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Buzz Bissinger, writer and voter, takes leap of faith on Romney

October 08, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to moderator Jim Lehrer during his debate with U.S. President Barack Obama at Magness Arena at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo., on Wednesday.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to moderator Jim… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

Mitt Romney's chance of being elected president could hinge largely on whether people believe they are voting for the newly emerging man of moderation or the stridently conservative Romney of the primary season.

The “new” Romney is the one who says he’s OK with regulation, wouldn’t really cut taxes on the rich (without counterbalancing increases elsewhere in the tax code), sympathizes with the plight of young undocumented immigrants (brought here by their parents) and would never cut Medicare.

A lot of the last four weeks of the campaign will be about whether undecided voters buy that as the true Romney or worry about the reemergence of the Romney who sounded like he disdained half the population (with his remark about the “victim” 47%), wanted to run every last illegal immigrant out of the country ASAP and would dismantle every aspect of President Obama’s healthcare law — not pick and choose the portions he liked.

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Politicians Etch-a-Sketching their way to the center is a well-practiced tradition of the general election season. But it tends not to work if voters sense the candidate has become too brazen, without any core convictions, or will really behave more like their ideological look-alike from the primary season. One Twitter commenter not comfortable with the Romney conversion wrote Monday that the candidate merely wanted voters to “trust, don't verify.”

At least one relatively high-profile journalist, Buzz Bissinger, wrote Monday that he’s ready to embrace Romney’s fall conversion. Bissinger, the author of “Friday Night Lights” and the more recent “Father’s Day,”  wrote for the Daily Beast that the Romney’s true views finally emerged in last week’s debate with Obama.

“Romney finally did what he should have done all along,” Bissinger wrote, “instead of his balky cha-cha with the old white men of the conservative Republican wing: He acted as the moderate he is, for the first time running as himself, not against himself, embracing his record as governor of Massachusetts.”

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Bissinger said Romney “also revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation.”

The one-time Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, who also hosts an afternoon talk show in that city, said he had done his homework but conceded that some of his change of heart was a belief “perhaps naively” that Romney’s new moderation was real.

“I believe,” Bissinger wrote, “he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran (speaking of wars, are we out of Afghanistan yet, despite our so-called allies killing our soldiers? See Obama policy).”

Both presidential campaigns have co-opted the pregame chant from “Friday Night Lights”: "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." Romney used the slogan from Bissinger's best-selling book about high school football as recently as last weekend, when he told a story about ministering to a teenager who was dying of leukemia. The Romney campaign also sent out a fundraising appeal using the slogan. And Obama’s campaign tweeted out a photo of the president throwing a football last spring, also using the “clear eyes” chant.

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Bissinger, a self-described lifelong Democrat, wrote that he thought his conversion would cost him.  “I fear that I will lose friends, some of whom I hold inside my heart,” Bissinger wrote. “Of course, I will also lose friends I really don’t like anyway.”

Bissinger likes to stake out controversial positions and furiously debate his critics via Twitter. He took some guff after his pro-Romney post Monday. Stayed tuned to Twitter and @BuzzBissinger for any reaction.

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James.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesrainey

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