Romney’s Move to the Center

National Journal Staff

Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered to notice—he seemed to think he was at a White House news conference, not a debate—but while the president was acting presidential on Wednesday night, his challenger, Mitt Romney, decisively made his long-anticipated leap to the center.

And if the GOP nominee stays there, he may yet have a chance to take Obama’s job away from him.

Out on the stump, Obama and his team probably would never have let Romney get away with his performance. No doubt, the Obama-ites would have instantly labeled him a flip-flopper yet again and trotted out all his campaign’s extreme positions on the budget and tax cuts, tying it up neatly with a reissue of Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark.

But Romney got away with it in Denver. It’s not that the president didn’t see what his challenger was up to. But his response was too subtle, too civilized. Romney was fierce and on his game, while Obama was excessively polite, even indifferent.

If he wants to win, Obama can’t stop doing what his campaign has done so effectively: hammering away at the issue that has dogged the GOP candidate for so long. Which Romney is the country likely to get? Is it the pragmatist from Massachusetts, or the party panderer?

Presidential small ball is not going to work, not in an election in which Obama’s record still has so many vulnerabilities. Romney managed to hit at most of them on Wednesday. Obama acted as if the debate didn’t really matter, while Romney was clearly playing to win big. If the Republican nominee continues to do that by appealing to the center—and, in effect, to the entire country—he may in fact transform the race. Read more

Michael Hirsh

NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT

Unemployment Rate Falls to 7.8 Percent, Economy Creates 114,000 Jobs NEW!
[NBC News, 10/5/12] The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest it has been in almost four years in September, giving Obama a potential boost as the race heads into the final innings. But Romney was unimpressed, saying that the slow growth “is not what a real recovery looks like.” 

Political Connections: Where’s the Beef?
[National Journal, 10/4/12] The debate spotlighted the biggest hole in Obama’s reelection effort, as NJ’s Ron Bronstein writes: the paucity of specifics he has offered about his second-term agenda. Team Obama has effectively redirected this campaign into a referendum on Romney, but when the spotlight shifts back to the president, he seems listless.  

Moderate Mitt Returns – But Conservatives Cheer
[Politico, 10/5/12] The candidate who won the GOP nomination boasting of his “severely conservative” record, Romney on Wednesday sounded like what conservatives always suspected he really is: a Massachusetts moderate who supports some regulations and doesn’t want to cut taxes for the rich. But cheering conservatives proved that beating Obama is most important to them.

Romney Takes Liberties With Claims About a Bipartisan Past
[New York Times, 10/5/12] The Times’s Michael Wines takes a look back to Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts, writing that while Romney and his overwhelmingly Democratic legislature did at times come together, much of Romney’s term in office was characterized by conflict and tensions.  

Iowa Woman ‘Outraged’ Over portrayal of Her Question to Ryan NEW!
[National Journal, 10/5/12] A woman who pressed GOP veep nominee Paul Ryan for more specifics on his jobs plan this week in Iowa wrote an op-ed in her local paper expressing outrage that the Obama campaign and the media seized on  her question to attack the Romney-Ryan ticket.  

Obama Poised to Nearly Double ’08 Ad Spending
[National Journal, 10/5/12] Obama’s reelection effort has spent more than $300 million on television advertising, an amount that puts him on track to nearly double his own record-breaking spending from the 2008 cycle. Obama continues to outpace Romney’s campaign spending, particularly in swing states.

Big Bird is Small Potatoes When it Comes to the Federal Budget
[Chicago Sun-Times, 10/4/12] Romney ruffled some feathers when he said during the debate that he’d wipe out PBS’ federal funding – but the $445 million the federal government gave to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting this year works out to be about 1/100 of 1 percent of the federal budget. The Los Angeles Times has a history of the political fight over PBS.

Romney on the 47 Percent: ‘I Said Something Completely Wrong’
[National Journal, 10/4/12] Romney did damage control on Thursday on perhaps his most damaging campaign moment, telling Fox News that his infamous “47 percent” remarks were “completely wrong.” Seventy-eight percent of NJ’s Democratic insiders said the comments were “very damaging,” while 68 percent of Republican insiders said they were “damaging.”  

Romney’s Limit on Tax Deductions Could Affect Middle Class, Wealthy the Most
[Boston Globe, 10/4/12] Critics say Romney’s plan to cap charitable deductions on things like charitable donations, home mortgage interest, and state and local tax payments would increase the tax burden on many middle-class taxpayers. Meanwhile, it would not make up for the roughly $5 trillion in federal revenue over 10 years that would be lost in Romney’s plan.

Obama’s Popularity with Female Voters Means Romney has Uphill Battle for Iowa
[Des Moines Register, 10/5/12] Obama holds double-digit leads with female likely voters in Iowa on a range of issues, everything but reducing the deficit and fixing the economy.

Jimmy Fallon Offers a Slightly Exaggerated Look at Jim Lehrer
[Gawker, 10/4/12] Jimmy Fallon’s parody shows Romney repeatedly hushing the moderator of Wednesday’s presidential debate, and even has Obama jumping in too.

Dems Hope Biden Can Blunt Romney Momentum Post-Debate
[The Hill, 10/5/12] Democrats hope that a strong performance from Vice President Joe Biden next Thursday during his first debate with GOP veep nominee Paul Ryan could turn the page on the president’s own poor performance. But they also worry that Biden’s tendency to speak his mind could backfire. Biden told reporters that he was looking forward to the debate because he and Ryan have such “fundamentally different” views on many issues.

Biden Acknowledges he, Obama Want to Raise $1 Trillion in Taxes on Top Earners
[Fox News, 10/5/12] Biden’s characteristic bluntness on Thursday gave the GOP fresh fodder to criticize the Democratic ticket’s pledge to let the Bush-era tax rates for households making $250,000 and up expire: He said the ticket does want to “raise taxes by a trillion dollars… in one regard.”

Low-Profile Ryan Campaigns Toward Debates
[BuzzFeed, 10/4/12] After a flashy entrance, Ryan is almost invisible on the campaign trail. BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller describes travelling with the GOP veep nominee as a study in the contrast between the old Romney, who conservatives believed would bring his Spartan fiscal policy to the debate, and the new.

Q&A with Artur Davis: Different Tune
[National Journal, 10/4/12] Now that former rep. Artur Davis has switched his allegiance from Democrat to Republican, he has become a vocal proponent of the GOP-backed voter-ID laws, which require voters in many states to show photo ID at the polls. Davis challenged the Democratic assertion that the strict laws disproportionately suppress African-American votes. 

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