Random thoughts that don’t necessarily hang together to make a coherent essay —
Yesterday I read a number of analyses of Mitt’s Gaffapalooza Tour that decided it would have no impact on the fall election. Most voters, especially “independent” ones, care more about domestic issues and aren’t interested in the Middle East or what gets printed about the candidates in the British tabloids, they said.
While there’s some truth to that, it’s not all-the-way true. First, I question how much issues, foreign or domestic, really factor into voters’ decisions on presidential candidates. Those of us who are politics junkies care passionately about where the candidates stand on this or that issue, but we’re a minority. I think at least a large chunk of voters, especially “independent” ones, vote with their guts and not their heads. They vote for the guy who feels right to them. In the event neither candidate really feels right, they vote against the guy who frightens or angers them more.
IMO in an incumbent, cluelessness is a bigger sin than incompetence. An incumbent whose performance hasn’t been all that great, but who seems to understand how the electorate is seeing things, and who can persuade voters that he “gets it,” whatever it is, probably will be re-elected. IMO Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush failed to win re-election mostly because the electorate got frustrated with them for not “getting it.” On the other hand, George W. Bush could screw the pooch up one way and down the other and still make a lot of Americans feel he was their guy, like it or not.
IMO Romney can’t sing that song. No way, no how. I don’t care how white he is. Except to the ideologically blinkered, Romney is just too much of a space alien, even to white people. Of course, there are plenty of those who would vote for a white space alien over a black human.
Yesterday there was some muttering that Mitt’s foreign tour probably helped him more than hurt him with the Republican base. That’s no doubt true, although it hardly matters. I read another analysis, somewhere, that said Mitt has a floor of between 40 to 45 percent of voters who will vote for him no matter what. I suspect that’s true. About the only way he could attract fewer than 40 percent of the vote is if someone video-recorded him eating a baby. Maybe not even then. Because to between 40 to 45 percent of voters having a Kenyan Muslim foreign usurper communist n***** in the White House just feels all wrong, and any other (white/right-wing) candidate will get their vote. Baby eater or not.
So, anything that ingratiates him even more with that 40 to 45 percent doesn’t concern me, because it’s not going to get him more votes than he will get anyway. Well, unless baggers and wingnuts get a pass to vote twice.
Nate’s got Mittens at 48 percent right now, and he may hang on to that. But that’s unlikely to win the election, especially since Mittens is losing in many of the “big” electoral college states, like New York and California.
And I sincerely believe that once we get past the conventions and more people begin to pay attention to the campaign, Mitt’s social awkwardness and general cluelessness will be more evident to more people. Right now I suspect that at least a small sliver of that 48 percent only knows what Mittens looks like and that he was a businessman who made a lot of money, and that might appeal to them, but they’re not going to stick with Romney when they get a closer look at him.
The gaffes of Mitt’s foreign trip may not register with tuned-out voters consciously, but I do think a steady drip, drip, drip of bad press about a candidate does sink in to the American collective subconscious and impacts how voters feel. That’s what killed Al Gore in 2000, IMO, and allowed the vote to be close enough so that Bush could steal it in Florida. Regular Fox News/Rush Limbaugh news consumers are inoculated, but there aren’t enough of them to give Mittens a win by themselves.
Also, I think if Mittens’s foreign tour had gotten him some good press, or even better, cheering crowds such as Obama got in 2008, that would have given Mitt a big boost, and swing voters possibly would feel more comfortable with him. That would have been significant. However, he didn’t get that.
So, while the foreign trip may or may not have a direct impact on the election that will show up clearly in polls, I think indirectly it was huge.