2012 is a long ways away, but that hasn’t stopped speculators from gaming the Presidential race on the Republican side, where there is no definitive frontrunner. Partly what makes the Republican party so intriguing these days is the lack of ideological unity on the one hand, and a lack of a defining on the other.
And by ‘intriguing’ I mean a mess. Like a train wreck.
And I simply Can’t. Stop. Staring.
Or rather, getting back to the real Mitt. Which is, apparently, the Mitt that doesn’t care about social issues after all.
As a result, the new Romney is now de-emphasizing social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and illegal immigration. He has made no public comment, for instance, about last week’s announcement that top military leaders intend to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, has scrupulously avoided association with the Tea Party movement, and has refrained from backing conservatives that other presidential hopefuls have endorsed, such as Doug Hoffman in New York or Marco Rubio in Florida.
Interestingly, this latest incarnation is probably the closest we have seen to the “real” Mitt Romney — who close observers believe doesn’t care much about social issues, isn’t very ideological, and revels in applying management skills to large organizations to help them achieve their goals and functions.
Several Republicans, including some who know Romney well, say that, if he runs in 2012, it will be much more as his true self than what he presented in 2008.
But some of those same people concede that, as a political strategy, there are two big potential hazards to “letting Mitt be Mitt.” First, Romney’s previous reinventions — as a fairly liberal US Senate candidate, a moderate gubernatorial candidate, and then as a conservative presidential candidate — have already strained his credibility beyond the breaking point. Any further change — even to become the real, authentic Romney — will be viewed with suspicion, if not derision.
The quotes around “real” are not mine, though I’d feel impelled to put them there too. I try hard to avoid cynicism, especially in politics. But in this case, it seems unavoidable.
Here’s my point: the distrust between social conservatives and Mitt Romney was real, but it was not–as even the article points out–about religion.
It was precisely because of this problem, namely, Romney has so bought into the media age that he feels obligated to follow whatever way the wind is blowing simply to get elected. Say what you want about Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin–and plenty could be said–but at the end of the day, they haven’t adjusted themselves to the prevailing political winds, even when those winds turned against them. Huckabee still talks like a Southern Baptist preacher because he was one, and he hasn’t changed that even though it cost him the nomination (with the media, at least–the ground game is a separate issue).
I don’t know who I’m going to support in 2010, and I could still end up supporting Romney. But a candid and thorough admission that and how he fabricated his political identity would go a long ways toward helping me believe that Mitt Romney 2010 is actually the Mitt Romney his wife and children know.
But the irony is that it may be too late. Romney’s identity as “Mr. Fix It” is compelling only as long as the perception remains that the economy is broken. But before he gets there, “Mr. Fix It” needs to turn his attention to the cynicism and distrust this latest iteration will inevitably reinforce.
And that may prove his toughest task to date.