Mitt's Tough Week

Mitt Romney bumped into what I consider to be his first real turbulence this primary season during the past week, finally looking like a candidate that could be caught by another Republican. (Don’t ask who)Romney got all tangled up over in Ohio, where a ballot question seeking to repeal Governor Kasich’s recently passed law dealing with unions and collective bargaining appears to be gaining steam. (Public Policy has repeal winning by twenty, although those numbers are questionable). In light of the polling Romney seemed to hedge his bet last week, first saying that while he supported the Governor on downsizing government he was “not familiar” with the ballot question. (He had, on Facebook, expressed strong support for the law earlier.) The next day he was out there issuing the requisite apologies and stating his strong support for the law passed by Governor Kasich and the Ohio legislature. Molly Ball over at the Atlantic covered it, including the Perry campaign comment:

Mitt Romney’s finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich — reforms Romney supported in June. Americans are tired of politicians who change their beliefs to match public opinion polls.”

He also changed his apparent position on global warming. Romney had expressed the belief that warming was occurring, and that some of that warming was due to human activity. Seemed like a semi-courageous thing for a Republican to say in light of party orthodoxy on that issue. What did he say?

“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course,but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.

“I don’t know how much our contribution is to that because I know there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe that we contributed to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.”

But give Mitt enough time and incentive, and he will make the change. Last week he said:

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

The bad week was capped off by a huge attack launched by conservative Eminence grise George Will in the Washington Post:

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.”

It is one thing to attack Romney for flip flopping, but comparing him to Michael Dukakis has to be considered a nuclear attack for Republican primary voters. Will has been using this line diplomatically on Amanpour’s Sunday show, but he has now erased the diplomacy. Romney is blessed to have Rick Perry as his main opponent. He may yet survive the Republican process, but the main line of attack against him has been opened. The White House has been piling on, and you can expect more. The first real bad week for the Mittster.

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