Mitt Romney has had what could be argued as the worst three weeks of any presidential campaign in recent history. First, he (or his chief strategists) decides to give a valuable Thursday prime time speaking role during the RNC to let an actor improv with a chair for 15 minutes. Then the candidate makes truly vile remarks questioning the President’s patriotism during an on-going attack on American personnel (if anyone had any evidence of a presidential candidate ever doing this, I’d love to know about it). Finally, Mother Jones magazine releases a video of the candidate at a fundraiser claiming that the 47% of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes are all Obama supporters. These supporters are “victims” that refuse to take responsibility for themselves and as such, Governor Romney feels he doesn’t have to worry about them.
The punditocracy is apoplectic. Claiming that the election is over and marveling at that profound boneheadedness of each individual gaffe. But while the “experts” can signal the end of the Romney campaign, the campaign itself can point to the scoreboard. Look at Gallup’s tracking poll today. Through out this week of gaffes, Obama’s lead has gone from 50%-43% at the start of last week to 47%-46% today. So if you’re a Republican Romney supporter, it would seem that you want your candidate to be committing more of these “gaffes”?
What gives? Well, it appears that these might not be gaffes at all. If you look at this chart from Talking Points Memo, you’ll note that the Democratic party is must more multi-racial/multi-ethnic/multi-cultural in terms of its supporters than the Republican party. As such, an appeal that emphasizes the dangers of multiculturalism (appeasement with external threats, seeing redistribution as welfare clientelism rather than civic obligation) might stick with undecided voters who might be a bit squeemish about the “big picture” shifts in both US and global demographics.
While I don’t think any of these moves were done on-purpose, the Romney campaign may have stumbled on a new campaign strategy – abandon framing the election about economy and have a debate about how to respond to “the other” without and within. Romney can cast himself as the stern, take no quarter, dad who handles global threats the way you would a disobedient, self-indulgent child — you “talk tough” and “pull out the belt” if you need to. Domestically, you “take away the toys” from self indulgent children who need to learn self-respect and manners. It’s an appealing narrative (whatever the social and policy costs), and I wouldn’t discount it’s effectiveness. Granted, I still think the president will win, particularly because I’m not sure this approach works will in swing states. But on
Intrade, Romney chances of winning the election are at 32%… if I were a betting man, I might put down a buck or two with those odds.