The leaked video of former Gov. Mitt Romney claiming it is not his job to “worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes has been treated as a new development by most but, in fact, is nothing new. It is simply another example of the Romney campaign that, as the months have worn on, has grown both increasingly conservative and erratic.
The conservative policy swing and unpredictability of Romney’s campaign has fundamentally changed the nature of the 2012 presidential election. In what should have been a referendum on the past four years – President Barack Obama’s term – the election has transformed into a choice between a conservative Romney and a liberal Obama. The election is no longer retrospective – it’s prospective.
It is inarguable that Romney is now more conservative in his views – or at least in the views he chooses to present to the public – than he was at any time in his life prior.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s own universal health care legislation, which passed in 2006 and served as the model for the “Obamacare” he now pledges to repeal, is a prime example of the kind of entitlement he rails against in the recently leaked video.
What’s peculiar is that, while conventional wisdom suggests candidates begin their campaign more ideologically extreme in order to appeal to their base during primaries and then slowly move center as the general election wears on to attract independent voters, Romney has done the opposite.
After securing the Republican nomination as a moderate candidate, especially when compared to the likes of former Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and thus the likeliest to defeat Obama, Romney has moved consistently to the right.
After a summer of increasingly conservative policies, highlighted by the announcement of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate and thus attaching Romney to the Ryan budget, and now the denouncement of nearly half the country, it is interesting to note how the apparent number of so-called gaffes committed by the Romney campaign has also risen.
From actor/director Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention – a decision gone awry – to Romney’s hasty comments on the Obama administration’s response to the violence in Libya and now this leaked footage, the Romney campaign is seemingly slipping up every week. It has the unpredictable and harried nature of campaign that is behind in the polls and knows it. Whether you believe Romney’s conservative shift is a positive or not, the fact remains that the last time Romney polled at 50 percent in a national poll was on May 11. His campaign has since been driven by base conservative ideology and haunted by gaffes fueling media backlash, and Obama’s lead has only widened.