On its main opinion page this week, the Washington Post promoted Michael Gerson's column with this intriguing tease: "One problem remains after [Romney's] nomination." Now, we average bears could easily think of dozens of post-nomination problems for Romney, hence the tantalizing promise of Gerson's discovered "one" that hauled in the readers, like me.
So I opened the column page and saw his One Problem, in the column's actual headline: "Romney must solve his stereotype problem." Ah, so that's it. The One and Only Mitt Romney has Only the One Problem of being stereotyped. Got it. But wait. What does that mean? -- being stereotyped. Is Romney doing the stereotyping, or are others? And, of course, just what is this wretched stereotype?
In the column itself we sort of learn the answers.
Romney is stuck in a stereotype. During occasional gaffes, he sounds not just like your boss but like your boss’s boss. The main problem, however, is the message. In addition to talking about reducing taxes and cutting government, Romney needs to present a vision of social mobility and set out the egalitarian appeal of opportunity. He needs to emphasize policies — on education, job skills and wealth accumulation — that encourage aspiration.
Oops. This seems to be getting out of control. Just like that, we soared from the one problem of class "stereotype" to Romney's additional, assorted problems of accumulated gaffes and of giving the appearance of some heartless boss from a scalding hell. And Gerson's not done yet; he goes on to note that Romney lacks a coherent "message," in that he has no "vision" or inspiring "policies."
OK. Surely, Gerson is through, right? I mean, we started with the premise of a One-Problem Romney and suddenly he's a hydraheaded, message-less nightmare of no political program whatsoever. So Gerson's done?
Au contraire. For Romney, you see, also ...
is not a natural fit for the GOP nomination.
is an ideological mismatch for the current iteration of the GOP.
is consistently losing very conservative voters.
[is losing] voters making less than $100,000 a year, as well as voters without a college degree.
Oh my. We've gone from One Problem to enumerating problems in the double digits. And we haven't even got to Romney's One Really Big Problem, which Gerson just sort of drops in as a kind of filler, or afterthought:
In a nation with a fairly even ideological divide, any successful presidential candidate wins by both motivating his party’s base and appealing to independents.
Ding-ding-ding! Among the ocean of sprawling problems spilled in Gerson's column, we finally have a winner -- the winner: Mitt Romney's ultimate and insurmountable predicament. In the general campaign he'll need to appeal to independents, yet reasonable appeals will cost him support among the unreasonable GOP base; and in the general campaign he'll need to appeal to the base, yet unreasonable appeals will cost him support among reasonable independents.
And that's a big problem.