Conservative Businessman

'A Conservative Businessman': Mitt Romney's Latest Reinvention Falls Flat

Despite its peculiar leaps of logic, it was the most coherent argument Romney has delivered thus far as to why Americans should elect him president.

03.21.12 2:23 AM ET

In his Illinois primary victory speech Tuesday night, Mitt Romney actually said the following: “This president”―i.e. Barack Obama―“is trying to erase his record with some new rhetoric.”

The Republican presidential frontrunner―the formerly moderate Massachusetts governor who once supported abortion rights and implemented a state health-insurance mandate that was the model for Obamacare―is either testing the limits of chutzpah or exploring the possibilities of political jujitsu, taking his perceived liabilities and turning them against his enemy.

Now that Romney is reinventing himself again as a “conservative businessman,” as he repeatedly called himself, will it work? For that matter, does it ring true when, in a fervent appeal to the middle class, this quarter-billionaire, leveraged-buyout mogul invoked “our shrinking paycheck …the value of our homes and 401(k)s”? Or when he smacks Obama’s tax policies by saying it’s “better for more people to pay less in taxes than for a very few to pay a lot more”―when anybody who’s been paying attention knows that Romney’s personal effective income-tax rate has been around 13 percent?

There were other peculiar leaps of logic in what was, admittedly, the most coherent argument Romney has delivered thus far as to why Americans should elect him president. My favorite was the examples of our collective can-do spirit in his peroration on how he’ll “get government out of the way.” Romney said: “We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Now we can’t even build a pipeline.”

Hmmm. Wonder who paid for the highways and the dam? Nevermind.

Also, while Romney’s snickering references to Obama’s stint as a University of Chicago constitutional-law professor―and yes, a community organizer―went over well with the partisan crowd, I doubt they’ll sell well with a wider audience that, after all, has been accustomed to seeing Obama for the past three years as president of the United States. Needless to say, Romney has yet to match Obama’s skills as an orator, let alone those of his wife, Ann, who introduced him.

She’s terrific.