Saturday, August 25, 2012

Romney has problems

Mitt Romney has a lot of problems. For some reason, he refuses to be open and transparent about his finances, and the issue just won’t go away. He can’t quite connect with the base of the Republican Party, many of whom openly oppose him, so he appoints an extremist as his running mate, and now finds he has to deal with all that additional baggage. It’s all his own fault.

Mitt Romney is clearly desperately trying to hide something by not releasing his income tax returns, though we don’t know what, precisely. He may not have done anything illegal, though we can’t know that for certain, but whatever he’s hiding, chances are the American public wouldn’t approve.

So, Romney’s new distraction is saying that his religion is the reason he can’t release his tax returns. He said:
"Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given," Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. "This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church."
So, Romney’s basically trying to say that being open and honest and releasing his tax returns would be against his religion. He’s trying out the “religious liberty” excuse that Republicans trot out whenever they want to shut down debate and end criticism. But Mitt isn’t a fundamentalist protestant, so it doesn’t really fit him, and it seems out of place. And, it also reminds the Republican base that he’s a Mormon, which is one of the main reasons they don’t like him.

Then today he tried again to connect with the Republican base. Campaigning in Michigan, he “joked” that "No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised." When he was criticised for the dog whistle of raising the birther delusion, a "senior Romney advisor" claimed, "The governor has always said, and has repeatedly said, he believes the president was born here in the United States." That’s true, but beside the point: Romney was implicitly giving aide and comfort to the birther whackadoodles in the Republican Party, probably deliberately. Romney, after all, has never—ever—condemned his supporters (including Donald Trump) spouting birther nonsense. In fact, he’s become testy when asked about it.

Actually, Romney gets testy whenever the newsmedia refuses to stick to the Romney script, none more so than when they persist in asking about Paul Ryan and abortion. Ryan was co-sponsor, with Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, of a bill that would cut off all federal funding for abortions in the case of rape. Now, in an interview, Ryan said that rape is just another “method of contraception”, which is why he says government should prevent raped women from getting an abortion.

Ryan gave those honest answers in that interview to deal with the problem the Romney campaign created by trying to expunge Ryan’s vehemently anti-abortion record, trying instead to imply that it was actually the same as Romney’s mere strong opposition. No one bought that, so Ryan returned to his extremist roots, but arguing that Romney “makes policy”, not him, and that even Romney’s position would be a “vast improvement of where we are right now,” where abortion is safe and legal.

This won’t inoculate Romney, however, and actually creates a further problem: It now makes clear that Ryan is an extremist, well out of step with the majority of American voters. The whole controversy with Akin/Ryan has turned Missouri from a state where Romney was ahead, to one where President Obama now has a slight lead—a toss-up, in other words—and this is from a conservative-aligned polling organisation.

So, Romney has problems: He can’t connect with the Republican base, and when he tries he scares the hell out of mainstream voters. The questions about his finances won’t go away, no matter what distractions he tries, and now, thanks to Gawker, the record of Romney’s Bain Capital are being probed with many fine-toothed combs.

Romney has many problems.

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