Another Week Where Romney’s Campaign Loses The News Cycle
Abortion and "legitimate rape" are not what the Romney campaign should be having to deal with this week.
Once again, we appear to be in the middle of another week in which the focus of the campaign is about anything other than the one issue the Romney campaign ought to be talking about non-stop:
Actually, it’s not the economy. At least not this week.
A presidential campaign that Republicans wanted to be focused relentlessly onPresident Obama’s job-creation record seems to be about almost everything else at the moment.
In part that’s the result of a months long effort by the Obama campaign to shift attention to Mitt Romney’s wealth and business record.
In part it’s the result of what now appears to be a strategic shift by Mr. Romney, who had spent much of this year hammering home his credentials as Mr. Economic Fix-It. His choice of Paul D. Ryan as his running mate has elevated conservative approaches to Medicare and budget cutting to the forefront of the election debate, crowding out a more direct focus on jobs and economic growth. It suggests that Mr. Romney is more interested in motivating his base than winning an economic argument for the allegiance of a dwindling number of undecided and independent voters.
His current advertising appeal to frustrated middle-class voters is primarily the charge, much debunked by fact-checkers, that Mr. Obama is trying to make it easier for the poor to get welfare checks and escape work requirements. He has chosen to engage in a debate with the White House about campaign tactics, another diversion from what had been his core message.
Of course, the other part of the problem is that, ever since Sunday, the news cycle has been sucked up by Todd Akin and his remarks about abortion and rape, which has led to numerous stories about similar positions on abortion held by the man Romney chose as a running mate and, now, a GOP Platform Plank that looks like it could’ve been written be Aiken himself:
The decision by Republican convention delegates to oppose abortion without explicit exceptions for rape and incest poses a tricky political challenge for Mitt Romney as he prepares to accept the presidential nomination in Tampa, Fla., next week.
The vote puts the Republican Party at odds with Mr. Romney, who supports rape and incest exceptions, at a time that controversial comments by Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, have increased national scrutiny on the divisive social issue.
s he prepares to accept that nomination next week in Tampa, Mr. Romney is once again being forced to carefully navigate between the uncompromising antiabortion positions of his party’s base and the more moderate politics of the swing voters he needs to win over.
The vote on the platform is an important part of the Republican Party’s outreach to its conservative base. Mr. Romney and his aides have worked hard to ensure that social conservatives at the convention — and the voters they represent — do not feel left out.
The party platform — and the positions taken on abortion, same-sex marriage and other social issues — are a key part of that effort.
If Mr. Romney were to reject the party’s tough abortion plank, it would send a politically difficult message to conservatives about how Mr. Romney might govern once he got into the White House.
There could also be a flurry of conservative outrage at the convention, which could distract from the carefully choreographed event Mr. Romney’s strategists are planning.
But Mr. Romney’s campaign is also trying hard to make sure that the convention projects an image that swing voters in battleground states will find appealing. Aides did not expect to be focusing heavily on the party’s abortion positions this week.
The campaign has already chosen in the last several weeks to move off its core message about jobs and the economy. The convention is intended to return the campaign’s message to one of how Mr. Romney will get the nation’s economy back on track.
In the current political environment involving Mr. Akin’s comments, a decision by Mr. Romney to accept the party’s abortion plank will open his campaign to attacks from his rivals that he is out of step with moderate, independent voters.
Other Republican nominees have distanced themselves from the no-compromises position of the abortion plank, but the situation is arguably different for Romney given fact that, in a previous political life, he was quite adamantly pro-choice only to change his mind, so he says, while he was Governor of Massachusetts. It’s one of the primary reasons that many of his Republicans rivals in 2008 and 2012 charged him with being a flip-flopper. How he handles the platform issue is likely to be watched closely, and judged in the contest of his previous comments about this issue.
On the other side of the coin, though, Romney needs to be careful about how independent voters, especially women, react to both the Akin issue and the platform plank. The Democrats are, quite obviously, going to point to this as an other example of what they call the GOP “war on women,” and whether that is an accurate and fair argument or not is really rather irrelevant. Between the party’s position on contraception and Planned Parenthood, the Akin nonsense, and a platform plank that adopts the most extreme pro-life position possible, it’s fairly easy to connect the dots and turn out a 30 second television or radio advertisement that makes Mitt Romney sound like the reincarnation of Jerry Fallwell.
All of this gets back to a theme that I’ve hit on several times this summer. Clearly, the best strategy for the Romney/Ryan campaign is to concentrate specifically on the President’s record, the state of the economy, and why they think continuing down the road the President has laid out would be a bad idea. Instead, they spent last week first trying to turn this into a “big picture” election and then joining the members of the Democratic ticket in turning the race back into silly season. Now, we’ve spent three days, and likely the rest of the week, talking about issues that are electoral poison for Republicans among Independent voters. The Akin issue isn’t the fault of the Romney/Ryan campaign, of course, and they and the RNC have done their best to distance themselves from his idiocy, but it’s still there and it will be there throughout the election season. And all this is happening the week before what is arguably the most important week for the Romney campaign to day. This isn’t a good sign at all.