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October 12, 2011 / Political Fluency

What’s So Bad About a Flip-Flopper?

That’s the question Republicans are asking themselves now with another poor debate performance from Rick Perry making Mitt Romney the Republican nominee barring a major gaffe or scandal in the next 3 months.

In 2004 John Kerry was successfully branded as a flip-flopper by the Republicans and that was a main factor in his inability to close the deal and defeat the incumbent George W. Bush. But the reason the flip-flopper label worked was because Kerry flip-flopped on the main issue of the election – the Iraq War “I actually did vote for the $87 billion [in troop funding] before I voted against it.”

And the label had to work, George W. Bush’s main reelection strategy was to brand Kerry as an unacceptable alternative as the President’s popularity was getting lower by the month in the wake of no evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and his leadership after 9/11 seemed a distant memory.

President Obama’s popularity has similarly dwindled and his reelection strategy will be the same – make Mitt Romney look like an unacceptable alternative as President.

While the main issue of next year’s election is the economy, Romney is doing a smart thing by not changing his position on the biggest policy issue of the election – Health Care Reform. The Obama Administration’s landmark policy achievement has never been popular and ironically this can be used to Obama’s advantage during the campaign. The Democrats will continue to use the line that Republicans have griped about:  howthe Romneycare plan in Massachusetts became the blueprint for Obamacare.

Romney’s slickness and policy position changes that have bothered Republicans over the past decade is an asset here because he uses the healthcare issue as an opportunity to say he is going to repeal the very unpopular Obamacare bill and to differentiate his plan from Obama’s in the minor ways it is different.

In 2008, Romney would have been a disastrous candidate for two reasons. First, his background was in private equity leveraged buyouts during a financial collapse. Mike Huckabee even said “he’s the guy that fired you.” Second, it was only four years removed from when Republicans called Kerry a flip-flopper and then they go and nominate one from the same state.

But things in 2012 are much different. Americans are desperate for solutions absent of ideology. The view of independents and the Left is that George W. Bush led too much from the right. The view of independents and the Right is that Obama has led too much from the left by spending too much money and increasing the debt and deficit.

In Mitt Romney you have a non-ideological guy that independents can relate to. His line “In the private sector, if you don’t change your mind when the facts change, you get fired for being stubborn and stupid,” is perfectly suited to the times as millions of Americans have lost a lot of money in either houses or 401(k)’s that were promised to increase in value.

Is Romney just unprincipled and a panderer? Most likely, but he’s a liberal Republican coming on the heels of a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican. The conservatives are going to show up to vote against Obama and the independents have a lot to like in a guy like Romney.

Will 2012 be the election that once again separates America from the rest of the world? While other Western nations have its citizens demanding more government intervention into the economy – in some cases to the point of rioting – America has an entire political movement in the Tea Party demanding the government do the opposite. And the Republican candidate they trust the least is the one with the most business and economic knowledge that they crave in a leader.

Will 2012 be the election where a private equity fat cat in the midst of an economic meltdown with no chance to win in 2008, end up winning in the midst of that same recession?

Was Obama’s 2008 victory nothing more than the biggest flash mob in history?

Is America going to wave the white flag and say “We tried ‘socialism/big government programs/stimulus/Keynesian economics’ and we give up. We’re going to you, Mr. Private Equity Millionaire, sir. You know a lot about money. Now fix this!”?

As of right now, the answer is Yes.


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