Mitt Romney has a number of significant shortcomings as the presumptive Republican nominee, but he's already demonstrating that he's prepared to translate the discipline and ruthlessness that helped propel him to the (likely) GOP nod into a general election contest with the president. Romney was at his on-message, focused best in an interview with Sean Hannity last night, as the two covered a lot of ground during a ten-minute discussion:
Romney and the Republican National Committee are pursuing an extremely effective strategy of forcing Obama -- and voters -- to try to reconcile the yawning gulf that separates the president's past rhetoric with the results his policies and choices have produced. Romney pummels his opponent with blast after blast of disquieting statistics, and steadfastly refuses to chase after the shiny object du jour, in this case, the mystifyingly stupid dueling dog controversy. Saying that the election will be about jobs, not dogs, was a perfect retort. In the long run, fighting the urge to get caught up fighting the Obama camp's bottomless bag of distractionary tricks will serve Romney very well. Especially heartening was his campaign's ability to take a potentially damaging meme -- the "war on women" -- and finesse it into a nasty piece of economy-centered turnabout against Democrats and the president. As Hannity mentioned during the interview, four recent polls now show Romney ahead of or tied with Obama. I've been saying for months that many -- maybe even most -- voters have already decided that Obama hasn't earned a second term, but literally millions of them are waiting to see if the Republican alternative is credible and presidential. Interviews like this, during which he rarely seemed to pander to a friendly host, will help Romney pass the subconscious "eye test" that professed undecided voters are conducting. Later in the program, Michelle Malkin took exception to Romney's statement that Obama's "a nice guy" -- and she certainly has a point -- but that's an obvious play to must-win independent voters. Millions of Americans who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 are very disappointed in his record in office, but I'd wager that most of those people are not as outraged and viscerally disgusted with him on a personal level as many conservatives are. So I don't think that paying some lip service to the president's personal likeability (some of which he'll erode all by himself as his panicked attacks get nastier) is an unforgivable move, so long as it's relentlessly followed-up with punishing reminders of his Statist ideology and myriad demonstrable failures. To that end, the Greek columns dig was fun, I thought. Victor Davis Hanson, for one, isn't worried that Romney will fall victim to the McCain soft-peddal:
Romney is going to be a lot tougher on Obama than was McCain in 2008. For all the complaints against his moderation by the tea-party base, they will slowly rally to him as he makes arguments against Obama of the sort that McCain was perceived as unable or unwilling to make. So far Romney’s attitude is that he is in the arena where blows come thick and fast, and one can’t whine when being hit or hitting — a view far preferable to McCain’s lectures about what not to say or do in 2008. Left-wing preemptory charges that Romney is “swift-boating” or “going negative” will probably have slight effect on him. Just as Bill Clinton saw that Dukakis in 1988 had wanted to be liked rather than feared and so himself ran a quite different, tough 1992 race, so too Romney knows where McCain’s magnanimity got him in 2008. Romney won’t be liked by the press, knows it, and perhaps now welcomes it.
Elsewhere in his piece, Hanson writes of Obama's "churlishness and petulance," which was on full display as he took an obvious shot at Romney's personal wealth in a Wednesday speech:
To underscore that argument, Obama took a not-too-subtle swipe at his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, declaring: “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.” There remains a role for government to give everybody a “fair shot,” Obama said — not just the wealthy...Romney is sensitive to perceptions that he grew up wealthy, so Obama’s “silver spoon” remark could strike a nerve. On the campaign trail, the former Massachusetts governor sometimes talks about his father, George, growing up poor and driving across the American West looking for work. When Mitt was born, the family was middle class, moving from Detroit to the tony suburb of Bloomfield Hills only after Mitt was a teenager, when his father took over American Motors. Although Mitt’s parents helped fund his college and graduate education, and helped him and his wife, Anne, buy their first home, he did not inherit his parents’ wealth; he amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune on his own, working at Bain Capital.
This is an ugly departure from Hope & Change, and it's all he's got. Hey, if you had just become the first $5 Trillion (Debt) Man in US history, wouldn't you be desperate to talk about something else? I'll leave you with American Future Fund's tax week expose of additional topics from which Team Obama is eager to divert attention:
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography