At first, I wondered what Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul had done that was so unredeemable.
From the freak-out on the right, you’d think she’d said the Earth was
warming — not likely, given her past employment for climate-change skeptics — or that we can’t raze the deficit through cuts alone.
Instead, Saul earned her pay by briskly smacking down a truly scurrilous attack on her boss — an ad so bad it was guaranteed to turn voters off. Before the commercial even aired, other than in news reports, she put to rest any suggestion that Romney might bear some responsibility in the cancer death of a woman whose steelworker husband had lost his job and health insurance after Romney’s Bain Capital shuttered his plant.
“If people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney’s health-care plan,” Saul told Fox News, “they would have had health care.”
Now, that answer did have the benefit of being true. But for conservatives, it brought back irksome memories of Romney’s middle-of-the-road governorship, his signature achievement in particular. RomneyCare wasn’t a secret, of course, but Saul seemed to think it was something to brag about.
(An ObamaWorld equivalent? This would be like a White House spokesman answering a question about something that never happened — say, his birth in Kenya — by saying, “Hey, that reminds me of a funny story about Jeremiah Wright...”)
Naturally, Ann “if Romney’s the nominee, we’ll lose” Coulter was the first to call for Saul’s head. My favorite expression of outrage, though, was John Podhoretz’s humorous Thursday tweet that Andrea Saul had just informed his kids he ate out non-kosher.
In case you were worried for her job, Saul is not going to wind up like that steelworker: “Andrea goes out each day to defend against President Obama’s false attacks and consistently puts points on the board when she posts up against his campaign,’’ Romney communication director Gail Gitcho said in an email. “She has the confidence of the Governor and the entire organization.”
Romney does have a reputation for personal loyalty. And you can’t launch “Women for Mitt” one day and fire a top female aide the next, especially after making a similar remark yourself.
After Romney was cheered at an Iowa event on Wednesday, for vowing to squelch the Affordable Care Act asap, he added, “That doesn’t mean that health care is perfect. We’ve got to do reforms in health care and I have some experience doing that, as you know. And I know how to make a better setting than the one we have in health care.”
No, this probably wasn’t a wily pitch to independent voters, because Romney is still on surprisingly shaky ground with his base. A Republican strategist I spoke to Thursday said both Saul’s remarks and Romney’s had astonished one and all because they seemed so out-of-touch.
“He spent the entire primary trying to prove he’d moved away from [Romneycare], and now they’re embracing it?”
On the bright side for Romney, it’s August, and unless he keeps plugging what moderates like best about him, this unfortunate moment of truth will be forgotten long before November. It won’t change a single vote, or even keep any Republicans home, but does guarantee that an issue the president formerly didn’t seem to want to talk about much more than Romney did will be front and center during the presidential debates. It’s a reminder of how tenuous Romney’s place in conservative hearts is.
But it’s also another signal that pro-Obama super PACs aren’t always super suave — or in this case, even minimally fair. The Priorities USA ad neglected to mention that Romney had left Bain by the time steelworker Joe Soptic’s Kansas City employer declared bankruptcy. Or that Soptic’s wife Ranae died five years after the plant closed.
Even the wildly out-of-context “You didn’t build this” ads against Obama didn’t accuse him of killing anyone. That is Vince Foster territory, and puts the ouevre of the group run by former Obama aide Bill Burton in the tiny pantheon of ads so bad they backfired.
This one has earned a spot right between Jon Corzine’s classy ‘09 attack on Chris Christie’s weight and Jerry Kilgore’s infamous 2005 hit on Tim Kaine, a commercial in which one of the nicest guys in politics morphs into Hitler.
It’s good to know there are some limits, even for super PACs.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s She the People blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.