Conservatives fear that President Obama's wave of attacks on Mitt Romney's business record and tax returns are succeeding at defining the Republican nominee. A key reason this is working, they say, is that Romney has failed to define himself -- and his tax platform offers a compelling window into this phenomenon.
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If only Romney emulated the conservative candidate they've long yearned for, they argue, he could insulate himself from attacks on his business record, unreleased tax returns, and anything else Obama might throw his way.
At a glance, these might appear to be unrelated issues. What do Romney's personal finances and private sector career have to do with his social and economic policy bona fides?
Directly, very little. But an obvious tension between Romney's desire to appeal to conservative power players without alienating the middle- and working-class voters he needs to win in November underscores their point. if he can't rebut attacks on his business career and his finances, and he can't tout his key gubernatorial achievement 'Romneycare', he ought to have at least one issue to champion. Yet even when it comes to the right's top issue -- taxes -- Romney's hedging has left him friendless; middle class voters see him championing tax breaks for the wealthy, and conservatives aren't sure he'll follow through on their goals of forcing major cuts to the safety net and other domestic programs, while preventing significant cuts to defense spending.