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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:51 AM ET, 03/06/2012

The Morning Plum: Axelrod tattoos Romney with Rush `slut’ comment

It’s hard to overstate what a huge gift Rush Limbaugh handed Democrats when he labeled Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and Dems will do all they can to ensure that Limbaugh continues to loom large over the presidential race. Case in point: David Axelrod, in a new CNN interview, has considerably raised the stakes in this fight, slamming Mitt Romney for his “timid” and “cowardly” response to Limbaugh’s diatribes. Video here :

“I was kind of shocked when Governor Romney, all he had to say was, `Well that isn’t language I would have used.’ What about the spirit of what was said? I thought that was a cowardly answer and it was a test of leadership, and one that he failed...
“There are very few entertainers who swing the weight that Rush Limbaugh does in the Republican Party. I think one of the reasons why Governor Romney and others were so timid in speaking out is because Rush is the defacto leader of the Republican Party. So to take him on would be to risk your own standing within the party.”

Dems clearly see an opportunity to exacerbate the gender gap that is already widening, perhaps due to the substance of the dispute over birth control. Yesterday’s NBC/WSJ poll found that Obama is now leading Romney by 55-37 among women. A recent poll by Dem Stan Greenberg found that unmarried women — a key Dem constituency that Obama must win back in 2008 numbers — now back Obama by 65-30.

Even Alex Castellanos a former Romney adviser, says that Romney “didn’t help himself” with his tepid response to Rush: “He had an opportunity to demonstrate strength. He left the bat on his shoulders.”

The interesting dynamic here is that it’s become harder and harder for Republicans to fully repudiate Rush, simply because Dems and liberals are pressuring them to do so. No matter how reprehensible Rush’s comments, Republicans who decisively distance themselves from Rush will in effect be surrendering to the liberal media, which in the right wing mythology is doing Obama’s bidding by devoting so much attention to the controversy.

That’s why Rush continues to blame liberals for his own outbursts, in order to keep his supporters in his camp. Of course, Rush’s continuing bluster is only causing both sides to dig in harder, making this still worse for the GOP.

* Mitt Romney’s white working class problem, ctd: Ron Brownstein digs into this week’s NBC/WSJ polling and finds this:

In the NBC/WSJ surveys through the second half of 2011, Romney led Obama among those working-class white voters by a commanding 52 percent to 38 percent...But in latest survey, Romney’s advantage with those voters had shriveled to just five percentage points — 48 percent to 43 percent.

To win the presidency, the GOP candidate has to beat Obama by a far larger margin among this key swing constituency — yet another sign, as observers in both parties have noted, of how badly the primary has damaged Romney.

* But Obama shouldn’t get complacent about working class whites: Ronald Klain provides an important reminder: As bad as Romney’s struggles look right now, the GOP message machine will soon be cranking on all cylinders in order to undermine Obama culturally among those voters and to repair Romney’s image with them.

Klain rightly notes the GOP’s historic success in exploiting cultural issues to undermine Dems among this constituency, and offers six ideas to limit losses among them.

* Keep an eye on blue collar whites in Ohio: Reuters has an interesting look at a key question: Whether labor’s decisive victory in the recent collective bargaining rights fight presages Romney’s weakness among working class whites in the state.

Key takeaway: The state-level battles over labor aren’t just revving up the Dem base; they may also be causing blue collar whites to give Dems another look — something that could be exacerbated by a candidate with Romney’s profile.

* Another day, another string of dissembling from Romney: Helene Cooper talks to experts and determines that Romney’s criticism of Obama’s handling of Iran is not only off point, but that Obama is already doing all the things Romney says he would do to resolve the nuke standoff.

The subtext of these attacks, of course, is that Obama is weak, and that Republicans are strong, which simply doesn’t square with voter perceptions of Obama’s handling of foreign policy.

* Romney’s central line about Iran is “silly” and “hyperbolic”: Romney’s big applause line is that if Obama is reelected, Iran will get a nuclear weapon, and that you should be very, very afraid. Glenn Kessler does a demolition job on Romney’s assertions, pronouncing them to be misleading “even by the standards of campaign fare.”

* Iran question of the day: Romney is set to give a big speech today in which he will talk about how much tougher he would be on Iran than Obama is. Will any reporters press Romney or his campaign on what the above experts say?

* Dems pre-spin Super Tuesday results:The DNC is out with a new memo arguing that even if Romney wins big today, it has come at a huge price. His need to vastly outspend and tear down opponents of less stature has revealed his weakness as a candidate, and he’s been forced to embrace extreme positions on taxes, immigration and contraception that will alienate key general election constituencies.

* White House skeptical of Steny Hoyer’s “grand bargain” plan: White House officials think it’s unlikely that Hoyer’s quest for a “grand bargain” that includes tax hikes and Medicare cuts will yield any fruit.

Republicans won’t be any more open to revenue increases than they have been for the last three years — so it’s unclear why Dems should venture on to “grand bargain” turf in the first place, given that a sharp contrast on Medicare will be central to their 2012 message.

* And still more (gulp!) good news on the economy: Via Taegan Goddard, the Associated Press’s new survey of economists finds:

The U.S. economy is improving faster than economists had expected. They now foresee slightly stronger growth and hiring than they did two months earlier ... The economists think the unemployment rate will fall from its current 8.3 percent to 8 percent by Election Day.

What else?

By  |  08:51 AM ET, 03/06/2012

 
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