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The Risk to Romney


Certainly Obama took a political risk today, but Noam Scheiber succinctly sums up the bind this puts Romney in.

Now, a politician with more credibility among conservatives might be willing to take the hit to preserve his general-election prospects. Perhaps more importantly, such a person would get less heat from the right in the first place. But conservative cred is something that Romney distinctly lacks. It’s the reason he had to take a hard-line stance on immigration during the primaries, and to throw his arms around Paul Ryan. I’d guess it’s the reason he didn’t dissociate himself from a supporter intent on indicting the president for treason this week.

If George W. Bush were the GOP nominee, the response would be a no brainer: Continue to toe the party line when necessary but otherwise pretend the issue doesn’t exist. But Romney has no such luxury. Trying to minimize it will send barely-repressed conservative suspicions spewing forth like a geyser, while using gay marriage to shore up his bona fides will play pretty badly this fall. It’s a helluva dilemma. Kind of makes the president’s position look like a bit of a yawner.

I tend to agree with this. This is a minefield for Romney. Obama has taken a big stand and Americans tend to respond positively to strong statements of leadership. Romney can’t follow Obama but he really can’t unleash the hate either or he’ll lose the moderates. I think it’s a hell of a political calculation for Obama. And kudos to Biden for shoving him on it.

But a man like Willard Romney with such strong unmovable principles, I’m sure he’ll figure it out!

Also, Coates.

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  • James E. Powell

    You sure Biden shoved Obama? This looks more like a well executed half-court offense.

    • djw

      Would the leave Carney out to dry like that?

      • John

        Yeah, the attempts to back away from what Biden said for the first few days suggest that this was not planned.

        • To reinforce it with Duncan tells me that Carney screwed up, not Biden.

    • Who knows really, but all accounts suggest that Biden stepped over the accepted line here. Which is very Biden.

      • David W.

        As if that’s something the White House didn’t already know about Biden. No, this was thought out in advance, and in some depth. Personally, I think Obama decided there was less harm to endorse gay marriage with moderate votes than there was benefit for endorsing it to boost his appeal with the Democratic base, most of whom do support gay marriage and who could use something to fire them up.

        Obama is very Lincolnesque in how he goes about dealing with controversial issues, taking care to not offend by taking bold stances. That can be infuriating to those of us who have long ago made our minds up about supporting gay marriage, but of course we’re not the only ones whose votes count.

        • djw

          Maybe–I wouldn’t claim to know one way or the other, and I’m skeptical of anyone’s claim to certainty.

          But the theory puzzles me. What is gained from 48 hours of looking like bumbling, hair-spitting fools? Why not just go ahead and make the announcement? What’s gained by the bumbling Biden routine?

          • Ben

            More awesome Onion headlines

            • The real question here is how Biden’s support of gay marriage affects his Hennessey ad campaign.

              • Nevermind that shit – why didn’t he announce his support while shirtless?

                • Tcaalaw

                  I think the network has a strict “no shirt, no shoes, no on-camera interview” policy.

          • Ed

            I thought the “all part of the plan” theory said that Biden and Duncan were being used by the Administration to signal where Obama’s feelings truly lay, not that they were preparing the way for a Big Statement by Obama.

            As noted previously, if this was planned with such intentions, it went off the rails in ways the Administration can’t have expected, and the boldness of Obama’s new stance is muted somewhat because it looks as if he was pushed into doing something he would have preferred to avoid at this point because Biden has a big mouth. (Which I suspect is what happened.)

          • swearyanthony

            Trial balloon, At the last minute?

            Also I thought post-NC was a good time to do it. His bullypundit wouldn’t have gotten it over the line, and damaged the new shiny political weapon he now has to use on Mitt.

            The monsterous hideous freaks will come screaming down out of the mountain huts to both skreeee at Obama and cycle around Romney pledging allegiance.

            He already couldn’t handle AFA/Fisher, can you imagine him having to deal with the serious freaks? Has he the strength to firmly, publicly smack down a birther? Or dismiss one from campaign? For someone “who likes firing people” he might have an enjoyable year.


    • Steve LaBonne

      I agree. He got himself out of a no-win position that pleased nobody, and did it gracefully. He gets a “well done” from me.

  • So, I guess what you are saying is that the shit has hit the fan . . .

  • DrDick

    I do not think this will help or hurt Obama much, though it will help more than hurt. On the other hand, this does have a potential to hurt Romney, given that most Americans now support same sex marriage.

  • Funkhauser

    Eh, I’m skeptical. I think this move also has the effect of making the evangelical right more able to/eager to turn out for Romney.

    Also, it’s the economy, stupid.

    • BigHank53

      After the past thirty years, the odds of getting the evangelical right to vote for a Democrat are worse than Powerball’s. The most they’ll do is stay home if the GOP candidate is loathesome enough.

      • mds

        The most they’ll do is stay home if the GOP candidate is loathesome enough.

        Yes, but all else being equal, “member of polytheistic cult masquerading as Christianity” would qualify as loathesome enough, no matter how offhandedly Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention waves away a his denomination’s longstanding views. This development makes it slightly easier to go back to the “Attack on marriage and Christianity itself” horseshit that has previously served their mobilization efforts so well, when otherwise a few might have sat on their hands rather than choose between a Mormon and a Muslim.

