While I was away last week, Mitt Romney set out the vision and tone his campaign will take in announcing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential choice.
Good luck with that.
Mitt Romney has surveyed the electoral map and realized he doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of winning the independent vote in battleground states like Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and (suddenly) New Hampshire.
So his campaign will take a two-prong approach: energize the base and block moderate and liberal votes through intimidation, fear, and negative campaigning.
This will not be pretty.
Ryan is a lightening rod for Teabaggers: he will attract them like moths to a candle (snuffing them out in the process, which of course will go unmentioned by Rom-yan, or Darth M-aul, if you prefer.) He is a hard-line fiscal conservative AND a hard-line social conservative.
Part of why Romney realizes his is a lost cause in the independent column is happening in Virginia: Virgil Goode.
If Goode pulls two percent from Romney, Obama wins the state and the national election hands down. Goode polls at nine percent currently, a comfortable margin for Obama is almost a certainty. Goode isn't even officially on the ballot in Virginia yet, so even as a write-in, he damages Romney. He is on the ballot in 17 states and is aiming for 40. He polls at less than a percent anyplace else.
If this was a novel by Joe Klein, Virgil Goode would be a made-up character, and a sleeper cell unto himself: a former Democrat turned independent turned conservative Republican, he is going to make trouble for Romney in Virginia. Sounds almost like a Howard Dean plant.
Back to Darth M-aul and the campaign style that's shaping up. In case you were wondering why Mitt was less than authoritative about the comments from Congressman Todd Atkin yesterday, that's why and that's the wonder of this strategy.
See, Atkin speaks to a lot of social conservatives when he says dumb stuff like "legitimate rape." I don't really understand what he means by that, but I suspect he means anytime a white woman is forcibly penetrated by a minority against her will, plus a few other exceptional circumstances. Apart from that, the slut had it coming, so to speak.
And of course, sperm are smarter than Atkin and know when it's ok to impregnate and when they should respect the rape victim's uterus, right?
When I heard his comment, the first thing that popped into my head was the time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boldly stated there were no homosexuals in Iran. It was that ignorant.
Here's the thing: by not forcefully repudiating Atkin's base and ignorant comment, Romney puts himself in a quandary. A lot of independents who might have been attracted to him as "anyone but Obama" will be scared off. They'll hear the Obama rhetoric about Mitt's history of dismantling jobs and Ryan's proposed dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, then remember how, when they had the chance to show a little human decency, they couldn't muster it, and wonder how on earth these jackanapes would handle a real crisis like a Katrina or a drought.
You know, where a government really needs to step in and help? When even ultraconservatives go hat in hand to the Federal coffers?
I'd love to see Ryan take that one on. I hope someone on the trail asks him. The trouble with a hard-line is it's an easy answer to a tough problem, which means it traps you in its rigidity.