Who’s Extreme?

These days, Democrats are making a coordinated effort to depict Republicans as “extreme.” This seems odd, given that it is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who have embarked on a self-described mission to radically transform American society. So far, at least when it comes to the presidential race, voters aren’t buying it.

Scott Rasmussen finds that 40% of likely voters describe Barack Obama’s views as “extreme.” (Fifty percent say “mainstream.”) Meanwhile, 35% of voters describe Mitt Romney’s views as “extreme,” compared to 51% who say “mainstream.” This sort of survey is a blunt instrument, since many partisans will agree with any negative characterization that is suggested for an opposing candidate. You could substitute “child molester” for “extreme” and probably get a fair amount of agreement.

Still, it seems reasonable to conclude that a plurality of the public has correctly judged Romney to be closer to America’s historic center than Obama. Does that mean that it makes sense for Democrats to try to make up the gap by insisting that Romney is extreme, or does it mean that such efforts are bound to fail? Time will tell, but my guess is that Romney’s demeanor and record, as voters come to know both better between now and November, will make it hard for the Democrats to hang the extremist label around his neck.