Mitt Romney dedicated his nominating convention to the “You didn’t build that” theme. He thought he had an overwhelming “I gotcha!” to hit the President with. And now, polls show that when registered voters hear the quote, it makes them like President Obama more, not less.
On one level, it’s not really surprising that a comment like this one, coming from a president whose liberal, community-oriented views are no secret, would fail to upend the presidential race. To a lot of Republicans outside of Boston, who privately questioned how much the “didn’t build that” message would appeal to, say, a waitress in Columbus or a Wal-Mart greeter in Fairfax County, the results are all too predictable.
But considering the time and messaging weight the Romney campaign and RNC threw into attacking Obama on this point — it was the theme of a whole day of the Tampa convention — the lack of any apparent impact is notable.
As an aside, the poll also showed that voters were not pleased with Romney’s 47% video.
My best guess is that the GOP attacks have been rooted in an inability to understand how swing voters really view Obama — they have been attacking an Obama that doesn’t really exist outside the GOP base’s imagination. So there’s no soil there for these attacks to take root. Meanwhile, the summer attacks on Bain told a story about Romney that people were prepared to accept, given who Romney really is, and more recently, the 47 percent remarks further reinforced already hardening perceptions of Romney’s real beliefs and policy priorities.
All of this might not be enough to guarantee an Obama victory; Romney could still win, based on the economy. But if Romney loses, all of this will help explain a lot.
I maintained from the beginning that this wasn’t a gaffe. The President was right. If you look at the whole quote, rather than cherry pick three words and then lie about them, it’s a great quote, and a true quote. And what a surprise, when the American people were read the quote, they agreed with the President more than they agreed with Mitt Romney.
Of course, as Burns noted in Politico, what a disaster - what another disaster – that the Romney people so misread this as to make it the theme of their convention. A theme that, when the American people are asked about, think about, it tends to make them like President Obama more, not less.
But this also goes to the question of what Mitt Romney actually believes in, if anything. They dedicated their entire convention to an “I gotcha!” rather than to one of Mitt Romney’s core beliefs, core arguments for why he should be president and President Obama should not. Mitt Romney went after the latest shiny penny glistening at the bottom of the stream – he went for the latest “opportunity,” the latest Hail Mary – rather than sticking to his message, whatever that message actually is, if he even has one.
Dumb luck is not an argument for why Mitt Romney should be president: