Romney, the debt limit and the dog that didn’t bark

As Sherlock Holmes solved one of his most famous cases by taking account of the dog that didn’t bark, so can a politician’s silence tell you about how they see the political and public opinion terrain.

By any account, Mitt Romney is the Republican front-runner. But this is a fragile status. He’s raised more money than any other candidate (although his fundraising is heavily skewed to big donors) and he leads in the national polls (while facing real challenges in Iowa).

So what is Romney saying about the debt limit issue? As little as possible.

Romney is stuck in a bit of a bind. Highly activated primary voters tend to be more ideological than other groups of voters.  Thus they are far more likely than other voters to be against raising the debt limit at all and they are far less likely than other voters to support including revenue to reduce the deficit. He doesn’t want to turn them off, nor dissuade the other base of the Republican party– the business community, which disagrees with the tea party element. And he really doesn’t want to marginalize himself with the general election electorate.

Romney’s silence is very revealing of opinion dynamics of this issue.

UPDATE: With a PPP poll showing Michelle Bachmann ahead of Romney by one point, Romney’s tightrope walk becomes even more clear.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.