fresh voices from the front lines of change







If you blinked, you missed it. Or you probably missed it because you were fast asleep. Late last night, nearly a month after suspending his own campaign, 13 paragraphs into a 16 paragraph email to his supporters, Rick Santorum finally endorsed Mitt Romney as the inevitable Republican nominee.

Above all else, we both agree that President Obama must be defeated. The task will not be easy. It will require all hands on deck if our nominee is to be victorious. Governor Romney will be that nominee and he has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime.

It was a long time coming. Seriously. Shot-gun weddings happen at a faster pace than this endorsement, and with more enthusiasm.

One assumes that Santorum includes himself in “all hands on deck.” But Santorum didn’t promise to do very much, other than continue “praying for [Romney] and his family.” Nor did he urge his supporters to do much more.

Does that mean Santorum is going to morph into a Romney campaign surrogate. Does that mean we’re likely to see Santorum stumping for Romney on the campaign trail? Probably not. And with good reason.

After all, the Obama campaign would probably have a field day comparing anything Santroum might say in support of Romney with some of Rick Santorum’s surprisingly accurate attacks on Romney during the primary race. This HuffPo mashup alone could, with very little editing, be an anti-Romney TV spot.

ThinkProgress has a handy compilation, from which I’ve picked a few favorites.

Santorum called Romney “the ultimate flip-flopper.”  Of all the attacks on Romney, this is one of the most often repeated, because (a) it’s true and (b) therefore effective. You could get whiplash trying to keep up with Mitt Romney’s flip-flops.

Mitt Romney, Robo-FlopThe only thing more stunning than Romney’s ideological agility and changeable convictions is that — contrary to what you might be inclined to think — Romney’s flip-flops aren’t quite the gaffes the appear to be. Neither, for that matter, are his convictions. They’re more tactics than convictions, really. Thus they change whenever necessary, and always in service of Romney’s real, bedrock conviction.

Digby already covered Romney’s latest flip-flop. It happened in a matter of days. Romney inveighed against President Obama’s “attack on religious conscience” during the last GOP debate, referring to the controversy ginned up in response to a mandate that all employer insurance plans — including religious institutions — cover contraception. After his Michigan primary win, Romney again accused the president of “attacking religious liberty,” over the issue of contraception. Then, within one twenty-four hour period Romney managed to put himself on both sides of the contraception debate.

…This, really, is only the most recent of Romney’s flip-flops. He’s managed to either flip or forget a number of his previous positions, like his support of an open primary in Michigan. (Before “Operation Hilarity,” that is.) He isn’t just running from RomneyCare, after all. Candidate Romney may denounce the Obama stimulus and tout his conservative cred, but as Governor Romney proposed more than $700 million in stimulus packages to turn around Massachusetts’ economy.

Proving himself perhaps a bit smarter than he thinks most Americans should be, Santorum took Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom’s characterization of Romney as an “etch-a-sketch” candidate and ran with it. Santorum said “etch-a-sketch” Romney will say anything to win the nomination. Again, the reason the “etch-a-sketch” meme spread far and wide is because (a) it’s true and (b) therefore effective.

Romney-Sketch Cartoon

His flip-flops make him seem like a man without core convictions, but flip-flops are really a strategy employed in service of Mitt Romney’s one unshakeable conviction.

Mitt Romney - Mirror Mirror

Finally, there’s the lowest hanging fruit that Romney’s Republican opponents picked, and then threw at him: the flip-flops. It’s easy to rattle a number of them off, because Romney’s flipped at least once on just about every issue: contraception, health care reform, political action committees, Fannie Mae, climate change, immigration, green energy, abortion, etc.

But as Paul Waldman pointed out, Romney flip-flops like no other GOP candidate has in this race.

Mitt Romney flip-flops carefully, after a period of calculation in which he determines the most appropriate strategic positioning required to achieve his short- and long-term goals. Newt Gingrich flip-flops impulsively, taking positions that sound good at a particular moment without any apparent regard for the past or the future.

…Whenever Romney is asked to explain a flip-flop, he always has an answer, and it’s the same one he’ll give if he gets asked about it tomorrow or next month. It may not be entirely convincing, but you can tell he thought about it, worked through it with his advisors, and is offering the best explanation they could come up with. The explanations are crafted so that they account for whatever he has said in the past and what he intends to say in the future.

Romney’s flip-flops have always been a tactic employed strategically, in the service of his short-term goal of winning the Republican nomination, and his long-term goal of winning the presidency. So far, it’s been working. Not perfectly, but well enough. As of Tuesday night, Romney’s pretty much achieved his short-term goal.

Now, it’s about the presidency.

Santorum mocked Mitt Romney as a “Wall Street financier” who would look after “his friends on Wall Street … at the expense of Main Street America.” Well, once Newt Gingrich painted a bull-eye on Romney’s vulture capitalist resume, it became a surprising-but-familiar refrain among right-wing presidential wannabees, because (a) it’s true and (b) therefore effective.

