Jonathan Martin has a post up at the Politico looking at the challenges (contradictions?) of Mitt Romney’s two-track pitch to the voters. He is trying to be a “change” Republican while also being more conservative than the “Washington Republicans.” It’s a difficult balance and may muddle his message somewhat, but I think Martin misses the extent to which conservatives would like a change from standard Beltway GOP fare as well.
To my mind, Romney’s biggest problem isn’t that he’s trying to sell himself as a conservative reformer. It is that he doesn’t have the biography/record to back up his new conservative image, forcing him to lean more heavily on issue positions and rhetoric like ACLU vs. U.S.A. — the kinds of things that detract from his image as a competent CEO type when it comes time to appeal to swing voters. Fred Thompson, by contrast, has a Southern accent, was part of the 1994 Republican congressional takeover, and has a record that (while flawed) passes more litmus tests than anyone else in the top tier. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, on the other hand, have the familiarity and goodwill among some swing voters that Romney has to build up at the same time he is acquiring his conservative credentials.
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