“Vice President Joe Biden unleashed a biting critique of Mitt Romney’s policies Friday and the Republican came swiftly back at him – a full-contact preview of what the general election might look like should Romney win the GOP nomination to challenge President Barack Obama…
“In essentially placing its bets on Romney, the Obama camp elevated his stature in the race, particularly in Iowa where he is running neck-and-neck with Gingrich and Texas congressman Ron Paul.
“Romney was clearly ready – and eager – to engage with the White House. While he generally has to be asked, or even pressed, to criticize Gingrich, he hit back at Biden at the first opportunity.
“‘I think they realize what’s coming,’ he said. ‘I hope they’re right. I hope I’m the nominee.'”
“Mitt Romney is set to close out the fourth fundraising quarter of the year with his largest haul yet of at least $20 million, several fundraising sources told POLITICO…
“While there is still a week left in the quarter, high-dollar fundraising is essentially finished for the season thanks to the holidays — and Romney is closing strong…
“Instead of the Newt Gingrich surge prompting donors to hesitate, it impelled them to give more, two sources said, mirroring fear among establishment Republicans of the former House speaker capturing the nomination.”
“The sense had been growing that the GOP race was effectively over barring a major surprise in Iowa from Rick Perry or Rick Santorum, but this news out of Virginia is very revealing about the lack of general election preparedness of every organization except Team Romney. The only thing that the president has going for him is a political organization honed by a half-dozen years in the field and a well-refined ruthlessness when it comes to tactics. It is hard to imagine an organization that cannot gather 10,000 signatures over many months staying on the field with the Chicago gang much less outmaneuvering them in the week to week battles of the year ahead.
“Fence sitters among the electeds who were waiting to see if there would be a prolonged contest have got to be spending their Christmas Eves wrapping gifts and considering that Mitt Romney has this campaign in hand and that a quick conclusion to the primary season would be in the interests of everyone. Watch for endorsements next week before Iowa caucuses and certainly before New Hampshire votes.”
“The irony is that Mr. Paul’s campaign may so far have made Mr. Romney’s path easier. It has released exceptionally effective commercials against Mr. Gingrich, while also feuding with Mrs. Bachmann. If Mr. Paul was a more traditional candidate, this strategy might make sense, since Mrs. Bachmann and especially Mr. Gingrich are threats to win Iowa. Weakening these candidates might also tend to help Mr. Romney, but that would not be Mr. Paul’s major concern.
“But Mr. Paul is an unusual candidate; his ability to influence the Republican race depends as much upon the order of finish among the rest of the candidates as how well he does for himself. If Mr. Romney finishes a strong second in Iowa behind Mr. Paul, for instance, that showing will be in line with expectations — enough so that Mr. Romney will probably not relinquish his 17-point lead in New Hampshire and should book a solid win there. That would put Mr. Romney on the inside track for the nomination, with Mr. Paul proving to be little more than a footnote.”
“Some voters, however, weren’t overly impressed with Romney’s standing in the state.
“‘Of course, he’s going to win here,’ said Concord’s Deb Jacobs. ‘So what? The story would be if he lost. He’s been here for years. And all those other jokers — you can call them candidates — have made sure he won’t lose.'”
“Earlier this year, I asked Santorum why he didn’t push smaller government principles more aggressively during the Bush era, and he told me: ‘I could only go so far because we didn’t have a Tea Party movement that was moving the country in that direction.’
“It wasn’t until 2009 and 2010 that candidates who represented the post-bank bailout, purified GOP, began getting elected. And because it takes time for politicians to mature into credible presidential candidates, none of them were ready to run in 2012.
“So the root of the frustration that many conservatives are feeling right now is that philosophically, they are a several election cycles ahead of the available pool of GOP presidential candidates. And they have Bush to blame for that.”
“What about his reform principles? Mr. Romney talks only in general terms. ‘Moving to a consumption-based system is something which is very attractive to me philosophically, but I’ve not been able to sufficiently model it out to jump on board a consumption-based tax. A flat tax, a true flat tax is also attractive to me. What I like—I mean, I like the simplification of a flat tax. I also like removing the distortion in our tax code for certain classes of investment. And the advantage of a flat tax is getting rid of some of those distortions.’
“Since Mr. Romney mentioned a consumption tax, would he rule out a value-added tax?
“He says he doesn’t “like the idea” of layering a VAT onto the current income tax system. But he adds that, philosophically speaking, a VAT might work as a replacement for some part of the tax code, ‘particularly at the corporate level,’ as Paul Ryan proposed several years ago. What he doesn’t do is rule a VAT out.”
“‘There’s nothing new about politicians making promises they are in no position to keep. Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign promised a ‘chicken in every pot and a car in every backyard, to boot.’ Michele Bachmann is promising $2 a gallon gasoline. President Obama promised ‘hope and change.’
“But when it comes to political pandering, it’s hard to beat a promise Mitt Romney made on Thursday in New Hampshire to a 21-year-old college student named Kallie Durkit, who wanted to know why college students should support Romney instead of Obama.
“‘What I can promise you is this – when you get out of college, if I’m president you’ll have a job. If President Obama is reelected, you will not be able to get a job,’ Romney said.”