By the looks of it, Newt Gingrich may start an Occupy group if he loses the New Hampshire primary today. He’s just that concerned about the power of the 1%. And, by the 1%, I mean Mitt Romney.
Back in October, I suggested that the most compelling electoral strategy to defeat Romney was to make the election about Wall Street, with Romney as its plunderer-in-chief.
“The only viable option is to turn the very name ‘Romney’ into a synonym for corporate malfeasance, for greed, for crony capitalism…’to Romney’ a company will come to mean ‘to pounce upon a weakened and struggling family company, rip into its jugular, tear out its guts, disperse its employees like bits of fatty flesh, and leave nothing behind but a looted husk,’ preferably on a Superfund site.
I don’t pretend to know whether the work that Romney did at Bain Capital was more Captain America or Captain Kidd. But, in politics, that is largely beside the point. The point is ‘what can sell.’”
Well, it seems that that rhetorical strategy has $5 million bucks behind it, pledged by a casino magnate to Gingrich’s Winning our Future PAC.
(By the way, be careful not to confuse Winning Our Future PAC with Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future PAC, Rick Perry’s Make Us Great Again PAC, Jon Huntsman’s Our Destiny PAC, or Ron Paul’s The World Will End in 2012 PAC.).
In fact, I must say that the early hit jobs look quite a bit like I’d predicted:
“My prediction: the ads will feature out-of-work white males, formerly proud workers in manufacturing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. They will talk about their dignity being crushed by soulless corporate raiders. There will be footage of elderly people – probably veterans – forced to work at Walmart through their erstwhile retirements. There will be shuttered factories. There will be tears. And all of it will be very, very well-funded, much by outside groups not officially connected to the President. (Thanks, Citizens United.)”
Here’s what it looks like:
And it’s not just Gingrich. Yesterday, Hunstman said: “What’s clear is [Romney] likes firing people, I like creating jobs.” And, in response to Romney’s story of his supposed anxiety about getting “a pink slip” as a young consultant, Rick Perry said: “Now, I have no doubt Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company, Bain Capital, of all the jobs that they killed. I’m sure he was worried that he would run out of pink slips.”
What might it mean that this rhetoric is emanating most forcefully right now, not from Democrats, but from the forces backing Newt Gingrich?
(1) Gingrich is as volatile, desperate, or dangerous to his own party as he seemed. The language that he and his allies are hurling is incendiary and damaging to GOP morale: according to the Times, Rush Limbaugh called Gingrich’s comments “out of bounds” and Club for Growth Chairman Chris Chocola said they were “disgusting.” This is the kind of stuff that “sticks” through a primary into a general. The fact that they would employ it against the candidate who is at least 80% likely to be their party’s nominee suggests a level of hubris and self-love that verges on recklessness.
(2) This Romney-as-corporate-raider meme has legs. Gingrich may be volatile, but he’s no political novice. If his people (and, now, his fellow anti-Romneys) are running populist messages, then they surely have some data (polling or otherwise) to suggest that they are effective. And if these messages resonate with at least part of the Republican primary electorate, you can bet that they will be powerful with a less conservative general electorate. In fact, anti-Wall Street populist sentiment could even fracture the traditional Republican alliance between big business and blue collar white conservatives in the general election. This is especially significant for key battleground industrial states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
(3) Anyone who continues to believe that Occupy Wall Street was ineffective is clearly not paying attention. It is impossible to imagine this sort of rhetoric being applied by a serious candidate in another GOP primary season in recent memory.
Despite his efforts to seem like an average Joe, there are plenty of reasons to think that GOP Nominee Romney may continue to fuel a growing image in the public mind that he is elite, out of touch, and indirectly responsible for their economic woes. Ironically, if the Obama team takes its cue from the GOP field, it will have plenty of chances to define Willard Mitt Romney on the terms of its choosing.
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