Jon Rauch pinpoints what Romney's cribbing of Reagan rhetoric means for the election:
Romney wins if he can do to Obama what Reagan did to Carter: Paint him as helpless to turn the economy around. Obama wins if he can do to Romney what LBJ did to Goldwater: Paint him as the leader of an extremist faction. If the election is about the economy, Romney wins. If it is about ideology, Obama wins.
That's why it's key to "change the subject from Romney's speech to Ryan's," argues Rauch:
Painting Mitt Romney as an ideologue won’t be easy, because he isn’t one, and he isn’t convincing when he plays one on TV. But painting his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, as an ideologue is easy, because he virtually defines the term. In his acceptance speech, when he promised "a clean break" from the country’s present course toward "a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us," he was channeling Goldwater.
Except Ryan's fanatical theoconservatism is anathema to Goldwater, as was the entire Christianist right.
I suspect this election will be more like 1992 or 2004. Obama will be the victim of economic circumstances despite an exemplary and prudent record that laid the ground for full recovery and eventually lower deficits; or he will eke out a victory on the grounds that he has done well enough to deserve re-election from Independents, given the economic woes, and by cultural wedge issues, like immigration and women's equality, that have come to rebound against the GOP's neanderthal view of gays and women and immigrants.
The choice is between 1992 and 2004. And in my opinion, Romney is no Bill Clinton or Ross Perot from 1992 and Romney is as miserably tone-deaf as a candidate as John Kerry. The wild card? The worst recession since the 1930s, which is improving only incrementally.