I am that most valuable of commodities in this election season, an undecided voter registered in a swing state (Virginia). You might think that being a 60-year-old white male who works at a conservative think tank, I’d be leaning toward the Republican. Well I’m not, because I’m waiting for Mr. Romney to explain the arithmetic behind his economic proposals. So far, it sounds to me like that arithmetic just doesn’t add up. We’re going to cut taxes, raise defense and reduce the deficit? Really?
Not that Obama has done a great job with the economy on his watch. Everything that I learned in college about U.S. electoral behavior tells me that Obama’s weak economic record will doom him in November, even if the Republicans don’t have a coherent alternative. However, I’m beginning to think there’s another factor at work in the election that might give the Democrats a chance of holding onto the White House.
That other issue is how disconnected Republicans seem to be from the mainstream of traditional political discussion. It appears that movement conservatives have spent so much time talking to themselves over the last generation that they no longer are capable of talking to independents like me. For instance, they bitterly attack the government of China for imposing a one-child policy on families, but can’t seem to see how equally oppressive their own efforts to ban abortion are. I mean, do they believe in limited government or don’t they?
The latest indication Republicans are out of touch with the moderate middle of the political spectrum is candidate Romney’s view that he shouldn’t have to release his tax returns. Democrats are having a field day with the issue, pointing out that he may be the first presidential candidate in history with a secret Swiss bank account. Does Romney really think voters are going to select a president whose past financial dealings are a mystery when conservatives have been hinting for four years that we don’t have the full story about where Obama was born?
What’s interesting to me about all this isn’t the details of Romney’s tax records. It’s obvious he will have to be more forthcoming in releasing details. What’s interesting is why the candidate can’t see that, just as he couldn’t see how voters would react to a series of previous mis-steps. That pattern suggests that Romney, like many other Republicans, spends too much time talking to the converted and not enough time talking to the rest of America. Say what you will about Obama, that’s one flaw he doesn’t share. And it may be a key reason why Romney can’t seem to get ahead of Obama in the polls.
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