Yesterday on Hardball, Howard Fineman noted the sheer audacity of Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy. While most presidential candidates ultimately move toward the center, they do it gradually, in bits and pieces. But Romney, after running slightly to the right of Genghis Khan for the past year, has chosen, in the final days of the race, to transform himself into Moderate Mitt virtually overnight, unleashing a barrage of lies, flip-flops, and personality makeovers absolutely unprecedented in political history. In Monday night’s debate, Romney practically endorsed his opponent. The mendacity is breathtaking.
Now this “shock and awe” strategy is not as crazy as it seems. Most voters don’t know anything about the issues, and they never will. Moreover, a hundred lies can be more effective than a single lie. Few people not working in a psychiatric ward have ever encountered anyone as pathologically dishonest as Mitt Romney. If you try to tell a normal person that Romney lies about everything, he simply won’t believe you. He’ll take Romney at his word. It’s easier than sorting through the details.
Which brings us to Romney’s Waterloo. Ohio.
Romney’s blizzard of lies won’t work in Ohio, because in Ohio the Obama campaign can focus on one Romney lie, and voters will pay attention. Romney’s fatal op-ed on the auto bailout takes a little explaining, but people in Toledo viscerally get it. They’ve lived it, and their personal experience cuts through all the desperate prevaricating we saw at the end of Monday night’s debate:
MR. ROMNEY: I just want to take one of those points. Again, attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country. But the president mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said they need — these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, and in that process they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they’d — they’d built up.
And fortunately the president picked —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said.
MR. ROMNEY: Fortunately, the president — you can take — you can take a look at the op-ed.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, you did not —
MR. ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide, Governor, help.
MR. ROMNEY: You know, I’m — I’m still speaking. I said that we would provide guarantees and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry — of course not. Of course not.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s check the record.
MR. ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s — let’s check the record.
MR. ROMNEY: I have never said I would — I would liquidate the industry. I want to keep the industry growing and thriving.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.
MR. ROMNEY: And — and that’s I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful. We in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world. And we’re going to. We’re going to have to have a president, however, that doesn’t think that somehow the government investing in — in car companies like Tesla and — and Fisker, making electric battery cars — this is not research, Mr. President. These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company. This isn’t basic research. I — I want to invest in research. Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks — great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That’s the wrong way to go.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the fact of the matter is —
MR. ROMNEY: I’m still speaking.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well — (chuckles) —
MR. ROMNEY: So I want to make sure that we make — we make America more competitive —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah.
MR. ROMNEY: — and that we do those things that make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow. But your investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact it makes it less likely for them to come here —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, Governor —
MR. ROMNEY: — because the private sector’s not going to invest in a — in a — in a solar company if —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m happy — I’m — I’m — I’m happy to respond —
MR. ROMNEY: — if you’re investing government money and someone else’s.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’ve held the floor for a while. The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush history here.
You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true. They would have gone through a —
MR. ROMNEY: You’re wrong. You’re wrong, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I — no, I am not wrong.
MR. ROMNEY: You’re wrong.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am not wrong. And —
MR. ROMNEY: People can look it up. You’re right.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: People will look it up.
MR. ROMNEY: Good.
There’s nothing Romney can do to talk his way out of this. Nothing.