Charlotte, North Carolina—So far, a large part of my time at the Democratic National Convention has involved talking to delegates other people on the street. Sometimes, they’re the usual attendees—party chairs, local officeholders, and well-connected activists. Every so often, however, you run into an actual candidate.
If you tuned in to the Republican National Convention last night hoping to learn something about Mitt Romney, you probably came away satisfied. With a video highlighting his family and role as a father, his campaign did an excellent job of presenting the candidate's humanity. Romney himself added to the success, with a speech that went a long way toward reintroducing him as not just a cold automatron.
Well before President Obama arrived for his Wednesday rally in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, local Tea Partiers had gathered to protest his event and promise an end to his tyrannical administration. Assembled in the nearest open space—a park set adjacent to downtown—and with a massive equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee as their backdrop, they denounced Obama’s record with fighting words. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive,” said Republican state Delegate Rob Bell, quoting Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to Abigail Adams. “It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”
In an interview with USA Today this weekend, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for running a “sad” and “vituperative” campaign. He accused Obama of harnessing negativity and trying to tarnish his image with voters, rather than debate the issues. The attacks on Bain Capital, the insinuations about his tax returns—they’re all part of the same goal, to avoid a discussion of the current 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 campaining, and candidates who brand themselves as “positive” can capitalize on that fact—even as they themselves run negative ads (see Obama, 2008).
This afternoon, while campaigning in Michigan, Mitt Romney made a little joke about President Obama’s birth certificate:
Here’s the text:
I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised. Where both of us were born … No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.
If you haven’t read it, Ta-Nehisi Coates has a fantastic essay on Barack Obama’s relationship to race and racism in the latest issue of The Atlantic. There’s too much to quote, but this paragraph captures the thesis:
For most of the campaign, the biggest booster of former President Bill Clinton was Mitt Romney. After a year of pandering to the right wing of the Republican Party, Romney needed something that would signal moderation and tap into the broad frustration with President Obama’s administration. Popular at home and abroad, Clinton reminded Americans of better times. And despite the fact that Obama drew heavily from the Clinton administration, Romney used the poor economic conditions to argue that Obama had strayed from the Clinton path.
I didn’t mention this in my previous post, but in addition to the aforementioned questions, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal asked respondents about the recent controversies over Bain Capital and Mitt Romney’s tax returns to gage whether they affected support for the Republican nominee. Neither result was good. Here’s the first question:
Has what you have seen, read, or heard about Mitt Romney’s previous business experience managing a firm that specializes in buying, restructuring, and selling companies made you feel … more positive or more negative about him, not made much difference in your opinion or do you not know enough about this to have an opinion at this time?
Since the Todd Akin affair entered the national conversation, many commentators—myself included—have noted the extent to which Akin’s views are in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party, and nearly identical to ones held by Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee. This video, unearthed by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, illustrates the point. In it, a younger Ryan denounces a women’s health provision that was included in a bill to ban “partial-birth” abortion. Exceptions to the ban, he argues, would make it “meaningless”:
So far in his campaign for the presidency, Mitt Romney has had four big chances to move the needle in his direction. At the beginning, when he won the Republican nomination; during June, when it became clear that the economy was slowing down; last month, when he went abroad; and two weekends ago, when he chose Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate.
In addition to endorsing a complete ban on abortion through constitutional amendment, the Republican Party platform will also include opposition to same-sex marriage, reports the Washington Post:
Barbara Ann Fenton of Rhode Island suggested that the 112 members of the GOP platform committee endorse new language that would call for religions to define marriage in their own way but allow government to offer civil unions to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. […]
Other delegates said support for traditional marriage is a bedrock Republican principle.
Yesterday morning, before the GOP completely turned its back on Todd Akin, I noted that—despite their harumphing—few Republicans disagreed with the substance of Akin’s remarks. In Congress and across the country, GOP lawmakers have supported a raft of bills designed to restrict or end abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. Look no further than the Republican platform, which—as CNN reports—will include radical and restrictive language on abortion:
Since yesterday morning, political conversation has been dominated by the comments of Todd Akin, a (formerly) obscure Missouri congressman and Republican candidate for Senate. "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told local reporters, explaining his absolute opposition to abortion, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
And if these natural defenses fail? “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
This afternoon, during an event with the press, Romney answered questions about his taxes with a declaration that he has never paid less than 13 percent:
He says that, for the most recent year, he paid 13.6 percent in taxes. There’s an obvious problem here: Unless Romney answers calls for more tax returns—which have come from Democrats as well as top supporters—it’s impossible to prove that he’s paid that tax rate.