Politics

04.24.12

Paul Begala: Mitt Romney Conquers the Northeast Corridor

What’s interesting about Tuesday night’s outcome isn’t that Romney finally locked down the nomination. It’s that he’s now wholeheartedly demonstrating his contempt for the voters. Plus, Daily Beast contributors weigh in on Romney's five-state sweep.

Mitt Romney is to be congratulated for finally defeating the weakest field in modern presidential history. Of course, it’s not Romney’s fault that the GOP’s top talent chose not to run. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Thune, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump—any one of them would have given Romney a run for his mega-millions; probably would’ve beat him.

The evidence? At one time or another Romney trailed each of the following presidential contenders: Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. Amazing. George W. Bush in 2000 led nearly wire-to-wire, and he was running against a much stronger field.

What’s interesting about Mitt Romney’s performance Tuesday night isn’t that he won the primaries in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware. They’re northeastern states with comparatively low percentages of the blue-collar, populist, Christian evangelical Republicans whose votes Romney has had a hard time winning.

What’s interesting is that Romney thinks we weren’t watching. Even before the votes were counted Tuesday night, Romney was suddenly declaring his support for extending subsidies for student loans. These are subsidies Romney has firmly opposed. On Feb. 29, Romney was asked about his support for student-loan subsidies by an Ohio law student. “Now that the government’s taking over the student-loan business, I think you’ll get less competition,” he said. “I’d rather have more competition, with private lenders as well as government lenders,” Romney said. If voters want someone to “get up in a setting like this and talk about how they’re going to give you a bunch of government money … that’s not who I am.”

In the primaries, Romney:

·    Proposed a tax plan that would cut taxes by $150,000 per year for the top 1 percent while raising taxes on those struggling to get by;

·    Embraced wholeheartedly Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program that costs seniors thousands more;

·    Said that eliminating tax breaks for oil companies is “dangerous”;

·    Proposed the complete elimination of government-supported family planning—a program started by Republicans;

·    Said a lot of immigrants come to America “looking for a free deal” and promised to veto the bipartisan DREAM Act;

·    Reaffirmed his plan to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Now he’s shaking the Etch a Sketch, hoping we’re too dumb to notice. He even channeled James Carville on Tuesday night, saying, “It’s still the economy . . . and we’re not stupid.”

Romney’s strategy, of course, is built on his assumption that we are in fact stupid. How else can you expect to sell Millionaire Mitt as the man for the middle class?