If you chose to ignore the Republican primary during the last few weeks in favor of a politics-free holiday season, you chose well. ??The biggest story over the break, though it has faded somewhat as of this week, was the painting Gov. Romney as a “vulture capitalist.
Gov. Huntsman said something to the effect that Romney likes to fire people while he likes to give them jobs. Perry chimed in that Romney was worried about running out of pink slips to give out, also labeling him the aforementioned “vulture capitalist.”
Not coincidentally, within days of making these attacks, both Perry and Huntsman dropped out of the race.That’s because the backlash was harsh from conservatives, including the ever-powerful talk radio personalities.
Part of that backlash was based on the fact that the quote was taken out of context. Romney was talking about private citizens being able to fire their insurance companies if they’re not happy with the service they’re getting as part of his ideas on healthcare reform.
There was also incredulity that Republican candidates were attacking someone for being successful in a business based on free enterprise. Those attacks usually come from the left.
Yet another attack came to Romney from a republican based on his work at Bain. This attack was from a super PAC (political action committee) working on behalf of Newt Gingrich. The super PAC launched a documentary in South Carolina that supposedly spoke with people who lost their jobs because of Bain Capital and those interviewed specifically called out Romney. Unfortunately, the video didn’t pass the accuracy test according to sources like The Washington Post and The New York Times. Eventually Gingrich tried to distance himself from the film, calling for any mistakes to be edited out or for the super PAC to pull the entire film.
Regardless of Gingrich’s backpedaling, and Huntsman and Perry’s dropping out of the race, the narrative is set.
The candidates laid out the blue print for President Obama’s re-election campaign (though he certainly didn’t need the help). That blue print characterizes Romney as the exact enemy the Occupy Wall Streeters have been protesting since last fall. It also supports a characterization of Romney as that wealthy upper echelon of American society that can “afford to pay a little more,” that the president has toured America talking about.
When (there is only a slight need to use the word if anymore) Romney is the clear Republican nominee, look for Obama super PACs attack ads to be filled with words of Republican presidential candidates. Look for the well-crafted OWS message to be thrown at Romney specifically. And look for Romney to be billed as a protector of the rich who want to stubbornly hold on to their money. The narrative is set.
And unfortunately Romney doesn’t seem especially ready to defend himself against it.
Recently, his real or faked ambivalence about releasing his tax records has only added to the narrative. And though he will be able to prove that he paid taxes on money parked offshore in the Cayman Islands, it just won’t sit well with Americans. In fact, it’s very likely that Americans will overlook the (real or fake) idea a candidate wanted an “open marriage” more so than they will overlook the idea that their potential president is only paying a low 15 percent capital gains tax rate. And while he has defenders in talk radio to do his work for him among the Republican base, that strategy will not work in the general election.
Obama has been busy crafting the narrative against Romney by touring the country talking about the rich versus poor and by basically endorsing the Occupy Wall Street movement. With the Republican help he’s received in the last few weeks adding fuel to that particular fire, it might just work.
Some might argue that it’s good for Romey to be vetted this way early in the election season. Yet, looking at Romney’s drop in popularity in South Carolina since these attacks began, it’s clear to see that this narrative is effective. Add to that the (at a minimum) half a billion dollar reelection fund Obama is expected to have and Romney the “vulture capitalist” just might ruin Romney the presidential.