Mitt Romney is Now Road Kill, Caught Between the Center and the Fever Swamps

Ed Kilgore makes a point about yesterday’s Romney’s video that’s been bouncing around in my mind too:

I don’t know whether the greatest danger to Romney’s campaign right now is the video (and there are more segments from it rolling out today) or the “Hell yes!” reactions to it from the rawer elements of the conservative chattering classes.

I’m not a mind reader, so I have no way to know if Romney truly believes the sentiments he expressed yesterday or if he was just pandering to the tea party sensibilities of the rich donors at the fundraiser he was attending. But it almost doesn’t matter, because Romney’s big problem right now is exactly those sensibilities. He’s dealing with a base that (a) believes deep in its gut that moochers and freeloaders really are the core of the Democratic Party, (b) has never really trusted Romney, and therefore (c) won’t tolerate any sign that he’s backing down. Romney has no choice but to stick to his guns. Here’s Dave Weigel:

Back on Friday, I trudged around the Values Voter Summit in D.C. and asked conservatives why they thought Barack Obama might win. (The polls, then and now, suggest that he’s in the position to do it.) The single most common answer? Well, Obama’s Democrats have been pumping up the ranks of the poor with free goodies, and those saps might be numerous enough to vote for him. They’d been hearing that on talk radio for, well, years. “We have 47, 48 percent who pay no income taxes,” said Rush Limbaugh in July. “We have 3 million more off the unemployment rolls and on the disability rolls, and they all vote!”

The damage Romney did to himself by privately pandering to this sentiment is bad enough already. But the most unhinged segment of his supporters is going to make it even worse, repeating his argument endlessly in far cruder terms than Romney did. For at least the next few days, we’re going to be consumed with a very public debate about whether America really is in a battle for its soul between the makers and the takers, and that’s not a debate that can possibly help Romney. Even if he handles the situation decently himself, he’s going to be undone by his own fever swamps.

But it gets even worse for Romney, because the opposite side of his base of supporters is made up of moderates and practical politicians. David Brooks is an example of the first, and he’s all but given up on Mitt. Bill Kristol is an example of the second, and he’s pretty much given up too. Yet again, Republicans are learning the downside of handing their party over to the fanatics.


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