If Governor Romney loses in November, I think in the final analysis it will have been because the right (Tea Partiers as well as conventional conservatives) would not allow Romney to run on the things that might allow him to gain traction in the general election.
The sweeping theme of why people voted for Romney in the primary election was because they thought he would be best able to beat President Obama in the fall. (Yes, a lot of why Romney won those primaries is because higher-income voters voted for him in droves, but so did enough regular-income people to put him over the top.)
It was Romney's un-scariness - in a year that boasted scary primary Republican candidates in a range from: Santorum-to-Newt-to-Bachmann-to-Cain (from most to least likely to actually get the nomination) - that so attracted primary voters.
- Rick Santorum on why birth control is bad.
- Newt Gingrich wages the War on the Poor
...But after he won the primary, instead of etch-a-sketching his way back to a centrist place, he had to keep kowtowing to the right. Whenever he has failed to do so, he has gotten raked across the coals, publicly.
He hasn't been able to run on Romneycare.
He hasn't been able to run on anything else he did as Massachusetts Governor.
He's been jumping through litmus tests for a really long time on abortion, leading to the pro-personhood, anti-planned parenthood, anti-birth control stances.
He's also been jumping through litmus tests on immigration, gay rights, and a host of other issues that make him look extreme - both because the right won't let him do anything else and because Romney wants to be president so incredibly badly that he will say whatever he thinks people want to hear, in sometimes the most damaging way.
The Romney that everybody is left to focus on is the Vampire Capitalist - and that's not a pretty picture for a year when so many people are struggling.
And now there's this guy, darling of the Right:
Paul Ryan is smart, don't get me wrong, but he's a confirmation of everything that people already fear about Romney: that he does not care about anyone but rich people. Ryan is a confirmation of the policies that Romney has so far been reluctant to define, and proof to any who were wondering about where Romney's loyalties will lie if he gets elected president. The only way I see the Ryan pick helping at all is if this race truly is only about turnout. If this race is about independents, undecideds? Ryan underscores the "I'm not on your side" aspect of Romney's persona. (Side note: doesn't Ryan sound like he's doing an impression of Michael J Fox as Alex P. Keaton?)
Charles Blow mentioned that the Obama Campaign has been Rove-like in its aggression to paint Romney as "out of touch and elitist" - and it's true that Obama's people have been missing no opportunity to pounce (in a way alien to recent Democrats), but Romney's real problems on the likability and narrative front are his own mouth and the conservatives in his party. The Obama Campaign has simply been picking up the ball once it's been fumbled and moving it down the field.
Romney doesn't seem to understand that he is a poster boy for the serious parallels between this era and the Gilded Age...
..and there is an obvious, tried-and-true counter to Gilded Age politics: Progressive politics. You know what that led to last time? The income tax, antitrust laws, greater federal regulation of labor and business practices, the direct election of senators, and women getting the vote.
I'm looking at you: Citizens United, public works projects, electoral college, and voter suppression laws.
And that's why everybody is all of a sudden talking about the Government (Rs) and the Rich (Ds).
But while conservatives seem giddily sure that their arguments on the revival of trickle-down economics and starving the beast will resonate with people (presumably just because people don't like taxes?), I suspect that they are really turning an election that was just about the current state of the economy (and if it's bad, vote Romney, see e.g. Reagan, 1980; Clinton, 1992) into an election about the philosophical debate between those who think there is almost no place for federal government in modern life, and those who think federal government is essential and capable of helping to make the economy and people's lives better.
I simply cannot see how that benefits Romney...