Romney’s slalom toward the White House


Josh Marshall notes that Mitt Romney has given a thumbs-up to Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare:

Two contenders, Pawlenty and Daniels, haven’t done more than say kind things in general. But most have said they’re down with it. And Mitt Romney in particular has signed on for the whole thing — which means he’ll go into the 2012 primary and possibly the general election as supporting the abolition of Medicare. And that’s a tough thing to carry, as it should be.

I’m going to be really curious to see what sort of follow-up questions he gets on that position and if anybody is able to get a clearer statement out of Pawlenty on this critical issue.

My guess? No follow-up questions of any sort, unless the impossible happens and Ryan’s flight of fancy becomes a real bill. We’re presently about eight and a half months from the first ballots being cast in the 2012 primaries, and probably six months from the general public paying much attention. Anything that a candidates says now, but doesn’t want to revisit later, about an early-2011 proposal that goes nowhere will simply disappear.

But still, Romney makes an interesting case to watch in this context. He has famously held every position on many issues, and gained favor among elites for his technocratic seriousness. My own view of the 2012 race is that a Romney nomination requires him to consolidate the remaining “serious” Republican technocrats, while the other candidates fight over the far right. There are a lot of voters on the far right, but if even two strong candidates persevere over there, Romney can likely win what he needs for the nomination. And my supposition is that, for the technocrats that make up Romney’s base, what he says doesn’t really matter. They know his political operation based on its personnel, not his public statements, and they know how he’ll govern because he’s just like them — the new H.W. Bush that we the party and the country so desperately need. If he has to say he likes the idea of killing Medicare, or that Ryan’s near-future projection of 3% unemployment is reasonable, well, what candidate hasn’t had to say some silly things to get elected? This could actually be a benefit for Romney, because due to his past flip-floppery, nobody is likely to believe he actually supports the Ryan plan anyway. Once he secures the nomination, he can get the party in line and we’ll just quit talking about such ridiculous things.

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