Categorized | Commentary/Editorial

Mitt Romney has "Dukakified" the Republicans; Update: Romney to keep the good parts of Obamacare

I’ve argued many times that the politician Mitt Romney most closely resembles is John Kerry, primarily due to the Mittster’s legendary penchant for flip-flopping, a trait Kerry is also known for. I stand by my Kerry comparison, but Jonah Goldberg has an excellent point when he compares Romney to another Massachusetts politician: Michael Dukakis.

Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to have become Dukakified. It was Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, who insisted that the election should be entirely about “competence, not ideology.” Romney has avoided saying that in so many words, but it’s certainly how he’s campaigning. After running to the right in the primaries and boldly picking Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney bizarrely seems to have retreated to an ideological and even intellectual crouch.

Though he doesn’t say it explicitly, the tone and tenor of Romney’s convention speech suggested that Obama failed because didn’t have the right resume, not because he has the wrong ideas. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top strategist, has dismayed many on the right by operating according to the theory that Romney mustn’t do anything to offend the delicate sensibilities of some statistical abstraction of a female voter in the Ohio suburbs. Listening to the Romney speech, you’d have no idea he picked a principled, fearless, and brilliant conservative lightning rod as a running mate.

If Stevens’s theory of the election is right, then the GOP convention was brilliantly executed. But that is a huge gamble — as huge as Obama’s bet that Americans have moved left. Right now, however, it looks too much like a contest between people with the wrong ideas against people without any.

My hat’s off to Jonah Goldberg. I never equated Romney to Dukakis, but the more I think about it, the more appropriate the comparison becomes. Like Romney, Dukakis is a former governor of the deep blue state of Massachusetts. Both are adherents to the technocratic approach to government in which the beneficence of the government bureaucrat plays a central role (see Romneycare). 59-point plans, which are nothing more than Keynesian big government boondoggles to conservatives, are utopia for technocrats and the armies of bureaucrats required to administer them.

To listen to his "Obama’s a nice guy who’s in over his head" speeches, Romney’s primary objection to Obama is not that government shouldn’t do what Obama wants it to do, but that Obama is an incompetent manager. While that may be true, the biggest problem with Obama is not competence, but his radical ideology: he wants to transform American into another bankrupt, European-style welfare state where government inexorably grows at the expense of individual freedoms.  But Romney and his "Dukakified" campaign won’t even bring this up for fear of offending someone.

Political ideology — having consistent views and ideas based on core convictions — is viewed as a liability by the Mittster, whose only discernible conviction is his desire to be president. Other than that self-aggrandizing conviction, though, Mitt goes out of his way to avoid any others. He finds them confining, for lack of a better word. If he had a consistent ideology, how could he tell Massachusetts voters upon his election as governor that he was a moderate with progressive views while later describing his gubernatorial tenure as "severely conservative" to a CPAC audience. (Romneycare, presumably, is evidence of his severe conservatism). It’s liberating to lack a consistent ideology, I guess.

Much has been made of Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan to be his running mate. But one gets the feeling the Mittster was just checking a box; that he selected Ryan not because he shared Ryan’s deep ideological commitment to fixing the nation’s finances, but because he needed to keep conservatives interested in his milquetoast campaign. But simply picking a conservative running mate is insufficient to assuage conservative concerns. He must actually embrace Ryan’s conservative positions.

Nearly two years ago, Governor Palin became the first national conservative leader to endorse the Ryan Roadmap — to date the only specific plan to eliminate the deficit put forward by anyone. Romney has yet to endorse that plan, insisting he’ll come up with his own at some point in the future.  Mitt’s been running for president for a decade. When will he come up with a plan? I doubt he ever will because he’d run the risk of offending "the delicate sensibilities of some statistical abstraction of a female voter in the Ohio suburbs" as Goldberg notes above.

Romney prefers caution and inaction to bold action, defense to offense, and amorphous vagaries to concrete ideas. He says he’ll repeal Obamacare, but won’t tell us how.  He says he’ll reform the entitlement plans before they inevitably go bankrupt, but, again, won’t say how. It’s as if he’s psychologically incapable of taking a consistent position on an issue and defending it. Whether this is due to his lack of core convictions or his lack of a backbone is anyone’s guess. In any event, he’s simply running out the clock and hoping to avoid making a mistake. But if the election were held today, he’d lose. A prevent defense can only work if you’re ahead.  And even then it often doesn’t work. (Ask the Cleveland Browns.)

