Theda Skocpol believes that Romney is the “stealth Tea Party candidate”:
In Romney, the tea party has found the ultimate prize: a candidate loyal to the movement’s agenda, but able to fool enough pundits and moderate voters to win the White House at a time when the tea party has lost broad appeal.
If I didn’t know anything else about Romney, I’d say that this almost sounds plausible. Unfortunately, this argument requires us to believe that Romney will be loyal an agenda that includes major controversial and unpopular policies. That isn’t going to happen, because Romney cannot be trusted to follow through on what he says he will do. Romney has a history of defending corporate interests. He is a pro-bailout corporatist. If there is one thing we can reasonably expect more of from him, it is corporatist policies. To the extent that Tea Partiers have a distinctive quasi-populist agenda, Romney’s policies will rarely line up with the policy preferences of Tea Party activists. To the extent that activists mistake Romney’s corporatism for support for free-market principles, they will enable policies that are antithetical to what they claim to want. Nothing would be more useful for Romney than to camouflage his corporatism as a form of conservatism populism.
Skocpol’s argument also takes for granted that Romney will have enough allies in Congress to push this agenda through, but barring a huge Republican wave I don’t see how Republicans are going to have the numbers in the Senate to make this happen. Republicans need to win 13 seats to reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That doesn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be defections on certain votes, but without 60 votes many of the items on the agenda Skocpol mentions have virtually no chance of passing.
Let’s be generous and assume that Republicans sweep all seven of the seats listed as toss-ups, and let’s also assume that Republicans win all four of the seats currently rated as “lean Democratic.” Even if everything broke the Republicans’ way, there simply aren’t enough pick-up opportunities in this election. Republicans will need 60 votes in the Senate to ensure passage of health care repeal or Ryan-style Medicare reform. It is unlikely that the Republicans are going to win all seven toss-ups, and it is quite possible that Brown will lose the Massachusetts seat.