What is Mitt Romney's Problem?

| Mon Mar. 7, 2011 6:03 PM EST

Jon Cohn sends us to Joe Klein's latest head scratching over Mitt Romney:

Romney remains a mystery to me: He's smart, he was a good governor, he's essentially a responsible moderate-conservative...but he has made an utter fool of himself flip-flopping and fudging--and taking wildly stupid positions (against the START treaty, for example) on issues about which he knows little or nothing. It almost seems a personality disorder. In this case, his efforts to distance himself from his own, essentially successful program, are particularly pathetic. If the man had the tiniest smidgeon of courage, he would make a conservative argument in favor of universal health care--it liberates a great deal of potential economic energy (all those would-be entrepreneurs now stuck in stultifying corporate jobs because they don't want to leave their health plans). Or he would simply plead humanity: it's inhumane for an industrial giant not provide health care for all its citizens.

But no. Instead we get the embarrassing spectacle of an intelligent man acting like a semi-coherent jerk.

This isn't really a mystery, is it? Romney's a moderate conservative who figured out sometime between 2006 and 2008 that it was no longer possible for a moderate conservative to win the Republican nomination for president. The events of the past two years have made this even clearer than before, but Romney really, really wants to be president. His only option, then, is to pretend to be a tea party conservative, but both his past record and his weak acting skills make this really hard to pull off. So he ends up sounding like a semi-coherent jerk.

This is common knowledge, isn't it?

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