The Mitt Romney camp has started counting its chickens and it seems to like the number it's coming up with. With Romney's victories in Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Maryland Tuesday, his campaign is right to start looking ahead to the real race, which starts in August.
After the past few months of aggressive campaigns and slander, many Republicans may feel relieved that Romney looks likely to be the 2012 Republican nominee. But Romney has a lot of reinventing to do before the general election, which clearly is not an unfamiliar concept for him. Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom's Etch A Sketch comment March 21 gave an early indication of what we all knew deep down, but had chosen to ignore. "Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign," he said. "Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again." This comment touched a nerve, not just because Romney's stance on contraception has changed with the tides of public opinion, but also because we all know it is true and the inconsistency frustrates us.
Watching the primaries, especially in the last few months, have provided the public with enough sound bytes to last a lifetime. But this campaigning period has always been about sowing the seeds to reap the rewards during the general election and Fehrnstrom understands that. When autumn arrives the types of Americans going to the polls diversify and every candidate needs to change with them. Fehrnstrom, in a moment of rare political candidness, gave the public warning of Romney's plans to turn this election on its head.
Come August, Romney will have to temper the kinds of thoughts and comments, which were common fare during the primaries. America instead will see a very different picture of the Republican candidate -- a man capable of capturing the attention of the undecided, the moderate Republicans and the dissatisfied former Obama supporters.
Everyone knew this change was coming, as the differences between primary races and the general election are well known if not openly discussed. But by giving the public a sneak preview, the Romney camp may have ruined the former Massachusetts governor's chances to fully capitalize on this much-needed opportunity to reinvent himself. Drawing attention to a legitimate shift in the campaign strategy only emphasizes the Romney-style flip-flops, which have dominated much of his campaign. This makes it increasingly likely any fluctuations in Romney's approach during the general election will only compound the impression of Romney as a capitulator, not a fighter, and therefore an unreliable candidate.
It's the inconsistency, which has come to characterize Romney's current campaign strategy that has marked any future campaigning he may attempt. So while we may accept change to win the general election is necessary, building a country on shifting sands makes for an unstable nation and uncertain voters.