If you thought Mitt Romney had a rotten summer—failing to project a more appealing image of himself and his policies, failing to pin the country’s economic woes on the president, failing to get even the tiniest bounce from his convention—the home stretch is shaping up even worse. Fast on the heels of his aggressively wrong-headed response to the embassy attack in Libya (which gets terrible reviews from most Americans), Mother Jones today released a bombshell video of Romney speaking way too candidly to a small group of well-heeled campaign contributors.
This is must-see footage—and even if you don’t want to see it, you won’t be able to help it over the next few days. These are words that will haunt Romney for the rest of the campaign—and the rest of his political career. He jokes that he’d have a better chance of being elected if he were of Mexican lineage; he insults Obama voters (and 47 percent of the country) in the most stereotypical and racially-tinged terms possible; he brags about sharing campaign consultants with Bibi Netanyahu; and he insists that Americans are, basically, too empty-headed to care about policy specifics. And this is only the first batch of videos to come; God only knows what else he might have let loose with.
We can’t sum it up better than David Corn, who got this “get” for MoJo: “With this crowd of fellow millionaires, he apparently felt free to utter what he really believes and would never dare say out in the open. He displayed a high degree of disgust for nearly half of his fellow citizens, lumping all Obama voters into a mass of shiftless moochers who don't contribute much, if anything, to society, and he indicated that he viewed the election as a battle between strivers (such as himself and the donors before him) and parasitic free-riders who lack character, fortitude, and initiative. … These were sentiments not to be shared with the voters; it was inside information, available only to the select few who had paid for the privilege of experiencing the real Romney.”
Romney’s comments will inevitably be likened to Barack Obama’s infamous slur (also recorded in a private donor meeting) about white Pennsylvanians clinging to guns and religion. Both expressed the kind of disdain for their fellow Americans that no candidate should allow to escape his or her lips. But in terms of political impact, this is sure to play much worse. For one thing, that was April 2008, and this is mid-September 2012—leaving the candidate little time to recover. Another essential difference: Obama was well-liked and admired by the vast majority of Americans when he had his bigoted slip of the lip; Romney is already overwhelmingly disliked, even by many who plan to vote for him. Obama’s comments surprised people; Romney’s comments confirm what people already suspected about him. He comes across as the epitome of arrogant privilege.
There is no way that this glimpse into the “real Romney” won’t turn off a large majority of the country—including plenty of the same people of privilege he was speaking to in that room. Even if they agree with the candidate secretly, they will have some serious second thoughts: How could anyone running for president, for pete’s sake, be so breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly stupid as to utter such things aloud?
So They Say
"Remember this other time where he was caught on video saying, 'People like to cling to their guns and their religion?' Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion!"
—GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, reminding voters of President Obama’s own damning “secret video” from 2008 while campaigning in Pennsylvania on August 21
Daily Meme: Uneven Stevens
- Mitt's had a rough couple of months on the trail, and the campaign is laying the blame on strategist Stuart Stevens.
- As Ezra Klein says, "Ouch."
- Besides the shocking revelation that the Romney campaign isn't exactly the most organized thing in the world—time to put that Staples connection to use and buy up some Trapper Keepers!—the article also shockingly reveals, as Paul Krugman points out, that "Romney is turning to the very same people who botched everything under he-who-must-not-be-named."
- The thing that damns Stevens most? He thought Clint Eastwood's RNC speech, or "spectacular art piece," was a fabulous idea.
- The Romney campaign, per usual, is responding to the reports with condescension and scorn, insisting that the Thomas Hayden Church lookalike is going nowhere.
- And Marc Ambinder says this whole obituary for the Romney campaign is overblown.
- But something is wrong with the campaign—something that even Jennifer Rubin isn't able to hack out of existence.
- Whether or not the Stevens-bashing is warranted, it is happening on the heels of are focusing of the Romney campaign toward talking about the exciting and always "let's get fired up"-worthy issue of the deficit.
- Oh, but also guns and God.
- And while talking about all that, they're also seeking to sharpen their message. It's another sign, as Erick Erickson points out, that Romney's "message is too muddled for voters to be anything other than confused. Voters have been subjected to two straight Presidential campaign seasons where Romney’s opponents have hit him for being inconsistent and now he is … well … too muddled up to look consistent."
- The Economist nails Romney's other great problem: "What we're seeing here is not simply a flailing campaign run by a mediocre candidate. It's a campaign trying to cope with the fact that the fundamental coalitions and policy bargains its party represents are falling apart."
What We're Writing
- Patrick Caldwell reports on how financial industries have succeeded in fending off most Dodd-Frank regulations.
- Gregg Seagal: What do Republicans look like? See if you can spot them.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- Jill Lepore takes a brilliant look back in history to the birth of political consulting.
- What happens when you immerse Frank Rich in right-wing media for a week? A counterintuitive piece that, among other things, praises Glenn Beck’s wit.
- There’s just one little problem with the “Democrats for Lingle” ad aired by the Republican candidate for Senate in Hawaii: It features Republicans.
- New York magazine envisions Downton Romney, in which Maggie Smith responds to the candidate's biggest gaffes.
- Robert Kuttner says, “Thank you, Paul Ryan.”
- Alec MacGillis chronicles how Paul Ryan made Washington think him a genius.
Poll of the Day
Apparently the Democratic National Convention was even “bouncier” then we knew. President Obama wasn’t the only candidate who saw his poll numbers go up significantly in the aftermath; Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat challenging Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts, has surged ahead in two new polls, gaining considerable ground from pre-convention surveys after her engaging introduction of Bill Clinton.
For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.