[This was originally published on July 13th, 2012, at 9:46 EST]

You have to read to page five of Robert Draper’s piece on Obama’s Super PAC to find the money quote.

[Bill] Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities [USA] informed a focus group that Romney supported the [Paul] Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.

In the context of the article, this bit of information is used to explain why Priorities USA pivoted to focusing on Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital. But we should consider what this information means for the Romney campaign. His actual economic policies are so unpopular that people simply refuse to believe he could actually be advocating them. And that is precisely why he isn’t advocating them. He is not talking about what is actually in Paul Ryan’s budget proposal at all. Nor will he. It polls so badly that you can’t even run ads against it because people don’t believe anyone would be so radical as to propose such things.

So, that’s the starting point for understanding this election. Team Romney is trying to steal a page out of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign by making this an election all about the economy, stupid. But his economic plans are unmentionable. Their substance is taboo. All substance on the core issue is off limits. Romney is waging a campaign on the economy without articulating any specifics.

The specifics exist, of course, in the Ryan Plan or Romney’s 29-page economic plan (or however long it is), but he’s not interested in discussing those details. Why would he be? He might as well indicate that, if elected, he intends to infect every American with chlamydia. For the same reason that Bill Burton and Paul Begala discovered that Romney’s economic plan was not ripe for criticism, Romney knows it isn’t ripe for advocacy either. It’s just this toxic thing that neither side wants to touch.

But it really is what the Republicans want and intend to do if they get the power to do it.

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