It Could Be Quite a Campaign
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Obama announcement supporting same sex marriage and the Washington Post revelations about Romney’s anti-gay bullying behavior in his Detroit prep school made important and interesting news on their own merits, but perhaps in the long run they are equally interesting considering the tone and the management of this year’s campaign season.
For the Obama campaign and for the President himself, lack of control is unacceptable. In addition, timing in a campaign is everything. In this instance the White House was forced by the Vice-President’s annoucement last weekend on Meet the Press of Biden’s support for same sex marriage. This apparently was infuriating to the President because Biden jumped the gun on the issue and it violated the Obama campaign management rules. Presumably, the Administration wanted to control when the President would announce his support of same sex marriages—presumably prior to the convention platform committee meetings this summer. What the Vice President did through his preemption last weekend was to remove the issue from the President as well as the campaign’s control.
Since the early days of the Obama Administration it appears Biden generally has controlled himself with fewer Biden mis-speaks than most of Washington ever had anticipated. The campaign learned now that they need to rapidly arrange for better Biden “management” or else next time they may not be able to wiggle out as well as they have this time.
For Mitt Romney the story about his actions at Cranbook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, clearly presents some of the uglier stories about teenage, anti-gay bullying, but what was curious to observe was how the presumptive Republican nominee sought to dance out of these revelations. Apologizing for his actions and then wanting to move on; not addressing the issue.
As the Romney campaign looks at the fall ad campaign, debates, jabbing, and counter-punching, there is a signal here of some potentially very rough sledding ahead. The Romney staff knows that their candidate has a long record of open support on an array of issues which do not sit well with his GOP base, beyond the issue of same sex marriage or those attacks already thrown at him during the Republican primary. They represent policies and statements that largely represent how Romney campaigned, won, and governed Massachusetts.
His staff knows that Romney will need to be prepared to respond to this record during the fall campaign—if not sooner. They also recognize that while he said he would address his position further on gay rights during the campaign, it was the style, atmospherics, and casualness of Romney’s response to the issue this week which ought to concern the campaign.
Rest assured that the Obama machine will make certain that Romney’s prior record will be seen shortly, in stark contrast and distinct from his current statements. Romney’s entire campaign, beyond his vice-presidential selection, may well come down to whether he can dispel the flip-flopping image that these contrasting pictures present both to independent voters on one side and his core voters and the Tea Partiers on the other.