After today’s speech to the National Rifle Association, there should be no speculation about Mitt Romney’s ideological positioning in the general election. More than running as a conservative, Romney has positioned himself as an absolutely stalwart defender of conservative values, and his rhetoric leaves room for an abrupt move to the center. As John Whitehouse joked on Twitter, the former Massachusetts governor “appears to be running for the Continental Congress.”
Today, Mitt Romney will address the National Rifle Association, and we can be fairly sure he won't be telling them anything they don't want to hear. That's not just because telling people things they don't want to hear is something Mitt Romney doesn't do, but also because he's still transitioning from the pander-to-conservatives phase of his campaign to the pander-to-independents phase of his campaign. What's really notable is the fact that this is practically the first time Romney has had to address the issue of guns in this election. You would have thought that his primary opponents would have added guns to the litany of Romney flip-flops and hit him hard for it. I'm not sure why they didn't, but it's never too late.
As it’s become clear that economic fairness will be a central theme of the Obama campaign, the forces of Democratic “centrism” are sounding their usual alarms. Last week, the group Third Way released a poll of “Swing Independents” (a group so coveted it must be capitalized) in 12 battleground states that showedObama leading Romney among them, 44-38. Good news for Dems, yes? Not so fast!
There are a host of organizations that track congressional elections and offer lists of the most competitive Senate races. You can consult Real Clear Politics’ list, which is backed up by polling data, or peer into Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball for a political scientists’ perspective. But perhaps the best indicator for which elections are most competitive comes the parties themselves.
Before he had to give up the job to run for president, Newt Gingrich was (among other things) a paid Fox News commentator. Well, it looks like he won't be getting that job back:
DOVER, Del. -- During a meeting with 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders here on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich lambasted FOX News Channel, accusing the cable network of having been in the tank for Mitt Romney from the beginning of the Republican presidential fight. An employee himself of the news outlet as recently as last year, he also cited former colleagues for attacking him out of what he characterized as personal jealousy.
Back in the brief window of time during which Newt Gingrich appeared to pose a threat to Mitt Romney’s candidacy, I spent a fair bit of time following him around Florida, crisscrossing suburbanized I–4, listening to Gingrich promote futuristic visions of space exploration and bemoaning the barrage of negative TV ads. Newt let things get to his head a little after his upset win in South Carolina; beyond overambitious pledges to build a moon colony by 2020, Gingrich began envisioning himself in the White House, spending more time talking about how he needed to have a Republican Congress alongside him rather than the urgent need to displace Romney.
As I've often said before (see here), an absurd percentage of every campaign is taken up by one side attacking the other side for something the other side's candidate said. In almost every case, it's something the candidate wishes he could take back the moment it came out of his mouth. Sometimes, we even get campaign kerfuffles about something a campaign advisor said, as we did when Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's unfortunate Etch A Sketch remark. And now, we've got something even more ridiculous: a kerfuffle about something said by a political professional who isn't even working for a campaign.
With Rick Santorum finally out of the picture, the Romney campaign is reportedly starting its VP hunt, but there's no announcement on the immediate horizon. Recent hire Ed Gillespie will lead the search, according to Buzzfeed, and it will likely be a long process to make sure the party doesn't repeat its 2008 mistake in selecting someone ill-prepared for the national spotlight.
Now that America's burning hunger for Mitt Romney has overflowed, and he really is the Republican nominee-to-be, the Obama campaign must settle on its anti-Romney strategy. Or more properly, they will reveal to us the anti-Romney strategy they settled on many months ago. One central component will be an argument about taxes, contrasting Obama's approach with the Republican one, and the cornerstone of that argument looks to be the "Buffett Rule." Which is kind of unfortunate. The Buffett Rule is, I'm quite sure, good politics. Believe you me, the Obama campaign wouldn't be going whole-hog on it if they hadn't already polled and focus-grouped it within an inch of its life. What it isn't is particularly good policy.
Liberals often complain about the Democrats’ seeming inability to message their ideas with the same consistency and verve as conservatives. It just never seems like the party has the same discipline in its talking points. Congressional Dems' messaging during the health-care reform legislation in 2009 is a case in point. Rather than taking their cues from Republicans (despite the atrocious polices it entailed, naming a bill the PATRIOT Act immediately after 9/11 was a genius tactic), Democrats went for the unmemorably named "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." It’s not like Democrats are clueless to such tricks—the campaign finance disclosure bill they’ve proposed after Citizens United had the fitting acronym DISCLOSE—they just didn’t bother in this instance.
At TheWashington Post, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write a bit more about the planned advertising blitz by Republican Super PAC American Crossroads:
The Crossroads ads, which began airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia and attack the incumbent for his handling of gas prices, are the first of what is expected to be an extended air assault on Obama by the conservative group.
In every election season, each month or two will see some conservative discover that this is finally going to be the year when American Jews abandon the Democrats and flock to the GOP's presidential candidate. And it never happens. I've made this point before, but this column by Michael Medved has to be the most hilarious installment this reliable genre has ever seen. Why are Jews going to vote Republican this year? Because, Medved tells us, Jews love Mormons! Seriously.
“Bye Bye Rick Santorum," Left in Alabama tweeted this afternoon. "Time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch.” But does Santorum’s exit from the GOP race really give Mitt Romney a chance to wiggle back toward the center? Not without a level of finesse that the presumptive nominee’s campaign has failed to show so far. The surprising staying power of the hardest-core conservative in the race made it tougher for Romney to take less-than-extreme positions on reproductive rights, immigration, or damn near anything else. And the base voters who backed Santorum must still be wooed and reassured.