There’s a lot of chatter about the new word debuted by Obama today — “Romnesia” — which is meant to describe Mitt’s tendency to forget about, contradict or evade his own positions on a host of issues. Here’s the “Romnesia” riff Obama delivered in Virginia today:
Obama runs through Mitt’s “Romnesia” on a range of issues — equal pay, contraception, abortion, tax cuts for the rich, etc. — and then ends on a joke. He says the good news is that Mitt’s “Romnesia” can be cured — thanks to Obamacare, which guarantees coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
Republicans are mocking the new coinage, claiming it reveals — along with the Big Bird hit — the superficiality of the Obama campaign. But there’s actually a serious point to be made about this. The “Romnesia” riff is all about resolving the strategic dilemma the Obama campaign has faced when portraying Romney as alternately a flip flopper and an extremist.
There was never any real contradiction there, despite pundit claims to the contrary. Romney held extreme positions to get through the primary, then flip flopped away from them to get through the general election, but can be expected as president to honor the extreme positions he originally took, since his base won’t let him do otherwise. There’s nothing contradictory in pointing all that out. However, painting Romney as a flip flopper does risk driving home the idea that Romney never really believed in the exreme positions he adopted and is a moderate at heart.
The new “Romnesia” riff can be seen as an answer to this. There’s no need to choose between “extremist” and “flip flopper.” Romney is simply a weasel.
This Romney-is-a-weasel message seems heavily geared towards women. It’s all about telling them Romney can’t be trusted on the issues that matter to them, that he’ll say whatever he has to say about them to advance his own ambitions. He’s weaseling out of his previously held extreme positions, but he’ll still be beholden to the folks who expected him to hold those positions in the first place, and in any case, there’s no way of knowing what he really believes.
Romney’s performance on women’s issues has been particularly ripe for this treatment. There’s the ongoing inability of Romney’s campaign to decide whether he would have signed the Lily Ledbetter Act — even though he claims he supports equal pay in principle. There’s his declaration during the primary that he would have been “delighted” to sign a federal ban on all abortions — even though he’s now running ads designed to soften his abortion stance.
Indeed, that last example is now the subject of a new Obama campaign spot: