Hands down, the best election blog post on the entire internet this year is Mark Thompson’s What Not Getting It Looks Like. (And no, this is not just my opinion – it’s a fact. Really. It’s been proven scientifically, in actual laboratories by scientists in white coats, working with bunsen burners and test tubes and one of those glass lightning ball things.) If you haven’t read it yet, please do.
In that post, Mark wondered at the placement of political billboards by the Republican Party in a stretch of Pennsylvania highways that was sure to backfire and alienate area independents, moderates, and swing voters. His take on the situation, I believe, summed up most of the GOP’s strategy since Obama’s election four years ago:
“[It]t would seem [that] the Republican Party remains fairly uninterested in what actually matters to voters outside of the party… Instead, it seems to just assume that their problem is merely that people haven’t heard their message, rather than recognizing that it’s a message people outside… aren’t buying.”
I thought about that line this afternoon as I saw Republican strategists and pundits come out of the woodwork to praise Romney’s “secret video” ramblings as a game changer that, if shouted loud enough, will gift wrap this election for the world’s most successful mannequin.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping example of this was Republican strategist Mary Matalin, who might as well have been her husband James Carville for all the potential damage she did the GOP today:
Yes, you heard that right: Republican strategist Mary Matalin went on moderate-viewer-skewed CNN and said that the political battle the GOP wants to have in the coming 50 days is identifying which half of Americans are producers – and which half are parasites.
I want to repeat and embolden that last part again, because I’ve replayed it five times now and I still can’t believe it:
GOP strategist Mary Matalin went on CNN and said that Mitt Romney needs to start identifying which half of Americans are “parasites.”
Matalin is not alone in her call for a hari-kari doubling down, of course. Michael Walsh of NRO calls the secret tapes Mitt’s Gettysburg moment – and no, he doesn’t mean a moment where Mitt’s walked himself in to a bloodbath that will decimate his ranks. Says Walsh breathlessly, “This is Mitt’s time, this is his moment.” Erick Erickson, RedState’s redundantly named managing editor, somehow extrapolates these poll results into the delusional belief that Americans are going to fall in love with recordings of Mitt saying, in regards to half of the country, “my job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Powerline’s John Hinderaker insists that “the [secretly recorded] private Mitt Romney is a heck of a lot more compelling… than the public version.”
Mind you, Walsh, Erickson and Hinderaker are writing for a very conservatively skewed audience, so perhaps you can write their fantasy musings off to test-ballooning or contrarianism. But what the hell was Matalin thinking saying that s**t on CNN?
Of all the presidential elections I have ever witnessed, this is by far the strangest – and Romney’s campaign is the most obviously troubled. Think of all of the moves he has made over the past couple of months, long after having shored up the Republican nomination: He picked Paul Ryan, the darling wunderkind of the far right of his base, and he felt forced to do it way too early. He’s advocated preemptive war against Iran. He traveled to Europe and insulted them, then travelled to Israel and insulted the Palestinians. He’s gone above and beyond to paint himself (fallaciously, in my opinion) as the most socially conservative guy in the room. And now he seems poised to double down on his 47% gaffe, regardless of how it plays out to that part of America that doesn’t get its news from FOX, Limbaugh or Beck.
In other words, he is working his ass off to make sure that the base of his own party is willing to vote for him in November – even though he’s running against an incumbent his party views as the anti-Christ, in a bad economy with high unemployment.
Has this ever happened before in the modern-media age? Has a major-party Presidential candidate ever had to focus so much energy on getting his own party to be willing to vote for him? Last November, I would have bet you many rounds of top-shelf scotch that by now the GOP’s candidate would have been tacking to the center so hard and fast he or she would be breaking all kinds of land-speed records. But ironically, the only electable candidate of that entire bunch may turn out to be the least electable of all, because his party’s base doesn’t trust him enough to let him tack anywhere but further right. (And trust me on this – after attending last weekend’s Values Voter Summit I can assure you that the base does not like Mitt Romney, and they do not trust him – at all.)
The most fascinating question after this election is over (presuming Obama doesn’t screw the pooch and lose to a guy no one on either side likes anymore) will be this: When the smoke clears, will the Republican base recognize their hand in sabotaging Romney’s chances?* Or will they put all the blame on Mitt himself, and decide that alienating even more of the center is the key to future victories?
*With a big assist, it should be noted, by Romney himself.
(H/T to Sully & his crew)