Write Romney’s Paul Revere Gambit

I’ve been talking about a new Republican strategy this week, the “Paul Revere” strategy, named after Sarah Palin’s recent remarks. Well, named after Palin’s entire career, or at least the national portion of it. The idea is that you gain support among movement conservatives by saying something pathetic that is designed to elicit mocking and scorn from as many liberals and qualified experts as possible. That’s how I understood Tim Pawlenty’s “Google test” — it was a modestly nice little piece of rhetoric in terms of its immediate reception by Republicans, but a great success in drawing derision.

Doesn’t it seem that Mitt Romney could benefit from a Paul Revere strategy? Sure, Romney’s presumed strength is technocratic competence, but his big weakness is suspicion that he’s not really a full-fledged movement conservative. What better way to get conservative points than to be cruelly mocked by liberal and media elites? And with a Republican presidential debate coming up next week, Romney will have a big stage to use for it. Indeed, with Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich (if he’s still a candidate) and other potential loose cannons, Romney has to be worried about being cast as the moderate.

So: anyone have a suggestion for what he should say? Note that the full Revere involves saying something wacky, and then regrouping with an explanation that is still pretty nutty, but sends the proper signals.

I’m thinking that if I were doing Romney’s debate prep, I’d try to come up with something on abortion. Remember, Romney’s current abortion position is fine with pro-life groups, but as a late convert he’s generally not trusted. The idea is to pound in a message that he’s really one of them. I’d try to write some kind of crazy, seemingly nonsensical statement that didn’t mention abortion at all — and then, post-debate, defend the original statement by referencing some study or research or myth that is fully and totally taken as an important finding by anti-abortion activists but is considered totally bogus and discredited by pro-choice groups.

Sound good? Anyone want to fill in some of the specifics? Suggest a different topic?

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.