Ann ‘n’ Tagg Reintroduce Moderate Mitt as Conservatives Cheer

You had to feel this was coming: with polls showing at least a momentary Romney surge, someone within the campaign had to get credit for engineering the big, “game-changing” shift in strategy that undergird Mitt’s debate strategy and saved the enterprise from oblivion. And it’s appropriate that the first “insider” narrative out of the box was an Allen-VandeHei piece in Politico, the MSM fortress of all things game-changey and event-and- personality driven in presidential politics.

According to Allen-VandeHei, there was a “family rebellion” within Team Romney led by Ann and Tagg, that toppled Stu Stevens’ economic-referendum doctrine and reintroduced Moderate Mitt From Massachusetts, the can-do man with the can-do plan for all of America’s problems:

When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga. Until the weeks before the first presidential debate, the candidate sided with Stevens over his family’s skepticism, accepting the strategist’s view that the best way to win was to point out President Barack Obama’s flaws and articulate generic promises to do better.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the Politico Pair argues that “the family” combined forces with restive conservatives wanting a “clear choice” message to topple the steady-as-you-go approach of Stevens. Here’s how they square that circle:

[O]ne big reason for hope inside the Romney campaign is that conservatives were so down on the campaign before the debate — and so rapturous during it — that they will give him a lot of maneuvering room to talk in more moderate ways.

As I’ve tried to demonstrate here and here, however, the Moderate Mitt Meme is mighty thin and based on an infrastructure of lies and evasions. Under sustained attack from the Obama campaign, how long is Romney going to be able to get mileage out of such brave defiance of the Right as admitting there might be some place in the world for regulation of business; how long can he get away with pretending his “health care plan” prevents discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions; how long can he brazen his way through the mendacious math of his tax plan, or avoid the many extremist positions that Obama did not bring up during the first debate? Remember, BTW, that the first time Romney (or Ryan) must engage seriously with criticism of his actual agenda, all that conservative tolerance for “moderation” will vanish.

It’s possible, of course, that Romney will be able to bob and weave his way to November 6 pretending to be a “moderate”–and pretending it’s the “real Mitt” his family forced into view over the cynical advice of the pros running his campaign–on sheer assertion and media reinforcement, without breaking a single one of his promises to movement conservatives.

If so, then Allen and VandeHei will indeed have written a first draft of the “history of this campaign,” whether or not they turn it into a insta-book that gets made into a premium cable movie: providing the dramatic back-story to the fable of “moderate Mitt” that is the latest in a trail of mendacious self-reinventions that makes Richard Nixon look like a paragon of honesty and principle.

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.