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RightNation.US: Can Romney Win by Acting "Presidential"? - RightNation.US

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I was watching Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and they had their usual suspects in a panel discussion talking about all the silly little distractions like Obama's dog eating and Romney's dog transporting. All were of one mind that Romney should forever stay on the high road and appear "presidential".

Isn't that how we got Obama in the first place?

I don't remember anyone ever winning a presidential election by acting above it all and magnanimous.

The hard reality is that ridicule is the single most effective weapon against one's opponent. The problem is that not everyone is good at wielding it. George HW Bush was terrible at it. Reagan did it without effort. Remember the joke about the difference between a recession and depression? That was a brutal take down of Jimmy Carter even though it appeared to be an old man telling a corny joke. Reagan could do that. George HW Bush couldn't. When he won in 1988, it was because he was riding Reagan's wave and Michael Dukakis was even worse at ridicule than Bush. George W. Bush was average at using ridicule, but he was great at absorbing it while Gore was almost as bad as Dukakis. McCain refused to do it.

Obama doesn't need to directly ridicule his opponents given that he has the entire mainstream media save Fox News and talk radio. Saturday Night Live is nothing more than a highly paid, professional ridicule team for the current president. And it's very good at ridicule. It's the best thing they do. Whatever you may think of SNL, they are experts at zoning in on an opponent's weaknesses and then exploiting them to the maximum effect. Too bad for them and the president that they aren't funny in any other capacity and no one watches them anymore. Perhaps that's why Obama does engage directly in ridicule of his opponents. I don't know if you've noticed, but he revels in taking on every criticism and heap derision on its source. I don't think he's disciplined enough to refrain from it if his advisers asked him to.

The big question is not whether or not Romney will come down to Obama's level; I think he showed he would during the primaries. The moment he beat Gingrich was in the second Florida debate when Gingrich giddily dropped the Fannie Mae bomb on Romney and Romney batted it right back at him with ferocity. He'll throw down if he has to. No, the question is whether or not he'll be as good at it as Obama.

It may be that he doesn't have to match Obama's skill at ridicule given the way the news cycle works. Victor Davis Hanson sees a new and encouraging pattern emerging:

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The result is that when we hear that Rush Limbaugh should be taken off the air for his profane misogyny, almost immediately now there are accounts of Bill Maher’s $1 million gift to Obama and his far greater and unapologetic slurs against women. When we hear all those creepy “concerns” about Romney’s great-grandfather as a polygamist in Mexico, suddenly we are reminded that Obama’s father in Kenya was, too. Putting a dog on the car roof is now not quite the same as eating a dog and then matter-of-fact reading one’s account of it on an audiotape. Trivial? Yes. Distractions from the current economic mess, and beneath us all? Perhaps. All Romney’s doing? Of course not.

But at least 2012 won’t be a default campaign. In other words, to quote Obama, Romney will get in “their faces” and “bring a gun to a knife fight.” McCain more graciously and nobly lost by putting all sorts of concerns off the table. I would expect that should Obama keep harping about Romney’s tax returns, Romney will demand Obama’s transcripts and medical records at last to be released. If Obama’s surrogates keep writing about Mormonism, we will learn of new disclosures about Trinity Church. For every Mormon bishop who said something illiberal in 1976, we will hear of a Father Pfleger or Rev. Meeks trumping that in 2007. And so on.


I think it would be a mistake to ignore the so-called distractions in hopes that the same American electorate that watches something involving the Kardasians will pay attention only to the economy and Iran's nuclear weapons program. The economy will be the key issue in the election, so we know that Team Obama will do everything in its power to distract from it. Team Romney can either ignore all the little things or it can shoot each of them down.

I think the latter is the best way to go. It fits Romney's instincts and it gives the rest of the team some great memes that might actually make this election cycle fun for once.

My Mind is Clean
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5 Comments On This Entry

I tend to agree. Although I'd prefer Gingrich, I think Romney does have the testicular fortitude to skewer 0bama where it counts.
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cobalt-blue, on 23 April 2012 - 02:00 PM, said:

I tend to agree. Although I'd prefer Gingrich, I think Romney does have the testicular fortitude to skewer 0bama where it counts.


That's right. One of the things we liked about Gingrich was his killer instinct. In fact, it was that contrast that made many of us question Romney's vaunted electability. I think he's shown that instinct, and that gives me hope.
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Hasn't it more or less traditionally been that the presidential candidate is "above the fray" and "acts" presidential, while it is the veep that gets down and dirty?
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moocow, on 23 April 2012 - 06:24 PM, said:

Hasn't it more or less traditionally been that the presidential candidate is "above the fray" and "acts" presidential, while it is the veep that gets down and dirty?


Not really. It's just a matter of degrees.
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I'm hopefull that Romney will find a way to insert a caustic/sarcasitc jab here and there to note the contrasts between him and his vision and Obama's failure. Going out there with a "your momma wears funny shoes" kind of comment won't work, and will take him off message. Romney's too wooden for that, and will be seen as the "petty rich guy" taunting the beleagured President. Obama will present many opportunities for Romney to contrast against, and hopefully do it with some skill.
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