Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Not About Mitt Romney - It's the GOP Platform

According to the latest buzz, Mitt Romney is under fire from his own party over the tepid campaign he is waging.  In the view of both Laura Ingram and George Will, if Mitt Romney and the Republicans cannot beat President Obama in the current climate, the party should hang it up and seek a new line of work.  The strategy has run back and forth and all over the place, but the campaign has mostly been about the fact that Mitt Romney is not Obama.  The central idea is to be the anti-Obama, and to rail against the President for everything from health care to taxes to Solyndra to the trading of Tim Tebow. The biggest frustration for the GOP - especially the conservatives on talk radio and television - is that they can't simply fire off the Reagan question - "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" - and call it game, set, and match.

And that disconnect is the heart of the Republican's problem.  It's the platform, people.  The country may not be thrilled with their lives and the current state of the economy and government.  But they aren't thrilled about the alternatives either.

It's not a winning strategy to run as the anti-Obama when the president is actually quite likable and in many ways popular.  The American people may be unhappy with their job situation - but they are just as likely to blame the company that laid them off as they are the White House's economic policies.  In fact, it may be more so, considering many employed people were hired back at worse jobs for less pay even as they saw the corporate sector boasting profits and the stock market come roaring back.  The problem is that the voters don't trust Mitt Romney and the trickle-down ideas, and they associate him with the part of society that is doing well.  Time Magazine reported on the state of malls in America this week, and the surprising news is that the outlook at middle and working class malls is more vacancies, but the malls that serve the top 10% of earners are actually doing well ... even growing.

The American people don't hold President Obama in great contempt.  And they are not thrilled about the idea of Medicare becoming a voucher.  And they don't see why Warren Buffet should pay so little in taxes.  And they don't have lots of dividends and stocks, especially not to the point of moving the money off-shore to avoid taxes.  And they don't believe that abortion should be outlawed in all cases.  And they haven't put English as a national language high on their list of priorities.  And they do have sympathy for undocumented children who simply want to stay in the only home country they've ever known.  And they don't see why the Bush tax cuts for top earners can't expire.  And they are liking the fact that the insurance companies can't drop them or deny them now.  And they appreciated the rebate they got for their health care.  And they like not being misled by credit card companies anymore.

The sad - and strange - thing for the GOP is that if Mitt Romney loses, the Republicans will misread it as the country being even more conservative and opposed to government than it is, and they will seek even more hardline conservatives for 2014 and 2016.  And for a party that desperately needs to move to the center, that will be a huge mistake.

Republicans.  It's your ideas.

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