Although there are similarities to the campaign Romney’s running today and the one Dukakis ran in 1988, the political envorinment was starkly different. In 1988, Dukakis ran a distinctly non-ideological campaign because he had no other choice. Both the 1980 and 1984 campaigns were ideological in nature, and liberalism suffered historic defeats. With Bush 41 running on Reaganism and effectively promising voters a "third" Reagan term, Dukakis would have had zero chance if he ran as a liberal. The Carter-Mondale years were still fresh in the minds of voters, and they were in no mood to return to those dark days of malaise. In short, voters were happy with the way the country was being run under Reagan, and didn’t want to return to liberalism.

But Romney has a choice. Voters have witnessed the devastation unfettered liberalism inflicts on an economy. Obama has seen to that. This is the best opportunity Republicans have had to mount an ideological campaign since 1980.

Unfortunately, however, the GOP Establishment, in their infinite wisdom, chose a candidate who appears incapable of advancing or even explaining conservatism; a candidate who prefers to avoid the possibility of offending some moderate in a swing state rather than inspiring him (or her) to rally to the conservative cause as Reagan did. For this reason, Romney effectively banned the Tea Party from his convention. Last week I predicted this would backfire and result in a smaller post-convention bounce, and that whatever small bounce Romney did receive would quickly fade in response to Obama’s bounce. Today’s Real Clear Politics polling averages bear this out. His approval rating, at 49.2% and rising, is the highest it’s been since the bin Laden raid, and dangerously close to that magic 50% number.

Obama’s surge in approval ratings is mirrored by his improvement in the horse race numbers with Mitt Romney. This is also from this afternoon’s RCP average.

Whatever momentum Romney was riding is long gone, and Team Mitt had better figure out how to generate enthusiasm — real, sustainable grass roots enthusiasm — for his campaign. Clearly his policy of ignoring Tea Party conservatives isn’t working. If he sticks to his DC insider, consultant-approved "Obama’s a nice but incompetent guy" routine, I don’t see how he turns these numbers around.

The fact is, Obama’s not a nice guy. He’s a narcissistic left-wing ideologue with a chip on his shoulder who’s hell bent on transforming America into something unrecognizable, a guy who’ll do anything, including flouting the constitution, to secure another four years so he can complete that transformation. And Romney considers him a nice guy? Ideologues can only be defeated with ideology, not platitudes designed to offend the least amount of people. Conservative ideas work every time they’re tried, liberal ideas do not, as the past four years make crystal clear. If we can’t make the conservative case in this economic environment, when can we?

The debates offer an opportunity for Romney to gain ground but, unlike in the primary debates, Mitt won’t have Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann around to jump to his defense every time he’s on the ropes. Goldberg’s point, I think, is that if voters aren’t given an alternative, the devil they know may well be preferable to the devil they don’t know. Ideas, even bad ones, trump no ideas. If the Romney brain trust, such as it is, doesn’t figure this out, and quickly, we’re in for another four long years of misery. Unfortunately, by that time it may be too late to prevent America from suffering a Greece-style collapse.

Update: (h/t xthred) Shocker: Romney indicated today that he won’t repeal all of Obamacare:

Mitt Romney says his pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s health law doesn’t mean that young adults and those with medical conditions would no longer be guaranteed health care.

The Republican presidential nominee says he’ll replace the law with his own plan. He tells NBC’s "Meet the Press" that the plan he worked to pass while governor of Massachusetts deals with medical conditions and with young people.

Romney says he doesn’t plan to repeal of all of Obama’s signature health care plan. He says there are a number of initiatives he likes in the Affordable Care Act that he would keep in place if elected president.

So Romney wants to keep the preconditions coverage guarantee part of Obamacare. I have one simple question: Suppose I decide to eschew Homeowner’s insurance. If I do that can I expect an insurance company to insure my home after it catches on fire?

Hello, Mr. Insurance provider. My house is on fire. I’d like to purchase an insurance policy effective right now to pay for this fire which is raging out of control and burning my house down. No? But you have no choice. Both Romney and Obama say you must.

Can anyone explain to me how this is insurance, and how insurance providers can possibly stay in business under this mandate? Anyone?

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  • travelingon

    ".. To listen to his “Obama’s a nice guy who’s in over his head” speeches,
    Romney’s primary objection to Obama is not that government shouldn’t do
    what Obama wants it to do, but that Obama is an incompetent manager. .."

    Thanks Doug.  I’ve said before it’s hard to disagree with someone you agree with.

