Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 47% and the Romney Gaffe

Something very unfair (or "unfair") is about to happen to Mitt Romney and his supporters. If Romney loses in November there are going to be You Didn't Build That t-shirts moldering in the closets of enraged Republican small business owners and supporters for decades--about once a year or so--when the car needs to be washed--they're going to be pulled out and remembered with a bittersweet fondness and the wearer will look at it and wonder ... why didn't more people catch on that--after all, the president came out as a communist!

Then the sweetness will fade to sourness when they remember that in the fall of the 2012 campaign Mother Jones magazine released some hidden video of Romney speaking at a fundraiser where he said this:
"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it," Romney said. "That, that's an entitlement. And (they think) the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax."
Romney said he would focus on unaligned voters and not on Obama backers.
"My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

And, lo, it was all anyone in the media talked about for the whole freakin' rest of the campaign.

What Does It Mean?
First things first: the 47% Takers vs. Makers is a conservative meme that has been around for a while now. The idea is that only 53% of Americans who file income tax pay income tax and the rest of us, like the moochers in Atlas Shrugged are sitting home playing X-Box on our flat-screen TVs off everyone else's money. It isn't actually true: Although the basic number is right, there are a hell of a lot of people who, although they may not pay income tax still pay payroll tax: that means they are working. Maybe two jobs--and that means they are, pretty much by any definition, taking personal responsibility and care for their lives (link to, hat tip to Wonkblog).
The 8.1% Unemployed Apparently Don't Show Up Here, Though ...
That said, that's not why Romney is about to get hit with a tidal wave of bad press ... Before we get to that let's see if Obama's gaffes moved the needle. For that we look at the OMG, it's excellent, Monkey Cage Blog:
Nope--Nothing. Romney's Libya Remarks Helped Him!?
They have one for 2004 too. Nothing off the bitter-clingers. So, okay: this shouldn't do anything to Romney--right? Wrong: it may not move the polls but it's going to raise the blood-pressure of Romney supporters to rage-stroke levels when they have to hear the mainstream media and Team Obama pounce like a leopard on this from now til November. Why?

The answer has to do with branding.

What Do I Mean By 'Branding?'
Politicians are a product--they have a brand. When some narrative (a story the media tells--or we tell ourselves) plays into that brand it's reinforced. When something plays against brand, it's weaker. One of the reasons why "You Didn't Build That" or "Spread The Wealth Around" didn't play all that well with the mainstream of Obama supporters is that his 'brand' is not that of a communist (let's be fair: 'socialist'--but it isn't that either--ask Karl Rove: if you call Obama a socialist on TV persuadable voters are turned off). That doesn't mean he isn't one--it's just not his brand.

Romney, unfortunately (for him at least), has been branded by Team Obama ... as a wealthy plutocrat who doesn't care about the "common man." This does play to his brand and it's going to fit like a key into a lock. That, and, oh, the Main Stream Media is going to play it on power-rotation like an 80's radio station taking music industry payola.

There might be 3-5% "persuadeable voters out there" and this message is likely to reach one or two % of them. It may or may not show up in the polls--but Romney supporters are going to have to listen to this from now until doomsday.

You probably didn't hear it here first--but you heard it here.

Edited To Add: Don't look for the polls to move anywhere just yet--but check the Internet Betting Markets. Here's the last five days from PredictWise (roughly a 2% drop):

We can also look at the RAND poll of people who've changed their mind for the candidate:
And ... read this:
One thing that frustrates me is that many Republicans who’ve embraced the “takers” interpretation of the fact that 46% of tax units didn’t pay federal income taxes forget why Republican policymakers of the past created policies like the EITC and the child tax credit in the first place. This lends credence to the analysis of center-left critics like Ezra Klein of Wonkbook:

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