Today’s Big Mystery Solved

The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball noticed, as I did earlier today, that there’s a whole lot of confusion about what, exactly, Mitt Romney’s campaign is doing to “reboot” itself for the stretch run. She runs through the various things we are hearing from various elements of the Romney campaign, and comes up with this tentative conclusion:

What, then, is the new strategy? It’s to reemphasize the policy proposals that Romney is already campaigning on, apparently. [Ed] Gillespie’s argument is that voters, having been convinced that Obama’s not cutting it and Romney is a decent enough guy, now are ready to hear what exactly Romney has planned. Once he’s painted a picture of the future to their satisfaction, they’ll be ready to go and vote for him….

At the same time, Romney does not appear prepared to fill in the most obvious gaps in his policy platform. He insists that his tax and spending proposals will balance the budget without raising taxes, but he won’t say which tax loopholes he would close to do so; there’s no indication that’s going to change. In his speech Monday, he described a broken immigration system and criticized Obama for failing to fix it. But he did not say how he would resolve the situation of illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., promising only to “work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system.” This is exactly what he did last time he spoke about immigration to a Hispanic audience.

In sum, then, Romney’s new campaign strategy is to put new emphasis on the proposals that he was already emphasizing, while declining to fill in new details of the proposals he has kept strategically vague. It doesn’t sound like much of a turnaround. But then, Romney’s camp does not actually admit that a turnaround is needed.

I think that may be the key to the whole mystery. Team Mitt is under a regular barrage of criticism from the MSM, from those Republican political pros who aren’t already on payroll, from conservatives wanting a different kind of campaign, and apparently even from within. So its way of dealing with that is to just as regularly indicate a change of direction–and then keep on doing what they were doing before. And that is perfectly in harmony with this campaign’s reigning value: deception.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.