This is another purely US Presidential Elections blog, sorry to my regular followers, but I do have to comment on this as it is a passion of mine. I do think that on Monday 17th September the Romney Campaign collapsed. And I truly feel torn. I have been captivated monitoring every twist and turn of the world-record-setting train wreck of a business disaster, that is Nokia under Elop. And suddenly this year we have the parallel unprecedented world-record-setting political train wreck that is the Romney campaign. But yes, like the previous blog about US elections, I'll do this as an extended blog so feel free to skip this blog article unless you'd like to read my thoughts about why and how..
I really had felt this year, 2012, had the makings of an epic clash of powerful parties, fighting for the center, with two highly intelligent, technocratic, pragmatic centrists, from the left, but by no means the communist-socialist-ultra-liberal that he is accused of being by the right wing blogs, comes President Obama, under troubled economic conditions, very vulnerable, but with high personal favorability, a powerful political machine and an impressive record under the situation; and from the right, I expected that Romney would veer more to the center after he won his party's nomination, and would by now be very similar to the centrist Republican who governed left-leaning Massachussetts. Romney would step in as the challenger, the business man and the Mr Fix-It guy, almost perfect for the US economic problems, but as a candidate not as electrifying as Obama had been. Where Obama's campaign was strong on the ground, Romney had essentially unlimited money to balance that out. This was promised all Spring to be a 50/50 election that would have its twists and turns, going 49/51 and back to 51/49 every week until November. The convention and the debates should have been epic and this could have gone down in history like the Lincoln-Douglas debates nearly two centuries back.
But as I explained in my previous blog, Romney the candidate this year 2012 is a weak version of what he was in 2008. The Romney campaign has been inept and even incompetent. And Romney has squandered two of his three big chances to change the game (his VP choice and the Convention). And I don't see Romney's chances as strong to do it in the last of the three chances, the debates either.
That blog was only a week ago. And I said I felt it a tough struggle for Romney to make a fight of it. But since then, we have seen just a parade of mistakes and disasters, from the rushed and mistaken comments about the Libya killings to now the panic relaunching of the Romney strategy. Over the weekend stories emerged of big internal fights - we are still 50 days from the election, this is not the time a struggling campaign should see the rats start to jump from the ship..
The situation is getting so bad, that it looks like all the Obama campaign needs to do, is to cut advertisements using Romney's (and Ryan's) actual words, and repeating those, will only turn the electorate ever more against the Romney ticket. The reaction to the Libya/Egypt situation is typical now, as many Republicans came out saying it was a mistake. Seven weeks from the election and your own side is critical of your comments? That is bad. And what does Romney do? He does NOT apologize or correct his mistaken statements.
So it looked like the SS Romney was a sinking ship already, and nothing more clearly showed it than the utterly confused re-launch of the campaign earlier on Monday, when it was supposed to focus more on the details, but then not give any details, even of when there would be details. And massive confusion about which direction the details would be coming, is it more foreign policy, or social issues, or the economy. If the campaign is not focused, it cannot win. And most pundits keep telling the Romney campaign quite openly in public, both from the Republican side and the Democratic side, that every day that Romney spends talking about anything else than the economy, is a good day for Obama.
Ok, that is the usual bump and grind of the campaign. And every candidate has good days and bad days. It could easily just have been a bad patch, and next week it could be that Obama had a bad patch and Romney could be back about even and so forth.
Except for today, the 47 percent.
A video emerged today (17th, I am writing this on Asian time so for me its already the 18th) that is getting huge attention towards the end of the day. The video is secretly recorded from a Romney private speech to investors in May. In it he says that he doesn't really care about the 47% of America who will vote for Obama, and who are addicted to government payouts and who don't pay income taxes.
THE VIDEO OF THE 47%
Note, this is a real video, Romney admitted to it in a hastily-set-up press conference. He didn't even refute the statements and did not apologize.
So Romney is now on video saying that nearly half of Americans don't pay taxes, that those nearly half of Americans are lazy who take government handouts, and that Romney is not even interested in being the president for those 47%.
