Well, now I understand why the folks in the GOP establishment were so worked up about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remark. They weren't worried (or weren't worried exclusively) about the specific content of the remarks. They were worried about the general tone -- the tone of extremism.
A tone of extremism conflicts with their plans for the fall.
I gather this from Sheelah Kolhatkar of Bloomberg Businessweek, who's just published an article about a Karl Rove fund-raising meeting for rich donors to American Crossroads, one of his super PACs. Here's what we learn:
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with "all the major groups that are playing" in the election....Extreme rhetoric is a turn-off. Which is presumably why Rove said this at the confab:
What had emerged from that data is an "acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable" voters. "If you say [Obama]'s a socialist, they'll go to defend him. If you call him a 'far out left-winger,' they’ll say, 'no, no, he’s not.'" The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him -- by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he's actually done. "If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you."
"We should sink Todd Akin. If he's found mysteriously murdered, don't look for my whereabouts!"And it's why Mitt Romney's speech last night took the tone it did:
He urged voters not to feel guilty about giving up on Mr. Obama, even if they were proud to support him as the nation’s first black president.It's also why Monica Crowley of Fox News wrote this the day after the speeches by Chris Christie and Ann Romney:
"You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president," Mr. Romney said, "when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
Nobody last night launched direct attacks on President Obama....Unless this is all a head fake, it appears that this what they want their message to be this fall: Look at us, we're high-minded! They want to sell that to "persuadable" voters -- and they're desperately afraid some wacko is going to screw it up. They're evil aliens who've landed and want to conquer, and that damn Todd Akin left the spaceship without putting his human mask over his lizard face.
The Republicans in Tampa instead focused on elevating the discourse.... Instead of falling for the temptation (and the bait laid by the Democrats) to fight from a negative premise and with negative attacks, the GOP speakers fought from the high ground. They are fighting to lead, yes. But they are fighting to lead with meaning -- the positive meaning of an American restoration.
Which means that our task is to highlight every nasty, hateful, intemperate remark, poster, and e-mail exchange we can possibly link to the GOP ticket, and to get word of every one as far up the news food chain as we can. I think there'll be plenty of material -- from talk radio hosts, local pols, local party officers -- but we have to make the maximum effort to highlight the intemperance and demonstrate the link to Romney. GOP policies have to be shown up as extreme, and so does GOP rhetoric.
Karl Rove knows that's the party's big weakness. Remember that.
I should note that Mitt Romney went through a phase of calling President Obama a "nice guy" who was in over his head, but he abandoned that strategy during the summer, partly because of howls of protest from rage junkies like Michelle Malkin. So now we're back to Square One, I guess.