Mitt Romney’s divisive remarks about America’s 47 percent continues to cast a long shadow over the Republican Party – and 2016 presidential hopefuls are trying to outrun it. Two frontrunners for the GOP nomination are raising an issue that has long been the preserve of the Democrats: the poor and how best to help them.
A year after Romney failed to unseat President Obama, ambitious Republicans seeking to make themselves into national figures and redefine their party are distancing themselves from the former Massachusetts governor and his inability to come across as a guy who cares about the down and out.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell says the 47 percent line has become a buzzword, reminding voters that Republicans hate poor people. “That is something that is strapped, right or wrong, to the Republican brand,” he said. “If [Republicans] want to win the White House or to get into a position of power again, they’re going to have to break that label.”
The current fight over the budget and Farm Bill, both currently being negotiated between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, highlights the GOP’s problem. If no budget agreement is reached because Republicans, led by Ryan, refuse to accept any tax increases, Democrats will be able to attack them for refusing to ease painful spending cuts by closing tax loopholes for the rich.
Same goes for the Farm Bill, where Republicans want to cut the food stamps program, which helps feed one in seven Americans, by nearly $40 billion.
“It doesn’t look good,” O’Connell said, conceding that the public perception of the battle over food stamps is not helping Republicans shake their bash-the-poor reputation. “Republicans need to take a look at their policies,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, the optics of ‘Do you care about me?’ is what’s killing them.”
To paraphrase Homer Simpson, Lauren Howie was the cause of and possibly solution to Republicans' struggle to build a coalition of voters that can again win the White House.
Howie, a 27-year-old African-American from Cleveland, was not thrilled with President Obama's performance in his first term, according to an analysis of the election released this week by the Associated Press. She thought he hadn't delivered on promises to reduce college debt, promote women's rights and address climate change.
And she wouldn't have voted for him except for one thing: She thought even less of his opponent, Mitt Romney. "I got the feeling Mitt Romney couldn't care less about me and my fellow African-Americans," said Howie, an administrative assistant at Case Western Reserve University's medical school who is paying off college debt.
Among all voters 30 and older, Obama ran behind Mitt Romney (48% for Obama, 50% for Romney). Four years ago, Obama edged John McCain, 50% to 49%, among all 30+ voters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) infuriated Republicans during the campaign with his harsh partisan attacks and now faces the delicate task of mending his relationship with the GOP.
Some Republicans say Reid poisoned his relationship with their party by waging controversial attacks against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. They were most angered by Reid’s charge that Romney had not paid taxes in ten years, attributing the information to an anonymous source.
Reid said Romney, a fellow Mormon, “sullied” their shared faith after the GOP nominee told a group of donors that 47 percent of Americans suffered from a sense of victimhood and mooched off the government. Reid declared in the closing days of the campaign that Senate Democrats would not work with Romney to pass his “severely conservative” agenda.
One GOP strategist said the pressure to get a deficit-reduction deal is too high to let bitter feelings left over from the campaign get in the way. Memories of Reid’s harsh attacks could complicate progress on other issues.
“When there’s less pressure to get a deal done, some of the stuff he pulled on the campaign trail against Romney could come back to haunt him,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Somewhere down the line Republicans may pick a time to get even with Harry Reid because he went off the reservation on some of that stuff. In politics, what goes around comes around.”
Just about everybody agrees Washington is a gridlocked mess. But who’s the man to fix it? After two years of brawling and brinkmanship between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, more voters trust Mitt Romney to break the stalemate, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.
Romney’s message — a vote for Obama is a vote for more gridlock — seems to be getting through. Almost half of likely voters, 47 percent, think the Republican challenger would be better at ending the logjam, compared with 37 percent for Obama.
With the race charging into its final week, Romney is pushing that idea. He increasingly portrays himself as a get-things-done, work-with-everybody pragmatist, in hopes of convincing independent voters that he can overcome Washington’s bitter partisanship. The AP-GfK poll shows the race in a virtual dead heat, with Romney at 47 percent to Obama’s 45 percent, a difference within the margin of sampling error.
From Pew Research Center:
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 24-28 among 1,678 registered voters, including 1,495 likely voters, finds that about a third of all voters (32%) say they have been contacted by the Obama campaign (11%) or both campaigns (21%), while about as many (31%) say they have been contacted by the Romney campaign (10%) or both (21%). The survey was conducted before Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S.
Similarly, among voters in the nine battleground states, nearly identical percentages say they have been contacted by both campaigns (51% by Obama or both, 52% by Romney or both.)
While they differ with former Massachusetts governor Romney on many policies and suspect his conservative credentials, they are working independently to help him win over undecided voters in swing states such as Ohio.
Fiercely opposed to the reelection of Democratic President Barack Obama, conservatives are trying to employ technology they used successfully earlier this year in a recall vote in Wisconsin to help Romney overcome Obama's narrow Ohio lead in the polls.
"I'm not doing this for Romney or the Republicans," said Chris Littleton, who is training some 50 volunteers to use the app. "I'm doing this because I'm against Obama."
Independent groups wandering around battleground states pose some risks for the Romney campaign. In the age of YouTube and Twitter, some officials worry that a canvasser could be caught on tape saying something too extreme for mainstream voters.
But asked about the Tea Party efforts, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: "Voters across the political spectrum are supporting Mitt Romney because they understand he is a leader who can deliver real change and a real recovery."
"The Romney campaign shouldn't really worry about why folks are out there trying to fire the other guy," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "His campaign should be happy to have all the help it can get."
It was all going so perfectly for President Barack Obama.
He had painted his opponent, former Gov. Mitt Romney, as an out-of-touch rich guy with elevators for his wife's multiple Cadillacs and bank accounts throughout the Caribbean. Romney had no plan—or at least none he was willing to discuss with voters. He was bellicose and callow on foreign policy. And The Groups—women, Hispanics, African-Americans, union members, public employees— were lined up so solidly behind the president he absolutely could not lose.
And then, on October 3 at about 9:04 p.m., Romney took to the stage in Denver and reset the campaign. He was not out of touch at all. He made sense. He had solid ideas, a sense of hope. He connected. He laughed. He seemed confident. The president looked down at his notes. He came across as not wanting to be there. He offered little reason to give him another term.
Mr. Gaffe went from stepping on rakes to stepping up his attacks, and America seemed to fall in line. Now, we're seeing the end games, and they look quite different from what President Obama expected a month ago.
It's so different he felt compelled to put out his own plan—a 20-page coloring book full of warmed-over proposals and ideas with no chance of passage. Who does this? Who interjects this into the conversation now, in the closing days of a campaign when it can't possibly be received positively by any but the most hard-core supporters? Not a confident candidate; that much is certain.
It all turned the night of the debate. But as Fox News' Chris Stirewalt notes, it took more than that phenomenal debate performance in Denver to bring the race to even. In fact, it took a flawed campaign strategy on the part of Team Obama. The Chicago strategy—bury the opponent in negative ads and character assassination, then come on all nice at the end—was found wanting.
If Romney ultimately becomes the 45th president of the United States, the political set will be talking about Obama's flawed campaign strategy for decades. He had a disastrous Plan A—and no Plan B.
Mitt Romney and President Obama will re-emerge on the presidential trail on Wednesday, but in starkly different ways.
Romney will hold a trio of events in the swing state of Florida with prominent Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Obama will also appear with a prominent Republican: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will be giving the president a tour of the damage in his state in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The divergent paths underscore the challenge both campaigns have faced in recent days, trying to best balance the demands of a presidential race and the need to project the appropriate sensitivity as the Eastern Seaboard grapples with the aftermath of the catastrophic storm.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, meanwhile, said that “as long as Obama looks like he’s at the head of the government, he’s getting some political points, too. There’s some advantage to looking as though you’re in charge.”
“The biggest risk is looking too political, but at the same time we’re six days out and the show must go on,” said O’Connell.
A tense and unpredictable race for the White House became even more so on Monday, as mammoth storm Sandy created delicate political challenges for President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney and raised the possibility of a chaotic voting process.
As the deadly storm barreled ashore on the paralyzed East Coast, the presidential campaign went into what amounted to a deep freeze just when Obama and Romney had planned to launch their final push for votes in the November 6 election.
It also forces the Republican challenger to walk a fine line when considering whether to launch political attacks against Obama as the president deals with a crisis.
And if the government's response to the storm is broadly deemed a success, it could be a stark reminder that Romney has advocated dramatically cutting back funding for federal relief agencies, saying that such duties should be shifted to the states or perhaps the private sector.
"This throws a monkey wrench into the campaign for both sides," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "Nobody wants to look political in the middle of a crisis."