I wonder whose idea it was for Mitt Romney to hand Bill Clinton all that great material for a stump speech.
You may have heard that Mitt attacked Barack Obama the other day for not being a good Bill Clinton-esque New Democrat. It’s easy to imagine the Big Dawg having a lot of fun with a speech that begins with his thanking Governor Romney for the kind words but reminding him and the audience that Republicans didn’t have such nice things to say about him and his policies at the time. From there he can ease into a compare and contrast between the good that good Democrats like himself and Barack Obama have done and are trying to do and the messes Republicans like Mitt Romney have made and are promising to make again.
But Romney’s campaign strategy seems to include saying anything and everything, even if he contradicts himself two or three times in a sentence, in the cynical certainty that the rubes hear only what they want to hear anyway. And make no mistake. Romney thinks he’s talking only to rubes.
But NPR Frank James apparently thinks Romney was talking to Independents in a canny play for their votes as he moves more towards the center as the general election approaches and he puts the primaries behind him.
It is an article of faith among the Washington Press Corps that Mitt Romney is really a moderate, even a closet liberal, and that as soon as he’s President he will start driving the Republican Religious Right crazy by reverting to his true Massachusetts-based self.
The assumption is that he’s lying to the rubes now.
But there’s no reason not to think he was lying to the rubes then.
People talk about his stated support for gay rights back when he was running for the Senate against Ted Kennedy.
They forget that while he was governor he worked towards getting marriage equality banned.
My feeling is that he’s lying now, he was lying then, he’ll lie in the future, because none of it matters to him. All that matters is that he gets to be President.
Another assumption is that President Mitt will have an easier time keeping the conservative members of his party in Congress in line than President Obama has had keeping the conservative Democrats in line.
Eric Cantor would drink his milk shake every day. Every. Damn. Day.
But James also thinks that, while Mitt was risking riling up Right Wingers with his praise of Clinton, there’s another big question. How will a different demographic react? Sure, Michigan went for Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but:
Michigan is also the land of the Reagan Democrats, conservative, blue-collar voters, many of whom now identify as the independents both parties hotly compete for.
Ok. Let’s review.
In 2008, Michigan, the land of the Reagan Democrats, went for…Barack Obama.
In 2004, Michigan went for…John Kerry.
In 2000, Michigan went for…Al Gore.
The last time Michigan, land of the Reagan Democrats, went for a Republican was 1988, twenty-four years ago.
Twenty-four years is one year shy of a generation.
It’s one year short of a quarter century!
But here’s the thing. The Reagan Democrats? They were mostly Nixon Democrats and George Wallace Democrats to begin with. They’d made their switch in 1972 and even 1968, forty and forty-four years ago.
Forty-four is six years shy of half a century.
Those “Reagan” Democrats? Or Reagan “Democrats”?
They’re mostly long gone from Michigan and from this planet.
Of those who didn’t leave the state by dying, many moved out in the 1980s to chase after jobs that had been shipped south. It was under Reagan that auto plants began shutting down and with them much of what was left of Detroit and places like Flint.
For a lot of people, including many of those Reagan Democrats, when you said the name Reagan, know what they heard?
The Washington Press Corps is dominated by men in their forties and early fifties who came of age during the dawn of Morning in America and they were either traumatized or seduced by it and can’t get over it.
The reason it’s always bad news for Democrats in their minds is that back then it mostly was.
And to them, all Democrats are versions of Jimmy Carter or Michael Dukakis. All Republicans are avatars of Ronald Reagan.
The ones who aren’t living in the 1980s are stuck in the early years of Bill Clinton’s presidency when for the Press Corps it was all-Whitewater all the time.
But the Reagan Democrats? They’ve moved on.