Mitt Romney’s political director, Rich Beeson, gave a long interview to Mike Allen that was featured in today’s Playbook. In it, Beeson listed the reasons why he believes Romney is on track to victory.
But I was particularly interested in Beeson’s comments about Ohio, in which he described Obama’s touting of the auto rescue — an enormously important move on the state’s behalf — as a “one trick pony.” Here’s the key bit:
“I think it was two weeks ago that people were asking if we were going to have to pull out of Ohio, and now … it is a tie in Ohio … [T]hey’re counting party registration as a vote for them. So, [for] a Democrat early vote or a Democrat absentee ballot, they’re saying: It’s ours. But you look at the Mahoning Valley from Youngstown, down to the Charleston and Huntington media market, the further south you go, the more coal there is … We are peeling off an enormous amount of Democrat votes in those coal counties … The fight in Ohio is going to be Franklin County and then what margin we can come out of Cuyahoga with. … They’ve dropped the auto bailout on us, but … there’s only so long you can ride that one-trick pony, and they just kept pounding away at it, and so that’s baked in right now and we’re tied.”
Beeson doesn’t appear to be making a policy argument here. He’s claiming that the Obama camp’s touting of the auto bailout — and its criticism of Romney for opposing it — amounts to a political “one trick pony” that is now "baked in” and no longer has political relevance.
But even read this way, the quote showcases a surprisingly dismissive tone towards something that rescued an industry that supplies one in eight jobs in a state Romney needs to win. It illustrates the Romney campaign’s ongoing struggle to run away from the simple fact that when it comes to the battle for Ohio, Obama got it right on the auto bailout, and Romney got it wrong.
At the most recent debate Romney tried to deal with this core problem by fudging things. He claimed he and Obama didn’t really differ on the core question of whether government should act up front to rescue the industry, which is just not true. That was not just dishonest, but insulting to people’s intelligence. (When it comes to the auto industry, Romney’s dishonesty has been insulting on topics that range beyond the rescue itself: Yesterday Romney falsely claimed at an Ohio rally that Jeep is planning to move all of its jobs to China.) Now a top Romney adviser is claiming that their differences on something as important as the auto rescue won’t matter to voters — that Obama’s touting of it will amount to nothing more than a “one trick pony.”
The truth is, though, that their differences on the auto bailout are enormously important, and are likely to matter a good deal to many battleground state voters, particularly in Ohio. As Jonathan Cohn writes in a must read, the auto bailout goes to the two men’s core differences on the most fundamental questions about whether government should act to save American industry and about government’s proper role in safeguarding Americans from economic harm. The auto rescue was unpopular when Obama pursued it, and Romney’s criticism of it at the time as a waste of taxpayer money was a politically expedient way for him to pander to conservatives in advance of the GOP primaries. And so, as Cohn notes, their disagreement over the auto bailout isn’t just illustrative of a core philosophical disagreement; it also goes to the question of which man “has the mettle to make a tough decision and stick with it” in the “face of political peril.”
Obama’s touting of the differences between the two candidates on auto bailout is not a “one trick pony.” It’s one of the main things this whole election should be all about.