Mitt Romney may never allow his handlers to set his hair on fire to win the Republican nomination. Every man has his limits. But don’t expect an elegant pivot back to the center after last night’s primary results in Ohio and in Tennessee.
At all the known tasks—raising money, raising children, making serious money personally, being a faithful and god-fearing husband—he has outperformed his Republican opponents. Yet, they’re beating him decisively amongst social conservatives and working class voters.
These voters can be reached. However, Romney’s economic focus won’t do it. He’s already proven that he’s willing to say some pretty amazing things. No matter how extreme his tax cuts get, however, economics won’t win their hearts or save him from Obama this fall.
One of the difficulties in talking non-stop about economics and taxes is that they make you think about money. And right-thinking and affluent people don’t like dwelling on the subject in public, especially Republicans.
Only the wife of a man worth over $250million, Ann Romney, could explain to CNN that she “doesn’t feel wealthy.”
If Wall Street was crashing for the first time in memory, rather than growing again, Romney could be sold as a crisis manager against a neophyte social worker from Chicago. Today, however, trying to beat Obama with labor market statistics and alternative growth scenarios would be impossibly boring.
Romney, as Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville coined in 1992, wants to believe that it’s “the economy, stupid.” Actually, the term “cultural wars” is extreme but politically more realistic. People are truly divided about how they should be treated by the state, how they should be treated in the economy, and by one another.
The good politicians try to bridge these differences and heal injustices. Bad politicians look for scapegoats and foreign enemies. There’s a lot for a good Romney to be excited about and for his conscience to play with.