There’s been a lot of talk on cable news lately about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s secret weapon: His wife, Ann Romney. Many have pointed out that she humanizes her husband who often comes across as emotionally-detached and robotic. I agree with that analysis, and while I certainly believe she’ll continue to be a big help up until the November election, I don’t think she’s the most effective weapon in Mitt’s campaign arsenal. I also don’t think a weak economy, a crippling national debt, and Romney’s experience as an accomplished businessman will be his coup de grâce against President Obama.
In the end, it might just be the Romney campaign’s ability to manufacture outrage at the same level as the Democratic party that will give him the edge he needs against the president.
Let’s face it… There’s a reason President Obama’s approval rating has remained as high as it has over the past three and a half years, and it’s not because he’s done a good job as president. By any impartial analysis of the state of the country, he hasn’t. He’s stayed above water due to a pretty successful divide and conquer strategy that he’s been engaged in since the day he took office. His presidency has never been about results. It’s been about creating villains from manufactured controversies and deflecting the electorate’s anger away from him.
As a result, Republicans have been finding it difficult to keep Americans’ focused on what have traditionally been key issues during a presidential election, like the economy and foreign policy. Instead, they’ve found themselves dragged onto the president’s playing field where they’ve clumsily stumbled around on the defensive, thanks to an accommodating media who desperately wants Rush Limbaugh, contraception, and the audacity of the rich to be the cornerstones of our national conversation.
For weeks, the Republican party has been reeling from the completely fabricated, yet affective War on Women campaign waged by the DNC. Republicans have felt compelled to respond to the distracting narrative since poll numbers have shown that it’s done the party and primary candidates some damage. Yet, each time they’ve spent time and energy pointing out its absurdity, they’ve managed to lend it additional publicity and staying power.
The Romney campaign, however, has shown this week that they aren’t as likely to quietly fall into the role of the disheveled, wide-eyed drunk who’s wildly swinging the top half of a broken beer bottle around in the air to defend himself against unseen attackers. Instead, his team has demonstrated a readiness to hit back hard using the same type of manufactured controversies that have been used against their candidate and his party.
When Democratic adviser Hilary Rosen took a shot at Mitt Romney’s wife Ann, on national television, for not having “worked a day in her life”, the comment could have easily been discarded by the mainstream media as an act of mere pettiness. That is, after all, what it was. However, someone at the Romney camp not only saw an opportunity to hit back fast, but also to introduce a new narrative that would sour the independent female vote on the president.
Ann Romney, who stayed at home to raise five boys, battled cancer, and lives with Multiple Sclerosis, was quickly set up with a Twitter account so she could respond immediately, stating, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” Rosen’s ties to the White House were quickly pointed out by the Romney campaign, the video of her remarks went viral, and social media went ablaze with angry reactions from stay-at-home moms across the country.
Rattled by concerns over upsetting the female demographic, the Obama administration quickly went into damage control. David Axlerod, Jay Carney, Joe Biden, and President Obama himself scrambled to distance the administration from Rosen, but were unable to squelch the story.
By the end of the week, Ann Romney was on television responding to Rosen’s perceived disparaging of stay-at-home moms, Jay Leno was making jokes about Rosen’s remark at President Obama’s expense, and the Republican party had even found a way to ride the momentum by releasing a line of merchandise carrying the mantra, “Moms Do Work! Vote GOP”.
Suddenly, The War On Women has been countered with The War on Moms. The truth is that neither is legitimate, but both play off of the ideological stereotypes of the respective parties. That and lots of media exposure are apparently enough to make them both work.
Yes, the Romney camp understands how to play the game. We caught a glimpse of their capabilities throughout the primaries, but we’ve seen now how truly sharp they are. Perhaps this gives some comfort to those of us who have lent Mitt Romney our unenthusiastic support because we believe in his electability and desperately want President Obama out of office.
Still, it bothers me that our national politics have come to this. Our country is in real trouble. There’s nothing pretend about our national debt, the cost of energy, high unemployment, low economic growth, and our decline on the world stage. These are the issues we should be talking about.
Instead, it always seems to come back to the same hyperbole and demagoguery – the most effective methods of garnishing political support from an electorate that is widely uninformed and easily distracted.
The next seven months will be quite a circus.
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