So psyched is Team Newt about this spot that they started pushing it to the media this morning before the vid was even done, sending around the script instead. It’s good, but the image of Romney as a ruthless, slippery politician who’ll say whatever he has to in order to win is, I fear, already priced into his stock. In fact, just as this ad hit YouTube, BuzzFeed came up with yet another example:
The campaign makes a practice of whitewashing transcripts and stories before circulating to the press, a practice that has become familiar to reporters covering the candidate.
For example, last Monday, during a press call with Tim Pawlenty, a Miami Herald reporter asked the campaign surrogate about Romney’s investments in Freddie Mac…
Pawlenty punted on the question–saying that he’d “have to ask the campaign to follow up with you.” But when the Romney press shop e-mailed out a transcript of the call later that day, the exchange was nowhere to be found…
The cherry-picking extends to the news and opinion articles the campaign forwards to reporters as well.
Remember, this is a guy whose very first attack ad against Obama late last year was built around a ridiculously out-of-context quote. If you nominate Romney, that’s what you’re getting. The thing is, conservatives want him to be this way in the general against O, right? One of the sorest spots on the right about the 2008 campaign was the sense that McCain didn’t hit Obama as hard as he could; that fear persists with Mitt because he dutifully concedes The One’s good intentions whenever he’s asked, which irritates the hell out of the “Obama is evil” crowd but is defensible strategy in appealing to undecideds who don’t hate Obama the way many grassroots righties do. Maybe we shouldn’t fear that Romney will go easy on O, though. Like Obama himself, Mitt tends to play the nice guy on the stump while letting his ad team and other surrogates be as cutthroat as they need to be with his opponents. He does what he thinks he needs to do to win, which is alienating if you’re a Newt fan but maybe not so alienating if you’re a Republican who’s most interested in ousting O. All of which is to say, while this spot does a nifty job of making Romney less likable, I’m not sure that the big conclusion on electability is true.
Besides, how receptive are voters really to attacks on a politician’s honesty? It’s like attacking a pol for influence peddling: In exceptional cases it might matter (the Freddie Mac fingerpointing between Mitt and Newt is exceptional because of Freddie’s role in the housing crisis and wider recession), but to some degree voters cynically expect that behavior. Exit question: How much of an effect can any one ad have at this point when Romney’s outspending Newt by this much?