A couple things I’ve noticed recently about the presidential campaign: (1) Romney doesn’t want to talk about issues like immigration at all and (2) the media narrative has shifted from “Romney will move to the center in the general” to “Romney will govern from the center even though he campaigned from the far right in both the primaries and the general”. Clearly, Romney can’t “tack to the center” even on issues where it would be politically advantageous for him to do so. Why? The answer is obvious, but Jonathan Bernstein is one of the first to spell it out:
So why doesn’t Mitt Romney advance any policy ideas, anyway? In particular, why doesn’t he advance some ideas — on the economy preferably, but any issue would do — to shield himself from the obvious attack that he’s a more-of-the-same return to the still-unpopular George W. Bush?
So why doesn’t Romney differentiate himself from Bush? It’s pretty simple, and it gets back to what drives much of the Romney program: fear of conservatives.
And for general election swing voters, Romney is following the same path: substituting attitude such as a vague support for jobs for issues — and taking the hits from the occasional reporter who cares about such things — and hoping that it’s enough. It has a down side; it’s getting him a reputation in the press for ducking issues, and it makes it easier to paint him as Mitt W. Romney — but given his constraints, it’s a rational strategy. Expect plenty more of it.
The fundamental fact of contemporary American politics is that no one fears anything except the far right. There’s millions of examples from Shirley Sherrod to the Bush’s Dubai ports and Harriet Miers fiascos to “Drudge rules our world”, etc. Here’s my favorite: the Republicans started the war on women because DC was more afraid of a few right-wing Bishops than of millions of American women voters.
Romney is right to fear the far right more than he fears mainstream media. No matter what he says or does to the regular press, they’ll report that both sides do it, rate his claims as “mostly true”, etc. etc. The right will eat him alive he goes too far off their reservation.