It is axiomatic that all political campaigns move towards the political center as election day approaches. That doesn't seem to happening in this one. In "It's the Ideology, Stupid," Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal notes that the Romney campaign has actually become more ideologically based as the campaign has progressed.
After spending the spring and summer muddled in a neck-and-neck race by focusing exclusively on the economy, he's brought entitlements, health care, welfare, debt and American exceptionalism to the forefront of an increasingly ideological race.
Critics have scratched their heads, wondering why he would appeal to the conservative base when he badly needs to win over the remaining undecided voters in the middle. Why, when the economy is by far the biggest issue for voters, is the Republican ticket focused on secondary issues? But by running on charged ideological issues, he has the potential to fit the missing piece of the puzzle -- connecting voters' vague dissatisfaction with the president's performance with a series of unpopular policies he's pursued.
Kraushaar then spins the media's usual stale baloney about Obama appealing to the center.
Remember: Obama isn't actively campaigning on most of the policies he advanced during his three years in office, save for the bailout of GM and Chrysler. He's relying on caricaturing Romney as a crude capitalist, while broadly contrasting his agenda as protecting the middle class. No mention of the stimulus, with only sparing mentions of his health care law and historic support of gay marriage -- usually to his most ardent supporters at fundraisers.
Protecting the middle class might be the theme of Obama's campaign ads, but the defining movement of this campaign came when Obama belittled the efforts of Main Street America when he stated that "you didn't build that." Those sneering words about smart, hardworking people revealed the ugly side of Obama's redistributionalist ideology. As in 2008, most of the media accept all the carefully scripted images of Obama as Gospel truth while they busy themselves trying to either hide or spin away all those extemporaneous words and deeds that display Obama's true beliefs and character as being either out of context or aberrational. Nor do I expect that we will be being seeing many middle-American values on display in the promised parade of abortion-loving feminists at next week's Democrat convention.
This campaign is coming down to two competing views of America. As it plays out, I think something very profound may be happening to Mitt Romney. Romney reminds me of a good many smart businessmen I have known. They live their own lives by a set of solid small-c conservative rules, but they are too busy solving smaller daily problems to think much about political conservatism as a coherent system. Such people often pay lip service to the left-of-center conventional media wisdom about big government and public morality even as they rigorously practice all the bourgeois virtues of thrift, hard work, neighborliness, sobriety, and sexual continence in their personal affairs.
As long as the conventional wisdom doesn't impact their daily lives in a concrete way, why bother challenging it? They have better uses for their time. Now this very smart, very competitive man is facing an opponent who is perhaps the most rigidly ideological man ever to become president. Romney doesn't like what he sees happening to the nation, nor does he much like the person he is running against. Confronted with the problem of beating not just the person, but also the ideology, and then fixing what is broken, Romney may be discovering for the very first time that he is actually far more ideological than he ever thought he was.