This Wall Street Journal editorial is getting a lot of attention this morning for its scathing criticism of the Romney campaign’s equivocations over whether Obamacare’s individual mandate is or isn’t a tax. Yesterday Romney declared that, yes, it is a tax after all — contradicting his campaign’s earlier contention that it wasn’t — and the editorial blasts Romney for squandering a key issue against Obama.
But let’s face it: The skirmishing over whether the mandate is or isn’t a tax probably won’t have much of an impact on the election’s outcome.
That’s why the real news in the Journal editorial — the stuff that should drive the discussion today — is its scalding attack on Romney’s lack of specificity on multiple issues:
The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it’s Mr. Obama’s fault. We’re on its email list and the main daily message from the campaign is that “Obama isn’t working.” Thanks, guys, but Americans already know that. What they want to hear from the challenger is some understanding of why the President’s policies aren’t working and how Mr. Romney’s policies will do better.
The Journal notes the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s Bain years and offshore accounts, and adds:
All of these attacks were predictable, in particular because they go to the heart of Mr. Romney’s main campaign theme — that he can create jobs as President because he is a successful businessman and manager. But candidates who live by biography typically lose by it. See President John Kerry.
The biography that voters care about is their own, and they want to know how a candidate is going to improve their future. That means offering a larger economic narrative and vision than Mr. Romney has so far provided. It means pointing out the differences with specificity on higher taxes, government-run health care, punitive regulation, and the waste of politically-driven government spending.
The GOP-aligned Journal editoral board is implicitly agreeing that one of the leading critiques of Romney —one being made by the Obama campaign and Dems, but also by more and more media commentators — is entirely legitimate: That he’s refusing to detail his policies with any specificity to speak of on issue after issue.
This goes right to the heart of the central dynamic of this race: The Romney campaign’s gamble that he can edge his way to victory by making this camapign all about Obama, and that along the way, voters won’t notice that he isn't meaningfully telling us what he would do if elected president. The Journal is calling this out as a non-starter. Does this represent broader GOP establishment opinion? It’s more important than all the short-term skirmishing over whether the mandate is a tax or not.
* Obama camapign hits Romney over new offshore revelations: The Obama campaign is seizing on a new Associated Press story reporting that Romney transfered ownership of a Bermuda corporation to his wife one day before he was sworn in as Governor of Massachusetts in 2003. The larger issue raised by the story is this:
Romney’s limited disclosures deprive the public of an accurate depiction of his wealth and a clear understanding of how his assets are handled and taxed, according to experts in private equity, tax and campaign finance law....
He told an audience at a Maine town hall appearance in February that “I have not saved one dollar by having an investment somewhere outside this country.” But the lack of disclosure over the years, private equity experts said, makes it impossible to tell.
The Romney campaign didn’t comment on the corporation, but argued that he has fully complied with U.S. tax law and government ethics requirements for disclosure forms.
* Axelrod pressures media to dig harder into Romney’s money: David Axelrod’s response to the AP story:
How many of these revelations will it take for the media to demand a full accounting of Mitt’s tax returns and finances?
We will probably never get a full picture of Romney’s finances, but barring that, the Obama campaign is hoping to make Romney’s lack of transparency about his tax returns a bigger story — hence the pressure on the press to ask questions about Romney’s money that won’t be answered.
* Good news about the economy? The Associated Press:
BREAKING: US unemployment aid applications fall to lowest level in 6 weeks, a sign layoffs have eased.
But: We don’t know what tomorrow’s monthly jobs numbers will bring; the Romney campaign and Republicans are looking to them to shift the campaign narrative away from Romney’s health care messaging train wreck.
* Swing voters want to move past health care debate: Jonathan Weisman reports that strateigsts in both parties have concluded that swing voters are weary of fighting the health care wars and want to move on from the issue. While Obamacare’s unpopularity is undoubtedly forcing Dem candidates to tread carefully around health care, this again raises the question: How will independents and moderates respond to the GOP push to fight the repeal battle yet again, something that the base continues to demand?
* Warren tells GOP it’s time to move on already: Elizabeth Warren, on the GOP’s post-SCOTUS Obamacare repeal push:
“The Republicans’ announcement that they want to repeal it all and go back to years of fighting over health care is just wrong. We need to move on. There are real issues to address now, jobs, education, roads, bridges and transportation; and more years of fighting over health care is not going to help our country.”
We’re now fighting the battle over Obamacare a third time. How will this play in down-ticket races?
* Obama campaigning on turf he won last time: Rick Klein notes that Obama’s two-day campaign bus tour, which launches today, will take him through counties in northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania he won last time. This is yet another sign of just how much closer this election will be than the 2008 battle was; last time Obama won much of the territory that will now be heavily contested and will decide the 2012 campaign.
* Why questioning Romney’s Bain years is legit: Paul Krugman says what needs to be said: Romney’s business background is central to his entire claim to being qualified for the presidency, so of course we should be asking whether it actually does qualify him for the presidency.
* Another way GOP governors may shaft the poor: The Times editorial board on another way GOP governors opting out of the Medicaid expansion could be shafting their own constituents: Many may fall into a gap that’s now been created between the Medicaid eligibility line and the higher income cutoff for eligibility for tax credits to buy private insurance.
* And the Fourth of July, the Constitution, and Obamacare: E.J. Dionne: Given that the Founders themselves disagreed about the meaning of the Constitution, perhaps people should be a bit more cautious about claiming ownership of it more than two centuries later.