Romney to Voters: I DO Have a Heart (No, Really!)


In the next few days, the Republicans gathered in Tampa will try to convince voters that they are a freedom-loving, fiscally responsible political party, not, as the Democrats contend, America’s nativist, transvaginal Taliban. This is what they mean when they talk about “re-branding.”

Their success will depend in part on a) the weather, since fewer nights of broadcasts will require (and permit) triage on their more extreme speakers and b) what the MSM focuses on and whether they measure the GOP’s rhetoric against reality.

Mitt Romney’s mission, the Beltway geniuses tell us, is to “re-introduce” himself to the American people, as if he hasn’t had the chance in the five-plus years he’s been running for president. This is what they mean when they talk about his “Etch-a-Sketch Moment.”

Romney, and his anti-abortion purist running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan would like to get the MSM to talk only about their message of lower taxes, reduced regulation and economic liberty, without regard to how those taxes might redistribute wealth to the rich, unchain polluters or throw public employees and industrial workers back to the 19th Century.

The Real Death Panel

If you take a drink every time the words “repeal Obamacare” are spoken, you will be blotto before the first commercial. But don’t expect anyone to take the podium to declare that repealing Obamacare would do away with provisions that allow 26-year-olds to remain on their parents’ insurance policies, or that coverage could again be denied to people with pre-existing conditions (like cancer or pregnancy), or that the RR Plan is actually to give Medicare eligible people a voucher to buy insurance on an unregulated private market.

The Medicare death panel is not something Ryan, Sarah Palin and others conjured up to poison public opinion about the Affordable Health Care Act. The Romney-Ryan ticket is the Medicare death panel.

You can also get plastered downing a shot when Romney, Ryan and probably every other speaker mentions Obama’s $716 cut from Medicare payments to over-charging hospitals and under-performing insurance companies (which the Ryan budget supported). It’s as much of a distortion as charging that Obama eliminated work-for-welfare requirements. But the MSM seems unconcerned about allowing lies to go unchallenged.

Another problem the Republicans have is that while Romney has been on all sides of the abortion issue – pro-choice when running for governor or Massachusetts, anti-choice when seeking the GOP presidential nomination –  his running mate Ryan and U.S. Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin of Missouri and the Republican Party’s official platform are, in fact, in 100% agreement about abortion.

As the GOP platform says: “Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life. . . At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life.”

Or, as Ryan put it just last week: “I’ve always adopted the idea, the position, that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” Rape? Incest? Life of the mother? Fugetaboutit. (If you believe that a human being is formed at the moment of conception and you are committed to protecting innocent life, then opposing abortion under any circumstance is your pure, logical, moral stance. Of course, you also have to believe that the fetus is innocent and the mother is not.) So far right has the GOP lurched on abortion that even former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was driven into the arms of Obama (even though Romney says he’d allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother).

This is just one of the reasons that President Obama leads Romney by 8-12 percentage points among women (btw: Democrats almost always do better among women and worse among men). Since the GOP poobahs have excoriated “Legit Rape” Akin, it will be fun to see what kind of play the Republicans give to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and other Akin defenders during their convention.

If the Romney campaign wants to appeal to suburban women – including pro-choice Republican women – they’ll use the weather-shortened agenda to kick some of the more vociferous “pro-life” speakers out of prime time and beg the major networks to ignore the pro-life screamers.

Not Just a Failure to Communicate

We know, however, that they’ll keep a spotlight on Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida because they’d like to draw some votes from the Hurricane Sunshine State and from Latinos for Romney and Ryan. Trouble is, their problems with Floridians (i.e. retirees) and Latinos aren’t cosmetic – they’re fundamental.

In the recent NBC-Wall Street Journal Poll, for example, respondents leaned 2-to-1 against the Romney-Ryan idea of a “guaranteed payment” or voucher to pay for senior medical care versus keeping Medicare as we know it. This is not a “failure to communicate” – it’s a seriously unpopular idea among a huge swath of voters.

Nor can Rubio patch things up with the eight or nine in 10 Latino voters who favor some path to citizenship for undocumented workers when the GOP platform (in a position wholly in synch with Romney’s views) says flatly: “We oppose amnesty. The rule of law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity.” Among Latino voters, the GOP (and Romney’s) refusal to consider a path to legal status for illegals disqualifies him from consideration.

In their attempts to portray themselves as a “big tent” party, the Romney folks might even allow an openly gay or lesbian speaker to reach the podium. But they won’t likely highlight the platform provision that says: “Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it. In the absence of a national amendment, we support the right of the people of the various states to affirm traditional marriage through state initiatives.”

Romney has a big challenge in “re-introducing” himself: in the recent NBC-WSJ poll, Obama led him by 28 points on dealing with issues of concern to women, by 22 points on caring about average people, by 12 points on dealing with issues concerning seniors and by 11 points on being honest and straight-forward. Moreover, the survey found 54% said Obama is in the mainstream and 44% said he’s out of step, compared to 44% who said Romney is in the mainstream and 51% who said he’s out of step.

