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Incredulity: the new normal

Anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the Republicans and their step-on-the-rake policies, as well as Mitt Romney's "Seriously?" campaign, has to be perpetually on the precipice of headshaking incredulity and concern. Is it possible that the electorate might revisit the 2010 election and once again vote overwhelmingly Republican?

Possibly. A recent Rasmussen daily tracking poll indicates that Mitt Romney has opened up a lead over Obama nationally, 49 percent to 46 percent. Gallup's daily tracking poll indicates that the candidates are tied at 46 percent. Regarding who can best handle the economy, Romney leads Obama, 49 percent to 43 percent.

And yet, given that he is running on his business acumen, insisting his experience and success with Bain Capital is the scaffolding that will allow him to resuscitate the nation's unemployment numbers and create jobs, Romney still refuses to release multiple years of his tax returns, arguing that the information is not relevant and will be distorted by the Dems.

Romney has reversed himself on countless positions he once emphatically held — a woman's right to choose; support of gays and their right to marry and adopt; a ban on assault weapons; immigration and a path to citizenship; the efficacy of stem cell research; and the availability of the morning-after pill. One principled stand about which he has not wavered is his refusal to release tax returns for more than two years (thus far it's one year and a partial). Well, perhaps two others — he will, "on day one, repeal Obamacare" and defund Planned Parenthood.

How to understand that Obama's support among women continues to remain equivocal? How can this be a close call? It seems incredible.

Republicans in Congress and statehouses since the 2010 election sweep, despite their oft-repeated mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs," have targeted, in the most insidious ways, women and women's health issues. Their efforts, certainly ideologically driven, reflecting a narrow commitment to obviate Roe v. Wade (to include mandatory, intravaginal ultrasounds), can seem, upon reflection, almost misogynistic.

For example: As of Aug. 1, insurance companies are required to cover preventative care services for women without co-pays or deductibles, to include HIV, mammogram, gestational diabetes and STD screenings; contraception; breast-feeding and domestic violence counseling and assistance; HPV screening; and well-woman visits to primary care doctors. On the eve of these changes to the health care law, the House Republicans, led by Mike Kelly, R-Pa., equated Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to the Affordable Care Act, more specifically those changes that now give women access to contraception without prohibitive co-pays. Some Republicans equate contraception with abortion and argue that requiring employers to include birth control as part of health care insurance is an infringement of religious freedom.

Commenting on the vitriolic Republican protests regarding the changes in women's access to health care, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition."

Regarding the campaign strategy by team Romney: As incredible as it seems, he and his aides have set out to create a stealth candidate who takes few definitive positions on anything. In those rare interviews given, when pressed, he delivers a tossed salad of sentences that seem designed only to avoid answering the question. He displays no core values other than he wants desperately to be president, is cautious above all else, and refuses to talk about his religion, his tour of duty as governor of Massachusetts or Romneycare.

And speaking of the Olympics, Romney seemed strangely tone deaf while in England. Wanting to demonstrate his bona fides from Salt Lake City, he informed the Brits that they seemed disconcertingly unprepared. They were not pleased. He quickly began a painful, stumbling walk-back, insisting, "I'm absolutely convinced the people here are ready for the games."

Traveling on to Israel, Romney praised that country's health care system for holding down its costs to 8 percent of its gross domestic product, while in America those costs account for 18 percent of GDP. He's seemingly unaware that Israel's system is nationalized, and participation is mandatory.

He then gave a pre-game, locker-room pep talk to the Israelis regarding Iran and Israel's right to defend itself, building on earlier comments by an aide, Dan Senor, who stated that Romney would support an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran with the aim of crippling their nuclear program. The Obama administration has discouraged such a plan, acknowledging the inherent, if not harrowing, unintended consequences.

At a fundraiser for supporters who flew to Israel for the occasion, Romney opined that the reason the Palestinians are poor is that they're culturally challenged, a comment to which the Palestinians took great umbrage. And so it went.

Despite all, polls still call the presidential contest a dead heat. And so incredulity continues to be the new normal and "Seriously?" often comes to mind. Ninety-some days to go and counting.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.