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September 22, 2011

Would Romney Repeal ObamaCare?

Not if it took political capital to do so, says Philip Klein, which it would.

Some of Romney's many policy reversals have been overlooked in this campaign as old news, so I'll just provide a brief refresher. Romney ran for statewide office in the Massachusetts twice, in 1994 and 2002, as a pro-choice candidate, only to become publicly pro-life in 2005, just as he was gearing up to seek the GOP presidential nomination instead of seeking a second term as governor of the liberal state. During the 2008 campaign he attacked various opponents for being for gun control, amnesty and campaign finance reform. Yet at earlier points in his career, Romney supported the federal "assault weapons" ban (and signed a state ban as governor in 2004), called the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform "reasonable" and "quite different from amnesty" and supported campaign finance reform measures far more draconian than anything in McCain-Feingold. During this campaign, he's spent the last few weeks attacking his opponent Texas Gov. Rick Perry for criticizing Social Security too harshly, because he says it's politically damaging to do so.

Romney, in short, has displayed zero political courage during his career. He has held opposite positions on nearly every issue, with one obvious exception. He still hasn't disavowed the health care law he designed, campaigned for, and signed with a smiling Ted Kennedy at his side. And it happens to be the forerunner to Obamacare. There's no reason to believe as cautious and calculating of a figure as Mitt Romney would stake the crucial first months of his presidency getting into a bruising political battle to repeal a law, when he still clings to its underlying policy ideas.

Klein forgets that Romney also refused to either support, or clearly oppose, the Surge in Iraq. A dicey, dangerous proposition at the time... so Romney punted, again.

There's a cleverness to that. It's good positioning. It's crafty. But Obama was good at political positioning too; positioning is not policy.

I'd sure like to see some more definite stands, rather than a vague pitch about simply bringing better management skills to the table.

Because Perry had not rocketed to instant acceptance as I thought he would, I began considering Romney as an adequate Plan B.

First I considered: Honestly, I don't know what he actually stands for, which is, oddly enough, a good thing, since it at least holds out the hope he'd be more conservative than we might expect him to be.

But then I considered: No, I doubt that.

Personnel is policy, the saying goes. I think it is even more true that political constituency is policy. That is, your base of voters determines your policy, because no politician, save the most courageous or most suicidal, ever thwarts his base.

Obama sure isn't thwarting his base. The Democrats didn't thwart their base when it was clear ObamaCare was very unpopular -- they had a choice between disappointing independents/moderates and disappointing liberal Democrats; we know who they stuck with.

For some time I thought that Romney's General Election Campaign During The Primaries was a crafty one. By already running to the center immediately, in the primaries, rather than waiting to do so until the general, at least there would be no run to the center later, no awkward lurch and flip-flop.

However, it does occur to me that Romney is expressly building a constituency among the most moderate Republicans (including on fiscal issues), with an eye to grabbing up the independent/moderate vote in the general election.

That's a decent enough plan to get elected.

But what happens then, if he should be elected?

In that case is constituency -- his base -- is precisely the don't-rock-the-boat, more-spending-and-less-taxes-too, let's-punt-off-all-these-long-delayed-decisions-to-our-grandchildren-along-with-a-huge-pile-of debt independent/moderate segment that, through its apparent refusal to make anything resembling a clear choice, substantially gotten us into this mess.

What are Romney's actual politics? Down in his heart?

I'm really not sure.

But I do know that a President's politics tend to mirror that of his base constituency. Simply due to the need to have a base.

And while Romney talks up how dreadfully "extreme" Perry's "Ponzi" talk is, he is making implicit promises to his would-be governing coalition: That he will not be "extreme." That he will be... middle of the road.

That he'll do more of the same, but maybe just a little bit better, and will not seek drastic, controversial (!!!) reforms, but rather tinker a bit to get us through the next four years or so.


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posted by Ace at 06:25 PM

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