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Moderate Mitt or Right-Winger Romney?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney now hopes undecided voters view him as more moderate, but columnist Heather Borden Herve says don’t believe everything you think you see.

The weekend after the first presidential debate, my husband and I couldn’t stop replaying and critiquing what had happened in that first meeting of the candidates. Sobered by President Barack Obama’s disappointing performance, we were clear on at least one thing—the race is far from over.

But we couldn’t help but notice something else. Throughout the Republican primary season, we’d watched as Gov, Mitt Romney persistently veered hard to the politically extreme right, choosing to ignore undecided independent voters and more moderate voices in his own party.

It seemed strange coming from a politician who used to be pro-choice, who used to be pro-marriage equality, who used to be a forward thinker on healthcare. But if that’s what it took to win the nomination of his increasingly fractured Republican Party, then that’s what candidate Romney would do.

So perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that, during his first debate against the President, 'Romney the Moderate' was back, swooping in to confuse us all. His admittedly strong performance aggressively challenging Obama won him the debate on style points alone, and it almost helped deflect attention from the position changes he was suddenly spouting. But could viewers tell the difference between ‘Mitt the Moderate’ and ‘Romney the Right-winger’?

Tactically, by flashing signs of the fiscally-conservative, socially-moderate GOP’er he once was, Romney was sending a message to those independent, undecided voters that could have been pretty much in the bag for the Republican nominee earlier on. Watching the debate, many of them likely sat up and listened a lot harder, thinking, “Could he still be ‘our’ guy too?”

In the days after that first debate, it became clearer that Romney had started erasing any memory of his preceding campaign stumbles, and he made strong headway in correcting the course of downward trending polls. He was helped along by debate answers that might not have been so factually truthful but sure sounded good to moderate Republicans hoping to hear a less extreme viewpoint. Fact-checking proved that Romney played loose with some of his statements; to be fair, the bi-partisan FactCheck.org found fault with both presidential candidates on things they asserted.

But the Romney we saw at the debate and since then is much different than the Romney we’d seen before. On questions about tax cuts we heard him say pre-debate that he’ll cut taxes across the board—including for the top one percent—but on debate night itself he said he’ll let top wage earners pay their fair share. He’s criticized the President’s healthcare plan, yet touted his own, almost identical one from his years as Governor of Massachusetts.

Romney made other statements that were designed to appeal to more moderate voters, but were not as truthful as the candidate would have you believe. He asserted his supposed support of those with pre-existing medical conditions—in truth, not as many people in that category would be able to keep their health coverage under a Romney plan as he’d like voters to believe. Similarly he said he’d make sure grants for education would be protected, and education would be a high-focus priority in a Romney administration—this, from the guy who’d previously said he’d eliminate the Department of Education. He even agreed that business needed government regulation!

Since then, Romney has similarly shown two sides on the issue of women’s healthcare and reproductive rights. One minute he asserted his perhaps less heavy-handed approach to choice:  “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Doublespeak and obfuscation? Shortly thereafter his campaign backtracked and reaffirmed Romney’s strong opposition to safe and legal abortion, except in rare exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger. Even his vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan—with his own, more extreme views on abortion—in his own debate appearance, reminded those of us who are pro-choice of Romney’s true intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But Romney is hoping the undecided voters are hooked, or at least have considered taking the bait. Might he really be the guy who can reach across the aisle to work with members of the opposing party? Could he be a President who rebuilds the economy and improves healthcare (even for women!) all the while strengthening our underperforming educational system?

I wouldn’t bet on it, and I’m hoping the President gets a little more fire in his belly to show the electorate—especially the undecided voters—that Romney is really a candidate who says only what he thinks they want to hear, and who won’t be able to keep the promises he makes to both sides of his own party.

Without knowing if it will be ‘Mitt the Moderate’ or ‘Romney the Right-winger’ on any given day of the remaining three weeks of the campaign, let’s hope everyone pays attention to which Mitt Romney they hear, knowing full well that we don’t really know which Mitt Romney we’d get should he win.

