To understand where the presidential race stands today – President Obama has opened up a seven-point lead in the Gallup daily tracking poll – all you need do is behold the candidate who claims he has cornered the market on God.
Here was Mitt Romney on the eve of the 9/11 moratorium on campaigning: “If I become president of the United States, I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square, and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.” And here he was on Saturday, while campaigning with far-right evangelical leader Pat Robertson: “I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart.”
Wow, that’s a whole lot of information (delivered via insinuation) that I didn’t know about. Breaking news from Mitt! I didn’t know that Obama had taken God out of his heart. I didn’t know that Obama intends to banish “In God We Trust” from our coinage and thus put atheism in our pants pockets. I didn’t know that Obama wants to remove God from the public square, and that he plotted to take the word “God” out of the party platform.
(By the way, with respect to last week’s platform flap, the truth was the opposite. Obama ordered that the word “God” be reinserted after some fatheaded party apparatchiks had removed it. Meanwhile, the platform still has an entire section called “Faith,” which Romney and his running mate never seem to mention. And what do you suppose the millions of TV viewers remember most: The backstage platform incident – or the fact that, on stage and on camera, virtually every single Democratic speaker invoked God, or quoted scripture, or finished up by saying “God bless America”?)
But I digress. Romney says he’s the God guy, and that the other guy is a God foe. This tells us two interrelated things: (1) Romney is already in desperate straits, swinging wildly like a boxer with a fat lip and wobbly knees, and (2) Romney doesn’t even have his own conservative base nailed down yet, which is why he thinks it’s necessary to reignite the culture war.
The big hitch, however, is that the culture war is mostly played out. Most voters at this point don’t see the Democrats as immoral by definition. It’s true that, as recently as eight years ago, Karl Rove ginned up turnout for President Bush by playing on voter fears about gay marriage, but in 2012 it’s no longer politically cool to demonize gays; indeed, the Democrats endorsed gay marriage in their platform, and they have suffered no damage for doing so.
So what culture war weaponry might still work for Romney? Maybe the God theme, although, even there, your basic swing voter knows that it’s hooey. On the other hand, perhaps his invocations of God will rally the conservative/evangelical base.
But with the election only 55 days away, Romney shouldn’t be spending an ounce of energy trying to stoke his base. The very fact that, in post-convention September, he is actually out there campaigning with the likes of Pat Robertson – good grief, that alone is a three-alarm bell. Romney clearly thinks that Robertson can help him win swing-state Virginia. (Robertson is based in southern Virginia.) But if you really want to stump with a guy who thinks that gay and lesbian decadence was partly responsible for 9/11, and who thinks that the feminist movement “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians,” you do so only during the GOP primary season, when your audience is disproportionately Christian conservative. You don’t advertise your association with Pat Robertson to the broader electorate this late in the game.
And I even question whether his God invocations will click with his intended base audience. A new poll by Reuters/Ipsos, which targets modest-income whites in 11 southern states, concludes that 35 percent of those Bible Belt voters are less likely to support Romney because of his Mormon faith; many of them say that while they usually vote Republican, they nonetheless feel (fairly or not) that Mormonism is a cult.
All of which suggests that Romney won’t get much traction from trying to advertise himself as the sole candidate with God in his heart; or from trying to scare people with the specter of a Lincoln penny or a Roosevelt dime stripped of the God word by an Obama diktat. We can only conclude that his bid to corner the market on the Almighty is a symptom of growing desperation. And coupled with his impulsive rant about Obama and Libya – for which he is being savaged by foreign-policy Republicans – we’re talking here about the behavior of a likely loser. ——
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