Message: I Don’t Care

It’s probably not the best sign for Mitt Romney that his campaign is having to spend money and time convincing voters that he’s not an ogre. But that’s what it seems to be doing with a new ad entitled “Too Many Americans,” that includes this money quote from Mitt speaking direct-to-camera:

President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is that my policies will make things better for them.

Mitt was well enough rehearsed that he didn’t make the mistake George H.W. Bush did back in 1992, reading a campaign notation to an audience in New Hampshire by saying: “Message: I care.”

But that’s the idea. And it would have been a bit more compelling had it come a couple of years, or at least a few months, earlier. How hard is it to say, even if it’s a complete pretense, as a matter of deeply ingrained habit, that your proposed policies are always good for every single citizen? If Romney, of course, had a healthier, more trusting relationship with his conservative base, he would have never had to go over the brink into the politically perilous gambit of claiming to dislike the lazy looters of the 47%, instead of
promising them the tough love of enforced self-reliance. Even Paul Ryan knows how to play that game, as evidenced by his famous AEI speech expressing concern for the moral fiber of the poor.

So now Mitt’s got to re-establish his membership in the human race less than six weeks before Election Day. Since he’s very likely to resort to some seriously nasty attacks on Obama in the stretch run, I doubt it’s going to take. Maybe he should take his chances with expressing loyalty to the 53%, and forget the compassion.

Here’s a suggested theme song for the stretch run from Fear (warning: not family-friendly!):

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.