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Romney: Pre-Empting the Left's Coming Attacks
March 25, 2012
The consensus is growing that the Republican presidential nomination is Mitt Romney's, that neither Santorum nor Gingrich can win enough delegates to cause a brokered Republican convention. Romney is also gathering an increasing number of influential Republican endorsements, including that of Jeb Bush shortly after his Illinois victory and, more recently, . Behind the scenes Romney is said to be meeting with influential conservative political figures, including Jim DeMint, who offered strong support for Romney with these words: "I can tell conservatives from my perspective . . . that I'm not only comfortable with Romney, I'm excited about the possibility of him possibly being our nominee." Romney has also picked up the endorsements of House Republican majority whip Kevin McCarthy and the chairman of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas.
Romney is beginning to shift his focus away from what he needs to do in order to gain the nomination to what he needs to do to get his and his Party's message out as the Republican nominee. A significant component of that task will be to prepare, not just to counter from a defensive stance the Democratic onslaught against his record that is sure to come - his Republican challengers have certainly given us a preview of what that might be in their attacks on Romney - but to aggressively address his "issues issue"; that is, what have been characterized as his flip-flops on everything from health care to environmentalism. In addition, he must seize on issues that undermine Obama's presidency and relentlessly attack the president on them.
One of the key issues that concerns many Republicans and may become a focus of the Democrat attack on Romney is Romneycare. In a Wall Street Journal piece, Kimberly Strassel points out that Santorum has been "skewering" Romney's defense that "[o]ur plan was a state solution to a state problem" seems to miss the point. It's difficult to see how Obama can attack Romney on his Massachusetts health care plan, having passed ObamaCare himself. If Obama surrogates do come after Romney on health care and force him onto the defensive, he can point out that he was presiding over one of the bluest of blue states and that he necessarily had to govern in a bi-partisan manner, to work on behalf of his constituents and not promote the "party line."
But to the larger issue: Would the president's pointing out how RomneyCare resembles Obama's own legislation be effective in a presidential campaign against Romney? Further, though, the entire issue might well be moot by the time the presidential campaign rolls around if the Supreme Court invalidates part or all of the federal law. To these points: It's difficult for me to see how Republicans might respond to an Obama critique of RomneyCare by not going to the polls to vote for Romney, and a Supreme Court strikedown of ObamaCare would certainly all but cripple Obama's legislative record, leaving him only a failed stimulus plan and an arguably illegal takeover of General Motors and Chrysler to run on.
In any case, Romney must go on the offensive with regard to health care, especially through his own supporters, who must methodically point out the differences in the two plans. In other words, Romney needs, not to damn his own plan, but to continue to aggressively pursue Obama on his, keeping on with his pledge to repeal ObamaCare by executive order on his first day in the White House. He'll likely win moderate votes - and even those of some wavering liberal Democrats - with this strategy.
In the face of what Obama's advisors must understand as the difficulties of the president's running on his record, they have scrambled to reposition their candidate as the "energy president." They've stuffed his teleprompter with lies about the state of the nation's energy reserves and the president's contributions to "increased drilling" for oil, while ignoring or trying to suppress or misrepresent these facts: that the administration has been cited for contempt of court for not reopening drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, that he's shut down the Keystone XL pipeline despite the fact that every one of the administration's environmental issues has been addressed and corrected, and that his advisors and their policies have been instrumental in causing the dramatic rise in gas prices at the pump that Americans feel directly.
Romney's weakness in this area is his seeming agreement with the idea that we're at risk from global warming, despite the fact that it is clear by now that the "science" behind this issue is corrupt and incorrect. Romney must reverse his stance on this issue, and the best way he can do that is to attack Obama's unwillingness to upset his radical environmentalist base by pursuing an energy policy that was even close to sanity. This will be an issue on which Romney can pound Obama relentlessly.
In the wake of the Obama-Medvedev exchange caught on a live mike in which Obama explained that after his "last election" he'd be in a position to work with "Vladimir" [Putin] on the issue of nuclear weapons, Romney needs to hammer home an explanation of what that means, and he needs to provide historical background to buttress his assertions. The American people need to hear from Romney a coherent review of how president Obama sold out our European and Eastern European allies, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, by shutting down a missile defense system already in development and thereby weakening them against potential Iranian missile strikes. Romney needs to make it clear that the upshot of the exchange is that Obama is effectively promising to ally the U.S. with the Russian-Iranian axis in weakening democracies against possible missile attacks by our sworn enemies while at the same time diminishing our own nuclear arsenal.
The Obama administration's economic policies, particularly its "strategy" of recklessly printing (and thus devaluing) U.S. currency and buying billions in U.S. debt as part of its Quantitative Easing policies, have helped drive up the price of food and energy dramatically over the past two years. In order to mask the inflation virtually all Americans know is occurring, food and energy have been removed from the federal government's inflation index. Unemployment is still above eight percent, and the president's advisors concede it will probably stay there throughout 2012. Further, the U6 unemployment rate, which counts not only those seeking full-time employment but also those "marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons" is over 14 percent, and black unemployment increased to 14.1 percent in February. The economic disaster we're flirting with is another point Romney must drive home, and it's one that every American will respond to.
In the wake of Obama's appointment of a supremely unqualified Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court in order to further shift the demographic and political balance of the court, it is of paramount importance that Romney make it clear that during his administration it's likely that several Supreme Court justices will be retiring and that when that happens he will nominate strong conservatives to replace them.
As important as they seem to be at this time because his Republican opponents are attacking him relentlessly on his flip-flops, the key is that Romney's shifting positions on issues such as health care are not likely to define the campaign. As we've noted, ObamaCare, if it's repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court, will become more of an albatross around the neck of the Obama campaign than something detrimental to Romney. Obama is not likely to attack Romney for his foray into government-controlled healthcare legislation in Massachusetts, especially in the face of the potentially fatal wound that a Supreme Court healthcare rebuke might already have caused.
Romney needs to get the party message out, but it is just as important that he start selling himself, his strengths. Attacking Obama with negative ads as he has done seven to one against the other GOP candidates will not be enough. Romney is reviled by many strict conservatives because his past positions have not been conservative. He needs this base, and in order to solidify it he must show that he will fight strongly for conservative positions.