After three years of GOP railing against the perils of a bloated "nanny state" and the loud gnashing of Tea Partiers' teeth as they looked to "take the country back" from a "socialist" president of questionable American birth, the Republican Party, in the wake of the New Hampshire primaries, now stands on the cusp of selecting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — the candidate most like President Barack Obama — as its nominee in 2012.
Meet your new boss, Republicans. He's a lot like the old one.
As I wrote a couple of years ago, it's not just that Obama and Romney are Harvard lawyers who're "both millionaires and devoted family men." It's that they've got the same look, feel and vibe. They've got the same salt-and-pepper hair that comes straight from central casting, and they're both tall and trim — when they face off to debate on Oct. 3 in Denver, if they accidentally grab each other's suit jackets, they'll probably find out that they're both an enviable 42 long.
They're minorities — one ethnic and one religious. Romney did his Mormon mission as a student; and after college, Obama was a community organizer — sort of the rough equivalent for a young African American with political ambitions.
Obama has lost one race — to congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush. Romney lost one to the legendary Sen. Ted Kennedy. Neither man served in the military, but they both married elegant women who are more popular than either of their husbands.
They're technocrats who prefer policy details to the grind of retail politics. Obama's got his uptight pressroom "I don't like your question" grimace, and Romney's got his "It's still my time" debate whine.
But what really makes them similar is each man's record. It's true that Obama is pro-choice and Romney isn't. And Romney says he'll repeal Dodd-Frank — the financial-sector regulation that Obama signed. But on the big-ticket items of Obama's presidency, it's harder than you'd think to find issues on which Romney would have gone a different way.
Obama is the only person to vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program as a senator and then oversee it as president. Romney's stance? In 2010 he told Fox News' Neil Cavuto that bailing out the banks "was the right thing to do" because it was "an investment made to try and keep a collapse of our entire financial system from occurring."
Nowadays, you hear Romney sound the common refrain that the stimulus "didn't work," but in 2009, a couple of weeks before Obama's inauguration and a couple of months before passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Romney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "I think there is a need for economic stimulus. Americans have lost about $11 trillion in net worth" and "government can help make that up in a very difficult time."
Payroll Tax Cut
On the one piece of Obama's jobs package that he's been able to get passed — the payroll tax cut — Romney is still with Obama. He called for a payroll tax cut in his 2009 USA Today op-ed that also called for renewing the Bush tax cuts and issuing tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees. Obama did both.
Though Romney is known for his widely read New York Times op-ed titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," if you've actually read it, you know that he argues for the same kind of structured bankruptcy that Obama required as a condition for loaning GM the money it used to recently retake its place as the world's number one seller of automobiles.
And as presidential also-ran Rick Santorum wrote in this week's National Review, "The Romneycare individual mandate is essentially the same as the Obamacare individual mandate." But you already knew that.
For the next year, Romney will try to convince voters they should fire Obama and turn the White House over to him. He'll say he plans to take the country in a totally different direction. But if anyone wants to get a better idea of what a Romney presidency might look like, all they have to do is look at what Obama's already done.
David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.