Forgetting Romnesia?

Mr. Romney’s Ready For His Close Up, Mr. Spielberg

Here’s something interesting out at the Economist about how the republicans are scapegoating Mitt Romney after his defeat.

Yet fair or unfair, the trashing of Mr Romney should be welcomed, because it shows signs of reflection among those now vying to lead the party. Mr Romney faces two main charges. First, he allowed the Republicans to be seen as a party of the rich. Second, he seemed to scorn social mobility. Exhibit A for both charges is the moment when Mr Romney was secretly filmed at a dinner with donors asserting that 47% of Americans are Democratic voters “no matter what” because they are dependent on government largesse, pay no federal income tax and are thus deaf to arguments about low taxes or personal responsibility.

In recent days, a string of grandees have singled out those comments for attack. Mitch Daniels, the outgoing governor of Indiana, calls the 47% incident a “self-inflicted fatal blow”, compounded shortly after the election when Mr Romney blamed defeat on voters greedy for government “gifts”. Ted Cruz, a senator-elect from Texas, claims (rather implausibly) that the 47% comments—rather than Republican hostility to immigration—explain Mr Romney’s dire showing among Latinos. Mr Romney’s running-mate, Paul Ryan, has let it be known that he “seethed” about his boss’s blunder.

The 47% incident pretty much sums up Romney campaign at this point in history, now that it’s all said and done. It was a colossal ‘blunder’ – or moment of frankness – because the Democrats were working pretty hard to paint Romney as a plutocrat, and he essentially served up his own credo to be put in stocks and be pelted.

This all got me to be thinking about the Obama Campaign’s campaign director Jim Messina and how he drew from a wide range of sources for his plan. The most inttersting bit in is that he consulted none other than Steven Spielberg:

Messina spent time with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who briefed him on what messages got the attention of audience, and reportedly had input into a advertisement against Mitt Romney that highlighted his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm that he co-founded.

“Romney had run on this business record of, ‘I’m a manager, I know how to turn things around’. And the Obama strategy over the summer was to turn that positive into a negative by running these ads in states like Ohio, talking about Romney’s record at Bain Capital – outsourcing, jobs, laying off workers,” Mr Freedman said.

While the negative ad was slammed and described as many commentators as unsuccessful, Mr Freedman said the campaign against the Republican challenger, who was at that time still pre-occupied with the primary, ultimately appeared to be effective in the swing states.

Obviously that bit stuck in my mind for months because it shows that in going for the jugular, they picked the mind of the man who was most attuned to putting an emotive message across, and the advice was decisive. When you consider the Republicans got Clint Eastwood to turn up at their convention to talk to a chair, you get the feeling that the Republicans were more than a little behind in how messages are put out to the public. The Democrats were making ads with Spielberg’s input to get the nuance exactly right while the Republicans were essentially waving symbols around – “Look, we got Clint Eastwood who used to be Dirty Harry!”. The level of abstraction and sophistication is so low it beggars belief.

It was certainly an interesting moment in history because the Democratic machine was coming at them with what can only be described as ‘applied Marshall McLuhan Communication Theory’ and the Republicans were essentially doing things that weren’t far removed from semaphore and cave paintings. Even if you don’t take into account the demographic shift going against the white establishment, you seriously wonder if the Republicans are going to be able to get their heads around this problem, because it’s not just who you talk to, but it’s how you talk to them and what you tell them in order to persuade them.

They can scapegoat Mitt Romney all they like, but it seems to me they had much deeper problems than Mitt Romney being a gaff-prone plutocrat.


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