In fact, the “King of Bain” attack is so effective, we’re guaranteed to see it again between now and November.

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% - CartoonHey, remember Bain Capital? Two words many of us haven’t thought of in a while. But rest assured, you’ll be hearing them a lot this fall as the Obama campaign deals with one of its biggest problems—the fact that Mitt Romney polls better than the president on economics.

…When the other guy leads in a category, a campaign has two alternatives. The first is to change the subject to a friendlier category. But the economy is a pretty big subject. Kind of hard to run a presidential campaign without talking about it. But the second path is more promising.  That, of course, is to find a way to erase the advantage. The quickest and sure-firest way for the Obama team to do that is to reintroduce the Bain Capital story. But they can’t do it like Newt Gingrich did in that “King of Bain” video, which was insanely over the top. As I said at the time, the argument is not “Mitt Romney was a job destroyer.” Because sometimes Mitt Romney was a job creator. That’s an unwinnable argument. The winnable argument is that Mitt Romney worked for the 1 percent. Sometimes it helped workers, but other times it hurt them; but nearly every time, the wealthy investors, and Romney himself, came out all right. That’s the story to tell. And any story that paints a darker picture of Bain than is fair will be pounced on and ripped to shreds.

Besides, Mitt Romney’s policies plainly spell out his priorities.

Budgets, Jim Wallis says, are moral documents. They reveal our priorities, and show the world what — or whom — we’re willing to sacrifice. Mitt Romney has shown us both.

… Romney showed us his priorities with a budget that includes a 20% “across-the-board” tax cut that essentially requires across-the-board cuts to programs that serve and support the poor, as well as the working- and middle-classes. Romney showed us his priorities with a budget that preserves his 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends, eliminate taxes on investment income for those earning more than $200,000 per year, and lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%.

Romney showed us what and whom he is willing to sacrifice, with a budget that would require cutting non-defense programs by $637 billion in 2016 alone, and $6.5 trillion between 2014 and 2021. Romney showed us who and what he is willing to sacrifice with a budget that would shred the safety net, throwing 10 million off the benefit rolls for food stamps, and leave 30 million without health care coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Romney showed us what and whom he is willing to sacrifice with his embrace of Paul Ryan’s budget. Romney showed us what and whom he is willing to sacrifice with his support of a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, and render America itself unrecognizable.

Most of all, Mitt Romney showed us his priorities by presenting and supporting budget plans that do all of the above without deducing the deficit, but actually increase it by $2.6 trillion

Santorum officially ended his campaign nearly a month ago. A week later, his campaign was still sending out attack mailers in which Santorum said it “It truly frightens me to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee.” Santorum still hadn’t released his delegates, and was telling supporters “I haven’t supported any candidate at this point.” There were no plans for a Santorum-Romney meeting, and a source close to Santorum said such a meeting was “not going to happen.”

Two weeks after dropping out, Santorum’s silence was near deafening. Romney even held an event in Pittsburgh, but Santorum stayed away. Romney even hired Santorum’s former campaign manager. CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted that Santorum admitted during a commercial break that he’d endorsed Romeny, but Santorum refused to confirm his endorsement on the air.

Finally, the Santorum-Romney meeting happened last Friday— a private meeting, no doubt in one of those “quiet rooms” Romney is so fond of. What was said, or what Santorum wanted in exchange for his endorsement, is anybody’s guess, but the low-key meeting ended with Santorum still not endorsing Romney.

Finally, four days later, Santorum delivered an endorsement best summed up as, “OK. If I must.” No public announcement. No press conference. No photo-op with Romney. Not even a press release. Just a near-midnight email to his supporters. Rick Santorum couldn’t even be bothered to “phone it in.”

But there’s still another shoe that Santorum’s yet to drop. Santorum followed-up his tepid endorsement of Romney in the next paragraph, telling supporters that “My conversation with Governor Romney was very productive, but I intend to keep lines of communication open with him and his campaign.”

Is it me, or does that sound like Santorum kept his fingers crossed when he made his endorsement? Will the Romney campaign’s phones start ringing if Mitt Romney strays too far from Santorum’s positions on “pro-family” initiatives? Will Santorum yank even his lukewarm endorsement, if Romney doesn’t toe the right-wing line?

Anemic endorsement aside, it’s not over. Santorum’s post-script promised supporters that “very soon we will be making another big announcement, and I will be asking you to once again join forces with me to keep up the fight, together.” A surprising number of Republicans want Santorum for VP, and Romney has said he wouldn’t rule out a Romney-Santorum ticket.

I’m not placing any bets on a Santorum-Romney ticket, but stranger things have happened (i.e. McCain’s Palin pick). In the event that this one does, Santorum’s already written Obama’s attack script, and given the Democrats all the television ads they’ll need.

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