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Monday, July 09, 2012

"They refused to believe any politician would do such a thing."

by David Atkins

Robert Draper describes the results of focus groups done a few months ago by Democratic groups attempting to define Mitt Romney:

Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.
That's really how bad the Ryan budget is: voters don't believe that real politicians would actually do such a thing. The plan to gut Medicare in order to make room for tax cuts for the rich is egregious and embarrassing that groups like Politifact have to go out of their way to cover for them.

And then there's Mitt Romney, a vulture capitalist responsible for mass layoffs and outsourcing, who supported the Ryan budget and continues to advocate for tax breaks for millionaires and austerity for everyone else. As Jonathan Chait says:

The basic theme of Romney as a super-rich guy who sees the world through the lens of his own class seems like a powerful and roughly accurate one. The attacks on Romney’s business career fit with the theme. I’m sure there will be more attacks on Romney’s secretive finances — Obama’s campaign keeps dropping the phrase “Swiss bank account” because, I would wager, focus groups find it a little suspicious.

Once they’ve established that frame for voters to understand Romney, then they have set the stage for a closing attack that focuses on the policy contrast. (Or so I have argued.)

One odd thing is that Romney has done so little to insulate himself against this line of attack. George W. Bush framed his entire campaign persona in 2000 so as to protect himself from charges of looking out for the rich — he called himself a compassionate conservative, he falsely claimed his tax cuts disproportionately benefitted the poor, he surrounded himself with cultural symbols of the middle class. Romney is a very rich man running on a platform of helping other rich people and doing almost nothing to deflect the most obvious political attack.

It's almost as if the Republicans are planting gigantic targets on their backs, standing in the middle of the street and daring Democrats to hit them. It's such openly flaunted evil that even the most jaded voters refuse to believe it's actually real.

But then again, maybe they figure they'll have so much money to tell lies with that it won't matter how obvious the iniquity:

There was, however, one fundamental difference between Priorities and its conservative counterparts. According to Politico, Rove’s organization had vowed to raise $300 million for the 2012 election — which, when coupled with Restore Our Future ($100 million) and the outside groups of oil and chemical billionaires Charles and David Koch ($400 million), would amount to an $800 million war chest. Burton and Sweeney’s stated goal was $100 million.
$800 million of secret slush donations will buy calumnies galore. It will be interesting to see if voters can make heads or tails of anything remotely resembling the truth by the time November rolls around. The fact that they refuse to believe the Ryan budget is a real document isn't a good omen.