Obama Should Go After Romney's Flip-Flops, Not His Extremism

The biggest advantage of portraying Mitt as a serial flip-flopper is that Romney will help Democrats make the sale

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So many choices so little time. This is the dilemma that faces the Obama strategy team. The choice they must make is whether to go after Mitt Romney as a right-wing extremist or as a serial flip-flopper. God knows there's plenty of ammo for either argument but I vote for the flip-flop.

Trying to decide how to attack Romney is like trying to decide whether to have cake or pie for dessert. Campaign Obama is inclined to go after Romney as a right-wing extremist. I can certainly understand the temptation to go that way but there's a better way to skin the cat.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

Romney supported the passage of a ballot question in Mississippi that would have banned virtually all abortions. This measure was so extreme that voters in one of the most conservative states in the union rejected it.

In Ohio, the presumptive GOP nominee supported the law which banned collective bargaining for public employees. Ohio is a presidential battleground state with 18 electoral votes and Buckeye voters killed that turkey by a two-to-one margin.

Romney, his budget buddy Rep. Paul Ryan, and the rest of the Republican mean machine support a plan to cripple Medicare. Their attempt to kill Medicare will not go over well in Florida, a haven for seniors which has the most electoral votes, 29, of any swing state. The same goes for Pennsylvania which has an aging population and 20 electoral votes.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Will the New Ryan Budget Plan Hurt the GOP in 2012?]

I realize that I've just made a compelling case for attacking Romney's extreme positions. But painting Romney as a right-wing extremist doesn't have as much of an upside for Democrats as portraying him as a serial flip-flopper. Romney will backpedal from his radical positions so fast that reporters and conservatives will get whiplash trying to keep up with the changes.

My guess is that the presidential race will be close and turnout will be the key to victory. If Democrats go after Romney as a conservative extremist, they run the risk of energizing voters from the Tea Party and the religious right. GOP conservatives are lukewarm at best about Romney, so Democrats should let this sleeping dog lie.

But attacks against the former Bay State governor as a flip-flopper promise an even greater reward.

[Robert Schlesinger: Mitt Romney's General Election Pivots]

The new Romney takes a hard line against gay rights. But when Mitt Romney ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, the Bain capitalist ran as a liberal. That was before Romney was a moderate and then a conservative. In a televised debate, Romney pledged to be as strong on gay rights as Senator Kennedy which is a very hard thing to do. But Romney was willing to give it a try.

But that wasn't the end of Romney's liberal period or his support for Ted Kennedy's positions. The 2012 version of Mitt Romney says he opposes a requirement that everyone has to buy health insurance. But as governor, Romney supported a healthcare reform law which became the prototype of Obamacare, mandatory coverage and all. For me, the best part of Romneycare was the signing ceremony. The Boston Globe published a picture of the event which showed Senator Kennedy standing over the governor as he proudly put his John Hancock on the law. There was a smile on Kennedy's face as broad as the Grand Canyon. It was the smile of the cat that had just swallowed the canary.

Another example of Romney's flexibility, some say hypocrisy, is the federal loan that saved General Motors. Romney opposed the loan to General Motors which saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Romney bailed on autoworkers but he backed the banksters and billionaires when he supported the Wall Street bailout in the fall of 2008.

[Susan Milligan: No, Mitt Romney Didn't Save the Auto Industry]

The biggest advantage of portraying the former Massachusetts governor as a serial flip-flopper is that Romney will help Democrats make the sale. Romney already has whipped out his Etch A Sketch to erase many of the positions he took during the primary campaign and replace them with freshly drawn stands.

Voters vote for people, not policies. Americans can stomach a leader with strong beliefs but they won't vote for a guy who doesn't have the courage of his convictions. Ronald Reagan's positions were too extreme for many Americans but they liked the former president because he stood up for his beliefs. I lived through Ronald Reagan's presidency and believe me, Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.
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