  • I do prefer to believe that I live in a world where Joe Biden is a secret super-genius. (I’m sorta surprise “The Big Deal” hasn’t caught on as the name for Obama’s domestic agenda.)

    • Dirk Gently

      If it were up to me, all history textbooks would refer to Obama’s domestic agenda as “The Big Fucking Deal.”

  • cpinva

    the people who wouldn’t vote for obama for this, wouldn’t have voted for him if he came out all fire-n-brimstoney against same-gender marriage. unless he suddenly turned into cotton mather, those people aren’t going to vote for him, and even the odds on that are slim.

    this was a no brainer for obama, whether it was planned or not.

    • Malaclypse

      unless he suddenly turned into cotton mather

      And if he did, we could then have a real War on Christmas.

  • Manju

    But Romney has no such luxury. Trying to minimize it will send barely-repressed conservative suspicions spewing forth like a geyser, while using gay marriage to shore up his bona fides will play pretty badly this fall.

    I dunno. If Larry Craig has his back, Romney may very well be able to go soft on the gays. After all, no politician in America has a stronger record of putting pressure on homosexuals than Craig does.

    Santorum is another option, but getting him outfront might require a firmer stance from Romney. That’s going to be hard on him. He needs to attract those who are currently straddling.

    A ballsier move would be to hook up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He could take the whole issue off the table by explaining that there is no homosexuality to begin with. Presto! Issue Dead….Just like OBL.

    And the OBL non-issue is a winner for Romney. After all, the President had the nerve to spike the football after scoring that touchdown. In contrast, Romney Republicans have no desire to score in the first place. And they want to make sure we don’t either.

    Indeed, Romney & Co can go right to spiking without even crossing the goal line! Now that takes real skill.

    Word is, Leon Lett is going to pull the lever for Romney.

    • scott mc

      Manju wins the thread.

      • Dirk Gently

        Agreed. No contest.

  • c u n d gulag

    In all fairness to Obama, who finally “came out” on gay marriage (and who said he was FOR gay marriage when he was an IL State Senator), over the past 20 years, Mitt’s taken EVERY position possible on the issue of Gays.

    He’s been on top of them, on the bottom – practically kneeled to them when running against Ted Kennedy.

    Now, he’s trying to avoid his former positions, and is reaching around them – to stroke the Evangelicals.

    On a more serious note, while Obama’s position has evolved, Mitt’s has devolved.

    Still, there’s plenty of video evidence of his former positions.

    If I had a D Super PAC, I’d run an ad showing video of Mitt’s different positions on gay rights.
    And, at the end, have one of those guys with the deep, stentorian voices, say:
    “On the one hand, in the 90′s, Mitt said he was adamantly FOR gay rights.
    One the other hand, Mitt NOW says he’s AGAINST gay rights.
    So, Mitt was for gay rights before he was against gay rights?
    When you reach out your hand to pull the lever for him, are you sure which Mitt you’re voting for? On ANY position? How can you really be sure?

    This ad has been pair for by the ‘Mitt Has More Positions Than a Hooker on an Around-the-world Tour Super PAC.’”

  • LosGatosCA

    Bully pulpit!

  • JohnR

    I disagree about the risk to Romney. At this point, I honestly don’t think anything he says can hurt him with the GOP voters – none of them believe him anyway (along with most of the rest of the country). For the rank-and-file GOP, all that counts is getting Obama and the rest of the Socialist Muslim-lovers out of power so Real Murikans can run things again. From that perspective, Romney is actually a reasonable choice – since he’ll clearly not have any agenda of his own, but does what he’s told to do by the party bosses, there is some risk to the rabid right, but they Know that he’ll be better than Obama. It’s really a no-lose situation for Romney; the more he waffles and weathervanes, the more the voters realize that he has no convictions (good or bad). I actually think now that Romney has a good solid chance of winning this thing. I think we’ll see in retrospect that 2008 was a bizarre and unrepeatable event, only brought about because of the economic collapse.

    • Dirk Gently

      Agree. I think the thing that both the left and right can agree on is that President Mittens would be an empty suit who would rubber stamp anything sent to him by the REAL folks in charge–Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and the rest of the off-their-meds GOP caucus. Romney’s only job right now is to try to win over moderates to his economic proposals, or rather, against Obama’s. What he said yesterday about gay marriage will probably be the end of it.

    • swearyanthony

      The problem as I said above is this is going to drive the extreme lunatics into Romneys camp. They have passion and some amount of money, but they will be a source of massive pain for the campaign.

      You’re gonna have birthers, end timers, truthers, probably the Icke folk.

      As well as going well off the reservation and scaring the rest of the voters, they’ll be incredibly vocal and whining about perceived slights (eg some of the firebaggers on this aide of the aisle)

  • Ken

    but he really can’t unleash the hate either or he’ll lose the moderates

    I think you mean “shouldn’t”, not “can’t”. Ed Gillespie just showed they “can”.

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