LUCKY IN HIS ENEMIES
Imagine what Barack Obama's reelection chances would be like if anyone actually liked any of the Republican candidates -- I'm thinking of the new Public Policy Polling national survey, which has Obama leading Mitt Romney by 5, crushing him among independents, and beating all the Non-Mitts by even greater margins.
But what makes me a little queasy is how close these head-to-heads with Obama are considering the unpopularity of the Republicans. A whole lot of people are saying they'll vote for Republicans they don't even like. Look at the PPP numbers (PDF): Romney's favorability is 35%, but he gets 44% of the vote against Obama. Gingrich: favorability 26%, vote against Obama 42%. Paul: favorability 27%, vote against Obama 42%. Perry: favorability 21%, vote against Obama 40%.
I assume the GOP candidates have low approval (and quite high disapproval) because they're fighting with one another viciously and are making themselves and one another look bad. But that's going to stop soon -- quite possibly once this month is over. Won't Romney, as the survivor, see his approval go up? And if this many people are willing to vote for him now when they don't even like him, what happens if the public starts to dislike him less?
Ah, but the Obama campaign will go after Romney next. Also, Romney keeps making himself look bad. And that really might be enough to finish him off.
I see that Romney, under pressure, is promising to release his tax returns soon, and has declared that his effective tax rate is 15%. That's what you pay when what you make is mostly capital gains and carried interest rather than a salary or wages for actual labor. Yeah, it's likely that a number of people are going to feel some resentment on hearing this.
Via Scott Lemieux, I see that Rick Perlstein has written a column for Rolling Stone about Romney's lack of authenticity; in it Perlstein says this about Mitt:
He’s still inauthentic -- but with, I think, an exception. Every time he opens his mouth on the subject of capitalism, he says what he sincerely believes, which happens to fit neatly with present-day Republican ideology: that rich people deserve every penny they have, and if people complain about anything rich people do, it's only because they’re envious.
Well, yes, he seems authentic in those moments, but he seems embarrassed, and defensive, about his wealth, and about wealth in general. He didn't want to release his tax forms. He tries to dress down. He boasts about being a bargain shopper. He lashed out when he was criticized for saying corporations are people.
I think he should just take this high-end lemon and make gourmet lemonade out of it. Ditch the open-collar shirts and Gap jeans and Trump it up in expensive suits. Say, "Yes, I worked hard, and I've done well, and hey -- I want everyone in America to do well!" This is a contrarian argument I make all the time, but I think if Romney were big pimpin', and were a happy warrior for capitalism rather than a guy who reflexively defends capitalism when forced and then regrets it, he'd be doing better right now than he is.
What's weird about Romney is that he's so ashamed of what he actually is that he may as well be a Democrat. When you paint him into a corner and make him talk about capitalism he's sincerely in favor of it, but he tries to avoid talking about it. He treats capitalism the way Democrats tend to treat liberalism. I still think he'd make surprising gains if he were just brazenly plutocratic, because Americans still aren't developing real class consciousness, they just see the flop sweat when Romney blurts out his true feelings about wheeling and dealing.