"It's not worth getting angry about."
Most media coverage of last Thursday's GOP debate has focused on the war of words fought by the two front runners, but the crucial exchange of the evening didn't occur between Gingrich and Romney. The most telling moment of the debate was the latter's response to Rick Santorum's eloquent explanation of Obamacare's importance to the GOP's strategy in the general election and why giving Romney the nomination would be tantamount to surrendering the high ground on health reform: "Folks, we can't give this issue away in this election. It is about fundamental freedom." The former Massachusetts governor responded with the usual rote talking points, which Santorum vehemently rejected. Romney then uttered the most revealing words of the debate: "First of all, it's not worth getting angry about."
Most Republican voters, and more than a few independents, would disagree. Romney apparently didn't notice that the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up at the nation's capitol to protest the impending passage of Obamacare were pretty angry. In fact, after the law was passed over their vehement objections, a significant portion of the voters were so outraged by the back-room skullduggery used to pass "reform" that many Democrats were actually afraid to hold town hall meetings and face their own constituents during the run-up to the 2010 midterms. Moreover, despite the many whoppers told by the President's accomplices in the media about the "anti-incumbent mood" of the electorate, the drubbing the Democrats received in that election was obviously driven by voter indignation about being force-fed Obamacare.
And the anger remains. That is why Obama's recent State of the Union address contained only three references to his "signature domestic achievement." This is, as Michael Barone puts it, "the strongest evidence possible" that the President sees Obamacare as "a millstone around the neck of his campaign." Thus, he and his minions will not have missed the significance of Romney's prissy rebuke of Santorum's passionate plea not to "give this issue away." They no doubt recognized it as a Freudian slip betraying Romney as a man without real convictions, and realize that this is the source of his countless flip-flops. In the art of politics, as in the art of war, the key to victory is knowledge of one's enemy. Having cut their political teeth in Chicago, the President's men know a trimmer when they see one and what it takes to defeat him.
The only real difference between Romney and Obama's long-ago-vanquished opponents is that the Chi-town pols were less amateurish. Romney's reversals of position have been so frequent and transparently self-serving that a moderately intelligent preschooler could see through them. Health reform is Exhibit A. When running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, Romney represented himself as the champion of a free market health system: "I do not believe in a government takeover of the healthcare system." After becoming Governor of Massachusetts, however, his position changed so radically that he signed a health reform law that later became the model for Obamacare. Now, he claims to oppose Obama's version of the plan, though the two laws are identical in all important respects.