Shiny Objects

It’s appropriate that it is Mr. Etch-a-Sketch himself, Romney majordomo Eric Fehrnstrom, who’s the latest talking head to demand that no one pay attention to what Mitt Romney said and did during the primary season, and instead focus on his latest monomaniacal jobs-jobs-jobs message, per David Edwards of Raw Story:

David Plouffe, one of President Barack Obama’s top aides, last week told New York Magazine that Democrats needed to be clear about what a Romney presidency would mean for women’s rights and other social issues.

“Potentially abortion will be criminalized,” Plouffe said.”Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”

On Sunday, Fehrnstrom insisted that the Obama campaign strategy was not going to work.

“Mitt Romney is pro-life,” the senior adviser admitted to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election.”

It’s kind of hilarious, really: a campaign flack expecting the rest of us to accept his definition of what the election is “about.” Unfortunately, far too many political reporters have been willing to go right along with it. Team Obama’s Stephanie Cutter had the perfectly appropriate response:

“If it’s not a social issue election then why did Mitt Romney just spend the last year campaigning on social issues?” she wondered. “These are his positions that he’s taken.”

I’ve been saying for a while now that even as pundits wait anxiously for Romney to “pivot to the center” by changing his position on this or that issue, his “pivot” has already occurred via the effort to rule out discussion of his actual policy positions and promises to conservative activists in favor of his preferred vote-decider of an up-or-down vote on the performance of the economy. Of course Fehrnstrom doesn’t want us to dwell on the social-issues extremism that actually convinces most of the GOP activist foot-soldiers to get up every morning and fight for Romney’s election. But it’s there, and is an entirely legitimate campaign issue even if Mitt never utters another breath about it in public between now and November 6. It’s the jobs-jobs-jobs rap that’s the true “shiny object” the Romney campaign is using to distract voters from his broader agenda, economic, fiscal, social, and international.

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.