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Doc Cleveland: Police, Danger, and the Social Contract
As the two the presidential candidates prepare for the first debate, Romney finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Obama is dealing with the same rock, but unlike Romney he lacks a similar hard place.
The rock is the apparently small number of actual undecided voters, maybe as little as 2%. This means to make significant gains in the poll, one has to go after the swing voters. Romney is not going to pass Obama in places like Florida and Ohio just by grabbing all of the undecideds (many who could very well not vote at all). He has to convince those who have tentatively leaned toward Obama at the moment to change their mind and swing over to him.
I think it can be reasonably assumed that if someone is leaning toward Obama, no matter how tentatively, his or her politics is in large part socially and economically moderate. I think the line "no one left behind" uttered at the DNC resonates with folks of this constituency. While they want the economy to take off, and maybe even think "smaller government" has its place in the debate, they don't want wide-scale suffering in the short-term just to get the economy rolling again.
In other words, these voters may first think of their own pocketbook, but their concern for their neighbors is not that far behind.
Romney's hard place is that in order to appeal to these people he has to make promises and outline policy choices that will alienate a sizeable number of those in his party. This was all too evident when he stated the other Sunday there were parts of Obamacare he would keep. He was attempting to reach out to those swingers and the backlash he suffered from his party was so swift he was taking it all back the next day.
Ron Reagan hit the nail on the head perfectly the other night when he said that while most presidential candidates shape the party into a reflection of themselves, Romney has allowed the party to shape him into a reflection of the party. And the Republican Party as everyone knows around here has become quite conservative, embracing an ideology and worldview that does not appeal to those who would consider leaning toward Obama let alone having already leaned Obama's way.
The success of the DNC was in large part that it amped up the party faithful while allowing Obama to go for the center in the hopes of pulling a few of those who have tentatively swung to Romney for the moment.
Romney's decision is whether during the debate he seeks to amp up the base in a way he failed to do during the RNC and hope their GOTV efforts are enough (2000 Bush in Ohio strategy) or go for a hail mary pass for the center of the field that he can be persuasive enough that for ever 1% of the base he loses, he picks up 2% from the moderates.
There is little in Romney's past performances that indicates he has the personality and showbiz chops to pull such a performance off. It is likely he will triple down on the conservative ideology. The most likely outcome will be that hardcore base of the Republican Party will find out just unappealing that ideology is to those in the middle of the political spectrum.