The Foundering GOP Message
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus was being interviewed by CBS News Bob Schieffer on the Sunday morning political talk-fest a week ago yesterday.
Party chairmen need a couple of critical skills, especially during a presidential campaign year. They need to be great fundraisers, as filling the party coffers with cash is always job Number One.
They need to be able to communicate well, as the chairman of the party will always be a go-to commentator for the major media. Remember former Maryland Lt. Governor and GOP Chairman Michael Steele? Mr. Steele did a great job raising money, but he was a disaster in the communications department.
In an odd twist, Michael Steele is now a regular guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, normally talking about the same GOP that thought he wasn't a particularly effective spokesman. I think they call that irony.
Back to Chairman Priebus. On the air with Mr. Schieffer, the GOP chairman was making a point about how President Barack Obama has been missing-in-action during the last few months, failing to lead while busy criss-crossing the country holding political fundraisers and scripted large-scale events.
To cement his point, Mr. Priebus equated President Obama with Capt. Francesco Schettino, the Italian cruise ship chief who abandoned his vessel after driving it aground off the coast of Giglio Island, Italy.
Mr. Priebus overlooked the fact that a number of innocent passengers and brave crew members were killed in the tragic maritime disaster. In his rush to find a cute quote, Reince's fevered partisan brain grabbed the most topical reference that popped into it, forgetting that a number of souls remain missing within the capsized ship to this day.
Is it too much to ask that our national partisan political leaders at least be respectful of the dead? Can't we let families deal with their grief in private before we clutter the national political dialogue with supposedly humorous references to the cause of their loved ones’ death?
Continuing with Mr. Priebus' own bad analogy, the two major GOP candidates continue their own foundering campaigns. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is spending millions to destroy former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. The carpet-bombing negative advertising worked to perfection in Florida, as the lead Newt had coming into the state after a big win in South Carolina was obliterated by the time Floridians cast ballots last Tuesday.
It proves the old adage: negative campaigning works. Most voters say they don't approve of negativity when asked by polling firms, but campaigns just wouldn't do this stuff if it didn't work.
Mr. Romney gives fluff-filled stump speeches that are heavy on patriotism (he quotes America The Beautiful), but light on the policy detail. There may well be a reason for that: Mitt may not actually have the answers.
Not to spare him his own due criticism, Newt has made his campaign unnecessarily negative and personal regarding Mr. Romney. To draw stark comparisons, Newt calls Mitt a Wall Street-controlled multi-millionaire. Newt accuses Mitt of being out-of-touch with real Americans.
Ignoring the fact that Newt himself is a multi-millionaire and proven DC influence peddler, the most distasteful aspect of the Gingrich campaign is the idea that Mitt has made his money by crushing the middle class. The class warfare argument was coming, but most of us thought it would wait until after the conventions.
No doubt that the Obama campaign was planning to make that issue the center piece of their fall spectacular. They almost have to, as they have little else to run on if the economy is still the big issue in November.
Sadly, whichever Republican candidate is left standing after this bloodbath will have his GOP opponent to thank for crafting the message club that Team Obama uses to beat them senseless in the General Election.
It isn't like this thing is a gimme for President Obama. Under normal circumstances, a strong Republican ought to have a real shot at winning in November 2012.
It may not be either of these two, though. These guys have so much bad water to bail out of their own sinking ships that their arms may be too tired for the heavy lifting that will be needed later this year.