Framing Romney: Flip Flopper or Gutless Wonder

by brian boru

Last week, the president’s piss poor debate performance went a long way toward losing him the election.  He did more to depress his base, energize conservatives and turn off ‘undecideds’ than the eminently malodorous Romney campaign had done in six bumbling months.   

Last night, an impassioned Joe Biden did his populist best to stanch the political bleeding.  By most accounts the VP dominated Ryan and teed the ball up nicely for next week’s second presidential debate. One expects Obama will have recovered from his bout with cognitive diffidence by that time.

But there’s more the president can do than ditch the disinterested professor routine and find his mojo. There is a better message out there!  

Plouffe and Axelrod, the two messaging geniuses who gave us the ‘Obamacare’ debacle and the 2010 congressional drubbing are at it again.  Bungling!

Indecisive pacifists, they have the Obama campaign alternately labeling Romney a conservative or a flip-flopper – and by labeling we mean gently tsk tsking.  We wouldn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.  

Is Romney a conservative?  Sure, sometimes severely.  How about a flip-flopper?  Of course he is. However, those messages, in the way they are being delivered, are not moving the needle.

A lot of ‘undecideds’ really aren’t that bright and they need a little more than the Axelrod-Plouffe treatment to set them straight.  They need some meat on the bone.  As tough as it might be for the veggie eaters on the Obama team, they’d better start serving some sirloin with that arugula.

As the pundit preachers pontificate endlessly, the ‘undecideds’ (UDs) are the key to this thing.  They’re that group that doesn’t pay too much attention to anything and don’t get too hung up on policy.  Booooooriiiiing.  

How to get through to these types?  You’ve got to sell them on what’s behind all of Mitt’s flip-flopping – therein lies the meat. It’s what’s inside Mitt – or more precisely, what isn’t inside him that’s the key.  You’ve got to get to the guts of this thing.  That’s what the UD will respond to.

To be fair, there are different kinds of UD. The ones we’re talking about just happen to be the dumb ass kind.

They’ve always got an excuse not to pay attention to politics. There’s who’s banging the leggy blonde at the office.  Who’s wreckin’ at Talladega.  There’s LSU football and Alabama too.  Roll Tide!

If you care enough to confront their lack of care for who governs this country, prepare for the ultimate unctuous evasion – “they’re all the same anyway”. 

With that little beauty, our dumb ass UDs believe they are covering their dumbassness by evincing a certain urbane cynicism. That’s the kind of dismissiveness that comes with being as worldly as they are.

They’re all the same – just like Al Gore and George W Bush? All those UD’s who voted for Bush – at least once – raise your hands!  

Well, at least ‘W’ was a compassionate conservative.   Yup, dropped his compassion all over the world from New Orleans to Baghdad.  

But, we digress.

The UDs are only 5% of the electorate, but it seems you bump into them just about everywhere these days – Target, Appleby’s, Mall of America – all the temples of the petit bourgeoisie. And in these temples you’ll catch the whispers, “Mitt’s really not all that bad. Barack’s more of a socialist than I thought.”

Does it mean anything to them that Mitt has flip-flopped on reproductive rights, global climate change, a federal health care mandate or Cap and Trade? Does it mean anything that he won’t release tax returns that will show he paid less in federal taxes than they did?  Does it mean anything to them that he has had 4 and 5 different positions on Libya and Afghanistan?  

Does it mean anything that Barack is more conservative than Ike?

Well, it sure doesn’t seem to.

Romney’s not a flip-flopper.  No, his positions have evolved – and will sure as hell continue to evolve in the future. Not that he necessarily believes in evolution, mind you.

What matters to UDs is perceived strength. The image of toughness. Some politician’s policy positions – or multiple positions on a single policy – don’t mean jack.

Willard put on a great tough guy act in Denver last week – and the polls shifted. But, as our charmingly folksy VP might say, that act was a healthy load of malarkey.  You see, Willard’s not really a tough guy.  Far, far from it.

Note to Mitt and the UDs flopping in his direction:

When you run away from every policy position you’ve ever taken, you’re a coward. When you say one thing in front of a room of polluters and another thing in a room of consumers, you’re a coward. When you say one thing in front of a group of men and another thing in front of a room of women, you’re a coward. When you tell workers you’re going to save their company and then ship their jobs overseas, you’re a coward.  When you won’t release your tax returns, you’re a coward.  When you won’t release your tax plan, you’re a coward.  When all you do is talk tough, you are, most certainly, a coward.

The president and his team must portray Romney as the gutless wonder he is.  Willard is the sissy who won’t stand for his principles under fire, never mind shoot straight. He bunny hops from foxhole to foxhole on the way to the rear of the line at the first sign of trouble.  If there is anything an American responds to it’s the war metaphor.  That’s meat on the political bone!

Hell, skip the metaphor.  Mitt the Gutless was luxuriating in a French castle while his contemporaries were spilling their guts in the jungles of Vietnam.  Just another yellow-bellied chicken hawk happy to send other people to war.

But, progressives don’t like talk about their opponents that way. Too mean.  We believe in effete little aphorisms like, “good policy makes good politics.” Oh, how wonderfully, hopelessly, maddeningly naïve (thank you Axelrod and Plouffe).  

You don’t get to good policy if you’re not good at the politics!  Good politics is blasting your opponent when he deserves a good blasting.

Time for the Democrats to go for the gut!  Mitt’s gut.  

When the not too informed ‘undecided’ pulls the lever in November, he’s going to be thinking of one thing – who he wants in that foxhole we call the Oval Office for the next four years.  

It sure as hell won’t be a gutless wonder.




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