By Teresa Welsh |
Don't injure yourself with the high-fives and chest-bumps, Democrats. The election did not end when Mother Jones magazine released tapes of Mitt Romney's speech this summer at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla.
It may have fired up the Democratic base, as Obama partisans claim. But it also fired up conservatives, who wish Romney would be this direct more often. The fact is, in the end, it's unlikely Romney's remarks changed a lot of votes.
First, the remarks were accurate to within a percentage point. Second, they captured conservative thinking—that continuous expansion of the entitlement state has created a substantial bloc of voters who don't care about tax cuts and have grown too dependent on government to vote to limit its scope. Third, unlike President Barack Obama's remarks at a fundraiser in 2008 that Americans in places such as Pennsylvania cling to guns, God, and patriotism, Romney's remarks disparaged no one. They merely provided fair and accurate election analysis.
The second installment may actually help the Romney campaign. Evangelical Christians still don't fully trust Romney, and an honest characterization of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians—as opposed to the usual promises of a two-state solution and active American involvement in brokering a peace deal—might close that deal. It shows he already understands what has taken President Obama most of his term to learn—the conflict is resistant to American-imposed solutions, and progress seems to occur only when the United States stands strongly beside Israel.
From the campaign mechanics standpoint, candidates should remember:
•Any comments made to an audience larger than your spouse are subject to this treatment.
•That it's important—as Romney did—to ensure your response occurs within the same news cycle as the release of the tapes.
•That this is no closer to being the knockout blow for Romney than his comments on security at the Olympics, his refusal to release tax forms (Remember that? No? Few do.), or Seamus's ride on the roof of the station wagon 25 years ago.
•And that, although the timing could've been better—this hit as the Romney campaign had begun a push to change the narrative—it's duration as a story will be short and its effect on the results in November minimal.
What also must be remembered is the Obama campaign will realize soon enough this was not a knockout blow and will start looking for the next punch to throw.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Zerlina Maxwell Democratic Strategist and Writer
Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group