Why its unlikely it will ever be Mitt Romney’s job to “worry about those people”
Mitt Romney: D’oh.
Yesterday saw the release of a video from a behind-closed-doors Romney speech to wealthy campaign donors. In it, the Republican nominee for President of the United States explains his belief that 47% of Americans “believe that they are victims” and claims “my job is not to worry about those people”. Dismissing half the population may seem an unconventional electoral strategy, but in truth it is in keeping with what has been a disastrous period for a beleaguered campaign.
With any hopes of a post-convention bounce lost amidst the bizarre nature of Clint Eastwood’s ‘speech’ and the more impressive Democratic gathering, Romney’s campaign is beginning to resemble a squandered opportunity for Republicans. The economy continues to struggle, many Democrats are disillusioned with the last 4 years, independent voters are receptive to an alternative and President Obama no longer seems able to inspire the masses as he did in 2008. Yet, amidst the recent in-fighting, weak polling and struggle to re-launch the campaign, any message that may have resonated with vital swing voters seems to have been lost.
Claiming that he will “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives”, Romney’s apparent views on such swathes of the American population could be taken at face value and turned into a genuine policy debate over just how much this country believes the state should do. Such is the opaqueness of his candidacy, however, it is hard to establish whether Mitt genuinely believes what he is saying, or is once again simply feeding an audience what he thinks they want to hear.
This is why it’s hard to see Romney win the election from here. Even if the economy returns as the focal point, it seems nigh on impossible to dislodge an incumbent as well liked as Obama without having established a positive personal narrative. With the slog of the Republican primary process, a failed foreign tour and a weak convention, Romney has passed up nearly every opportunity to present the image he wants to America.
Between Bain Capital, this video and the apparent lingering distrust over exactly what Romney stands for, the Obama campaign has effectively been handed the opportunity to recast their opponent in whichever light they feel is most advantageous: cynical and lacking ideas, or heartless and out of touch. Maybe they’re not mutually exclusive.
The hastily arranged press conference at past 10 pm last night in which Romney claimed he stood by the comments in the private video did more to reinforce the view of a campaign in damage limitation mode than solve any of its problems. The tactic seems to be to dismiss the video as little more than what Romney’s been saying in public all along, just ‘not elegantly stated’; seemingly acknowledging that the perception of Romney as saying anything to get elected is more damaging than claiming this is what he really thinks. He is unlikely to get away with it. As one journalist summarises, the video reveals a Romney “more candid, more calculating and more conservative than the GOP nominee has been in public.”
Amidst the increasing inevitability of President Obama’s re-election, or perhaps more accurately Mitt Romney’s defeat, it is easy to forget that just weeks ago the contest seemed locked in a tight battle that would go down to the wire. The question, if as expected Romney fails to recover from here, must be whether his recent troubles are the result of avoidable errors from strategists, or the very issues which dogged Romney in the primaries and have long been targeted by the Obama campaign.
Mitt Romney may hope that the debate in the wake of this latest mishap focuses on whether someone’s life chances in the US are defined more by their circumstances or their own actions. The truth is it is difficult to establish whether Romney’s is a candidacy doomed by nature or nurture. What seems increasingly certain is that, come November, it will not be Mitt Romney’s job to worry about those 47% of Americans after all.
Posted on September 18, 2012, in Comment, Looking Forward, US Politics and tagged 47%, Bain Capital, Barack Obama, Clint Eastwood, Democrats, GOP, Mitt Romney, President Obama, Presidential Elections, Republicans. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.