Former Gov. Mitt Romney's deficiencies as a presidential candidate are obvious and, at this stage, probably insurmountable.
On the surface, his problem is that he's bad at politics.
The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last points out that Romney's actual electoral track record is far from MVP material—a meager five for 18 if you count statewide races and presidential primaries:
"Strip away the $500 million treasure room and the willingness to blow large chunks of his kids' inheritance, and he's Ron Paul without the ideological moorings and grassroots support," declares Last. [Read Washington Whispers: Romney's Sweet $12 Million Home, Lap Pool]
As things stand now, Romney stands to lose a bunch more primaries, thanks to a surging Gov. Rick Perry.
Romney's campaign will argue that Perry is against the very idea of Social Security and Medicare, and that he will use Perry's book to scare seniors in early-primary states with large retiree populations, such as Florida and South Carolina.
The Romney campaign also plans to use immigration to drive a wedge between Perry and his conservative base, by highlighting Perry's opposition to a border fence and legislation he signed in 2001 allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition.
You can practically hear the clanging and buzzing of Romney Robotic Manipulation technology:
What are Rick Perry's political weaknesses? [Read Robert Schlesinger:Rick Perry's Double Talk on Social Security and the Constitution]
Ding!—Extreme rhetoric on constitutionality of Medicare and Social Security—Beep-Beep-Ding!—From border state; soft on immigration—Ding!—[Making necessary adjustments in left hemisphere of RomneyBrain].
Calculating is the easy part of politics.
The hard part is winning votes.
The reason Romney doesn't do the hard part well exposes a more profound problem.
As in 2008, when he tried and failed to outflank Sen. John McCain's right, Romney appears to think that he can run like a literary composite character. Yes, Rick Perry is eminently vulnerable to a Medi-scare campaign. And, at least among the conservative base, it would appear that Perry is disturbingly pragmatic when it comes to immigration. [See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]
But, at this point in the history of U.S politics, it would be a highly unusual creature who could launch both attacks simultaneously.
In a recent post, I argued that Rick Perry has a history of flip-flops to match Romney's.
This is true. But I should have added that flip-flopping isn't necessarily a fatal flaw. It's when voters trust neither your flip nor your flop—that's when you're toast.
Mitt Romney doesn't change his mind; that would imply a) he sincerely believed something in the first place and b) there exists a gray-colored organ inside Mitt Romney's cranium.
It's more accurate to say he toggles the settings on the RomneyBrain.