Politics is a funny thing. A couple of months back I was blogging about how presidential Mr. Obama seemed. And just the other day I was saying that the Obama team was making Mitt Romney look like a jackass. I pointed out that it was pretty easy, given the things Mr. Romney was saying, as well as things he wasn’t saying.
It was only last week that Mitt Romney was fielding questions about dogs on cars, offshore accounts, hazing students, his tenure at Bain, RomneyCare and struggling to explain that was not a shill for the wealthy class. He was even mocked for not being able to carry a tune.
Well, this week it’s different. Mr. Obama did the one thing that he should never, never have done: he allowed Mitt Romney to look presidential. Barack Obama delivered up the dumbest comment he could possibly have uttered:
“… “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen …”
Now there are those who will say that I’m taking one line out of context, and what the President really meant was — annnt! Time out. He said what he said, and when you have to put different words in the Presidents mouth, or rearrange his words to suit a meaning that serves one’s own beliefs about what he should have said, or explain how the word “that” refers to something other then the subject of the sentence it’s in, well that’s not good. Not good at all. It represents a failure to communicate.
Once you start talking about context, it’s a wide, deep river. Mr. Obama has skirted the anti-rich, anti-business, and even anti-American labels since he started his journey to the White House. So if you want context, here it is: Mr. Obama’s remark goes to the very heart of what he really thinks and feels about America. Mr. Obama believes in a kind of collectivism, where individual achievement is suspect, where wealth is redistributed, and the Government controls every aspect of our lives. At least that’s what Mr. Romney is going to say.
Yes Elizabeth Warren said something similar to what the President was trying to say, but she didn’t bungle it, and she go quite as far as Mr. Obama went. If I recall correctly Warren Buffet has similar opinions. But that doesn’t mean much, as neither of them is running for President.
Let’s put it this way: has Mitt Romney been held accountable for every fumbled explanation, every clumsy attempt to explain himself? I think so. Was George Bush ceaselessly mocked for every malapropism? I think so. Mr. Obama should be held to the same standard. And I suspect he will be.
So now we have Mitt Romney breathing a new fire into his campaign:
“This campaign is to a great degree about the soul of America,” Romney said. “Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dream and build their future? … President Obama attacks success. And, therefore, under President Obama, we have less success,” Romney said. “I will change that.”
Mr. Romney is now talking about God, patriotism, individual success and the American Way. The new message is that America is great because it’s people are great, we are allowed to pursue our dreams, that we are special, that God loves us. Does that sound familiar? Yep, Ronald Reagan.
Barack Obama has allowed Mr. Romney to not only look presidential, he has allowed him to look like the great communicator himself.
All those things that plagued Romney last week? Bain, dogs, hazing, taxes, and RomneyCare? All still true, but guess what? No one will care. They don’t want to care. They want someone to fix the problems. Who are “they”? It’s just about everybody.
Here is my prediction for a Romney win:
- Capture the Evangelical vote
- Capture the independent votes in the western states
- Release tax forms
- Don’t lose the Republican base
- Don’t do anything really stupid for the next 6 months
If Romney does those things, he wins. Romney is now almost certain to capture the Evangelical vote going forward, if for no other reason then Mr. Obama is decidedly secular. The independent vote is harder, but I suspect the “let’s keep America strong and free” message will resonate in 2012 the same way it did in 1979. The big problem is the tax forms. If that goes away, he’s strong.
I have no doubt Mitt Romney will ask the ultimate Reagan question: are you better off now then you were four years ago? I’m guessing that’s a tough question to answer for most people. Not because they don’t know the answer, but because the answer is “no.”
For those who don’t think a single badly expressed phrase can collapse a campaign, one might recall George Romney’s comment about being “brainwashed”, Gerald Ford’s “Poland is not a communist country” comment, John Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it” (or whatever it was he said, it was hard to understand it in the first place.)
The sad thing here is that the American public still isn’t getting a dialog are the practical implications of solving some big problems. All we’re really getting is diatribes about ideology.
All in all, it’s a very disheartening election year. Good grief, what’s next?