Michael Gerson: Romney playing defense

Published: October 3, 2012
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Anti-government hyperbole

The Romney campaign, amazingly, reacted to the 47 percent gaffe with a round of anti-government hyperbole — reinforcing the charge of insufficient compassion the Obama campaign was pressing at the time. When one is caught sounding too much like Marie Antoinette, the natural response is not to sound more like Barry Goldwater or Ron Paul. This is damage control with a wrecking ball.

What does this mean for the debate? Romney will have the opportunity to criticize the obvious faults and failures that led this column. Yet now his performance bears some additional burden. First, he must find a way to convince an economically struggling middle-age female voter in Akron, Ohio, that he is concerned in practical ways about her future. Second, and relatedly, he must outline a philosophy of government that isn't libertarian and frightening. Attacks on redistribution and a theoretical defense of economic freedom will not suffice.

The problem is: Both these goals are defensive and should have been accomplished months ago. Romney can still make his case — finally unfiltered by the media — but he has complicated his own task.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP