In the past few months, Democrats have been attacking Romney and the Republicans on a number of major issues: women’s rights, immigration, voting rights, workers’ rights, marriage equality and Romney’s job-killing policies at Bain Capital. Internally, Republicans have been concerned over support from evangelicals given Romney’s Mormon religion.
The Republican convention attempted to find the right balance of attacking president Obama while still managing to address all of these open questions for independents and unsure Republicans.
We asked the question earlier this week: will Romney rebrand himself or let the party’s far right do it for him?
The short answer, after watching the entire Republican Convention, is: neither.
While the GOP let all of the extremists in their party write their platform, people like Focus On The Family’s Tony Perkins and Ohio’s own Ken Blackwell of voter-suppression fame, none of these individuals were invited for prime time speaking spots during the convention. It seems Romney didn’t want these extremists stirring up the critics with their heated and divisive rhetoric. Instead, he opted for veiled references to “life” and “marriage” and “voter fraud” without providing the type of specifics which were included in the very extreme platform.
And make no mistake: this platform WAS extreme. Planks included, for example, opposition to any exception for abortion even in the case of incest or rape. They also oppose any limitation on the size of magazines that can be purchased for assault rifles, like the 100 round clips used by the shooter at the Colorado movie theater. Other planks support voter suppression techniques like voter ID laws. Still others support making English the national language and turning Medicare into a voucher program.
Very little of this was mentioned during the convention. Fair enough.
When appealing to a large audience of independents, which Romney absolutely must do to win this election, it’s best to avoid putting crazy people on stage. And while this choice was probably a good idea, it fails to accurately reflect the platform and beliefs of the people at the convention. And it certainly didn’t help to redefine Romney as a wishy-washy Massachusetts Republican (read:RINO).
But it wasn’t just the exclusions from the convention that were noteworthy. The topics and people included in the prime-time slots were all well-chosen to counter the anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-worker claims being made by Democrats and the unfamiliar-religion uneasiness of the evangelicals on the Republican side.
To quell concerns from his own party, Romney invited members and leaders from his own congregation back in the Boston-area Church of the Latter Day Saints, which Romney led as a Bishop for many years. The stories were moving and personal and may certainly have helped non-Mormons become more comfortable with Romney’s religion. But it didn’t win over any new voters. This was just Romney playing defense, trying to win back the uneasy evangelicals in his own party. That’s not how you win election this late in the game.
The other defensive maneuvers deployed during the convention were aimed at “debunking” some of the claims of Democrats. We’ll have to wait for the next round of polls to find out if the RNC’s choice to trot out tons of Hispanic, female and African American Romney supporters actually changed anyone’s mind, but I’m going to predict it didn’t. At least not enough to matter.
The success of one Hispanic former employee of a company Romney bought is not going to change the minds of workers or Hispanics who already have a negative opinion of Mr. Romney.
This was just another example of Republicans attempting to defend against attacks from Democrats instead of focusing their energies on redefining and showcasing their candidate.
After four days, we learned very little about Mitt that we didn’t already know. And no one was really
convinced fooled into believing that Republicans care more about women, Hispanics, same-sex couples, workers or disenfranchised African American voters than they did the last time they saw Democrats attacking the GOP on that topic.
Honestly, the convention was fine. It was ok. It was probably the best they could do with the candidate they had and the situation they were given.
But it certainly wasn’t enough.