The rubber-glue phenomenon

Updated
 

Just a couple of weeks ago, Rachel explained an annoying habit politicians and campaigns invariably pick up. She called it the “I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” technique.

It’s a basic idea we’ve all seen many times. A politician and his or her team identify their biggest weaknesses and then start accusing their rival of being guilty of that same thing.

Mitt Romney seems eager to perfect this technique.

Romney’s most glaring policy problem is his abysmal jobs record – he failed in Massachusetts and orchestrated mass layoffs at his vulture-capital firm – so he accuses President Obama of failing to create jobs. Romney intends to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher scheme, so he accuses Obama of undermining Medicare. Romney favors European-style austerity and spent several years in France, so he accuses Obama of wanting to turn the U.S. into Europe.

But last night, Romney unveiled a new line. Here was his speech in Wisconsin, after winning the state’s Republican primary:

Here’s the quote that stood out for me:

“President Obama thinks he’s doing a good job. No, I’m not kidding. He actually thinks he’s doing a great job. An historically great job. According to the President, only Lincoln, FDR and Lyndon Johnson have accomplished more. And no, he didn’t say that on Saturday Night Live.

“It’s enough to make you think that years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of True Believers telling you what a great job you are doing, well, that might be enough to make you a little out of touch.”

For now, let’s put aside the fact that Romney is misquoting Obama, and instead focus on the real issue here: Romney thinks the president is “out of touch.” Yes, he said this with a straight face.

This from the guy who needs an elevator for his cars. This from the guy who doesn’t let his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar fortune stop him from joking about being “unemployed.” This from the guy who finds stories about factory layoffs “humorous.”

Romney boasts about his wife driving “a couple of Cadillacs,” says he’s “not concerned about the very poor,” and says making over $374,000 in speaking fees in a year is “not very much” money. All of those examples followed Romney suggesting elective office is only for the rich, clumsily talking about his fondness for being able to fire people, demanding that talk of economic justice be limited to “quiet rooms,” accusing those who care about income inequality of “envy,” daring Rick Perry to accept a $10,000 bet, and suggesting that Americans should somehow feel sorry for poor banks.

But his new line is that Obama is “out of touch.”

Why? Probably because he knows how vulnerable he is on this, so he’s trying to muddy the waters. Maybe, the thinking goes, if voters can be convinced that both major party candidates are “out of touch,” Romney won’t suffer too much.

Given Romney’s wealth and recent history, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone finding this persuasive.

Mitt Romney

The rubber-glue phenomenon

Updated