Why Republicans Think Leading From Weakness Will Work


I'm looking at Politico and I see that the bizarre decision to start the rollout of the Romney-Ryan ticket with a focus on Medicare isn't just a strange notion cooked up at Romney headquarters -- it's a strategy endorsed by much of the GOP:
... Republican strategists believe that there is really only one way to win the Medicare message wars: mount a bruising offense and attack Democrats for their own actions surrounding the popular federal health care program for senior citizens.

...This year, GOP message-makers say the reduced Medicare spending provisions in President Barack Obama's health care law give the Romney-Ryan ticket an unprecedented opportunity to gain the upper hand on the Medicare argument....

Republicans point to a special House election in Nevada last year as an example where the GOP candidate was able to neutralize and even win on the Medicare issue.

Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP consultant who did GOP candidate Mark Amodei's ads, said the campaign's strategy was to go after its Democratic opponent on the issue at every opportunity.

...Stutzman said the Romney campaign is following much of the same playbook this year....
So that's the plan: Romney and Ryan, in 50-50 nation, are going to do on Medicare what Republican Mark Amodei did while winning a special election in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District last year.

Here's the thing: that Nevada 2nd District is a majority GOP district that's literally never elected a Democrat to Congress since it was created in 1980. Charlie Cook ranks the district as "R+5" -- hardly the reddest district in the country, but pretty damn red. Oh, and Amodei combined with the National Republican Campaign Committee and Karl Rove's American Crossroads outspent Democrat Kate Marhall by more than two to one (Marshall didn't get outside help, presumably because she ran as an Obama-basher and a Blue Dog.)

So that's the race Republicans are using as a model for how Romney and Ryan are going to win the Medicare debate in a 50-50 America where the Democratic opposition is actually fighting back and has the means to do so, even if it's being outspent.

It's true that Marshall ran a pretty good Medicare ad against Amodei, and that Amodei's response seems to have trumped Marshall's ace:

Mom walking into the frame on her cane at the end of that rebuttal ad is a genius touch -- and, ell, what do you know: Paul Ryan's going to campaign today with his mother at The Villages, the huge,Republican-leaning retirement spot in Florida.

The difference is that the guy at the top of Mark Amodei's ticket was Mark Amodei, who comes off (at least in that ad) as a perfectly decent fellow who loves his mother. The guy at the top of the Romney/Ryan ticket is ... well, Mitt Romney. And the guy trying to pull off the butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth act with Mom is Paul Ryan, a guy perceived as sincere and dreamy by right-wing think-tankers, Fox-watchers, and mainstream-media journalists, but a guy who comes off to most of the rest of the country, I think, as slick, ambitious, and a bit vulpine. Oh, and he wrote the various budgets that bear his name, so he can't pretend that what he really meant is that, yeah, that Paul Ryan guy has a lot of good ideas, but he, Paul Ryan, wouldn't go as far as Ryan does.

It's possible I'm being naive about this, but I just don't see it working.
No More Mister Nice Blog / By Steve M

Posted at August 18, 2012, 8:37am