* It’s all about Mitt Romney’s character: For some time now I’ve been wondering when top commentators would start looking at Romney’s serial equivocations, flip-flops and falsehoods as part of a pattern that tells us about Romney’s character, about what he’s willing to say and do to win the presidency. Much of the commentary seems focused on what Romney’s ongoing contortions say about his strategy, rather than about the man himself.
This morning, Richard Cohen takes a high profile stab at defining Romney’s character, and he comes up with a very nice capsule summary:
Mitt Romney runs for president with the eye of a venture capitalist. He sees the profit in certain positions, discards those that are no longer profitable and moves on. He was pro-choice when it did him some good, instituted a health insurance plan that he now denounces and once supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants. Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. Romney offers his principles for some votes in Iowa.
Putting Romney’s serial flip flops in the context of his corporate past is an interesting touch, weaving together two strands of Romney’s political identity that Dems see as core vulnerabilities. The question is whether this view of Romney’s character will take hold as a broader media narrative.
* Dems keep up pressure on GOP over payroll tax cut: The key to the Dems’ current campaign is that they’re proposing to pay for the payroll tax cut extension with a small surtax on income over $1 million. In effect, Dems are daring Republicans to prioritize lower taxes for the rich over lower taxes for workers.
The larger context here was outlined yesterday by Chuck Schumer. Dems believe the public’s rising preoccupation with inequality will drive the 2012 elections, and Dems will continue to seize on whatever they can to draw a contrast between the parties’ priorities within that overarching narrative.
* Newsflash: The jobs are being lost in the public sector: Don’t miss Michael Fletcher’s look at how Washington’s obsession with reducing spending and the deficit is putting the squeeze on states in a way that’s only going to get worse:
The fiscal pressure on states has become a drag on the job market; local and state governments are shedding jobs, even though the private-sector job market has shown signs of improvement. State and local governments have cut 455,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010, and public-sector jobs account for the smallest share of the nation’s employment since the 2008 financial crisis.
More austerity, please!
* The DNC keeps hitting Mitt Romney’s dishonesty: Dems are out with a new Web video this morning quoting ordinary voters panning Romney’s false ad attacking Obama on the economy — they call it dishonest, lacking in integrity, and even “dirty.”
The video is meant to rebut the claim by Romney advisers — which was widely and credulously echoed in the media — that the ad’s dishonesty was strategically brilliant, because it resulted in much media attention. Emails a Dem official: “Mitt Romney may not think lying in your campaign ads is a big deal, but voters sure do.”
* Team Romney does care about context, after all: Romney advisers are finally acknowledging that there should be boundaries on the misuse of opponents’ quotes — that is, boundaries on Dems, and not on themselves.
* Voters agree with Newt, and not Romney, on immigration: This is the perfect coda to that sorry affair in which Romney criticized Newt for taking a humane stance against deportation (while refusing to say whether he favors deportation).
It turns out that Republicans are evenly divided between the two positions, meaning no clear gain for Romney in the GOP primary, while Dems and independents side with Newt, meaning Romney’s stance could be a liability in a general election.
* Marco Rubio gives away the game: Speaking of immigration and the battle over the Latino vote, Dems will definitely seize on this quote from Marco Rubio, delivered in an interview with Howard Kurtz:
Rubio insists he’s not interested in a VP bid, saying the party can’t solve its Hispanic problem just by drafting “a person whose name ends in a vowel.”
* Grim poll numbers for Obama among independents: Gallup delivers the bad news:
Obama’s approval rating has decreased among all six partisan/ideology groups Gallup tracks on a regular basis since January, but it has dropped the most — 10 percentage points, from 40% to 30% — among pure independents. These are the roughly 14% of national adults who neither identify with one of the two major parties nor indicate a leaning.
The Dem assault on Romney’s flip-flops and falsehoods is about defining Romney in the minds of independents as lacking in integrity and principles, in hopes of staunching Obama’s losses among this group over the economy, should the two men face each other next year.
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Gerald Seib notes the very real possibility that in 2012, GOP enthusiasm will outweigh the enthusiasm of Obama’s core groups, which was an important ingredient in his 2008 victory.
Key footnote: The question is whether the demographic shifts the Obama campaign is counting on among core groups will be offset by that decline in enthusiasm. A key dynamic to watch.
* What Barney Frank’s retirement says about Congress: A nice Jonathan Cohn reflection on Frank’s legacy, his decision that he could do more for his causes outside Congress than inside it, and what that tells us about the new era of diminished expectations for Congress.
* And GOPers heart clean energy money, ctd.: Yet another one: The top lobbyists for the House panel investigating the Solyndra story worked for a lobbying firm that helped Solyndra apply for a half-billion-dollar Federal loan. This comes after revelations that multiple Congressional Republicans solicited Federal money for alternative energy companies in their states and districts.
What else is happening?