  • toughluck2

    This whole thing about not attacking Obama the man, or Obama’s policies is just ridiculous and will cost us the election. What about questioning all the BS that Obama said on his speech?.

    Its sad that the only one that had the courage to ridicule and attack Obama during the Republican convention was an 82 year old actor, and the only reason he got away with it is that he did not had a speech that could be vetted by Romney’s handlers but it was improvised on the spot.  Go Clint!

    Argh! and to think that the idea of attacking Obama made most republicans ‘cringe’  Come on! He is destroying our country! Attack!   McCain already tried this type of ‘gentleman’ campaign, and he lost.

  • RebinTexas

    Good article and analysis Doug…….though nothing in it surprises me. And, as much as I despise bho and know how he is working to tear my beloved country apart, what all romney has stood for – and against – and his total lack of true ethics and strong, bold conservative positions – not to mention how he ONLY wants to control US in the repubs so he can’t be challenged when his record ultimately shows that need – I have long decided I cannot vote for the top of the ticket. I frankly don’t trust romney much more than I distrust bho. I am working for and supporting a number of down-stream candidates in several states. Fortunately, I guess, being a resident of Texas gives me much more latitude in taking such a position.

    I truly fear the outcome – as the GOPe elites work to throw the Tea Party conservatives (of which I am one) under the bus. What a shame, what a mess.

  • cuatrocinco45

    Great post, agree with most of it.

    I’d just add that when I saw the title I thought it was referring to something else.  Especially with the photo of  the tank. 

    One of Duke’s biggest problem was that he just came off as a wimp, ofr lack of a better word.  The tank thing, the answer to what he’d do if his wife was raped.  That was the subtext of the whole Willie Horton ad.  "He’s a wimp who won’t protect you and your family and will let dangerous black criminals have free reign".

    One thing the GOP and conservatives oculd always count on was that they had the tougher candidate.  They had the more macho candidate.  They had the guy more pro-military.  Even guys like Dole and Bush41 were war heroes.  Nixon, Goldwater, Reagan, Bush43, McCain…their toughness was all a big part of their appeal.

    For the first time I can recall, the GOP doesn’t have that advantage this time.  Romney doesn’t come off as tougher than Obama, as more macho, as more pro-military.  Obama got Bin Laden, he’s killed hundreds of AQ leaders through drone strikes, using drones far more than Bush ever did, Ghadaffi is dead, Awlaki is dead(Obama’s so cold he even smoked a US citizen with no trial or anything).  He’s youthful, athletic, lean, has that deep voice, etc…

    Romney?  He’s never served nor have any of his relatives or children.  He avoided service in Vietnam and then later said how it pained him and how he actually yearned to be there fighting(one of the more insulting and tone-deaf statements Ive seen anyone make).  He has no real personal connection at all to the military and we’ve seen how it’s hard for him to relate.  He’s mounted a whole campaign so far where foreign policy/military matters have been basically absent save for a few speeches here and there.  He gives a whole RNC speech without even mentioning Afghanistan, the troops or any real military matters and then says he didn’t talk about them because they weren’t important.

    It’s just very strange to see an election where the dem has the edge on the toughness factor.  I think a lot of Republicans are so mystified and by it and not used to it that they don’t know how to deal with it, so they ignore it.

    That’s what I thought you meant by Dukakified, that he just makes the GOP come off as soft and wimpy.

    • DougBrady

      Great point Quatro,
      I hadn’t considered the hawk vs. dove angle, but you’re absolutely right. The normal GOP advantage on that issue is absent this year.  So that’s another example of the GOP being "Dukakified" by Romney’s nomination, as you point out.

    • n4cerinc

      Very good points on Romney and the military. You are right, this is the first time that Commander In Chief is an afterthought for the GOP.

  • misterlogic0013

    wow .. I thought he would get to debates before his drop to who knows where, how is it going Mr.Prebus, GOP ? ..   jerks ..  self centered  .. checker pants Republicans ..
      tighten your seat belts .. elect servants with guts  ..  no excuses  .. damage control ………..

