Romney hoping his 'fair shot' will be on target


Mitt Romney is fighting the campaign on the premise that everything is Barack Obama’s fault

MITT ROMNEY has understood the potency of President Barack Obama’s theme of fairness and turned it on its head, portraying Obama as the chief obstruction on the road to prosperity and himself as the guarantor of “a fair shot” for all Americans.

“If I am president, I will give the American people a fair shot,” the Republican presidential candidate promised at a rally beside the Mississippi River on Monday evening.

Romney has been on a five-day bus tour of six states, billed as the Every Town Counts tour, beginning in New Hampshire and ending in Michigan last night.

Since Obama’s landmark speech in Kansas set the tone for his re-election campaign last December, the president has constantly reiterated that when secretaries are taxed at a higher rate than their millionaire bosses, when good universities are accessible only to the rich, and when corporations reap record profits by slashing wages and benefits for employees, the odds are skewed against the middle classes.

Romney’s strategy is to hold Obama responsible for everything that is wrong with the economy and turn the November presidential election into a referendum against him.

“Obama’s new pledge is ‘Forward’,” Romney said in Davenport. “Forward, forward, over the cliff. We have a president who has put us on the path to [debt-ridden] California and Europe.”

At every rally, Romney asks of various categories of Americans: “Are they getting a fair shot?” to which the audience cries “No”. Like a cuckoo stealing another bird’s nest, Romney has co-opted Obama’s best line.

More audaciously, Romney, the millionaire founder of Bain Capital, which fired employees by the thousands, now portrays himself as the defender of the downtrodden.

In his speeches, Obama analyses and explains. Romney delivers unfounded assertions in easily digested sound bites.

As documented by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times, the Democratic Party loses when the white working class – loosely defined as those without a university diploma – vote Republican. They’re the people Romney is targeting on this bus tour through six swing states.

“President Obama is just too out of touch to recognise the suffering. He just doesn’t see it,” Ben Lange, a Republican congressional candidate from Iowa told reporters while waiting for Romney and his wife Ann to float several miles down the Mississippi on a riverboat at Dubuque.

A dressage horse owned partly by Ann Romney has qualified for the London Olympics, which the Romneys will attend. The couple declared a $77,000 loss for the horse, Rafalca, on their 2010 income tax returns – more than double the annual salary of the average American.

Yet Romney’s soundbites seem to be working. “Obama wants to socialise with the socialites and he doesn’t care about poor people,” Stan Gregory (66), a farmer wearing a Romney badge and waving an American flag, tells me at the Davenport rally.

“God. Our economy. My kids’ future” will determine the vote of Brandy Roth (45) in November, the cleaning lady says.

“I like that Romney’s for us. He’s trying to get us jobs.”

At every stop on the bus tour, a prominent Republican introduces the candidate, explaining that “this is the most important election of our lifetime” and that this is the state that will win the White House for Romney.

The frozen January night when Romney believed he had carried the Iowa primary – only to learn later that Rick Santorum was the real winner – seems very distant now.

It was Obama’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2008 that set him on the road to the White House. Obama’s home state of Illinois can be seen just across the Mississippi from Davenport, making Iowa an even more potent symbol for Romney.

Romney worked hard on his father George’s 1968 presidential campaign, his mother Lenore’s 1970 bid for the Senate, his own failed race against the late Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994 and his bid for the Republican nomination in 2008. To put up with late nights and early mornings in $79 a night motels with clogged drains, a millionaire has to really want the presidency badly.

By the end of the day in Iowa, Romney was hoarse and seemed to be grasping for old, disproven soundbites like: “It’s time to celebrate success at home and stop apologising for America”.

However, when he attempted a few minutes of small talk with reporters on the flight to Michigan, he said he had found the day “exhilarating”.

There’s a good deal of theatrics in all political campaigns, and this one is no exception. What purpose, one might ask, does it serve for Romney to scoop ice cream in New Hampshire, serve pancakes in Ohio or pilot a Mississippi river boat in Iowa?

The staging is as phoney as the smokestacks on the diesel- powered vessel. Ensconced in the captain’s cabin on the Spirit of Dubuque, Romney again demonstrated his talent for inappropriate anecdotes, telling the convoluted story of a water skier who drowned in a Utah lake because the boat pulling him did not have an anchor.