I saw this over at Taegan’s place:

First Read points out that President Obama “isn’t necessarily running against Mitt Romney; he’s running against the Republican Party brand — and making sure that Romney owns that brand. In fact, Romney’s
biggest challenge over the next two or three months will be for him to differentiate himself from the brand.”

“There’s been a lot of focus of late on how damaged Romney has become in this process (his high negatives with indies, etc). But we’ve noticed a larger trend: The brand of the GOP is what’s been damaged; Romney may simply be collateral damage. And this is why he has to figure out a way to either improve the GOP’s brand or differentiate himself. Which can he achieve?”

I suppose this is correct. Romney either has to go running away from the modern GOP with his perfect hair on fire or he has to sell the modern GOP as the answer to all our problems. But before we even get started on this analysis, can we stipulate that Romney is a gigantic flip-flopper? Just this morning we learn that Romney was a strong supporter of Cap and Trade as recently as 2003. We have advisers saying he can reinvent himself as soon as he wraps up the nomination just like an Etch a Sketch. We have his wife saying that they will soon unzip the real Romney, and a Republican pro-choice former governor saying that Romney will close the gender gap once he exposes his “real views” on women’s issues.

I know the American people are bored to death by the nominating process but in a digital age you simply can’t get away with saying one thing today and another thing tomorrow. Even if people didn’t see it when you said you were going to destroy Planned Parenthood, they’ll hear about it later, especially if you turn around and say you’re going to fund it to the gills. So, yes, we can agree that the modern GOP has a spoiled brand, but Romney has branded himself as wishy-washy and unprincipled and soulless. He can perhaps overcome that first impression, but not by more flip-flopping. In fact, I’d say that Mitt Romney has less room to move to the center than any candidate I’ve ever seen.

And that may explain why he basically gave up on that idea by embracing Paul Ryan’s radical budget plan and traveling around Wisconsin with Ryan attached to his hip. The president ably demonstrated yesterday how vulnerable the Republicans have made themselves by voting for the Ryan Plan. In response, the right is flailing in agonized pain. Their only response is sustained, systemic lying of the kind that makes all statisticians and logicians die a little bit every single day.

And it’s really hard to maintain a program of sustained and systemic lying. Bush and Cheney were successful for several post-9/11 years in leading this country into war under the threat of a mushroom cloud, but even they eventually became the boys who cried wolf. And they had a critical advantage. They had the power of incumbency.

Ask yourself, who is more credible, Mitt Romney or President Obama? It would take unimaginable amounts of money and the ability to create free media for himself at any time for Romney to have any chance of convincing a majority of the people that Paul Ryan’s budget plan is good for them. In a Citizens United world with a mighty right-wing media wurlitzer, this isn’t totally out of the question, but it seems unlikely to work.

The truth, though, is that Romney will try to move to the center at the same time that he tries to sell Ryan’s radical plan. And here’s what I think will happen.

The most damaging thing about Sarah Palin wasn’t who she was or what she said. The most damaging thing was that she forced ordinary Republicans to pretend she was qualified and prepared to be president. She destroyed people’s integrity. She convinced millions to abandon any standards of logic or reason. And the result was a massive outbreak of really hateful stupidity: “I want Medicare, not socialized medicine.” Mitt Romney, in defending the math in Ryan’s plan while denying its impact on social programs, is going to force the Republicans to engage in a sixth-month tour-de-force of dishonesty where no scientific or logical standard is honored and in which scientists are disregarded and disparaged.

It’s a Culture War on math. A Culture War on going to college. A Culture War on credentialed experts. An air war of saturation talking points, all of which do violence to the truth.

It will be depressing. But it will also be dangerous because, as we saw with Palin, the fallout has a long half-life even if the Democrats ultimately prevail.

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