OOPS! NEW YORK TIMES RUNS WRONG RIGHT-WING TALKING POINTS
The right-wing message machine just got the word out to The New York Times, but it was the wrong word:
Critics From Base See Romney Pulling Punches on 'Nice Guy' Obama
... 'He's a nice guy." Those were Mr. Romney's words last month at a campaign stop in Fort Lupton, Colo., where he added, for good measure, "I don't have a problem with the man personally."
... his measured portrayal of the president himself ... has stirred some concerns among fellow Republicans who are eager, after nearly four years of an Obama administration, to see the president demonized.
... In an essay on National Review Online titled "No More 'Mr. Obama is a Nice Guy,'" Michelle Malkin, a conservative commentator, worried about what she called "this disastrous, bend-over bipartisanship" ...
And at a rally of supporters last month in Omaha, a stern looked of disagreement crossed the face of Mary Vinzant, 69, when Mr. Romney told the crowd that Mr. Obama was a "nice guy." ...
"Nice guys don't destroy our country like Obama has done," Ms. Vinzant said in an interview after the speech. "I hate it when Romney says that. He's not a nice guy."
Wait -- wasn't BuzzFeed just telling us yesterday that Romney is winning over the base by being so damn nasty and aggressive? How did exactly the opposite message get into the Times?
I have a theory: the Romney campaign is working the refs, but it isn't working all the refs. This may be because the Romney campaign is staffed by movement conservatives. If you lurk in the online universe of movement conservatism, you know that wingers praise "new media" (their sites) and detest "old media" (or, as they like to say, "legacy media"). BuzzFeed, which clearly got worked this week by the Romney campaign, is "new media." Politico, which ran a shamelessly pro-Romney article a couple of days ago titled "To GOP, Blatant Bias in Vetting," is also "new media." Furthermore, the Politico story, which seemed to have been spoon-fed by the Romney campaign, ascribed bias to outlets of the "old media" such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. If that's the message the Romney campaign wants to spread, it seems as if the campaign is actively blowing off those refs and refusing to work them.
If I'm right about this, then the campaign may be making a strategic mistake. Movement conservatives may sequester "new media" and "legacy media" into separate pigeonholes, and dream of the day when the old media is destroyed, but most voters just use their computers and phones and tablets to skip from the Times to Twitter to blogs to Politico and back again -- the political news world is fairly flat.
And while the opinion section of the Times, say, has some fairly strong liberal voices (especially in the main editorials and Krugman's column), the boys and girls on the campaign bus have always shown a willingness to go native -- they could be worked. So the Romney campaign is missing an opportunity. If the campaign really wants to turn the old media into the enemy, some unpleasant stories are going to run.
In the past, Republicans attacked the "liberal media" in public while seducing them in private -- think George W. Bush giving Frank Bruni a coveted nickname in 2000. That's how you do it. Maybe Romney's people aren't trying.
OR: Maybe I'm reading this wrong. Maybe "Romney restrains himself" is what you want to sell to Times readers, even as you sell "Romney kicks ass" to BuzzFeed readers. But I'm not sure there's much of a line between the two readerships.
And maybe I'm misreading the process of ref-working. The Politico article attacked The Washington Post for running the Romney bullying story. That's ref-working with a stick rather than a carrot. But why would that intimidate the Post? That story earned the Post a lot of eyeballs -- is the paper really going to stop running traffic-building stories to appease a challenger who's struggling to break par in the polls? Even if a lot of people on the paper prefer him? The fact that the story ran at all shows that at least some corners of the paper aren't afraid to displease Romney.