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The Great Connector Romney’s new Etch A Sketch targets women and Latinos.

The Great Connector

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Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:21 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

Mitt Romney’s campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, caused a kerfuffle by saying that, in the general election, Romney could simply erase his extreme conservative positions from the primary “almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” 

Now that Mitt Romney is combining his campaign operations with the Republican National Committee, he is, for all intents and purposes, the nominee. And so the process of erasing extremism has begun.

As Daniel Libit reports in the Daily, the RNC intends to introduce a major initiative to appeal to Latinos. “Perhaps most noteworthy of that operation,” Libit writes, “is its emphasis in reaching out to voters in Spanish… despite the calls of some conservative activists and Republican lawmakers currently to pushing English-only legislation in Washington.” 

Democrats are determined not to let Romney run away from his positions on immigration that are wildly unpopular among Latinos. For example, Romney opposes the Dream Act, which 90 percent of Latinos support.

Romney and his supporters are also attempting to avoid responsibility for their opposition to women’s rights. Throughout the primary, Romney has pandered to opponents of women’s rights in the most cowardly and dishonest manner. He refused to state in a debate whether states should be allowed to ban contraception, pretending that even though he went to Harvard Law School he is unaware of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut that overturned state laws against contraception use. In a later debate he insisted his healthcare reform law in Massachusetts did not require Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception for rape victims, as if such a requirement would be a bad thing. 


Now, polls show he may pay the price among women voters. A swing-state poll shows President Obama leading Romney by nine points, thanks to an 18-point lead among women and a 2 – 1 lead among women under 50 years old. RNC Chair Reince Preibus tried to explain Romney’s women problem by claiming that the Republican war on women, epitomized by intrusive state laws such as requirements that women be subjected to a transvaginal ultrasounds before having abortions, is an invention of Democrats and the media. “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus said in an interview.

Romney’s camp is trying to soften his image among women through meaningless feel-good gestures rather than substantive policy moderation. His campaign uses his wife, Ann, as his designated humanizing agent. Romney surrogate South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called Ann Mitt’s “golden bullet” for winning over women, saying, “When they see how strong she is… a great mom, a great wife, strong supporter, and hear her talk about him, I think he’ll do a lot better [among women].” Apparently Haley thinks women care more about Romney’s marriage than their reproductive freedom. In his capacity as a Mormon bishop, he demonstrated a breathtaking lack of sensitivity to women experiencing medically complicated pregnancies, whom he pressured not to have abortions.

If Romney is going to win over women and Latinos, he is going have to offer them valuable policy. Doing so, however, would risk alienating his socially conservative base. That is a bigger problem than a few Spanish-language videos or Ann Romney reminiscing about raising their children can solve. 

BEN ADLER reports on politics and media for The Nation.

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