Path Not Taken

At Ten Miles Square today, Ezra Klein provides a neat summary of why the entire hep political world is talking about Mitt’s background at Bain Capital rather than as governor of Massachusetts, his most recent gig that did not involve downhill skiers or running for president:

Neither campaign really wants to. The Romney campaign wants to avoid it because Romney governed from the center in ways that could now alienate the right. In a Republican Party looking for a true conservative, Romney sees little but danger in his record. His signature legislative accomplishment was the forerunner to “Obamacare.” Meanwhile, his state ranked 47th in job creation during his term. (So much for the secret knowledge gleaned from Bain about how to create jobs.)

The Obama campaign doesn’t want to discuss it because Romney’s centrist record as governor might comfort independents, who otherwise may fear that Romney is a creature of the right. “I think people recognize that I’m not a partisan Republican, that I’m someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive,” Romney said in 2002.

Ah, but there’s a third thing the Obama campaign could talk about:

We don’t have to pore over every decision Romney made in Massachusetts to discern what he would do in Washington if elected. Romney and the Republicans in Congress have explained exactly what they intend to accomplish — and their plans are remarkably in sync.

The budget prepared by Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, and the Romney campaign’s general-election platform look quite similar. Both would cut taxes while flattening the tax code. Their Medicare-reform plans look similar; Ryan even modified his original draft to make it look more like Romney’s, which allows seniors to choose between traditional fee-for-service Medicare and private options. Their plans to increase defense spending are alike, as are their plans to cut domestic spending and to turn Medicaid, food stamps and other safety-net programs over to the states.

Because it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Romney is elected and Republicans don’t hold the House and win control of the Senate, Republicans wouldn’t be stymied by Democratic opposition. They would have the votes to pass their agenda. True, they won’t get a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the upper chamber, but Ryan’s budget is, well, a budget, which means it could be passed through the budget reconciliation process — and couldn’t be filibustered. To enact a radical change of direction, Republicans need only a simple majority of votes.

Given that stark reality, perhaps I should rephrase my initial question: Why are we spending so much time discussing what Romney did at Bain … instead of what he will do as president?

It would obvious make it all easier if Romney just put Ryan on the ticket. But presumably, Team Obama does plan at some point to follow the path not taken so far and pay special attention to the promises he made to his party in order to win the nomination.

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.