Vote For Obama Because... Romney is Weird?

by Jonathan Chait | August 9, 2011

Really? This is what they're going with?

Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s re-election campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee. ...
A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.
“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” said the adviser, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.” ...
The character attacks on Romney will focus on what critics view as a make-over, both personal (skinny jeans) and political (abortion). ...
Democrats also plan to amplify what Obama strategists described as the “weirdness” quotient, the sum of awkward public encounters and famous off-kilter anecdotes, first among them the tale of Romney’s once having strapped his dog to the roof of his car.
Indeed, Obama officials have made “weirdness” an epithet for Romney the way they tagged John McCain “erratic” in the fall of 2008, after the Arizona senator suddenly left the campaign trail and nearly backed out of the first debate as part of an attempt to get a deal on the bailout.
“Presidential campaigns are like MRIs of the soul,” said Axelrod. “When he makes jokes about being unemployed, or a waitress pinching him on the butt, it does snap your head back and you say, ‘what’s he talking about?’”
“It’s not just a matter of dodging the debate, not just a matter of flip flopping and putting his finger to the wind – it is that he’s not comfortable in his own skin and that gives people a sense of unease,” added a Democratic consultant expected to be involved in the re-elect.

I'm no political strategist, and I have no idea if this will work. It did work for George W. Bush in 2004. But I can authoritatively say it's total crap. Skinny jeans, dog on the roof, uncomfortable in his skin, butt-pinching jokes... do these things tell you anything meaningful about how he would govern?

Just to be clear, I'm carefully separating out the questions of what's true and what's politically effective. I'm not the sort of idealist who thinks the most analytically persuasive argument is also the one most likely to produce a successful election. Just focusing for a moment on the truth issue, I'd like to see if anybody really wants to defend the proposition that Romney's choice of pants, dog travel arrangements and whatnot is important information that ought to drive a voter's decision.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/93388/vote-obama-because-romney-weird