Having recognized that he cannot outflank Rick Santorum from the right, Mitt Romney is now mimicking Newt Gingrich’s anti-Romney strategy, moving to the left with populist economic rhetoric.
Here’s what he said in Arizona yesterday:
The transcript, in relevant part:
I am going to lower rates across the board for all Americans by 20%. And in order to limit any impact on the deficit, because I do not want to add to the deficit, and also in order to make sure we continue to have progressivity as we’ve had in the past in our code, I’m going to limit the deductions and exemptions particularly for high income folks. And by the way, I want to make sure you understand that, for middle income families, the deductibility of home mortgage interest and charitable contributions will continue. But for high income folks, we are going to cut back on that, so we make sure the top 1% pay the current share they’re paying or more.
Here’s what Romney doesn’t understand, and it’s the reason that he’s in serious trouble: conservatives don’t want him to be an economic liberal. They just want him to stop acting like a white collar Wall Street type.
Conservatives like politicians who seem down-home. But they don’t like Huey Long redistribution of wealth fanatics, or even a hint of such fanaticism. Romney’s language here is devastatingly anti-conservative: the “top 1%,” “current share they’re paying or more,” “high income folks,” etc. He’s cribbing straight from the Obama playbook. That ticks conservatives off, and for good reason.
The reason conservatives don’t trust Romney is because of moves like this. He seems to think that his problem is positioning rather than personality, when it’s precisely the opposite. Conservatives believe that we’ll win if we provide a winning personality who acts as a clear contrast to Obama. Romney seems to believe that conservatives will buy his mediocre personality without clear contrast. He’s wrong. And he will pay the price for his newfound Occupy Wall Street language.