I was not surprised that left-leaning pundits, who gleefully tried to tar Mitt Romney with Rush Limbaugh’s comments, would be scornful of the notion that President Obama should be responsible for the remarks of Hilary Rosen, a former strategist (on health care) and frequent White House visitor. (Limbaugh doesn’t even like Romney all that much.) Certainly, Michelle Obama, David Axelrod and Jim Messina — who weighed in to defend Ann Romney — all were concerned that the public wouldn’t buy such a transparent double standard. Even the president got into the act.
Aside from the rank hypocrisy by liberal spinners, the issue is not whether Hilary Rosen is a campaign operative (she isn’t). It is whether the comments touched a nerve with stay-at-home mothers, including conservative women and social conservatives, who had been lukewarm to Romney heretofore. From the immediate reaction yesterday it seems to have done that.
Liberals might not fully “get” it, but social conservatives and stay-at-home mothers (think of Sarah Palin’s core fan base) feel elites denigrate and even mock them. They resent a feminist being defined as “a pro-choice career woman.” This is a sore point with these voters. Give Axelrod and company their due: They understand this phenomenon.
But the damage may go beyond that. This was a week in which the once pliable national media pretty much called out a key campaign plank — the Buffett rule — as nothing more than a gimmick. So two gimmicks — soak the rich and paint Romney as anti-women — blew up in the White House’s face. And then my colleague Glenn Kessler pretty much shredded Obama’s invocation of Ronald Reagan to push his tax scheme. Kessler wrote:
President Obama cited two specific Reagan speeches — one (June 28, 1985) in which Reagan quoted from a letter he had received from a wealthy executive and another (June 6, 1985) in which he said it was “crazy” for some multimillionaires to pay zero in taxes.
Why did Reagan give those speeches? Contrary to Obama’s suggestion that he was specifically arguing for a new tax provision aimed at the superwealthy, Reagan was barnstorming the country in an effort to reduce taxes for all Americans, mainly by cutting rates, simplifying the tax system and eliminating tax shelters that allowed some people to avoid paying any taxes at all.
In other words, Reagan was pushing for a tax cut for everyone, not just an increase on a few. (The highest tax bracket at the time was 50 percent.) He even wanted to cut the tax rate on capital gains from 20 percent to 17.5 percent.
It is political karma when a substance-less campaign hinging largely on over-the-top negativity has gambits boomerang. It gives one hope that in the rigors of a campaign, at least some of the nonsense is teased out of the debate. You might excuse the GOP for being a wee bit gleeful. (“‘Talk about overplaying their hand,’ RNC deputy communications director Tim Miller told POLITICO. ‘Given the economic numbers showing the Obama economy disproportionately impacts women and a top Democrat attacking stay-at-home moms, it’s clear that the President has the woman problem.’”)
And now what is Obama going to talk about? It’s quite possible that by election day Obamacare is invalidated in whole or in part, unemployment is still around 8 percent, no tax reform plan has passed and we have made no significant progress on the debt. Add to that the potential for Obama’s overly negative strategy to galvanize Republicans and turn off moderates. Is that a winning hand for Obama?