Can Romney Manage to Make This Election Exclusively About the Economy?
In the two months since Eric Fehrnstrom’s “etch-a-sketch” gaffe, many political observers have waited for the iconic moment when Romney would move to the center or distance himself from the toxic conservative ideological battles of the primary season. But without much notice, that etch-a-sketch moment has already happened.
No, Romney has not shifted positions. Nor has he disrespected the conservative activists whose votes and trust he sought so relentlessly since 2007. What his campaign has done, however, is radically narrow its focus to a single message, one particularly attractive to swing voters: that this election is purely and simply a referendum on Obama’s economy. This focus comes at the expense of the philosophical, social, and cultural topics that dominated the primary season from beginning to end. There’s one problem though: His party’s conservative base may not let him get away with it.
Barely an hour goes by these days without a Romney surrogate staring into a camera and intoning like an incantation that the election is about nothing other than Obama’s responsibility for a poor economy. As Jonathan Chait recently noted, even the much-asked question on Romney’s poor standing with Hispanic voters is routinely answered by citing the economic sufferings of Hispanics and the certainty that they, too, will ignore every other factor and vote for Mr. Fix-It.