There really is no true parallel in modern presidential politics for theself-inflicted damage that Mitt Romney is now enduring. Sure, major party nominees make glaringly public mistakes and are hindered by embarrassing revelations in every national election. But I’m straining to think of another example of something as toxic as Romney’s secretly-recorded comments to Republican donors emerging out of the blue at such a late and pivotal moment in White House race.
The supposed parallel that’s getting the most play right now is Barack Obama’s remarks at a private fundraiser in 2008 about economically frustrated working-class white voters in the Midwest clinging to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment.”
Certainly, those words reeked of condescension, but from the standpoint of raw politics there are some key differences. For one, Obama’s comment came much earlier in the campaign – in April ’08, seven months before the general election and after he’d pulled well ahead of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic delegate race. Obama’s foes have continuously recycled the story ever since, but by Election Day it had largely lost its bite. By contrast, the tape of Romneydismissing Obama voters as a class of dependents “who believe that they are victims” is surfacing at a supremely sensitive time for him – seven weeks before the election and during a brutal stretch in which his poll standing has slumped and his own party has begun loudlysecond-guessing him.
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