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Mon Sep 10, 2012, 10:27 AM

The Three-Party race of Obama vs. Romney vs. Romney

This morning, I've been asking myself why this Presidential race is reminding me so much of 1996.

Through the lens of history, 1996 went like this: the presence of Ross Perot, as the most powerful third-party candidate since the King Fish, assured a runaway reelection for Bill Clinton, and Bob Dole never had a chance.

But that ain't the way the story was told at the time. In the press, it was neck-and-neck all the way up to the final weeks. Bob Dole and his awful rhetoric was pitched every day, and while talking heads occasionally wondered if his "meanness" would work against him (he would be a bipartisan traitor to today's Republicans, by the way), the truth was scrupulously avoided for months.

Then, in weeks after the election, there was an infuriating flood of half-apologetic articles where people inside both parties and the press sheepishly acknowledged that they knew how it was going to turn out the whole time.

So what makes this election so similar to 1996? There is no Ross Perot running this time (though a mini-Perot, Virgil Goode, is working some black magic in Virginia).

But there are at least two Mitt Romneys: The Lies of Mitt Romney Past, and The Lies of Mitt Romney present.

The bottomless dishonesty of Romney and his campaign has been truly impressive. He has lied every day, repeatedly, 533 times in 30 weeks, according to Steve Benen. He has reversed his opinion countless times on innumerable subjects, including insurance mandates, abstinence, Iraq, minimum wage, abortion, and immigration. He has evaded every detail about his personal finances and what, exactly, he intends to actually do if he is elected.

Not even George W. Bush was this dishonest in 2000. And that is saying one hell of a lot.

This sort of deception works quite well with the right-wing authoritarians, if the candidate has already established himself (and it is always a male in the front slot) as an authority to be trusted. But unfortunately for Mitt, his gaming of the primary process and the boxing-out of far right wingers made Romney an object of suspicion, rather than a leader whose lies are not to be questioned among the rank-and-file Republican voters.

So Mitt's mendacity is not invisible to the far right, as it usually is.

Now, in order to tack to the center for the general election, Mitt is forced to drop many of the lies he told during the primaries--the lies which failed to win over his most important voters--and tell a new set of lies designed to appeal to better informed voters.

It is obvious that he wishes to run two parallel campaigns, one liar to kiss ass to the knuckledraggers, one liar to win over everyone else. We saw that yesterday when he told one set of lies on national television, then hours later reversed himself on AM radio, apparently in hopes of floating both lies at the same time.

But the positions of the two lying Romneys are mutually contradictory, and neither demographic is too blinded to notice that, particularly with their pet issues.

Romney is canceling himself out, by having to run against himself.

I think that Romney's radioactivity at this point has an excellent chance of burning into the Congressional elections as well, because many far-right conservatives will be too disgusted (and self-interested) to bother to turn out at all. If his tax returns open him up to criminal charges, Romney could even taint the results of the 2014 mid-terms.

I think Mitt Romney may be the worst Presidential candidate I have ever seen. That doesn't mean he's going to lose--Mitt's true expertise is in taking decisions away from people--but it does make a legal path to victory nearly impossible.

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