Mystified With Mitt

02/03/2012 01:44 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2012

I'm mystified. Mitts-tified, if you will.

Mitt Romney's background gives him a strong, two-point narrative.

The economy needs a turnaround. Mitt Romney is a turnaround artist, who cuts waste and gives dying businesses a second life, who doubled down and saved the U.S.-held Winter Olympics. He'll do the same thing to the government: cut waste, cut spending, make it work efficiently so it, like the companies he invested in, has a fighting chance to work again. (Chris Matthews would call this hanging a lantern on your problem.)

People want somebody who, unlike the incumbent President and House Republicans, can work cooperatively with the other party. Romney governed in Massachusetts, worked with the far-left in the state legislature to shepherd through health care reform -- as opposed to the President's divisive, Democrat-only, passage of the Affordable Care Act.

It doesn't hurt either that the poorly designed stimulus package did not meet its goals, youth unemployment is sky-high, and the president seems congenitally incapable of actually fighting for any of his ideas. This should be a Republican year, especially for a economically focused Republican candidate.

So what the hell -- sorry Governor, what the heck -- is wrong with Mitt Romney?

Romney, a man who gives nearly a fifth of his income to charity, has allowed himself to be defined as the most indifferent candidate to the poor in recent memory. George W. Bush, the last Republican to win the White House, lambasted Republicans for trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Mitt Romney says he's only concerned with "real Americans," not the "very poor." (Oh hey, look, that Priorities USA ad just wrote itself.)

And then, after spending a week (correctly) assaulting Newt Gingrich for being unelectable, as undisciplined as Gordon Shumway; Romney goes to Las Vegas (of all places) and accepts the endorsement of the most unpopular, most ruthlessly undisciplined "politician" in America --Donald Trump. (Hey, did anyone in the Romney campaign remember that their candidate got in trouble when Democrats took his "I like to fire people" line out of context? Oh hey, that's funny, what's Trump's tagline on his reality show?)

Romney is lucky, damn lucky, that his biggest competition in February comes from an underfunded and unorganized Rick Santorum in the Missouri beauty contest primary and that there are no debates for Gingrich to win until Feb. 22. If the governor was going to spend two days doing unbelievably inane things, post-Florida was the time to do it.

Mitt Romney has the potential to be a data-driven, facts-oriented, conservative president. He stands for a limited government -- but not nihilistically limited, he de-emphasizes social issues, he can talk about health care and the environment, and he is supportive of a robustly engaged America that supports the global struggle for liberty.

But right now: He needs to do some damage control. It's time for the GOP front-runner to talk about social mobility: promote high school diplomas and not having children until after marriage as a way to fight poverty; steal Gingrich's idea about offering job retraining or associate's degrees for the long-term unemployed.

Talk about how a good way to reduce the deficit and the Obama era increase in reliance on the SNAP nutrition program, Medicaid, and welfare is to get people off the safety net and back into jobs. Say that the real cruelty of the welfare state is not its existence, but that the stalled recovery has prevented good people from having the dignity of work.

So, Gov. Romney, turnaround specialist. Your new project: turn around your image and your campaign.

And go out and win this thing.