  • carmtom13

    Excellent article Doug. You are so right they are playing prevent defense and if they don’t change the game plan fast we are going to have BHO finish the job of fundemantally transforming the country. You are right BHO is not a nice person, he is a far left radical. If Romney doesn’t start calling him out fast it will be game over for him. Governor Palin gave him the perfect line "choice is FREE STUFF OR FREEDOM!" Romney needs to get excitement in this race and the only person who can do it is Governor Sarah Palin. If Romney takes charge and forget about listening to his DC campaign workers who are in this for a pay check he needs to get on the phone and call Governor Palin. She is the only one who can energize both the base and the Tea Party. Wake up Romney before its to late, if you love this country and want to win pick up the phone. If you don’t do anything and stay the course you are going to lose!

  • PalinPrez

    Now Romney says he likes "parts" of Obamacare, and if elected, he will keep them in place.  At this rate of flipflopping, he will end up liking ALL of Obamacare and plus a public option and Soviet style collectivism by election day.

    I am so depressed.  Governor, where are you?  The nation is calling you.

    • dmac8889

      Why is he on any of the MSM channels.  If he is not on them, he won’t have to answer their questions.

    • CrackerJacker

       At this rate of flipflopping, Romney’s going to be on Obama’s cabinet come the new year.

  • conservativemama

    I’m a conservative………….obviously.  And I work with many liberals.  They don’t know I’m as conservative as I am, but I still speak.  I make my arguments and comments and I’m always coming from a conservative perspective.  They ALWAYS agree with me.  If Romney was a conservative and could speak the language he would have more support.  That’s the lesson of Reagan.  Sadly, ever since Reagan left the GOP has been unlearning the lessons of Reagan.

    This country is right of center.  People are more organically conservative than liberal, but they need to hear it voiced out loud, clearly and proudly.  They don’t always know that they are conservative and if Romney insists on speaking another language then he risks losing.  How is it with the payroll he has, all those advisers, he’s missing this point?  Reagan won in 2 landslides and gave George H.W. his turn in the White House.  No RINO ever did that.

    Update: I just read this column by Star Parker. I wish Romney was reading this.

    • cnswpassion

      Romney can not speak as a conservative because he is not a conservative.  His mind can’t fathom the thought of it. Conservatism doesn’t make any since to Romney.  Just listen to how many times he says "I" in a speech.  He wants to do so many good things for us, whether we want it or not.

  • royroyo

    If Romney Loses the Election

    I Wonder Who Karl Rove and His Allies in the Establishment Will Blame..


    • n4cerinc

      The conservative base and by default, Sarah Palin. 

    • mark1955

      Rove and the establishment,want MITTEN’S to lose.

    • dmac8889

      The real question one should ask, is who do they hand the Party to the way they handed it to BUsh, Dole, Bush, McCain, Romney.  The Party members circled their wagons around Romney in Nov. 2008.  My guess it will be Rubio and a shore defeat again.  Rubio is Establishment, he is not TP, and so it is time for 3rd Party, and see what Party gets the most support.

  • Spartan4Palin

    I just can’t get motivated with this guy? That is unfortunate. The ace in the hole is sitting in Alaska and the mass of voters with her are on the sideline trying to figure out if we should risk trading the devil for the witch?

    It should be so incredibly clear? But it isn’t. Just a day or so ago, Romney says that he WON’T rid us of Obamacare completely? That are some elements of it he likes. Well which is it Romney? Get rid of it, or not? You can’t have it both ways. And we certainly can’t afford Obama’s big government. And we certainly can’t afford your big government lite!

    God help us all through this!

    • RebinTexas

       Thanks for mentioning the health thing Spartan4Palin……that is just one of many things to which I referred in my comments above. While I know how bad bho is and will be for my country, I fear romney won’t be much better – and I do not trust him or his cronies in the GOPe.

  • Guest

    Regardless who is office next year America will undergo severe, tectonic financial upheavals…aftershocks from the horrendous shift of pecuniary quakes….no longer a path, but a chasm. Prepare for the days ahead.

  • PAWatcher

    The republican elites are Dukafied, but the TEA consevatives are Palinized with a spine of steel, and ready to wipe out the competition-from the top down. With  truth and Divine guidance We will honor the family and our military, We will stand with Israel,  and We will Right our country as We oust obama and his administration from our nation’s capital. Won’t it be nice to watch them packing.
    The polls are fickle, We are not, Romney can be a wimp, but, he’s our wimp right now. Laugh about it, pray about it, yell about it, curse about it, but don’t be mute………..your vote is your voice. An uncast vote for Romney is an uncast vote for US.

  • xthred
  • Pete Petretich

    Give ‘em hell, Doug!

  • n4cerinc

    Sarah Palin said a 3rd party is possible if Republicans forget their platforms. 

