Periodically, I look back on what I’ve posted in this blog. What holds up well? What seems off the mark? On Aug. 9, I had a hunch that the Romney campaign was about to soften on healthcare and talk up Romneycare in pursuit of single women. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Romney campaign was gearing up for wily Mediscare offensive, with Rep. Paul Ryan at his side.
We’ll never know until after this thing is over whether Team Romney had this gambit in the back of its mind all along, or if it was necessitated in part by the choice of Ryan. The $716 billion “raid on Medicare” attack could theoretically have worked with any running mate, but it’s reasonable to assume that, knowing Medicare premium support was about to become a hot-button issue with Ryan on the ticket, Romney’s strategists would prefer to get in front of it if they could.
At its outset, it seemed like a smart play. Briefly, at least, it knocked the Obama team off balance. What’s more, the Romney-Ryan ticket sought to cover itself in the glow of the political high ground. It ran what seemed like an effective ad accusing Obama of disgracing the office of the presidency with over-the-top attacks.
Then the GOP convention in Tampa came and went — without much of a bounce for Romney. And then the Democrats’ convention in Charlotte, with its dynamite speech from former President Clinton, came and went — resulting in a modest but real bounce for the president. In the meantime, Medicare fell off the radar. Paul Ryan receded to the background. And Romney’s initial hope of winning an up-or-down referendum on the economy had to be jettisoned. So he panicked with a tawdry attempt to tie the attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya and Egypt to Obama’s supposed sympathy for the attackers.
So commenced a terrible stretch for Romney that culminated with the infamous “47 Percent” video. In its immediate aftermath, it seemed like Romney was going to own the remarks as forcefully (if artfully) as he could, spinning them into a broader commentary on dependency and redistribution.
That’s out the window, too.
The Romney campaign this week released an ad that sees Romney speaking directly to the camera about his concern for the poor and middle class:
And, coming full circle from where I began in early August, Romney is talking warmly of Romneycare again. He told NBC News: “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”
I will admit that I’m pretty bad at predicting the future.
But my shortcomings as a political soothsayer owe a great deal to the fact that the Romney campaign can’t seem to stay on the same gameplan for more than five minutes. As Garance Franke-Ruta writes, it is strangely incapable of achieving even the most basic of human connections.
What is this campaign about?