Elections 2012: T-Minus 49 Days and the Politics of What Romney Is Saying

Forget about what Romney said. Of course you can’t. He’s been framed. The image of Romney, the patrician, the guy who fires people, the guy who dismisses half of America as “those people” is now written in ink on ballots across America.

And there’s only 49 days left until election day. But even that countdown is wrong. Because in people are already voting in three states and 22 more states open early polls over the next week.

Romney’s frame is the rich guy. And he, not the media, not the opposition, played his role as if it were scripted.

It’s a consistent Romney part. Just last week he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his definition of middle class earns “$200,000 and $250,000 or less. (Figure that one out.) In the real world, the median income in the United States was $50,054 last year.

But Romney is self-made. Just ask him. “I have inherited nothing,” he said on that video. “There is a perception, ‘Oh, we were born with a silver spoon, he never had to earn anything and so forth.’ Frankly, I was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America.”

But even though it’s impossible to forget about what Romney said. Think about the politics.

The purpose of a campaign is to do what ever it takes to get past the goal line, one more vote than the competition. Yet in a campaign promotion, at an event where the candidate is raising money and asking for support, he dismisses 47 percent of voters. Four years ago Obama won 52.9 percent of the vote against McCain’s 45.7 percent. If you do the math that means that the two major party candidates received only 98.6 percent of the vote. Next subtract what Romney calls “47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” That leaves 5.6. Romney says he needs “5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring to our side” in order to win.

If his first premise is right. Then 7 percent is impossible. And get 5 to 6 percent Romney would have to win every single undecided voter. That’s not going to happen. Why did these big time donors give so much money to a candidate with that kind of logic? Because the one strategy that could have worked is what’s called a “base election.” That’s where turnout is light and only your voters show up. That’s why there is so much effort at disqualifying voters with such tactics as strident voter ID laws.

But that’s a last ditch effort. Most successful campaigns build coalitions. Ronald Reagan was great at that, tapping into support from working Democrats and others who rarely voted Republican.

But the Mother Jones’ video of Romney shows that he’s more interested in subtracting groups of voters instead of adding.

“We are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters,” Romney said. “And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.”

So how does Romney respond to that challenge, building a conservative coalition with Hispanics?

He dismisses the very idea of a coalition of interests by saying of his father, “had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this.”

Then yesterday he had another shot at the Hispanic voter. Romney talks about his economic ideas, then acknowledges that the immigration system is broken. And then he says: “That’s why I oppose amnesty, because amnesty will make it harder, not easier to strengthen our legal immigration system.”

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: marktrahant@thecedarsgroup.org.