* The problem isn’t Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet offer. It’s his serial dishonesty: One of the biggest pieces of news out of Saturday’s debate is that Mitt Romney offered to bet Rick Perry $10,000 over the latter’s claim that Romney wrote in his book that he viewed the individual mandate as a “model” for the country. Dems and Republicans alike are pouncing on the casual offer of a large wager as proof that Romney is out of touch, and reporters are predicting that this moment could crystallize a national media narrative about Romney.
But while the $10,000 moment is politically problematic and revealing in some ways, it doesn’t really deserve to rise to the level of national narrative. What’s more deserving of a national storyline about Romney is his serial dishonesty, his willingness to say and do anything to win.
This morning, Romney is pushing back on the idea that there was anything amiss about the $10,000 bet offer, arguing that he picked an “outrageous” sum to highlight just how “outrageous” Perry’s claim was. But Perry’s claim — while not completely accurate — wasn’t all that outrageous.
Perry argued that Romney wrote that the individual mandate he passed as governor of Massachusetts “should be the model for the country.” It’s true, as PolitiFact points out, that Romney’s book did also say that such reforms should be implemented at the state level. But Romney has in fact talked about the mandate as a national model: In 2007, he said he hoped that “most” states would adopt it, and added that he hopes to see “a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” Romney is now trying to obscure the fact that he plainly saw his chief accomplishment as something that should ultimately be adopted on a national, or quasi-national, scale.
More broadly, political reporters and commentators are always tempted to seize on such moments as the $10,000 bet as defining of a candidate’s character. But this moment is ultimately almost as trivial as was John Edwards’ $400 haircut. More important is the broader pattern of dissembling and dishonesty that only begins with his equivocations over the mandate. To wit: Romney attacked Newt Gingrich for opposing mass deportation of longtime illegal residents without saying whether he supports such deportation. Romney continues to insist Obama apologized for America, even though this has been repeatedly proven flatly false. Romney released an ad ripping Obama’s quotes out of context in a highly dishonest way — and the campaign later boasted about the media attention the dishonesty secured. Romney falsely asserted that Obama is “bowing to foreign dictators” — then his campaign later insisted the claim was “metaphorical.” And so on.
This broader pattern is what deserves the status of national narrative about Romney’s character, not some throwaway line about a bet.
* Dems target Romney’s wealth: The new DNC video out this morning has to be the most direct shot yet that Dems have taken at Romney’s wealth. It seizes on his $10,000 bet offer, and compiles nine other similar “out of touch” moments, to paint Romney as incapable of grasping the concerns of ordinary middle class Americans.
* Coming to grips with the Senate GOP’s true radicalism: Good reads from James Fallows and Steve Benen, who are pleading with political reporters to appreciate that the Senate GOP radicalism on display in the blocking of Richard Cordray is a matter of verifiable fact, not opinion.
* Romney’s next target is Gingrich’s temperament: With Newt continuing to surge and emerging largely untouched from Saturday’s debate, the Romney campaign is considering yet another tack: Portraying Gingrich’s temperament as unpredictable, erratic, unreliable and unpresidential.
* Why Tea Partyers may rally around Newt for president: National Memo’s Matt Taylor gets to the bottom of it: Aging Tea Partyers remember Newt’s glory days, and he remains unparalled at the sort of racial dog whistling and politics of resentment that resonatest deeply with these voters.
* Newt-mentum in the early states!!! Two new polls show Gingrich with sizable double digit leads in Florida and South Carolina, underscoring how badly Romney needs a major shakeup in the race’s basic dynamic.
* Obama: American people “shouldn’t feel satisfied”: An interesting moment from Obama’s CBS interview:
“We’ve gone through an incredibly difficult time in this country. And I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now. They shouldn’t feel satisfied. We’ve got a lot more work to do in order to get this country and the economy moving in a way that benefits everybody, as opposed to just a few.”
This reflects Obama’s tricky balancing act: He needs to argue that things are improving, while still acknowledging the mass suffering that persists. Note that Obama here links that acknowledgment to his message’s growing focus on inequality.
* Obama’s populism is in sync with mainstream opinion: Doyle McManus, writing about Obama’s big Kansas speech, says what must not be said in polite company: That Obama’s new populism is not just about appealing to the Dem base, and that Occupy Wall Street’s goals and critique are mainstream.
McManus also notes that Obama still needs to provide a clearer roadmap out of the crisis, but White House aides tell him that this is the next step — and that the narrative he'll offer will appeal to the center of the country.
* Next up in payroll tax cut fight: Senate Republicans are now pressuring Dems to agree to an extension that includes moving forward on the controversial Canada-Gulf Coast oil pipeline, as a way of demonstrating that Republicans, too, want to extend the payroll tax cut.
But that probably isn’t going to happen, and the question for this week is whether Dems will drop their insistence on paying for the extension with a millionaire surtax in order to reach a compromise.
* Who says Congress is dysfunctional? It appears that Congressional negotiators are on the verge of reaching a quiet compromise to avert a government shutdown, the threat of which loomed much larger earlier this year.
That merely keeping government functioning comes across as a rare accomplishment shows just how low expectations for this Congress have fallen.
* And public disdain for Congress at record lows: Relatedly, Gallup publishes an astonishing finding: A record 64 percent of Americans give Congress a low ethics rating — lower than telemarketers, lobbyists, and even car salespeople.
If you want to know why Obama is running so hard against Congress, there’s your answer.
What else is happening?