US campaign diary: the real story with Romney’s video is his reaction – the Republicans have shifted to a base strategy

by Nikhil Dyundi

Wow. Just wow. No Democrat could have dared hope that Mitt Romney would have crashed his campaign so spectacularly.

It was already exhibiting disturbing warning signs.

Insiders had broken ranks and started briefing journalists on what was going wrong, pushing out blame in a vain attempt to escape the eventual wreckage with their consulting careers intact.

The polls were tilting against Romney and down ballot Republicans and the media consensus on the superiority of Obama’s campaign was hardening.

But still, there was time. Not much, but there was some space left to change the dynamic in the race. Then the video surfaced and it turns out the wall was a lot closer than anyone imagined.

The reaction in the US media has been unanimous – this is likely a campaign ending moment for Romney.

Sure, he will keep touring the country, the debates will still happen and hundreds of millions of dollars of Romney ads will be dumped on voters.

But in terms of this being a competitive race, the contest is over.

The video reinforces too many of the negatives about Romney and the Republicans at a critical juncture in the election. Even with unlimited funds, there are too few voters that can be persuaded in the little time remaining to switch from undecided to Romney.

The campaign strategy Romney sets out in the video – appealing exclusively to the undecided 10% who voted for Obama last time  but now aren’t sure – seems to be no longer viable.

That’s what the media think, along with the vast majority of political consultants. Some Republican talking heads have kept the faith on air and a few might even believe it.

You would expect the majority of this latter group to be closely involved with the campaign. One of the golden rules of politics is that you’ve got to believe there’s a shot at victory. No matter how narrow the path, its existence is what keeps politicians and campaigners going.

But here’s the kicker: judging by their reaction to the video, the Romney campaign is in full agreement that their strategy is a bust.

We know this because when Mitt Romney got up in front of the media at his scrambled press conference in California he didn’t do what Mitt Romney normally does. He didn’t obfuscate in too excruciating a manner, parse more than normal or even use the magic words, “I misspoke”.

Instead , he basically stood by his remarks.

The press conference has been written up as yet another gaffe in a catastrophic twenty-four hours. But this is unfair. The word gaffe implies an unintended mistake. Everything Romney said at his presser he meant.

It was the surest sign that they have fundamentally junked their old strategy with just weeks to go before the election.

In standing by the video, Romney is writing off the undecided centrist swing-voters who will likely be repelled by his words. And he certainly won’t be reaching out to convert any confirmed Obama voters.

No, the sole audience for the Romney campaign is now the Republican base.

Most GOP activists will whole heartedly agree with the sentiments Romney expressed in the video. They will feel validated by what their candidate has said and energised by his decision to stand firm.

It will be a sign of the righteous backbone that they yearned for from their candidate. For Romney’s campaign, this race is now all about turning out the base to vote.

There have been several articles in recent days comparing the current contest to Bush-Kerry in 2004, only with the Democrat and Republican roles reversed.

One candidate is busy visiting bars and pizza joints, hanging out with middle America, while his wealthy, awkward patrician opponent struggles to connect with real people.

The new Romney strategy also harks back to 2004, but to another characteristic of that race.

One where an unpopular Republican candidate, disliked by the media and consistently behind in the surveys proved the pundits, many in his own party and even the exit polls wrong by winning. His route to victory ran through the heart of the Republican base.

One of the Republican right’s favourite facts is that there are 60 million evangelical Christians in the US but only about half vote.  Turning out the non-voting Christian coalition is now Mitt Romney’s primary goal.

It is clearly a desperate move – he wouldn’t have opted for a centrist strategy at the start if simply appealing to the base was a likely path to the presidency –but this is clearly the only option Romney’s team think they have.

It means the race will become even more polarised.

The negative ads and scare stories about Obama will be amped up and who knows, they might even be craven enough to inject some race into the fight. Anything that motivates their base.

The Democrat hierarchy are currently laughing at Romney. The whole political world is permitting itself a chuckle at his ineptitude. But if his campaign is truly serious about appealing to the Republican base, then no one will be smiling for much longer: things are about to get very, very ugly.

Nikhil Dyundi is a registered Democrat and a political consultant

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2 Responses to “US campaign diary: the real story with Romney’s video is his reaction – the Republicans have shifted to a base strategy”

  1. Robert says:

    It is not often that I agree with every word of an article on Labour Uncut.

  2. Rational Plan says:

    Isn’t the problem Romney has is that he is a Mormon? The Christian right don’t consider him a Christian.

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