A few facts here first. Most of the 47% who don't pay federal INCOME taxes do pay other taxes such as social security taxes ie they work. Romney's leap of logic, that these 47% are somehow leeches who take government handouts to pay for their food and housing and don't pay 'ANY' taxes is totally 100% wrong and Romney is smart enough to know this is true. Yet he said it to his investors to his campaign. He is feeding the popular Republican myth that the USA is divided near evenly between those who work, and those who leech off the workers and take government handouts.
Yes, there also are people who truly get government money in that 47%. A significant part of it is RETIRED people who yes, get their social security and medicare payments - money they have already paid taxes for DECADES before. They have earned that money. Then it includes very low income families - who work - but whose family tax deductions are such, that their federal income tax burden is zero. These people work - hard - for very low income - and are families - and pay state and local taxes, and social security taxes but their federal income tax is zero. Romney accuses them of free-loading.
Then there are students who work hard to graduate and get yes, government loans etc, but will become producting members of society soon. Romney is openly hostile to their work. Then there are those who have lost jobs - in the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes - a crisis created mostly by the policies of the previous REPUBLICAN administration under Bush 2, and now these who collect unemployment insurance or food stamps etc, are also clearly at fault in Romney's vision.
So while in every society where there is a social safety net, there will be some who manage to game the system and 'take advantage of it' - that is nothing like 47% of the US population. It won't be 4.7% of the US population even. But what Romney has just now done, is insulted the elderly - the only segment he still held a demographic lead over Obama. Plus most who receive various types of welfare support in America are poor WHITE families in mostly Southern states - that vote predominantly Republican. Romney has insulted his base support.
WHY THIS IS FATAL
Every politician makes 'gaffes'. Every politician has bad days. But this is different. There has been a long nagging growing meme that Romney is an elitist, who cares about the 1% and - bizarrely - actually wants to tax the poor and the middle class. He just over the weekend said that 'middle class' income includes family incomes to 250,000 dollars - several times more than the median income and massively above what most Americans think as middle class, which would typically be thought of somewhere nearer 100,000 dollars at the ceiling. Voters have had this growing uneasy feeling about what is Romney saying, can he really be that clueless, like claiming he built his life from scratch, when in reality he had huge loans and massive stock portfolios from his rich parents. Or when Romney felt that 350,000 dollars was not much money (what he was paid in speaker fees one year) and that Romney only paid 13% in taxes one year, and the Ryan budget would cut Romney's taxes down to 1% per year.
The normal sensible American will find it hard to believe, that anyone could be that selfish and so divisive. So while Obama and the Democrats have tried for nearly a year to paint Romney and the Republicans as wanting to be 'reverse Robin Hoods' by stealing from the poor to pay the rich - most Americans find this hard to believe. Nobody could really be that dumb. Its a suicidal political position so Romney can't be seriously suggesting that, even though it often sounds like it.
Now we have Romney on video saying he thinks that half of America is a parasite, leeching off the rich 'job-creators' and the real workers (ie the Republicans) and that Romney isn't even interested in caring about that 47%. Suddenly earlier comments by Romney sound very revealing 'I don't care about the really poor' for example. Because this video was from a private closed-door meeting with contributor-partners of the Romney campaign, Romney is 'truthful' here. If this is what he told his campaign-contributor millionaire-friends, then it is what he believes.
It sounds exactly like what we normal people think rich spoiled millionaires WOULD be saying to each other about the commoners, the little people who really don't matter to them. That is you aren't a millionaire, then obviously you are a parasite to society and a failure and a victim and dependent on government handouts. Handouts that come from those wealthy 'hard workers'. Then all the Paul Ryan favorite Ayn Rand theories about rewarding success and punishing those who are weak start to make sense. The ultra-libertarian view. If you are poor, its your fault. And the successful people should not even bother to give them hand-outs, it only creates 'dependencies' so yes, suddenly after this video, it is frighteningly believable, that yes, Romney WANTS to tax the poor and middle class people more, and to cut their benefits, cut money to students, turn medicare into vouchercare etc.
