Mitt Romney's taxing baggage

Mitt's tax avoidance embodies unfairness in a moment when economic justice is a driving issue. And to boot, he comes off as out of touch, unconnected, and unconcerned

Robert Shrum

If Mitt Romney wins South Carolina after Monday's debate performance, then he really is unstoppable. And that's the probable outcome unless, after Rick Perry's departure from the race Thursday, there's an unlikely last-days coalescence of the religious right around the pyrotechnic Newt Gingrich, who as a nominee would prove to be a pyromaniac, reducing the GOP's White House hopes — and perhaps its House majority — to a handful of ashes. Certainly, Rick Santorum seems less likely than Newt to be the ordinand of the religious right in Gingrich's native South.

So the parade of primogeniture in the GOP marches on toward the nomination of another next in line, a younger redo of John McCain, less authentic and even readier to dispense with his own past convictions. But as he enters the general election contest, Romney will carry with him the disadvantage his super-PAC ascribed to Gingrich in attack ads in Iowa. It's Romney who has "a lot of baggage" — not just his shape-shifting, but negatives even more powerful — accumulated in his career as a takeover artist, but awkwardly augmented day after day on the campaign trail.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.