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Mitt Romney is being Swift-Boated

Updated on July 11, 2012

The last few weeks have been eventful in the world of politics. Between the Supreme Court's surprice Obamacare ruling, the unemployment numbers and the President's decision to halt some deportations of illegal immigrants, pundits have had plenty of potential game-changers to analyze. But the most important event of the summer seems to be flying mostly under the radar. It's a battle that will probably determine the outcome, and it's the operation to define Mitt Romney.

In 2004, the term “Swift-Boat” passed into the political lexicon as the group calling themselves Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, funded by Texas conservatives, ran ads attacking John Kerry's record of service. The attacks drew bipartisan condemnation, and were denounced as smear tactics. But they worked. By the fall, his military experience—his supposed strong suit—had been turned into a liability.

In many ways, July 2012 is the mirror image of July 2004. Now, a vulnerable Democratic incumbent is fighting off a Republican challenger. The President's outside allies, meanwhile, are focused on his opponent's perceived strength—economic experience—and are laboring to turn his record into a negative.

For months now, the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA has been developing and testing the anti-Romney message. Much of their work is already done. In Chicago headquarters, ad designers have been producing hundreds of ads attacking Romney's tenure at Bain Capital. Some of these ads feature workers who lost their jobs in transactions Romney managed—others point to the company's record of profiting as industries they oversaw went bankrupt. There is diversity in the ads, but they all have one ting in common. They focus on Romney's business background like a laser beam, and and portray it as a record of greed and destruction.

And once produced, the ads are tested. Volunteers are gathered to test the power of the attack ads. Some people are plucked from the streets, given a cash reward to watch the ads and give feedback. They are asked what impressions they get—did the ad change their mind? Did they learn something from it? Are they more or less likely to vote for Romney after having seen it?

Now, the attack ads that were judged to be the most effective are airing in five key states. Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are seeing the ads that target Romney's record at Bain. And the evidence is that these ads are moving the numbers. While Obama and Romney are seen as being tied nationally, the President has opened a statistically significant leads in four of these five states, and is tied or slightly behind in Florida. Moreover, pollsters have found that voters in the media markets targeted by Priorities USA are more likely than others to see Romney's business experience as a negative.

Of course, Romney has his own SuperPAC allies hammering away at the President. American Crossroads, for example, began a $25 million push Monday to slam President Obama's economic record. But it seems that, after three and a half years as the world's most prominent and powerful man, many voters already have strong opinions about the President. That is to say that he's already defined—people have a good idea of who he is, whether or not they support him. The same can't be said of Romney, and this fact means a great opportunity for the Obama campaign.

If they succeed in portraying Romney as an economic shark—and the signs are that so far they are succeeding—this paves the way for their second line of attack. When voters accept that Romney made millions suffering from the economic hardship of others, they will be ready to believe that he will indeed pursue a plutocratic agenda in office, looking out for the 1%, and the 1% only.

Some political analysts see the danger. “If Obama succeeds in defining Mitt Romney before he can define himself,” Charlie Cook, a respected political analyst observed, “then my guess is Obama wins reelection.”

The remarkable thing is that Romney is doing little to nothing to counter the message. He takes lavish vacations, and portrays the image of wealth, letting the Obama campaign do the rest. His aides denounce the attacks, but his campaign shows no serious sign of gearing to present its own side of the story to the voters. Once again, failure mirrors the 2004 campaign, as Kerry's hesitation to address the attacks let them take root in the public's mind. If Obama's allies can tar Romney in a similar way, they can all but guarantee a second term for their man.


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    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 5 years ago from Uruguay

      What happens is I think the romney people are not listening to The Architect.

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

      Romney deserves to be swift-boated, but with Romney, no one has to lie to make him look bad.

      And now he has lied to the SEC? False filings? What a great guy!

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 5 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      The question is why would they do this? They know all about him, know about his past, and know we would all find,what are they doing?

      Hoping to prove that we don't care, and that money CAN buy America?

      Or knowing that some will vote for anyone but Obama, no matter who it is....and once he's in, they can say: you wanted it! Just like they did in 2010.

      Whatever----the only thing you can control, is your own self--unless you're a woman in some parts of America. Then the gubmint will control you for you.

      And no--having health insurance is not control. 100% guarentee you will use it. Most $$ is spent on last year of life. We all will have that.

    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      I see, thanks for the clarification.

    • Mark Sparks profile image

      Mark Sparks 5 years ago from Charlottesville, Virginia

      @ Steveorion and lovemychris:

      There's one thing I should clarify. When I say Swift-Boated, what I really mean is the campaign art of turning an anticipated asset into a liability. For me at least, it doesn't necessarily mean the attacks aren't merited.

      For the record, I think they are. Mitt Romney is being Swift-Boated, and rightfully so.

    • Mark Sparks profile image

      Mark Sparks 5 years ago from Charlottesville, Virginia

      Hi, Miocid,

      Thanks for the read. It is certainly ironic. The GOP's invention of hitting an opponent, not at his perceived weakness but rather the perceived strength, is being turned back on them.

      I wonder if the Romney campaign will catch on in time.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 5 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Excuse me, but Romney is an economic shark. He should never have gotten this far to begin with.

      A president who outsourced American jobs, and has money in other countries to avoid American taxes?? Is this what we have come to?

      Who says his sons haven't served in the military, they are serving America by helping to elect him.....

      No no and No. They have just scratched the surface on this is much worse than you think. A corporate shark for prez. If this is who we are, I want no part.

      BTW--it was Romney who said His big house is a sign of his success...but Kerry's big house is a sign of how out of touch he is. Who's swift-boating who?

      How can you tell Romney's lying? da dee da--you know the answer to that one.

    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      An interesting look at the situation and I agree with your take on the matter, but where is any evidence or claim to support that Romney is being Swift-Boated? Yes, there are parallels between this and Kerry's case, but are you assuming, as your comparison would suggest, that the attacks on Romney are as invalid as the one seen with Kerry?

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 5 years ago from Uruguay

      Very accurate portrayal of a situation the gop and the romney campaign are not fighting the way they should and by the time they realize it it may be too late. thank god.although the final say in the election will be determined by the economic situation closer to election day,and by the way, thanks to the architect Kael Rove for his baby that this time might save a democratic president.