Who’s the Real Extremist?

If President Obama has sounded nostalgic for his 2008 opponent John McCain lately, it’s because he’s trying to make the case that the once-moderate Republican Party has fallen into the hands of extremists like Mitt Romney (cue skeptical side-eye). But according to a Rasmussen poll, likely voters are not buying it. Forty-seven percent say Obama’s views are “extreme” while just 31 percent say the same about Romney:

A bare majority of voters still considers Mitt Romney in the political mainstream, while the number who think President Obama’s views are extreme has edged up for the second month in a row. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51percent of Likely U.S. Voters describe the political views of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate as mainstream. Thirty-one percent consider his views extreme. Eighteen percent are not sure.

A large part of Obama’s campaign message relies on painting Romney as far-right and out-of-touch. But the public is not buying it. The problem is that Romney does not fit the caricature of a raving right-winger. He has a measured speaking style and amiable demeanor; he was governor of one of the most liberal states in the country; and he worked with state Democrats on left-of-center policies, including the Massachusetts precursor to Obama’s health care plan. He has conservative tendencies, but the idea that he’s the second coming of Barry Goldwater is not believable.