By Karen Finney - 09/10/12 10:29 PM EDT
Polls consistently show Americans trust President Obama and Vice President Biden on a range of issues and that Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), cannot say the same even within their base and the elite of their party. With that in mind, most challengers would recognize the strategic importance of overcoming the “trust gap” with a consistent message, position on issues and level of transparency. It’s always difficult to defeat an incumbent president without an incredibly compelling argument as to why voters should have trust and “switch horses midstream,” as the saying goes. Yet the number of issues and examples where Romney and Ryan can’t keep their stories straight, reverse or provide evolving responses that undermine their credibility continues to multiply.
Despite their best efforts, voters were not likely fooled by the GOP’s attempts to run away from their extreme convention platform and positions by trying to present a rational image for the TV cameras while trying to keep their base appeased behind the scenes. During a recent interview with NBC’s David Gregory, Romney racked up another reversal as he contradicted his previous position to repeal ObamaCare in its entirety, instead telling the TV audience he would keep two of the most generally popular provisions: preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing youths to stay on their parents’ insurance plan. Romney said, “I’m not getting rid of all of healthcare reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in healthcare reform that I’m going to put in place.” Romney even mentioned his own Massachusetts healthcare plan, saying, “And even in Massachusetts when I was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions and with young people.” Oops. Right on cue not long after the pre-taped interview aired, a Romney spokesman “clarified” by saying that what Romney meant to say was that as president he would support a much weaker proposal that wouldn’t truly ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions.
We also learned last week that while Ryan has publicly excoriated ObamaCare, voting against it 30 times, he had quietly requested a grant for a community health center in his district that is funded through ObamaCare. Shortly after being named to the GOP ticket, Ryan was indoctrinated into the Romney reversal strategy. Not wanting to be pinned down by the specifics of the Ryan budget plan Romney praised during the GOP primary, Romney and Ryan reversed themselves, saying that they would restore $716 billion in cuts to overpayments to insurance companies that would have made the program solvent for an additional eight years — a cut that was in Ryan’s budget proposal and is at the cornerstone of his conservative credentials.
Perhaps this is why following a lackluster convention with a disjointed message, the electoral map for Romney appears to be shrinking.
Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant, and co-host of POTUS/Sirius XM’s “The Flaks.”