This is brilliant. While all the pundits can’t get enough of how Romney transformed himself, the Romney campaign is quietly going back on all of his “moderation.” You may recall that Romney claimed that his healthcare plan would cover people with pre-existing conditions. Obama countered that this wasn’t part of his plan—all he was doing was keeping the pre-ACA law that said as long as you keep continuous coverage, insurance companies cannot drop you. Romney claimed this wasn’t the truth and that his plan did cover the 89 million people with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t get coverage. This was part of Romney’s Santa Claus act where anything popular: it’s in there!
And then the debate ended and Romney’s people had to “clarify.” That’s Republican for “correct a lie.” Talking Points Memo reports that Romney’s top adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said:
With respect to pre-existing conditions, what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage.
This is exactly what Obama said. Romney has no plan.
Will this matter? Probably not. Content doesn’t matter. Romney was aggressive and he “moderated” his position (In public anyway!) so he won. But despite all the claims to the contrary, Romney is the same as he ever was. And Obama lost the debate by allowing him to spout his endless parade of lies without counter.
Update (4 October 2012 9:13 am)
Josh Barro—who I’ve had no lack of bad things to say about—has an excellent discussion of the debate. He notes the main problem:
Obama needed to keep up that attack all night, and he could have. Whenever the president discussed an aspect of his policies that was popular, Romney said he supported that, too. Romney said he likes the good parts of Obamacare and the good parts of Dodd-Frank. Whenever Obama raised a negative aspect of Romney’s tax plan, Romney simply insisted that his plan just isn’t so.
In other words, Romney was shaking the etch-a-sketch. He was vulnerable to the critique that he is changing his views to match audience desires and therefore can’t be trusted. But Obama mostly failed to make that point.
There is one big silver lining for Obama: The debates usually don’t do a lot to change how people vote. When they do matter, as with Gerald Ford in 1976, it’s usually because of a major blunder, not a broadly weak performance. Obama did himself no favors tonight, but his weakness probably had little impact on the number of votes he will receive.
Update (4 October 2012 9:32 am)
Jonathan Chait discusses another of Romney’s lies: he won’t lower taxes on the rich.
None of these studies back up Romney’s claim that he won’t reduce taxes on the rich. They confirm that he will reduce taxes on the rich. They merely suggest that he could make up the revenue some other way than taxing the middle class or increasing the deficit—that the economic growth will help the tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves, or that some of the lost revenue can be made up for by cutting off subsidies for the uninsured. Romney flat-out misstated his position.
I haven’t see an explicit walk back from his campaign, but his plan has not changed. Chait goes on to make a very keen observation of why Obama did so poorly:
Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.
Update (4 October 2012 10:54 am)
Think Progress has even more walks back from the Romney campaign:
From Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal: The Hidden History of Change in the Obama Era
ICYMI: Romney campaign told me (after my tweet-rants) Mitt didn’t mean to say half the #stimulus-funded green firms failed. Probably <1% so far.
Grunwald estimates that less than 1 percent of green firms have gone bad in terms of dollar value.
Romney also singled out Tesla Motors, which designs and manufactures electric vehicles, and received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy. Last night, he quipped, “I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?” But the company is not a loser. “Founder Elon Musk says it will accelerate its payment of the principal in the spring—and the Department of Energy isn’t complaining it’s not getting its money back.” Romney, unfortunately, has turned to rooting against an American company in his effort to unseat Obama.
Republicans hate America.
Update (4 October 2012 11:03 am)
More from Kevin Drum.