Mitt in the Mud

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up as he leaves Brewster Academy after finishing convention preparations yesterday.

In an interview with USA Today this weekend, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for running a “sad” and “vituperative” campaign. He accused the president of channeling negativity and trying to tarnish the former Massachusetts governor's image with voters rather than debate the issues. The attacks on Bain Capital, the insinuations about his tax returns—they’re tactics to avoid discussing the weak economy.

This is what you would expect an opposing candidate to say, but that doesn’t make it any less potent as a message. Voters always say they are tired of negative campaigning, and candidates who brand themselves as “positive” can capitalize on that fact—even as they themselves run negative ads (cf. Obama, 2008).

Which is why Romney should be worried by his low standing with voters. In the interview, he dismisses the idea that voters will decide on the basis of his likeability:

“I think in the final analysis people will recognize those attacks for what they are, and they’ll make a decision based on who can do a better job creating jobs and providing more take-home pay for the middle class of America,” he says.

Given the large likeability gap between Obama and Romney, as well as Obama’s lead on every issue of character measured by the most recent Gallup poll, it’s no surprise that he wants to minimize any discussion of personal popularity. But likeability—or “favorability” in polling terms—provides a boost for candidates who want to win credit for walking the high road. The public tends to believe those candidates it likes, and if Romney were running high on favorability, he could hammer Obama on his negative attacks and open a genuine advantage.

As it stands, Romney is one of the most unpopular presidential nominees in recent memory. His favorability has been underwater for most of the year, and shows signs of getting worse. If Romney wants to run a campaign on the high-road, this makes it much more difficult. Voters simply won’t believe that he’s running a cleaner campaign than his opponent. To wit, in the latest poll from ABC News and the Wall Street Journal, 55 percent say Romney has mainly been attacking his opponent, as opposed to talking ideas. Fifty-three percent say the same of Obama. It’s a small difference, but small differences can matter in a close campaign.

Of course, this is all about how Romney could better present himself to the public. The truth of the matter is that the Republican nominee is running an intensely negative campaign, which has begun to rely heavily on implicit and explicit racial appeals. The welfare ads, which falsely charge Obama with “gutting” the program, have been condemned by a variety of sources for playing on racial stereotypes about welfare recipients. Likewise, Romney was widely criticized this past Friday for making a “birther” comment during a rally in Michigan, telling an enthusiastic crowd: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that I was born and raised.”

He even makes a racial appeal in his USA Today interview:

Romney defends the welfare ads as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political calculation designed to “shore up his base” for the election.

At the most charitable, you can say that Romney is talking about the whole of welfare recipients, who are mostly white. But given what we know about the imagery of welfare—and it’s association with African Americans—I think that’s the connection Romney was trying to make.

Which is to say that, for all of his complaints about Obama’s negative campaigning, Romney doesn’t intend to disarm. And with Obama’s large advantage on almost every issue other than the economy, Romney’s best bet is to appeal to the resentments of his base. Put another way, of the ten weeks left in this campaign, none of them will be pleasant.

Comments

I guess if you're on record as predicting an Obama landslide, you wind up having to write gibberish like this.

Strapping dogs to the tops of cars? Bain Capital and killing a woman? Harry Reid stating publicly that Romney hasn't paid taxes in 10 years, without a shred of hard evidence? I am sorry, but it would appear as though you are projecting. Barack Obama is running the worst kind of Chicago thug style of personal destruction politics.

The most difficult question pertaining to Mitt Romney's character is whether he's a pathological liar - that is, a conscience-free sociopath - or if he's simply a guy who believes that lies are okay if they advance your own self-interest and consistently applies that philosophy to pretty much every publicly visible aspect of his life.

You really assume that he thinks a lot about this. He's probably got his mind on other things. But if I had to choose one branch of your dichotomy (because as we all know there are ONLY two choices, ever) I'd say that he just thinks it's all OK to advance his career and his investments. Outsourcing, approving Chinese forced labor building products for Bain-owned businesses, cutting women and infants off WIC, handing seniors a sub-par and shrinking medical insurance voucher for their end-of-life needs, telling people that Obama's going to hand their hardscrabble lily-white money to blackity-black-blacks. Whatever, says Willard.

We need to be worrying about election fraud, perpetrated by local Republican officials. Romney has established that honesty has no role in his campaign. That lack of honesty may not stop with the content of his advertisements.

People really need to understand what Mitt Romney believes and spread the word. I am conservative but I am voting for either Obama or Independent Gary Johsnon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGFAph3lWqw

Hey, you might as well learn the truth about Romney. Quit reading only the Liberally biased sites. He going to be the President for the next 8 years.

Its very difficult for a candidate to enter politics if his opponent is that much popular and people loved him. Many politicians also throw negative attacks on its opponents to make their names favorable to the voters. Try these health products like sanotint if you wanted your hair too look new, it has different colors to choose from.

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