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July 25, 2014

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Mitt’s political metamorphosis

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Storms can alter the course of elections, and thus it was that the political world woke up to several big questions in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Has the monster maelstrom scattered the last of Mitt Romney’s right-wing positions to the winds, leaving him completely free to finish his moderate makeover? And will Romney shortly be proposing a massive new Marshall Plan to rebuild the infrastructure in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado?

Just joking. Still, the political metamorphosis Romney has undertaken this month is almost as remarkable as the lightning-fast renovations that certain home-improvement TV shows accomplish while unsuspecting homeowners are out lunching at Applebee’s. Last spring, when longtime Romney lieutenant Eric Ferhnstrom said Team Romney would be shaking the ideological Etch A Sketch to reposition Mitt for the general election, I viewed that as an errant quip, not a Freudian slip. After all, having steered hard right during not one but two GOP primary seasons, Romney surely didn’t think he could leave all that behind and race back to the middle.

Actually, it turns out he did. Lesson: Never underestimate Mitt’s amazing morphability. We are in the closing days of the campaign — and Romney is running as a reasonable, mild-mannered moderate.

The hawkish Romney who once castigated Barack Obama as weak on foreign policy now endorses the president’s approach on Iraq and Iran. The candidate who portrayed himself as resolutely anti-abortion and determined to defund Planned Parenthood recently told the Des Moines Register that he didn’t see any anti-abortion legislation he would sign on the horizon. The man who supported the Blunt amendment — a legislative rider that would have let employers deny insurance coverage for contraception, as well as any other health care services they find morally objectionable — now says he doesn’t believe employers should tell employees whether they can have contraceptive care. The candidate who once courted supply-siders with a large across-the-board tax cut now asserts that upper earners won’t pay less under his plan.

Why, Team Romney appears to be basing its strategy on an adage often attributed to H.L. Mencken: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

How else to explain Romney’s new ad in Ohio about the auto industry? That slippery spot faults Obama for taking GM and Chrysler into managed bankruptcy. In doing so, it ignores two signal facts: First, the direct government aid Obama offered kept those companies alive through that process. Second, Romney also favored managed bankruptcy but without the life-sustaining federal dollars.

It gets worse. Romney’s ad also castigates Obama for having “sold Chrysler to Italians, who are going to build Jeeps in China.” That assertion leaves clear the impression that Chrysler plans to shift U.S. jobs to China. Indeed, Romney made a similar claim last week in Ohio.

That’s just not so. Chrysler has markedly increased Jeep-related U.S. jobs since 2009 and plans another increase next year. And though Chrysler may produce Jeep vehicles for the Chinese market in China, the company says it does not plan to shift U.S. Jeep jobs to China.

Now, no one who has watched Romney’s past campaigns will be shocked by his willingness to trim the truth. Yet I am surprised that Romney thinks voters can be so easily misled.

Still, given the wholesale shape-shifting he’s done from the first debate forward, Romney must believe that enough voters to tip this election are 1) clueless about his primary positions, and 2) such low-information citizens that they won’t learn about his expedient evolution in the week ahead.

Similarly, when it comes to their auto-industry TV ad — and a radio ad that’s even more egregious — Team Romney must suppose that enough voters to tip Ohio Romney’s way have no idea that Obama’s action is widely credited with saving the auto industry. And, further, that they can be fooled into thinking that the Obama-brokered sale of Chrysler to Fiat will mean moving Jeep jobs to China.

This is cynicism squared. The Romney camp is keenly aware that in the final days of the campaign, truth has a hard time keeping pace with falsehoods — and they seem determined to take full advantage of that dynamic.

After all, if he stays honest and loses, Romney’s presidential hopes are over. And if it takes mendacity to win? Well, Mitt knows he’ll have ample opportunity to reshape his image as needed. Indeed, a Romney victory would stand as a testament to his skill at doing just that.

Scot Lehigh writes for the Boston Globe.

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  1. Columnist is wrong minded on so many matters it's impossible to address them all. Let's take one. Chrysler. The CEO of Chrysler said publicly yesterday it is moving jobs and production of Jeeps to China. Period. End of story. Move on. Like Chrysler is doing.

    CarmineD

  2. CarmineD

    Your pitiful attempts to mislead are rivaled only by the candidate you support. Chrysler's CEO said:

    "I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China."

    In fact, Chrysler has added jobs to Jeep production in the United States and plans to add 1,100 more next year.

  3. ""I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China."

    Mr. Weber: Governor Romney and I didn't say it was. The Governor said Chrysler jobs and production of Jeeps will be expanded into China SOON. The decison was the works years ago. The CEO of Fiat and Chrysler just went public with the inforamtion. Now, as I recall, isn't that the rub that the lamestream media has had all along with the Governor and Bain Capital? OUTSOURCING!!

    CarmineD

  4. The facts never seem to matter. They are twisted, spun, weaved, and bobbed to look like something else and prove the quote stated in the article...

    "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
    H. L. Mencken
    US editor (1880 - 1956)

    And befitting the time of year:

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
    H. L. Mencken

    scare tactics - the GOP's magic potion ala Rove, Cheney, Bush, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Romney, etc. BOO!

  5. I hope people see the real Romney.

    All indications point at he is a spoilt rotten business executive who is usually used to getting what he wants all the time.

    He wants to be President of the United States of America.

    He will say and do anything to get there.

    Even if it's not true, made up and/or a blatant lie.

    The goal is more important than any hint of veracity of character.

    He just WANTS the Presidency.

    The American people, this coming Tuesday, are going to smack the back of his hand when he reaches for it...waggle the finger in his face back and forth....shake your head...no, no, no, Romney...you can't have it...go away.

    Obama/Biden 2012!