Romney Tries to Change the Subject (Yet Again)

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Charles Dharapak / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen through a television camera's viewfinder as he speaks at a campaign fundraising event in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Sept. 18, 2012.

A few days ago, Mitt Romney’s advisers promised to kick off a new phase of their campaign. This one would be built around policy specifics, supposedly evidenced by a new ad campaign that includes rather non-specific pledges to “cut the deficit” and “crack down on China.” In truth, this new start had more than a whiff of empty spin from a Romney team desperate to change the conversation from a botched statement about Arab protests and a wave of stories about internal dissent at Romney’s Boston headquarters. (Stuart Stevens might want to hire himself a food-taster.)

But before a new storyline could sink in, the plan turned to ashes. Mother Jones posted a secretly recorded video of Romney telling a group of wealthy donors that the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income taxes are a political (and perhaps even moral) lost cause, and chaos ensued. Many conservatives seem divided between writing Romney off and offering him comically nebulous advice.

Now Romney is making a new effort to change the election’s storyline. The specificity of a couple days ago already seems like a discarded child’s toy, as Romney resurrects prior attacks on President Obama as a European-style socialist who disdains capitalism. Today the GOP nominee is harping on a 14-year old clip of Obama, likely leaked by his own campaign, in which Obama explained his support for “redistribution.” Romney is treating that unsurprising statement–America’s progressive tax code amounts to redistribution, after all–as a revelation, and again decrying Obama as a socialist-style liberal. Speaking at a fundraiser in Atlanta this afternoon Romney linked the quote to another of his favorite campaign themes:

“This idea of redistribution follows from the idea that if you have a business you didn’t build it, someone else did that.   It’s the same concept.  That see, government is responsible for everything that’s gone on here.  And therefore government can take and give as it chooses.  It’s an entirely foreign concept that will not work, that has not worked.  That has never worked anywhere in the world.  And what we have to do in America is not to make us more like Europe, but to make America more like America [applause drowns out end].”

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Sept. 7-14)

This was not an off the cuff riff: Romney made similar comments about Obama’s “foreign” thinking on Fox last night. For Romney, a week that began with talk of policy specificity has instead returned to tried-and-true themes of patriotism and intimations that Obama has foreign allegiances. But the week is still young, and there’s plenty of time for yet another campaign crisis  that sends Romney’s advisers scrambling back to the drawing board.