Remember This Dude?

It was odd watching Jon Stewart’s rather inspired take-down of Mitt Romney last night. It was odd because the critique was mind-blowingly obvious and deeply familiar but nonetheless seemed fresh, after his re-tooling. I mean, we all knew that Romney was vulnerable to massive flip-flopping over the years but the visual evidence of it nonetheless devastates:

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Indecision 2012 – The Great Right Hope – The Manchurian Candi-Dad

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“This is beginning to hurt where my feelings should be”: funny because it’s true. Everyone should be allowed to change his or her mind. God knows I have, as events have unfolded. But if Romney’s shifts were connected to new facts, or new arguments, they would have some punch. But what’s amazing about him is that all of them seem clearly caused purely by opportunism in a party lurching toward fundamentalism in religion (the Bible), economics (no revenue increases ever) and politics (the Constitution, as viewed by someone in the late eighteenth century).

The record nonetheless shows Romney as once passionately pro-choice, a man who vowed a decade and a half ago to be more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy, a man who embraced and shaped universal healthcare on lines close to identical to Obama’s but now vows to repeal it, a man who opposed tax loopholes before Obama targeted them, a figure so shape-shifty it’s impossible to know how he’d govern, except by sticking a wet finger into the air. There’s a reason the GOP is uncomfortable with him, why Perry did so well in fundraising this past quarter, why the idiotic Christie-fever ran wild, and why Herman Cain, of all people, is now neck and neck with a former governor.

Where Obama is weak – lacking the kind of Jersey cred of a Christie or even a Biden – Romney is also weak. Where Romney is strong – experience, competence – Obama, as an incumbent president, is just as strong. What we’re talking about right now is simply a function of deep discontent at economic stagnation – and Mitt’s experience in the private sector. That’s really Romney’s core strength.

I suspect he’s more John Kerry in 2004 – one state away from the presidency – than Bill Clinton in 1992. But I also know that in this fluid environment, anything is possible.