I think Romney cannot recover from this. I think this is one of the most damaging statements ever in US politics (on line with VP candidate Eagleton who admitted he had been treated for mental illness). Romney cannot walk this statement back, or if he tried, he would never be believed (and he'd face an instant revolt among the Tea Party).
These statements and this video will be played back at him in advertisements and by the press and all Democrats. It will come up in the debates and Obama will press Romney on it. Romney has effectively admitted he is an elitist. He admits he wants to divide America into half, the good half and the bad half. And it become completely believable now, for voters to believe, that Romney truly intends to stick it to the poor half by increasing their taxes to give tax cuts to the (1%) richest Americans. The whole horror of the Ryan budget and Romney's 'I like to fire people' etc becomes real. These are Romney's words, spoken to a private meeting of 'his peeps' - fellow millionaires. The evil world-domination plot. How to enslave the US population. Its a poison that spreads everywhere - so now it makes sense why the Republicans want to deny the poor people the chance to vote. Now it makes sense that the Republicans want to enslave the women and bring womens' health issues back 50 years or more.
All other questionable parts of Romney (and Ryan) and their 'plan' (which fails Arithmetic as Clinton said) and even Romney's refusal to release his own taxes are only amplified in this situation. Romney's campaign admitted the video. Romney had a press conference agreeing to what he said. Even Republican party leader Reince Priebus joined in saying he agrees with this position. Romney has painted himself into a corner.
Before today the election was according to the average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics about a 3 point race, ie Obama at 49 and Romney at 46. Obama was ahead in 9 of the 10 battleground states. Now Romney becomes a laughing stock, like Sarah Palin did on Saturday Night Live. The undecideds will flock to Obama. Many who otherwise were leaning to Romney, ie Republican-leading Independents will now start to go back to 'undecided' and by election day most of those will end up voting Democratic. Some of the extreme Tea Party Republicans and Ayn Rand Libertarians will love this position but many other Republicans will be repulsed and some will stay home. The overall Republican turnout will suffer, but the Democratic turnout is only energized by the sheer hostility of the statement.
The honestly neutral and fair-minded pundits, editorialists and commenters will mercilessly abandon Romney now. If he says in public he doesn't want to be president for 100% of Americans, he does not deserve to get the endorsement. If he shows obvious stated contempt for half of Americans - he is not worthy of endorsement. If Romney attacks retired people, students, the sick, the war veterans, those who have become unemployed, and especially those who work several jobs on minimum wage and yet raise a family - then Romney cannot get honest fair-minded support. Not after today.
Of course the right wing and Fox commentators will strongly support Romney, and the whole left-wing liberal side will crucify him. (Note, Republicans are a smaller group of the voting electorate than Democrats so even this is a losing proposition). But that whole argument about who is waging class warfare - is settled now. Obama keeps saying very publically, he wants to be the president for all of the USA, even those who didn't vote for him. But Romney, is now caught on video - and he admitted to it - that he only wants to govern 53% of America and doesn't care for the other (arguably weaker) 47% which includes the retired, the students, the injured war veterans etc etc etc.
A MIRACLE MAY HAPPEN
Again, it is possible that an outside effect still changes things, like a terrorist attack, a nuclear bomb, an Eurozone disaster etc. But if no totally external factor changes this election, the hole Romney finds himself in now, is too deep for the domestic US politics to change in the next 50 days. Obama is too good a politician to make such massive blunders to let that happen. The Obama campaign is too disciplined and well-run to make such a mess. The Obama money and the Democratic party support is too well harmonized. No, the Romney ticket will now really start to rip itself apart, there will be accusations, some dramatic reorganizations or even firings. Some billionaire donators will make nasty noises etc etc etc. We saw the first statements of the concession speech of the Romney campaign today, on 17th September.
And just to be clear - I felt BEFORE this video, that the Romney campaign had become the most incompetently run campaign that I have ever seen. But yes, today I think the Romney campaign died.