MAYBE ROMNEY SHOULD JUST GO AHEAD AND CHANGE HIS SLOGAN TO "BACKWARD"
Politico's Reid Epstein looks at the Romney campaign and spots a trend:
For President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is an obvious throwback to another era -- a stiff Father Knows Best-type who straps the dog to the station wagon and marries his high-school sweetheart.
But Romney is pursuing his own strategy to puncture Obama's next-generation cool and paint the president as a retread, comparing him to Jimmy Carter and his fuzzy-headed liberal thinking. To the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, Carter is not just a former president, he's a potent metaphor and political weapon.
... When asked on the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden whether he would have green-lighted the mission, Romney told reporters on a New Hampshire rope line that "even Jimmy Carter would have given that order" to kill bin Laden.
Two days later at a rally in northern Virginia, he explicitly referred to the Carter era as better for businesspeople than the Obama years have been.
"What the president has done, and I think unknowingly, never having spent any time in the private sector himself ... was one item after another make it harder and harder for small business to thrive and to grow and to start up," Romney said.
"It was the most anti-small business administration I've seen probably since Carter. Who would’ve guessed we'd look back at the Carter years as the good ol' days, you know? And you just go through the president's agenda over ... the last several years and ask yourself, did this help small business or did it hurt small business?"
But, of course, as Epstein acknowledges, the Carter-as-Antichrist meme is meaningless to non-wingnut voters under 45, whose memories of the Carter presidency are dim or nonexistent. This is Romney targeting older voters precisely the way Obama is targeting younger voters (and precisely the way Fox News targets older voters). It's not an attempt by Romney to turn Obama into a throwback -- it's an attempt by Romney to turn himself into a throwback (or even more of a throwback), for a voting bloc that (he hopes) sees that as a good thing. It's as if he's not even trying to communicate with younger voters.
This make me wonder about the likely reaction to the Romney bullying story, coming as it did just after Obama's endorsement of gay marriage. It's obvious that a lot of older voters, including some who aren't on the right, will never stop thinking that gayness is icky -- and I think their reaction to the bullying story might, in a similar way, differ from that of the young. Rush Limbaugh really may have been tapping into that strain of thinking a couple of days ago:
Rush Limbaugh ... dismissed a Washington Post report detailing "pranks" and "troubling incidents" Mitt Romney engaged in as a high school student, saying: "You had long hair in 1965, you were gonna get razzed. It didn't matter. They weren't gonna think you were in the Beatles. If you had long hair in 1965, you were gonna get made fun of." Limbaugh added: "See, 1965's a great year; bullying was legal."
The debate we're having is whether this was a relatively trivial "stupid thing" Romney did, or was something worse than that. But there's a percentage of the population for whom, I think, it wasn't a minor bad act or a major bad act -- it was a perfectly appropriate thing to do to a freak who had it coming. We know that lots of people on the right, of all ages, still believe this -- but they're already likely to vote for Romney, and they're certainly not going to vote for Obama. I wonder how many people of a certain age in the center (and maybe even of a more or less liberal persuasion) feel the same way. I wonder if the criticism of Romney for this makes them see him as a martyr, crucified for something he did that was actually admirable.
Oh, and while we're talking about conformity and hair in the 1960s, I'll share with you Rush Limbaugh's high school yearbook photo. It ain't pretty.