The battle for the independent voter has been one of the most interesting, if not absolutely frustrating, issues that comes up every election cycle. Pundits on both sides at times have belabored the point about how important the independent voter is to candidates on both sides of the political coin, with new polls and charts coming out by the day showing who could win what state, and by how much.
Up until recently, both sides seemed to put equal time in wooing the independent voter to a vote for their side. However, Mitt Romney’s apparent inability to get independent voters solidly behind him presents quite the challenge, especially with the Republican National Convention less than 2 months away.
So why is it that Romney has not been able to get things done with respect to independents?
Short answer: He can’t. Here’s why.
First reason? His brand.
In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted back in May, Romney polls very well among white middle-class voters (58% to 32%). Then-candidate Barack Obama also lost big amongst whites without college degrees (58% to 40%) in 2008. This should come as no shock; these numbers are indicative of just who the Right caters to. This trend has no chance of changing, not as long as there is racially motivated fear of a Black President. Obama has very high favorability polling data (54% to 45% CNN; 55% to 42% Bloomberg, and 54% to 42% in a Fox News poll!!) throughout the country overall, and is a virtual lock amongst minorities, which cannot seem to fathom the idea of Romney as President. As long as Mitt Romney continues to give fuel to the narrative that he, and therefore the Republican Party is the party of scared white people, he stands no chance of reaching independent voters.
Second reason? His messaging.
The Right has been highly displeased with how Romney has been carrying himself and presenting his plan to all voter groups, much less independents.
With almost Sith-like presence, Rupert Murdoch on Sunday tweeted this:
Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.
Four days after posting this tweet, Philip Rucker of the Washington Post reported this yesterday:
WOLFEBORO, N.H. –Mitt Romney is planning to fortify his communications and messaging team by adding seasoned operatives, advisers close to the campaign said Thursday, after withering criticism from prominent conservative voices that is insular team has fumbled recent opportunities.
Romney’s advisers insisted that he would keep his inner circle intact amid growing concerns about the Republican candidate and his campaign. The tempest began with a weekend tweet from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and burst Thursday onto the pages of his newspaper the Wall Street Journal, as its conservative editorial board opined that Romney’s advisers were “slowly squandering an historic opportunity” to beat President Obama.
Needless to say, this is bad. If Romney is perceived as a non-serious contender to the Obama presidency by conservatives, especially after so much crowing about how our nation is going to hell in a handbasket under Barack Obama, how can the message get out to independents that Romney is the man for the job?
Third reason: Fear.
Let’s not pretend that fear doesn’t play a direct role in how Romney has run this campaign for the White House. Mitt Romney has been in an unofficial probationary period amongst the Right’s base. As a result, he has been made to jump through whatever hoops the base wants him to, whether he wants to or not, which means that the message he may honestly want to send to independent voters will never get through so long as the base has their way. The Right wanted a genuine, true believer as their candidate, and since none of their true believers were electable on a national level, they had to settle for the “severely conservative” Mitt Romney.
Here’s where the fear comes in. Because of the base’s distrust of Romney, it is not unreasonable to speculate that there will be an all-out revolt against Romney should he attempt to turn to the center. The Right’s political mandate of ideological purity is complete and unwavering, and Mitt Romney’s conscripted obedience is proof of this. Should he break rank, the Right will break him, and Romney has conducted himself thus far as being fully aware of this.
I asked my dear friend Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC via Twitter on this past Fourth, “If independents are so important, why is it that the only ones that reach out to them are Democrats?”
I guess the answer is because Democrats in this election are the only ones who can.
UPDATE: Mitt Romney's problems may have just gotten worse.
Slamming the Affordable Health Care Act by calling it the accursed perjorative Obamacare in a room full of the President's most dependable constituency then declaring its repeal should he be elected; reminding same room full of said constituency of nearly every ill in their own communities (poverty, violence, single parenthood, poor schools, et cetera) then announcing his magic bullet of "the promotion of family", and all this while showing his genuine discomfort at being in that same room with said constituency in the first place are but a few of the most recent reasons why Romney will not even come close to being the presidential candidate that independent voters need and deserve.
The speech itself at the NAACP meeting should have been more than enough , but the fact that Romney went right back to his home audience practically gloating about the fact that he was booed at the speech at a fundraiser in Montana is reprehensible in every scope. Said Romney:
"That’s ok, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free. it has to paid for by people in the private sector creating goods and services, and if people want jobs more than they want free stuff from government, then they are going to have to get government to be smaller. And if they don’t want to repeal Obamacare they are going to have to give me some other stuff they are thinking about cutting, but my list takes Obamacare off first and I have a lot of other things I am thinking of cutting."
So there you have it, out of his own mouth and in plain English. Romney's feeble attempt at reaching out to the middle was actually a calculated, planned attempt at earning "street cred" with the base, once again at the expense of the Black community. As Joan Walsh pointed out in