Mitt Romney opposes tax deal
It is a bit, shall we say, odd that he's only now piping up and making an argument that doesn't quite hang together. First Read picked up on the internal contradiction, remarking that Romney is "calling the tax compromise a 'bad deal,' because it's 'only temporary' and it adds to the deficit. (Although, if they were made permanent wouldn't that add MORE to the deficit?)" Well, yes.
Moreover, his argument seems to be it's a bad deal, but the alternative is worse: "The deal keeps current tax rates from rising to pre-Bush era levels for two years. But in 2013, unless Congress acts again, rates will increase dramatically. Of course, delay now is better than an immediate tax hike." I think that's the argument in favor of the deal.
But this is the perpetual Romney dilemma: how to convince the conservative base he's one of them. In 2008, he tried to present himself as stalwart social conservative. Now, he seems to be making a play for the DeMInt-Palin-Tea Party faction of the Republican primary base.
His latest maneuvering has produced a fair amount of eye-rolling. The reaction of one Capitol Hill Republican was typical: "It is unclear if he thinks the 'base' appreciates the pander, or he thinks the 'base' appreciates being hit with across-the-board tax hikes. Killing a very good deal struck while GOP remains out of power, out of desire to pay lip service to an impossible better deal is not responsible leadership."
And that really is the nub of the matter. Romney and other deal critics would rather Republicans say no, allow the rates to increase and then -- after the wave of bad press has swept over them -- try to negotiate something better, risking a veto. This is the equivalent of the Newt Gingrich-engineered government shutdown.
But memories are short and Romney is trying to connect with the part of the base that has never quite accepted him. He risks reviving the same credibility problem that plagued him in 2008. Perhaps the whole endeavor is fruitless from the start. Is the base likely to forgive and forget that it was he who championed the individual health insurance mandate? Will they disregard RomneyCare's failure to control health-care prices in Massachusetts? Well, now you know why he's trying to make a splash on the tax deal.
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