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May 29, 2011

Romney: To Coin a Phrase, It's About the Economy, Stupid

Mitt Romney will "officially" roll out his campaign on Thursday by focusing it on what every political commentator has said, evar, about campaigns against incumbent presidents: "This election is going to be a referendum on the president and his handling of the economy."

Romney’s goal, according to advisers, is to keep his eyes on the bigger prize and to run his own race, not one dictated by the other GOP candidates or by the round-the-clock media culture. His hope is to convince Republican voters that, whatever flaws they may see in him, he is still the strongest candidate for the general election.

A series of interviews with Romney’s top advisers reinforced that message. “The economy is not just a talking point,” said campaign manager Matt Rhoades. “It’s the real deal. He [Obama] took his eye off the ball, doing all these other things. People are hurting out there. He’s the boss.”

With this stunning insight into presidential politics held firmly in the candidate's mind, Romney is going to stand out from . . . nobody.

Economy, economy, economy is a great message for the general election. But Romney isn't running in the general election yet. He's supposed to be telling us why he's better than the other Republican candidates who, BTW, will be repeating the same "it's the economy, stupid" line. So, where's the contrast? Sure, he thinks he's better on the economy than the other aspirants, but does anyone believe that Romney's reputed business judgment will be the first thing that comes to GOP primary voters' minds?

Oh, and lest you think the Romney team learned something from Huckabee's disgraceful Mormon-baiting in 2008, I'd worry:

Four years ago, he made a bid for social conservatives that took him off his core strength — economic issues. His advisers say that won’t happen this time. They believe he has no need to re-litigate social issues and say he has found his comfort zone with the economy and with a campaign of a different style and pace. He is, said several advisers, “less frantic.”

Now, there are no advisers actually quoted in the WaPo piece for the truly alarming pieces of that paragraph, so maybe this is getting a little gloss. If it's not, I've got to wonder if Romney's advisers slept through the flak Mitch Daniels got for his "social issues truce."

This whole Jedi mind trick --- if you just talk about the economy, everyone will only think about the economy --- is an awful idea. Guess what, champs, neither the other GOP campaigns, nor the Democrats and the MBM, are going to talk only about the economy.

RomneyCare will come up. As will Romney's occasional lapses with respect to socially conservative ideals. As will his unwavering support for ethanol subsidies a.k.a. federal price interventions. Romney can pretend that his position on these issues isn't going to motivate opposition from many GOP primary voters, but I bet he doesn't for very long.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:11 AM

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