The Wall Street Journal editorial page is in a panic because Mitt Romney initially agreed with President Obama that the penalties in the health care law don't constitute a tax. The Journal and Bill Kristol are panicking as well because they think Romney has been inadequately specific about what he'd do as president, on the economy and other matters.
Was it only six weeks ago that Politico gave us a story titled "GOP Discovers That Mitt Romney Could Win"? Was it only five weeks ago that BuzzFeed gave us "Mitt Romney Wins Over The Right By Confronting Obama," with all its scenes of Romney taking it to Obama on Solyndra and sending hecklers to harass Obama surrogates? Was it only four weeks ago that we were hearing about Obama's horrible week and horrible month? Or reading this?
MARK HALPERIN's "Between the Lines," in the forthcoming issue of TIME: "Some Romney advisers sound especially bullish, with one positing that a big win by their side is now more likely than a narrow Obama victory."It was all supposed to be working -- and then we got to the end of June and Obama was still leading in the polls. Romney's confrontational style wasn't moving the needle in his direction. Obama saying "the private sector is doing fine" wasn't a campaign-destroying error. Democratic criticism of pro-Obama attacks on Romney's business record didn't suggest a party in disarray (and didn't stop Obama and his allies from continuing the attacks, which are now acknowledged to be working).
To the Journal and Kristol, it can't be that the public is actually responding to the attacks on Romney as a fat cat. It can't be that Romney's uplift-free impersonation of a nasty, snarly right-wing talk radio host is offputting to swing voters. It can't be that attacking Solyndra and promising to repeal "Obamacare" is not what voters want to hear. It must be that Romney isn't being enough of an angry, fist-shaking right-winger.
Both the Journal and Kristol want Romney to be more specific. What Romney understands is that the only specifics he can offer that actually jibe with the right's grand plan for America are punishments to the middle class and poor. He's supposed to tell people they're going to get less and like it? He's soulless and heartless, but he's not stupid.
I hope he does follow the right's advice, of course. It would be great to hear him tell us how big the budget cuts are going to be, and who's going to be affected, so we can lower taxes on the rich even more, while eliminating even more regulations. Meanwhile, though, he's pretending his plan isn't going to be to drop the bomb on the non-rich once he's elected, and he hopes he'll skate by on that.
But if it doesn't work, the right will say he lost because he wasn't right-wing enough.