By all rights, Mitt Romney should be kicking Barack Obama's butt withBy all rights, Mitt Romney should be kicking Barack Obama's butt with a struggling economy and the widespread disaffection with the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature first-term accomplishment. But most national polls show the two in a statistical dead heat or Obama slightly ahead, with Obama ahead in the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
And now comes bad news for the presumptive Republican nominee: Obama's summer swoon appears to be over as today's Labor Department jobs report showed that 80,000 jobs were added in June, while one private data research firm put the number at a little more than double that.
For starters, Romney and his handlers -- at least for now -- have decided to focus exclusively on the economy, hence his wishy-washy responses to the Supreme Court upholding the ACA and Obama's young illegal immigrant initiative, his silence on the botched Fast and Furious operation, and a neck-breaking flip-flop on global warming, which along with health-care reform was a matter of great import to him as Massachusetts governor.
"This ain't Etch-A-Sketch, Mitt. Go hard or go home," wrote Joel B. Pollack at Breitbart, while Congressional Republicans also are not happy with Romney's languid or non-existent responses to the issues of greatest concern to them even as he raised $100 million for the second consecutive month.
"Romney is quickly proving himself to be what some of us expected, very reactionary without a clear alternative to Obamacare," one congressman told The Weekly Standard. "The American people want and need the truth from him. Romneycare was both legal and a failure at the state level. Romney should just come clean."
Never mind that Romneycare has been a huge success by most measures, remains enormously popular in the Bay State and that the ACA's individual mandate is not a vast tax increase on the middle class as GOP leaders endlessly claim. Romney simply has been unable to seize the initiative and claim the high ground.
The reasons have been obvious since Romney entered the primary/caucus season:
* He is a moderate in conservative's clothing and risks alienating the Republican Party base if he tries to connect with independent and woman voters on the issues that they most care about, a factor that was at work in his muddled response to the Supreme Court ruling and his muted response to the immigration initiative. The GOP base deeply opposes the initiative but the Hispanic voters he needs to win a swing state like Florida are wildly supportive of it.
Romney has tied himself in some pretty tight knots over the Affordable Care Act. He has said that Romneycare was a good law but that the ACA, which closely resembles the Massachusetts law in key respects, is bad, which is an inane argument. He first flipped on the Supreme Court ruling, mischaracterizing it, and then flopped, agreeing with Chief Justice Roberts' tax interpretation, which infuriated party leaders and the deep thinkers on the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
"In a stroke, the Romney campaign contradicted Republicans throughout the country," the editorial stated. "Why make such an unforced error? Because it fits with Mr. Romney's fear of being labeled a flip-flopper, as if that is worse than confusing voters about the tax and health-care issues." Hmm.
* His repeated claims that he would turn the economy around by creating jobs does not hold up to scrutiny. He is, in fact, vulnerable because of his stewardship of Bain Capital, which destroyed jobs and lives when it gutted mom-and-pop businesses and outsourced and offshored jobs, as well as the skeletons in his financial closet, which include offshore holdings in Bermuda, the Caymans and Switzerland that only 1 percenters can take advantage of in avoiding the taxes that you and I must pay.
It is amazing that Romney continues to play high-risk-of-disclosure footsie regarding his financial portfolio and you can expect additional revelations like the news this week that his portfolio includes secret holdings like Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd., a Bermuda-based company, which suggests that he may be worth more than the $250 million estimated by his campaign.
"The question isn’t whether people can relate to a candidate who has tons of money," writes Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post. "It’s whether they will connect with a man who didn’t make his money the old-fashioned way -– by building a better widget -– but by sending capital hither and yon via clicks of a computer mouse to take advantage of arcane opportunities most people never even know about."
And it bears mentioning yet again that country is not a company. The U.S., as Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman of The New York Times pointed out today, still sells 86 percent of what it makes to itself, while the tools of macroeconomic policy -- interest rates, tax rates, spending programs -- have no counterparts on a corporate organization chart. And despite the bleatings of Ann Romney, who has her bustle in a knot because of the Obama campaign's "attacks" on her honey bunny, what was good for Bain Capital wasn’t good for America, and the campaign has every right to point that out.
Journal head honcho Rupert Murdoch twittered recently: “Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.” Translation: The Romney campaign just isn’t ready for prime time.
Romney, it appears, will try to finesse his way through to November by saying nothing of substance, perhaps because he has no substance himself and his agenda is simply to become president. He will offer no plans long on specifics whether it be health-care reform, jobs creation, deficit reduction or campaign financing. And of course continue to flip-flop whenever it is expedient.
That strategy might work under other circumstances. But Obama is a formidable campaigner who had not yet really begun to campaign in earnest, is likely to eat Romney alive in one-on-one debates, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and has the power of incumbency to call on.
What this translates into five months out is an Obama victory and, barring a huge economic downturn or scandal, a victory by a substantial margin.