Why it’s time for Moderate Mitt

September 21, 2012

In a speech Wednesday night at the University of Miami, Moderate Mitt Romney reared his head.

In the course of a single night, Romney said:

* On his "47 percent" comment: "This is a campaign about the 100 percent."

* On health care: "Now and then, the president says I’m the grandfather of Obamacare. I don’t think he meant that as a compliment, but I’ll take it."

* On immigration: "I said I'm not in favor of a deportation -- a mass deportation effort rounding up 12 million people and kicking them out of the country."

* On gay marriage: "I would like to have the term 'marriage' continue to be associated with a relationship between one man and one woman, and that certainly doesn’t prevent two people of the same gender living in a loving relationship together having gay domestic partnership, if you will."

Concluded NBC's "First Read" of Romney's remarks: "Last night was the candidate many of us expected to start seeing in June or July, not in September -- it was the Romney of 2004."

We've long wondered when the centrist Romney might emerge -- particularly as his statement on the protests in Libya and even his initial handling of the "47 percent" video seemed driven by a "reassure the base" strategy that, to our mind, is almost entirely unnecessary.

Polling suggests that the conservative base is -- and has been almost since the moment he became the GOP nominee -- strongly behind Romney. Heck, even Bill Clinton doesn't think the Romney-as-flip-flopper narrative will work.

The benefits for Romney of moving to the middle (in tone if not also in policy) are obvious:

1. To the extent that there are any undecideds left in the race -- and there may be 5 percent or so of people who genuinely haven't made up their minds -- casting yourself as a pragmatic, solution-focused businessman is much more appealing to those folks than giving off the image of an uncompromising ideologue.

2. Romney is tonally a moderate. While he -- like virtually every politician who has managed to rise to such a high level -- has been required to adjust some of his policy positions to suit the party base, Romney's natural inclination is to be the problem-solver in the room, not the partisan warrior. And, the more a politician can be publicly who they actually are at their core, the better chance they have of winning. George W. Bush and Barack Obama are both examples of politicians who were comfortable in their own skin -- publicly and privately -- and who parlayed the power of being themselves into electoral success.

It remains to be seen whether Romney's speech at the Univision candidate forum in Florida was a one-off or the leading edge of the promised re-tooling of the campaign's message. If Romney wants to come back from the swing state-deficit in which he currently finds himself, however, he would do well to embrace his moderate side. It is his clearest path to a comeback -- and victory -- between now and Nov. 6.

Romney starts general election with $43 million cash edge: Mitt Romney and affiliated Republican committees started the general election this month with a $168.5 million to $125 million cash on hand advantage, according to August financial reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

While Obama's actual campaign retains a big cash edge on Romney's, $88.8 million to $50.4 million, Romney has much more money stashed in the Republican National Committee and a joint fundraising committee that raises funds for his campaign and the RNC. When you add those in for both he and Obama, he has the $43 million edge.

In fact, the RNC has a $76.6 million to $7.1 million advantage over the Democratic National Committee -- more than 10-to-1.

The money virtually assures that Republicans will far outspend Democrats down the stretch in the presidential race, especially when you add in outside groups.

Fixbits:

Republicans appear to have given up hope of winning New Mexico at the presidential level, moving staff from there to Colorado.

Speaking of New Mexico, Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former Land of Enchantment governor Gary Johnson raised $356,000 in August.

The Fix's Sean Sullivan runs down Thursday's Massachusetts Senate debate between Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D).

Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) Democratic opponent keeps up his age attack, asking for five years worth of medical records from the septuagenarian senator.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will hold a Washington press conference this morning featuring some of their top candidates.

Sean Astin, the actor who played Rudy in the eponymous movie about the Notre Dame football player, will campaign for former college player Brendan Mullen (D) this weekend in the race to replace Senate candidate Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). Donnelly's district includes Notre Dame's campus in South Bend, Ind.

Must-reads:

"Romney Is Latest in a Long Line to Trip Over a Tongue" -- John Harwood, New York Times

"Scott Gessler, Colorado’s ‘honey badger,’ may be most closely watched election official" -- Robert Barnes, Washington Post

"Obama mocks Romney on ‘47 percent’ remarks during Univision forum" -- David Nakamura, Washington Post

"Why early voting could  be pivotal" -- Major Garrett, National Journal

"Obama pressed on failures at Univision forum" -- Reid J. Epstein, Politico

"GOP retreat on taxes likely if Obama wins" -- Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Romney campaign hits a financial snag" -- Dan Eggen, Washington Post

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Aaron Blake · September 20, 2012