed lines, and flimsy arguments have rendered his candidacy a tower of questionable campaign tactics toppling under the weight of their own tangly deception. As one Reddit commenter noted this week, "He likes Roe v Wade, but is pro-life, but he won't pass a law against abortion, but he supports laws against abortion, but not if it's rape, but only if it's not secretly not rape." The list of such bewildering non-positions goes on and on, to the point where folks have started ignoring Romney's stated stands on the issues. After all, they know he'll change them moments later, as he did with his quickly revised support for outlawing pre-existing conditions yesterday on Meet the Press. With two months left until the election, Romney appears to have driven his campaign into a ditch. Perhaps only a big dose of worldwide economic terror could pull him out.

How did Mitt end up in this mess? He seemingly had everything going for him. His campaign staff is experienced, intelligent, and knows the candidate well. He has impressive resumes in the public and private sectors, and a family tree worth bragging about. He's running against an incumbent fighting an uphill battle against the economy. The dude even looks more presidential than Bill Pullman. The detente with the far right that Romney used to secure the nomination has left his campaign with loads of manpower and cash to burn—but also with a candidate who seems unsure of his own message, wobbling between hints of his old moderation and his newfound rightwing extremism.

The only remaining reason for undecided voters to pick him is not being Obama—and right now, being Obama looks a lot more viable than being the not-Obama. (See Daily Meme, below.) Instead of running as the antithesis of the president, Romney might have done well to take a hint from the ’08 Obama campaign. Rather than positioning him purely as the not-George W. Bush, Obama’s people sold their man as the kind of president voters wanted after those eight bad years. Romney could have run as the economic problem-solver America certainly could use. But he hasn’t. And time is truly a-wasting. 

So They Say

“We do these parties for gay porn stars at Eastern Bloc whenever [they’re] in town from L.A. It’s always a room of Village gays, socialites, porn stars, fashion people. . . . We thought, ‘Why don’t we do a go-go thing at Eastern Bloc for [Obama]?’ ” 

Mickey Boardman, editorial director of Paper magazine and organizer of Saturday night's "GoGo Obama" event at the New York bar 

 Daily Meme: Happy Days are Here Again

  • Democrats are enjoying a rare burst of giddy optimism about the “post-convention bounce.” Gallup’s seven-day tracking poll has Obama breaking out with a five-point lead among registered voters, 49-44.
  • CNN now has the president up by six, breaking the 50 percent mark.
  • Obama’s favorables are up, too.
  • Just as worrisome for Romney: His lead among white voters is 53-41, but he may need more than 60 percent of them to win.
  • The happy news for Dems just keeps coming: After a three-month losing streak, the Obama campaign out-raised Romney in August.
  • Nate Silver now gives Obama an 80.7 percent chance of winning—up six percent since September 2.
  • A “top Romney advisor” begs to differ, telling The National Review that the whole bounce meme is “horses**t.”
  • Speaking on the record—and thus more politely— Romney’s pollster dismisses the bounce as a “sugar high.”
  • It’s all just a media-and-pollster conspiracy, declares others on the right—includingThe American Spectator and The Weekly StandardAt Breitbart, John Nolte calls it a “media con.”
  • But Chris Matthews is feeling that thrill up his leg again, rubbing his hands merrily at the upshot of an Obama victory: "The best way to beat the right-wing is to beat them. If he beats them in this election, they're finished.”
  • Al Hunt, among others, stubbornly insists the election will still go down to the wire

What We're Writing

  • Paul Waldman: Have Republicans surrendered the culture war?
  • Robert Kuttner: Angela Merkel’s bad medicine of austerity is killing Europe.

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

If Obama’s post-convention bounce wasn’t cause enough for irrational exuberance among Democrats, a new poll shows that Michele Bachmann’s congressional seat is in danger. An internal poll conducted for her challenger, Jim Graves, shows Bachmann leading by only two points after a 20-percent shift among independents toward Graves in the last two months. Her job rating? Forty percent positive, 57 percent negative.

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

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