The Corner

Romney’s New Strategy

By kicking off his Ohio bus tour with an unusually blunt attack on Obama’s big-government philosophy, Mitt Romney appears to have adopted a new strategy. Romney described Obama’s vision of government as “entirely foreign to anything this nation has ever known.” He decried ”a larger government, taking more and more, intruding in your relationship with your doctor, investing, so to speak, in companies, picking winners and losers, or in his case, losers.” Then came the biggest applause line: “That is not the America I know. That is not the America that built Ohio.”

Romney’s attacks on Obama’s 1998 remarks about redistribution could have been dismissed as an effort to divert attention from the 47 percent flap. Today’s Ohio campaign-speech appears to signal a more serious pivot. This is how Romney has chosen to open his tour of the ultimate battleground state. Gone is Obama the likable guy in over his head. Now we have Obama the transformative ideologue. You don’t need to screen clips from 2016, or even bring up European social democracy, to make the point.

Romney’s earlier strategy of depending on reminders of Obama’s failed economic stewardship to gently wean voters away from Obama wasn’t crazy. Why alienate that thin sliver of Obama-sympathetic undecideds by making them feel like fools for having supported the president in the first place? Yet that framing made the election a choice between blaming Obama for our economic troubles or cutting him some slack for having been handed such a bad situation to begin with.

This new strategy changes things. By highlighting Obama’s transformative policies, Romney gives voters a way to make sense of Obama’s role in our economic woes. This is how the 2010 election was won. Yes, the economy was bad back in 2010, but that alone can’t explain the GOP’s sweeping off-year victory. If a bad economy by itself was enough to account for 2010, Romney would be ahead right now.

The secret to the big Republican win in 2010 was the connection voters made between the bad economy and Obama’s ambitious policies. The stimulus hadn’t worked as promised and was pushing us into bankruptcy. Health-care reform distracted Obama from the jobs battle, broke the bank, and paralyzed small business. Voters blamed Obama s’ high-profile policies for the bad economy in 2010, and that’s why Republicans won.

Since losing the House, Obama has been forced to work his transformative ways via regulation: suspending work on the Keystone pipeline, pushing for cap-and-trade through the EPA, not protesting when his hand-picked NLRB blocked Boeing’s move to South Carolina, gutting the work requirements of welfare reform, and so on. By highlighting these concrete moves, and linking them to both Obama’s philosophy and the bad economy, Romney can convince undecided voters that Obama is to blame for our troubles.

A sharper case against Obama may risk putting off some undecideds, but may also convince those who’d been inclined to cut Obama some slack that the economy isn’t just a terrible muddle that no president could figure out. On the contrary, it’s a problem Obama’s big-government policies have made worse. None of this will surprise conservatives, of course. But thanks to the mainstream media, voters who are still undecided at this point may never have heard the case for Obama’s role in mucking up the economy. You can’t make that case without implicitly or explicitly invoking Obama’s ideology.

Obama’s own strategy plays into this. The president is running a much more openly left-leaning campaign than Democrats typically do. “You didn’t build that” was no fluke. It was embedded in a “we’re all in this together” communitarian narrative that pushes Obama’s big-government aspirations out into the open.

Obama’s “personal” attacks on Romney are ideological too. Painting Romney as a heartless, tax-dodging, big-businessman is a way of painting capitalism as the source of our troubles. It’s not enough to parry this by simply retelling Romney’s impressive history of generosity, compassion, and kindness. Romney needs an implicitly ideological narrative capable of countering Obama’s own implicitly left-ideological campaign.

Romney’s new narrative also happens to be true, a real advantage. Once you itemize Obama’s big government ploys, voters will get it. Obama’s aspirations for government’s role in the economy really are unprecedented.

We can’t say for certain that Romney will keep at it, but the intensity of his attacks on Obama today do seem to indicate a new strategy. I think it’s a good idea.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More

Questions for Those Who Believed Jussie Smollett

The “we reported the Jussie Smollett case responsibly” contention has been blasted to smithereens. Twitter accounts and headlines in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times reported as fact Jussie Smollett’s wildly implausible allegations, and many other journalists did so as ... Read More