PARTY OF PALINS: ROMNEYS PLAY THE WHINER CARD
Meet Mitt Romney the victim. And that may be a good thing for his campaign.
Following the still-rippling kerfuffle over Hilary Rosen's comments that Ann Romney "hasn't worked a day in her life," Romney is portraying himself as the victim of the liberal media and secular culture, and some social conservatives who opposed him in the GOP primary are rallying around him as a result....
Well, whining about victimization has been the way Republicans have made their bones with the base since the days of Nixon, right? It's certainly what the base loves about Sarah Palin. As Politico notes, claiming victimization is what Romney's opponents were doing when they were making the going difficult for Mitt:
Rick Santorum campaigned as a kind of professional victim, traveling from state to state with tales of how he risked his career and lost his Senate seat because of his convictions. Newt Gingrich purposefully used the media as a punching bag to draw the ire of populist conservatives.
Now we have Romney whining about the Obama campaign (because Obama said he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth) and about the vast left-wing conspiracy." But most of the Politico story is about how successful the whining in response to Hilary Rosen's comments has been -- in fact, if the Romney campaign is falling short with the base, it's by not having enough to whine about:
Ralph Reed, the founder and leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, ... said Rosen's comments, regardless of her lack of official affiliation with Obama's campaign, will be tough for Obama to live down because "it allows Ann to play the victim, because it was so over the top, because it was so sweeping in its condemnation."
...But connecting with some socially conservative voters -- some of whom see themselves as victims of the culture and media -- will be difficult for Romney, said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, because those voters won't forget how Romney campaigned as the establishment choice during the primary campaign.
"People want to be able to connect with Romney," Perkins said. "I think it's going to be harder for him to connect at that level because he has been seen and positioned himself as the establishment candidate.... Everything is more complicated for him because his record doesn't match his current rhetoric. I think instead of just avoiding it, he needs to work a little harder."
Perkins almost seems to be saying that Romney just isn't enough of a victim -- he and his wife aren't able to claim persecution for home-schooling, or bringing a disabled fetus to term, or whatever else makes you a hero in the eyes of the religious right.
But there is Hilary Rosen -- and you can bet that Team Romney will go out of its way to search out other victimizers between now and November (and, God help us, throughout a Romney presidency, if there is one). It's as if the message on the right is the exact opposite of what you'd think it would be: "How can you deal with Al Qaeda if you haven't whined about how helpless you are in the face of attacks from a mid-level Democratic operative or a little-known lefty blogger?"
Which leads me to wonder whether this explains why George W. Bush was reelected and his father wasn't. I always thought it helped W. that his war was ongoing in 2004, while his father's was over by 1992, but I thought it was because that kept much of America on a patriotic, rally-round-the-flag footing. But now I'm thinking that W. benefited specifically from seeming to be the victim -- of critics of the wars and torture, of the uncaptured bin Laden, of the Iraqi insurgency. Failure ennobled him, in the base's eyes; it proved that the forces of evil were all out to get him. Weakness is strength. Whining is strength.