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April 11, 2012

Obama Ad: Cheer Up, Wingnuts! Romney Is Severely Conservative

Kind of an advertisement for Romney -- in conservative circles, anyway.

Ramesh Ponuru wrote some time ago that Obama would have a choice of portraying Romney as either a flip-flopper with no principles or an extremist conservative ideologue.

Can't really do both. As you push on the "wishy-washy opportunist narrative," it undermines the "rigid ideologue" one.

Ponuru figured, correctly as it turns out, Obama would go with the "extremist" meme.

There is a way to do both, and Obama will try it: He can claim that Romney has no core but is a mercenary opportunist, and his only chance for power is to be a "severely conservative" extremist, and hence has flip-flopped to the extremist position.

I don't know if you can really grab both of those, though.

Obama's running around the country branding Romney as Barry Goldwater on steroids (if only).

The president, campaigning in the critical swing state, delivered three speeches that sounded some common themes. The main one was that Romney and today's Republican Party have reverted back to the unreconstructed movement conservatism of Goldwater, one in which nothing much else matters but protecting the rich and shrinking government to a size not seen since the Eisenhower era.

Obama tossed back in Romney's face the line that the former Massachusetts governor has been taking during the primary campaign in order to fight the charge--made most effectively by Santorum--that he and the president are too similar: that this is a historic election between candidates with two fundamentally different concepts of government. "There are contrasting visions here," Obama said at one fundraiser event. "And this election will probably have the biggest contrast that we've seen maybe since the Johnson-Goldwater election -- maybe before that."

And a new video strives mightily to convince people that Romney is a conservative's dream.

Will this work?

Let me tell you something I like about Romney: His bite is worse than his bark.

Contrast Romney's over-cautious (to many) style of campaigning, where he refuses to call Obama a "socialist," to Gingrich's statement that Obama is a socialist, and a radical, and captured by "Kenyan colonial" thinking.

Most people do not get into the details of policy. Even we here at The Q do not know (by and large) the fine details of the Ryan Budget. We know the basic parameters, and the basic impulses, but I cannot -- and I expect many of you cannot -- specify the level of subsidization for 65 year olds' purchase of health insurance.

I would guess it's around $8,000, with higher subsidies for older people, averaging out to around $11,000. But this a guess.

Now if you know, why the hell aren't you blogging here?

But I imagine most people don't know.

Most people use tone and persona and broad thematic statements as proxies for actual policy details, which they neither have the time nor inclination to analyze.

Mark Steyn noted of Gingrich that he was the worst of all possible worlds, someone whose policy impulses were actually moderate-ish (not moderate, mind you, he's a conservative all right; but moderately so) but whose rhetoric was hard-charging "extremist."

Now, what does the lazy public gather from this situation? That he's a technocratic future with a lot of policy widgets, many of which are not "conservative" but merely (possibly) better than the current bureaucratic model, who uses sharp language to attack his Democratic opponents?

No. The lazy public only looks at the very surface of things and says "kind of extreme."

Now, Romney is open to this sort of Surface Level Attack, all right, because he did use boneheaded language like "severely conservative."

Nonetheless, he has tried, mostly successfully, to keep his rhetoric moderate-sounding.

His actual policy profile (as he's announced it during the campaign) is solidly right, however.

Whereas Gingrich's bark might have oversold his bite, Romney's bark is less threatening than his bite.

I think that's a good position to be in.

I know people yearn for the guy whose policies are super-duper TrueCon, and whose rhetoric is 100% honest in also being super-duper TrueCon (and aggressively so), and whose rhetorical powers and charisma permit him to profit from such a combination, but honestly, that last one is a high hurdle to, um, hurdle, and you're not going to get many Ronald Reagans in a century. Most candidate's political powers will be far more modest.

So given that we did not have a candidate with a level of charisma and command measured in the gigawatts, it seems to me that it is best, then, that a candidate projects a moderate image and tone while actually committing himself to a solidly-right campaign platform. We get most of the policy choices we prefer, and the independents get someone who doesn't trip their lazy, surface-level "extremist," um, tripwire.

He's not by any means a perfect candidate. But I think he'll do.

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posted by Ace at 02:16 PM

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