Since the general election campaign began several weeks ago following Rick Santorum’s concession to reality, the speculation has been rife over what face Mitt Romney will wear. The answer to that question is as simple as it is obvious: whatever it takes for him to win.
A more interesting inquiry is how the Obama campaign will seek to portray him, with there being two camps within the reelection effort. One view is that Romney should be portrayed as an endless flip-flopper who can be expected to shake the Etch A Sketch in order to appeal to an electorate not as ideologically right-wing as the Tea Party Republicans. The other view, championed by Bill Clinton, is to put Romney in a corner surrounded by the right-wing rhetoric from the Republican primaries. It is interesting that Clinton, who was borderline nasty during the 2008 Democratic primaries, has emerged as Obama’s most effective surrogate and perhaps even his most valued adviser.
Romney has already started walking away from his primary positions. After being the most strident GOP voice on immigration during the debates, he now thinks that Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act is worth looking at. When the President took to college campuses to speak out against increasing the interest rate on student loans, Romney agreed quickly even though he was opposed to such notions earlier this year. Romney did not mention how the government should make up the $6 billion annual expense of keeping the interest rates at their current level, but we know from prior statements it will not be from increasing tax revenue or cutting defense spending. When he does mention cutting specific programs, it has always been from small-bore items such as the National Endowment for the Arts and, of course, Planned Parenthood.