We've described Mitt Romney here before as the Republican John Kerry -- a rudderless, unprincipled demagogue who will say anything to get people to vote for him.
But that is insulting to Sen. Kerry.
Romney's entire case for the presidency hinges on conservative voters ignoring his record as governor of Massachusetts. It also hinges on voters ignoring his cringe-inducing position changes.
The idea that Romney is somehow the clear conservative alternative to anybody is laughable and has no basis in reality.
First, and most critically for 2012: Romney cannot be a credible opponent of Obamacare, when his Massachusetts healthcare plan is nearly identical, in all major respects, to the recent federal bill. If conservatives (rightfully) believe that Obamacare was an unwarranted government intrusion into the private marketplace that will cause costs to spiral out of control, then how can Romney's backers (such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) explain their support for a man who worked to pass what was in all major respects an identical bill?
Furthermore, Romney's handling of the healthcare issue has been abysmal. He needed to do one of three things: (i) apologize for its passage and admit that the bill has completely failed to control costs in Massachusetts; (ii) stand resolutely behind his bill and make a case for why government intervention in this regard -- both at the state and federal levels -- is necessary; or (iii) refuse to discuss healthcare policy altogether. Regardless of his choice, Romney should, under no circumstances, have tried to distinguish his Massachusetts bill from Obamacare, because again, in all credible respects, they are identical. Instead, Romney has attempted the impossible: He has not only discussed healthcare, but led the charge in criticizing the Obama plan. He has stood behind his bill, while attempting -- and failing miserably -- to distinguish it from Obama's. All the while, Romney has continued to hinge his case for the presidency nearly entirely on his "pragmatic manager" argument, pointing to his legislative record of so-called accomplishments in Massachusetts. But his shining triumph was the healthcare plan. This is an utterly incoherent case for to make for oneself, and conservatives who can't see through this facade are unspeakably stupid.
Second: Romney is no social conservative. Truth be told, this does not upset me in the least, but his blatant pandering to the Mike Huckabee-Tony Perkins wing of the party is pathetic. Despite his newfangled discovery of the social conservative cause, there is a mountain of evidence -- starting with Romney's own words -- demonstrating his willingness to shift with the wind.
Third: Romney has changed his position on other critical issues that cause me to seriously question not only his capacity to tell the truth, but his commitment to the conservative cause. During the 2008 primaries, Romney made a bailout to American automakers a key part of his platform, ostensibly to curry favor in his adopted home state of Michigan. Just two weeks after the presidential election, however, Romney wrote this shameless op-ed in the New York Times, arguing that a bailout of Detroit was inappropriate and would cause the American auto industry to collapse in on itself -- the same bailout, incidentally, that he had argued for nine months earlier. And on fiscal issues, while it's true that Romney balanced the budget in Massachusetts, he raised taxes and fees to do so. So what exactly does he believe?
Finally: Romney's shameless reinventions will contribute to his inability to connect with voters and seem likable. He has transformed himself from moderate northeastern governor (2003-early 2007) to across-the-board conservative (mid-2007-2008) to anti-Obama culture warrior (2009-early 2010) to the regular guy who hasn't worn a tie in over a year (now). Not wearing a tie? Romney is worth $200 million. He is anything but a regular guy. Is he dense enough to he think that taking off the tie will help him connect better with farmers in Iowa?
There is no dispute that Romney's resume is impressive and that, on paper, he is eminently qualified for the presidency.
But he has shown himself to be little more than a shape-shifter, demonstrating a stunning lack of principle that is uncommon even in Washington.
Whether Romney possesses the qualifications to be president is one thing; whether he has the character and backbone to handle the pressures of the office is quite another.