If ever there was a candidate trapped by his own party's nomination process, it is Mitt Romney. Judging from his remarks on the trail, he has bid adieu to his Massachusetts past. Taunting the NAACP and accusing minority voters of wanting "free stuff" is a little touch of Willie Horton in the night. Not since George H.W. Bush's "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge has a candidate seemed willing to say anything to please "the base."
But this is not 1988 and Romney has no Ronald Reagan to back his candidacy.
Moreover, President Barack Obama certainly fails to resemble Mike Dukakis in ineptness. And Mitt seems to be determined to prove to his new conservative allies that he never once held a moderate thought. He reminds one of a religious child who is taunted on the playground for never having vices or a bad thought. In order to prove that he is up to the mark, he adopts smoking, drinking and attempts to steal a car. He becomes so zealous that even his new friends are shocked by the extent of his conversion from light to darkness.
Theoretically, Romney was supposed to tack to the middle. Instead, he has become rhetorically at least, a far right candidate. When many voters have scored Obama for divisiveness, Romney tries to bait the NAACP. This hurts with the so-called independents who want "unity" - whatever that means. But he could be more of a consensus candidate - taunting his ability to bring interests together. If he really wanted to show courage, he would stand up to the right - telling them if they did not want him, try Obama for a second term. Calling their bluff would be smart, a little bit of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism." Say what you will about "Dubya," he built a coalition that the ideologues failed to understand, but a durable bloc nonetheless.
As well, Romney has a problem with being so wedded to the right he has become static. Obama pounds him hard because he is attempting to limit him to a floor of 43 percent to a ceiling of 47 percent. Lock him into the base and then roll up the flanks occupied by independents. Before Romney can use his magnificent war chest, attitudes will have hardened. Right now, Mitt speaks like Daddy Warbucks and is as socially divisive as George Wallace. Something tells me that this is not really what the governor is all about.
Caution and ideological rigidity are not effective combinations. Obama is running against Romney as Newt Gingrich - nailing him every step of the way. Meanwhile disingenuous Mitt lessens his credibility by referring to "Obamacare" or as Bobby Jindall calls it "Obamney-care." His argument that there can be no federal health care was blown away by John Roberts. Rick Santorum said it best, he is the worst candidate to make that argument.
But Democrats should not be smug, they made a bad calculation that the right would stay on the sidelines. June brought in a hefty haul for Romney, proving once again that when it comes to party discipline the GOP is superb. They went all in, but in doing so they limited Romney's reach. Right now he's going to scratch and claw to the last vote and hope the Rick Scotts of the world will successfully challenge every Democratic voter. Who thought George Romney's son would desire the nullification of the Voting Rights Act?
At present, the Romney message is uninspiring. His campaign team resembles Bud Grant's Minnesota Vikings in 1970 playing the break. But Obama's effort seems more like Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs - multiple formations and a lot of tricks. Romney is playing not to lose rather than to win. In this respect, he resembles Dukakis, the last promoter of a "Massachusetts miracle."