One way Romney may try to connect with average folk will likely be make some mention of his Mormon religion in order to create the impression that he’s confronted some of the gnarly issues (like his grandfather’s plural marriages, the church’s historic racism, the role of women in the church, etc.) that attend the LDS faith. But you can expect this will be 100% superficial and largely unconvincing (especially to evangelicals who consider Mormonism a “cult” but who hate Obama even more).

So the fallback will be an attempt to build on his 6-point advantage among those who say he has good ideas to improve the economy, his 13-point edge over Obama on managerial skills and his 6-point lead on the issue of changing business as usual in Washington.

It was Ralph Whitehead at the University of Massachusetts who years ago taught us that Americans are looking for a president with a hard head and a soft heart. Which is why the GOP will try, in the next few days, to show that something is beating inside Romney’s breast.

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There are 12 comments for this post

  1. avatar GeoHagop says:

    A search for “Bain” on your analysis here shows that Tinman Rmoney is scared to eat the crow and will not be singing “If I was only still head of Bain.”

  2. avatar Andy says:

    “…opposing rape under any circumstance is your pure, logical, moral stance.”

    You have an issue with that? Or did you mean the rape exception?

  3. avatar Sideline says:

    Pretty obvious typographical error, Andy: Quite sure that the word “abortion” was intended here. Don’t you think?

  4. avatar Hank Plante says:

    I also don’t buy the nonsense about voters not knowing who Romney is (and that he needs a Convention introduction). Undecided voters this year are down to 6%, and even many of them lie to pollsters just to get the attention of reporters like me who have wasted years seeking them out.

  5. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    First, I’m glad to see a new post. I was afraid the Calbuzzards had retired.

    Second, I’m somewhat of an expert on re-branding. I’ve been in advertising for more than 25 years. As a professional in the field, I follow a number of discussions and saw one just last week that bears on this topic. The thread was on whether advertising or customer experience defines a brand. The consensus was that, you can use advertising to set a brand expectation. But, if the product doesn’t deliver the experience the customer expects, advertising alone can’t save it.

    How does that impact governor Romney’s efforts to re-brand himself? Simply that the country as a whole is still suffering from the effects of tax cuts for corporations and the rich. We’re still reeling from what happened when we deregulated Wall Street. We’ve seen this movie before and we already know how it ends. So, for the Romney campaign to think they can roll into Tampa, have a bunch of the faithful chant “Drill baby, drill” and carry their “Hands off my healthcare” signs on the convention floor–and convince anybody who’s been paying attention for the last 4 years–is not realistic.

    They’ll convince the folks who already believe. They’ll sway the people who just hate having a black guy in the White House. But, no matter how much advertising they do, how many sweet speeches Mrs. Let-them-eat-cake Romney makes, how many shots they get on TV of Paul Ryan’s all-American family, it will not convince voters who have already had a bad customer experience.

    We know who Romney is. We know what Ryan believes. We’ve seen what Republicans have done in state after state–destroying education and slashing pensions so they can give tax cuts to the rich. Gutting women’s rights in the workplace and the doctor’s office. Shredding the constitutional right to vote. Treating minorities like criminals. And appointing Supreme Court Justices who take power away from the people and give it to corporations. We know how Republican policies turn out in the real world outside of the convention floor. If we’re smart, we won’t be fooled again.

    That, however, is a big “if.” Because PT Barnum really was right about the gullibility of the American public. Otherwise advertising, politics, and investment banking would probably all be in big trouble.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      My bad. I didn’t mean paying attention for the last “4” years. I meant 12. The 8 years of the Bush administration, and the years since Republicans took over statehouses all over the country and the House of Representatives.

    • avatar GeoHagop says:

      I dunno, have you attended the full spectrum of “Newt U.”? Perhaps you just haven’t been to the right reeducation camp? Their anthropologist in chief claims to have discovered a Kenyan baby-killing mole dismantling the greatest empire of all time from the very top, and impoverishing us ordinary bible thumping merkins in the process. Very scary! Pay attention!

  6. avatar JohnF says:

    Am I the only one who finds that I cannot watch TV coverage of the Republican convention? I tried watching Chris Hayes and Rachael Maddow discuss the ongoing event and I could not do it. Boring as well as revolting on so many levels. I am usually by nature a very optimistic person. It scares me that the conventioneers are sometimes respected people in their communities. Heaven help us all, if these people see the levers of power.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      No. You have company. I couldn’t watch, even with the sound off. Seeing Cantor’s smirk and Christie’s bellow were too much for me, even without hearing what was coming out of those unlovely pusses. Watching the crowd was every bit as bad. If I saw one of those angry faces coming down the street toward me, I’d run for the hills! Especially the ones with the fake cowboy hats on, because I figure they’re armed.

  7. avatar GeoHagop says:

    TV? Perish the thought. Radio is the key and then turn down the volume and loop this on another sound system: http://www.hark.com/clips/chnyjysltg-oz-army-chant-oh-we-oh-yo-ho

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