1. As Reihan Salam, Rich Lowry and others have pointed out, Romney’s comment about the “47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” is an analytical mess. I think it should be read in light of the reports about the in-fighting over Romney’s convention speech. I don’t think Romney thinks that Obama’s political base are dependent victims or that not paying net income taxes make you dependent – or that it makes you an Obama voter. I think that Romney thought this was what his select audience wanted to hear. Same thing with his convention speech. For me, the most damning part of the speech story wasn’t the organizational chaos and division. It was that Romney basically wrote the speech himself. The Romney who said next to nothing really was the guy Romney wanted to be. What unites both the 47% comment and the Romney convention speech was a certain tone deafness. Jonah Goldberg wrote that Romney speaks conservatism as a second language. There is some of that, but Romney speaks most political talking styles as a second language. Where did he get the idea that nonideological voters’ main concern was that Romney didn’t like his immediate family enough? Romney has been in electoral politics for over eighteen years and he still sometimes comes off like he is an alien to the nuances of political language. The Politico story was clearly a set of leaks that was designed to push Romney into firing Stuart Stevens. Its effect on me was to make me wish Romney would fire Romney.
2. But the unemployment rate is high and stagnant. Gas prices are high. Foreign events (especially an Israeli attack on Iran) could turn events in Romney’s favor. Romney has raised lots of money and is good at the blocking and tackling of politics. Let’s remember that Kang won.
3. Let’s also remember that Romney was the best of the Republican candidates who chose to run. Perry might have been a real contender, but for some reason he seemed to think that running for president would be like his speeches on national issues where he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. He didn’t prepare. Cain and Gingrich were just con artists trying to use the campaign to build multimedia enterprises. Bachmann was hoping to turn a decent showing into a future role as a factional leader. Santorum was a good and informed guy, but he couldn’t build a properly financed and organized campaign, and he melted every time the pressure was on. Santorum would be a puddle right about now.
4. Romney’s campaign is not persistently obtuse. When something isn’t working, they change course. They made multiple course corrections during the primary campaign. That is encouraging. On the other hand, Obama is politically far more formidable than any of Romney’s primary opponents.
5. Imagine how formidable Romney would be if he had some visible principles.
6. Let’s try to parse the following Romney quote:
I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say gosh, this provision that Mitt keeps talking about, lowering income taxes, that’s not going to be real attractive to them. And those that are dependent on government, and those that think government’s job is to redistribute, I’m not going to get them. I know there’s a divide in the country about that view.
The charitable explanation is that Romney is talking about two different, but partially overlapping groups. The first are those who pay no income taxes and would therefore not be interested in his income tax cut plan. The second are those who are dependent on government, like it that way, and are going to vote against Romney. It is possible to be part of the first group, but not the second. It is just so weird. What a great way to validate Obama’s criticism that Republicans are the party who offer a tax cut for every problem.