    RNC 2012 platform on Obamacare: 
    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – was never really about healthcare, … Congressional Republicans are committed to its repeal; and a Republican President, on the first day in office, will use his legitimate waiver authority under that law to halt its progress and then will sign its repeal. 

    Even without any opposition from the Democraps, Romney is already going wobbly on this.

    • Exgunman

      As I  have said many times, romney’s only core belief is that he should be president, just because he wants to be. There is absolutely nothing that romney is not "Wobbly" about  Also why do you think he and rick perry looked so foolish at a repug debate?? Ans: Neither are repugs and had no clue as to how to answer the questions as a philosophical repug would answer.  I also think that Paul Ryan is going to seriously regret ever being linked to this abortion of a presidential candidate whether win/lose because what conservative credentials he has ( which is very suspect by me ) will be diminished and he will lose any credibility which he had……………

  • Mr.L

    Romney’s latest comment he made on Meet the Depressed that he wouldn’t fully repeal ObamaCare may just push me to full fledged alcoholism.  Is he really this stupid? Does he really even want to win?  then we have George Will on ABC today saying that if the Republicans can’t win this election they should get out of politics.  Really? How about Republicans like yourself need to get out of the GOP! You and republicans like you are why we are plagued with nominees like Romney. Milquetoasters like you are the reason we lose.

    • Exgunman

      "Is he really this stupid?" …………………………………YES

    • conservativemama

      So true, so true, so true.  Are you guys doing this?  I’m writing ads in my head that I wish Romney would run.  Alas, he’s Romney, faux "severe?" conservative.

      Obama keeps saying what he inherited was the worse mess since the Great Depression.  Of course he has to be over the top because he needs cover for his failures.  And then he says he needs more time.  He keeps telling us how lousy the last 30 years were.

      So I’m thinking Reagan.  I’m thinking Romney needs an ad that reminds people of the mess Carter turned over to Reagan.  And how Reaganomics worked and worked so well that when it came time for Reagan’s reelection he didn’t need to ask for more time to fix his failures.  He won in a landslide because his policies, that Obama trashes today, worked so damn well!  And then his VP won in 1988.  It was in that administration that the GOP establishment started walking away from Reagan’s achievements………….."Read my lips, no new taxes."  And ever since we’ve been losing the battle.  Yes, we got W in the White House, but he kept spending and he wasn’t the conservative we needed.

      People, if the GOP loses this won I want out.  What’s the plan?  I’ll keep my eye on Sarah.

  • DocBarry1

    Romney/Ryan Team is throwing the Race:

    1. He disrespects Gov Palin

    2. He disrespects The Tea Party

    3. He does nothing to instill Conservative values

    Not having an enthusiastic Base will destroy ant chance for victory – he is already acting like a loser.

    • Phil Arnold

      And with the rules changes pushed through at the national convention, the GOPe gave notice to grassroots conservatives that they intend to keep us in our "place", while they still expect our votes. IMHO that is as bad as the way the Democrats treat Black voters. I don’t intend to take it any more!

      • DocBarry1

        It is so wrong and sad – Romney Ryan should reassess and start respecting the Tea Party, go back and say those rules were wrong and respect Gov Palin, period
        Standing in the inspiring vision of my future,
        I boldly take every step – large and small –
        with courage and intent.
        – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

  • conservativemama

    Hello again.  Because we have to be prepared just in case……………..what a 2nd Obama term would look like.  It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking.  All I can think is I’ve already lost 4 years, another 4 is almost too much to contemplate.  And I have a 22 year old daughter who is scared for her future.  She voted for McCain and Palin in 2008.

  • Al B.

    Well done, Doug.

  • Jthom26837

    And Let’s not forget two other things of great concern of this great Nation of ours: 1.) Energy Independence. Drilling In ANWR will definitely be off the table. In addition to The subject of energy, He’s a strong supporter of ‘Cap And Trade.’ 2.) Card Check. I know this is a far fetched item, but I’m not going to be suprised if Mitt turns around and pushes for Card Check. This is what The Elites, On Both Sides Of the Aisle, have done to us. MAD?? NO!! I’M TERRIBLY PISSED!!!

    This is why I Whole heartedly Stand With Sarah Palin.

    • Exgunman

      Don’t be surprised, romney is a demoncrat, (look @ his record) surely ( don’t call me shirley) you don’t think he would act otherwise………….


      Oh honey, just wait till Mitt has to nominate SC justices and pass HIS "immigration reform".

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