Monday, September 17, 2012

The Romney Blame Game: It Has Begun

I'd posted a statement that "when the finger-pointing starts you know your goose is cooked." It looks like we're starting to see that. Politico opens with a piece on how Romney's RNC "stumble" came to pass:
Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.
Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.

Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.
On the same day we get notes that the Romney campaign is changing its approach (Release Mitt Romney v 3.0?):
Mitt Romney, sensing an opening in the Middle East mess and catching flak from conservatives for giving too little detail about his policy plans, is rolling out a new and broader strategy to make the election a referendum on “status quo versus change,” chief strategist Stuart Stevens told POLITICO.
The Politico story uses the term "abrupt" to describe the shift in strategy.

I was linked to Erick Erickson's (Red State) post If The Election Were Held Today Barack Obama Would Win:
Several weeks ago, based on conversations with people more attuned to Team Romney than myself, I suggested Stu Stevens might be in over his head or too busy selling himself to sell Mitt Romney. In the past few weeks, I’ve confirmed that more and more Republican donors are also concerned with Stu Stevens.
I don’t know the man, but that people knowledgable about the situation suggest he is a problem means there is either infighting and some of Team Romney is out to get Stevens or Stevens is a real problem. Considering the New Republic’s flattering profile of Stevens during campaign season, I’m going with him being the problem.
So What's He Doing?
He's making a bold move: TWO New Ads. Let's look.

The Ad: The Romney Plan
At 38 seconds it's a little long for the perfect media-saturation spot--but I don't think 8 seconds over is going to kill it (the question is why is it 38 seconds instead of the normal 30 or 32? What's being done with those extra 6-8 seconds)? It's a positive ad that proposes to lay out what Romney plans to do--to address the issue that the election is increasingly being seen as a choice rather than a referendum.

"My plan is to help the middle class," a temperate-sounding Romney says. We can see him with rolled up shirt-sleeves leaning towards the crowd showing them a piece of paper--a plan.
He Spilled Some Graph Paper On His Shirt
"Trade has to work for America," he says--the music is 'serious' but not 'somber.' His eyes project soulful honesty. "That means crack down on cheaters like China. It means open up new markets."
It's the Same Shirt For The Sake of Continuity ...
"Next," he says (we see some 'heavy industry' pictures with guys in hard hats and docks with a giant crane) "balance the budget. You got to cut the deficit. You've got to spending more money than we take in."
Stack After Stack Of Fiat Money Is Created
"And finally, champion small business, have tax policies, regulations and health care policies that help small business. We put those in place and we'll have 12 million new jobs in four years."
All three "small business jobs" are held by women. This isn't an accident: Romney is PRO-WOMAN. There is no WAR ON WOMEN here. Romney approves the message.

What Does It Mean?
It's pretty straight forward:
  1. Mitt Romney is sincere--he is going to help you--and he has a plan (It's right there in his hands! Don't say you've never seen it!)
  2. He cares about YOUR issues: jobs, the economy, the deficit, and ... yes, he cares. Oh, and healthcare. He cares about that too.
  3. He has a hard number: 12 MM new jobs in four years.
  4. He's friendly to women--especially working women. I'll credit him here with the iconography: we know the first woman is the owner because she (a) has gray hair and (b) is conservatively dressed with her scarf and (c) her jacket matches the in-window display color of whatever that it. A female baker is nothing new but there's a woman engineer down at the bottom.
It's a positive ad and, while I'm a bit jaded, Romney does a good job of projecting sincerity. I think that's because he is sincere: you don't get even this far without thinking you are the best guy for the job. On  the other hand, even with the extra six seconds, hey doesn't say anything about what Romney will actually do.

It turns out the extra six seconds is just the ending with it's DONATE and MITT ROMNEY.COM buttons appearing on the YouTube screen. Considering that each "beat" is about 2-4 seconds in length with the vast majority being 3 seconds or less, the extra "two beats" is a LONG time: He'd like a donation.

What Do I Think?
I'm not horrified. The ad is reasonably positive. It gets points for including women without harping on that. It doesn't overly play to the base nor do much by way of trashing Obama. There are no dog-whistles I can readily think of. To be sure, all of it echoes his harder positions (Obama is soft on China, ObamaCare destroys jobs, etc.)

The problem is this: I'm not sure this is any kind of game-changer. Romney has had a slew of uninspiring ads and this is just pretty generic "I'm a good guy on the economy" stuff. I do like it--but I liked Gingrich's amber-waves-of-grain morning-in-America ad more.

Romney is also releasing an attack ad. I haven't seen it--but I hope it's better.

Rating: C

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