Inside the Beltway: Reading Romney

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Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

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Forget about “inevitable.” Is Mitt Romney a fierce conservative or an agile, middle-of-the-road guy? As the Republican hopeful barrels down the campaign trail and toward a spate of fundraisers in New York and New Jersey, strategically minded Democrats wonder how to categorize President Obama’s rival-in-chief. Some want to paint Mr. Romney as a dangerous, right-wing extremist sort of guy.

Multiple press accounts say former President Bill Clinton, White House senior adviser David Axelrod, former Obama spokesman Bill Burton and other insiders concur that Mr. Romney should no longer be framed as vapid flip-flopper. Now they talk up him up as an arch conservative with a bristling agenda who is “prepared to unleash this terror” on the public just as soon as he gets into the White House. So says Mediaite analyst Noah Rothman, who has been connecting the dots all week and deems the method “heavy-handed” and possibly laughable.

But wait. Some journalists also contend that Mr. Romney has abandoned uber-conservative values he adopted earlier in the campaign in favor of some nice, approachable centrist fare with wider voter appeal.

Mitt Romney is shifting from the deep conservatism he displayed before wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination toward a more centrist platform in an effort to appeal to independent voters who will decide whether he or President Obama wins in November,” insists Washington correspondent Steven Hurst.

Perhaps Mr. Romney is in an altogether different dimension. A terse one. He is mixing up a little hopey-changey, some Reagan optimism and values talk with economic horse sense — all in 25 words or less. The candidate continues to tell his audiences: “A better America begins today” and “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.”

CROSS-REFERENCING

Rep. Paul Ryan may get a chilly reception when he arrives at Georgetown University on Thursday morning to deliver the annual “Whittington Lecture” to students. The Wisconsin Republican will offer a major policy speech titled “Americas Enduring Promise,” which underscores his vision for the federal budget. Ninety faculty members at the campus are not happy that Mr. Ryan will be among them, however, and have sent him a lengthy letter to that effect.

“Our problem with Rep. Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, an organizer. “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

The academics saw fit to include a copy of the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by Pope John Paul II, to help the lawmaker “deepen” his understanding of Catholic social teaching, they say.

“I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Survival of the fittest may be OK for Social Darwinists, but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love,” the Jesuit Father Reese adds.

BILL FOREVER

“Bill’s immense talent, intellect and raw convictions are an extremely rare combination in television. … He is a tremendous force in the business and has helped to make Fox News the success story it is today.”

- Fox News Channel chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, on why he signed stalwart host Bill O’Reilly to a new multiyear contract. And, oh yes. “The O’Reilly Factor ” has led cable prime-time ratings for the past 125 months, averaging 2.9 million nightly viewers.

MOMMY WARS DE-ESCALATE

“More voters think Mitt Romney and the Republican Party respect women who work outside the home than think President Obama and the Democrats respect women who stay at home,” says a survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by the Hill newspaper on April 19.

Forty-nine percent said the presumptive GOP presidential nominee respects women who have independent careers; 35 percent said Mr. Obama respects women who stay at home rather than pursue a career.

SHALOM, 2012

There has been much speculation about a recent Public Religion Research Institute revealing that 62 percent of 1,004 Jewish voters in the U.S. said they would support President Obama — notably less than the 78 percent who voted for him four years ago. Commentary magazine political columnist Jonathan Tobin says the majority of “partisan liberal” Jewish voters are unlikely to oppose the president, but also cites the critical impact of Jewish swing voters “who are sufficiently disgusted with his overall performance and specifically concerned about his record on Israel to possibly vote for a moderate conservative alternative this fall,” he says.

Tevi Troy — who was a George W. Bush administration official and now is a Hudson Institute scholar and health policy adviser to Republican hopeful Mitt Romney — says Jewish voters in 2008 decided to go with Mr. Obama, the “unknown” candidate, though his opponent, Sen. John McCain, stressed that he had a 30-year pro-Israel record.

But times have changed, Mr. Troy says.

“Now, President Obama’s record is no longer unknown. His coldness to Israel is manifest. He’s had a very difficult relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And they rebuke Israel every chance they get — at least they did during the first three years. They’ve quieted down in the past year as we enter an election cycle. The administration’s approach to Israel is not just extremely problematic to American Jews, but to supporters of Israel around the country and around the world.” Mr. Troy told the Jerusalem-based Times of Israel on Monday.

Romney, in contrast, is a staunch supporter of Israel. He’s a close friend of Netanyahu going back decades. He said his first trip would be to Israel and he views the peace process as one in which you let Israel know that America has Israel’s back,” Mr. Troy added.

POLL DU JOUR

• 93 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-29 have not volunteered on a political campaign for a candidate or an issue.

• 92 percent have not joined a government, political or issue-related organization.

• 90 percent have not donated money to a political campaign or cause; 88 percent have not attended a political rally.

• 84 percent have not used Twitter to advocate for a political position; 82 percent have not “liked” a political candidate on Facebook.

• 79 percent do not consider themselves to be “politically engaged.”

• 49 percent say they’ll definitely vote in November, 15 percent will “probably vote,” 13 percent say there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll vote.

• 43 percent say the country is “on the wrong track,” 36 percent are unsure what direction we’re headed, 20 percent say the U.S. is on the right track.

• 38 percent say they are independents, 37 percent are Democrat, 24 percent are Republican; 36 percent are liberal, 35 percent conservative, 27 percent moderate.

Source: A Harvard University Institute of Politics poll of 3,096 U.S. adults ages 18-29 conducted March 23-April 9 and released Tuesday.

Speculations, exaltations to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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