Amidst the strategic confusion surrounding the Romney/Ryan campaign–I say “surrounding,” because while it’s clear it has infected Mitt’s intended echo chamber, we don’t actually know if they are as internally convulsed as they sometimes seem to be–the most confusing issue is the extent to which the GOP ticket is willing to treat the election as a “choice” rather than a “referendum.”

The official line, as explained by Greg Sargent today, is that we have entered a “debate and choice” phase of the campaign, now that Romney has persuaded as many voters as he possibly can that they should vote for him without looking into the poke for the pig.

But the relentless efforts by Romney and Ryan to disguise their agenda–most notably the agenda represented by the latter’s budget, which the former has promised to implement as quickly as possible, with perhaps a few nips and tucks–makes their commitment to a clear “choice” more than a little questionable. Jon Chait has great sport today with Ryan’s bobbing and weaving over the weekend (on Fox News no less) with simple questions about the arithmetic underlying his budget. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the huge contradiction between the standard, joyful argument of conservatives that their heroes are engaged in the destruction of the New Deal/Great Society legacy and the frantic efforts of said heroes to claim they are trying to save Medicare from mean old Obama.

So how can one properly describe the kind of “choice” election Romney and Ryan want? Perhaps we should adapt Colbert’s immensely useful term “truthiness” (defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”). What Romney and Ryan are promoting is “choice-iness,” an election defined by a contrast between an imaginary version of Obama’s agenda and an equally imaginary version of their own agenda. It’s the kind of “choice” you get if you believe Obama is a socialist who wants to destroy Medicare, and Romney is a free-enterprise champ who wants to make sure Grandpa gets every nickel of his Medicare without diverting anything to those worthless welfare recipients or those ungrateful kids.

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.