On Monday I wrote ...
To win the debate, [Romney] must thrust his arms upward before Reason's mobilized forces, he must concede the fatal weaknesses of his accumulated position, he must confess that all is lost--that the Republican Party has been reduced to the scattered tatterdemalions of lily-white bigots, delusional Austrian Economics apparitions, medievalist science-deniers, and ungodly God-thumpers.
I also predicted Romney wouldn't go that way, "Because Romney's a loser."
Turned out, though, Romney indeed took that route; and by all accounts (not mine, but that's another topic), Romney won the debate. Obama had prepped to go against Mr. Mitt Romney, Far-Right Lunatic, and yet suddenly, shockingly, disorientingly there on the stage was Gov. Willard M. Romney, Old School Conservative.
David Brooks--while weighing all the usual caveats--seems to be buying it:
Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity. And, having taken this step, he’s broken the spell. Conservatives loved it! They loved that it was effective, and it was effective because Romney could more authentically be the man who (I think) he truly is.... Mr. Audacity might still lose to the former Mr. Right Winger.
Oh, David, you poor thing. Yes, I wrote that Romney's only hope of winning Wednesday's debate was to opt for some updated version of Eisenhower Republicanism. But winning a debate isn't the same as winning an election, and Romney won't--can't--win the election because there's one monumental obstacle that he cannot overhaul as he would a debate tactic: himself. And David, there is no self in Mitt Romney; there is no authentic Romney; there is only today's Romney, which might be tomorrow's Romney, but could just as easily be yesterday's Romney.
And that, David, is why Romney's momentary, opportunistic version of Eisenhower Republicanism won't help him, whoever "him" might be. It is simply no longer intellectually, philosophically or politically feasible to propose an "authentic" Romney.
Again, some Eisenhower conservative might have a realistic shot at the White House in 2016 or 2020. But not Romney in 2012. Because there is no Romney.