Mitt Romney, the man-like-object running for the Republican presidential nomination, is likely to score back–to-back-to-back wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Intrade currently gives Romney an 82 percent chance of winning the GOP nomination.
But that same market-driven betting site also gives Obama a 51 percent chance of winning re-election, and the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics gives Obama a two-point lead in a match-up against Romney. And I suspect Obama’s chances of winning against Romney are actually slightly better than that — because of Romney’s two fatal flaws.
Fatal flaw No. 1: Romney is totally tone deaf. Though Romney may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he has a tin ear when it comes to off-the-cuff political rhetoric.
In Sunday’s Republican debate, Romney told a story about how his father, a wealthy and powerful man, advised him that you shouldn’t run for office if you need the salary of the office in order to pay your mortgage. However he meant this statement, it sounded so perversely pro-plutocracy that it managed to offend the man with a half-million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich said he thought this was “very much the opposite of the American tradition, historically.” And Gingrich, by golly, should know.
Monday, Romney talked about making health insurance companies more accountable to consumers. He said, with great energy and a big smile: “I like to fire people!” He meant firing insurance companies, not people, but boy! — what a dumb thing to say with the cameras running. His foes were using that clip against him within the hour. That joins some other cringe-worthy clankers that will haunt him all through the general election: “Corporations are people,” “I am also unemployed,” and his offering a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry.
Fatal flaw No. 2: Romney is not a good liar. Assume, just for the sake of argument, that most politicians lie sometimes to gain political advantage. But if the lies are too big, too blatant, and too frequent, it works against them. Just ask Michele Bachmann. And Romney’s lies are piling up — deep and early.
Take one of his memes that is clearly meant to play to the right wing talk radio crowd: the United States is “only inches away from no longer being a free economy.” This has earned Romney a big, fat “Pants on Fire” rating from the non-partisan fact-checking site, Politifact.com.
As Politifact notes, the very conservative Heritage Foundation publishes an Economic Freedom Index each year. In 2011, they ranked the U.S. as the 9th freest economy, out of 179. And it is worth noting that all eight of economies that ranked better than the U.S. represent countries or city-states that provide nationwide health insurance or mandate the purchase of insurance.
Politifact also points out that, contrary to what Romney would have you believe, the U.S. tax burden has not increased on Obama’s watch. It has actually “fallen modestly in recent years, from 31.2 percent in 2006 to 27.2 percent in 2011.”
As another non-partisan fact-checking site, Factcheck.org found that Romney’s claim that federal, state, and local governments consume 37 percent of the economy today compared with only 27 percent when John F. Kennedy was president is false. In fact, taxes now consume only 27.4 percent of GDP.
Romney has repeatedly claimed that Obama wants to create an entitlement society and that Obama believes that “government should create equal outcomes,” where “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk.”
Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman wrote of that claim:
“… many people were quick to point out, this portrait of the president as radical redistributionist was pure fiction. What hasn’t been as widely noted, however, is that Mr. Romney’s picture of himself as a believer in a level playing field is just as fictional. Where is the evidence that he or his party cares at all about equality of opportunity?”
Romney even taken friendly fire about his dissembling. On the influential conservative blog RedState.com, they worry about Romney telling the truth on the issue of abortion:
Did Mitt Romney lie to try and get elected in 1994? Did he lie to try to get elected in 2002? Or is he lying to try and get elected today?
Romney is the leading GOP candidate at this point because he came to be regarded as the grown-up in the group. But if Romney continues his prevaricating and shape shifting, he runs the real danger of morphing in the public’s perception into a character of comically dishonest dimensions, like Tommy Flannagan, president of Pathological Liars Anonymous, that Jon Lovits used to portray on Saturday Night Live. And I bet Anne Romney really wouldn’t like it if Mitt starts claiming he’s been married: “For the last 30 years I’ve been married to…to… to Morgan Fairchild, yeah, that’s the ticket.”
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