JONATHAN COHN DECEMBER 2, 2011
[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir]
Mitt Romney is preparing to attack Newt Gingrich, according to Politico, with a heavy emphasis on flip-flopping. Good luck with that, Mitt.
As I wrote the other day, I am skeptical this line of attack works on Gingrich, at least when it's coming from Romney. Generally speaking, inconsistency can hurt a politician in one of two ways. It can suggest the politician lacks core convictions – i.e., it can reflect poorly on his character. Or it can suggest the politician is secretly something other than he says – i.e., it can reflect poorly on his ideology. It seems to me that Romney is extremely vulnerable on both counts. Gingrich, because of his conservative record from the ‘90s, is less vulnerable to the former and maybe to the latter, as well.
Something else to consider: Romney has, to this point, run a nearly flawless campaign. He’s stayed on message. He’s performed superbly in the debates. He’s fundraised well and collected endorsements by the dozens. That speaks well of Romney, or at least his managerial abilities. I’ve always thought Romney’s experience was a major asset, because it meant he didn’t have to master the art of campaigning. In fact, I still think that. But it also means he can’t improve his standing simply by improving his organization or discipline.
Granted, I could be totally, 100 percent wrong on this. A pair of TNR writers who know far more about politics than I do, Jonathan Bernstein and Ed Kilgore, have made the case that Gingrich will pay a steep price for his flip-flops, some of which are very recent. (Libya, the Ryan budget…) And whether or not that happens, Romney’s huge advantage in money and organization still makes him the favorite to win the nomination. Among other things, Nate Silver tells us, the long lag between the first four primaries and Super Tuesday will give Romney a chance to regroup – and use his superior resources to his advantage – should he stumble in the first contests.
Then again, Romney's problems may be bigger than they seem. Another Nate Silver item points out that Romney's polling is surprisingly tepid among moderate Republicans, who would seem like his natural constituency within the GOP. Given all that, I'll be surprised if Gingrich isn’t the clear Romney alternative when Iowans trudge to their caucuses on January 5 – and for some time afterwards.
Lost in the payroll tax debate: Suzy Khimm with a critical reminder about the difference between what the two parties want. Not only do Democrats propose to finance the tax cut differently (with a tax on millionaires). They're also offering more tax relief itself, which means their proposal would, according to the prevailing economic consensus, create more jobs.
Obamacare news: The administration today released final regulations, limiting what insurance companies can spend on overhead, profit, and other expenses not directly related to patient care. Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News explains. It's an important story, so look for a more analysis next week, including in this space.
Is capitalism dead? No, says Kenneth Rogoff. But it's getting pretty unhealthy.
Smart (but evil) ALEC: Brendon Greeley and Alison Fitzgerald of Bloomberg Businessweek take a look at ALEC, a foundation writes model bills for state legislators to use on any number of subjects. The think tank gives corporations, which underwrite the foundation, all kinds of hidden influence over public policy in the states.
It Wasn’t A Very Good Year: Despite the (cautious) optimism that many, including Matt, have expressed over the jobs report, Mike Konczal argues that, in fact, the jobs report encapsulates a mediocre year from the economy.
Reader quote of the day: From "rayward," in response to the latest unemployment numbers
My good friend, an engineer, lost his job several months ago. He is highly educated and skilled, so finding other employment wasn't too difficult. But it's over 150 miles away! The family (father, mother, and three children) voted not to move, and for him to "cummute" to his new job. So my friend is not unemployed and his inconvenience doesn't compare to those who are unemployed, but his family is suffering. I suspect my friend's situation is not much different from that of many others, who may not be unemployed but whose lives have been turned upside down.
Video of the Day: The economy, blue-collar voters...yeah, I have Styx on the brain: