Obama, Romney: Tweedledum and Tweedledee?
Sure they have differences, profound ones, over ideologically-tinted issues such as income inequality. You can expect them to fight lustily at every debate over Obama's watered-down health care plan.
But once you wipe out all the ideological baggage, and adjust for factors that are beyond presidential control (such as Congress), there is far less difference between Romney and President Obama than either would care to admit. It may come as a surprise to viewers of CNN and the other cable TV outlets, which have treated the Republican primaries like reality TV but this is less of a melodrama than meets the eye.
Sure, Obama and Romney both talk a good game -- especially Romney, who is leaning so hard to the right that he's going to have a hard time springing back for the general elections. (If Rick Santorum wins, be sure to book your hotel room for the Obama inauguration in 2013; he hasn't got a chance.)
But assuming conventional wisdom prevails and Romney gets the nod, I'm not seeing the kind of momentous change such as the nation faced when Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, or would most certainly face if the electorate flipped its lid and elected Ron Paul as president.
On paper, Obama and Romney are certainly not Tweedledum and Tweedlee. Nor would I borrow a phrase from George Wallace, who famously opined in 1968 that there wasn't "a dime's worth of difference" between the Republicans and Democrats.
But I'd argue that just as their differences over Iran have been overstated, as the New York Times pointed out the other day, the two would not be dramatically different presidents when it comes to regulation, spending and their attitude toward business.
That's not intended as a compliment to Obama, by the way. This harkens back to the problem that a lot of his supporters have been complaining about since 2009: When it comes to domestic policies, Obama has been an endless source of frustration. Much of that has to do with his principal regulatory policy appointees, who are the kind of people you'd see in any Republican administration.
The man who named his transition Website " change.gov" chose chief aides in the field of regulation that embodied everything but change. They were models of continuity and the status quo. Think about it. Is there anything about his top domestic and economic advisors over the past few years --- bailout king Timothy Geithner at the Treasury, Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson Mary Schapiro, or advisors Larry Summers and Bill Daley -- who you couldn't see comfortably ensconced at a Mitt Romney presidential staff meeting.