The Salt Lake Tribune, the most significant newspaper in the state of Utah, has endorsed President Obama for reelection over Mitt Romney.
Here’s why that’s surprising: Not only is Utah a very conservative and perennial red state, but it’s also a place whereRomney has strong historical and cultural connections. He is the first Mormon to a major party presidential nominee, and has often cited his management of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics as a qualification for office. Even in their endorsement of President Obama, the Tribune editorial board admits that Romney is Utah’s “favorite adopted son.”
But as the editorial goes on to say, the man who made Utah proud in 2002 is not the man who has run for President in 2011 and 2012.
From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”
Not only is the editorial board not sure who the “real Romney” – the policies he has committed to are either skewed to help the wealthy over the middle class, or they lack detail altogether:
More troubling, Romney has repeatedly refused to share specifics of his radical plan to simultaneously reduce the debt, get rid of Obamacare (or, as he now says, only part of it), make a voucher program of Medicare, slash taxes and spending, and thereby create millions of new jobs. To claim, as Romney does, that he would offset his tax and spending cuts (except for billions more for the military) by doing away with tax deductions and exemptions, is utterly meaningless without identifying which and how many would get the ax. Absent those specifics, his promise of a balanced budget simply does not pencil out.
However, it’s Romney’s portrayal of working class Americans – how he describes them when he thinks only his wealthy donor base is listening – that gives the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board the most pause:
If this portrait of a Romney willing to say anything to get elected seems harsh, we need only revisit his branding of 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, yet feel victimized and entitled to government assistance. His job, he told a group of wealthy donors, “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Where, we ask, is the pragmatic, inclusive Romney… That Romney skedaddled and is nowhere to be found….Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.
President Obama, on the other hand, acted decisively to pass a Recovery Act (which helped the Utah Legislature plug holes in the budget), rescue the auto industry, and reform health care and allow millions more Americans to afford coverage – not to mention his accomplishments in the realm of foreign policy.
In closing, they write: “The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”