Amo Probus October 19, 2012 at 08:41 PM
When you hear Obama accusing Romney of recycling Bush's "failed policies" (Kerpen)Romney’s biggest missed opportunity in the second debate wasn’t on Libya...he should have connected the dots between Obama and Bush to illustrate the accurate point that on the most significant dimensions of economic policy, Obama has accelerated Bush’s policy errors rather than reversing them. In the crucible of the 2008 financial crisis, President Bush famously remarked that “I chucked aside my free-market principles .” He was referring to TARP, his infamous big bank bailout. Obama supported the bill and voted for it. ...On government spending, it’s the same story. Bush racked up one of the most disastrous records of out-of-control spending and debt the country had ever seen. Every aspect of the federal budget jumped under Bush. ...Obama came in and continued spending recklessly. Bush’s $152 billion stimulus bill failed and so did Obama’s $821 billion stimulus bill. Bush flushed $25 billion in bailout funds to Chrysler and General Motors, and Obama added another $20 billion before finally recognizing that the companies would inevitably file for bankruptcy. All of the pre-bankruptcy bailout dollars were lost. ...On the biggest economic policy questions, the Bush/Geithner/Bernanke approach is almost indistinguishable from the Obama/Geithner/Bernanke approach. It hasn’t worked. Obama’s failed policies of the present are all too similar to Bush’s failed policies of the past.
Amo Probus October 19, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Obama’s claim that Bush’s policies caused the recession resonates with American voters. Almost four years after George W. Bush left office, polls show the American people continue to blame him—more than Obama—for the recession that created today’s dismal economic conditions. Throughout the fall and in their debates, it’s a sure thing that Obama will continue to argue that Romney is just another George W. Bush. How can Romney respond? ...Romney should not deny Bush’s error. Although Clinton began the process of forcing low mortgage underwriting standards, Bush continued and enhanced it. Instead, Romney should point out that the government should never have been in the housing finance business, and that he will eliminate Fannie and Freddie to restore a functioning housing market—something Obama has failed to do in almost four years.
Connecticut15 October 20, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Bad presidents can be remembered for a variety of reasons: weakness, deception, narcissism, corruption, ineffectiveness, incompetence. Balanced budgets and tax codes may in fact be the natural outcome of good leadership with qualities the exact opposite of those of a bad presidents: strength, honesty, selflessness, lawfulness, effectiveness, competence.
Alethiologist October 20, 2012 at 03:15 AM
The mother of one of four Americans killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya lashed out at President Barack Obama on Friday for saying the attack was “not optimal.” “My son is not very optimal. He is also very dead,” Patricia Smith, 72, the mother of Sean Smith, told the Daily Mail. “It was a disrespectful thing to say, and I don't think it’s right. “How can you say somebody being killed is not very optimal? I don't think the President has the right idea of the English language,” she said. In an interview on “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, Obama responded to a question from host Jon Stewart about his administration's confused communication after the assault by saying, “If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.” The attack at the consulate in Benghazi also killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and security men and former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The White House initially blamed the assault on anti-Muslim sentiment towards a movie made by a California real estate developer. It later branded the attack as an act of terrorism. It's insensitive to say my son is not very optimal. He is also very dead. I've not been ‘optimal’ since he died – and the past few weeks have been pure hell. “I am still waiting for the truth to come out and I still want to know the truth, “I'm finally starting to get some answers, but I won't give up."
Cliff Cuming October 21, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Reynolds: Without taking taxpayer behavior into account, neither Klein nor the TPC can explain why revenues from individual income taxes were only 7.7 percent of GDP from 1951 to 1963, when dozens of tax rates ranged from 20 to 91 percent; or why such revenues were 8.1 percent from 1988 to 1990, when the top tax rate was 28 percent; or why they were 8 percent from 1993 to 1996, when the top rate was 39.9 percent. TPC-style “raw” estimates would have wrongly predicted that revenues would fall sharply after Kennedy and Reagan cut marginal tax rates by 22 percent and 23 percent respectively. And the same static methodology wrongly predicted that revenues would promptly rise as a share of GDP after top tax rates were increased in 1991 and 1993. In each case, the opposite happened. Read more: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/330812/obama-s-trillion-dollar-tax-cut-fraud-alan-reynolds

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