“If Mitt Romney becomes the Republican presidential nominee, he will begin the general-election campaign with middling favorability ratings as compared with other recent standard-bearers.

“The saving graces for Mr. Romney: the incumbent in the White House is not very popular, either. And Mr. Romney’s favorability ratings, while mediocre, are better than those of his Republican opponents…

“In contrast to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, other recent nominees had clearly net-positive favorability ratings at this stage of the campaign.”

***

“In recent elections, blue-collar white voters have been overwhelmingly in the Republican column. Mr. Obama did much better among them in 2008 than the previous two Democratic presidential candidates had done. But in the 2010 midterm elections, they flocked back to the Republicans…

“Now the effort by some of his fellow Republicans to portray Mr. Romney as a job killer during his time at Bain Capital has opened new opportunities for the Obama team among working-class voters, some strategists say.

“It is too soon to know how much the development might help Mr. Obama, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, which does extensive public opinion surveys.

“‘But it at least gives them something to talk about and a place to start,’ Mr. Kohut said, referring to the Obama campaign’s opportunity to raise Mr. Romney’s record with working-class voters.”

***

“Romney, indeed, is the perfect foil for the Obama campaign, first because he is the very epitome of a Republican born rich who got richer by moving money around — a millionaire plutocrat who just can’t relate to ‘ordinary’ Americans, and second because he is yet another Republican political/dynastic legatee. Think about it: We’ve gone from one Bush trying to outdo his Senate father by becoming president, to another Bush trying to outdo his president father by winning two terms as president, to a McCain trying to outdo his admiral father and admiral grandfather by becoming president… and now to a Romney trying to outdo his Michigan governor father and failed presidential front-runner by this time succeeding as a presidential front-runner. In the hands of the $800 million Obama campaign, this can easily by portrayed as a rather creepy and anti-American reliance on dynasticism.

“Combine that with what appears to be a plastic insincerity (again, the ‘flip-flopping’ charge was devastating against Al Gore and can be so again), with a ‘how dare you question me’ attitude that increasingly has shown itself in debates, and with an utter failure to ‘connect’ emotionally with what once were known as ‘Reagan Democrats’ (old-ethnic. i.e. Italian-American/Polish-American, etc., blue collar workers, culturally conservative and on economics distrustful of Wall Street), and you have a recipe for an extraordinarily weak general election candidate.”

***

“For those keeping track, Romney said twice in three sentences that he believes the economy is ‘getting better.’

“I’ve noticed over the last week, this keeps coming up. Shortly before the New Hampshire primary, Romney said he’s ‘glad’ the economy is improving, but quickly added that President Obama ‘doesn’t deserve’ credit. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Romney also said the economy is recovering, but said ‘this president has not helped it.’…

“Look again at what Romney said in last weekend’s debate: ‘The president is going to try to take responsibility for things getting better. It’s like the rooster trying to take responsibility for the sun rising.’

“By Romney’s own reasoning, the sun is rising and it’s morning in America. As Jon Chait put it, ‘This seems like a shockingly weak line — if you concede that it’s morning, you’ve lost the argument.'”

***

“But what became clear this week is that Romney made a major mistake in the way he chose to describe his professional experiences. Instead of simply emphasizing that he was a turnaround expert, someone whose managerial skills and business competence would help fix everything, Romney insisted that his great achievement in life has been creating jobs—specifically, 100,000 jobs while at Bain. As The Wall Street Journal and others have now made clear, ‘creating jobs’ was never a metric that Bain used to define success, and, frankly, is not a metric that any company uses to define success. Independent fact-checkers have declared Romney’s 100,000 figure somewhere between phony and unverifiable. It is now one of the most important claims of this campaign for journalists to substantiate. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Romney’s success depends on whether that job-creation statement withstands scrutiny.

“Ironically, Romney has made a similar mistake to the one the Obama Administration made in early 2009, when two of Obama’s economists released a study with overly optimistic unemployment projections. Ever since then, critics have been able to point to that study as evidence that, if judged by Obama’s own standard, his stimulus has been a failure. We could end up with a race that pits Obama’s stimulus record against Romney’s Bain record. Judging from the gleeful reaction of Democrats this week, it’s a debate Obama would welcome.”

***

“But neither was Romney the Henry Ford-esque job creator he’s tried to play on the campaign trail. He served his investors, not his employees, and his goal was always to make an uncompetitive company competitive, even if that required cutting paychecks and shuttering plants along the way. What’s more, Bain usually found a way to reap profits even when the overhaul failed and the company went belly-up…

“Still, just because the private equity revolution was necessary doesn’t mean that it was an unmitigated good. And for Mitt Romney to frame criticisms of Bain as just ‘the bitter politics of envy,’ as he did last week, displays a tone-deafness that could cost him the presidency. No one — and certainly no politician — who has profited so immensely from an age of insecurity should ever appear to be lecturing the people who’ve lost out.”

***

“Like most conservatives, I’ve been hoping that Mitt would disavow Romneycare, the health-care reform he engineered as Massachusetts governor. I’ve been hoping he’d sensibly conclude it was a bad idea, exacerbated by the politics of a state whose Big Government enthusiasms make it an outlier in a center-right country. Romney, after all, has reversed several positions after being persuaded that he was in the wrong. Alas, despite having flopped more times than Flipper, Mitt has decided that Romneycare is his line in the sand — the crown jewel of his gubernatorial term, the single stand that will prove how constant he can be when passionately convinced he was right…

“Obamacare is the issue that inspires the conservative base. Republicans simply must have the base’s enthusiastic support if they are to beat a lavishly funded incumbent who will pull no punches, none, in striving to keep his job. There is no serious person who doubts that Romneycare was the building block for Obamacare: The experts who helped design the former were consulted in the creation of the latter. Yet Romney continues to insist that Romneycare is a smashing success, one he suggests he’d do again without hesitation…

“I keep hoping to hear those three words: ‘I was wrong.’ But they’re not coming. Romney supporters on the right keep rationalizing that he is just doing what he must do to stay viable: resisting a colossal flip-flop that would be more damaging than all the others. The candidate, however, says no, and attests that he is defending Romneycare because he believes in it. I usually worry that politicians lie. I’m worried that this one is telling the truth.”

***

“It’s obvious — isn’t it? — that Romney is just blowing smoke. The real story is clear: He wanted to achieve something important and good for the people of his state, namely universal healthcare. But now that Obamacare has become ‘liberal’ anathema in the Republican primaries — reviled even by the Heritage Foundation from whence it came — he wants to distance himself from the whole idea.

“It’s annoying, but it’s more than that: It’s disqualifying. To talk such nonsense and count on the hubbub of the campaign to clothe its naked contempt for the voters is an insult to all of us.”

***

“‘The establishment is trying to ram down the people of South Carolina’s and everybody else’s throat Gov. Romney, as if he is inevitable,’ Santorum said.

“He said Barack Obama would ‘destroy’ Romney in the general election because he does not represent a “bold and courageous” contrast to the president…

“‘Why would we pick someone who has had a record that as a liberal governor of Massachusetts to lead our country at a time we need fundamental change?’ he asked.”