Yesterday saw two trial balloons floated by the Obama campaign and its surrogates in their ongoing struggle to define Mitt Romney as someone who should not be president. The first was centered around a Romney campaign stop in Pennsylvania over the weekend, the second about an announcement, of sorts, to the media over who has been selected to act as Romney in Obama’s debate rehearsals.
Let’s examine them both and what they mean in the context of this presidential campaign.
While the Obama campaign hit Romney earlier in the year over his various policy Epiphanies, it was obvious that those attacks were calculated to damage Romney’s relationship with the conservative base (also know as “the people who will have to vote for him if he’s to win”) during the Republican primary. They were not a general campaign theme for the simple reason that the flip-flops were either to or away from positions Obama currently espouses and are easily explained.
The theme in the general, as evidenced by the Democratic astroturfing the OWS movement and the whole “we are the 99%” nonsense is that Romney is an out of touch rich guy who made his money by destroying communities. Over the past weeks we’ve covered the meme war the Obama campaign has been pursuing against Mitt Romney (here |here | here | here) emphasizing the idea that Romney is out of touch, rich, privileged, and more than a little strange.
When Romney stopped at the WaWa in Cornwall, PA, he made a short speech pointing out that competition in the private sector had led to innovations like ordering sandwiches via touchscreen monitor, competition that did not exist in the government and which resulted in the government, in his speech the US Postal Service, being less responsive to consumer demands.
MSNBC, which is still butthurt over the Scott Walker victory in Wisconsin, aired a dishonestly edited clip which changed the story line to “out of touch rich guy Romney is amazed by computer thingy”. What was obviously going on here was to attempt to do to Romney what was done to George H. W. Bush in the 1992 election with a supermarket scanner.
Andrea Mitchell, now an MSNBC host thereby completing a career trajectory analogous to the descent from high-priced escort to crack ‘ho, was ecstatic and within a short period of time a self proclaimed “press surrogate” for the Obama campaign was pushing the “out of touch” line.
Thankfully this isn’t 1992, the deception was swiftly exposed by the blogger Sooper Mexican (who, I might add, contrary to past practice is getting recognition of his efforts in the press) and the life cycle of this particular meme could be measured in nanoseconds. (Question: why is that bloggers are the ones stuck deconstructing these stories? We are the ones without the multiple layers of fact checkers and editors.)
The second related story is the announcement by the Obama campaign that it has selected John Kerry to act as Mitt Romney in Obama’s debate prep. According to the Washington Post:
President Obama has tapped Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to play Republican Mitt Romney in mock debate rehearsals, Obama campaign officials and the senator’s office confirmed Monday.
Kerry will help Obama prepare for among the most consequential events of his reelection campaign — the three fall debates against Romney. As the senior senator from Massachusetts, Kerry has studied Romney’s career and campaign style for nearly two decades and has first-hand knowledge of his record as governor.
Kerry has long been considered one of the Democratic Party’s most skilled debaters, and his performances in more than 25 debates in the 2004 race earned plaudits. Some credited his strong debates against President George W. Bush with tightening the race in the closing weeks of the 2004 campaign.
It is his perspective on Romney, though, that could be especially valuable for Obama. Kerry was a key surrogate on behalf of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) when he defeated Romney in 1994. And Kerry closely observed Romney’s successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign, where his performance in debates against Democrat Shannon O’Brien were believed to have helped him win.
Does anyone believe that the Obama campaign is actually concerned about debate prep in June? I don’t. Did Kerry’s debate skills really help Fat Teddy Kennedy defeat Mitt Romney in the 1994 Massachusetts senate contest? Doubtful. Very doubtful. Does everyone remember John Kerry’s awesomeness while windsurfing in Lycra or visiting NASA? You bet.
The Obama campaign has floated John Kerry’s name as a debate partner as a part of their overall strategy. Who better to play a privileged, out of touch, rich white guy that a privileged, out of touch, rich white guy. Kerry isn’t being floated as a debate partner for any other reason than to link Kerry and Romney together as two of a kind.