Jonathan Cohn makes a great point about the Etch-A-Sketch controversy:
One irony of Eric Fehrnstrom’s “etch-a-sketch” comment, suggesting that Mitt Romney was all set to remake himself as a moderate, is that it came on the same day that Romney embraced the new Paul Ryan budget — a radically conservative plan that, if enacted, would take health insurance from tens of millions of people while effectively ending the federal government except for entitlements and defense spending.
That is an interesting irony. And it gets at another point that continues to get lost in discussions of Romney’s true ideological makeup — one that, I think, suggests that giving himself an Etch-A-Sketch makeover as he pivots to the general election just might work for him.
Romney’s economic worldview — as evidenced in his embrace of Ryan’s plan — is probably the area where Romney really does genuinely hold radical views, ones that are far more heartfelt than his positions on social issues. I’m hardly the first to point this out, but many reporters and commentators judge a politician’s ideological makeup largely by focusing on tone, and on a candidate’s instincts on social issues, if not his or her stated positions. So it probably won’t be all that hard for Romney to earn the presuption of moderation from the national media once he’s the nominee.
Oh, sure, Democrats will work extremely hard to draw attention to the positions he was forced to take on contraception and so forth during the GOP primary. But by and large, the bigfoot national reporters and commentators will treat all that as stuff Romney just had to say to get through the GOP nomination process. He didn’t really mean any of it; he just doesn’t seem radical, because he doesn’t come across as captivated by social issues or see them as anything to go to war over unless he absolutely has to.
Meanwhile, Romney really does genuinely appear to hold extreme views about the proper distribution of wealth and power and about government’s proper role in combatting the excesses of unfettered free market capitalism. But because radicalism and moderation are so often ascribed based on tone and social issue instincts, he’ll be able to convincingly sell himself as a moderate to large numbers of swing voters despite his economic radicalism.
This isn’t to say he’ll win the presidency, of course. Obama and Dems may successfully convince voters that Romney hews to a failed economic ideology, one that we’ve tried already to disastrous effect, that his priorities are way out of whack, and that he’s just too out of touch with how ordinary Americans live to properly address their problems. But when it comes to escaping the extremism label, Romney really may well be able to just ... shake and erase.