Romney denounces decorated war veteran Sen. John McCain on issue of recently-reported push polls—no, we’re not joking—we may be laughing merrily at Romney’s oafish opportunism, but we’re not joking
“John McCain must be causing Mitt Romney some serious heartburn in New Hampshire,” writes Jay Carney in a Time-Blog Swampland post titled Romney Blames…McCain??
How else to explain Romney’s magnificently absurd claim that the recently-reported push polls attacking Romney’s Mormonism are somehow the fault of…that’s right, John McCain — more specifically, the campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold, which passed in 2002. Politico’s Jonathan Martin has the story here. Of course, push polling existed long before McCain-Feingold became law, as Mark Salter, McCain’s senior aide, alter ego and co-author points out in this lacerating riposte:
It is appalling, but not surprising, that Mitt Romney would seek to take advantage of this disturbing incident to launch yet another hypocritical attack. It’s the hallmark of his campaign.
Back when Governor Romney was calling for public financing and taxing political donations, and before McCain-Feingold was passed, push polling was, regrettably, alive and well in American politics. Anyone who spent a day in South Carolina in 2000 can testify to that. It is not a surprise that Governor Romney would use even an attack on him to make yet another hypocritical statement. It is the hallmark of his campaign … etc., etc.
Liz Mair offers her take on why Romney wants to blame the victim in a post titled Romney and the religion bashing calls
… I’ve been less impressed with the Romney camp’s swift move to tie all of this to McCain-Feingold. The issue here is one of religious bigotry being shopped to voters– not of the utility of campaign finance reform, of which I personally am no great fan. And, it’s interesting that the Romney camp has moved in this direction so quickly. Sure, they never miss an opportunity to beat up on McCain, so it’s not surprising that they’re doing it here. Still, it seems as though this whole incident has thus far proved pretty beneficial to Romney. He is now in the victim/underdog role that one of his campaign aides indicated a couple months back could prove helpful to his campaign. He’s also been given another prime opportunity to denounce an initiative that has been widely unpopular with conservatives, and make himself out to be the anti-McCain (something that still has a lot of appeal with some members of the GOP base). Despite the fact that it’s Romney’s religion that’s been beat up on here, he’s looking like the overall winner from the whole episode … etc.
We were wondering how Romney would botch his response to these events.
Romney!—dude—your negatives are soaring!—a more effective response strategy to the push-poll revelation would have been to:
(a) Praise Sen. McCain for his integrity; infer your confidence that neither the Senator nor any of his people were involved. If later events undermine that confidence you can express surprise etc.
(b) Praise the Attorney General for his swift response; infer your confidence in the US justice system etc.
(c) Praise the American people—in particular, the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire—for their tolerance; infer your confidence in their wisdom, temperance, moderation, and sense of fair play, then segue into your own commitments to those values by means of a personal story.
Then, and only then, and without naming any names, decry dirty tricks, dishonest campaigners, and the laws and loopholes that enable them. This way, Romney, you would appear larger than you are, as opposed to smaller—and you still get to say everything that you want to say. This is how you affect to appear statesmanlike, even presidential, as opposed to, say, affecting the pose of an angry department of motor vehicles clerk (Romney’s usual pose). This, Boy Romney, is how you address the world when your own negatives are somewhere in the stratosphere.
Otherwise, you get responsa like Carney’s, Mair’s et al.—which is precisely what you got, and precisely what you will continue to get until you dismiss your entire communications staff down to the last unpaid-intern fetcher of coffee. Speaking of which, is there anyone in Team Romney that has any actual experience in, or any actual training or study in, rhetoric or communications?—we’re just wondering. So far, Team Romney has provided us with between 12 and, we think, 15 separate case studies for how not to develop and manage a message campaign.
Our students will be grateful to Romney for years to come.