This morning’s reports show that the Romney campaign and Republicans are growing more nervous about the implications of the freeloading 47 percent video, and Mitt Romney takes to the pages of USA Today to restate his case. Romney allows that government should play a safety-net role, but claims Obama’s policies foster dependency:
Under President Obama, we have a stagnant economy that fosters government dependency. My policies will create a growing economy that fosters upward mobility.
Government has a role to play here. Right now, our nation’s citizens do need help from government. But it is a very different kind of help than what President Obama wants to provide.
My experience has taught me that government works best when it creates the space for individuals and families to pursue success and achieve great things. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in creating sustained prosperity and lifting people out of poverty. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world’s leading powers — and has long since surpassed them all.
The dreamers and the entrepreneurs, not government, built this economy, and they can once again make it strong.
Romney is revealing a genuine policy difference with Obama — but not the one he describes. Romney does believe that government should help those who need it, even if the agenda he has embraced would dramatically reduce that role. But Romney apparently doesn’t believe government should play any role to speak of in creating opportunity and spurring growth. This is to be achieved through pure, unadulterated economic freedom. Government should protect the vulnerable, at least to some degree, and get out of the way and let freedom do the rest.
By contrast, Obama does believe government has a role in creating mobility and spurring growth, through more investment in education and infrastructure and so forth. Obama believes, as does Romney, that the free market and individual initiative are the primary drivers of growth; however, he also believes that government can increase mobility for those left by the market in a less competitive position, and can help solve, through spending, the short term unemployment crisis, which persists primarily because of weak demand.
Romney doesn’t simply say that he disagrees with Obama on those last points. He goes further and distorts Obama’s entire argument by claiming Obama believes government is the only ingredient required to power the economy and that Obama wants government to take over American society entirely. Obama is an enemy of economic freedom; Romney is its staunchest defender.
This core distortion is the basis for Romney’s entire campaign message. The Romney camp’s newfound emphasis on 14-year-old, thoroughly unremarkable Obama comments about “redistribution” is only the latest example of this. Obama was saying he favors redistribution in the sense that taxpayer money can be used to create opportunity and help the vulnerable. Yet the new Romney campaign memo turns this into proof that Obama wants a “government-centered society.”
This distortion may prove to be founded on a misreading of what swing voters are prepared to believe about Obama. Majorities support increased spending on education to create opportunity and on infrastructure to create jobs. And as Jonathan Cohn notes in a must read this morning, they also support a more robust role for government in protecting people from the vagaries of the free market and bad luck than Romney does. Romney revealed at the fundraiser that he sees reliance on government help as a sign of weakness; his vision is of a shrunken safety net and for government to scale back its role in promoting opportunity and growth, and let a deregulated free market take care of the rest. Whose vision will swing voters find to be more balanced, and will all this bluster about “dependency” and “redistribution” really be enough, as Romney hopes, to obscure the true nature of their differences here?
* Obama allies put freeloading 47 percent vid on the air: The Obama-allied Priorities USA Action is up with the first spot that airs the leaked video, using Romney’s remarks to advance its message that Romney can’t be trusted to defend the interests of the middle class. The ad opens with a shot of the mansion where the fundraiser was held — an effort to dramatize what Jonathan Chait has called the “sneering plutocrat” factor.
* GOPers, Rove nervous about freeloading 47 percent video: Politico has a big story this morning documenting the growing nervousness among Republicans about Romney’s chances and his caliber as a candidate, which spiked after the release of that video. Here’s Karl Rove: “there are lots of people getting an unemployment check who would love to have a job, so you’ve got to be careful about that number.”
You don’t say! It’s amazing that this even needs to be stated; it’s also surprising that Republicans are only now realizing how flawed a candidate Romney is proving to be.
* Romney campaign growing frustrated: Relatedly, don’t miss Michael Barbaro’s quick report about the “palpably gloomy and openly frustrated mood” that has invaded the Romney camp, in the wake of those released videos. It’s good stuff, though the piece’s quotation of Obama’s “redistribution” remarks without the second half of the sentence revealing them to be innocuous seems like an odd editorial choice.
* Why isn’t Romney out campaigning more? Good stuff from Scott Conroy, who reports that Republicans are wondering why Romney has remained mostly out of public view even as Americans absorb the implications of the freeloading 47 percent remarks.
*Obama holds narrow edge in Wisconsin: The new New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll finds that Obama is leading Romney among likely Wisconsin voters, 49-46; among registered voters, he holds a far bigger edge of 51-43. Wisconsin has emerged as key to Romney’s hopes of winning, now that Ohio is looking like a steeper climb for him and now that he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, so it will be disconcerting to the Romney campaign to see Obama crack 50 percent there.
* Obama, Romney tied on economy in key swing states: The NYT/CBS polls also find Obama leading in Virginia, 50-46, and the race virtually tied in Colorado, 48-47. There’s also this:
In Colorado, 48 percent of voters think Romney will handle the economy better compared to 47 percent for Mr. Obama. In Virginia and Wisconsin, Mr. Obama has a 49-47 percent and 49-46 percent edge respectively on the economy issue.
Is Obama fighting Romney to a draw on the economy?
* Another national poll finds Obama and Romney tied on economy: Relatedly, the new Associated Press poll finds Obama with only a one point lead over Romney among likely voters, 47-46. However, his lead is ten points, 50-40, among registered voters, suggesting a very tight likely-voter screen.
And on the economy, among likely voters it’s 48-47, making this is the seventh national poll to find the two candidates roughly tied on the issue. This again suggests, along with the above state polls, that Romney’s theory of the race may be flawed.
* And Warren leading in yet another poll: The new WBUR poll finds Elizabeth Warren leading Scott Brown among likely voters, 50-45. This is the fourth recent poll to find her leading, suggesting the many complaints among Dems about her messaging may have been premature.